Not only do I love cooking at home, but I also enjoy eating out. Here are some reviews of restaurants I have enjoyed; I only review those that I would recommend as life is too short to write about bad food!!…
*I’d love to hear about any restaurants you would recommend – contact me here!…
Let’s face it, Paris is a little too far to go for the evening, but I have discovered the next best thing. Dinner at Bouchon Racine. This little pocket of France has recently opened just up the road from Farringdon Station. It’s easy to miss the entrance which is beside a pub, then there’s a steep staircase to the first floor where the doors open into the restaurant and voila, who needs Eurostar!… Chef Henry Harris is no stranger to cooking French classics, having owned the restaurant ‘Racine’ in Knightsbridge which closed in 2015. Now the premises for the new ‘Bouchon Racine’ are in a slightly scruffier part of town but in my opinion, in a location more suited to the ‘bistro’ style – I ate at the former Racine and although the food was great I found the atmosphere on Brompton Rd slightly lacking (although I loved the velvet curtained entrance – very French!).
It was a cold and wet evening when we visited Bouchon Racine last week, the type when you’re in two minds about leaving the house but on the other hand, you need to eat. It’s fair to say we weren’t in the best mood, however entering the dining room at Bouchon Racine made our venture very much worth it. The atmosphere was truly welcoming, in fact, just about everyone seemed to be smiling, diners as well as the staff, which was a good sign. With its wooden floorboards, white tablecloths and candle-lit tables, the room had a warm French bistro style. As we perused the chalkboard menu, it was like being wrapped in a big hug; I adore the French classic dishes and this menu was ‘old school’ French, with the likes of escargot, fillet au poivre, boudin noir and steak tartare – needless to say this is not a good restaurant choice if you don’t love meat! Nick and I dived into the menu, ordering ‘Escargots alla Bourguinonne’, which were a dream with a wonderful earthy flavour cut by the garlicky sauce. ‘Herring, Pomme Al’Huile’ was a smoky-flavoured dish of cured herrings with crisp pickled carrots in fruity olive oil, it was very tasty although I thought the pickle could have been slightly more ‘pickled’ to balance the smoky flavour of the fish. The main courses left us very much smiling, ‘Pork Chop, Lentils, Parsley & Mustard Sauce’ was an incredibly tasty chop but it was the lentils in a creamy sauce that left me drooling – it was the type of dish that was perfect on a cold and rainy evening! ‘Rabbit, Mustard Sauce, Smoked Bacon’ was a sensational dish – my favourite. The Rabbit literally fell off the bone, it was tender and sweet, exactly how rabbit should taste but often doesn’t, whilst the mustard sauce was simply beautiful! Naturally, we ordered some chips on the side, these weren’t French-style frites but proper potato chips – they were fantastic, great for mopping up the sauces! Finally, dessert… ‘Crème Caramel’ – this could well be the best crème caramel I’ve ever had and with the Armagnac prune on the side it was even better! Whilst ‘Tarte Vaudoise’ was a cream tart which was a little like a custard tart but crispier and creamier – it was very good.
