Friday, 11 March 2011

Fernandez & Wells

I love London, there are still so many establishments on my wish list. Regular restaurant openings mean that list continues to grow rather than diminish each week. It's really very exciting and I find eating out is still the thing I enjoy spending the majority of my weekly pay on. Other expenditures just mean less ready cash for dinners out.

The abundance of places to dine at in Soho has meant it's taken me an age to get to Fernandez & Wells but I recently lunched at their espresso bar. Very good it was too. I had a chorizo and tomato stew with bread.

It was a massive bowlful with a generous hunk of baguette. I actually couldn't finish it.

The array of sandwiches, baguettes, buns, salads and pastries is really impressive. Everything is inviting, it's tough to choose. It's only a smidge more than you'll pay for a pret/eat type lunch and infinitely more satisfying. The toasted egg, prosciutto and watercress ciabatta was also a hit.

They serve meat and cheese platters, are open evenings here and at the larger restaurant on Lexington, or there's the cafe on Beak serving breakfast and lunch. Something for everyone and is a real gem to have close to work.

Fernandez & Wells Espresso Bar
16a St Anne's Court
Soho, W1

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Jamie's Italian

Saturday Kitchen is rarely my weekend food inspiration but this week, watching Antonio Carluccio cook a stunning plate of tajarini al tartufo (in Umbria, not BBC television centre) resulted in an almost unbearable craving for truffle pasta.

Sunday lunch with my Mum was a perfect excuse to seek out that carby treat. Meeting at Charing Cross somewhat limited our choice of venue so we plumped for Jamie's Italian. We'd eaten at the Covent Garden restaurant before and both had pretty good salads, we were keen to sample some pasta dishes. Happily, like before, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ingredients and the execution of the dishes.

I started with the bruschetta with ricotta and 'oven dried' tomatoes. This was really lovely, a generous smear of fresh creamy ricotta on some crisp ciabatta, good quality olive oil and a sprinkling of baby basil and rosemary. However I have a couple of issues with the menu descriptions. The tomatoes are clearly not oven dried and there was not even the merest hint of garlic (ciabatta supposedly rubbed with). Still, I really enjoyed it.

Also visible in the above picture are the green olives from Puglia, declared on the menu to be 'the world's best olives on ice.' Totally annoyingly over the top wording but I had these last time I came and to be honest, these, along with the olives I had a 500, are the best olive's I've ever had. Though I do not claim to have tried every olive in the world. I'd be very surprised if even the great Jamie himself had.

My Mum had the aranici, they looked stunning. My main, the very reason I was here, wild truffle tagliatelli was very good. The pasta was a tad over al dente but by no means disastrously so. The silky sauce of butter, Parmesan, nutmeg and truffle shavings really hit the spot, no mistruths on the menu with this dish. Should I find myself without a reservation for one of London's finer Italian eateries and craving pasta, I'd consider Jamie's Italian to be a reliable option.

Mum's spag bol hit the spot as did 2 americanos with hot milk. Worth noting that the service is slightly irksome. The wait staff seem to have been instructed to strike up conversation as frequently as possible. It's a bit try hard for my liking. Otherwise, I'm really very impressed with the place. At £20 a head it's reasonable and the Upper St Martin's Lane regeneration has dramatically improved the area.

Jamie's Italian
11 Upper St Martin's Lane

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Saturday, 5 March 2011


Blogger's favourite Koya opened almost a year ago and having heard nothing but rapturous praise for their noodles ever since, I've been eager to visit for months. It's taken me a while due to Koya's popularity and the ever present queue to get in. One time I made it in only to find they'd run out of noodles.

Last Tuesday I made another unplanned attempt, and success at last! No queue and we swooped on a table for 2 just as a couple were leaving. So, it totally lived up to the hype and these were the best (apparently freshly foot rolled each morning) noodles I've ever had. I had the kinoko hiya-atsu, cold udon and a hot broth with mushrooms and walnut miso. At £10.80 it's not the cheapest option but the miso really elevates this beyond a token vegetarian option.

To start we shared a yasai ten mori, tempura selection, which included asparagus, mushroom and banana (!) amongst others. This too was brilliant.

I also popped an onsen tamago, poached egg, into my noodles, adding another layer of depth to the flavours in the bowl once the yolk had been speared. The noodles are lengthy so fairly tricky to manage without making an awful mess but nobody seems to mind, and everybody slurps. I also had a taste of my companions duck which was lovely and we shared a side of kinoko tsukudani, soy marinated mushrooms. We drank tap water and left feeling just the right level of fullness having parted with only £35.

I can't wait to explore more of the menu here. The room is small and social but I spotted some bar style seating in a room at the rear which overlooks the kitchen, I'll be back to try to nab one of these seats. Certainly the best noodles in town.

49 Frith Street

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