Sunday, 20 July 2014

Liverpool House

Kind of a mini post really, on the best meal I've had so far in Montreal, fittingly on my birthday, at Liverpool House, part of the Joe Beef group.
The summer terrasse had just opened and we had a long bench in the garden surrounded by the restaurant herb garden. 
Drinks to start included a fruity punch in a kilner jar and aperol spritz. I had a spritz, the weather was perfect and it seemed like the right thing to do.  To start I ordered the foie gras parfait with rhubarb jelly.  

It was incredible.  People here are crazy about, tartare, oysters, lobster and foie gras.  There isn't a restaurant that doesn't feature at least one of the these in my experience so far anyhow.  It's not strictly true obviously, there are plenty of vegan restaurants, and I've promised a friend that I'll go to one when I'm back from my upcoming trip to London.  Oh god.
The bread was a little boring but the parfait itself was so good that it didn't matter.  The jelly was a nice addition to cut the rich creaminess in both texture and flavor.  Loved it. 
My main was shared with Lee and was the slow roast shoulder of lamb for 2.  It was served on wilted leaves with chilli, radish, yoghurt and a side of tabbouleh.  It was amazing.  Too much for 2, huge portions is their thing, the lobster spaghetti is ridiculous. 

Dessert (mine was free as it was my bday!) was some kind of pineapple pound cake with ice cream.  Nice sponge, not much else to say.  Better than I'm making it sound obviously. There was a sparkler in it, I was too happy to take a pic.
The one thing I would whinge about (there always has to be something) is that if you sit in the garden, then there's no menu, everything is on the chalkboards indoors.  So you need to go inside and literally stand in front of someone's table while you read it, and it's looooong, or rely on the waiter remembering everything.  I trust that he did a good job.  Can't wait to go to Joe Beef, booked in when Em's here in August. 
Wine recommendations both white and red were brilliant, service was lovely and I see why this trio of restaurants are continually dubbed the best in town, definitely the best I've eaten here so far.  Not a cheap night out but worth the spend.  We ate and drank LOADS and paid around $120 each (I think, my buds wouldn't let me pay).
2501 Rue Notre-Dame W
Little Burgundy
Liverpool House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Typing Room

Last of my posts from my May/June trip back to London recounts dinner with Hannah and Sarah at Typing Room, the new restaurant in the Town Hall Hotel.  Lee Westcott (backed by Jason Atherton, who else) has taken over the kitchen from Nuno Mendes who is now at Chiltern Firehouse

We had an early booking arriving at 6:30 for drinks at The Peg & Patriot, the bar next door.  Got things going with a peg vodka martini, complete with olive crisp and board, tasted aniseedy, wanted gin. 

We knew we were heading out for drinks after the meal so opted for the a la carte menu instead of a tasting menu, turns out it would have been better value to go for the tasting option, so I'd definitely do that if were I to return.  Anyway, we ordered different dishes for each course and tried everything.  Here's what we had.

Bread was lovely, a brioche bun and an olive roll.  Toasted barley and chicken skin served on top of the butters, I really liked these, preferred the olive bread, but both good.

We snacked on these cumin lavoche with crab, corn and curried egg (£5).  I think this truly contained what might just be my favourite ingredients, we made very light work of them. 

Here are all 3 of the starters.  I'll start at the bottom.  Langoustine, carrot, coriander and pistachio (£15).  A tad over priced perhaps, there were a couple of croquettes on the plate but I genuinely don't recall what the filling was.  Don't believe there was much flavour in this at all, aside from the fish itself, which was perfectly cooked and the star of the dish.

Best started for me was the veal sweetbread with asparagus, peas and buttermilk (£15).  Actually, scrap what I said about the lavoche, peas are one of my faves.  Anyway, this starter was delicious, you could taste each component and even the foam didn't bother me.

3rd starter we tried was the mackerel, passionfruit, cucumber and radish (£12).  The balls of cucumber were quite novel, looked like melon, some were burnt, and passionfruit and mackerel worked together better than they should on the plate though it's not something I'm itching to try again.

Onto mains, the lamb was my standout dish.  Served with smoked aubergine, yoghurt, wild garlic and onion (£24).  2 kinds of lamb and beautifully presented onions, garlic flowers topping the whole thing off, I was sad when we rotated and I had to pass this one on.

The belly pork with peach, mustard and lettuce (£22) was good, the meat the man attraction, as it should be, but we all agreed we couldn't taste much else.  Good job the suckling pig itself was so well cooked, crispy topped and soft melting fat below.  Who needs peach?

I was underwhelmed by the pigeon with salt baked celeriac, lovage and hazelnut (£26), having been urged to try the dish by a previous guest.  I'm not the biggest fan of pigeon, again the presentation was faultless and everything sounded great but it left us wanting slightly.  Lack of sauce perhaps?

