August 25, 2008

New food blog

New food blog at

Link here

July 07, 2008


Spanish / Italian modern tapas

25 Ganton St, Soho, W1F 9BP
Tel: 020 7494 4170

NO BOOKING! Great if you want to squeeze in for a late or early one. Or to try pot luck.

Tapas is good. On a level with both Barrafina and Fino. Barrafina a touch more classical, Dehesa with more of a twist. Jamon lovely but expensive.

Deserts hit and miss. Recently: Rich, moist, lush choco cake. But over charred rice pudding.

Great if not too hungry as a couple of small dished with a glass of sherry would hit the spot. Would start to hit the wallet over several dishes (much like Barrafina).

Cousin to Salt Yard. If you like Barrafina, Fino and Salt Yard, you'll like Dehesa.

But if you are ever in NYC you'll love near Union Square.

Hereford Road

New favourite restaurant!

3 Hereford Rd, W2 4AB
Tel: 020 7727 1144

Seasonal British food, tends to have one small added twist rising it above good to really very tasty and very well priced too.

Lamb sweatbreads with pea and mint. Middle white roast pork. Any fish of the day. All incredible yum with an ever changing menu. Must have been almost 10 times this year already. If you order sensibly, you can have 2-3 courses for about £20 a person. Bargain for this level of cooking.

Slight tail off if Tom Pemberton the chef is not cooking, I've found. If not mega-hugry, have two starters and share a desert.

Hix Oyster and Chop House

35-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, Farringdon, EC1M 6BN
Tel: 020 7017 1930. Mains £12-20.

Short review.

Good food in the modern seasonal tradition. You will like if you like: St John, Anchor & Hope; Hereford Rd. Expensive given some of the dishes but high quality ingredients and city location explain that.

Steaks looked good but expensive! I had hanger steak - flavour good, seared, ok. Baked bone marrow delicious. Peas in pod, pork crackling nice touches for starters. Companion's lamb chop was good (salt marsh flavour). One glass of wine, 4 dishes came to £90 at that price, I'd prefer St John's in the area or Rivington Grill but good none the less.

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March 21, 2006


41 Kingsland High Street

It's worth going to Shanghai just for the building. Possibly the only Chinese restaurant to occupy an astounding old pie-and-mash shop - and what a shop, maybe the best-decorated one I've ever seen. Amazing art deco tilework, beautiful huge mirrors all along one wall, with bevelled edges held in with ornamental brass clips, classic banquettes, fantastic lights and bar. It really seems not to have changed one bit - yet there are those glazed roast birds hanging in the window, and inside the tables hold chopsticks and soy sauce, not ketchup. It really needs to be seen to be believed, escaping off the busy Kinsgland High Street into its time-warp on a Saturday lunchtime.

I'd never eaten there before and to be honest didn't hold high hopes for the food, but actually it was surprisingly good. If I went again (and wasn't needing to eat fast and fillingly in preparation for going to the football) I would just eat dim sum. The few we had for appetisers were really very good indeed - silken steamed dumplings with delicious flavoured pastry (spinach and the like) and truly tasty fillings of prawn, scallop and minced vegetable. The boy had the dubiously named 'Shanghai Vice' beef which was actually pretty good too, spicy and flavoursome. The only slight disappointment was my roast duck (something of a traditional choice for me) which was average but no better. Our accompanying pak choi was also very tasty, fresh and with a good bite.

Maybe not somewhere to take a date expecting a fancy meal, but definitely somewhere to take a date who appreciates eccentricity and the hidden gems of London. I will certainly be back.

February 05, 2006

Sardo Canale

Sardo Canale
42 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill,
London NW1 8JD
020 7722 2800

Don't get put off by the rather over-slick-looking website - or, indeed, the slightly over-designed, in a modernist and not entirely tasteful way, interior of Sardo Canale, the sister to the Sardo in Fitzrovia. I went to the wilds of Primrose Hill (where, not being of the Primrose Hill Set, I am rarely seen) recently and ended up at Sardo with a locally based friend and my parents, rather late for a Thursday night - around 10pm. Everyone else there was coming to the end of their meals and we were told that we'd need to order mighty quick.

