Ye Old Mitre, Ely Court, off Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ; Tube: Chancery Lane
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
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