Friday, February 23, 2007

Acorn House

Last night we discovered that the rumours are true, Kings Cross is indeed 'up and coming'. OK, round the station it's still unquestionably a dump. But veer off on to the dark side streets and you will find not one but two shiny new(ish) restaurants. And not just any restaurants, but the ultra trendy, organic, low-on-the-food-miles and fully-booked-at-dinner-time kind. The organic, eco friendly Acorn House was able to fit us in a bit earlier than the funkily decorated Konstam -- which specialises in food produced in London. So we went organic. The menu featured about 6 starters, 6 mains and a few pastas. The service friendly and the £20 bottle of Chapel Down Bacchus (excuse me while I polish my food miles halo) went down a treat with the delicious bread. We wolfed down two of the surprisingly ample £8 starters between four -- a salad of pheasant with pomegranate pips and dandelion leaves and a plate of smoked mackerel. For my main I had a large plate of pasta with plentiful shreds of tender, slow-cooked venison (£10). My companions happily gobbled up the pork chops, the swordfish with horseradish and the sirloin steak which came with some delicious anchovy butter (£10-14). For a trendy restaurant, the flavour combinations were surprisingly simple, which was a nice change. To accompany an interesting wine list, there was also a good selection of beers from Greenwich's Meantime brewery. The only slight disappointment was the rather uninspiring cheese plate -- but may be that's because there is a limited range of organic cheese out there. Overall though a big thumbs up. Lets hope the rest of the area catches up soon though, and someone opens up a nice bar near by for pre/post dinner drinks.

Acorn House, 69 Swinton street London WC1X 9NT ; Tel 0207 812 1842;; Tube: Kings Cross

PS I keep meaning to start taking beautiful pictures of the food - with which all the other foodie blog seem to be adorned - but then inevitably get too absorbed in the drinking and the eating and forget. One of these days though...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The rumour goes that there are now 1/4 million Russians living in the South East, served by an increasing number of food shops, Russian-language newspapers and club nights featuring the best of cheesy Russian pop. On the restaurant front though, thing remain a bit underwhelming. There are a few expensive places in richer parts of west and north London, but no consensus about any of them being any good. In the city, there is just Potemkin, which brands itself as 'restaurant and vodka bar' and thus manages to lure in a more varied crowd. The restaurant bit is hidden away in a windowless cellar, and lacks atmosphere unless its full. But you can also eat in the livelier street-level bar section. The menu is reasonably short and unchanging. You can splash out £35 for some black caviar, and/or opt for a more normal starter for about £5. The herring covered in a "fur coat" of yummy Russian salads (selyodka pod shuboj) is delicious, whilst the mushrooms julienne are covered in a rich, bubbling cheese sauce. Beware of the liberally proffered bread though, it's not that nice and they will charge you 75p for each slice. The mains are less impressive than the starters. Stuffed cabbage leaves with buttery mashed potato fell firmly in to the 'nice but nothing special category' and at £9.50 a tad overpriced. The £11.50 beef stroganoff featured over-cooked meat and, according to my companion, not enough mushrooms. On a past visit I enjoyed the Siberian pelmeni dumplings, but for £10.50 you can buy three huge bags of the frozen version from any of the many Russian food shops. The portions are good-sized though, the service is friendly and for many the attraction is the huge list of vodkas. For me, this is the nicer Russian restaurant I've sampled in London - so far. But I'm still looking...

Potemkin, 144 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DP. Tube: Chancery Lane or Farringdon; Tel. 020 7278 6661;

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Admiralty, Somerset House

A cold Monday night in deep mid-winter is probably not the busiest time for any restaurant and on our visit to the Admiralty only 2 or 3 other tables were occupied. Three sides of the room were lined a leather-style banquette in a vibrant turquoise colour. Across white clothed tables, it was faced by equally turquoise chairs. In a very brightly lit room (it was pitch-black outside), this creates an atmosphere more suited to business lunches than romantic dinners and serves to highlight the unoccupied status of most tables. Aside from some spectacular ship-shaped chandeliers, the room was definitely a thumbs-down. The menu, in matching turquoise, is surprisingly reasonable with starters for £6.50 and mains for £12.50, and around six choices for each. The turquoise wine list runs to two pages, at least a third of it taken up with champagne and premium bottles in the £50+ range. On the more affordable side things start at £18, and though the mark ups are high and the range is conventional, it is all perfectly drinkable :-)
In restaurants, I tend to order interesting sounding things. But the started of snail gratin had me completely baffled. A large ramekin was filled with those tiny little white onions that are usually pickled (though luckily this time were not), drowned in a strange mix of tomato pure and bread crumbs with a few lardons for good measure. Hiding inside were a few juicy snails. "Hmmm... interesting..," said my companion. He was being kind. The dish was somewhat redeemed though by a big piece of lusciously cheesy wafer type thing (which didn't go at all, but was yummy on its own). We also sampled a pale pink salmon and scallop terrine which was just terribly bland. The mains took their time to arrive, leaving the waiters plenty of time to ply us with wine at a dangerous frequency. But they did reluctantly provide some non-bottled water and voluntarily refilled that too. When they did arrive, the mains were a huge improvement on the starters. The wing of skate came was beautifully buttery atop of some rather interesting fennel. My gnocchi were huge and clearly home made. They were a touch sweet but this was more than made up for by the huge pile of delicious wild mushrooms, a beautifully cooked quail egg and a little hill of refreshing tomato salad on the side. So we left filled up and happy, with only a modest dent to the pocket. But given the stunning location inside Somerset House, the Admiralty could -- should -- be much better, both in food and in decor.

The Admiralty, Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA; Tel: 020 7845 4600; Tube: Temple