Tuesday, 31 December 2013

December Round Up

December being party month, as is only right, I ate my fair share of celebratory meals.  Things started off nicely with a long boozy lunch with Sarah and Hannah.

Berner's Tavern

We knew we were there for the long run and arrived for lunch at 1:15, leaving at around 10pm having propped up the bar long after we ought to have called it a night.  But it was Christmas, sort of.  The meal was excellent, my starter of potato and parsley soup with snails and black pudding (£7.50) was befitting of the setting, stunning.  Best of all was the breville toastie accompaniment.  Cheese and more black pudding lurked within.  The girls both went for the popular egg, ham and peas which looked incredible.

Fish mains all round, I had the pan roasted halibut with squid ink risotto, crispy garlic squid and rainbow chard (£24).  Each of the many components was brilliant.  I was very happy, the delicate fish was the star but was the squid ink risotto was a wonderful match.  Even better than the Fino version.

Winning dessert was Sarah's chocolate filled doughnut with cinnamon sugar and milk ice cream (£7) but special mention to the chocolate and orange rice pudding.  We were all less keen on the eclair but couldn't resist the lure of salted caramel ice cream.

We drank a lot of wine, and then a lot of cocktails.  The meal was obviously pricey, but the room is so elegant and grand that it only seems right to be paying a lot for it.  We had a ball and I love everything about the place.  Long may the Atherton empire reign.

Aqua Shard
Christmas meal number 2, this one with my Mum and Sister, we head to Aqua at the Shard for lunch with a view. 

First off I have to say that I found the service a little baffling, we were kept waiting for half an hour as they were over booked, when I asked how much longer we would be waiting, we were whisked off to a quiet area of the restaurant (where there were several other free tables for the duration of our stay) and given a bottle of champagne which was subsequently taken away.  They were all over the place.

Anyway, on to the food, we were given 3 servings of bread, which was very good, 2 kinds of butter, salted and smoked.  My starter of green pea custard with foie gras (£14) was nice but not wow.  The kid's salmon and crab (£12) and my Mum's beet and curd salad (£7.50) looked better.

My scallop main was very pretty but for £28 I thought it lacked something.  There was a liberal use of pea shoots on most dishes, I felt for the prices they're charging, the food was not quite up to scratch.  Other mains of lamb saddle (£29) and pearl barley risotto (£16) were better, I think I ordered badly.  We skipped dessert as we had well and truly filled up on bread, but all had coffees. 

I had expected an all day brunch type menu, I find it odd ordering from an a la carte menu at 2pm on a Saturday, but again, maybe it's just me.  Most people rave about this place, but for me, the jury's out.  I would like to revisit before writing it off but I found the meal instantly forgettable.  Shame given that it was such a special meal with my fam. 

A completely different experience followed, a really excellent meal which perhaps shouldn't have, but did take me by surprise.  Sarah, Hannah and I were invited to dine at the all day brasserie venue in King's Cross.  None of us had eaten there before and didn't have much of an idea what to expect.

My quail starter was excellent, served on pumpkin (mashed and roasted) with pancetta and sage.  Breast and leg were both cooked to perfection, it was an exciting start to the meal.

I was even happier with my venison main course, served with red cabbage, cauliflower and peppercorn sauce, again the meat was cooked perfectly and each ingredient combined to make a well thought out dish which really delivered on flavour.  I was happy.

Things ended on an even higher note with the Vacherin cheesecake.  I'm not typically a cheesecake kind of girl, but we were all digging into this and largely ignoring the hot chocolate pot.  It was incredible.

It's refreshing to have such a good dinner at a place that had previously not been on my radar.  I'd be interested to try breakfast here too, the menu reads very well.

We dined as guests of Karpo

I managed to bag a table for 2 on opening night for a try of the schnitzel and spritz on offer at Boopshi's.  So it's a little niche, I went thinking if they're offering such a limited menu, it had better be good, and authentic.  And it was.

We went wiener with the schnitzel for £14.50, I wanted to add an egg, as I always would if the option is there, but this is not authentic, I'm told.  The meat was thin, the breadcrumb crisp and I love a netted lemon.  The bratwurst (£6) tasted just as I remember them in Bavaria, though it was luke warm and would have benefitted from a little longer on the grill.  Bonus points for serving sweet mustard with it though.

Sides of kasespaetzle (£3.50) sauerkraut mit speck (£4.50) and potato salad (£3.50) were all good, and the spritz' are excellent, and huge priced between £7.50 and £9.50.  They also have prosecco on tap, excellent.  Desserts are few, kaiserschmarrn (£6) was almost there but not quite how I recall it, it needed caster sugar and a lot more icing sugar and I've had it a splodge of cream alongside the fruit which I think it benefits from.  Love what they're doing.  I hope they do well and will be interested to see where they take the menu in future.

One Leicester Street
Having taken over the venue from the St Johns Hotel, I've seen lots of snaps on Instagram recently of amazing looking dishes in the restaurant here, and even better looking drinks in the upstairs bar.  Art and I headed there for our last meal together in 2013 on a shockingly rainy night.  Sheltering from the weather upstairs we ordered gin martinis which were eventually served down at our table.  They're sort of self assemble though, which threw us off a bit.  We know how to drink them, but when it comes to mixology, we're happy to leave it to the pros. 

Onto the food, my starter of crab, fennel and rye cracker (£9.50) was great.  Lots of dark meat and a smattering of dill.  Couple of bits of shell in my first few mouthfuls.  Art's ham was also good and a generous portion.

I was very pleased with my choice of main, venison, white bean and kale (£20).  It was perfect for a dismally dark evening, the beans beat me though.  Art's chicken and leek pie (£17.50) was equally good, really tasty.  So far, so hearty.

I knew I needed the brown butter tart (£7) for dessert, there was never any doubt, and Art preferred the chocolate, honeycomb and violet (£8.50) which worked out very well for us both.  

The menu is very short and a tad confusing, separated into fish, offal/meat and veg with small and large plates categorised by main ingredient.  I guess I ought to loosen up but I prefer a more traditional structure.  You know where you are with starters and mains.

Service was a little brisk and the restaurant was not full, unlike the bar upstairs which was packed.  I'm glad I've ticked it off the list, but wouldn't rush back.

Berner's Tavern
The London Edition
Berner's St

Berners Tavern on Urbanspoon

Aqua Shard
The Shard, St Thomas St
London Bridge

Aqua Shard on Urbanspoon

23 Euston Road
King's Cross
We dined as guests of Karpo 

Karpo on Urbanspoon

31 Windmill Street

Boopshis on Urbanspoon

One Leicester Street
1 Leicester St
Leicester Square

One Leicester Street on Urbanspoon

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