Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Unit 24 Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, E14 5NY; Tel. 0207 719 6408; Tube: Canary Wharf; www.gbkinfo.com
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I like the brunch food menu for its variety - you can have anything from a fry up (in various permutations) to a BLT to a proper main course like sausage and mash. (Sensibly though, unlike the near-by 24-hour caff Tinseltown, they don't offer Thai green curry - hang offer food that ain't, as my husband once discovered the hard way.) On the last two visits I've had the eggs benedict with smoked salmon (£8.50), served on a halved muffin and smeared in creamy hollandaise. Their macaroni cheese with haddock (£6.50) isn't bad, but not cheesy enough. The club sandwich is huge, and the BLTs (£6.50) are also pretty good. Just don't try to economise with something like egg on toast (£2.50) - you will feel very jealous when everyone else gets their food.
Other than always being very busy, the other (no doubt related) drawback is the service, which can be a bit slow and a bit inattentive, especially if you order extra drinks). But for me the food and the buzzing atmosphere tip the balance firmly in SOS's favour. Plus Santa(s) and his(their) reindeer brunch there. (Oh, ok, it was probably just real people we saw lining their stomachs ahead of Santacon, but it was still cool.)
Smiths of Smithfield, 67-77 Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ; Tel. 0207 251 7950; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon; www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk
Monday, December 24, 2007
As the food on offer at the Lion didn't seem to stretch beyond mini cheddars and bacon flavoured fries, we were reluctantly forced to leave in search of sustenance. With unusual foresight, I had looked the area up in my Harden's guide and had discovered that there was a well-reputed gastro joint just round the corner called St. John. Here too the drinks de jour were whiskey and Guinness, although there were also a couple of real ales on tap and the crowd was much younger. From the chalkboard menu, the leg of lamb came with all the trimmings you would expect in a generous roast, as well as a highly-rated onion sauce. The roast half of chicken with a peppercorn jus was also amply sized and beautifully juicy. I opted for the mussels with chorizo and onions, the salty sausage contrasting well with the tender crustaceans. The highlight of the meal though was the aioli. It was proffered when I asked for some mayo to go with the delightfully crispy home-made chips. It packed a serious punch of garlic and tasted freshly made. We got through two pots. It was heaven, and worth the trek to Archway in its own right.
St John, 91 Junction Rd, N19 5QU; Tel. 020 7272 1587. The Lion public house (also known as Sweeneys), 1 Junction Road N19 5QT. Tube (for both): Archway
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The menu includes raclette as a starter, and other Swiss specialities such as rosti. For me though, it had to be fondue. The selection includes a meat one, and a Chinese one (I guess a version of the fiery Sizchuanese hotpot), but we went for the "forestiere" - a heaven-made combination of mushrooms and cheese. I was very pleasantly surprised by the mushrooms - there lots of them, and of the proper wild, non-dried variety. The dish smelled of autumn. It came with a basket of bread, and we order a side of new potatoes for dipping as well (£3.50). If you want to pretend that you are being healthy you can also dip in seasonal vegetables. The fondue was huge and we struggled to finish it (we did of course, what kind of a cheese fiend would I be otherwise!). The wine menu is interesting. They have a large selection of whites, reds, roses and bubbles -- but they are all Swiss, as is the only beer on offer. We opted for Merlot rose from the Ticino canton (£20.95), which proves refreshingly crisp and dry for a rose, and nicely cuts through the richness of the cheese. Licking the last bits of cheese off my fork, I wished I could eat fondue every day. But luckily for Britain's obesity statistics I don't -- yet.
St Moritz, 161 Wardour Street, Soho, W1V 3TA; Tel: 020 7734 3324; Tube: Tottenham Court Road; www.stmoritz-restaurant.co.uk
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Forced to look for sustenance elsewhere and too cold to wonder around aimlessly gazing in restaurant windows, we tumbled into the nearest eaterie. This turned out to be the Most Cafe Bar underneath the bridge. It was a tiny place, occupied by a large beer bar and a few tables poked around the sides. I say beer bar as that's clearly the speciality – the menu offers around 30 different varieties, spanning from an English stout to a chili beer from Arizona. Understandably, we had to try the latter. It was a normal enough looking bottle of lager, with an assuming little green chili floating inside. Taste-wise, the chili had clearly won the battle over the lager hands down – the drink tasted like some kind of accompaniment to nachos or fajitas. It wasn't overly spicy, but it definitely tasted like it should be “green”. (Does anyone else ever think foods taste of a particular colour?). Incidentally, it also didn't taste very nice and we left most of the bottle. We also sampled a cherry beer from the ever-wonderful Sam Smiths brewery, which reminded me of boiled cherry-flavoured sweets (in a good way). In comparison, my glass of house red seemed pretty dull in comparison – a fact I was secretly glad of.
