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Rovi - Restaurant Review

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Rovi - Restaurant Review

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Rovi is everything Palomar is not.  

 

Palomar is dark and claustrophobia-inducing. You have to squeeze past ten diners’ bums on bar stools to enter the restaurant, itself a tight, gloomy, un-windowed space. Rovi is spacious, vibrant and airy, the tables circling the room with enough space between them to avoid conversation leakage.  The waiters are friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the open kitchen flashes in the background, fulfilling the promise of the restaurant concept of “fire and fermentation”.

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I’ve had multiple debates about small plates, my distaste for them reaching fresh heights at Palomar. Done badly (as in the aforementioned restaurant), they are lazy and mean.  In the case of Rovi, however, the opposite is true.

 

The meal started with hot spiced butter beans that melted on the tongue. They were an on- the-house opener, which was a nice touch. These were swiftly followed by the tempura stems with Szechuan, mandarin and kaffir lime vinegar, the batter so light and so crisp that I crunched my way out of previous tempura-ambivalence. 

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The spaghetti squash followed, its rich, sweet resplendence counterbalanced with the cold zestiness of the ezme and mandarin yoghurt.  Next came the hasselback beets - lifted from their unassuming earthy roots, caramelised and roasted without being messed around with unnecessarily. 

 

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I hate to bore you with endless eulogizing but I cannot fail to mention how the red cabbage was glorious with little pops of sweetness from the grapes, or how the celeriac shawarma was so cleverly elevated from the oft-scorned and rejected vegetable that often assumes a mouldy jacket in the bottom of my fridge, to a crispy, umami, centre stage.

 

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Dessert came in the form of fig clafoutis, olive oil and lemon ice cream, and plum and juniper doughnuts, bay leaf cream, and almonds. All was delicate and light, sweet, but not teeth –curdlingly so. But the winner was the salted miso caramels, so good that if I concentrate hard enough I can summon up again their umami, caramelized fudgy- sweet/ savouriness.

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Unfortunately, I can’t conjure up any negatives to indulge anyone's schadenfreude (if you’re looking for that, click here). I can, however, thoroughly recommend the well-balanced, carefully flavoured food served in Rovi.  This is Ottolenghi at his best, contrasting textures, flavours and temperatures, and pushing ingredients to their limits.

 

Price: ££££

Service: 9/10

Food: 10/10

Ambience: 8/10

Loos:10/10

 

Good for: brunch, family lunch, vegetarians, vegetable-lovers, Ottolenghi obsessives, healthy eating

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Pollen Street Social Review

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Pollen Street Social Review

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& a glimpse inside the kitchen...Pollen Street Social Review

Last week I went to a blind wine-tasting in a stuffy carpeted room on the top floor of a Mayfair pub. On the table, columns of bottles were massed, awaiting palatal analysis and identification.  One of the sweaty, post-work crowd sidled up to me and refused to leave my side the entire evening.  Not for any flattering reason: he had arrived drunk at the alcohol imbibition.  The sole potential benefit of his presence was his vaunted knowledge of wines, gained from downing over fifty years’ worth of ethanol. Wine after wine he sipped, swirled, glugged, holding each up to the window despite the fading light. Glass after glass he swigged and squirted from one side of his mouth to the other, patting his lips, flipping his tongue up to his palette  in order “to catch the aftertaste”, sucking and squelching.  “Taste the vanilla in that”, “feel the syrupy smoothness of this”, he said, nodding sagely.  1/9 of his answers were correct…

Pollen Street Social Review

 

To me, this is all a manifestation of the emperor’s new clothes syndrome which may sometimes be applied to Michelin-starred restaurants. Do I really want to dine on fussy little squiggles of substance that I have to chase with another globule of something or other so that the perfect scientific reaction can effervesce at the back end of my tongue?  However, Jason Atherton’s soon to be double Michelin-starred flagship is not in this category.  An idyll amongst the raucous, tourist-ridden bustle of Regent Street, Pollen Street Social sits opposite its sister restaurant, Little Social (see review here). Its style is unfussy, open, and clean, with attention to detail: even our bags were given individual stools.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Before we had even turned the page of the menu, a selection of amuse bouches materialised: dainty sweet corn muffins topped with delicate swirls of dill and cucumber cream, beetroot and blackberry filled tuiles that burst with sweet vinegary freshness, and my favourite, a Jerusalem artichoke crème.  These were followed by cups of mushroom consommé topped with delicate parmesan foam, salty and meaty while being vegetarian.

Pollen Street Social Review

To start, I chose the neeps and tatties in a mushroom ragout- a wonderful coil of tender turnip ribbons generously grated with umami Berkswell cheese.  I could have easily devoured my dining companions’ portions as well.

Pollen Street Social Review Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewOut of the whirr and buzz there then appeared the sprightly figure of Tiziano, the junior manager, who filled the room with his energy and excitable charm. He whisked me off to view the upstairs kitchen and the pass – a dark, orange- lit forge, tantalisingly situated behind glass.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewIt was sprung with energy but, unlike the amped up drama so often portrayed on TV, it was at the same time controlled and calm. Whilst fixing plates, advising chefs on the pass, and approving the dishes that flowed past us on wooden board, Dale (Head Chef) talked me through the dishes.

Pollen Street Social Review

Our main courses were served as soon as I returned to my seat: the juiciest of chicken breast with a skin so crisp that even I (spurner of skin) couldn’t resist – its earthy savouriness was contrasted with the little pops of peas and broad beans, underpinned once more by the seasonal buttery, almost molten, girolles. The wild garlic flowers added to the dish with their fresh savouriness. My dining companions’ lamb and gnocchi dishes were also successes, although if there were any criticism it would be the mushroom theme that was developing throughout the vegetarian dishes – a non fungi fan would have had difficulty.  In addition, my companion found some of the mushrooms somewhat too heavily salted.

Pollen Street Social Review

 

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewWe decamped to the dessert bar to watch the pastry chefs practising their craft. First, a palate cleanser which was one of the highlights of the meal, straddling the line between savoury and sweet, and without risking losing stomach room for dessert: light yogurt foam with fairy-thin shards of meringue and a verdant and astringent basil sorbet.

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewWe watched as cylinders of tempered chocolate were filled with an aerated milk mousse and crumbled sticky and crunchy caramelised puffed rice.  A chocolate disc was delicately placed on top like a lid, and adorned with a gold leaf foil, and then accompanied by a rocher of honey ice cream.  My dining companions' poached berries with lime and cream cheese sorbet with honey sugar tuile were also a hit. These were chased by a velvety chocolate mousse, and an almond and cherry financier, and a passion fruit and blood orange pâté de fruit, as well as a hazelnut crème entremets for the road…just in case.

Pollen Street Social Review

Pollen Street Social ReviewPollen Street Social ReviewDelicious, unfussy, comfortable and exciting – this is one of the finest dining experiences I have had in the last few years.  And I can say that without any fear of an emperor’s new clothes diagnosis.