Bouchon Racine is the type of place that welcomes you with a smile, lots of character and huggable food. The ‘catch’ is that some of the dishes are rather pricey but you’ll still want to return again and again, I know I do… next time I’ve my heart set on trying the ‘Steak Tartare’ and ‘Fillet au Poivre’…
Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, Soho, W1
Reading about Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, the food sounded amazing, but it was the story behind the restaurant that really made me want to visit… Owner and chef, Imad Alarnab, came to London from Syria as a refugee in 2015. He had been a successful restauranteur in Damascus, but the Syrian war destroyed his enterprise and he was forced to leave to find a better life for his family. It was a perilous journey; after being smuggled in lorries he finally reached Calais and eventually the UK where he was given asylum. At first, he worked washing and selling cars, but he was a chef at heart and so started running supper clubs and pop-ups, and at the same time raised money for the charity ‘Choose Love’ that supports refugees. Later he crowdfunded a further £50,000 for his own permanent restaurant, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen. What a story of perseverance!… I needed to eat in this restaurant to at least acknowledge my respect for his incredible journey and determination. So when meeting a friend for lunch last week, it seemed the obvious choice…
Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is situated in Soho, just off Carnaby St in Kingley Court. For those of you who haven’t visited, Kingley Court is a three-story dining destination with 25 restaurants spread out over its floors, it offers food flavours from every corner of the globe. To be honest, with its hustle and bustle it’s not really my scene, so I was relieved to find Imad’s Syrian Kitchen in a quieter corner on the third floor. Imad’s has a bright, casual interior and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. The menu is easy to navigate, short and sweet. There are a few of the well-known Middle Eastern staples such as Hummus and Baba Ganoj (smoked aubergine), but I was there for something new… We started with ‘Mtuma’ (crushed new potatoes, garlic, chermoula and tahini yoghurt) which was extremely moreish – the type of thing you could happily eat alone for supper, it was wonderful. There was also ‘Daqet Bandura’ (heritage tomatoes, goats cheese and roasted fennel with dukka), I loved the freshness of the tomatoes, although they weren’t as sweet as I had hoped for (fault no doubt of the English weather!), they were saved by the goat’s cheese and the subtle spices – it’s easy to understand why dukka is the new darling of the spice world! The stand-out dish was the ‘Shaquaf’ (Grilled lamb skewers, marinated in sumac, olive and orange with sweet potato and roasted vegetable mash and sautéed greens). I’m salivating as I write this as this dish was absolutely delicious, subtly spiced to perfection – the lamb was superbly tender. To finish we shared the ‘Syrian Pistachio Ice Cream with ‘Candy Floss’, this was a Middle Eastern style ice cream instead of a creamy Italian style gelato, it was slightly glutinous and milky flavoured rather than having a strong pistachio taste however, the sweet ‘candyfloss’ topping was an inspired addition!
I had been a little concerned that Imad’s wouldn’t live up to my expectations, I wanted to love it before visiting simply for the incredible story behind the restaurant. I needn’t have worried as in fact the food was beyond my expectations, so much so that only a few days later I popped in again for lunch with Nick, who I knew would love its food. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for a private function, I was gutted, but we will be returning! Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is definitely a testament to the values of immigration – let us not forget!…
If like me, you have lived in London for the past thirty years you’ll be familiar with the restaurant ‘Andrew Edmunds’. Having first opened in 1985 it’s a stalwart of Soho, serving a seasonal, modern British menu. With its cosy, candlelit interior it’s been voted London’s most romantic restaurant more times than not. But it’s not just for courting couples and with this in mind when we were deciding on where to go for a casual birthday celebration Andrew Edmunds seemed like the perfect choice (Felix was turning twenty-two; it only seems like yesterday when we were celebrating his 21st in style at ‘Five Fields’ – review below!).
Entering the 18th-century townhouse is always a joy, it’s a bit like stepping back in time. Yes it’s a bit cramped and rough around the edges, but that’s the point – it’s bistro style at its best. Then of course there’s the food; the hand-scrawled menu can’t help but please. On the evening of our visit, starters included ‘Burrata, Honeymoon Melon, Rocket & Tomato’, a delicious dish, its simplicity allowed the quality ingredients to shine. There was also ‘Confit of Duck, Chicory & House Vinaigrette’ which was the birthday treat that Felix had been hoping for – he loves duck and this confit had pleasing bittersweet flavours. Main courses were uncomplicated but nonetheless tasty; ‘Roast Pork Chop, Braised Swiss Chard & Anchovy’ was a well-balanced flavoursome dish, as was ‘Roast Leg of Lamb, Grezzina Courgette Scapece & Mint’ – the minty courgettes were particularly moreish. Meanwhile, Felix raved about the ‘Cod, Little Gem Lettuce, Roast Tomatoes & Aioli’ (I was more than happy at this point with our choice of restaurant for his celebration!). Desserts were a ‘Baked Cheesecake & Blackberry Compote’ – again Felix picked the winning dish, although we couldn’t complain about the ‘Buttermilk Pudding & Figs’, except that it was a little too much for one person to eat!
