Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Kimchee, Holborn

I'm not entirely sure where to start with Kimchee in Holborn, the experience was a real mix. Good, well cooked food and possibly the worse service I've experienced. There was a lot of hype around Kimchee when it first opened, and I suspect they have kept up pace thanks to the tasty food and affordable prices.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Nose to tail eating: St. John Hotel

Fergus Henderson’s nose to tail cooking philosophy summarises quintessential great British cooking. Most excitingly, he now deserves a big congratulations for receiving the surprising first Michelin star for St John Hotel in Soho this month. The menu that consists of hearts, livers, trotter, marrow and kidney is likely to be stomach turning for some, but for me the exciting use of offal was the draw card.

The best way to do a St John meal is in a big group of non-fussy eaters and share a bit of everything. We ordered a veritable feast for five.

Devilled Pig's Skin and Smoked Cod's Roe was incredible, crispy yet melted on your tongue, salty with a little heat from the paprika. The saltiness of the smoked cod roe complemented this perfectly, but could easily stand as a strong dish on its own.

Another highlight was the Snails, Duck Heart and Lovage. I was surprised when my English born dad who we were dining with shied away from the duck heart claiming it reminded him of English boarding school offal. Luckily that didn't deter us more adventurous foodies who dove right in. The dish was an interesting concoction of garlic and soft textures from the heart and snails, definitely worth a visit.

Unfortunately, the Rabbit and Borlotti Beans was a disappointment. The rabbit was under-cooked, making it chewy and difficult to separate from the bone. The Chicken and Trotter Pie for Two (or more like a family of four) is definitely worth splurging for. The pastry was crisp and buttery, with a creamy gelatinous filling.

Desserts at St John are outstanding. Based on our friendly and informative waitress’s recommendation we ordered the Baked Cheesecake with Fig, Honeycomb Ice Cream and a serve of 6 Madeleines to ‘take home’. I’m going to take a big stand and say this is may be the best cheesecake I have ever eaten. It cannot even be described, but oh my, the baked goats cheese with sweet fig syrup is not something you are going to want to share, I'm salivating just writing about it. Equally, the Madeleines were crispy on the outside, warm, soft and fluffy inside, and moorish as hell. Needless to say, they didn't make it home.

St. John Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Foraged and found, a little bit of Noma in London: North Road

In the same year Noma prestigiously reaffirms its number one restaurant in the world rating, London's very own Danish invasion, North Road is awarded a Michelin star less then 18 months after opening.

Christoffer Hruskova, who has recently moved on from North Road took much inspiration from Noma. North Road's decor is simple and post modern in it's scandanivian design, paired with the unique and adventurous Nordic style of cooking using a myriad of unusual and foraged ingredients.

Having not experienced much in the way of haut scandanivian cuisine I praise North Road if only for it's welcomed and thorough introduction to a style of food I won't experience anywhere short of a trip to Copenhagen.

Each course on the tasting menu was interesting, ingenious and intriguing with lots of raw textures, natural sweeteners and curious smoked and salted flavours.

Our three orderves compliments of the chef were each a work of art on a plate, preparing us for what was to come. Smoked potato filled with fish protein mayonnaise, marinaded quails eggs and pork scratchings to remind us of North Road's British influences. Each of the three mouthfuls were perfect with fierce flavours.

First on the tastings menu was deliciously fresh raw Doeset crab served natural and dressed with apple vinegar. Scottish Lumpfish roe with buttermilk snow, onions and burnt chicken skin. This dish was perhaps the only thing I didn't like about the meal, the buttermilk snow over chilled the dish and added an unsettling texture to the roe, and I personally found the burnt chicken skin bitter. I look at this dish as a brave addition to the menu as its certainly not to everyone's taste.

The heavily smoked native Dorset lobster with raw wild and cultivated vegetables packed a rich, strong smokey flavour. The fresh and smooth melting texture of the lobster was compliemnted perfectly by the crunch of the raw vegetables. This dish was devine and I think I would re-visit North Road just for it. The asparagus three ways with wild garlic and a salted pheasant egg yolk was technically impressive. When pierced the runny egg yolk that had been perfectly detached from it's white mixed with the garlic and pine dressing to create a thick and creamy sauce. To the eye this was one of the more simple dishes, yet one of my favorites.

We were starting to feel like this meal would go on forever, and were more than happy for it to. After a change in wine to accompany a heavier meat we were served the lamb and sweetbreads topped with sea kale. The dish was uncomplicated, resting on the strength of the perfectly cooked lamb.

