Monday, 30 June 2014

June Round Up

Here are my eating highlights from both London and Montreal over the last 5 weeks (confess some late May eats have crept in here as I was too busy getting the Kid wed to blog). 


Em and I head to Nopi for brunch after a ridiculously early morning screening of Maleficent at Leicester Sq Odeon.  I had the Shakshuka with spicy tomato sauce and smoked Labneh.  

There was a lot of red pepper to contend with, I confess I’m not the hugest fan of red peppers, sometimes they disagree with me, but everything was perfectly cooked, most importantly the eggs.  Runny yolks, yes.  I hate when they’re overcooked, I’m looking at you Caravan on Exmouth.  Great bread and a decent flat white too.   Not the cheapest brunch and front of house seemed outraged we’d not booked a table.  Weird WEIRD mirrored toilets, really quite disturbing.

21-22 Warwick St

NOPI on Urbanspoon

Fast forward on the same day and Art and I drank a shitload of wine and needed to soak it up with some cheese and meat.  I just didn’t have time to fit in a full meal here, which is a shame as I would have loved to, particularly based on the quality of these boards.  

Wines are all organic, you can buy bottles to take away and the bread is the talk of the town, really very good.  Menu is overseen by Mikael Jonsson of Hedone fame, so no wonder it’s good.  We probably spent around £40 each, but were there for most of the afternoon and had a couple of bottles of wine.

12A Newburgh St

Antidote Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

One Leicester Street – Leo’s Pop Up

Fast even further forward, still the same day (oof) and we had dinner at One Leicester St.  It was the last night of a 3 month long pop up which saw Leandro Carreira (ex- Viajante chef) take over the kitchen Thur-Sat.  

It was a communal affair with guests sharing a 7 course tasting menu for £88, wine pairings included.   Highlight was the iberico presa with baked beets and the langoustine with honey carrots.  Really fun night, obviously not something you can enjoy yourselves (unless you went) but keep an eye out for Leo’s next venture.

One Leicester St
Erm, 1 Leicester St

Bel and I head back to our old fave the Berner’s Tavern for my last night in London.  We lashed right out and got the chateaubriand for 2 with foie gras, roasted baby artichokes and truffled mac and cheese.  

There is so much good stuff going on with this dish, it’s just incredible.  So much truffle.  It’s really rather good value at £80 for two.  We drank Prosecco, obvs and stopped off in the Punch Room.  Love and miss this place sooooooo much.  Well done Jason.

10 Berners Street

Berners Tavern on Urbanspoon

Another old fave I had to make time for was Koya Bar, Nibs and I popped in for lunch and both opted for the special udon which was poached chicken in soy milk broth with sesame.  It was really simple and clean, as all their dishes could feasibly be described.  We shared the mackerel sashimi also from the specials board, I always always order their specials, they’re so interesting.  Miss you Koya.

50 Frith St

Koya Bar on Urbanspoon

Also popped in for a Bull & Last bloody mary and Sunday roast combo with Bel which saved me after the Kid’s hen do!  They really know what they’re doing with a bit of beef.  Lemony pud was really good too.  We lurked about for the pub quiz then hit Aces & Eights, classic NW5 Sunday.

118 Highgate Road
Kentish Town

Bull & Last on Urbanspoon


On my first Saturday back I met Sarah for lunch at Café Melbourne.  I remember walking by this place in February when I visited, it was approx. -15 and I was slipping all over the place in the snow, determined to have a wander about and get a bagel from Fairmount.  What a difference a few months makes, it was a boiling hot day, we sat in the window and ordered coffee and ‘jaffles’.  

Jaffle meaning Aussie toastie, think Breville.  I got the mac daddy, of course, filled with actual mac cheese and served with a nice bit of pickle and some ready salted crisps.  The big concern with toasties is usually that they’re so hot they burn, but I found the opposite was true of this one, the second half was barely warm when I got to it, perhaps I was chatting too much.  Good coffee though and they had a Donna Hay magazine in there and good world cup banter. 


