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Honey & Co Review

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Honey & Co Review

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There is a particular trend that is permeating the London dining scene like a contagion.

In the flurry of new openings, and novel and exotic twists on traditional gastronomies, a number of restaurateurs have become smitten with Spanish tapas, and have decided to exploit this style of cuisine for all its worth. Tapas are traditionally displayed on a menu in a long list, and served all at once, so diners can delight in dipping in and out of them with a few drinks as they please.  Instead of serving a carefully structured plate of well-balanced complementary elements, the restaurants at fault are breaking the plates down into individual elements.

They call them “small plates”, and I detest them.

 

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You’ll know that you’ve found yourself in this “small plate” trap when the waiter suggests that each person orders three, despite the fact that one is the cost of a normal large plate.  Not only do they expand their profits substantially by doing this, but the effort required by the kitchen is significantly reduced. Chefs don’t need to bother about planning dishes when they can just make whatever the hell they like, call it another small plate and let the diner err when structuring their picky little meal.   Oh, and these small plates seem to have a life of their own: you see, they can arrive according to their own whim and in any combination.  At my most recent visit to a restaurant of this type, all vegetables were deemed unsuitable to be served with fish.

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My rage against small plates had been boiling for several weeks when I decided to return to Honey & Co, where I knew my craving for a large plate could be fulfilled.  Call me demanding, or even greedy, if you like. I’d been before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but sadly forgot to bring my camera.  This time, however, I was armed.  Itamar Srulovich and his wife Sarit Packer rule the roost at this tiny 30 cover Canaan.  He’s ex- Ottolenghi - an almost guarantee of success - and the Ottolenghi influence is strongly evident in the cuisine.  Décor is kept to a minimum, with stark white walls and patterned blue tiled floor forcing your eye greedily towards the focal countertop display of spiced and perfumed cakes.  Despite the minimalism, there is no lack of atmosphere.  Most people are so pleased to have acquired their 1.5 hour table slot that they exude an aura of excitement.

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The menu is divided into starters and mains (hallelujah) – I plumped for spring salad of peas, courgettes, and warm manouri cheese with a lemon and saffron sauce.  Crisp, and light with the nuttiness of the manouri and electric tang of citrus, the dish was very pleasant.

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One dining companion went down the more obvious but inevitably delicious route of falafel served with a tabbouleh and tahini sauce – one of the most popular on the menu (the chefs undoubtedly roll falafel in their sleep).

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The other opted for the braised artichoke with parsley za’atar and yoghurt dipping sauce.

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This was rather a tame option as there only so much you can do to a whole artichoke in terms of flavour(read: very little), and so no matter how delicious the sauce the eating becomes tiresome.  It resides alongside eating fish and quail on the bone in my list of things that I just don’t have time for.  I can’t be bothered to fuss around with scraping a half centimetre of blandish artichoke flesh against the back of my teeth.

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My main course was very good: a plate abounding with plump parcels (aka Menti) of burnt courgette and herb with olive oil braised broad beans and whipped feta, the latter  adding a kick of saltiness to draw out the sweetness from the  dumplings and green vegetables.

Despite the petit nature of the restaurant (even the waitresses are petite, needing to squeeze between the close-set tables), the kitchen at Honey & Co must go through roughly an entire field of mint every day.  It resides proudly on almost every plate, and nor is its presence irrelevant – it lifts the earthier flavours into more summery tones, like for example, the shawarma of slow cooked lamb shoulder burnt pitta and goat’s yoghurt with amba mint and pomegranate.  I’m not the greatest fan of lamb, but this dish convinced me that my prejudice was poorly founded.

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The lamb was succulent, tender and sweet, and lifted to higher planes with the addition of juicy gems of pomegranate and the ubiquitous mint.

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The only disappointment was my dining companion’s chicken makloobah with saffron rice and a lemon yoghurt sauce. Visually, the dish lacked the vibrant flair that every other possessed and was a little bland.

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One dining companion went on to order the pink grapefruit and raspberry granita with yoghurt mousse and honeyed oat crisp.  The flavours bounced nicely off each other but I found the granita a little too perfumed.