Each of our four desserts were ingenious. Barley, pine, malt, hay and sea moss were infused together to create concoctions including an edible rock and cotton candy tree with edible soil.

Hruskova took the simplest of flavours and added ingredients you never even thought edible and created flavours unlike any other in a contemporary, delicious and truly memorable meal.

North Road on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Brasserie Zedel: a pleasant surprise in Piccadilly

Brasserie Zedel seems refreshingly out of place in Piccadilly Circus among the chain restaurants and tourist traps. Zedel however is neither. The recently opened brasserie is grandeur in scale and style, yet incredibly affordable which makes you wonder if it will last.

The menu is extensive, offering close to everything you could want from a French brasserie. The dishes are authentic and extremely reasonably priced; the Prix Fixe is astonishingly priced at £11.25 for three courses. I favoured the a la carte menu, realising three courses wouldn't cost me much more then £20. The fish soup (£4.25) was incredible; thick, meaty and flavorsome. Salmon tartare was tasty and what it lacked in excitement was redeemed by the price-tag (£6.50).

Steak Haché, Sauce au Poivre et Frites . . . . £7.50

Perhaps best value on the menu is the steak haché with peppercorn sauce, and frites. How this is priced at a mere £7.50 I will never know. The chopped steak is perfectly cooked on the pinker side of medium rare.

Café gourmand (£3.50) saw two delicious bites of French patisserie sweetness and plunger coffee end the meal. Perfect.

Brasserie Zedel has already become my go-to restaurant in London. Having visited twice in a few short weeks knowing I wouldn't leave begrudging my bill and I would thoroughly enjoy what I ate. Zedel simply makes me question menu prices generally. I have recently eaten far less exciting and bland meals and paid four times the price. You can’t seem to get anything more than a burger and fries for £20 in London at the moment. Let’s hope we’re seeing the start of a new trend and other restaurateurs follow suit.

Concombre à la Crème - Prix Fixe 3 courses - £11.25

Tartare de Saumon . . . . . £6.50

Soupe de Poisson et sa Rouille . . £4.25

Choucroute Alsacienne . . . . . . . £11.95

Café gourmand . . . . . . . £3.50

Brasserie Zedel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 September 2012

No waffle: Duck and Waffle

It's the opportunity to take in some of the most breath taking views in London that excited me most about visiting Duck and Waffle. Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Town, the restaurant boasts an incredibly swanky cocktail bar and post-modern dining room that is not only astonishingly beautiful but is also incredibly trendy to hang out in, if you can get past the sea of suited up city-types.

Soon to go 24 hours, D&W is sister to the American chain SUSHISAMBA, but brings a very modern British style to the family. The menu is made up of a number of small plates including breads and bar snacks, raw, small plates, brick oven (served in hot skillets), and for the table. Unlike much of the other restaurants who have jumped on the small plate bandwagon, D&W offers hearty and rich meals meaning you don't need to go crazy and order one of everything on the menu.

The pigs ears were a great bar snack and worth a try but not really my bag. They were deep fried, crunchy and flavoured with a salty BBQ seasoning that I unfortunately relate too closely to Texas BBQ Pringles. The mackerel tartare was citrusy, dressed well and finished with creme fraiche. Served slightly too chilled, the fishy flavours didn't really surface until the dish had rested on the table for a short time. Compliments of the chef, the raw scallops were excellent. Fresh and served resting on lime dressed apple slices on top of a salt block, they were a very pleasant surprise.

Feeling brave in saying so, my favourite dish of the night was the foie gras all day breakfast. Seemingly controversial amongst fellow bloggers, the dish is inventive and worth a try if only to decide you hate it. Fried quails egg, crisp streaky bacon and duck foie gras sat on top chocolate-hazelnut spread bread, the whole thing is dressed with maple syrup and finished with black puddings. For me, this dish worked incredibly well as a whole. The foie gras was rich and almost melted on the toast with the creamy egg. The saltiness of the bacon brought out not only the richness of the foie gras and egg but also the surprising sweetness off the chocolate. Not necessarily needed but a nice addition, the black pudding was rich but under seasoned. My dinner partner however, felt almost the opposite about this dish claiming the chocolate simply overpowered it all. I agree in essence this may be the case for some but if you get the good side with just the right amount of chocolate the dish is perfect.

bbq-spiced crispy pig ears / £4

mackerel tartare / pickled cucumber / smoked vodka / crème fraîche / £6

foie gras all day breakfast / £12

shetland mussels & clams / n’duja / fennel broth / house bread / £10

roasted essex beetroot / goat curd / honey / watercress / £8

In some places the food was hit and miss, but hey let's put it down to teething problems. After discovering the rather exciting breakfast menu I have booked a table to return later this month. This is saying something as I rarely find time to re-visit a restaurant in London. I expect I will be blown away again by what will this time be an early morning view of London waking up. I can only hope the food impresses me again in round two.

Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 September 2012

What it says on the tin: Burger & Lobster

Burger & Lobster indulgently offers but three things on it's menu: whole lobster, beef burger and what is essentially a lobster burger. Despite my review being so brief, the hype that has surrounded B&L for what must be going on a year is completely warranted. Quite simply B&L delivers well cooked, tasty, quick and affordable lobster (and a burger that also looks good).

There is the inclination that you're getting best value for money with the whole lobster. With a side salad and fries it's an easy choice for £20. The lobster is fresh out of the tank in front of you and comes steamed or grilled. Our lobster was cooked well. That said my only criticism is that for a restaurant that sets out to do only one thing they should do it impeccably well. The lobsters that came out for the diners next to us were far too charcoal verging on what looked to be inedible. Had one of those landed in front of me I would have sent it back - something I never do.

The lobster roll is more an exciting offer. What appears to be a whole lobster is chopped, dressed in Japanese mayonnaise and chives and stuffed into an intensely buttery brioche roll. It may look small, but once you take the first bite you soon realise it's not only overwhelmingly rich but also overwhelmingly filling.

Both the lobster and roll come with a garlic butter, which if your arteries can bare to endure is delicious. As are the thin cut fries and sentiment of a salad.

There is a reason people are still raving about Burger and Lobster. It is what it is. You should go, and go with the confidence that you'll be getting a lot of good, fresh seafood that would cost more elsewhere.

Burger & Lobster on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 July 2012

My London Foodie Bucket List

Having recently realised just how often I walk past restaurants and say "I need to go there" I thought it would be beneficial to start a London foodie bucket list... So... Here it be. In no particular order other than that in which it comes to mind:

Pitt Cue Co - after I gorged myself on ribs at the first Southbank pop-up I am now eager to hit up the permanent location in Soho

Burger & Lobster - for the lobster burger, and with Soho soon to open and TAKE reservations I have no excuse

Roganic - to experience the two year pop-up by Simon Rogan while it lasts

St John - and I'm talking all three meaty locations

The Corner Room - new Nuno Mendes

10 Greek Street - all the way from Wapping Project, having heard nothing but good things

Bubbledogs - James Knappett, Sandia Chang & posh hot dogs and champaign

Dach and Sons - sliders close to home

Lima - More Peruvian comes to Soho (prior to my trip to Peru)

The Riding House Cafe - to join the brunch club

Pollen Street Social - contemporary artistic tasting, let's see what all the hype is about. There must be a reason it was awarded it's first Michelin star just months after opening

Viajante - the Numo Mendes' real deal Michelin star affair

Hix at Tramshed - steak or chicken, and that's it

The Ledbury - fellow Aussie Brett Graham's two Michelin star in Notting Hill

Upstairs at the Ten Bells - the semi-permanent stay-on from pop-up kings Young Turks (now with Giorgio Ravelli of The Ledbury)

La Bodega Negra - more street food, this time Mexican

Da Polpo - more Russell Norman

Polpetto - relocating Russell Norman, Polpetto will complete my Norman full house

The Admiral Codrington - for Burgerac' s number one rated burger in London, of course

Duck and Waffle - coming soon 24 hour dining that sounds god damn cool

Barrafina - younger, sexier tapas from Fino

Hawksmoor - more meat. How have I not been here yet?!

Dabbous - even though it's starting to feel like I'll never get a table

Dinner by Heston - because it's Heston Blumenthal

The Wolseley- another brunch addition, this time for the eggs benedict

Hibiscus - for the entire two Michelin star experience

Wild Honey - Because I've heard nothing but good things

Jose & Pizarrio - if I'm going to try his tapas, I may as well try both restaurants

Yauatcha - because I can't get enough dim sum and I feel I should see what Michelin star dim sum is all about

Bibimbab - for cheap and cheery beef bibimbab in soho

Tonkotsu - for what is apparently the best ramen in London

Ducksoup - because I'm excited by the ever changing menu

STK - for a New York steak. Coming soon

Wishbone - I guess because I'll try anything Scott Collins (MeatMarket, MeatLiquor) does, even though I don't like fried chicken

Story - no information disclosed but I'm assured it is coming soon. Because I like books and I like food, I also really like Thomas Keller's CV

I think that's it, for now. Feel free to let me know of anything I have missed.

Image: Viajante. courtesy of London Eater.