The menu features some snacks (eg mezze platter, nachos), as well as robust-sounding mains from mussles to steaks. Tempted by the blue-cheese mash, I asked for a rare rib eye (11.95). The mash was indeed pretty good, as were the glazed carrots. But the steak was well done and fatty. My friend went for the scallops with the cauliflower pure (12.95) from the short specials list. She said it was nice but rather stingy portion-wise. The biggest let-down though were the olives we'd ordered to munch on before the food arrived. Despite two reminders they were served after the main courses. A small square bowl of green and black olives (nice, but looking and tasting like they'd come from a jar), an identical bowl of indifferent olive oil with a squirt of balsamic vinegar, and a third with some slices of a baguette. Nothing short of extortion at 4.50. I was tempted to send it back, but my friend needed the bread to supplement her main course.
It was a nice evening, and I might be tempted to come back and try more beers, but next time I'll eat elsewhere.
Most Cafe Bar; Horrace Jones Vault, 206-208 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP; Tel. 020 74036030; Tube: Tower Hill or London Bridge; www.mostcafebar.co.uk
PS After some googling, I discover that in fact the cafe is owned by a Russian lady, with the cafe's name intended as a pun since "most" is also the Russian word for "bridge". If that's the case, then it's a great shame that the only Russian beer on offer is the now readily available Baltika lager.
Monday, December 17, 2007
We ordered at the bar-cum-shop-counter, opting for a large "mixed plank" of cheese and charcuterie. It arrived on a wooden board, featuring about 4 choices from each food group and accompanied by a large basket of fresh-tasting bread from the aforementioned St John. The hard, French-style salami was the most popular, while the proscuitto went very well with the goat's cheese. About the only miss to my mind was the chorizo of the large, thin slices variety -- I far prefer it served in small, thick, warmed up chunks in a red wine sauce. There were also olives and a pot of rich -- almost too rich -- tapenade. With tip, we were stuffed for under £30 for two, and left feeling rejuvenated enough to resume the shopping. We might well return in the evening (they are open until 9-9.30 pm in the week), with some wine-knowledgeable friends, to while away a couple of hours and a couple of bottles in a convivial atmosphere.
Bedales, 12 Market Street (off of Brushfield Street), Spitalfields, E1 6DT; Tel: 020 7375 1926; Tube: Liverpool Street; www.bedalestreet.com
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Porterhouse, 21-22 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2 E7NA; Tel. 0207 379 7917; Tube: Covent Garden or Charing Cross; www.porterhousebrewco.com
Thursday, December 06, 2007
The Angelic, 57 Liverpool Road , Islington, N1 0RJ; Tel: 020 7278 8433; Tube: Angel; www.theangelic.co.uk.
PS I now have a shiny new mobile phone with apparently a decent camera, so will endeavour to sneakily capture my food in the future in a bid to make this blog a bit more colourful.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
We planned the trip for months in advance, the booking line on speed dial for The Day Three Months before THE Day (they take bookings up to three months in advance), credit cards at the ready.
A rather unglamorous train trip from Paddington to Maidenhead, followed by a £5 taxi ride and we were standing on a narrow pavement outside an unassuming white washed, centuries old house. Inside, it was all white walls and tablecloths, sparkling glasses and dark wooden beams. The clientele was a mix of those for whom this was clearly a special occasion and those who looked they could afford to become regulars. There was a slight awe in the air, but it wasn't a stuffy, must-wear-jacket-and-tie kind of place.
We decided to go the whole hog -- aperitifs of champagne (we didn't like to ask how much, but the bill shows up about £17 a glass), the tasting menu (£115) and the accompanying wine selection (£90). I wanted to ask for tap water, but was over-ruled, so we had the £3.50 bottled stuff instead. All in all, it added up to about £250 a head. But was it worth it?...
