Monday, 21 December 2009


Dinner at Maze was a mixed bag. A few dishes were extraordinarily well conceived and a joy to eat whilst some were disappointing and the atmosphere was a tad stuffy.

The concept, as you'll probably know, is multiple small dishes, this does mean no amuse or pre starter which I find disappointing. Jason Atherton's kitchen has been praised in most reports I've read most claiming the desserts to be the winning course, yet I found this to be untrue.

I began with the smoked mackerel tartare which was stunningly plated up but lacked something, there were lots of components but it failed to excite, perhaps the dish was a little too cold, dulling down the flavour somewhat. Thomas too felt his starter of marinated white beets was a bit boring and over priced, at £10 for what was really a very small amount of food.

Things picked up as we moved onto our second selections from the 'cold and warm' section of the a la carte menu. The warm Scottish breakfast was my favourite course of the night with a smoked haddock risotto topped with egg and bacon and a piece of cured salmon with horseradish snow. This was both pretty and flavoursome, Thomas had food envy tucking into his scallop dish, a meagre 3 of them, outshone entirely by my breakfast.

Moving onto the meat and fish dishes and I was in no doubt about what to order, the pork cheek and belly. This was served with pureed potato, crispy onion rings and some kale. The rich jus and fruity apple sauce were perfect accompaniments and the meat was so tender and succulent with just the right amount of fat. Another faultless dish. Thomas again preferred my choice feeling a bit hard done by with his halibut which was fine but unremarkable.

The pork was another triumphant dish full of umami flavours, a case of excellent quality ingredients cooked perfectly, Atherton proving himself deserving of his Michelin star with such dishes.

My final savoury dish was the ox tongue and cheek served with ginger carrots and horseradish pomme puree. Both of my mains came with a side of pomme puree, I began to feel rather full up by this point but the purees were exceptional and somehow, I manged to find some room! The dark treacle like sauce on the ox cheek was brilliant, the meat so tender, falling apart with the merest of touches. I was less keen on the tongue which sat at the base of the dish and was far tougher than the cheek. Thomas said the same of his lamb tongue, but was much happier with his salt marsh mutton shepherd's pie, finally a dish well chosen for him!

Onto desserts and this time I think Thomas definitely chose the finer of the 2, his rice pudding with blackberries was pure creamy, velvety loveliness whilst my peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich tasted a bit plastic, Thomas disagreed and we hastily swapped. The peanut butter and jam dish looked the nicest but I'm a sucker for a good rice pudding.

We sampled an array of beverages, bloody mary's, peach bellinis, Gewürztraminer, Holzweg, André Scherer, Alsace 2008, which was intensely fruity and alarmingly easy to drink and coffees to sober us up.

This being a Michelin starred restaurant, you might expect a few little quality extras, the standard of the petit fours was high, served on a little slate, some fudge and fruit pastille type sweeties however, the bread was a complete disappointment and as the first impression the diner is given of the food you would think such an establishment would make more of this opportunity to impress.

As I began by saying, this was really a roller coaster of a meal. Extreme highs and lows and not too much in the middle. I much preferred the savoury offerings whilst most sing the praises of the desserts at Maze and I must agree that the idea of trying many smaller sized dishes is smart, it liberates the diner somewhat by not limiting choices to one of each course. That said I thought the room was very noisy and the vibe was a bit formal for my liking, tables are pretty close together in the restaurant section, with much more room being reserved for the bar, the layout of the room could have been better devised.

15 Grosvenor Sq, Mayfair

Maze on Urbanspoon

And finally, a big thank you to Benj who was unable to make it to London meaning we had a £150 meal voucher to spend!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Eagle Bar

So, I've just read this and realised I have a burger post to write up, I've been yearning to go to Byron since they opened their new Soho branch a couple of weeks ago, unfortunately this is not a Byron post, I still haven't made it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a fan of Hawksmoor when it comes to burgers in London. Many sneer at it's hefty £15 price tag but I think it worth every penny.

The same cannot be said for the burgers at Eagle Bar, the American style bar and diner on Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia. Mistake number one (admittedly mine) was ordering a chicken burger. The meat was so dry it was actually difficult to swallow. The bun, nothing notable, I barely remember it. There was about 1/16 of a gherkin sliced on the plate, stingy or what? I did however like the fat chips.

