Central London

The Five Fields, Chelsea, SW1

October 2020

We had a wonderful fine dining experience at the weekend, we returned to The Five Fields restaurant in Chelsea, and I must say that this Michelin starred restaurant, once again, did not disappoint.  The Five Fields focuses on seasonal, British produce serving menus inspired by the seasons, in fact, a lot of the vegetables and herbs that they use are grown in their own kitchen garden in Sussex, something they are rightly proud of. Our waiters were particularly animated when describing our dishes, especially when the provenance of a certain ingredient, such as the celeriac we were eating, was from their own garden – it definitely made our dining experience more personal and it was encouraging to see the staff so engaged with the food that they were serving. The dining room is elegant and sophisticated, and most importantly small enough to retain a special, intimate atmosphere, which food of the calibre that they are serving, deserves.

Chef Taylor Bonnyman and his team are known for their beautiful, creative menus, and on the evening that we visited we could find no fault. The set tasting menu was perfectly executed (with gluten free options for me) – it was cooking at its best, creative yet not overly fussy, with superb flavour combinations. (Unfortunately my photos really do not do the food justice – I’m afraid I was more interested in enjoying the food than getting the right camera angle!!)

Our meal began with an array of canapes (salmon, leek, foie gras and oyster), they were the perfect amuse bouche before we moved onto the ‘Celeriac with Black Truffle & Pastrami’, it is difficult for me to describe the incredible flavour that this celeriac dish managed to deliver, it was sweet and meaty yet retained the lightness of the vegetable – I will never see celeriac in quite the same way! Our next course was ‘Turnip, Seaweed & Scallop’, an inspired combination, the turnip totally complimented the sweetness of the scallops, and the hint of saltiness from the seaweed was a fabulous finishing touch. Next up was ‘Brill with Velvet Crab and Monk’s Beard’ which was absolutely beautiful, the broth was exquisite. This was followed by ‘Fallow Deer with Jerusalem Artichoke & Pear’, I must say that the venison was one of the best I have tasted – it was extremely tender, cooked to perfection, and with the Jerusalem artichoke which was both puréed and lightly fried it was a luxurious dish. To prepare us for our dessert we were served ‘Honey, Milk and Marzipan’, a milk ice cream with delicate marzipan ‘flowers’, drizzled with their own rich and floral Sussex honey. Our main dessert, ‘Plum, Elderberry & Sake Lees’, was essentially a plum tart but one which would be difficult to match, the slightly sticky plum ‘flower’ was presented in a crisp tart with a delicious custard which was salted to perfection. Finally, with our coffee we were presented with petits fours – what a perfect end!

Throughout our meal the service was impeccable yet friendly and unpretentious, the staff seemed genuinely proud and invested in the food that they were serving. Our sommelier particularly deserves  a mention, we had wine by the glass, he presented us with wine choices which complimented the courses wonderfully, yet were not ridiculously priced.

So what else can I add but ‘Wow’ …and that I think that this restaurant deserves more than one Michelin star!!…

I would recommend that you treat yourselves – a visit to The Five Fields would make a wonderful Christmas present!

Clarke’s, W8

September 2020

A word of advice to anyone starting a new relationship – make note of the smallest of anniversaries as they will give you the excuse to celebrate in the future! Hence last week, Nick and I had the perfect excuse to treat ourselves to dinner at Sally Clarke; we celebrated our ‘first meeting’ anniversary (28yrs!). Sally Clarke’s restaurant first opened its doors in 1984 and it has been a highly regarded resident of North Kensington since, winning much critical acclaim. Indeed, I remember that when I was a student living in Notting Hill, my bus route used to pass the restaurant and I always dreamed of eating there, but in those days it was way beyond the realms of my student budget. Fortunately I can now afford to treat myself! Sally Clarke’s menu prides itself on using the best, seasonal ingredients and our meal last week was as fresh as ever; even though the plates seem simple, the flavours are very sophisticated, and I should point out that the photos I have taken do not do the food justice!

Entering the restaurant, you almost instantly feel like your worries are left at the door; the warm, classically designed room creates a welcoming ambience whilst the staff are very attentive, without being oppressive. The icing on the cake for me is the white tablecloths – as I’ve mentioned before, I do love a white clothed table – it gives that sense of occasion that I yearn for when eating out in a restaurant of a certain calibre.

On the evening of our visit, the menu had early autumn overtones, which was perfect as the weather had suddenly dropped 8 degrees! For my first course I chose a Salad of Burrata with Purple Figs, Sussex Leaves and Toasted Cobnuts, whilst Nick chose the Home Made Foie Gras with Onion Marmalade, Celery, Radishes and Baguette – both were beautifully seasonal with clean flavours, they were a great start to our meal. For his main course, Nick had the Grilled Correze Veal Chop with Padron Peppers and Baked Fennel, Baked Heritage Carrots and Bitter Leaves; the size of the chop was impressive, a T-bone cut, cooked to perfection whilst the baked fennel was particularly outstanding. My main course was the Rhug Estate Fallow Deer Loin Roasted with Purple Plums and Fresh Walnut, Rainbow Chard, Root Vegetables and Spelt, the venison was beautifully cooked and its gamey flavour (fallow deer can often be particularly gamey), was cut with the sweetness of the plums whilst the rainbow chard was really delicious – I made a personal note to myself to cook this vegetable more at home! Finally desserts, Soft Meringue with Chocolate Ice-Cream and Honeycomb – a seriously good meringue, very chewy, just how I like it, and a Cheesecake which was incredibly light.