On leaving the restaurant Nick and I, as always, promised to come back sooner than later – thirty years or so after we first discovered Andrew Edmunds it still didn’t disappoint. The quality of its unpretentious food is as consistent as ever. So, if you haven’t already tried it, I suggest you add ‘Andrew Edmunds’ to your London restaurant list – it’s great for any occasion!…
Some years ago we enjoyed a fantastic holiday in Sri Lanka. Apart from the beauty of this country and its incredible culture, I was struck by the wonderful food we tasted. Although Sri Lankan food is reminiscent of South Indian food it has its own distinctive taste and the flavours have some added ‘island personality’, which isn’t surprising since Sri Lanka is known as the ‘Island of Spice’. When we returned from our holiday I found it hard to find a restaurant that was truly Sri Lankan, however, I am pleased to say that things are changing. Recently in London, there has been a mini-explosion of fashionable Sri Lankan restaurants, a handful of them in Soho, one of these is Kolamba.
Not far from the hustle and bustle of Oxford St you can find Kolamba’s little Sri Lankan oasis. Its modern interior – think concrete floors, open brickwork and muted colours – is the perfect backdrop for its colourful curries. The menu is well priced and everything sounds delicious – unsurprisingly Nick and I over ordered! We started with their ‘Bites’ which are rather like street snacks. ‘Aunty Mo’s Chatti Roast’ was dry roasted beef with chilli and tomato on a bed of string hoppers (soft rice flour noodles), this dish certainly packed a punch, its flavours were accentuated by a turmeric and coconut gravy. We also shared the ‘Paniyaram’ which were crispy bites of fermented rice flour served with fresh chutneys – these were particularly moreish and gave a nice relief from the heat of the ‘Chatti Roast’. After these ‘bites’ we found that our little table was overrun with our main dishes!… ‘Vaira’s Jaggery Beef’ was another punchy dish, this time beef was slow-cooked in spices, whilst ‘Ceylon Chicken Curry’ was chicken cooked on the bone in a light, creamy coconut milk sauce with aromatic flavours perfectly balanced by tangy tamarind – this was one of those ‘comfort’ dishes; easy on the taste buds but at the same time giving them a warm hug. We also tried the ‘Beetroot Curry’, I was excited to try this as whilst in Sri Lanka I had been enamoured with this unusual curry, at Kolamba it was good but not necessarily memorable, it was my least favourite dish of the evening. Finally, there was ‘Parripu’, a thick dhal made with coconut milk and turmeric, this was very good; it was topped with roasted spices and very moreish. Naturally, we ordered ‘Hoppers’ on the side, these bowl-shaped rice flour pancakes are a Sri Lankan staple; they were a favourite of mine when I visited Sir Lanka, and at Kolamba they do them justice – they were light with just the right amount of crisp.
It would be safe to say that Nick and I had ‘eyes bigger than our stomachs’… by the end of these dishes we were feeling rather stuffed, which was a shame as I had wanted to try dessert! But I decided that, on this occasion, dessert would have to wait for a return visit; I will definitely be returning. Kolamba, is a great casual dining option for the centre of town, whether it’s for a lunchtime break from a shopping trip or an evening out with friends. Not only is it well priced, but very tasty!
(Since this review Humble Chicken has changed its concept and is now only serving a 12 course tasting menu)
Having heard great things about Soho’s ‘Humble Chicken’, I had been wanting to try it for some time. So, last week whilst in the area with a girlfriend, we popped in for lunch. Yakitori is the Japanese name for skewered chicken and at Humble Chicken, they skewer every part of the chicken, ‘neck to tail’… and believe me it’s delicious! Having worked under respected chefs such as Clare Smyth and being head-chef at ‘Restaurant Story’, Japanese born, Anglo Sato, knows a thing or two about flavour and there is no denying he knows a lot about the art of Yakatori.