We tried some lovely wines, excellently matched by the sommelier, white, red and dessert.  A pre dessert of parsley sorbet with lime and ginger granita was brillaint.  Really sharp and hot with ginger, loved it.

This was the unanimous winner on the dessert front, chocolate, amaretto and almond (£7.50).  Amazing textures, variety of temperatures and rich chocolate in several forms.  It was excellent.

Strawberry, pistachio and white chocolate (£8) was also incredibly pretty.  Coolness again from the sorbet, spongey pistachio and a white chocolate log shaped thing covered in more strawberry, in gel form.  Very good.  

I was less convinced by the almost savoury green tea with sesame (£7), pretty enough, but I've rarely seen a green pud, and there's a reason for that, thinking back to the last time, it was at L'Enclume and it was good, one of the best I've ever had but it was appley and sweet (and they hid the green stuff under white stuff).  This wasn't my cup of tea at all.

Last to show up were these petit fours, zesty little jellies, nice way to end the meal.  We had a really fun evening, we always do but the food wasn't quite at the level we had hoped it would be.  Perhaps due to the newness of everything, it was week 2 or 3 when we visited, so admittedly, I was there too early to judge proper.  Would really like to try The Corner Room in it's new incarnation too.

Typing Room
Town Hall Hotel
Patriot Sq

Typing Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, 30 June 2014

June Round Up

Here are my eating highlights from both London and Montreal over the last 5 weeks (confess some late May eats have crept in here as I was too busy getting the Kid wed to blog). 


Em and I head to Nopi for brunch after a ridiculously early morning screening of Maleficent at Leicester Sq Odeon.  I had the Shakshuka with spicy tomato sauce and smoked Labneh.  

There was a lot of red pepper to contend with, I confess I’m not the hugest fan of red peppers, sometimes they disagree with me, but everything was perfectly cooked, most importantly the eggs.  Runny yolks, yes.  I hate when they’re overcooked, I’m looking at you Caravan on Exmouth.  Great bread and a decent flat white too.   Not the cheapest brunch and front of house seemed outraged we’d not booked a table.  Weird WEIRD mirrored toilets, really quite disturbing.

21-22 Warwick St

NOPI on Urbanspoon

Fast forward on the same day and Art and I drank a shitload of wine and needed to soak it up with some cheese and meat.  I just didn’t have time to fit in a full meal here, which is a shame as I would have loved to, particularly based on the quality of these boards.  

Wines are all organic, you can buy bottles to take away and the bread is the talk of the town, really very good.  Menu is overseen by Mikael Jonsson of Hedone fame, so no wonder it’s good.  We probably spent around £40 each, but were there for most of the afternoon and had a couple of bottles of wine.

12A Newburgh St

Antidote Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

One Leicester Street – Leo’s Pop Up

Fast even further forward, still the same day (oof) and we had dinner at One Leicester St.  It was the last night of a 3 month long pop up which saw Leandro Carreira (ex- Viajante chef) take over the kitchen Thur-Sat.  

It was a communal affair with guests sharing a 7 course tasting menu for £88, wine pairings included.   Highlight was the iberico presa with baked beets and the langoustine with honey carrots.  Really fun night, obviously not something you can enjoy yourselves (unless you went) but keep an eye out for Leo’s next venture.

One Leicester St
Erm, 1 Leicester St

Bel and I head back to our old fave the Berner’s Tavern for my last night in London.  We lashed right out and got the chateaubriand for 2 with foie gras, roasted baby artichokes and truffled mac and cheese.  

There is so much good stuff going on with this dish, it’s just incredible.  So much truffle.  It’s really rather good value at £80 for two.  We drank Prosecco, obvs and stopped off in the Punch Room.  Love and miss this place sooooooo much.  Well done Jason.

10 Berners Street

Berners Tavern on Urbanspoon

Another old fave I had to make time for was Koya Bar, Nibs and I popped in for lunch and both opted for the special udon which was poached chicken in soy milk broth with sesame.  It was really simple and clean, as all their dishes could feasibly be described.  We shared the mackerel sashimi also from the specials board, I always always order their specials, they’re so interesting.  Miss you Koya.

50 Frith St

Koya Bar on Urbanspoon

Also popped in for a Bull & Last bloody mary and Sunday roast combo with Bel which saved me after the Kid’s hen do!  They really know what they’re doing with a bit of beef.  Lemony pud was really good too.  We lurked about for the pub quiz then hit Aces & Eights, classic NW5 Sunday.

