Friday, 28 February 2014

February Round Up

This has been my last full month in London.  I’m off to Canada on 20th March, exciting.  I’ve tried to cram as much as physically possible into my final few months.  Here’s a quick round up of some February eats.

Early in the month Art and I head to Maltby Street market in search of doughnuts and general treats.  St John Bakery came up trumps, imitations of these are everywhere at the moment.  This one was chocolate filled.  #idontevenlikedoughnuts but I love these things.

Then we ate at 40 Maltby Street.  I have one word for you - HAM.  Go there and eat it.  The lamb broth and champers by the glass were equally pleasing.  Really liked the place.  Very interesting wine list.  Spent around £40 each I think.  The toasts were also amazing, seen in front of the ham, anchovy paste and rare roast beef. 

Maltby St Market

40 Maltby Street on Urbanspoon
After a long wait, I finally made it to Polpetto.  I never went to the French House incarnation, which is a shame as I love the bar.  Anyway, Russell, Florence and co are now permanently based on Berwick and I've been twice already *smug*.

Highlights for me have included the hare papardelle (£8) and the scallop, cauliflower and lardo (£12.50).  The service was still somewhat green.  There were some breakages on one visit, we weren’t given napkins or cutlery and we were very rushed.  We had to repeatedly tell the guys behind the bar that we weren’t finished yet as they tried to clean away the plates with food left on them.  Annoying.  Early days though.  They’d run out of the rhubarb and rose mix so we couldn’t have the drink we wanted.  I went back for lunch and things were much better.  And Russell was there both times!
Spent about £55 each for dinner and half that at lunch
11 Berwick St
Polpetto on Urbanspoon
Much earlier in the month I practised my French by visiting Casse Croute on Bermondsey Street.  There were 3 of us, and there are 3 options for each course on the daily changing chalkboard menu.  Highlights were the terrine de foie gras (£8) and the confit de canard with confit potatoes (£14.50).  The place is small but the food is really excellent and the service friendly.  It’s really good value cooking and a perfect local if you live in the area.

109 Bermondsey St
Casse Croute on Urbanspoon
I went for lunch with AV to Brindisa Soho last week.  I’ve been to Tramontana, but never any of the other venues so was keen to try.  I was really impressed with everything we ate.  Lovely padron peppers (none hot though, do these exist anymore), brilliant cheese croquettes, iberico ham was awesome.  Bloody massive bloody olives were a highlight, stuffed with lemon.  The garlic prawns were good too, leaving behind a nice garlicky oil for dunking bread.  Tip – the room to the rear near the open kitchen is where you want to be.  The front end feels cramped and dark in comparison.  Guilt inducing deep fried goatscheese with honey was also excellent, loved the place.  Cost around £40 each for all this and a few cheeky lunchtime bevs.  Cava and rose.  

46 Broadwick St

Tapas Brindisa Soho on Urbanspoon
Bel, Lisa and I head to Pizza East one Saturday night before a night out in Camden.  We wanted Chicken Shop really but they were full and we didn’t fancy a 2 hour wait.  We sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and I ordered the 4 cheese pizza (£9) with a side of mac & cheese.  Ha!  Really liked the pizza.  Service was efficient and happy, I really like the place.  The fact that I live a mere 5 minute walk away is a bonus, I hope to complete the trio and visit Chicken Shop in a couple of weeks (already been to Dirty Burger).  Pizzas are less than £10 and they have loads of other stuff on the menu.  The salads next to us on the bar looked interesting, as did the whacking great hunk of pork.

79 Highgate Road

Pizza East Kentish Town on Urbanspoon
Valentines night with my girly friend in a romantic wine bar was much fun.  Not in the least bit depressing that there were a million couples in there!  We got stuck into the champagne and wines by the glass and after a slow start got plenty of food throughout the evening.  Highlight was always going to be the croque madame.  It was a cheese heavy affair with the cheeseboard, the burrata and the curds and cruditĂ© all making an appearance.  Really liked the place.  All very nice, more French practise. 

10 Neals Yard
Covent Garden
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels on Urbanspoon 

And onto the first of my eating adventures in Montreal.  I went for a week at the beginning of the month.  Most things I ate were inspired by this article, on the 35 must eat sandwiches in the city, seemed like a good place to start.
Starting with the main event, Schwarz’ Hebrew Delicatessen for all your smoked meat needs.  I asked what to have and it was this, obvs….

3985 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Sandwich disappointment followed at Olive & Gourmando, they’d sold out of the Cubain but it’s very close to my office, so I’ll be back for it in a few weeks.  I had to have the mac & cheese instead, which was awful for me.  Truffle mushroom mac & cheese with a herb and nut salad.  It’s a hard life.  I counterbalanced this fatfest with a pot of peppermint tea.  Very good.

351 Saint Paul W
Notre Dame (ish)

Olive Et Gourmando on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Upstairs at the Ten Bells

My first visit to Upstairs at the Ten Bells was fairly last minute, booking just the night before, lucking out most likely due to the tube strike, we surmised.