I knew I would love Humble Chicken when on entering I discovered that seating was at the counter surrounding an open kitchen – I adore watching chefs at work and this seating allows one to feel fully immersed in the cooking process. As a stranger to Yakatori, the menu at first glance is a little disconcerting with the likes of ‘Inner Thigh’ and ‘Soft Knee & Cartillage’ – what a choice, where should one start? Fortunately, there is the ‘Omakase’ option, it literally means chef’s selection in Japanese, and is five assorted skewers (at £19 it’s a steal). We ordered this with a side of rice. ‘Cabbage & Ponsu’ (citrus soy sauce) is also served on the side as a fresh and moreish palate cleanser between skewers. Our first skewer was ‘Breast, Ponsu Oroshi & Chives’ which was wonderfully tender with the citrusy zing of the ponsu garnish. Next was ‘Achilles, Charcoal Fat & Citrus Kosho’, I was so excited to taste this unusual cut that I forgot to take a photo for you, but believe me it merited my excitement. On the outside, it was chargrilled and slightly crisp and on the inside, you were greeted with the succulent fatty flavour of chicken – the one we all love! Our third skewer was ‘Tail, Ponsu Lemon & Shichimi’, this was apparently our server’s favourite, and it was easier to see why. The lemon and shichimi perfectly cut the flavour of the gloriously juicy chicken. This was followed by ‘Inner Thigh, Spicy Miso & Goma’, which was mildly spiced and succulent. Finally, ‘Japanese Meatball with Tare & Egg Yolk’, was mildly spiced, ground chicken on a skewer, served with a dipping sauce of Tare (sweet soy sauce) and egg yolk, it was ultra-moist and unctuous, and delicious dipped in the eggy sauce. Whilst eating our skewers we spied the chefs preparing concertinaed folds of chicken skin, we were intrigued and, feeling piggish (or should I say ‘peckish’!), we also ordered one of these skewers. Apparently, these aren’t always on the menu as they are only served when they have the time and skins to prepare them; weren’t we lucky – they were chargrilled and slightly crunchy – really good!
Feeling quite stuffed at this point, we decided not to indulge in desserts but we will be back!… I have made a date to return with Nick for dinner; I hope to not only enjoy the Omakase skewers but to make a few other ‘skewer’ choices myself, plus have dessert – I’m going to visit on an empty stomach! Do I need to tell you that Humble Chicken is a place you should visit?!…
My favourite pastime is eating out, so as you can imagine, my list of ‘to try’ restaurants is never-ending! For quite some time, ‘Noble Rot’ has been on that list. Since it opened in 2015, it has had consistently good reviews and been heralded by other restauranteurs – which is always a good sign. So when friends suggested that we meet there for dinner last Saturday night, I was more than keen to see them…and the restaurant!
Noble Rot is first and foremost a wine bar with a restaurant; it is possible to pass by just for a glass of wine (they also serve snacks at the bar), or you can have a full meal in their restaurant. The concept has been so popular that in 2020 they opened a second establishment in Soho. On Saturday night we dined at the original restaurant on Lambs Conduit St. Entering Noble Rot on a chilly November evening was extremely comforting, the interior has a slightly Dickensian feel with its uneven wooden floors, sombre colours and low lighting. The menu, with its robust flavours, was equally pleasing, plus of course, there was the wine list(!); it was easy to lose ourselves in the comprehensive list but fortunately, our waitress was very knowledgeable. I must say that the four of us got rather carried away with the menu, we were tempted to try almost everything, and so ordered a selection of small bites as well as starters, these included ‘Old Winchester Beignets with Pickled Walnut Ketchup’ – rich, cheesy morsels which were very tasty, and also ‘Lamb Arancini’ which were meaty and moreish. For my starter I chose the ‘Burrata, Delica Pumpkin & Hazelnut’, the burrata was wonderfully soft and gooey and was complemented by the sweet pumpkin (it reminded me that I must cook some Delica pumpkin at home whilst it’s in season, as it really is the best!). Another starter was ‘Boudin Noir, Radicchio & Pickled Elderberry’, the combination of flavours in this dish were perfectly balanced; the rich, crumbly boudin noir was creatively cut by the bitter radicchio and pickled elderberry. The meal was definitely off to a fantastic start!… And to follow the flavours of our main courses did not disappoint, although we were slightly dismayed to find that our dishes were not piping hot (it seemed that this was due to the waiting staff being overstretched). However, we were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as fortunately, this mishap did not distract from the hearty flavours. I enjoyed ‘Mallard, Pommes Anna & Crab Apple’, the tart crab apple and buttery potatoes beautifully matched the subtle gamey flavour of the mallard duck – which was cooked to perfection. Another winning dish was ‘Monkfish Braised in Oxidised Chablis Grand Cru’, which for good reason is their signature dish, the meaty monkfish was served on a bed of leeks, it was delicious with the luxurious, creamy sauce – what a wonderful use of wine! Finally, desserts were a classic offering – a ‘Rice Pudding, Prunes & Almond’ and ‘Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut & Crème Fraiche’. They were both very good and were a perfect finish to the flavour-some food we had enjoyed, perhaps not quite as creative as our starters and main courses, but they definitely hit the spot.