 Cafe Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Speaking of the world cup, I watched an England match at Bishop & Bagg an English inspired ‘pub’.  In inverted commas because it’s absolutely not a pub, but they’re trying!  They have an English menu too, curries, a ploughman’s, kebabs.  


I had the lamb kebabs which look an absolute mess here but were really very good.  Reports of the ploughman’s were along the lines of don’t do it to yourself.  I sound negative but I actually really like the place, and I live near it now, woo!  Apols for the shocking photo, finger included so you could see the wrap, pitta type thing.

52 Rue St Viateur Ouest
Mile End

 Bishop & Bagg on Urbanspoon

Another greaso lunch with Sarah, this time close to work, Le Gros Jambon appears on this list of the best Mac & Cheese to be found in Montreal, so I had the chicken tacos.  Need to go back for the mac cheese, newsflash - it’s almost too hot to eat macaroni cheese.   It’s upsetting, and I need to stop moaning about/talking about/checking the weather.  

The chicken tacos with a side salad were my attempt to make a healthier choice at this diner.  Really liked them actually.  Nice guacamole, sour cream and salsa accompaniments, and it was served individually on a tray for your own construction.   I rather like that.  

Cute, kitschy décor and cheap, about $12.

286 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Old Montreal

Le Gros Jambon on Urbanspoon

One Saturday evening a group of us went to Nora Gray, a restaurant opened by an ex-Joe Beef chef and front of house duo.  It comes highly recommended by food people so I was super excited and it proved to be the best meal I’d eaten so far in Montreal (until my birthday meal at Liverpool House, but more on that soon).

My starter was cavatelli with tomato, anchovy and fennel.  The pasta was perfect, all home made and great value at $12 for a bowl.  Love Italian meals where it’s the done thing to eat pasta as a starter, they are genius.

Again, shocking picture but it's very dark in there, all candle light and orange.  I couldn’t resist the special main, pork belly with turnips and polenta.  It was sooooooo good, around the $30 mark.  We drank a load of red wine and left very very happy.  It’s a slightly odd area of the city, Griffintown, up and coming allegedly, but it feels like it’s out in the sticks with very little else around it.  Worth the trek though for sure, I’ll be back, they're awesome. 

1391 Rue St Jaques

Nora Gray on Urbanspoon

Fera at Claridges

Another of the most anticipated meals of my time in London was dinner at Simon Rogan's new restaurant at Claridge's.  It was epic.  The make over the room has undergone left it almost unrecognizable as the same room Gordon Ramsey occupied until late last year.  In true Rogan style, the meal was dazzling. I won't bang on, beyond saying we showed some restraint and went for the 10 courses, instead of the 13 courser, at £95 per person.  Here's what we ate:-

 Ox eye daisy and smoked eel, puffed wheat

 Top: mackerel, seawater cream and caviar
Bottom: Stewed rabbit with lovage

THE BEST THING EVER: winslade, potato and duck heart
Essentially cheese soup

 BREAD!!  With mushroom broth, a surprisingly modest bread course

Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream,
scallop roe and apple juice 

Prawns from Gairloch, pickled alexander, 
asparagus, shellfish butter. 

Monkfish, sweetheart cabbage, sea purslane and 
black saison (yes, I dropped my phone in it) 
 Goosnargh duck, yellow bean puree, leek and hyssop

Pineapple weed, butterscotch and celery 
(there's actual celery in there, not cool)

Iced sorrel, nitro sweet cheese and apple

Clockwise from top left: sweet cicely cake, soda blackberry,
blackberry and lemon verbena and smoked meringue

All very beautiful and all very delicious.  Simon was there delivering the odd dish, not to our table unfortunately.  There's an air of opulence, obviously, including a gold tree in the centre of the room.  I'm so fortunate to have had the chance to go, thanks to Art for booking, and for tolerating my drunkenness yet again, and providing a bed for the night when I missed the last train home to Kent. 