At the end of the meal you each get an envelope of posh, strokeable paper with a Fat Duck seal, a copy of the menu concealed inside. So even though I've put off writing the review for months -- overwhelmed by the task -- I can tell you exactly what we had.
It started with nitro-green tea and lime mousse . The waitress produced a little blob, not dissimilar in appearance to hair mousse, out of an old-fashioned looking metal dispenser. She then zapped it with liquid nitrogen and told us to put the whole thing in the mouth in one go. On the tongue, it had a crunchy, frozen shell and then melted into lemony, liquidy refreshness.
A single oyster was served in its shell with passion fruit jelly and lavender , the textures matching nicely to create a slightly sweet, slithery, but not unpleasant sensation.
The pommery grain mustard ice cream was served a small, creamy coloured blob in a large white bowl, with the red cabbage gazpazcho added a little later in keeping with the theatricality of the place.
The parade of appetisers also featured jelly of quail, langoustine cream and parfait of foie gras before culminating in a three-way experience of the forest. A wooden tray of oak moss was placed on the table and "watered" with dry ice to produce clouds of foresty, mossy mist. We inhaled this while treating our taste buds to a tiny, earthy square of truffle toast and a sliver of moss jelly served in a little plastic box and eaten by letting it dissolve on your tongue. All that was accompanied by a German white, 2005 Iphofer Kronsberg Silvaner Spatlese Trocken (though I don't remember it tasting of celeriac!)
But even though the portions are tiny, this is certainly not a place you leave huyngry. Firstly, the dishes are numerous (including the appetisers, we counted 18!) and secondly throughout the meal, you can choose from a tasty bread basket selection.
Next came one of the Fat Duck's signature dishes, snail porridge. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but of all the dishes, this was the one that disappointed me most. It actually consisted of some normal-tasting porridge (though, to be fair it an unnatural shade of green), topped with normal, de-shelled snails and decorated with Joselito ham and shaved fennel and washed down with a glass of red, the 2004 Vin de Pays des Cote Catalanes, Le Soula, G. Gauby, Roussilon.
Then, to show that even molecular gastronomes aren't averse to using top-end ingredients, came the luxuriously creamy roast foie gras, served on plate decorated with streaks of cherry and chamomile sauces and tiny cubes of almond fluid gel. I was unconvinced by the jelly, though the Husband (generally a bigger fan of nursery food!) complemented it for the strong flavour. The 2003 Vinoptima Gewurtzraminder Reserve from Gisborne in New Zealand was a surprisingly nice accompaniment, considering that I don't like sweet wines.
Next another much-written-about dish. The "Sound of the sea" came accompanied by a tiny little ipod, hidden in a conch shell and programmed with swooshy sea sounds. The dish itself looked like a pebbly beach, topped with some foam and some things that may have been sea weed or sea creatures, and matched with a pungent, maritime smell. While I was not convinced by the flavours, you certainly couldn't fault it as a recreation of the sea for all the senses. It was served with Rashiku Junmai sake, which apparently has similar flavour characteristics to a Sauvignon blanc.
Salmon poached with liquorice featured a delicately flavoured (cooked sous vide?) piece of salmon, encased in sticky, sickly brown coating of (admittedly relatively mild flavoured) liquorice. It was served with two rather gorgeous spears of asparagus on streaks of vanilla mayonnaise and Manni olive oil , the latter fittingly created as part of a science project! Whether you enjoyed the dish or not I think boiled down to which side of the fence you are with regards to liquorish. The glass was topped up with 2001 Quinta da Falorca Reserva from Dao in Portugal.
Next was the Ballotine of Anjou pigeon with a very bloody black pudding, Chinese pigeon cracker, picking brine and spiced juices and a glass of gutsy 1999 Barolo from Piedmont.
The hot and iced tea was a truly amazing feat of science. The left half the cup of lemony, black, slightly sweet, slightly solidified liquid was hot. And the right half was ice-cold. You could feel the divide on your lips as it slipped down. Another one to file under "how the heck did he do that?!".