I think Noble Rot has become my new ‘old friend’; it has a classic, ‘proper’ menu which pleases most people yet its dishes hold an element of surprise and its dining room has a comforting, relaxed atmosphere whilst managing to make you feel that you’re somewhere special. These are the attributes we all need in an old friend!… I will be trying their Soho branch very soon…
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, W1
We were celebrating my birthday last weekend. Admittedly my birthday was back in April, but then, as we were under lockdown we couldn’t celebrate it in style at a restaurant. Therefore, on Saturday night, for my fine dining treat, we ate at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught. Although I had never eaten at her restaurant, I had tasted her food through a fine dining takeaway that the restaurant offered during lockdown. Nick ordered it as a surprise Valentines meal, so it was his responsibility to cook it; it was delivered in beautiful boxes, and unfortunately, he confused the box with one of the main courses (a pigeon pie) for the starter, so I almost ended up eating this raw! Fortunately, he worked it out in the end and got the meal back on track, it was delicious even if the service wasn’t! Despite being a lovely treat, I don’t think that fine dining ‘takeaways’ work incredibly well as you really can’t replicate the atmosphere that a proper restaurant offers, and in turn, it’s difficult to justify the cost. So I was looking forward to the opportunity of having the complete Hélène Darroze experience!…
Having trained under Alain Ducasse, one can safely say that Hélène Darroze knows a thing or two about haute cuisine, indeed she now has three Michelin stars at The Connaught, which reflects her exceptional cooking. In addition, judging from the dining room which was refurbished just before Covid hit our shores, she has a good eye for interior style. The Dining Room is the epitome of elegance with pale wood panelling and coral coloured upholstery. I won’t lie I was a little disappointed to see that there were no white tablecloths, a thing that I love in a restaurant of this calibre, but I must admit the exposed wooden table tops did not take away from the warmth of the room and complemented its contemporary style. I particularly loved the two specially commissioned Damien Hirst ‘Butterfly’ collages that adorn the walls, they really are a stunning addition. It’s true to say that I would have been happy to transport this room back home!
On the evening of our visit, once seated, it seemed appropriate to enjoy a glass of champagne as we settled into our luxurious surroundings and perused the menu. We opted for the seven-course Summer menu. Before being served a selection of amuse bouche, we were given a light cucumber and verbena infusion to cleanse our palates, it was a nice idea, but a rather disappointing start to a meal that on paper sounded sensational; I was expecting the bright flavours of the cucumber and verbena, but instead it was rather medicinal. The amuse bouche that followed were far more thrilling, the ‘Melon with Sardine’ was refreshing and tangy whilst the ‘Crab Macaron’ was crisp and light but with the wonderful taste of crab. Our first course ‘Crab from Cornwall’ was even more impressive both in looks and taste, the combination of brown and spider crab was lifted by the zing of pomelo – it was rich yet light, very delcious. This was followed by ‘Sea Trout from Wales’ served ceviche style in a light ham consommé flavoured unusually with scots pine and served with ‘celtuce’ which is an Asian lettuce root, this dish promised to deliver a punch of flavour, but unfortunately, we found it lacking. In comparison, ‘Hélène’s Surprise’ (Fois Gras with Peach) which followed, was sensational, it was rich and sublime and the white peach was an elegant, subtly sweet addition. Equally thrilling was our next course ‘Lobster from Cornwall’, with tandoori spices, carrot, citrus and coriander, it was imaginative with its Asian flavours, which were exotic but did not overwhelm the sweetness of the lobster. Next up was ‘John Dory from