Food: 9.5/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 10/10

Price: ££££

Loos: 9/10

Pollen Street Social Review

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Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

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Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

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 How to bake and stay (reasonably) in shape. Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

I am often asked how it is that I am not obese.  I am by no means super skinny, but people wonder how I avoid rolling around the place when I am seemingly baking the whole time and have little resistance to delicious things.  So, here’s my secret.  Have a go.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

 

What I need: a running machine; a radio; an oven; a timer

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

What I do:

Pour the batter into the cake tin, lovingly smooth the surface over with a spatula. One lick of the spatula before it goes in the sink (just a little indulgence). Carefully open the oven door, and bend down slowly so that the batter remains level.  Place the cake tin tenderly on the rack. Set the oven timer.  22 minutes.  Then GO.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

Run up the stairs, two at a time.  That’s one minute either side to rush back down.  Turn up the radio. Leap on to the treadmill, and run. 10 mph minimum. 20 mins to go.  Sweat, pound, sweat.  15 mins.  Beyoncé’s screaming.  Oven beeps.  Run back down (Beyoncé’s mumbling). Open oven door, skewer the cake.  Damn - not cooked. Rip out a sheet of tin foil. Cover the cake.  Burn hand.  Set timer: 7 mins more.  Repeat process until skewer comes out clean.  Place cake on rack and allow to cool.

Stretch and shower.

Hover over the cake with a knife.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

You can make the cake sans-icing by simply halving the recipe and, before serving, dusting with a little icing sugar.Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

 

Ingredients

Cake

200g butter, at room temperature

170g caster sugar

30g light brown muscovado sugar

2 tbsp ground coffee

¼ tsp salt

70g toasted walnuts, ground to a fine sand

4 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp instant coffee, dissolved in as little hot water as possible to make a smooth paste

240g self-rising flour, sieved

2 x 8 inch cake tins, greased and with bases lined with a circle of baking parchment

 

Coffee Syrup

40g golden syrup

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp instant coffee

100ml boiling water

 

Coffee Icing

300g butter, at room temperature

450g icing sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla

2 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in as little hot water as possible to make a smooth paste

¼ tsp salt

 

Caramelised walnuts

60g walnuts

2 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Using an electric mixer, or with a vigorous hand, in a large bowl beat together the butter, caster sugar, muscovado, ground coffee and salt until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla and dissolved instant coffee. Beat this into the butter-sugar-coffee-salt mix.  Once combined, stir in the ground walnuts.
  3. Finally, gently fold the sieved flour into the mixture, being careful not to overbeat. Divide the mixture between the two tins and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes (checking after 20) or until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. While the cakes are baking, make the coffee syrup. Dissolve the instant coffee in the water and pour into a small pan along with the syrup and sugar.  On a medium high heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly to the consistency of maple syrup.
  5. Remove cakes from oven. Stab them all over with a cake tester or skewer, and spoon the syrup equally over the two cakes.  Set aside on a rack and allow to cool.

Icing

  1. Beat together butter and icing sugar. Once combined, beat in the vanilla, coffee and salt.
  2. Remove the cakes from tins, place one on the serving plate and spread ¼ of the icing on its surface. Place the other cake on top and spread the icing evenly over the cake.

Caramelised Walnuts

  1. In a shallow pan, over a medium-high heat, stir together water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour in the walnuts, and continue to stir and coat them until all the water has evaporated.  Decant them on to a sheet of baking parchment, and allow them to cool.
  2. Once cool, chop roughly, and scatter as desired over the cake.

Triple Coffee & Caramelised Walnut Cake

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Berner's Tavern

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Berner's Tavern

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Berner's Tavern  

Over volcanic hills, swinging round vomit-inducing hairpin bends in the gravel tracks, we drove.  Across the timeless, verdant countryside we whipped our car, through countryside which had bubbled up thousands of years ago and stayed the same - until we found the ivy-embraced, craggy little farm which was threatening to crumble into the landscape.  Behind the building, little puffs of white sheep scuttled in the distance.  A bucolic idyll.

Then I opened the car door and stepped out.

The air was noisome, salty, and thickly perfumed with urine, stale sheep’s wool and rain-dampened hay.  Milena waddled out of the house.  She came closest to the embodiment of a Horacian hag I’ve ever witnessed.  She beckoned us over to the farmhouse and to cross the threshold protected from the weather with a muddy flaxen rag. Her rugged face remained humourless.  As we moved closer, the intoxicating stench intensified to migraine-inducing levels.

Berner's Tavern

 

Blinded by the darkness and the stink, it took a while to adjust until.  Eventually we could make out shelves upon shelves supporting waxy rounds in various shades of yellow.  Milena waddled closer to us, now bearing a heaving barrel splashing out sheep’s milk.  It was fresh from that morning – she woke up every day at 6 to milk the ewes.  The curds in the barrel were similar in appearance to something a baby might have regurgitated.  She scooped them up and dolloped them into curved wicker moulds, her hands gnarled, stubby and deeply mottled with purple knotted veins.  In their curved, rib-like shape they had adapted to her craft.  She pressed the curds into white, curdled mulch that wobbled in the moulds. After much squeezing and puffing she tipped the substance out of one of the moulds to produce a quivering and uncertain, nude, white, ricotta peak.  The other, a pecorino-to-be – our future round of pecorino - she set aside to coagulate.

We returned a couple of weeks later to pick up our pecorino, for which Milena extorted a princely sum (and only then did a smile play at her lips).  She instructed us to let it ripen for 4-6 months until it had reached its requisite level of maturity.  And so it rested in our kitchen, weeping oil and dispersing its urinous, hay-like scent: a little, coagulating piece of Tuscany.  It eventually reached vintage state, rock solid, and flavour fortified to the max.  (It was tasted and eaten by me with a sense of obligation rather than pleasure.  It turns out I prefer the pasteurised shop-bought version after all.)

Berner's Tavern

Tenuous as it may seem, when I left Berner’s Tavern a couple of weeks ago, I found my opinions to be rather similar in state to the freshly born pecorino cheese – swirling and raw and mildly uncertain.  So instead of writing about it immediately, I let my thoughts settle and ripen over time until I had something more definite and salacious to carve up to be consumed by the reader.   My experience left me pulled in multiple directions.

Since we could only get a very late booking for the restaurant, my dining companions and I had booked a table in the Punch Room bar beforehand, located, like Berner’s Tavern, within The Edition Hotel.  We called to warn the bar that we would be about 20 minutes late, only to be notified, upon arrival, by an unsmiling blonde that our table had been given away.  This was vaguely reasonable, except that they were incapable of providing a concrete time for when we might get a table.  An hour later we were led into a bizarrely half-empty bar.  The timing would not have been an issue had a similar situation not occurred at dinner - this time, their fault.  Hypocrisy was in full swing: we made sure to arrive on the dot for our booking at the restaurant.   Alas, the table was not ready – so, like many restaurants who wish to exploit their customers by sending them to the bar, Berner’s Tavern followed suit.  We ordered drinks expecting the table wait to be brief. Alas, it was not.  We waited 45 minutes – an appalling amount of time.  There was no compensation.  And no apology.  The unrepentant manageress seemed to think that the honour of bestowing a “booth” table upon us would mollify us.  Funnily enough, it didn’t – in stark contrast with the paradigm set by Le Caprice where truffles were brought to our blissfully unaware table at the collapsing of a soufflé in the kitchen.  At Berner’s Tavern, however, customer care does not appear to exist.  The charm and grandeur of the painting lined, high-ceilinged cavern is simply not enough.