Then it was time for some rosy-coloured British nostalgia, a concept which in my mind is always illustrated by idyllic images of the British seaside and those mildly smutty seaside postcards circa 1950s. Mrs Marshall's Margeret cornet was a dinky little ice cream cone accompanied by a little leaflet. From there, we learnt that the rather pretty looking Agnes Bertha Marshall may have invented the edible ice cream cone back in 1886 and who suggested making ice cream using liquid gas more than a century ago.
The Pine-sherbet fountain was just a cute hark back to childhood, not dissimilar to those sugar fixes from the local corner shop of old.
The Mango and Douglas fir puree, Bavarois of lyche and mango, blackcurrant sorbet looked very pretty was ultimately a bit forgettable, but luckily its accompanying beverage was not. The 2003 Icewine from Pelee Island Winery, Ontario was for me the most bizarre thing on the drinks list -- they make wine in Canada?? Icewine, I discover is actually made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine, so perhaps it's ideally suited for cold climes. It was sweet, but clean and refreshing tasting, though that could have just been a psychological reaction to the word "ice" in the name.
The Carrot and orange tuile came as an odd-looking crispy lollypop, contrasted with a cube of beetroot jelly.
The Parsnip cereal came in a cute little pale green cereal box with the Fat Duck logo, and looked a bit like cornflakes. It came with parsnip milk.
The Nitro scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, pain perdu and tea jelly was truly amazing. The waitress came up with one of those shaped cardboard egg boxes, full of whole-looking egg shells into which they had cunningly put the egg and bacon ice cream mix. She then cracked the eggs into a shiny copper saucepan and zapped them with the nitrogen into ice cream. It tasted nice too - a luxurious take on breakfast in the middle of a very extravagant lunch. The accompaniment was a sweet, fruity glass of 2004 Jurancon, Uroulat, C. Hours, France.
We just about had room for the Whisky wine gums, violet tartlet before stumbling out into the daylight, about four hours after we first went in! And the verdict? Well worth the money (though probably as a once-in-a-lifetime treat).
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Ye Old Mitre, Ely Court, off Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ; Tube: Chancery Lane
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Queens Arms, 30 Queens Gate Mews, SW7 5QL; Tel. 020 7581 7741; Tube: Gloucester Road
Monday, November 19, 2007
A new touch (may be because it was a Friday night) was the wine waiter. He brought us the menu and then re-appeared a few minutes later, having swatted up on our food order and ready with suggestions. We'd already chosen though, intrigued by the idea of a red wine made with port grapes in Portugal's Douro region. It was a good discovery, rich and heavy.
Malmaison, 18-21 Charterhouse St, EC1M 6AH, www.malmaison-london.com ; Tel. 0207 012 3700; Tube: Barbican
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The house red, from California, was very nice. But then for 22, you'd bloody expect it to be. In general, the wine list seems to be pitched at the city boys who (judging by our neighbours) are tempted enough by the meat and the booze to wonder a little further away from the square mile. The place also had a great reputation for cocktails ("all lovingly made", according to the website) though we didn't try any. It was busy on a Tuesday night, the just managed to squeeze us in. The decor is functional and rather beside the point - white walls, minimalist dark tables, no table cloths, the kind of stuff you could find in many bars or casual eateries. Like I said, the point is the meat and the meat is good. But may be next time I shall see if I can do this on the expense account.
Hawksmoor, 157 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ; www.thehawksmoor.com ; Tel. 02072477392; Tube: Liverpool Street/Old Street (or Shoreditch when that reopens)
Monday, November 12, 2007
Faced with finding somewhere that was near and open on a Sunday, we decided to give LMNT II a second try. And seeing as in my first post about this place I couldn't actually remember what we ate, it probably also deserves a second review.
We sat in what, in Shakespeare pizzeria days, used to be the bar. Now, a stuffed pheasant eyes you up from the opposite side of the room, a bird cage perches on the window sill and a trumpet is stretched out along one of the dark wood pannelled walls. Of the £4.45 starters, the husband chose stuffed chicken wings with gnocchi - a sole plump wing, surrounded in a deep bowl with the little ricotta balls and topped off at the table with a delicate broth. My tomato tarte tatin featured large slabs of roasted tomatoes and nicely caramelised onions, atop a diet-friendly thin base of puff pastry. I might even try recreating this at home once I've recovered from the onion soup debacle. The mains are £10.95, of which we sampled the braised lamb neck and the coley fillet with clam sauce. The gtatin potato (£2.45) was enlivened by an orange layer of sweet potatoes in the centre and was none the worse for lacking the usual creaminess of a dauphinoise. Nice 1930s style jazz played quietly in the back ground, and sipping the rich Loxarel rose (£15.95), we almost didn't notice that we were the only diners in the place. Sure, Sunday nights are quiet round here, but I sincerely hope they get some more trade soon. Because it's a nice place, with good value food.