But despite this slightly inauspicious start, the food we had was actually excellent. Starting with just a tuna tartare and a salad to share between the four of us, we could definitely have ordered more starters, but nevertheless these were good. But it was our main dishes that really stood out. We went for pastas all round, for speed and not wanting a super-heavy meal, and when they arrived my heart did sink a little bit as they were Italian-sized 'primo piatto' pastas definitely intended to be followed by something more substantial. But actually the portion size was a little deceptive and the quality of the contents made up for the size, big time.

I had fantastic squid ink 'chitarra' pasta (a kind of fresh spaghetti made by being pressed through a frame with wires, hence the name) with porcini, clams and prawns in a lightly creamy, tomato-y sauce. It was really a brilliant dish, excellently executed (the only perhaps low point being the prawns, which were almost unnecessary) and proved the point that a small amount of something really tasty fills you up much more than a whole lot of crap. My father had an also excellent dish of pasta with a traditionally Sardinian sausage sauce - suitably rustic but cooked with the refinement you might expect of somewhere with swanky interior design. We then shared two puddings (quality of food making us feel full-ish but still not that full) - a very good ricotta tart and a panna cotta.

A bottle of Sardinian red was pleasant if not breath-taking. I have to admit that if I had been paying, I might have felt a little under-served. My pasta was around £12 and the others a little but not much less - quite a lot for what would really have been a starter, had we had more time. The 'real' mains are more reasonably priced at £12-16, so definitely better value - and the other starters are £5.90-£8.90 which is OK. Altogether four of us, with a couple of bottles of water, got out for £120 - £30 a head, which isn't bad for the quality, but I would have liked to be a wee bit fuller, perhaps, for that cost.

Still the staff were actually very friendly despite hurrying us a bit earlier, the plentiful supply of bread was varied and very good, and I would definitely return here if I ever found myself lost in NW1. The trick might just be to order a real starter and main, despite the fact that our pastas were fantastic, and then feel a little fuller for much the same price.

Kulu Kulu Sushi

Kulu Kulu Sushi
76 Brewer Street
Piccadilly Circus

Ben introduced me to this place and for that, I am eternally grateful. Good, fresh, sushi and sashimi, and the location for countless happy suppers. Being a very informal conveyor-belt place, and slap bang in the middle of town, its also a favorite for grabbing a bite to eat on my own and useful to remember in that regard.

Favorites include fantastic hand-rolls with salmon, avocado, hot and fresh tempura prawn in crispy nori - a sensational, sensual experience of hot crispy tempura, smooth avocado and slippery salmon. Other good things - the salmon sashimi is always of excellent quality, their deep-fried silken tofu in a little broth is absolutely delicious, mackerel is always lovely too, and because you can see them working in front of you, it's possible to grab the best and the freshest stuff as it gets put on the conveyor. Some things don't come round automatically but you can order - often ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) comes into this category.

Its also extremely reasonably priced - you can stuff yourself silly on delicious things for under £15 and if you are a little more restrained and avoid the expensive options, you can do extremely well and still feel full for under £10. Green tea is free and they also have beer and sake. It used to be a weekly venue of mine before the Other Cinema closed as we used to do Wednesday film night with sushi beforehand - a perfect midweek break. I think I've tried to introduce almost all my friends to Kulu Kulu at some point as a perfect hideout in the West End for when you haven't made a reservation and don't feel like braving the endless gauntlet of rather mediocre eating establishments.

Only note: it's not open on Sundays. Which recently precipitated a very frustrating moment for me when I was relying on it for sustenance in the middle of a nightmarish shopping expedition. I nearly cried when I got to Brewer Street and saw the doorway was dark.

January 28, 2006

Elena's (L'Etoile)

30 Charlotte Street, London W1
020 7636 7189

Elena's is a Charlotte Street institution. The kind of place that, in my case, I go to with my boyfriend's parents, or perhaps my parents, when they are feeling in an old-school mood. Apparently, it used once to be a rather high-class brothel. Elena herself - well, let me just celebrate a true legend of the London restuarant scene who, despite old age and infirmity, wears her scarlet lipstick with panache and has a face from the silver screen, as she makes the rounds of her clientele.