Berner's TavernIn terms of food (when we eventually got round to it), Berner’s Tavern lacks the precision and care of Atherton’s other venture, Little Social (read review here).  My beetroot- smoked salmon was good, but lacked thought: pretty, thinly sliced, delicately smoked salmon with the crunch of macadamia and radish.  However, much needed acidity was overlooked, and the promised lemon purée failed to make an appearance.  One dining companion was satisfied with his prawn cocktail and the other’s Moroccan lamb was warm and delicately spiced.

Berner's Tavern

 

Berner’s Tavern prides itself on its grandeur, celebrity restaurant status, and accomplished chef/restaurateur at its helm.  Thus its pedestalled position makes it open to scrutiny.  Call me a pedant, but pluralising the already pluralised Italian pasta, ‘orecchiette’ to ‘orecchiettes’, is poor.

Berner's Tavern

The dish itself wasn‘t bad and the ingredients created a pleasant umami flavour.  However, it needed something extra to tie it together, and it also arrived inexcusably lukewarm.  My friends were satisfied with their dishes, though – the macaroni and cheese with braised ox-cheek and bone marrow and brioche crumble was a particular success.

Berner's Tavern

 

Unfortunately, the tardiness of the meal and poor customer service meant that dessert was not sampled.  The manager did come over at the end to apologise, dealt us his card, and promised it would not happen again.  He offered us an unwanted drink on the house, but it was too little, too late.

Suitable for: business meetings, celebrations, friends, family, smart dates

Price: ££££

Food: 5.5/10

Ambience: 10/10

Customer Service: 2/10

Loos: 9/10

Berner's Tavern

 

 

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Berners Tavern - London Edition Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad  

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladSuperfood

Line breaks: super|food

Pronunciation: /ˈsuːpəfuːd/

Culina definition: ‘superfoods’ – a marketing ploy term assigned to natural ingredients which have been neglected on shop shelves for a while and could do with a PR boost.  They have nutritional benefits similar to many other natural ingredients and have the potential to reduce the risk of disease if you consume at least your body weight in said superfood in under an hour.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, quinoa and walnuts have all ridden the calculated PR wave to health fame in the last few years, and indeed that is possibly why they have drifted on to my kitchen shelves.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Ignoring their “superfood” status, they are particularly delicious when combined.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladThis salad sits at the other end of the spectrum from the straggly, limp green leaf type.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt is crunchy, sweet, umami, nutty, juicy, and looks resplendent studded with glistening pomegranate jewels.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladCauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood SaladIt’s also ridiculously quick to whizz up and can be prepared up to a day in advance (sans dressing, and refrigerated).

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

Recipe

Ingredients

100g quinoa

220g cauliflower

180g pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate approx.)

200g feta, crumbled

100g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

50g fresh coriander, finely chopped

 

Dressing

10g garlic, crushed

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp tahini

8 tbsp natural yogurt

6 tbsp lemon juice

 

Method

  1. In a medium sized pan boil 1 litre of water over a high heat. Pour in the quinoa and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the grains are translucent but still slightly al dente.  Drain the quinoa in a sieve and set it aside to cool.
  2. Chop the cauliflower roughly, and blitz in a blender, pulsing until it resembles coarse couscous. If you don’t have a blender, you can grate the cauliflower by hand to achieve a similar effect.
  3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the quinoa, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, feta, walnuts and coriander.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients to combine. Pour as much as desired of the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix it through.

Cauliflower & Quinoa Superfood Salad

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Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

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Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

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Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza Pizza is in his DNA.  Five generations of golden, thin, crispiness. One recipe.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The pizza oven is raging, rapidly devouring its feed of dry wood and spitting out sweet nutty smoke.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

 

 

He comes every summer in his Ape brimming with plump mushrooms of dough.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A light sprinkle of flour on a wooden board, and he gets to work.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

With wrist flicks and little rotations the round becomes a disc, airborne momentarily to ensure evenness.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A careful spiral of passata with the back of a spoon,

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

a shower of mozzarella,

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

and a scattering of whatever’s in the garden: fiori di zucchini, melanzane, pepperoncini…

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The flurry of flour continues into the night.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The dinner table is a moderation-free zone.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

He only stops when even the strictest of eaters has lost count of the number of pizzas (not slices) he/she has consumed, and physical incapacity is the only limitation.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

He doesn’t even really stop there: a couple more are sent to the table per domani.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

A pizza “hangover” ensues along with the inevitable promises of “never again” “not for another year”.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

But as soon as I hit London soil again I want to relieve that pizza-lover’s fantasy and so I make these.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

They’re crisp, thin, verdant, and fresh.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

I don’t believe in barren crusts or meanness so the ingredients are abundant and go right up to and beyond the edge of the base.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

I use spelt instead of plain flour (as usual) to reduce the GI level and add a nuttier more complex flavour to the dough.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The added bonus of this recipe is that it is ridiculously quick.  Kneading is kept to a minimum (5 minutes) and the rising time is the shortest you’ll ever find for pizza dough – ½ hour.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

The balsamic-maple reduction is optional but I include it to add extra caramelised sweetness, extra tang and a touch of drama.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

 

Ingredients – makes 4 pizzas

Base

250ml warm water

3 tsp dried yeast (fast active yeast)

500g white spelt flour

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

 

Topping

750g asparagus

30g garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/4 tsp salt

Grated zest of ½ lemon

A few grinds of Pepper

400g mozzarella (4 balls), chopped finely into cubes

100g parmesan, grated

3 spring onions, thinly sliced

Small bunch of chives, finely chopped

2 red chillies (optional), finely sliced

 

2 large baking trays or 4 medium baking trays, greased and dusted with flour

 

Maple Balsamic Reduction (optional)

120ml balsamic vinegar

2 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

  1. Heat oven to 120˚C for 5 minutes then switch it off.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer (or large bowl if making by hand) pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast over it. Allow to stand for 5 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  3. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Knead by hand for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or in a machine fitted with a dough hook for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and when you press your thumb into it, it bounces back up.
  4. Divide dough into two and place each half in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and place in warmed oven.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled, then remove from oven and preheat it to its highest temperature, usually 250˚C.
  5. While the dough is rising, use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus: place the asparagus flat on a surface, and holding it at the woody end, shave it from above the woody end to the top of the spear. I sometimes use the ends to make a stock for asparagus risotto.
  6. Place the ribbons in a bowl and mix with garlic, oil, salt, lemon zest and pepper.
  7. Once risen, divide each half into two and roll out each quarter into a 0.5cm thick disc. Place on tray and scatter each disc with mozzarella, parmesan, and shaved asparagus.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.
  8. Once baked, scatter with spring onions, chives, and chillies, if using. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, if desired, and serve immediately.

 

Maple Balsamic reduction

  1. Boil balsamic and maple syrup together over a high heat for about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly to consistency more like that of pure maple syrup. Allow to cool for 1 minute, and drizzle over pizzas.