Cornwall’ it was served with a ‘bagna cauda’ sauce. Bagna cauda is a dish that originates from Piemonte that is made from anchovies and garlic; I feared it would overwhelm the delicate fish, but this sauce was very subtly seasoned and deliciously creamy. There was a hint of kaffir lime which introduced, again, the Asian influence that Darroze seems to favour and which lifted this dish to a higher level, whilst the violet artichokes were a fantastic addition. The following course was ‘Lamb from North Wales’, with summer herbs, trompette courgette, haggis and girolles, if I’m honest this was a little disappointing, it was beautifully cooked, but its flavours were rather underwhelming. Our ‘pre-dessert’ was ‘Apricot from Provence’, this was the star of the menu, a whole delicately poached apricot, its sweetness offset by an olive oil panna cotta and the subtlety of sorrel – really fantastic. Finally, to end the meal, we shared two desserts – ‘Chocolate from Vietnam’, was a rich chocolate ganache served with warm coffee and cardamom sauce – it was a chocolate lovers dream! The ‘Signature Baba’ promised to be the star of the show; a little sponge cake was brought to the table and you were asked to choose one of three of ‘Darroze’s Armagnacs’, the waiter then generously poured this over the sponge and topped it with Chantilly cream and raspberries. It was great showmanship, but did not deliver the complex flavours that one would expect from a three-star Michelin chef – it wasn’t the end to our meal that we had hoped for.
Without doubt the quality of the food and the service at Hélène Darroze are exceptional. We couldn’t fault the presentation and remarkable standard of the cooking, however we did feel that some of the flavours were not as rounded and full as we would have expected. Having said that, the complete ‘Darroze’ experience is worth splashing out on for a treat and yes, I would be very happy to return, although with prices as high as Darroze’s it probably won’t be in the near future!…
Claude Bosi at Bibendum, South Kensington
Last week we were celebrating Nick’s birthday, so we had the perfect excuse for a fine dining experience! On Saturday evening we headed up to South Kensington to dine at Claude Bosi’s two-starred Michelin restaurant which is housed in the iconic Bibendum building (Michelin House). Before we talk about Claude Bosi and his food, first of all, I must give you the low down on the actual premises of the restaurant, because when you eat here you are not only experiencing fine food but also the beauty of the art deco premises. Bibendum was built in 1911 for the Michelin Tyre Company, the front was originally a tyre-fitting bay for passing motorists. The architecture of the building was designed around Bibendum (or Michelin Man) who was the company’s mascot – he features on the mosaic floor tiles, the ceramics on the walls and most impressively on the stained glass windows. It is these same impressive stained glass windows that these days look down on diners at Claude Bosi, making the dining room one of the most attractive that there is. Indeed, when I entered the room I felt myself swoon, not only were the windows striking but also the high ceilings created an elegant, airy room and the well-spaced tables were clothed wonderfully in white – it was all very old-school, something that I particularly like when I’m eating this calibre of food (and paying the price!).
We were seated at one of their window seats which gave us a magnificent view of the aforementioned room and also the central kitchen which was housed behind a glass wall – like a machine encased in a glass box – so it was possible to see the mesmerising mechanics of the restaurant. As we relaxed into the stylish vibe we enjoyed a cocktail, I chose a ‘New Old Fashioned’ which was a modern take on the traditional Old Fashioned substituting orange for yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), it was extremely good. We then got down to business and ordered our food; we chose the tasting menu, which with six courses plus a selection of amuse bouche, promised to be a show-stopping meal.
