Wednesday, 30 October 2013

October Round Up

Round up time.  Looking back, it's been a pretty busy month....

Finally made it to Janetira for lunch one day to try their famed Khao soi (£9.50) and I wasn't disappointed.  It consists of chicken on and off the bone, a rich coconut soup, boiled and crispy fried noodles.  Look at the sides you get with it!!  Knew it was going to be seriously good when I clapped eyes on that side plate.  Will definitely be back to try more.  Much more of interest here than you see on typical Thai menus in London.

I wished my friend Suz farewell at The Eagle one evening (she's gone home to Mexico City).  I was chuffed at the choice of venue as I'd been wanting to visit for a long time.  I had a lovely bowl of linguini with mussels and a ton of garlic.

Nibbles of olives and bread were good and the house red was very well received by our table of 6 ladies.  Lola, Suz's dog got a pork chop bone to chew so everyone was happy!

It has a very loyal following and The Eagle is widely considered to have been the trigger of the gastropub revolution when it opened in 1991.  I loved it and will be back to try more.  Open kitchen situation.  Relaxed and fun.  My dish was under a tenner, as is a bottle of house wine.

Early in the month I was invited to a brilliant event at Fish Market to mark the launch of this year's vintage of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc.  Hannah (Crump Eats) and I teamed up to create (rather, watch the restaurant chefs scramble something together from the fruits of our lacklustre Borough Market haul) this.

It was a cooking competition to see who could come up with a dish the judges (head chef Barry Macmillan and Nick-Blampied-Lane, one of the winemakers) deemed the best match for the 2013 sauvignon.  Needless to say we came last but after the cooking we got to enjoy a 3 course meal in the restaurant.  Beginning with Barry's creation to pair with the wine, scallop ceviche with chilli and lemon zest.  I'll leave the professionals to it in future!

I enjoyed my first visit to Honey & Co early in October too.  I knew I'd enjoy the meal, many friends and bloggers rave about it.  Middle Eastern in flavours, the place is tiny, so it's advisable to book ahead, we did and they lost the reservation so the first round was on them, yay!

Barry Macmillan
Barry Macmillan
Standout dish on the night for me was the slow cooked lamb with saffron rice, almonds and raisins.  We were all sharing and I was happy this dish was close to me, it was really moreish, a sweet creamy sauce with plenty of lamb lurking in the rice.  So good.  We went for the set menu which allows you a selection of mezze style starters and a main dish each for £26. 

I was also quite taken with the pistachio cake which at first look appeared to be a bit dry but was moist and sticky and everything I want in a dessert with a big dollop of cream.  We were given a freebie of chicken liver baklava as they messed up our starter and omitted some of the dishes, I was pleasantly full though and they dealt swiftly with the couple of gripes we had.  

Onto brunch with the Kid at The W Hotel.  You get slippers and bottomless bloody mary's so with those 2 boxes ticked I was happy.  Food wasn't great but it's a fun vibe and a good place to read the Sunday papers and people watch.  For £25 you get granola and fruit followed by this starter platter, between 2.

Not sure who in their right mind would think it's a good idea to pipe cream cheese onto a mini bagel, but that's what they do.  Welsh rarebit was the highlight of this selection.  This is followed by roast beef in a yorkshire pud with veggies and truffle mac & cheese, without any truffle.  I doubt I'd return here to eat, but it is a fun place to hang out.  There's a DJ, at 10am.  Fun times.  Oh and you get unlimited sweet shop style sweets.

Final treat to report is a little local find, recommended by my friends Bel and Lee, Rossella.  It's a small family run restaurant in Kentish Town, nothing fancy, a few doors down from The Southampton Arms, where a half rounded off our night nicely.  I had this special, some kind of beef stew with veggie risotto, portion sizes are ridiculous and costs are insanely low.  We ate a lot, had a bottle of house red and paid something silly like £20 each.  A starter of fried calamari was very impressive.

I should also mention London Cocktail Week.  I went for various evenings of fun and ate this at the Portobello Road gin pop up Parlour in the Seven Dials Club, where we could still smell the paint, they'd prepped the dining room earlier that day!

This was a rose veal cottage pie and it was very nice indeed.  For £15 you got this, a cocktail (Tom Collins) some bread and a little smoked salmon starter.  Bargain.  Check here next year for details of London Cocktail Week events and to get your wristband.  £4 cocktails people.

