Sunday, 27 June 2010


I celebrated my birthday this year with a brunch at Paramount. Birthdays being a prime opportunity to fit several meals out into one day, or, even better, draw out the celebrations for as long as possible (I'm off to Marrakesh next weekend, 10 day birthday's are acceptable right?)

First thing's first, the view. Spectacular. On one of the finest days of the summer this was the backdrop to the meal. When entering the building Paramount diners must check in with reception then step into the lift to be swiftly transported to the formal dining area at the summit of Centre Point.

A recent revamp has signalled then opening of Paramount to the public, previously members only this breathtaking venue is now available for all and I can't wait to return for drinks and dinner.

I started with a bloody mary, vital brunch component, which was nicely presented and very spicy but a bit pricey at £11. There is a fairly hefty mark up but it's definitely worth the cost when you glance out of the panoramic windows, the views are mesmerising. After the meal our waiter suggested we might like to visit the viewing gallery on the next floor where there is a bar and intimate booth like seats overlooking the cityscape each direction.

The brunch menu is concise but quite varied, I figured it was a tad early (11:30) for a fish pie and opted for the plaice goujons with hand cut chips and tartar sauce. I thought the chips were a bit on the dry side, the tartar was good and the goujons were nicely crisp. It looked like a pretty measly portion but I was surprisingly full afterwards so it's actually just the right amount of food.

My Mum and the Kid both went for the full English which looked good and Noy had the open club sandwich with a side of chips. This was interestingly topped with an egg and drizzled with balsamic. Noy had a beer, other drinks were soft and with service the bill came to just over £20 each. It's not cheap, they're not offering anything unique food wise and the place was virtually deserted so it's not likely to win any awards for atmosphere but Paramount is all about the views and I shall definitely be back very soon.

Centre Point
New Oxford St


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Friday, 25 June 2010

Smirnoff Black Pop up Bar

Last night I indulged in some cocktail making courtesy of Smirnoff black. They kindly sent a selection of bloggers and tweeters a kit with which to mix up several different concoctions under the tutoring of Daryl Haldane via demonstrations on twitvid, the escapades can be seen under the hashtag #smirnoffblack.

My favourite on the evening was the strawberry caipiroska, a take on the classic caipirinha prepared with vodka instead of cacha├ža. A refreshing combination of Smirnoff Black, lime, sugar and muddled strawberries, I think this is my new favourite cocktail.

The evening kicked off at 7pm with a vodka and tonic, ending up around 9 with a Moscow mule and several alternative versions using apple juice or strawberries. I would have continued through the night had I not run out of ice, why doesn't it freeze quicker?!

Thanks to Smirnoff and Daryl for widening my repertoire, I shall definitely be making these in the future.

I was invited to participate in the evening by Smirfnoff Black and I received a complimentary cocktail making kit

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Taste of London Festival

Much is written about Taste Festival each year but 2010 was the first time I actually managed to attend. I went on the final day of 4, the Sunday so I was more than prepared, I knew exactly what I wanted and what to avoid thanks to these great posts from Su-Yin, Kang and Niamh.

Regent's Park is breathtakingly beautiful on a summers day, the perfect back drop for the festival and subsequent walk to ease that inevitable full feeling. I'll start with my 3 favourites on the day:

My number 1 dish and the very first thing we tried was the Dinings seared wagyu sushi. The beef was incredible in both flavour and texture, I wasn't sure how exactly it would all come together but the fois gras, the rice, the soy and the wasabi was an incredibly exciting mouthful and a very promising start to the feast. (16 crowns)

2nd on the day was Tristan Welch's spit roast Old Spot suckling pig served with black summer truffles in a brioche bun. I've not managed to dine at Launceston Place yet, definitely on the list, again I wasn't sure about the construction of this dish to begin with, my first mouthful was a bit dry but subsequent bites were masterful and left me wanting more. (10 crowns)

My 3rd favourite dish was Trinity's pig's trotters on poliane served with a fried quail's egg, sauce gribiche and crackling, widely regarded as the dish of the festival. This was all the more sweet because I managed to snag the final portion of the day, it was available between 3-4 only on Sunday but they were all out by 3:30, it doesn't look like much on the plate but I assure you it delivered and lived up to my expectation. (12 crowns)

The good:

Chapel Down Sparkling rose and Whitstable Oysters (12 crowns)