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I’m also more inclined to a substantial dessert: I don’t particularly care for palate cleansers.  If I’m going to sin, then I’ll sin properly. And there’s one vital way to do that at Honey & Co: the cheesecake with kadaif pastry and honey.  Perhaps not the most beautiful of desserts, but more than made up for in flavour – the cheesecake is well balanced, creamy and contrasts perfectly with the crunchy, sticky tangled nest of kadaif.

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Bold, well-balanced, vibrant, and generous, the food at Honey & Co is the perfect antidote to the small plate disease.

 

Food: 8.75/10

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Price: ££££

Loos: N/A

Suitable for: buisness lunches, casual dates, family, friends, vegetarians

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Grain Store - Restaurant Review

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Grain Store - Restaurant Review

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The Grain Store - Restaurant Review The child behind me was whining like a kid goat being dragged to slaughter.  The woman on my right was snoring so loudly that she was trapped in an ineluctable cycle of waking herself up before falling asleep again.  The man on my left had either forgotten that handkerchiefs exist, or rather enjoyed the sound/sensation of snorting every last drop of unconquerable mucus into the innermost depths of his Eustachian tube, only for it to creep back up again at ten second intervals.  My choir master couldn’t have conducted this orchestral animal pen better.  Before I’d even sat down, I’d already lost one armrest and some precious space to the woman overlapping my seat on the right.  Not prepared to cede the other armrest, I draped my left arm determinedly over it, only for the mucus snorter to pile his arm on top of mine.  I was forced to retreat after half an hour, having been worn down, too, by his second tier of offence: the occasional lifting of his arm to allow puffs of BO to corrupt my nostrils.  The last straw was when the trolley, preceded by the unmistakeable signature stale aeroplane scent, reached my row, only to deliver some form of unidentifiable swill. My only escape was to conjure up a memory of last week’s brunch at Grain Store, King’s Cross….

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

An oasis in the desert that is the North London restaurant scene, Grain Store opened a year and half ago with others such as Caravan and Dishoom following suit.  Locating it in King’s Cross has afforded the restaurant an atmosphere unlike most central London restaurants: a sprawling high ceilinged airy haven, urban rustic in feel, with an open kitchen.  The cuisine is vegetarian-focused (very on trend for 2015) and excitingly innovative.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

To start we tried the beetroot, apple, celery and pomegranate molasses juice and the hibiscus and raspberry cocktail.  The beetroot was pleasant but, tastewise, the health benefits were a little too evident.  The latter, however, was very good.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Focaccia with olive oil followed – freshly baked, with the crunchy dukkah addition an innovative twist on the standard.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I ordered the yoghurt and chickpea pancake with avocado, tomato and jalapeno salsa and merguez.  The pancake, laced with slices of merguez, was velvety and wonderfully savoury.  The salsa was well flavoured, but could have verged more dangerously on the side of spicy.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I’m a rather fierce food predator and so managed to steal a forkful of my dining companion’s Moroccan carrot salad, with spiced labneh and linseed flatbread.  Well-spiced, fresh, and visually and texturally vibrant, I was struck with all too familiar food envy (not in place of my dish but as well as).

 

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The empanada was also a success. I didn’t manage to try it but heard satisfied mumbles coming from my other dining companion.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

I did manage to try the Korean slaw, Kaffir lime chicken burger with a fried egg on a muffin.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Succulent, savoury, spicy, slightly sweet and citrusy, the Korean slaw is a reason in itself to visit Grain Store.  I shall dedicate some time attempting to replicate it.  The burger was also delicious, although there was not enough of it.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Dessert was unavoidable.  The baked apple, rosemary crumble, and crème fraiche with caramel sauce possessed all the right textures as well as flavours: sweet, salty and slightly perfumed by the rosemary.  However, I am a crumble fiend and firmly believe there should be more crumble than fruit – much more – and this did not vaguely meet my crumble quantity requirements, nor those of my dining companion.

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The special of the day was blueberry tart.  It was as you would expect a good blueberry tart to be – the pastry crisp, and the blueberries jammy, but I would have liked a touch of citrus to offset the sweetness.

Grain Store - Restaurant Review Grain Store - Restaurant Review

The Grain Store - Restaurant Review

Overall, it was a great experience - so much so that it managed, in recollection, to transport me away from the animal pen sights and sounds during my recent flight.  The atmosphere is informal yet chic, the service is fine, and the food strays into far more exciting and modern territory than many London restaurants dare to do, especially for brunch.