Janetira Eat Thai
26 Brewer St
Soho W1F

Janetira on Urbanspoon

The Eagle
159 Farringdon Road

The Eagle on Urbanspoon

Fish Market
16b New ST
Liverpool St

Fish Market on Urbanspoon

I dined as a guest of Fish Market

Honey & Co
25a Warren St

Honey & Co on Urbanspoon

W Hotel 
10 Wardour St

W Hotel on Urbanspoon

Ristorante Rossella
103 Highgate Road

Ristorante Rossella on Urbanspoon

Kaspar's @ The Savoy

Back in June when the Kid and I attended the Taste of London preview evening, we tried the salmon hotdog from Kasper's.  Declaring it one of the best things she's eaten Kid booked us in for a celebratory lunch at Kaspar's after finishing her final exam earlier this month, woo!  Well done Kid!

We were hideously late, party due to TFL and partly due to the weather but they were ever so polite about it.  Charlie and Nibs arrived on time and tucked into the fantastic bread whilst they waited for us.  They served more as soon as Kid and I sat down.

As we were celebrating we ordered a bottle of fizz to get started.  Kasper's being a seafood bar and grill, we all did the sensible thing and ordered fish.  Sad to see the salmon dawg was no longer on the menu, Kid opted for the lobster club.  Having declared en route that she detests avocado, she was a tad disappointed when it arrived.

This was so good that it actually changed Kid's opinion where avocado is concerned.  Usually a texture issue, it was not a problem with this sarnie, it was all about the lobster followed by the bacon.  The obligatory side of fries was also well received.  £28 isn't cheap but there was plenty of lobster and the setting is special.

Nibs and Charlie had the royale fruit de mare platter for £45.  Consisting of half a lobster, oysters, crab, prawns and scallops.  The seafood was exceptional, I was gifted an oyster.  Fries don't come with this so on the side they were an extra £4.

I opted for the fish pie, £19.  Plenty of fish in there, mussels, salmon, prawns and plenty of boiled egg, which always makes me very happy.

Topped with a lot of Parmesan mash, I couldn't actually finish it, and that very rarely happens.  A side of garlicky chilli broccoli went down very well, also £4.  We were too full for dessert so we decamped to the pub for the rest of the day after our lunch of indulgence at The Savoy and Five Guys later in the evening!  It's obviously not going to be cheap but it really is a lovely setting and the service was exceptional, I'd say it's well worth splashing out.

Kaspar's @ The Savoy
The Strand

Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Merchants Tavern

3 weeks after opening, I'm pleased to report that Merchants Tavern was everything I hoped it would be.  We had a lovely meal at the bar as walk ins on a busy Thursday night.  This is a new joint venture between Angela Harnett and the team behind Canteen.

The front facing bar area is dark and sultry, all exposed brick and dark wood, I instantly liked the feel of the place.  There was a steady stream of visitors coming and going, some diners in the bar area but mostly post work drinkers.  It feels relaxed and like somewhere you want to spend many an evening.

We started off with a glass of champagne and some starters to share from the bar menu.

The salt beef on rye sandwich (£7) and the cauliflower cheese croquettes (£3.90) arrived first.  The former was a little on the dry side, good quality meat but not an easy thing to share, our own fault, not the smartest of orders.  Great pickled cabbage though and I think there were a few juniper berries in there, nice touch.

The croquettes were potato based but had a strong cauliflower flavour with an oozy cheese centre.  Presented in the little metal tin, 3 between 2, also not an ideal sharer. 

The best of the starters by far was the ogleshield and ham toasted sandwich (£8), I would definitely order that again, every day of my life if I could!  Served with sliced pickle to cut through the richness of the cheese, even looking amazing in this crap pic! 

Pretty much everything on the short bar menu appealed to me actually, deep fried oysters, fish fingers with tartare (which we would have ordered but that day’s batch of haddock was deemed not good upon delivery apparently, shame).  Jesus salami also sounds intriguing….

Onto mains and we ordered from the restaurant menu proper and made everyone in the bar jealous when the dishes arrived and the smells wafted through the room.

I went for the cod with ham hock, chicken broth, leeks and salsify (£19).  The fish was perfectly cooked and the broth was delicate and full of chickeny goodness.  Loved it.

Art, of course, had the pork belly with roasted cauliflower and savoy cabbage (£19.50).  It looked so pretty.  We had sides of baked potato puree and root veggies (£3.50 each).