Those who opted for Mexican burger were pleasantly surprised by how hot it was, the jalepenos were fiery. They market themselves as a party venue here so I think the food is not their main concern. The service was slightly aloof but the waiter did join in with our rendition of Happy Birthday to Tim, albeit from a distance.

Price wise, this is not cheap, a burger and side of fries will set you back £11, for £4 more head on over to Commercial St, at lunchtime mind, and try one of Hawksmoor's offerings.

Eagle is a place best enjoyed as a bar if you ask me, (the barman knew a surprising amount about dark rum, one of my companions being a big fan, even offering a free sample or two) but don't bother eating there, it's all been done before, go to Byron instead. Or, email In'N'Out as @chrispople suggests and play the waiting game.

Eagle Bar
3 Rathbone Place

My experience here may or may not be slightly marred by the memory of destroying a camera the day after I was given it at this place on a previous visit.

Eagle Bar Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 December 2009


My anticipation at the thought of dining at Mennula was by far the highlight of the experience, what actually transpired was far less enjoyable than the run up to eating at the new Sicilian restaurant on the site of Gennaro Contaldo's former great Passione on Charlotte Street.

From start to finish there was one blunder after another beginning with my two online reservation requests being completely ignored. I had more success on the telephone managing to book a table for two during second service on Friday night.

We arrived to find there would be a wait, the previous diners had not yet departed, a pain but okay, we could wait. The annoying thing was, the premises is so tiny that we were asked to wait outside, in the rain, with two fellow diners who were in the same boat. Two glasses of prosecco on the house eased the pain and within 10 minutes we were seated.

Mennula, Sicillian for Almond, are generous with their appetizers. We were served a platter of roasted almonds, delicious, arancini which I found rather disappointingly flavourless, and large plump green olives. The selection of bread, rolls and sticks were fine, a nice olive oil for dipping, but I found the rolls a little dry.

Having ordered the calamari con salsa di potate to start, I was most surprised to receive the artichoke salad. Pretty as it looked it was not what I had ordered. This was whisked away, along with Thomas' carpaccio, which thankfully as a cold starter did not spoil as they hastily prepared the squid.

When it arrived, it was simply presented and well cooked. A large piece served alongside a whole small beast with some delicious roasted peppers and olive paste. The potato sauce was very interesting, perfectly seasoned so as to be a mild but tasty accompaniment to the main event the squid.

Thomas' carpaccio was generously sprinkled with capers and parmesan and was beautifully tender. The lemon sauce providing a nice edge to the dish. Both starters were declared a success. We opted for red wine, the Syrah – Sangiovese -Mannara, Sicilia 2008, which we'd ordered a carafe of but were presented with a bottle, already opened. We decided we were happy to drink a little more having tasted it.

We were both pretty hungry after long days at work, neither of us had chance for lunch and so decided to order antipasti, pasta and secondi courses, three each. This had not posed a problem when placing our order yet when done with our starters what was delivered next were the main courses, the pasta had been skipped entirely. This was rectified, the mains were taken away and the pasta dishes followed swiftly. Mine was remarkably good. What's not to love about perfectly cooked lobster linguine? The lobster meat was sweet and succulent, the pasta al dente and the dish was faultless, the classic tomato and basil sauce reminding me why I had been so excited about eating here.

Thomas' next dish was the potato gnocci with almond and pesto. This was also magnificently done, the dumplings were full of flavour and meltingly soft. The quality of these dishes made it all the more disappointing when we were given the very same main courses we had sent back half an hour earlier and both dishes were obviously ruined.

My pork dish, belly served with polenta, cabbage and apple had dried out entirely. It was almost inedible, each mouthful required a lengthy chew. The crackling had become soggy. That said, the sides were good, the polenta, cabbage and sauce remained intact.

Another casualty was Thomas' fillet of beef which was heinously overcooked after the lengthy rest it was unwittingly given. Presentation here was also lacking, the plate visible beneath the smudge of celeriac mash leaving it look decidedly messy.