LMNT II, 46 Percival Street, London, EC1V OHS; Tube: Barbican; www.lmnt.co.uk/
Sunday, November 11, 2007
19 Numara Bos Cirrik; 34 Stoke Newington Road; Dalston; N16 7XJ; Tel: 02072490400; Train: Dalston Kingsland, or buses including the 243.
So we cheated and ordered takeaway. (For the record, the decor was standard casual Japanese - close together tables, small room, a couple of Japanese prints on the wall.)
I had the sushi and sashimi combination set (15). There are 4 bits of juicy, thickly-cut sashimi of tuna and salmon. There are also six slices of the chef's special maki roll, which features avocado, tuna, crab stick and fish roe. I am not normally a fan of maki, but these are giant and gorgeous. Finally, there are four bits of nigiri, thin slices of fish atop mini-bricks of rice: tuna and salmon again, as well as sea bass. It's good. I'd even say very good. And after polishing off the lot I am well and truly stuffed, which with sushi for 15 quid is a bargain. But I guess I'm a little disappointed that the types of fish aren't more exciting.
Still, this time I definitely beat the husband who went for the house special bento box (12). The miso's good, as are the pickles and the sashimi appetiser. But the main course of sesame-seed covered pork loin is overly sweet and over cooked. (Though it's still nice enough to ensure there are no leftovers.)
Ultimately I guess that's always the danger with recommendations - it's easy to build up your expectations way too high. But we've got a copy of the menu now, and next time I will go for some more exciting things (like the "dragon" roll with eel, tobiko, asparagus and avocado.)
Pham, 159 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8JL; Tube: Barbican or Old Street; Tel. 020 7251 6336; www.phamsushi.co.uk
Inside, the walls are decorated with dozens of large, colourful canvasses. My favourite was the giant squirrel with a manic look in his eye. The atmosphere is warm, romantic even. We ordered a bottle of prosecco (£24.50) and tucked into some delicious warm bread rolls with sun-dried tomatoes. The yeasty dough pleasantly reminded of Russian pasties, pirozhki .
(photo from another visit)
On Sundays and pre-theatre they have a good value two-course menu with two courses for £14.50. From this, the husband's grilled aubergine with pesto sauce & toasted walnut bread was luscious and earthy - comparable perhaps, we thought, to Rémy's ratatouille. My eyes (and belly) had been tempted by the a la carte, so I started with the "flat asparagus pancake with parmesan sauce" (£7.50). Perhaps foolishly I had actually envisaged a green pancake made from asparagus (I've made some lovely aubergine pancakes at home), sprinked with parmesan shavings. Instead, I got some normal asparagus tips wrapped in a pancake and smothered in a creamy balsamic sauce. It was nice, but not as nice as the grilled aubergine (plus I couldn't taste the parmesan - never a plus for a cheese fiend).
And, darn him, the husband won with the main course as well - baked chicken breast with gruyere & oregano sauce. Now here the cheese was very clearly present in all its melting gooey gorgeousness. But best of all was the chicken itself - beautifully juicy, and cooked not for a second longer than was needed to stop it from being pink.
That said, my veal ravioli with butter and sage sauce (£12.50) was also very good. Aong with chicken (so easy to overcook), I think ravioli make a good test for truly great cooking, as all to often they just taste of stuffed pasta and you can't quite tell what the stuffing actually is. Here though, I could both see and taste juicy shreds of gamey veal inside the large discounts of home-made tasting pasta.
The people at the table next to us were raving about the basil ice cream which came with their chocolate cake. But sadly we were too full to even contemplate trying this (I knew we shouldn't have had the popcorn). On the plus side though, that gives us a very good excuse to come back - and soon.