Awana Daging rendang. Beef rendang has become one of my most often cooked meals at home and I was keen to try a version from a professional kitchen, this didn't disappoint and was a lighter and more aromatic take on the dish, lovely (10 crowns)

Satay House Ayam goreng bawang putih, super spicy chicken wings from the Taste of Malaysia section (8 crowns)

Waitrose Kitchen chocolate mousse with strawberries, coconut whip and hazelnut crackling (6 crowns)

The not so good:

Fino's cochifrito suckling pig. For me this was the biggest disappointment. The staff at the stand were harangued and unhappy, complaining about how busy they were, and the portion I got (not that pictured above) was mostly bone. (14 crowns)

Gaucho's Argentine black angus sirloin with humitas chimichurri. The beans were marvellous but the steak was a little tough, extra points for the aroma from the grill though, very enticing. (10 crowns)

Trinity's roast belly of middle white pork. I felt this was a bit chewy and not roasted for long enough, fantastic crackling though that stuck in my teeth, in a good way! (10 crowns)

Bentley's fish was light with a great crispy batter but the chips were not good, many of them black. The mushy peas were a bit meh, and I'm usually a fan. I thought this would have benefited from a dousing of vinegar, they had added plenty of salt. (10 crowns)

Tom's Kitchen's eton mess. This was a bit too 'herby,' basil I think and lacking in meringue. Very stingy portion too (6 crowns)

We somehow found ourselves doing a tour of the rum stalls for the rest of the afternoon, sampling shot after shot and nibbling on free samples from the multitude of vendors selling their wares. The festival has a wonderful atmosphere.

250 crowns later (between 2 of us) I left feeling sleepy but happy with a list as long as my arm of venues I am dying to visit for an entire meal. Taste is an expensive treat but as it comes just once a year I'll certainly be splashing out next time around and would recommend it to anyone with even the mildest interest in food and drink.

I attended Taste of London with a press pass but all eats were purchased with my own crowns

Thursday, 10 June 2010

My top 10 London restaurants

My blog has been suffering from neglect this year, not because I'm eating out less, but due to the fact that I now return to the same few restaurants time and time again rather than venture to new openings and risk disappointment.

I think it's time to compile a list of those places that I most regularly frequent, detailing why I love them so much and the item/s on their menus that I find myself craving, in no particular order...

1) Del Parc
The menu here - tapas 'with a North African twist' - is just the right mix of old favourites and new and exciting combinations, recent dishes I've tried include mackerel with rhubarb, mint and chilli and the classic padron peppers. The relaxed atmosphere and warm welcome from Alan and Steve ensure this is a regular dinner venue, particularly nice in the summer months.

Dishes I crave - those amazing marinated olives (below) and the goats cheese and figs in parma ham. See my full review here

2) Goodman
Incredible steak, much has been written about it, I've still yet to try the burger here because I can never resist the lure of the New York strip or the (girl's steak) grass fed fillet. A bloody mary is always a must here too. Love the decor and the excellent service just wish it was easier to get a table mid week.

Dish I crave - the macaroni cheese with truffle oil. See my full review here

3) Barrafina
I love love love Barrafina. Lucky that I'm a patient person because there is ALWAYS a lengthy queue but it is most certainly worth the wait. Efficient service, an excellent and varied tapas menu with daily specials, Barrafina never disappoints. Seafood is particularly good.

Dish I crave (always) - the magnificent cheese and ham croquettas. See my full review here

4) Lantana
This cafe paved the way for the new wave of Antipodean brunch/lunch type venues in London so we have owner (and blogger) Shelagh to thank for this burgeoning scene. It's wonderful to see them expanding and now opening on Sundays (yay) and evenings during the summer months. Get there early or late to avoid the queues.

Dish I crave - baked beans and feta. See my full review here

5) The Bull and Last
Great gastropub run by chef Ollie Pudney which is just around the corner from where I live! The menu is very considered and I've not yet been disappointed with anything I've sampled. A pretty listed building perfect for lazy weekend lunches or just drinks but you won't be able to resist the menu.

Dish I crave - triple cooked chips. See my full review here

6) Byron
This is a chain but that, thankfully, does not seem to affect the quality of the byron burger. With new branches popping up left right and centre, it seems many agree with me. Well sourced ingredients and an owner with his finger on the social media pulse ensures Byron stay on top of their game. Reasonable prices and swift but still personal service.