Better results with the desserts, there were no hitches at all with the delivery of the tiramisu and the Sicilian cannoli with ewes ricotta. Both desserts were exceptionally tasty, others have raved in the past week about the cannoli marking this dessert as their must try dish.

We asked for the bill and were again disappointed by an element of the service when our bottle of wine was removed with 1/2 the bottle undrunk. We asked for it back and the waiter stated he would ask whether it was possible to return it to us. It was returned and I made certain to take it with me when we left which they frowned upon but I was past caring.

Chef Santino Busciglio's 'passion and down to earth philisophy' are clear, he happily mingled with diners asking for their comments and I think his approach is refreshingly relaxed and friendly. Aside from the many service related errors, there were some high points and much of what we sampled was seriously good but the experience was quite frankly catastrophic and means I shall not be returning any time soon.

10 Charlotte Street

7.5/10 (for food, not service obv)

Mennula on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 November 2009

Galvin at Windows

For our anniversary dinner, Thomas and I visited Galvin at Windows. Having been out of action for the best part of a week with a particularly nasty stomach bug I was glad of a celebratory night out. We started proceedings with some champagne and half a dozen Fines de Claires oysters at J Sheekey Oyster Bar.

Extravagant but brilliant. The Oyster bar was fairly deserted and it feels a little stuffy. I'd like to return later in the evening another time. Perhaps when in full swing the atmosphere picks up, it felt a little flat but service was excellent.

So too was the service at Galvin at Windows. Certainly one of my best meals of the year, there is very little I could fault. We opted for Head Chef André Garrett's Prestige menu which offers 3 courses for £58.

To start things off we were given an amuse bouche of butternut squash puree with parmesan foam. This looked very pretty, almost like a dessert but with deep umami flavours courtesy of the cheesy foam it was deliciously savoury. The texture of the puree was a little more solid that I'd expected but the taste was delicate in contrast to the strong parmesan topping. A fine start.

There were 2 types of bread offered, olive and rye and some salted butter served on a cool slate. We chose a German Riesling to accompany as we were both starting with fish. My starter was perhaps my favourite thing about the meal.

I chose the salmon and crab starter which was vibrantly appealing. The salmon was tender and falling apart whilst still being robust and substantial in flavour. The crab meat, white and dark was scattered over the top and quinelled in the centre. There was a sprinkling of pickled ginger, baby basil leaves, chives and some spots of caviar. A rich and luxurious dish it was absolutely remarkable in it's execution, everything combining together and managing to not overload the tastebuds and remain fresh in flavour. There were some dollops of creamed avocado too, subtle and smooth adding yet another texture variant.

Thomas' started with seared scallops with pumpkin puree and pomegranate. These were cooked perfectly, the interesting combination of pomegranates and pumpkin merging wonderfully, the fruity seeds popping in the mouth and adding an exciting crunch to each bite. The bacon and maple vinaigrette was tangy and meaty, an oft used but doubtless perfect partner for scallops.

For main I plumped for the Game of the Day which in this instance was pheasant with fondant potatoes and mushroom jus. I was impressed with the portion sizes and my main was again nicely presented, the jus being poured over the plate in front of me by the waiter. The bed of caramelized onion and sprigs of broccoli were well seasoned and crunchy, the meat tender and packed full of flavour but the thing that sung out to me in the dish was the potato. Cooked in stock to enrich it with flavour then pan fried and literally makes my mouth water every time I think back to just how good it was, the humble potato turned into something unforgettable.

Thomas' main course of fillet of scotch beef with fois gras, short rib and braised shallots he declared as without a doubt the finest dish he has ever eaten. Due to the darkness of the restaurant my pictures are awful and my picture of the fillet was unreadable. I tasted this too and the quality of the meat was fantastic, there can be few greater things to eat than a great steak and fois gras.

For dessert we were both feeling a little full but decided to continue the extravagance and had the pear tart tartin to share. It was enormous and so very well made, the pastry incredibly buttery and the fruits cooked perfectly, served with a decadent pouring of caramel sauce and pear liqueur laced cream. I managed a few bites before having to admit defeat but savoured each mouthful. This really was the kind of meal that makes you regret that you cannot eat more, I would have loved to sample some of the cheese too.