Sally Clarke is by no means a cheap restaurant but it is definitely money well spent, they also offer a great set lunch, £29.50 for two courses which would be a great introduction to their beautiful, seasonal food. You must find an excuse to treat yourselves!

Lorne, Pimlico SW1

September 2020

Lorne, Pimlico SW1

We returned last week with friends to Lorne, a lovely restaurant that we discovered a few years back. Its location, on the backstreets near to Victoria station, gives this restaurant a ‘neighbourhood’ feel, which I really like. It has a lovely light, clean interior that lends itself to a casual atmosphere yet the food is very special. I was pleased to find that post lockdown, during our Friday evening visit, it seemed to be ‘busy’, and that the service was, as always, friendly and attentive. Most importantly their modern British menu was as pleasing as ever.

We started our meal with a couple of aperitifs, a Lorne Aperitif for me, which was a combination of white port, rosemary and Chartreuse, it was little like a fresh sherry but with a  more elegant finish; it was an unusual choice for me but was a perfect beginning to our wonderful meal. Nick opted for a Negroni which was apparently one of the best he’s had in a long time – coming from the ‘Negroni connoisseur’, this was an excellent compliment!

Moving on to our first course we opted for a white Burgandy, which our waitress recommended, it was fabulous and complimented our food perfectly… For our first courses we chose Roast Quail, Celeriac, Pear, Hazelnut Pesto & Endive, I loved the sweetness of the pear which was cut by the hazelnut – a very light and fresh dish, whilst the Chanterelle, King Oyster Mushroom and Wakame Seaweed Tart, Leek Fondue & Crispy Kale, ticked all the boxes. For our main courses, the Guinea Fowl Breast, Pied de Mouton, Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Sweetcorn, was ‘stunning’. The Roast Sea Bass, Curried Cauliflower Purée, Rainbow Chard, Dukkah & Cornish Mids, was well presented; I felt that it could have benefited from a light ‘jus’ as it was a slightly dry, but I must admit the flavours, particularly the rainbow chard and the purée, were really delicious. Finally the desserts, these really were the winners of the meal; Roast Fig Tart, Honeycomb, Cream Cheese & Fig Leaf Ice Cream, ‘fabulous’, and Chocolate & Blackberry Mousse with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, an unusual but fantastic combination of flavours which truly hit the spot!

Lorne, with its unassuming exterior and location is a true ‘gem’, a restaurant which has the winning combination of an unpretentious atmosphere and a creative menu which is light but packed with lots of flavour.

The Wolseley, Piccadilly

September 2020

This week it was my son Felix’s birthday so naturally I had another excuse to dine out in style! The Wolseley Café & Restaurant, has been a family favourite of ours since it opened in 2003 (when Felix was just three!), over the years we have enjoyed either breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner there on various occasions, and so for Felix’s birthday we decided to return for the first time since lockdown.

The Wolseley has a fascinating history, originally built on Piccadilly in the 1920’s as a car showroom (for Wolseley Motors), the interior was designed to impress with marble pillars, archways and a high domed ceiling. Now transformed into the dining room of the Wolseley Restaurant, it is possible to appreciate this wonderful, unique architecture, indeed, it is for this reason that the dining room is one of my favourites in London. It is always buzzing whatever time of day, admittedly, being in the heart of London, it can be touristy, but in my opinion this adds to its cosmopolitan charm, whilst the chance of spotting a familiar famous face, always injects a little extra buzz; over the years I’ve spotted various celebs, and on this recent occasion Zoe Wanamaker was dining close by. The food has never let me down, it is not necessarily outstanding but always well done. It is a brasserie style menu with classic dishes such as ‘steak tartare’, ‘ coq au vin’ and ‘Chateaubriand’.

So on this, our first visit since Covid started, I was keen to see how the Wolseley was faring in a quieter central London. On entering, I was happy to see that the old buzz was surviving, although it was slightly quieter with more spaces between diners, it was as charming as ever with its beautifully laid tables and attentive service.

After cocktails (including my favourite espresso martini and Nick’s negroni), we moved on to first courses, ‘Dressed Dorset Crab’ and ‘Seared Scallops with Pommes Mousseline & Garlic Butter’; both very delicious, and a Cocktail of Prawns & Avocado, which was good but not quite matching the high standard of the one I had a few weeks ago at Foxhill Manor! Our second courses were Holstein Schnitzel (with anchovies, capers and a fried egg), Cannon of Salt Marsh Lamb and an Entrecote Steak, all were very well done. Finally desserts, an Apple Strudel which was particularly scrumptious and a Chocolate Pot du Crème which although was rather plain to look at was exceptionally good. In conclusion the food did not disappoint, our bill was on the expensive side as we did choose the most extravagant starters but then we were celebrating! I would undoubtedly recommend the Wolseley, you don’t necessarily need to go there for a full blown meal like we did, you could just do breakfast or a light lunch, it’s worth visiting for the combination of food, service and atmosphere – the Wolseley is a great treat, it is almost like stepping into a bygone era!