Claridge's Hotel
Brook St

Fera At Claridge's on Urbanspoon

City Social

Bel and I spent an evening at City Social while I was back, the aim being cram in as many Atherton restaurants as possible in the 2 weeks.  Not really, but we do love him. 

This might be a really silly thing to say, but there were a lot of suits in there.  It really is in the City.  Duh.  There was a minor kerfuffle when we dared to request the goats cheese churros, from the bar menu, as we were sat in the more formal restaurant (they both have the same air of formality actually) but they let us in the end.  They were brilliant.  Less cheesy than I expected with a sweet truffle honey dip (£6).  Everything was quite subtle, didn’t get much truffle flavor either.

For starter we shared the poached egg and asparagus, and it was a really generous portion given that we’d asked for it to be split.  We thought they’d just given us 1 each actually.  Full list of components - Wye Valley asparagus salad, parmesan sablé, soft poached hen’s egg, 2 year pecorino, bone marrow crumbs (£14).  Really lovely. 

For main I had the Line-caught seabass (£32).  I surprised myself ordering this, it was the accompaniments of deep-fried oyster, cauliflower, sea fennel and oyster velouté that swung it for me.  A girl at a neighbouring table leaned over to ask me what I had ordered, it did look good.  The fish was a generous portion and I was really happy with my choice.  Loved the deep fried oyster especially.

For dessert we went for the custard tart (£8), again to share, served with nutmeg and milk sorbet.  There’s a hint of bourbon somewhere in there too.  The pastry was perfect, as you’d expect.  I remember seeing Marcus Wareing doing the most incredible looking custard tart on the Great British Menu a few years ago, and this one looked identical. 

We moved into the bar after pud and had a few cocktails.  I hated one of them, it tasted like liquid smoke, not my cup of tea at all and the barman offered to replace it with something far more up my street.  We were the last to leave and we larked about in the foyer in some Dr Evil type chairs on the way out.  The toilets have the most amazing views across London, I lingered in there a bit longer than one should.  It’s that good. 

This won’t ever replace Berner’s as my Atherton fave, but the food is up to scratch, Atherton’s London take over continues at pace, oh he is good.

Tower 42
25 Old Broad St

City Social on Urbanspoon


When planning my visit back to London in May, one of the places I knew I had to fit into my trip was Lyle’s.  James Lowe’s hotly anticipated new opening certainly didn’t disappoint and was one of the culinary highlights of my trip.  It’s a daily tasting menu which I love and the venue has been revamped in a lovely clean and bright way.  Think exposed brick, open kitchen and white things.  It was all very lovely.  Here’s what I ate:-

 Crab and potato crisp with a pasty (I forget the filling)

Blood Cake and damson

 Asparagus and walnuts
This was one of the dishes of the night, was served in a larger 
portion for Art as a replacement for one of the fish dishes, so so good. 

Smoked eel and turnip broth
Clean and light, loved the use of leaves across the meal

Sea kale and mussels
Delivered to the table by James Lowe himself, who informed us the sea 
kale was foraged the day before, excellent.  Such a pretty plate of food.

 Suckling kid, new season’s garlic and onions

 Baked riseley and chegworth leaves
This was the best dish if I’m forced to pick.  Melted cheese, bread 
and leaves (in an accompanying bowl) to break up the richness.  
Love riseley, great twist on a cheese course.

 Rhubarb and custard
Another winner.  The custard flecked with vanilla, some crumble 
underneath with the poached rhubarb for texture, and a rhubarb syrup for sweetness. 

All of the dishes were beautifully presented, in a simple and clean way, this meal is a prime example of what I miss about cooking in London.  Lowe is quite brilliant and I’m already looking forward to my next trip back to revisit.

The price point of the tasting menu is an absolute bargain at £39.  The sourdough bread was brilliant, service was polite and not in the slightest bit intrusive.  The wine list was short but solid and we ended up spending around £90 each (after cocktails at Merchant’s Tavern). 

Tea Building
56 Shoreditch High Street

Lyle's on Urbanspoon