Anyway, it was a brilliant meal with some of the loveliest service I can remember encountering for a long while. At the end of the meal we drank grappa with the team and signed up to return a little over a week later for a wine pairing night.

Highlights of the first meal for me were their signature buttermilk chicken (£6.50), obvs, and the pillowyest gnocchi I've ever eaten, served with prawns, mussels and pink radicchio (£7.50). Dreamy stuff.

On the night of the Tutto Wines dinner, things were a bit more lively. 5 courses each paired with a wine match from Tutto Wines for £60 a head.  Really great value.

Most memorable dish of the night by a million miles for me was the Roast Somerset Kid with Tokyo turnips, January king cabbage and anchovy.  Loved every element of it down to the crunchy garnish. Divine.

Special mention also goes to the salt baked halibut with monks beard and oyster olive oil.  The evening also marked the occasion of my first experience with horse salami.  Very intense.

Anyway, I adored the place.  And I'm kicking myself that I only recently made it there having been meaning to for ages.  The Clove Club was one of my favourite lunches of 2013 so I really ought to have known better. I just hope I can find somewhere vaguely similar in Montreal but I fear I won't.  They're also responsible for one of the nicest desserts I've had recently, the rhubard, buttermilk mousse with milk crisps and almonds (£7).  Chef Giorgio Ravelli is doing the Young Turks proud.

Upstairs at the Ten Bells
84 Commercial St

Upstairs at the Ten Bells on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Dairy

Had the tasting menu at The Dairy for Sunday lunch last week.  It's a bargain at £45 for 7 courses. Each really interesting and identifiably from this restaurant.  Chef Robin Gill has a unique style, dishes were very pretty and texture combinations were wonderful.

CanapĂ© type thing kicked off proceeding.  Hispi cabbage and some kind of cheesy sauce. Pro description there.  It was great though, some crunch and some tang.  Next up came some nocellara del belice olives, never heard of them but they're very green and very good.

First more substantial (using that word loosely, as none of the dishes could be described as large or hearty but that's not a bad thing here) course was the Cornish crab with malted barley and salsify.  Note the bowl, and the plate, very nice indeed, interesting crockery always makes me jealous.

Then came this, perhaps my least favourite of all the dishes, rooftop carrots, goatscheese, oat granola and buttermilk.  The cheese was nice, the rest, I was underwhelmed by.

What followed was one of the most memorable courses of them all, a warm sourdough rye loaf with smoked bone marrow butter, chicken liver mousse and salumi.  I greedily ate half the loaf of bread before realizing we were splitting between 3, it was so good I forgot to be polite.  The middle bowl contains the mousse, that was the one. 

Last of the snacks was the chicken skin, kale and wild mushroom dish, another favourite of mine.  Perfectly cooked thigh meat lurking beneath the kale, so many textures and intense chickeny flavours, this was perfect with the house white we'd ordered.

Swiftly on to the fish section of the menu.  This is Julie girl monkfish (why Julie?  I don't know) served with swiss chard and bonito butter.  Lovely delicate fish with chard leaves, not stalks and a creamy but slightly tart sauce, I was feeling rather smug as we tackled bottle of wine number 2.  What a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Another fish dish, the Lady Hamilton smoked cod with potato and fresh nori.  I love the inventiveness of the flavours of the dish, but I wasn't sold on the texture combos.  Too yielding and slushy.  The nori was a tad overpowering too.

The next dish took us onto dry land, the Yorkshire venison with beetroot, rhubarb and nibbed cocao sauce was a touch sweet for my liking.  Fruity too of course, with the addition of rhubard (which I love, don't get me wrong) but with the chocolate, it was a bit much for me.  Great meat though.

I insisted that we have the cheese course, and was happily met with very little resistance from my companions.  This is truffled brie on toast, drizzled with honey.  The scent of the truffle was a lot more discernible than the taste, but it's truffled brie for goodness sake, it was obviously brilliant.  £4 supplement for these.  We shared 1 which was ample.

Onto sweet, this is clementine, brown butter and rice.  Citrus sorbet is the ultimate palate cleanser, that's what this was intended to be.  The puffed rice was a nice addition.

There was a choice of the 2nd pudding, salted caramel, biscuits with malted barley ice cream or pear, toasted white chocolate and sheeps milk pannacotta (pictured in the fg).  We weren't so keen on these.  Perhaps the 3rd bottle of wine played a part but the salted caramel was the better of the 2.

I'd witnessed every table around us get a tin box of petit fours at this point of the meal, we missed out but were given this instead, rhubard sorbet with lemon curd and Italian meringue.  It was amazing, I pretended to be upset about the tin, but really I was over the moon that we got this.  Italian meringue is one of my favourite things in the world.  Fact.