Once we'd asked for the bill we were presented with a cute plate of petit fours, thoughtfully decorated with a happy anniversary message, I'd mentioned the reason for our booking. The chocolates were a fine end to the meal, there were 3 varieties, 1 dark chocolate ganache, 1 coffee flavoured and 1 orange chocolate.

As a parting gift we were offered a piece of marshmallow, pink or green, I tried one of each, this is the kind of touch which I think sets Galvin at Windows apart from their peers and places them at the very top of my list of restaurants, though admittedly, I still have many to try! Including the new Galvin La Chapelle

We also had a pre meal cocktail in the bar with the most incredible views over the city. Nibbles were nice too, mixed nuts and wasabi peas. This was genuinely the nicest meal I have had in a long time and I am keen to return, both service and cuisine here at Windows are impeccable, coupled with the romantic setting and reasonabley priced set menus, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Galvin at Windows
Hilton Park Lane

Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason

Nibs and I spent the afternoon strolling around Fortnum and Mason one Saturday. It was all going swimmingly until we chanced upon some deep fried tarantulas. We decided we needed some ice cream to recover and head to The Parlour to recuperate.

A subsequent twitter conversation with @foodbymark informed me that said arachnids are not very tasty and that chewing on the legs can leave some unwanted fibres between the teeth. Only the brave would sample the abdomen or the head, unimaginably foul.

Much nicer fare for us at The Parlour, I had the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel which was classically good, plenty of fish and a nice springy bagel. A wedge of lemon is a must and when I make these at home I find they benefit from a few leaves of rocket and a lightly toasted bagel. At £9 a pop these are not cheap but the quality is good and there was plenty of cream cheese squishing out of the sides.

Nibs chose the toasted welsh rarebit crumpets with tomato chutney which were a great choice. The 2 crumpets were brilliantly soft, not at all doughy like pre made ones and the rarebit topping was a brilliant addition. The tang of the chutney was a great addition to the dish. This was £10 and looked rather small but didn't disappoint.

The main attraction at The Parlour is obviously the ice cream. We shared a bowl with 3 scoops, 1 pistachio Siciliano (my favourite flavour generally) 1 chocolate macadamia nut biscuit and 1 praline Niccioia.

The nicest by far was the macadamia and chocolate. It was dark and tasted strongly of cocoa. The nuts and the biscuits giving a nice crunch. The ices were a bit chalky rather than creamy in consistency but were more flavoursome than most I've sampled. Perhaps the final time to get in some ice cream before the cold winter months hit.

The decor at The Parlour is very genteel, we had a couple of glasses of prosecco to wash it all down, considering a cup of tea is £5 we thought we might as well splash out. This is the kind of place that I would bring visiting relatives to but probably won't be back to eat of a Saturday afternoon though I do love wandering around looking at everything, there's a great baking section in the basement for all those hard to source goods.

The Parlour
Fortnum and Mason


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Yalla Yalla

One Friday lunchtime a few weeks back I met @chrispople for a bite to eat. This was a case of third time lucky having been twice cancelled due to illness and the like.

I was pretty keen to see what Jad Youssef's Yalla Yalla had to offer having read some rave reviews following the June opening. Having unsuccessfully tried to book for dinner back then we thought lunch would be a safer bet and arrived early to snag a window seat overlooking the picturesque little Soho alleyway. Picturesque it is not in fact and we needn't have got there early because whilst it did fill a bit - there are only 8 or so tables - there was none of the reported din I'd read of in others accounts.

We were served some lovely little appetizers, jalapenos and pickled ginger, these were very good, the olives were ok, we gobbled them hungrily whilst ordering tap water and our chosen dishes.

First to arrive was the hommos and halloumi along with some lovely warm fluffy pittas. I liked the texture of the hommos, plenty of olive oil on the top and a generous smattering of chickpeas, this was really very good. The grilled halloumi, served with more of the black olives and fresh mint was satisfyingly salty and contrasted nicely by the sliced tomatoes upon which it sat.