Quick Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

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Scott's - Review

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Scott's - Review

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Scott's - Review And then there is the ramasse-miettes:  I love the scrape of the metal across the tablecloth sweeping away evidence of earlier greed, heralding a new course winging its way across from the kitchens, and reassuring one that the meal isn’t over yet.  I love, too, the re-laying of the tablecloth – a delicate procedure, in which the fresh tablecloth, crackling with starch, is laid across the table while the old cloth is simultaneously peeled back without allowing a crude sliver of the denuded table to be seen - comparable in some ways to a very discreet changing of a baby’s nappy.

There is no such pleasure in a flimsy sheet of paper scrunched up after each course to be replaced with another.  Fine if I’m going to Wagamama, or a corrugated iron hipster hotspot.  Not fine if I’m dining at a refined and traditional Mayfair institution - in this case, Scott’s - and paying commensurate prices .

Scott's - Review

 

Scott's - Review

I imagine the oyster bar, the focal point of the room, might be appropriate for a boring date.  The whizzing by of waiters bearing stunned seafood reclining on ice crystal cairns would provide enough distraction to fill any chasms of silence.  The menu, like many of Richard Caring’s establishments, is extensive and  includes a well-trawled ocean’s section, but it is somewhat less inspired than Le Caprice.

Scott's - Review

To start, I ordered the hot-smoked salmon: flushed and delicately flaky pieces were nestled in a tangle of pea shoots and broad beans, tied together with a green goddess dressing - a pretty dish, notwithstanding the potency of the tarragon in the dressing.  My dining companion enjoyed his chargrilled squid with quinoa, spicy sausage and rocket.

Scott's - Review

Seared sea bass with lemon and herb butter followed.  I am still tormented by this mis-decision. Why when there was miso-blackened salmon did I choose the least interesting thing on the menu?  I blame the yuzu cocktail.  The fish was fresh and cooked well, but with the bar set high by the exquisite cod with duck broth at Little Social (see review here), my expectations were not met.

Scott's - Review

The obligatory chips were chunkier relatives of Le Caprice’s, but good nonetheless.

Scott's - Review

 

 

Scott's - ReviewBaked chocolate fondant with cherries and ripple ice cream did not disappoint. Rich and molten, it was the kind of voluptuous confection that invokes an Augustus Gloop-like desire to bathe in it.

Scott's - Review

Three hours into the meal I expected what has now become an almost universal occurrence: the arrival of a bill-pushing waiter, willing one to leave.  Much to my delight, this did not occur - so Scott’s definitely gets bonus points for service.  In terms of gastronomy, Scott’s was unadventurous, good quality, unfussy and well balanced.

Food: 7/10

Service: 8.5/10

Ambience: 7/10 (9.5/10 if there were tablecloths)

Loos: 9/10

Price: ££££

Suitable for: Smart dates, celebrations, business lunches, seafood lovers

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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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Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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(Affectionately known as Froyo Yoyos) Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

If something becomes a fad, I usually try to avoid it.  Cupcakes were once things of joy, their light, sweet, spongeyness perfuming the house with the scent of birthdays.  And there was always the hope of left over icing, not to mention the ease with which one could convince oneself that the perfectly domed surface was in need of decapitation, just to preview the crunchy golden coated delicate sponge, just in case the cupcakes weren’t guest-worthy.  But now those simple pleasures have been crushed for me as the once-a -year treat has lost its golden hued novelty.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The single-concept shops dedicated to cupcakes are now a graveyard for the dying fad.  I walked past a well-known purveyor of cupcakes in the middle of an airless department store only last week, and watched as the woman behind the counter shuffled the gaudy treats into reverse rainbow order in an attempt to look busy.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Frozen yoghurt is no longer a novelty, but for me at least it has not yet lost its appeal.  Some people (including me) are able to delude themselves that even with the marshmallow, cookie dough, caramel topping it’s a healthier version of their favourite ice cream.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

When the clouds deigned to expose a sliver of sunlight for a short while on Saturday, I decided to indulge in a little frozen yoghurt.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The cherries at my favourite fruit monger were so glossy and irresistibly crimson they were begging to be involved in my hoping-for-summer recipe.  I combined them with yuzu juice for a touch of astringency to cut through the sweet creaminess of the yoghurt. Then, to add a childlike allure, I sandwiched the frozen yoghurt between two discs of biscuit which I’d infused with almond extract to bring out the cherry flavour further.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The yuzu juice provides a wonderfully tart citrusy note to the frozen yoghurt.  If you can't find it, substitute it with lemon or lime.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

I used an ice cream churner to make the frozen yoghurt smoother and the ice crystals finer, but if you don’t have one this stage can be skipped and the result will still be delicious.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Of course, the cherry and yuzu frozen yoghurt can be enjoyed sans biscuit.  The biscuit is however, rather useful if you wish to turn it into a hand held treat, whether or not the sunshine lingers.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

 

Ingredients  (makes 8-10)

Cherry and Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

375g cherries, halved and pitted

125g caster sugar

250g full fat natural yoghurt (don’t use Greek)

1 tsp yuzu juice

6 drops of almond extract

1 medium sized (18cm x 28cm approx.) loaf tin, lined with cling film

 

Almond Biscuit

160g butter, at room temperature

2 egg yolks

10 drops almond extract

210g plain flour

50g sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment

4.5/5cm circular cookie cutter or wine glass

 

Method

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

  1. Place cherries and sugar in a small pan over a high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sugar from burning.  When enough liquid has run out from the cherries to coat the base of the pan and it begins to boil, reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid from the cherries has reduced and is just slightly thicker than maple syrup.
  2. Allow the cherries and syrup to cool then blitz them together with the yuzu, almond extract and yoghurt until smooth. If you are using an ice cream maker, chill the mixture and then churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Otherwise, proceed to step 3.
  3. Pour the mixture into the cling film-lined loaf tin, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Place in freezer for 1-2 hours until solid.

Almond Cookies

  1. Beat the butter in a mixer (or by hand) until light and fluffy. Into this, beat the almond extract, vanilla extract and egg yolks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture until a dough forms.
  3. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in baking parchment and place in freezer for 15 minutes (or fridge for 30 minutes).
  4. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 7mm thickness. Using the cookie cutter, cut the dough into the discs and place on lined tray.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until cooked all the way through but still pale. Allow to cool.

Assembly

Remove the loaf tin containing the frozen yoghurt from the freezer. Using the cookie cutter, cut the frozen yoghurt into discs and sandwich each disc between two almond biscuits.  Store these in an airtight container and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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Little Social - Review

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Little Social - Review

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Little Social - Restaurant Review I’d like to be able to write how the waiter’s grime-rimmed thumbnail, with which he had just gouged something sinister out of his ear, nudged against the contents of the plate; how a glistening black hair, half submerged in the dish’s paludinal liquid, entangled itself with the semi-solid floating gelatinous elements; how the plate’s arrival was preceded by the fragrance similar to that of water left stagnant in a vase until the stems of the decaying plant have become slimy, and a beige skin has formed on the surface; how I lifted a debris-encrusted spoon of the liquid into my mouth only for my taste buds to be assaulted by the week-long damp cloth- tasting infusion.