Metrogusto, 13 Theberton Street, N1 0QY; Tel. 020 7226 9400; Tube: Angel; www.metrogusto.co.uk
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
King Edward VII (King Eddie), 47 Broadway, Stratford, E15 4BQ; Tel. 0208 534 2313; www.kingeddie.co.uk
Monday, November 05, 2007
PS Hyde Park is clearly a place which attracts foodies -- they display a board of sponsors' names (who knew you could sponsor a park?), which includes a champagne house and a very posh organic supermarket.
The Dell, Hyde Park, Eastern side of Serpentine lake, W2 2UH; http://www.royalparks.org.uk; Tube: Hyde Park Corner
Friday, November 02, 2007
Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel
It all sounds innocent enough, but actually the last line is said to refer to local workers pawning their tools at the end of a working week (a weasel is apparently some kind of yarn measuring device) to fund a few rounds down the pub. Very educational.
I'm not sure many people pawn stuff to drink here these days, though it's not the cheapest place in the world. But it has plenty to recommend itself. There's a great selection of drinks, including regularly changing cask ales. Inside, lights twinkle around the dark wood bar. There's pretty wall paper and chandeliers. And best of all there is a huge (by central London standards) beer garden, with ramshackle furniture and leafy trees. During the last world cup, they found lots of old portable tellies somewhere (some black and white!) plonked one on each table in the garden. Seeing as this is a food-reviewing blog, I suppose I'd better mention that too. The menu features burgers, snacks, roasts etc -- all simple, but good stuff that you'd expect in any gastro pub these days. Last week, we sampled the salads (£8ish). Mine featured warm new potatoes, chorizo, cheese, sundried tomatoes and green leaves. It was gorgeous. The husband's Caesar salad had iceberg lettuce, generous shavings of parmesan and chunks of char-grilled chicken. Normally though I skip the salad and go for potato wedges -- either with cheddar and chorizo or with stilton. For about £3.50 you get a large plate which perfectly soaks up the beer without denting your night out budget too much.
Incidentally the other Eagle , the so-called original gastro pub on Farringdon Road, is somewhere I haven't taken to. We visited twice over the years and it always felt a bit chaotic and rushed. The menu above the open plan kitchen seemed limited (last time I had something which turned out to be not dissimilar to philadelphia on toast, which for about £6 was a bit much). But may be I am just uncouth - I'd rather pawn my wares for good old potato wedges.
The Eagle, Shepherdess Walk, City Road, N1 7LB; Tube: Old Street
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
One such place is Little Bay, part of a mini chain of wackily decorated, ridiculously cheap, vaguely French restaurants. The walls are dark red, decorated with white silhouettes of mythical themes. There is a giant gold head protruding from the wall, floor to ceiling. Mesh and baubles hang off metallic chandeliers. It fells romantic, decadent and unapologetically kitsch. And if you get there before 7pm you can get a huge bowl of mussels in creamy white wine loveliness (or any other starter) for £2.25, followed by juicy duck breast with red cabbage and a hexagonal leek-filled pastry for £6.45. After 7, the starters go up to a still-very-reasonable £3.25 and the mains to £8.45.
There's a decent wine list, Budvar on tap, friendly service from young foreign-sounding waiters and utterly more-ish chips cooked in goose fat (£2.25). Last week, they provided plentiful tap water and happily refilled our free bread basket (you have to mop up every bit of those mussel juices).
As you can probably tell by now, I love the place. According to google, it's owned by a Serb called Peter Ilic, who also runs the LMNT restaurants while his wife Grace runs my other romance-on-a-budget favourite, Le Mercury on Upper Street. In checking out the Little Bay website for this review I have discovered two more cool things: they have a branch in Belgrade and the one in Battersea has live opera six nights a week.
Little Bay, 171 Farringdon Rd, EC1R 3AL; Tel. 0207 3724699; Tube: Farringdon; http://www.littlebay.co.uk
Monday, October 29, 2007
Obviously, starting in Bristol, we had the cheesy chips and Bath ales at the Hope and Anchor . Other highlights included the very pretty village of Priddy where, having huffed and puffed up the mendips, we were very glad of a lunch stop at the Queen Victoria pub. Luckily though the rest of the way into Wells was mostly downhill. It's a small, pertty town, but seemingly without any of the rough edges which such places often get due to the local youth getting a bit bored in the evenings. We had a fabulous dinner at the The Old Spott . Another great meal was had in Exeter, looking out over the cathedral from No. 21 and exploring its very reasonably priced wine list. The low lights included Taunton (very relieved to find a branch of a national pizza chain), Bridgewater (where pub lunch choices were limited to a Wetherspoons and a Smith & Jones pub) and Cullompton (where the ale tasted of ash).