Unlike the falafel which Chris noted was crying out for seasoning, I liked the sesame crunch of the exterior but the filling was a little bland. The tahini and garlic yoghurt sauce was a nice accompaniment moistening the dish, this also came with a side of red onion salad. All offerings are generously garnished.

The main of lahém meshoué (lamb skewers) was good, the meat was delicious, perhaps a tad over cooked for my liking and the curious thing about the main dishes is that the meat is served on a bed of vermicelli rice, on a flatbread. There's a lot of carb going on, though the rice had some fried onion mixed through it, when what you really want is the meat. It also comes with a rather excellent sumac onion salad which was very good indeed. A perfect lunch for 1 dish I suppose but it didn't really seem to fit with the rest of our dishes. There was also a pot of garlic sauce that was more like a garlic jelly and was very potent, a bit too much so for an afternoon of meetings back at work!

This all came to just shy of £20, not cheap but I did feel pretty full up. The lack of queuing patrons suggesting to me that the initial excitement has worn off for most but I'll definitely return, probably for dinner rather than lunch.

Yalla Yalla
1 Green's Court,

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Blaggers Banquet and 1 year of blogging!!

Today Boo in London is 1 year old. One of the best things to have happened as a result of the blog is that I have met some great fellow bloggers many of whom will be gathering next Sunday 15th November in aid of Action Against Hunger cooking a 5 course meal at Hawksmoor in East London who have kindly volunteered the use of their kitchen for the day. There will be an auction on the night and in the following days. Tickets to the event are on sale here, all food and drink included.

A big thanks to Niamh of Eat Like a Girl for organizing this and I hope that we raise lots of money. Let Niamh know ( if you have anything to donate for the meal or the auction, or if you are a blogger and would like to get involved!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Tuk Tuk

I rarely have lunch out during the week this being mostly due to work commitments, I usually end up grabbing something quickly to eat at my desk, sob! This is normally always a salad. Some days this just won't do.

Last week Thomas suggested we lunch at Tuk Tuk in Soho (previously Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar, Charing Cross Road), somewhere he used to regularly frequent, mostly when hungover. He recommended the Laksa.

This had chunks of chicken, a few prawns, some tofu and heaps of glass noodles. The laksa sauce was spicy and creamy and very satifying, portions are generous and prices are low. It's by no means the best laksa I've had, the quality of ingredients is certainly not their main concern but for something quick and bargainous this does the trick.

This place looks fairly unappealing but the service was swift and helpful, with a glass of tap water this came to £4.50 each and I was back at my desk within 45 minutes.

Tuk Tuk
Old Compton Street

Tuk Tuk Thai Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fire and Stone

Another work lunch, not a working lunch but a lunch with colleagues. There were rather a lot of us and we needed somewhere nearby, WC2 area, able to accommodate a large group and not be longer than 1 hour.

This time we descended upon Fire and Stone on Maiden Lane, I refrained from gazing longingly at Rules, if only, and averted my eyes.

The service was poor, we were given the choice of 5 pizzas, here they name them after a city or country, I went for the Athena with roasted pepper sauce, spinach, feta cheese, pinenuts and pesto. I tentatively asked whether I might order from the so called a la carte menu (I quite fancied the superfood salad) but, slightly missing the point, the waitress brashly informed that the pizzas come with a side salad.

For the lunch special you get your chosen pizza with a beer or a glass of wine for £10.25. Reasonable I suppose, the food was served very swiftly.

The pizza itself was poor, an over oily base was doused in pesto and I my neighbour commented that I might well turn into popeye that afternoon with the glut of spinach throw on top. There was not much cheese, thick, barely warm (and really pretty hard) slices of tomato and the roasted pepper sauce was doing a fine job masquerading as a plain passata.

I downed my wine, left almost the entire crust, I am so not that person, and left the building with plenty of time to spare before the 2pm meeting. All other pizzas I viewed looked similarly underwhelming.

I'm itching to try the newly opened Pizza East which, by all accounts, is now the pizza to beat in London. For pizza in Central London I still think Rossopomodoro is the best i've tried.

Fire and Stone
31 Maiden Lane

Fire & Stone on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Diner

I had brunch with the girls on Sunday before heading into work for the afternoon, joy. Chosen venue was The Diner, my choice, for this I apologise.

