Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Nid Ting, Holloway Road

Clichéd Saturday evening entertainment = dinner and movie.

I did exactly this a couple of weekends ago with a visit to Nid Ting on Holloway Road followed by the Inbetweeners. Both proved to be underwhelming.

The restaurant was pretty busy with a steady flow of diners, it's a handy location for pre or post cinema dining just along the road from the Odeon. Which is perhaps the only positive thing I can find to say about the spot. Service was efficient and friendly, we'd not booked and were deftly accommodated.

Starters were solid yet unimaginative, prawn toast, dim sum-esque dumplings and spring rolls all prettily presented and generous in portion. The table dining next to us asked for 'spring rolls for 3' to start and got the giggles when 3 of the below (minus the arm) were presented, rookie error and spring roll overload.

I opted for the lamb massaman curry from the specials for main course. I really liked the sauce, mild and sweet, sprinkled with red chilli and peanuts and bulked up with potatoes but the lamb was tough and would have benefited from a longer slower cook.

Other mains were well received, the red chicken curry and a fiercely hot chicken stir fry with tonnes of chilli. There seemed to be a contingent of faithful regular diners appearing throughout the evening to a rapturous reception, Nid Ting is a safe but not out of the ordinary local find. They have an extensive menu, which I found it very tricky to select from, and prices are average (between £7 and £12 for mains).

I'll probably stick to Charuwan in future.

Nid Ting
533 Holloway Road

Nid Ting on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Le Pain Quotidien

I know it's a chain but the girls and I love Alain Coumont's Le Pain Quotidien so much that we ate there twice in one day on Noy's birthday weekend.

I usually have the cheeseboard, as indeed I did last Saturday. It hits the spot with an oozing blue, a pungent camembert, a hard, crumbly red and a creamy goats cheese. Served with a few dark grapes, some baguette, fruit and nut bread, wheat bread and butter. I love it, so simple, I have no idea what the cheeses are but they are consistently good.

Also great are the platters, meat, fish, veggie, mezze, they all look appealing. The fish platter with salmon pate, crab, prawns (let the side down as they lacked any flavour) and smoked salmon is perfect for grazing over the course of a long leisurely lunch. Noy enjoyed the Italian version, with tapenade, pesto, roasted veggies, artichoke, mozzarella and prosciutto. Nibs was happy with her tomato and mozzarella salad, the salads all look seriously good, generous portions and a huge selection to choose from.

Billed as a communal dining venue, at the Soho branch there is an enormous long wooden table running through the centre of the dining room as well as smaller tables seating 2's, 3's and 4's along the outer walls. I like the relaxed feel to the place and I like the prices. I'm not sure about the tartines, open sandwiches, never tried them, probably never will but there's a whole section of the menu devoted to them, and a daily special.

After a mooch around the shops we returned for some tea and cake, a pot or earl and a bakewell tart for me. An excellent crunchy pastry tart with a wickedly sweet and almondy centre, you can't go wrong with anything almond flavoured as far as I'm concerned.

Nibs went for the lemon tart and the birthday girl had cream tea. A monster scone with fluffy whipped cream and a selection of jams.

With a glass of prosecco lunch came to £20 a head with service. There's a lengthy breakfast menu available until 12:30 daily and more substantial dishes on the dinner menu from 5pm. It seems like there's a lot going on here with a befuddling combo of guises - cafe/boulangerie/pâtisserie/deli - but that's precisely what we like about it, particularly on those indecisive days where you can't pinpoint exactly what you all fancy.

Le Pain Quotidien
18 Great Marlborough Street

Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bocca di Lupo

On a busy Wednesday evening I scoffed at the size of the queue at Barrafina and head to Bocca di Lupo instead, finally making it a tardy 2 and a half years after the launch.

I've read great reports from fellow bloggers about meals here but my dear friends John and Sue were not so keen so I was keeping an open mind. We had to wait a mere 10 minutes and were seated at the bar. My companion thought the stool to bar ratio was off and felt pretty uncomfortable for the rest of the evening. I'm fairly short so wasn't bothered.

First up came an excellent selection of bread, served with olive oil to dunk and a bowl of those amazing vibrant green olives.

The concept is sharing plates, you're advised to order multiple dishes to split. We started with some courgette flowers with honey, mozzarella and anchovies. I loved these, the cheesy filling and the crunchy coating contrasting nicely.

Served next was the tomato and basil bruschetta which I found to be dull and lacking seasoning. Luckily it arrived with my favourite dish of the night, the orecchiette with 'nduja "extremely spicy home-made salame," red onion, tomato & rocket. It was as spicy as promised and we both agreed this was a fine dish, just the kind of food I'd hoped to find on Jacob Kenedy's menu.

The next batch of dishes to arrive began with the clams, mussels & borlotti beans stew, freshened up with a sprinkling of basil but a great hearty bowlful. The linguini with spider crab tomato and basil was a little devoid of flavour, nice al dente pasta but disappointingly bland. Our final savoury choice was grilled langoustines which were, I think, overpriced at £16 for 6 of the creatures, they yield so little meat.

It can be said that the desserts are a particular speciality here, what with Gelupo across the road. We tried the wickedly boozy rum baba with strawberries and cream and the gelato cup zuppa inglese, or trifle, sour cherry and zabione gelati with toasted almonds, this was wonderful, and refreshing. Most memorable though was the caffe allo zabaione, coffee with sweetened beaten egg yolk, incredible. I saw one of these being prepared and we just had to have one.

The meal came to £80, a lot given that I found some dishes didn't quite hit the mark. The good was very good and service was lovely but I think I might just brave the queue in future as my heart still belongs to Barrafina.

Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street


Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Horseshoe, Hampstead

As a birthday treat I had the ultimate indulgence package at Natura day spa in Hampstead last weekend, heartily recommend them by the way, if pampering is your thing, it was fantastic. Anyhow, following a morning of relaxation, I dined at The Horseshoe for brunch.

This place's main appeal has to the the micro brewery, most of their home brews have recently relocated to bigger surroundings in Chalk Farm but there are still several barrels to be found under the dining room here in Hampstead. But the food is certainly not an afterthought and I have to say this is perhaps the finest smoked salmon (bizarrely from Camden apparently) and scrambled eggs I have had in a long while.

Great bread was served too on a nice little wooden board, rustic and hearty seems to be the ethos here, the room is minimal and service is nonchalant. Excellent toasted sourdough the perfect platform for the fine coupling of salmon and eggs.

They had regrettably sold out of the eggs Benedict Thomas' first choice so he went for the cheeseburger. Another use for the little wooden boards, and chips in a bucket, again, seeing this everywhere!

I really liked the relaxed vibe at The Horseshoe, having stumbled upon it is fun too, I usually plan meals so it's nice to discover somewhere having not researched beforehand, how we used to do things pre food blogs.

I'd like to come back, the mussels smelled great. Less than £15 a head, my dish came with a glass of rose for £12.50. Lovely day for it.

The Horseshoe
28 Heath Street

Horseshoe on Urbanspoon