But perhaps the best thing was that I discovered cheesy chips weren't just a Hope and Anchor speciality -- they seemed to be available in pretty much every pub we stopped in. So obviously I had to sample them all... which might explain how I managed to put on weight despite doing 30-40 odd miles a day on the bike.
Friday, October 19, 2007
On the plus side, this gave us the chance to have a nose through the small downstairs shop flogging Japanese kitsch (£80 for a t-shirt anyone?) and check out the bar. We found a tiny cubby hole of a room off to one side, piled high with large stuffed tigers and pillows and decorated, nursery-style, with some coloured boards nailed at child height to the walls. It was an odd feeling, sipping a pint of kirin while sitting a-top a stuffed tiger, but I think I quite liked it! They made us pay up for the drinks before we could go upstairs, although they did let us take back up what we hadn't yet drunk. But it seems that the two operations are oddly separate -- the draft kirin for example is only available in the bar, while diners have to make do with the bottled stuff.
We decided to go for the set menus, all of which started with a disappointingly lacklustre and tasteless salad of scalops. We hadn't been given any sauces at this stage, so couldn't spice it up with wasabi or some such. (What a waste of a luxury ingredient, we thought.) Next, the tempura and teriyaki set menus (£25 each, named after their main courses) featured some thinly cut but pretty good bits of sashimi: two of salmon, two of tuna. I went for the sushi menu (£30) as I wanted more raw fish, and my next course was a small bowl of tempura. There was an overcooked prawn, some undercooked carrots and a couple of actually rather lovely mushrooms. For mains, the terriyaki -- of both salmon and chicken -- were decent enough, and the tempura was more of the same. I was disappointed with my sushi though. I had asked the waited whether it would be maki and he assured me it would not. But it turned out that half of it was indeed made up of chunky rice rolls. They were pretty tasty, but I wanted raw fish, not avocado. And the raw fish that did come was in thin slivers atop big piles of rice -- even the cheapo all-you-can-eat Gili Guli is more generous with its slicing!
The desert, also part of the set menues, was described to us separately as pana cotta and as cheese cake. In the end it wasn't really much like either, but a pleasant enough, slightly cheesy not very sweet cake thingy.
I shall finish with the bad stuff first. Our first request for a jug of tap water yielded one shot-size glass (in the bar), and only the third request in the restaurant yielded a glass each. The staff are authentically Japanese, which is great. But they also don't speak English, which isn't quite so good. And finally the place is really very overpriced.
But there were good points. The miso soup (also part of the menu) was rather gorgeous. And the decor is funky -- a converted warehouse look, with a back wall made of what looks like parquet flooring and widely spaced out tables which made me feel a bit like we were part of some kind of art instalation or theatrical experiment. Plus the tigers in the bar give the place a wadge of bonus points. But not quite enough to tip the review into positive territory.
Life; 2-4 Old Street; Tube: Barbican or Old Street; www.life-oldst.com (At the moment though isn't much use - it's alarmingly bright red and just tells you that the place is about to open. Which it did. About a month ago.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Now all I need is another excuse for a celebration to justify a return visit to my bank balance. And it looks like we might have to make another trip out west soon to check out the new St John wannabe.