Sampled dishes were, for me, eggs Benedict with hash browns on the side, and Nibs and Noy both went for blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. It must be said that I fared the best of the three of us but the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster.

The tea and coffee were virtually undrinkable, service was lacklustre, the place seems to be run by kids who don't care or are heavily hungover, or both. There were many waitresses yet it was hard to get their attention, I believe they are pushing their luck adding a 12.5% service charge to the bill.

My food was luke warm, the hollandaise tasted far too sour and one of the poached eggs was undercooked, and the other completely hard.

I can't complain though, the girls had to send back their stacks of pancakes which were mildly warm at most with stone cold bacon and not a hint of maple syrup. They were clearly pre made pancakes, probably fresh from a packet, curiously blobbed with icing sugar, an ill judged attempt to make them look nice? Didn't work. Noy's bacon was purple, we told ourselves it had been dyed by the scant sprinkling of blueberries.

The worst thing about the experience was rounding the corner to visit @eatlikeagirl at her Wish You Were Here market stall where Niamh was setting up shop for the day selling the most amazing looking salt beef and mustard bagels. We should have had those.

Needless to say, I shall not be returning to The Diner for brunch. I think it's safest to stick to burgers, burritos and milkshakes which Nibs informs me are better.

The Diner
18 Ganton Street

Diner on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 October 2009


For our next dinner out whilst the kitchen undergoes renovation, last Tuesday I tried my luck at very late notice and managed to bag a table at Polpo for the very same evening. There had been a cancellation and I was booked in for 2 at 7:30, perfect.

Upon arrival however, I discovered the chap on the phone (who had been very polite) had booked me in for 7:30 on Friday. We were asked to wait at the bar, rammed with diners waiting to be seated (including Mark Hix and Stephen Terry), I was almost ready to admit defeat when owner Rusell Norman led us to a table. He left Caprice Holdings not long back and this is his bash at a solo venture. Phew.

I was pretty excited about trying this place so expectations were high. I liked the vibe immediately, relaxed, dark, romantic, buzzy and cool, the waiting staff have just the right amount of nonchalance, I loved it and couldn't wait to sample the dishes.

To begin with we sampled 3 starters, the idea is to order a series of small plates so the starters are all very reasonably priced, less than £3 and are very small, more like appetizers or nibbles really. We had fig and proscuitto, salt cod on polenta and an anchovy and chickpea crostini. We halved each and it was a good start indeed, it took us all of 2 minutes to devour the lot, worth noting that the polenta was perhaps a little on the dry side but the cod was excellent and the anchovy and chickpea was an interesting mix.

We had a selection of mains which were all served promptly as we finished with the starters beginning with the pork belly with radicchio and hazelnuts.

This was deliciously fatty, the meat succulent and incredibly flavoursome but I found it to be far too salty. The pairing of radicchio and hazelnut is rather masterful, the bitterness of the leaves and the crunch of the nuts working brilliantly to complement but not overpower the pork.

Apologies for the darkness of the pictures, in order to recreate that oh so Venetian atmos us bloggers must forgo a decent snap. Next up was the grilled sliced flank steak and mushrooms. Again I thought the meat was rather salty, not as much as the pork but still, seasoning seemed a bit heavy handed. The steak was nicely cooked with the mushrooms providing a nice contrast in texture on a bed of peppery rocket.

We also had a fine tomato and tapenade pizzetta, again high in salt but tapenade by it's nature is pretty salty. There were a scant few slices of tomato, I was underwhelmed by this to be honest, I thought the base would be crispier but it was in fact rather doughy. Not hugely memorable. The fish dish, mackerel tartare with horseradish and cucumber was great but perhaps a little under seasoned. I do not recall getting much horseradish in the dish but I thought in all it's a well conceived and fresh tasting plate of food. It looked pretty too, served alongside a flatbread.

We also had some beets, which were very good, and some parmesan and potato croquettas. These were nicely cheesy and crisp on the exterior with a fluffy piping hot centre. I'm yet to try a croqueta that beats those at Barrafina and these sadly did not, though they are valiant contenders.