But I can’t.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

 

Little Social - Restaurant Review

Because Little Social is impeccable. Nestled in a slither of a side street, it is an Elysium secluded from the tourist-thronged pavements of Regents St.  Jason Atherton’s classic French bistro interior strikes a harmonious balance between refined elegance and comfortableness.  Johannes, soon-to-be manager, glides around the room attentively, infusing it with his charm.  The menu is French inspired Modern European with subtly innovative twists and combinations.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

Little Social - Restaurant Review

Always lured by the umami perfume of truffles, I ordered the Burrata, pear quince, truffled honey and pickled walnuts - a decadent combination that I imagine would have gone down very well at a lavish Roman banquet.  Burrata is the queen of soft cheeses, and I’ve had the misfortune to witness numerous acts of treason committed against it by a number of restaurant kitchens.  This was not the case at Little Social. Rich, latticed, and butter-soft, the cloud of burrata melted on the palate, while the truffle infusion added a kick of savoury to the sweet decadence.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

The pear quince exceeded the expectation provided by the modest menu description: some slices were poached – soft, spiced and near caramelised, some were lightly macerated – sweet with a little more texture, and some were left fresh, adding a crispness to the dish.  This sweetness was cut through by the astringent balsamic reduction and pickled walnuts.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

I had carved out a path of indulgence in the menu but my dining companion opted for a lighter course: salad of baby carrots, avocado, fennel, clementines and coriander.  I’ve ordered this several times before and it tastes and looks like summer: vibrant, fresh, crunchy, creamy and tangy, it is a well-balanced dish.

 

 

 

Little Social - Restaurant Review

For main, I ordered roasted Cornish line-caught cod, Asian spiced cauliflower and aromatic duck broth.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

The cod was so tender it almost anticipated the arrival of my fork. The cauliflower was done in two ways: florets, and a delicately spiced textured puree, both of which complemented the fish.  The broth imbued the other elements with its contrasting smoky savouriness.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

My dining companion’s choice of the risotto of wild mushrooms, parmesan & wild garlic proved that the vegetarian options are in no way neglected.

 

 

Little Social - Restaurant Review

At this point in the review I would love to furnish you with an opportunity for schadenfreude.  Alas I cannot.  I can’t even say that I had the misery of having to wait a long time to return to Little Social as I returned a week later.  On my birthday, I turned down the prime opportunity to sample another of London’s fine dining establishments, and I even eschewed my traditional birthday cake.  Some might think this decision radical and rash, but the reason lay in the heart of Little Social’s pastry kitchen.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

Deep russet brown, glistening, sticky, oozing, sweet, crisp, buttery, crunchy with a caramel darkened to sultry, sweet, savoury and nutty depths, just approaching the perilous realm of burnt: the tarte tatin can only be compared to Hephaestus’ offerings to the gods.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

The crisp meringue with Gariguette strawberries, lime Chantilly, fraises des bois and elderflower sorbet was also delicious.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

A perfectly formed orb of crisp meringue contributed texture and sweetness to the smooth tangy sorbet and berry interior, making it a delightfully elegant and refreshing dessert.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

You may be unsettled by the fact that there were no faults.  I strained to find even the finest of hairline cracks in the restaurant’s performance, reliving the meal in my head, scrutinising the individual elements.  I even went back a second time to check.  And checking yet again, and again,  would be no Sisyphean task.

Little Social - Restaurant Review

 

Food: 10/10

Service: 10/10

Ambience: 9/10

Service 10/10

Loos: 8/10

Suitable for: smart dates, business lunches, birthdays, family, friends, pre-theatre dining, vegetarians

 

 

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Portland Restaurant - Review

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Portland Restaurant - Review

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Little Social - Review Giles Coren recently reviewed Portland, Great Portland Street’s new culinary adornment.  So wonderful was his experience that he claimed it to be “a perfect restaurant”.  I tweeted this on my way to dinner there, only to have him sardonically (and mistakenly) reply that I had misquoted by using the definite article rather than the indefinite.  His keen eye for detail may have been put to better use in his restaurant critique – “perfect”, with or without the definite article, is not a term to be so liberally bandied about.

Portland - Restaurant Review

 

A gust of ice cold breeze swilled around the intimately sized room as the door shut behind us.  We found ourselves in a space of clean lines, bare wooden tables, suspended chrome lights, white walls and a voguish open kitchen with jars of things being pickled bordering its front.  The friendly waitress showed us to our table and bestowed both sparking and still water in glass jars upon the table, on the house – no money leeching here.  The modern European menu consists of lists of fashionable Japanese/foraged ingredients with names fun to roll around in your mouth like ‘ventricina’, ‘enoki’, ‘sriracha, and ‘culaccia’.  Indeed, while we were reading some of them out loud, the waitress standing some distance from our table leapt across the room to explain to us what they were.  She was almost worryingly attentive, but still charming – and nowhere near as intrusive as the service I experienced at Hakkasan a few months ago: I’ve been informed that my voice is like a foghorn, but this does not excuse the fact that the waitress ran across the room’s expanse to answer a question I had discreetly directed to my friend regarding the different sauces.  There must be microphones under the tables - I was on edge for the remainder of the evening.

Portland - Restauran Review

Bread and butter arrived.  The butter, as the waitress gleefully announced, was lightly dusted with grated ox heart.  Intrigued by the gory wood shavings, we showered the sourdough with them.  Either the bread was too strong, or a rather more generous helping was necessary, as the heart provided only the slightest murmur of saltiness – which may, even then, only have been the salt in the butter itself.

Portland - Restauran Review

Always curious to test a restaurant’s aptitude for preparing vegetarian cuisine, and with a pig-like keenness for truffles, I ordered the salsify with 36-month Comté and spring truffle.  The vegetable was soft, with a slightly chewy texture, which reminded me of the traditional South African koeksisters I first enjoyed when I was three.  Combined with the savoury perfume of the truffle and the salty delicate Comté the dish was excellent.  My discerning dining companion gave his delicate foam-coated Roscoff onion and Cornish mussels with cider and brown butter a firm 10 out of 10.

Portland Restaurant - Review

His main, monkfish with ponzu and enoki, failed to live up to the starter despite the sensitive cooking of the fish.  Instead, it was rather texturally challenged, the gelatinous ingredients stacked in slippery formation on the plate.

Portland - Restaurant Review

With my dining companion looking on with food envy, I revelled in the rich tender flesh of the venison I’d ordered and the caramelised sweetness of the accompanying parsnip.  Although they did not detract from the excellence of the dish, the contribution of oats to the dish wasn’t significant, nor was it necessary.

Portland - Restaurant Review

Dessert ensued.  Ever since my stint at Le Caprice I’ve longed for the citrus tang of yuzu.  I salivated (metaphorically) as the elegant triangles of yuzu tart decked with cigarettes of green tea meringue made their way from the open kitchen to my table.  It did not disappoint.  The meringue, though delicate was an interesting and elegant addition, and the frozen yoghurt added a creaminess to the kick from the yuzu tart.

Portland - Restaurant Review

At this point I was beginning to feel myself slipping rather gormlessly into the haze of Giles Coren’s utopia.  I needn’t have worried.  It didn’t last.  Within the ambrosial Elysium he had conjured up in his review, hairline cracks were beginning to show.  They even began to establish themselves in the food.  After the first few spoonfuls of his chocolate bar with peanut butter praline and peanut ice cream, my dining companion began to dig with greater purpose into the dessert.  With tweezer like precision he honed in on the source of his suspicion and plucked out a 3.5 inch strand of something between the thickness of a human hair and an animal whisker.  Unwilling to stir up a fuss he smeared it down on to the rim of his pate and pressed on.