Angelus, 4 Bathurst Street, W2 2SD ; Tel. 020 7402 0083; Tube: Lancaster Gate www.angelusrestaurant.co.uk
Monday, October 15, 2007
The Freemason,2 Northside, Wandsworth Common; Tel. 0203268580; Rail: Clapham Common
Friday, October 12, 2007
Cafe Rouge, branches all over including 29-35 Mackenzie Walk, Canary Wharf, E14 4PH; www.caferouge.co.uk
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Queen Boadicea, 292 St. John St, EC1V 4PA; Tel. 020 72789990; Tube: Angel; www.thequeenboadicea.com
Friday, October 05, 2007
Somers Town Coffeehouse, 60 Chalton St, London, NW1 1HS; Tel: 020 7691 9136; Tube: Euston
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Leon, Spitalfields Market, 3 Crispin Place, E1 6DW; Tel: 020 7247 4369; Tube: Liverpool Street; www.leonrestaurants.co.uk
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Nusa Dua, 11-12 Dean Street, W1D 3RP; Tel. 020 7437 3559; Tube: Tottenham Court Rd; www.nusadua.co.uk
Monday, October 01, 2007
Shanghai Blues, 193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD; Tel: 20-7404-1668; Tube: Holborn; www.shanghaiblues.co.uk
Friday, September 28, 2007
Boisdale of Bishopsgate, Swedeland Court, 202 Bishopsgate, EC2M 2NR; Tel. 0207 283 1763; Tube: Liverpool Street
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Pierre Victoire, 5 Dean Street, W1D 3RQ; Tel. 02072874582; Tube. Tottenham Court Rd
Monday, September 17, 2007
We resisted the temptation to join in and instead opted for a queue-less dinner at the near-by Inc Brasserie. The menu - printed as a paper place mat - was surprisingly pared back. All the savoury food was listed in column under "nos plats", though this also included the only 3 options for starters - bread and olives (£3), pate (£5) or a meat plate (£11). Main course selection (most just shy of the £10 mark) was bog standard - fishcakes, Caesar salad... The only authentically French thing about the place was the waiter, who paced disconcertingly up and down the narrow passageway next to our table. Still, my steak sandwich (£9) featured some nicely pink meat and well caramelised onions, as well as cheese --alas an ingredient that's all too often omitted from this dish. The burger (£10) came topped with an authentic French cornichon, though it then let down the side by having less pleasant slices of gherkin inside. The accompanying salad leaves were nicely dressed and the chips were ok. The house red (£12), however, was pretty undrinkable. And with no cheese course on offer (you call yourself a French brasserie??!), we felt little temptation to linger over people-watching at our salad-green metal patio table. Still, the prices weren't bad and neither was the food, making this potentially one of the better options in the O2.
Inc Brasserie, The O2, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX; Tube: North Grenwich
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Fish!, Cathedral Street, Borough Market, SE1 9AL; Tel. Tel: 020 7407 3803; Tube: London Bridge; www.fishdiner.co.uk
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The Larder, 91-93 St. John St, EC1M 4NU; Tel. 020 76081558; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Clerkenwell Kitchen, 31 Clerkenwell Close,EC1R 0AT; Tel. 0207 101 9959 (they are popular and you might do well to book); Tube: Farringdon; www.theclerkenwellkitchen.co.uk
Friday, July 27, 2007
Frederick’s, 106 Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EG; Tube: Angell; Tel: 020 7359 2888
Japan Centre, 212 Piccadilly, W1J 9HX; Tube: Picadilly
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
My companion's frog's legs are some of the juiciest and least greasy I've ever tasted. My deep fried camembert comes in generous chunks of glorious gooey-ness, nicely balanced by cranberry jam and a crisp salad. For the mains we order a bottle of chilled Burgundy (£16) - this is a place to linger. All the while, a guitarist and a masterful violinist play jazzy tunes. It's beautiful, and the room is quite enough to hear each note. But it's also relaxed, with guests free to indulge in quiet chatter. The boeuf bourgignon (£10)came in a deceptively small pot which ended being too generous for me to finish. The meat was tender (though a bit gristly), and I enjoyed dunking bread into the herby red wine sauce.
My companion opted for the crocodile burgers (£11) - these were juicy patties of white meat (not unlike chicken, to resort to an old cliche, but more flavoursome), served sans bun, but with salad and a few crispy potato wedges. Thoughts of the long trip home and of work the next day dragged us reluctantly homeward about 11pm. Next time we're resolved to try the Tuesday jam session. All in all, it's a lovely place for a romantic night or with a small group of jazz-lovers. Just beware of the £5 cover charge after 8pm and of the £4.50 bottled water (but they are part of the tastelondon scheme, so you can offset the water damage if you are a member). As for the owner, she may have just been having a bad day - some of the other reviews rave about how nice the staff are.
Le Quecumbar, 42-44 Battersea High Street, SW11 3HX; Tel. 020 7787 2227 after 6pm; Rail: Clapham Junction; www.quecumbar.co.uk