It certainly is old-school - signed b&w photos of many establishment celebrities on the wall, and classical, mostly French cooking in the kitchen. The 'best table' is to the left of the door as you enter, in the window but somewhat secluded from the rest of the room by a glass screen, and on the side that doesn't get a draft from the door when it opens. When I went last week, I was not at my usual super-hungry pitch due to ill-advised mid-afternoon snacks from the cake shop below my office, and was a little daunted by the rather rich-looking menu. But I forgot one of the central precepts of classic French cooking, especially in establishments favoured by celebrities: the portion sizes are made for those trying to keep slim while still eating three courses, so I needn't have worried (or ordered the extremely light, salad-based first course rather than the richer one that I was really tempted by)

The quality of the food is good. My starter of a chicory salad with asparagus, chorizo, croutons and poached egg was true to its description, the poached egg immaculate. My main course - slow-cooked lamb 'confit' - was equally so - not going to win the stars for innovation, but perfectly executed, extremely well-presented, tasty stuff. My creme brulee was also classic - none of the twists (raspberries, weird shaped dishes) that you might get elsewhere, but absolutely as creme brulees have probably been made for the last century. It does feel like a step back in time, right down to the waiters with their heavy French accents.

Prices are not cheap but about average for a decent West End meal - mains around £12 upwards, starters £7 upwards. Not breaking the bank, as some online reviewers have claimed. The wine list is solid if not spectacular. The clientele is generally not of the younger generation, so I wouldn't recommend it for a twenty-something birthday party or something, unless you have a particular kind of frineds.. But if you want to have a diner a deux in a grown-up way, or take your parents out, or an old-school client, Elena's definitely makes the grade. It has the shimmer of glamour without any of the in-your-face design, yabbering media darlings or vaguely intimidating menu that come with so many other upmarket West End joints.

January 12, 2006

River Cafe revisited

Yesterday we were having an office 'away day', borrowing a meeting room next door to the River Cafe, so of course we were compelled to go there at the end for a drink and - oh, go on then, a nibble.

What is so astonishing about the RC is how the quality of absolutely everything is so incredible. Even the smallest thing - a piece of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil - becomes almost orgasmic due to the sheer quality of the ingredients and the care in handling them. We only stayed for two proseccos-and-blood-orange-juice drinks and a couple of starters to share, but in each I was struck again by how much other chefs have to learn from the standards that are set here. Nothing falls down, and for those who balk at the prices (which aren't that high - you can easily eat worse and pay much, much more) or say that 'I could make that at home' - well, actually, just go there and eat and you will see why you can't.

We had squid with fresh chilli, cavolo nero and new season's olive oil - exactly one of those dishes that you see on the menu everywhere and that you think you can make at home. But to get the squid both smoked and crispy from the flame, and meltingly tender, without the slightest resistance, is an incredible skill of timing. Even in the passage from grill to plate to table, most squid will have gone from perfect to slightly tough. The cavolo nero was also perfect, slick with oil without being greasy, full of dark and wintry flavour.

Our other starter was a ball of mozzarella the size of my fist, broken open, drizzled with oil and accompanied by a wild mushroom bruschetta and some swiss chard, gently sweated. Again, the quality of the ingredients shines through and the combination was superb. Anyone who thinks £12 is too much for such a quantity of perfect mozzarella - the hint of a rind on the outside, fresh, smooth, chewy but utterly un-rubbery within - has got to be kidding; and that's without the other ingredients.

We all wished we could stay for dinner properly - but it's testament to quality when you are in dreamland all the way home on the tube, rolling your tongue round your mouth for the last few shreds of taste, unable to think of anything else. Even today, writing about it, I can still feel the texture of the mozzarella in my mouth. Go eat there, people.

January 01, 2006

Meals of 2005

Happy 2006! and good eating to all of you.

I also promise to blog more here! and to finally at some point make time to do a bit of a redesign and get away from this bland Blogger template.

My best (and unblogged!) restaurant meals of 2005 were:

Roast grouse at the River Cafe for my birthday in October. Always, always, so good.

Late-ish supper at St John Bread and Wine this December, with a group in gaudy fetish-wear at the next table while we were in filthy jeans and t-shirts having run out from repainting my flat, alongside the Miyake-clad of the Hoxton art scene. Epitomising, to me, what is so fantastic about the spirit of this restaurant - it caters for all of us equally. I'm really lucky to have it as my neighbourhood joint.

And many, many fantastic American diner meals all over the country. Special thanks to Waffle House for a great year.