Portland - Restaurant Review

At this point, mid-dessert and  without any prior warning, the waitress rushed over to us and told us that we had to get up that very minute as the next guests for our table had arrived.  I could see them out of the corner of my eye peeling off their coats and inching their way round the restaurant to assert themselves over what was apparently no longer our table.  We were told that we could sit at the bar, a row of five bar stools lined up against the glass window.  We slunk over, but every stool was taken.  Clearly we still had some status in the pecking order as one of the waiters squeezed his way through the tables and removed a couple from their chairs who had yet to eat so that we could sit.

Portland - Restauran Review

The waitress then arrived with my half eaten and melting pool of yoghurt and yuzu.  The illusion was shattered further by the location of our new position right next to the door.  Gusts of bone-chilling wind swept into the room whenever the door opened.  Huddled in our coats next to the exit we no longer felt welcome.  Two truffles arrived with the bill, a nice touch apart from the fact that they were decidedly average: the shell was factory-made, and the caramel filling leaked out of the pre-made hole on to the plate.

Portland - Restaurant Review

Whether Portland is “a perfect restaurant” as asserted by Giles Coren, or “the perfect restaurant” is irrelevant.  Whilst much of the food is excellent, a few too many hairline fractures appeared over the course of the meal for the restaurant even to near an exemplum of restaurant utopia.  The appearance of a hair, too, was somewhat less than perfect, and not all that appealing.

Food: 9/10

Service: 5/10

Ambience: 6/10

Loos: 6/10

Price: ££££

Suitable for: business lunch, friends, family,  casual dates

 

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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

 

Rabbit on Urbanspoon

 

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The Ivy Market Grill - Review

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The Ivy Market Grill - Review

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The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review Twelve hours of starvation, a 5.30 wake up and, waiting for me, a pair of over-sized nappy-esque translucent paper knickers.   Having first been warned of the potential risk of losing sensation in my mouth possibly forever, I was then choked by a mask pumping sickly sweet anaesthetic into my lungs, and my jaw was ripped into. Drilled brutally into five pieces and followed by a thorough excavation, there was not even a remote chance of the tooth fairy visiting to collect my wisdom tooth. The drugs they gave me were stomach-writhingly potent – strong enough to crush even my most resilient characteristic: hunger. Still, the thought of lunch the next day at Richard Caring’s freshly opened Ivy Market Grill, sister of London establishment, The Ivy, was enough to keep me going. IMG_8721 The timing couldn’t have been worse: by Sunday morning my face had swollen to such an extent that I had to perfect a combo of Quagmire of Family Guy, and Debbie from The Wild Thornberrys, the Debbie hair curtain deployed to conceal the Quagmire jawline. The menu which I had pored over numerous times in admiration was restricted dramatically – only food that could fit through the 0.5cm letterbox that my mouth had become was a possibility. I was also doubled over in pain from the stomach-eroding drugs the doctor had supplied.IMG_8759 Battling valiantly through all these obstacles, I made my way to Covent Garden.   Following the success of Caring’s all-day restaurant chain, Côte, another all-day brasserie must have appeared to be a logical step. With its grand Parisian brasserie feel, elegant yet comfortable, the verbal and physical resonances of its well-established Soho sister are evident. IMG_8748 To start: pumpkin with black truffle soup (I only just resisted asking for a straw). It was presented with the flourish and drama one would expect at a top end location – a neatly balanced pumpkin ravioli surmounting pumpkin puree scattered with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds was flooded with a sweet and truffle-rich pumpkin soup. IMG_8733 I have yet to visit a restaurant with any pumpkin dish rivalling those of Caecilius, a host featured in the epigrams of Latin poet, Martial, who pushes the gourd creatively to its very limits (see below) . The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review I long to try the thousand variations-on-a-pumpkin degustation that Caecilius prepares, but have so far been let down by London restaurants in this respect. Clearly, I shall have to honour the Roman myself. In the case of the Ivy Market Grill, pumpkin four ways went some of the way both in texture and flavour. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review I tried some of my dining companion’s winter salad (shaved apple, hazelnuts, golden raisins and celery with a stilton dressing) albeit a pathetically small mouthful with obvious constraints applying. It, too, was highly refined, refreshing both to look at and in its sweet salty flavour. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review At this point I realise the review should be dedicated to the dentally challenged with whom I now sympathise. Alongside its impressive vegetarian selection, I also deem the restaurant false–tooth friendly. The risotto was perfectly al dente (or more appropriately alla mancanza di dente), the flavours well balanced – umami with comforting autumnal warmth. The portion was on the generous side too. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The roasted heritage carrots with parsley were delicious: perfectly honeyed and tender. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review One of my companions ordered the zucchini fritti, which I managed to taste. Thin and crisp and ridiculously light, one day I’ll return for more. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The chargrilled Banham half chicken, with maître d’hôtel butter and thick cut chips was also a hit according to my dining companions, as was the baked open ravioli with spinach, peas, broad beans, creamed ricotta and basil. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review Unfortunately, the quinoa, avocado and mixed leaves making up the salad element of the grilled chicken salad were overly salted, but our waitress, Alexandra, was quick to make up for the error.   With the quality of food otherwise good, I can only imagine that this was a first week opening blip. Dessert ensued.   And, naturally, I ordered the melting chocolate bombe. Soft and soupy, it complied with the surgeon’s orders exactly. The thick, hot and rich salted caramel melted the chocolate exterior, drenching the plate with milk foam, vanilla ice cream and honeycomb. The surprise element, popping candy, kept me entertained for a while. The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant reviewThe Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant reviewThe Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant reviewThe Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant reviewThe Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant reviewThe Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review I never usually seek out sorbet at a restaurant but I couldn’t refuse when my dining companion offered me some of his - doctor’s orders of course. The blood orange was sublime, the flavour both acutely sharp and sweet.The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review The Ivy Market Grill - Culina Sophia restaurant review Refined flavours, unfussy food, delightful served, and a warm, comfortable atmosphere, the Ivy Market Grill does not, in my opinion, dilute the brand; rather it strengthens it. It’s an all-day restaurant, and yes, I would happily spend all day dining there.


Martial, Epigrams XI.XXXI. On Caecilius. Caecilius, a very Atreus of gourds, tears and cuts them into a thousand pieces, just as if they were the children of Thyestes. Some of these pieces will be placed before you to begin with as a relish; they will appear again as a second course; then again as a third course. From some he will contrive a dessert; from others the baker will make mawkish patties, cakes of every form, and dates such as are sold at the theatres. By the art of the cook they are metamorphosed into all sorts of mincemeat, so that you would fancy you saw lentils and beans on the table; they are also made to imitate mushrooms and sausages, tails of tunnies and anchovies. This dextrous cook exhausts the powers of art to disguise them in every way, sometimes by means of Capellian rue. Thus he fills his dishes, and side dishes, and polished plates, and tureens, and congratulates himself upon his skill in furnishing so many dishes at the cost of a penny.