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 9/10

Service: 6.5/10

Loos: 7/10

Price: ££££

Suitable for: casual dates, friends, family, brunch, all-day dining, vegetarians, vegans

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Rabbit Restaurant Review

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Rabbit Restaurant Review

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Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review Are you going on a ‘detox’?

Now that the last of the dregs of turkey/mince pie/stuffing/Christmas pudding/trimmings have finally disappeared, all that is left is a memory solidified in the form of a protuberant belly.  Guilty already, or made to feel guilty about not feeling guilty, the media are swooping in with various juice cleanse, carb-less, gluten-free ‘detoxes’ which guarantee a temporary weight loss by simply starving the body.  The word ‘detox’, however, means absolutely zero.  To quote Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University: “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated”.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

So, if you’re minded to eat healthily after all the excess, then good quality, wholesome food is a much more sustainable way to go. Eating at Rabbit, the sister restaurant of The Shed, seems to fit in well with this philosophy. That’s not to say that I didn’t succumb to excess whilst there, and nor is it so worthy that eating there becomes an endurance test.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Rather, the ethos behind the restaurant is creating interesting, innovative and tasty recipes using seasonal and fresh local produce.  The diner is reminded of this by the rustic outdoorsy interior, a bushy fox tail suspended above the open kitchen which brings you closer to nature whether you like it or not.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Whilst deciding what to order for our degustation my dining companion and I ordered a couple of “mouthfuls”: beetroot crisp, goat’s cheese, with pear jam:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

And a mushroom marmite éclair.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

As I noted in my most recent recipe, I had been averse to goat’s cheese after I overdosed when I was seven - until Rabbit cured me with the beetroot crisp.  My dining companion was a marmite loather but it was incorporated so beautifully into the rich earthy truffleness of the éclair that he too overcame his dislike.

Still poring over the menu the couple at the adjacent table came to our aid, and very enthusiastically.  So enthusiastic, in fact, that they admitted to having worked their way through every dish and would happily do an encore.  They even donated the remainder of their butter with the instruction to slather it on whatever we could.  One we had paired it with the freshly baked wild yeast bread it we began to understand the couple’s eagerness to share the joy.  Freshly whipped, lightly salted and garlicky with finely chopped shallots:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The menu is simply divided into slow cooking and fast cooking.  Although innovative in its layout, it was a little confusing regarding the size of the dishes, how many to order, and what the ideal dish pairings were.  Both of the waitresses were absolutely delightful: friendly, informative and attentive without being intrusive, they guided us through the menu.

Our fast cooking dishes arrived first:

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Brussels sprout, hazelnut, cheddar, and apple salad.  The cheddar, as a rather unusual ingredient, drew me to the salad.  It tied the ingredients together with its palate tickling savouriness.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The quail with roasted barley, turnip, shallot, and chickweed was also a success flavour-wise in its succulent sweet stickiness.  I did, however, face an unwelcome surprise when I crunched down hard on a concealed bone…

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Next to arrive in the flurry of dishes was grilled venison, onion squash, honey, pumpkin seeds, and reindeer moss.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

Once again chef Oliver Gladwin’s creativity and sensitivity to ingredients shone through.  The venison was perfectly pink, tender and complemented both visually and in flavour by the smooth onion squash puree.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The last of our main courses was the slow cooked black winter truffle, wild mushroom ragu with celeriac and sage oil.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

The deep rich narcotic aroma of truffle preceded the dish’s arrival.  Nor was its perfume illusory. The sage leaves were crisp to the point that they shattered against the other elements.  The wild mushrooms were comfortingly meaty, chewy and luscious, and the puree of celeriac, so often dismissed as an ingredient, was sumptuous and creamy with a subtle tang of lemon. This is a dish that would unite meat lovers and vegetarians in perfect ambrosial harmony, and so good my dining companion and I were left fighting over the last mushroom- definitely one of my top dishes in London.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

For dessert my dining companion ordered the magnum vienetta parfait: velvety ice cream rippled with layers of slated butterscotch and dark chocolate.  It was with great reluctance that he allowed me to try it.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

I was obliged by my maple syrup obsession to have maple syrup pudding, preserved plum, rum, and buttermilk.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

This was intelligently assembled with the sourness of the buttermilk ice cream slicing through the sweetness of the pudding element.  I would have liked a little more maple syrup on the plate, but as I’m an addict of the stuff it could just be me.  The plums were a little under-ripe, too, but I imagine when they’re in season this dessert really comes into its own.