We were tempted by desserts trying both the honey and walnut semifreddo, served cutely in a cone, and ciambella, a sponge cake covered in cream and a chocolate sauce. The 'sponge' (described as such by the waiter) was pretty dense and drier than your average sponge. The sauce was the great thing about this dish, delightfully rich and naughty.

I've read some other mixed reviews of Polpo but our experience was good overall. The closeness of the neighbouring tables did mean for uncomfortable maneuvering at times, particularly when toilet breaks were needed but, like the lighting, arguably it adds to the experience.

I will eat here again, but I'll leave it a couple of months in the hope that some of the teething problems are ironed out. With the booking mix up and the incredibly over salted meat, the evening was a tad disappointing however, some dishes were great, and it was excellent value for money, at under £30 each for all the food and a carafe of red.

41 Beak St, Soho

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hix Soho

I dined at the new Hix restaurant in Soho earlier this week. We've had our kitchen ripped out and will be forced to eat out or order in over the next couple of weeks, loving it!

So, Hix was an enjoyable experience. I've not eaten at Mark Hix's other restaurants but was expecting good quality traditional English food. This was what I got.

After a mild bout of hysteria upon arriving and seeing Bill Granger sat at a neighbouring table, I regained my composure, selected a bottle of white and perused the menu. We were given some bread, a small white round loaf which was warm. I liked the bread a lot, the butter was a tad too cold, it's always an idea to allow it to come too room temperature in my opinion, it's better spreadable.

We began proceedings with the Blythburgh pork crackling with apple sauce which I thought was very good, incredibly crunchy, we munched away very loudly. It was not too oily at all but perhaps lacked a little flavour, there wasn't much of a meaty taste. The apple sauce was perfectly tart yet sweet and was more of a puree really, there was no chunks of apple.

For starter I chose the Cod tongue, I asked the waitress what she would recommend, this was her choice second only to the Heaven and Earth, a black pudding dish. She chose well for me. The cod was meaty and delicate, served with some fantastically flavoursome girolles, it was an ideal start to the meal.

Thomas' starter of crab with a breadcrumb topping was beautifully presented in the shell on a bed of seaweed, I preferred this to the cod but Thomas (not usually so easily perturbed) said the strong smell put him off somewhat. I thought it was pretty near perfect, served warm with a high brown to white meat ratio which is unusual.

My main course was a triumph, it was the thing that immediately jumped out at me when I checked out the menu online, I had the salt marsh mutton, kidney and oyster pie. It was perfectly sized, served in an individual pie dish topped with an oyster in the shell. There was a higher density of mutton, which suited me, and it was meltingly tender, the kidney was fairly mild in flavour and was not the slightest but rubbery as it can be if not cooked properly. The pastry was flaky, wonderfully buttery and prettily golden. I had some sprout tops on the side which were vibrantly green and delightfully strong and irony in flavour. I would highly recommend this dish, it was the star of the evening for me.

Thomas' main was the hanger steak with baked bone marrow. He liked this less the more he ate, it was very rich but the mouthful that I sampled was divine. Perfectly cooked medium rare and it looked nice with the marrow presented in a halved bone. Thomas chose sides of fries and some creamed spinach both of which were excellently executed.

We shared a dessert of bramley apple pie with custard which was okay, it didn't wow me like my pie had but it was a mightily generous portion, it would have been way too much for me. I liked that the custard came in a jug on the side for pouring as you wish, it annoys me when it comes poured liberally for you.

Some of our neighbouring diners fared less well, the gentleman to my right left almost all of his sausage, and told the waiter that he didn't in the least enjoy it. His companion raved about her cheese course.

The couple to my left chose the spectacularly elaborate looking trio of birds which put her off so much that they promptly left upon it's arrival (she was pregnant, and it was served very pink).

In all, I enjoyed the experience but I was left feeling rather underwhelmed by the whole thing. I feel at almost £60 a head there is better value available elsewhere but the room is lovely with low lighting, lots of mirrors and the bar downstairs is really rather fancy, a big open plan room encouraging lounging with plenty of low level seating and cushions. I would come back here and I think Hix will make a success of this new location.

66-70 Brewer Street, Soho

Hix on Urbanspoon