Food: 8.5/10 Price: ££££ Ambience: 7/10 Service: 9/10 Loos: 7/10 Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, brunch, afternoon tea, all-day dining, family, friends, pre-theatre dining, Square Meal Ivy Market Grill on Urbanspoon

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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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Portal

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Portal

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Portal Restaurant Review Portal is exactly what it says on the tin – a portal into a hidden space. Its chic matte black and green brick exterior, tardis-like, opens up to a beautiful glassed in courtyard. It's not very well known, but I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason for this: everyone is keeping it a secret, and so should you. You’re not going to want to compete with your friends for a table here.

Portal Restaurant Review With its serene black and white format and the floor-to-ceiling glass panes, Portal does urban chic very well. As we were a group of 12, I booked the private room (which seats 14). Wine-lined, and with a sliding glass door, you can converse audibly with your dining companions.

Portal Restaurant Review

I’ve been known to punch (accidentally) the odd stranger whilst taking my coat off or putting it on. With wine bottles as a substitute the situation was rather more precarious: I narrowly missed bringing down the entire row of 2003 Quinta do Portal ‘Auro’…

Portal Restaurant Review

Very rarely is the bread worth mentioning in a restaurant, but Portal is a cut above many: served freshly baked in engraved wine boxes along with peppery olive oil it would be hard even for the most resolute gluten-free fad enthusiast to resist.

Portal Restaurant Review

Portal Restaurant Review

Please don’t think I’m a bore, but the tap water is also worth noting: sweet, cold and crisp, and flavoured with sliced cucumber and fresh mint. And like the dining scene in Philemon and Baucis, my glass seemed to replenish itself. Attention to detail is what marks the good from the great, and Portal is definitely closer to the latter.

Portal Restaurant Review The amuse bouche was cream of gazpacho with parmesan shavings. Spoons were hard at work to scrape every last scrap of this with its fresh, spicy and bold flavours.

Portal Restaurant Review After some studious analysis of the modern Portuguese menu, I plumped for grilled vegetables with carrot and ginger puree - maybe not the most adventurous starter to choose, but I’m always on the lookout for good vegetarian food. If a meat-orientated restaurant takes its time to conjure up a good vegetarian dish then it is a true sign of its quality, rearing its head above all the meat-crazed restaurants on the scene at the moment.

Portal Restaurant Review

Clean and modern presentation was consistent throughout the meal, and Portal is definitely not shy with its green garnishes. The purée was warming and smooth, but unfortunately the carrots were a little underdone, and unusually for a restaurant, there wasn’t enough salt to draw out the earthy root vegetable sweetness.

Portal Restaurant Review

Portal Restaurant Review

Luckily, I turned carnivore for the next course: the duck breast with apple, chard and summer cup reduction.

Portal Restaurant Review

Sweet, juicy, tender, succulent, cooked to the perfect shade of blush, this was the wagyu of the duck world.

Portal Restaurant Review

The red of the apples added drama to the plate, and they too were cooked to perfection with their creamy combination of sweet and sour. With all elements so beautifully in sync with their bold simplicity, this dish is a reason in itself to visit Portal.

One of my dining companions ordered the sirloin, aubergine puree, shallots and peas. The downside of the private room is that it’s impossible to get to the other side of the table fast enough to assuage severe food envy.

Portal Restaurant Review

Inevitably it was excellent…or so I was told.

Portal Restaurant Review The Dover sole, cauliflower purée, smoked pork belly and lemon foam also went down very well.

Portal Restaurant Review Sadly, however, the vegetarian option of tofu, broad bean and shimeji fell short. My dining companion had to resort to self-seasoning - a drastic action and a real shame.

Portal Restaurant Review

A bottle of white and of red in (both delicious), dessert was definitely necessary.  I ordered the fruit salad, and no, this is not a cop-out. Portal’s fruit salad makes up for its healthiness with visual decadence. It happens also to be delicious as the fine slicing contributes to appreciation of the fruits’ flavour.

Portal Restaurant Review It would have been sacrilegious not to try Portal’s pasteis de nata, accompanied by cinnamon ice cream: fine crisp pastry with a burnished gold custard filling – traditional and very good. And I’m an ardent fan of cinnamon, so the ice cream was highly pleasing too.

Portal Restaurant Review

Portal Restaurant Review

A full stomach hindered my speed in getting to the other desserts (I had to pass the camera round), but they were thoroughly enjoyed.

Coconut and Lime Mousse, Pineapple Coulis, Marshmallow and Miso Sauce:

Portal Restaurant Review

Pudim Abade de Priscos and Strawberries:

Portal Restaurant Review

Portal Restaurant Review

We finished the meal with a round of fresh mint tea, and delicate and zesty lemon curd tartlets.

Portal Restaurant Review If you’re looking for the best duck in London, an urban chic oasis in the heart of the city, and delicious food with a Portuguese slant, go to Portal. Just don’t tell too many people.

Food: 8.5/10

Price: ££££

Ambience: 9.5/10

Service: 9/10

Loos: 9/10

Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, business lunches, family, friends, private dining, chef's table

 

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Top 10 London Brunch Spots

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Top 10 London Brunch Spots

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Top 10 London Brunch Spots I love brunch – it’s the best part of every meal combined in one…  I’ve compiled a list of my current top 10 London brunch spots (with a few extras as I found it so hard to choose).  It's in alphabetical order rather than in order of preference, ranging between good value and expensive, relaxed and formal, and may well change over time as I continue my culinary conquest of London.

 

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Avenue

Description:  Modern American cuisine in a spacious and glamorous setting.

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, diet friendly cuisine, vegetarians, large groups

Dish to try: The Avenue Brunch Burger

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: Modern American

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Green Park

Website: http://www.avenue-restaurant.co.uk

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

 

Berners Tavern

Description: a recent Jason Atherton venture, Modern European style cuisine in a grand setting

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, vegetarians, large groups

Dish to try: hazelnut waffles, berries & cream

Price range: £££

Cuisine style: Modern European

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Tottenham Court Road

Website: http://www.bernerstavern.com

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Bill’s

Description:  robust comfort food in a rustic-chic setting

Good for: family, friends, vegetarians, good value, large groups, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: Bill’s vegetarian breakfast - poached free range eggs, tomatoes, hummus, mushrooms & guacamole, sweet chilli sauce, basil & toast

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: British

Formality: casual

Location: Covent Garden,  Soho, Wellington Street,  Holborn, Borough Market,  Islington, Shoreditch, Kensington High Street, Battersea, Westfield, Hammersmith,  Putney, Chiswick,  Wimbledon, Ealing, Richmond

Website: http://www.bills-website.co.uk

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Christopher’s

Description: refined Modern American cuisine in an elegant setting with a dramatic spiral staircase

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, diet friendly cuisine, vegetarians, large groups

Dish to try: warm brioche French toast, roast peach, vanilla mascarpone & maple syrup

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: Modern American

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Covent Garden

Website: http://www.christophersgrill.com

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Gail’s Artisan Bakery

Description:  chic English bakery chain with artisanal breads, and sumptuous cakes

Good for: family, friends, vegetarians, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: apple crumble cake

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: British

Formality: casual

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

Website: http://www.gailsbread.co.uk

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Grain Store

Description:  eclectic Modern European vegetarian-focused cuisine in an airy, urban chic environment

Good for: family, friends, diet friendly food, vegetarians, vegans, innovative cuisine, buzz, large groups, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: sweet potato doughnuts filled with citrus curd, dill and vodka ice cream

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: eclectic Modern European

Formality: casual

Location: King’s Cross

Website: http://www.grainstore.com

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

J+A Café

Description:  healthy and wholesome home-cooked Irish food in a hidden courtyard in the city.