Dish I crave - The George Hamilton burger. See my full review here

7) Caravan
I adore Caravan, in a similar vein to Lantana but on foodie mecca Exmouth Market. Relaxed dining with a very well constructed brunch menu, again very busy so arrive early or late to be guaranteed a table as they operate a no reservations policy on weekends.

Dish I crave - baked eggs with chorizo. See my full review here

8) Galvin at Windows
My go to special occasion venue for a celebratory meal. First visit was for an anniversary dinner and I was blown away by both the exemplary service, the fine food and of course the stunning views from the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane.

Dish I crave - that monster tarte tatin. See my full review here

9) Princi
Great for lunch, if a little on the pricey side, I love their salad boxes and the olive bread is out of this world. Desserts and hot meals are available too, authentic Milanese from Alan Yau, good luck getting a seat, or even standing room at lunchtime.

Dish I crave - apple, chicken and avocado salad. See my full review here

10) J Sheekey Oyster Bar
I love the luxury of this bar to the left side of the main restaurant. Lavishly decorated it has a gentleman's club feel to it. The spectacle of unbeatable shellfish prepared before you if you opt to sit at the bar is very entertaining. Frequent special offers including half a dozen oysters and champagne for £14 makes this is a popular pre theatre option. Or just for the occasional indulgence, I work dangerously nearby!

Dish I crave - the crowd pleasing Plateau de Fruits de Mer. See my full review here

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Formans - Dining with Dos Hermanos (minus Simon)

On Bank Holiday Monday I excitedly made my way to the aptly names Fish Island to attend the latest Dine with Dos Hermanos event at Formans, the newish restaurant from H. Forman and Son, a smoked salmon and fine food wholesaler.

I had a little difficulty locating the venue, though I did enjoy wandering around this, for me previously unexplored, area of East London. I arrived in the middle of a salmon cutting demonstration, it was a lot to take in, the view from the room is breathtaking, overlooking the Olympic stadium, and Darren Matson's slicing was nothing short of masterful, he made it look so easy.

We sat to begin the feast, Dine with Dos Hermanos events are always feasts, I've been fortunate to attend previous evenings at The Bull and Last and Bentleys, both wonderful evenings. I'd missed the welcome cocktail on this occasion, but if one thing was for sure, there was to be no shortage of drinks.

We were served 4 kinds of Formans London cure smoked salmon, with buckwheat blinis, capers, diced shallots and creme fraiche. My favourite of the 4 varieties was the gravadlax. All agreed each were excellent, most preferred the wild. This was accompanied by a glass (with multiple refills naturally) of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 1995 which was one of the finest sparkling wines I have ever tried. I could have drunk this all evening.

The main course was served family style, a large porchetta with the most crunchy and tasty crackling I've ever eaten. It was one of the highlights of the evening. The side dishes were asparagus, roasted new potatoes, carrots, apple sauce and a lovely mushroom gravy. The drinks were glasses of Ortega 2007 white wine and a shot of Kingston Black cider, wickedly strong hence the size of the serving.

The dessert was the least successful course of the night for me, a glazed apple tart with roddas clotted cream. The latter never disappoints but my serving of the tart was under glazed, the apples were fairly flavourless, though the pastry was excellent. In the picture, the accompanying glass of cider brandy is visible, I found this a tad too strong, the dessert just didn't stand up to it.

I was most looking forward to the final course of cheese, provided by Neal's Yard Dairy, the crumbly stichelton stood out for me, I thought it worked very well with the tang of the homemeade chutney and the Peter's Yard cripsbreads. We got some of these in the infamous goodie bag, I'll certainly be putting these to good use with a cheeseboard in the near future.

The Worthington White Sheild IPA was an interesting choice to serve at the end of the meal but it was a nice refreshing flavour.

We also had coffee and chocolates, the coffee pots I recall were a curious shape, one of my fellow diners noted that they would cause much difficulty for left handed pourers - lefties be warned.

Following the meal we were led upstairs to view the art selection housed on the top level of the building, this was a cute end to a great event, as we left we were handed our goodie bags, see Hermano Primero's report over at Dos Hermanos for the full content. Thanks to both Hermanos brilliant organizing and hosting as always.

All this for the usual £40.

Formans Restaurant
Stour Road, Fish Island,
E3 2NH


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