Special mention to the brilliant Thomas Blythe too, who is running front of house with his customary flair and wit. He delivered our dessert of rum baba with caramelized apples and raisins (£8).  2 kinds of apple, I really welcomed the tang of the crispy sliced green apple.

To conclude, I loved Merchants Tavern, loved the food, vibe, service, location, I could go on.  Places like this opening make me love the London restaurant scene more and more.  There's so much choice and general standards are much higher, even than when I moved to the city in 2007.  I'll be moving to Montreal for work in March so I have a lot of eating to cram into the next 4 months.  I hope to make it back to Merchants Tavern before I head off.

Angela Harnett was there on the night, and Giles Coren was in for dinner, I reckon he loved it, too.  

Merchants Tavern
36 Charlotte Road

Merchants Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Needoo Grill

I had my first Whitechapel curry experience recently, at Needoo Grill, not the nearby and much lauded Tayyabs.  Reason being, it came highly recommended to me, I had clear instructions about what to have and I wasn't disappointed.

We did have to queue for around 20 minutes on the Wednesday night that we visited but it moves quickly and gives you a chance to peruse the menu, in all its laminated and sticky glory.  There's an open kitchen at the front, with a few tables and a larger dining room to the rear up some steps.  Tables are turned swiftly and the whole place is full of intoxicating smoky fumes, giving you an idea of the quality of the Punjabi dishes to come.

We began with the mixed grill, lamb chops, chicken tikka and grilled lamb seekh kebabs.  All were excellent.  Served on a sizzling hot plate with grilled onions and a large wedge of lemon. 

Also served early are the brilliant house chutneys, each nice and hot with poppadums, plain and spiced, and a green salad.

Onto mains and we both opted for karahi, gosht (lamb) and chicken.  Both were amazing, deeply spiced, richly flavoured with a good thick layer of oil on the top.  Karahi being the type of pan used to cook the dish, round and thick bottomed, the sauce is tomato and chilli based and was pleasingly fiery.

We also ordered garlic naans and rice, and tap water to drink.  There was a lot of food for 2 people and I felt so full by the end of the evening.  Perhaps the best thing is the price of such a great meal being so reasonable.  We paid around £30 with service. 

Loved Needoo Grill as much as I'd expected to and hope to return very soon.  But I absolutely must get to Tayyabs first.

Needoo Grill
87 New Road

Needoo Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 October 2013


I've never been to Bar Shu or Ba Shan, arguably these would have been a better starting point, but Art and I recently ate at Baiwei, the newest offering from the group.

Despite having read about the understated decor, I was still surprised by just how pared back it is in there.  We ate in the first floor dining room, which is a little sleeker than the ground floor but small and packed with tables.  The restaurant wasn't full though so we didn't have any immediate neighbours.

We ordered tap water which was met with undisguised disdain, but we ignored it.  We were after a quick bite before seeing Blue Jasmine and it's the perfect place for a brief visit.  Food arrived quickly.

First up the pork belly and bamboo pot sticker dumplings (£6.50).  These were good, the pot could have been a bit stickier, but the best thing was the soy dipping sauce, so good.

More pork taking the form of soyed slivers which were to be wrapped in tofu sheets and garnished with spring onion (£6.50).  I've never eaten anything like this before, the wraps being completely different in texture to other Chinese varieties I have tried.  Different in a good way.

The unanimous favourite dish of the night was this tofu with pork and black beans.  It was doused in chilli oil and was fiercely hot, we ordered some boiled rice to temper it slightly.  Loved it.  Think this was around £8.

I was a bit disappointed with the dan dan noodles (£4.50), they lacked heat and sauce.  The minced beef topping was dry and the noodles claggy.  Yipin China's version is far superior.

Last to appear was the spinach in garlic (£6).  Really good and powerfully flavoured, loads and loads of garlic.

As usual, we ordered way too much and were defeated.  I'd echo Marina's sentiment that the dishes best executed at Baiwei are the tofu ones.  Was certainly true of our experience, I wouldn't say I'm a tofu lover, but that was the most memorable part of the meal.

Good value for the amount of food, we paid about £16 each, I might go back, but won't rush.  Happy to have eaten here though, because I work so close yet rarely eat in Chinatown, something I've been saying for years and still intend to rectify.

8 Little Newport St

Baiwai on Urbanspoon