We were the last people to leave at around 5:30pm.  We weren't at all rushed and I thought the service was generally pretty good.  The atmosphere is fun and vibrant, I really liked the place and if I were staying in London, it would become a regular haunt.  In Clapham of all places.  A tasting menu this good for £45 is an absolute steal.  Matching wines are available for an extra £35, that is such a bargain I'm kicking myself that we didn't do it.  We ended up spending £70 a head anyway.  You should go there, because I can't, and I want them to do well.

The Dairy
15 The Pavement

The Dairy on Urbanspoon

Monday, 17 February 2014

Corner Room

Love love loved Corner Room.  It's one of those places that doesn't seem to be on the radar anymore, due to more recent openings wielding so much clout in the ever changing landscape that is the London dining scene.

The Town Hall Hotel is on a pretty dingy street off Hackney Road, surrounded by no other appealing eateries, Soho this is not.  But what it does have to offer is inventive and unique dishes that continue to interest the more adventurous (and the loyal) diners almost 3 years after opening.

It's the casual back end to the Viajante fronted Town Hall Hotel, but Nuno Mendes will be closing shop at Viajante at the end of this month and moving on to bigger and better things.  Look out for the next offering from The Loft Project.

Anyway, back to Corner Room, we arrived late for lunch, bloody 55 bus can never be relied upon, but it was a wonderful meal.  Starting with a sparkling red, I'd completely forgotten about how wonderfully drinkable these are, at £35 a bottle, we knew we were in for a good afternoon!

Crispy pork skin with winter tomato (£7) started things off.  We did not expect a granita like consistency, I liked it, Art wasn't keen, but the mayo was the star, rich and eggy and perfect with the puffy pork skin. 

I chose the ratte potato, chicken egg and ikura (£9) for starter.  I googled ikura to discover that it's salmon roe.  I loved the flavour and texture combinations of the dish but I was absolutely gutted that the centrepiece of the dish, the egg yolk was overcooked.  Verging on hard.  Upsetting, but still yum and very pretty.  The roe was incredible, really salty.  

Art's starter of artichoke, erbette and poyoyo cheese (£7.50) was probably the winning dish of the day.  The cheese was so fragrant.

My main was recommended to me by the waiter, the halibut with charred leek broth and kale (£15).  I was very happy with it, the broth in particular absolutely delivered the charred flavour it promised.  Very smokey indeed.  The fish was tender, served with mussels, kale and cabbage.  Fresh and pure tasting, each ingredient tangible and holding its own.

The Iberico pork with pearl barley was every bit as good as we knew it would be.  Desserts too held their own and we'd happily left room for pud.  My apple and hazelnut with frozen pannacotta (£5) was quite brilliant, not looking like much in this wonky photo but really great.  Art's dessert, the parsnip cake was pretty much Christmas in a bowl.

We lingered in the Viajante Bar for a couple of hours post meal.  I wouldn't rave about the atmosphere in the place, there's an awful lot of wood paneling, and it was pretty quiet, save for a fellow diner who felt the need to sing her way through lunch, much to my annoyance.  Really really enjoyed the food though and the service was good, they did tell us we ordered too much, having asked for a round of St Jude as a snack to come along with the pork skins.  Good on them, I was just right by the end, though perhaps would have preferred the cheese and foregone dessert.  All pretty reasonable too for £70 each with a bottle and a glass of fizz.  Very good Nuno.

Corner Room
The Town Hall Hotel
Bethnal Green

Corner Room on Urbanspoon

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Lockhart

Everyone's been talking about this place. We booked at short notice for dinner last week and had a really great night.

The Lockhart's been open since the middle of last year and some clever person has seemingly been on a recent PR drive to advertise their Southern States inspired menu.  That or things must have improved significantly in the kitchen because it's been hard to escape them for the last month or so.  It's a concise but regularly adapted menu, I was sad that the fried chicken wasn't on on this particular day but there were plenty of other delectable offerings.

Dish of the night was a side order of cornbread.  It smelled like cake.  So much butter, so very very good.  Dense and sweet and made to order, we ate all of this and I felt so full up but could not face leaving any of it.  Such a bargain at £4 too.

We shared the catfish goujons (£3, above) and the chicken oysters (£5, below) for snacks to begin with.  I preferred the former, amazing creole remoulade accompanied.  The breadcrumb coating was excellent.

One major niggle, I hate if menus are small with say 4 choices for main and then 1 or more of the dishes sell out early on a regular basis. Art wanted the pork on this occasion but they had sold out.  Same happened at Foxlow, they had sold out of both dishes I had wanted to order and I have to say, I wouldn't go back because of this.

Two things about the meal have stuck with me. The mallard gumbo starter (£8) was incredible and the cornbread was out of this world good.  Chef Brad McDonald's menu is innovative and exciting and my main of shrimp and grits (£17) was also fantastic but I was so full up, I only managed half of it.  I was so annoyed at myself.

Go. Go with a large group of friends so you can order everything. Check that they have the fried chicken on before you book. I'm still seething every time I see other people have been lucky enough to try it. By all accounts they do a very decent brunch too.

The Lockhart
24 Seymour Place

Lockhart on Urbanspoon>