118 Highgate Road
Kentish Town

Bull & Last on Urbanspoon


On my first Saturday back I met Sarah for lunch at Café Melbourne.  I remember walking by this place in February when I visited, it was approx. -15 and I was slipping all over the place in the snow, determined to have a wander about and get a bagel from Fairmount.  What a difference a few months makes, it was a boiling hot day, we sat in the window and ordered coffee and ‘jaffles’.  

Jaffle meaning Aussie toastie, think Breville.  I got the mac daddy, of course, filled with actual mac cheese and served with a nice bit of pickle and some ready salted crisps.  The big concern with toasties is usually that they’re so hot they burn, but I found the opposite was true of this one, the second half was barely warm when I got to it, perhaps I was chatting too much.  Good coffee though and they had a Donna Hay magazine in there and good world cup banter. 


 Cafe Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Speaking of the world cup, I watched an England match at Bishop & Bagg an English inspired ‘pub’.  In inverted commas because it’s absolutely not a pub, but they’re trying!  They have an English menu too, curries, a ploughman’s, kebabs.  


I had the lamb kebabs which look an absolute mess here but were really very good.  Reports of the ploughman’s were along the lines of don’t do it to yourself.  I sound negative but I actually really like the place, and I live near it now, woo!  Apols for the shocking photo, finger included so you could see the wrap, pitta type thing.

52 Rue St Viateur Ouest
Mile End

 Bishop & Bagg on Urbanspoon

Another greaso lunch with Sarah, this time close to work, Le Gros Jambon appears on this list of the best Mac & Cheese to be found in Montreal, so I had the chicken tacos.  Need to go back for the mac cheese, newsflash - it’s almost too hot to eat macaroni cheese.   It’s upsetting, and I need to stop moaning about/talking about/checking the weather.  

The chicken tacos with a side salad were my attempt to make a healthier choice at this diner.  Really liked them actually.  Nice guacamole, sour cream and salsa accompaniments, and it was served individually on a tray for your own construction.   I rather like that.  

Cute, kitschy décor and cheap, about $12.

286 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Old Montreal

Le Gros Jambon on Urbanspoon

One Saturday evening a group of us went to Nora Gray, a restaurant opened by an ex-Joe Beef chef and front of house duo.  It comes highly recommended by food people so I was super excited and it proved to be the best meal I’d eaten so far in Montreal (until my birthday meal at Liverpool House, but more on that soon).

My starter was cavatelli with tomato, anchovy and fennel.  The pasta was perfect, all home made and great value at $12 for a bowl.  Love Italian meals where it’s the done thing to eat pasta as a starter, they are genius.

Again, shocking picture but it's very dark in there, all candle light and orange.  I couldn’t resist the special main, pork belly with turnips and polenta.  It was sooooooo good, around the $30 mark.  We drank a load of red wine and left very very happy.  It’s a slightly odd area of the city, Griffintown, up and coming allegedly, but it feels like it’s out in the sticks with very little else around it.  Worth the trek though for sure, I’ll be back, they're awesome. 

1391 Rue St Jaques

Nora Gray on Urbanspoon

Fera at Claridges

Another of the most anticipated meals of my time in London was dinner at Simon Rogan's new restaurant at Claridge's.  It was epic.  The make over the room has undergone left it almost unrecognizable as the same room Gordon Ramsey occupied until late last year.  In true Rogan style, the meal was dazzling. I won't bang on, beyond saying we showed some restraint and went for the 10 courses, instead of the 13 courser, at £95 per person.  Here's what we ate:-

 Ox eye daisy and smoked eel, puffed wheat

 Top: mackerel, seawater cream and caviar
Bottom: Stewed rabbit with lovage

THE BEST THING EVER: winslade, potato and duck heart
Essentially cheese soup

 BREAD!!  With mushroom broth, a surprisingly modest bread course

Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream,
scallop roe and apple juice 

Prawns from Gairloch, pickled alexander, 
asparagus, shellfish butter. 

Monkfish, sweetheart cabbage, sea purslane and 
black saison (yes, I dropped my phone in it) 
 Goosnargh duck, yellow bean puree, leek and hyssop

Pineapple weed, butterscotch and celery 
(there's actual celery in there, not cool)

Iced sorrel, nitro sweet cheese and apple

Clockwise from top left: sweet cicely cake, soda blackberry,
blackberry and lemon verbena and smoked meringue

All very beautiful and all very delicious.  Simon was there delivering the odd dish, not to our table unfortunately.  There's an air of opulence, obviously, including a gold tree in the centre of the room.  I'm so fortunate to have had the chance to go, thanks to Art for booking, and for tolerating my drunkenness yet again, and providing a bed for the night when I missed the last train home to Kent. 

Claridge's Hotel
Brook St

Fera At Claridge's on Urbanspoon