Good for: family, friends, vegetarians, buzz, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: Irish cheese plate -Cashel Blue, Gubbeen, Cooleney Camembert with Soda Bread + Ballymaloe Tomato Relish

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: Irish

Formality: casual

Location: Clerkenwell

Website: http://www.jandacafe.com

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Le Caprice (see my review here)

Description:  Modern European cuisine in a classically elegant setting

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, vegetarians, buzz

Dish to try: heritage beets, crispy goat's cheese, truffle honey dressing

Price range: £££

Cuisine style: Modern European

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Green Park

Website: http://www.le-caprice.co.uk

 Iced berries, Le Caprice - an off-the-menu secret dessert

Momo

Description:  Moroccan and French cuisine in a glamorous Arabian lounge

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, vegetarians, innovative cuisine, large groups

Dish to try: everything, especially the full Moroccan breakfast: poached free range egg with batata hara, merguez, turkey bacon, coco beans in charmoula sauce, garlic mushroom stuffed tomato

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: French Viennoiserie meets Moroccan

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Oxford Circus

Website: http://www.momoresto.com

 Top 10 London Brunch Spots

Riding House Café

Description:  brasserie style comfort food as well as healthy alternatives in a quirky urban chic setting

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, diet friendly cuisine, vegetarians, vegans, buzz, large groups, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: macaroni cheese fritter, leeks, tomato & caper dressing

Price range: £££

Cuisine style: Modern brasserie

Formality: casual chic

Location: Oxford Circus

Website: http://www.ridinghousecafe.co.uk

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

The Breakfast Club

Description: generous American style cuisine in a nostalgic rustic environment

Good for: family, friends, vegetarians, good value, buzz, relaxed atmosphere

Dish to try: the all American - pancakes, eggs, sausage, home-style fried potatoes, streaky bacon and maple syrup

Price range: ££

Cuisine style: American diner

Formality: casual

Location: Soho, Angel, Hoxton, Spitalfields, London Bridge, Battersea Rise

Website: http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

The Wolseley

Description:  classical brasserie cuisine in one of the most glamorous settings in London

Good for: family, friends, celebrations, glamour, vegetarians, buzz, large groups

Dish to try: Wolseley fishcake with poached egg

Price range: £££

Cuisine style: classic brasserie

Formality: smart/casual

Location: Green Park

Website: http:// www.thewolseley.com

Top 10 London Brunch Spots

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Hibiscus

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Hibiscus

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Hibiscus restaurant About a year ago, I went on a truffle hunt in Tuscany.  All morning we followed a hound through brambles, along slippery river banks, and across soggy fields, zigzagging and doubling back on our tracks, now fast, now slow, until at long last he dug his nose into some mud and began to shiver with excitement, and out came a truffle the size of a thumbnail.  I am in no hurry to do that again, and luckily for truffle lovers there is Hibiscus, the restaurant in Maddox Street, which offers a Truffle Menu amongst its other menus. Alongside its double Michelin star award,

Hibiscus boasts a Relais & Chateaux plaque, five AA rosettes, and has been ranked at number seven in the Good Food Guide 2014.  However, as I experienced a few months ago at Gordon Ramsay’s supposedly Michelin standard Pétrus, awards can sometimes be misleading. With my guard resolutely up, I entered the smart, clean-lined, blue/grey velvet world of Hibiscus.  The Head Chef is Claude Bosi, and the menus reflect his sensitivity to seasonal and local produce.  Having decided to save the Truffle Menu for a special occasion, I and my companions chose from the Lunch Menu.

This arrived before starters:

Hibiscus restaurant

Very tongue in cheek.

Hibiscus restaurant

Hollowed out egg shells filled with curry spiced aerated coconut milk with a delicate mushroom cream.  Witty, innovative, bold and delicious, it did exactly what  a good amuse bouche should do: titillate the palate whilst providing a hint of what’s to come - in this case paving the way for Claude Bosi’s bold, modern and interesting twist on Modern European cuisine.

Hibiscus restaurant

The starters continued to impress.  I had the pumpkin velouté, blue cheese royale, and buttermilk.

Hibiscus restaurant

Hibiscus restaurant

Hibiscus restaurant

Hibiscus restaurant

The sweet, perfectly smooth pumpkin velouté contrasted with the sharp saltiness of the blue cheese, and the pumpkin seeds and cubes of pumpkin added textural interest to the dish.

Hibiscus restaurant

I also tried the cured Var Salmon with Celery, Blackberry and Wasabi.  It matched the high standard of the velouté.  The salmon was soft and delicately sweet with the additional ingredients working in perfect harmony.

Hibiscus restaurant

My other dining companion’s starter met with joy too: pork belly and lobster Ravioli, paimpol beans, red pepper, and raspberry.  When my companion accidentally spilt his glass of water on to the ravioli as the dish was placed in front of him, it was swept away immediately by the waiter and replaced within five minutes without any sneering or snootiness.

Hibiscus restaurant

For main course I chose the poached cod à la Grenobloise. The fillet was beautifully cut, and just-cooked, so that the flesh was soft and juicy.  The fillet sat on a nutty, browned butter sauce with crisp golden breadcrumbs adding texture, and the subtly vinegary capers worked as an astringent cutting through the creamy richness of the cod.

Hibiscus restaurant

My companions thoroughly enjoyed the confit duck leg with chorizo, sweetcorn and gem lettuce, and the veal cheeks, parsnip and truffle, and sauce Veronique.

Hibiscus restaurant

Hibiscus restaurant

With such refined, innovative and bold savoury courses, dessert unfortunately fell slightly short.  I chose roast figs, whisky ice cream and raspberry.  Visually, the dessert worked very well, and spearing the roast figs with vanilla pods is a wonderful idea – one I shall definitively imitate.  However, there was not enough sweetness in the dish.  The restaurant was possibly relying on the natural sweetness of the figs since they were in season, but combined with the sourness of the raspberry, it missed the mark.  The whisky ice cream was very good though, possessing just the right balance between creaminess and alcoholic tang.

Hibiscus restaurant

My companion’s burrata with parsnip and pear compote also failed to meet the high expectations that the previous two courses had created.  The pear and parsnip pairing appeared interesting on paper, and could have been made to work had the parsnip been roasted to draw out its sweetness.  Sadly, it was bland both in terms of colour and flavour.  A drizzle of honey as well as some sort of astringent was necessary to cut through the richness of the burrata.

Hibiscus restaurant

When we left, we were handed little boxes of miniature freshly baked raspberry and pistachio madeleines which were delicious.

Hibiscus restaurant

Overall, the ambience is good, the service impeccable, and although the desserts were somewhat disappointing, the savoury dishes were excellent- unfussy, innovative and clever.

Food: 8.5/10

Price: ££££

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Loos: 9/10

Suitable for: smart dates, celebrations, business lunches, family, friends

 

Opium on Urbanspoon

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