Rabbit - Culina Restaurant Review

All in all, dining at Rabbit was a wonderful experience: great service, a tastefully playful rustic atmosphere, and innovative, fresh, flavourful, high quality cuisine.  Ignore the detox lies, simply eat well – Rabbit is a great place to do just that (unless you find yourself eating the whole menu as the couple adjacent to me did, clearly easily done).

Food: 9/10

Price: ££££

Ambience: 8.5/10

Service: 10/10

Loos: 7/10

Suitable for: casual dates, celebrations, brunch, dinner, family, friends, vegetarians, vegans

 

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Princi (5)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Princi (5)

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Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London Princi is a Milanese boutique artisan bakery and pizzeria on Wardour Street, not far from the buzz and bustle of Leicester Square and Covent Garden.  Open late every day, it is a beacon for those looking for a savoury snack or indeed a cup of coffee and a delicious cake.

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

With its carefully lit interior and long black marble counter, its airy minimalist styling is stylish and elegant.

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Made in house, the cakes are modern European and Italian in style: there are brownies,

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

cannoli, raspberry chocolate ganache cake,

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

and there is tiramisu, and  lime cheesecake layered with fig

 

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

and there is panettone (made in-house)…

Princi - Top 5 Cakes in London

The sumptuous display seems to stretch on forever.  Thankfully, the glass counter protects the cakes from the customers’ drool.

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Style of cakes: Modern Italian

Price: ££££

Location: Soho

Suitable for: casual dates, late night dining, afternoon tea, lunch, breakfast, friends, family

 

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Gail's Artisan Bakery (3)

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Top 5 Cakes in London - Gail's Artisan Bakery (3)

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Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London There are a number of Gail’s bakeries now in London, but this should most definitely not put you off.  The interiors are clean in feel with a robust modern rustic ambience. Unfussy, good quality British baking with a wholesome feel, my spirits lift when I see there is a branch nearby.

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

There are maple brioche buns, cinnamon swirls and muffins,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

sour cherry and chocolate drop scones and lemon drizzle cake, miniature pistachio chocolate cakes,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

pecan pies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

white chocolate cheesecake,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

brownies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

cookies,

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

and, of course, there is carrot cake.

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

The latter is sublime – I can’t describe the disappointment I feel when the last crumb has been chased into oblivion - and the delight that the apple crumble cake instils has already been documented...

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

Gail's Artisan Bakery - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: Modern British

Price: ££££

Location: Barnes, Battersea, Belsize Park, Bloomsbury, Chiswick, Crouch End, Dulwich Village, Exmouth Market, Fulham Road, Hampstead, King's Road, Notting Hill, Queen's Park, Seymour Place, Soho, South Kensington, St John's Wood

Suitable for: casual dates, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dessert, takeaway, snacks

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Ottolenghi (1)

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Top 5 Cakes in London: Ottolenghi (1)

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Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London Yotam Ottolenghi has become something of a cult figure.  With his innovative approach both to preparation and display, he has redefined the phrase ‘eat with your eyes’.

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

The windows to his deli restaurants are a visual feast, piled high with indulgent delicacies, the cakes and pastries beckoning one inside: raspberry spattered meringues, as big as your face:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Maple-iced apple and vanilla cake;

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Pecan and vanilla pies:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

White chocolate raspberry compote cheesecake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Plum soaked almond cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Ricotta and hazelnut cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Glazed nectarine and blackberry cake:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

 

– I could rhapsodise forever.

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

 

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

And if you feel that you need to earn the right to indulge, there are delicious Mediterranean-style salads in abundance:

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London

 

(and savoury tarts)

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Cakes in London

Style of cakes: British with a twist

Price: ££££

Location: Islington, Notting Hill, Belgravia

Suitable for: casual dates, brunch, dinner, afternoon tea, dessert, takeaway

Ottolenghi - Top 5 Restaurants in London Square Meal

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