The ‘show’ started with a selection of amuse bouche which were miniature tastes of Bosi’s favourite creations including the ‘Bibendum Egg’, they were all fantastic, in fact, I took one mouthful of the foie gras ice-cream and uttered the words ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven’ – it was that good!… If this was only the beginning, how on earth would they top this incredible start?… Well, top it they did, with our first course, ‘Tomato Caprese’. Naturally, this was not reminiscent of the Caprese salad we are accustomed to, it was a gorgeous looking dish with stunning flavours, the cheese was recreated into a light mousse whilst the tomatoes were totally transformed into intense, sweet balls. Next up was ‘Orkney Scallops’, I think this has got to be one of the best scallop dishes I have had; ceviche of scallop was finely chopped with a light, fragrant elderflower and lemon jelly, their sweetness was delicately complemented by the subtle saltiness of the purée of roe on which they sat. This was followed by another heavenly course, ‘Turbot with English Peas & White Miso’. It was a skilfully balanced dish; a light risotto which was unusually flavoured with horseradish was served alongside, its sharpness complemented the freshness of the turbot and the sweet peas without overpowering them. By this point Nick and I were on ‘cloud nine’ – all the courses which we had so far tasted were faultless. Having had the fortune to eat at a few three-starred Michelin restaurants we were rather incredulous that Bosi only had two stars, how could that be with food of this calibre?… Our next course was ‘Veal Sweetbread with Black Olive, Anchovy & Feta Cheese’, this brought us slightly back down to earth… I must admit that having tried sweetbreads (the glands of a calf) many years ago at another top restaurant I avoid them; they are an acquired taste and although I eat most things I have never managed to acquire the taste for these! I probably should have asked if it was possible to substitute this course when I ordered the menu, but I felt that it was a shame to upset the flow of a chef’s tasting menu and I’m always willing to try things (again). Despite this dish being visually beautiful, I found the offal overpowering, but perhaps, for someone who has acquired the taste for sweetbreads, these could well have been the best they had ever tasted. However, I do feel that sweetbreads are a rather self-indulgent dish for a chef to put on his tasting menu – I noticed a few unfinished plates on neighbouring tables, so I was obviously not the only one who found the dish difficult to stomach. Our next course was more to my liking, ‘Galacian Beef’, the meat was perfectly tender and the flavours were interesting. However, we did feel that Bosi was trying too hard to impress as it was over contrived and thus the ingredients, including a pickled walnut which we were advised to eat in small pieces(!), overpowered each other. Our next course, a pre-dessert, put the meal back on track, ‘Almonds with Yuzu and Linden Honey’, was a delicious almond-milk sorbet shaved into flakes, it was incredibly light yet with complex flavours – it was very refreshing. Nick and I then shared two choices for dessert. ‘English strawberries, Toasted Marshmallows, Green Shiso & Plum Sake’, was a rich, very ‘mallowy’ dessert in which wild strawberries were complemented by caramelised marshmallow. Then there was the utterly unusual, ‘English Peas, Camomile & Coconut’, you had to admire the skill of this dessert – not only for its beauty but for its subtlety, it was refreshing yet luxurious. Finally, to end our meal a waiter appeared with a trolley of petit fours inviting us to choose a few – we opted for ‘Banana’, ‘Coffee & Caramel’, ‘Raspberry Jelly’ and ‘Passionfruit’, they were the perfect finale to an incredible meal.
Eating at Claude Bosi is a wonderful dining experience, from the moment you enter the elegant dining room you know it’s going to be special; it is fine dining at its best. Not only are the plates mesmerising but they have intense flavours which are awe inspiring, plus there is the fantastic service, which is unfailingly attentive yet never intrusive, but most importantly friendly and not at all stuffy. Yes, there were one or two disappointments (the sweetbreads and the beef), which probably explains why Bosi has not yet acquired his third Michelin star, but the quality and skill of the cooking cannot be denied. Despite the eye-watering bill – yes the prices are punishing – I would recommend Claude Bosi for a special occasion meal or just a very indulgent treat!…
If you’re familiar with London restaurants you will have no doubt heard of Bocca di Lupo. Since opening in 2008, has firmly established itself as the institution for foodies who demand the best Italian cuisine outside of Italy. Its menu is a celebration of the country’s regional food; their classically inspired dishes often have a slight twist but the flavours are always authentic. Last week I returned to Bocca di Lupo in the heart of Soho and enjoyed a magnificent meal…
Entering the restaurant is a little like coming home – it’s lively, relaxed and welcoming. I really like the space; at the front, there is an open kitchen with bar side seats (perfect for casual diners), and at the back, there’s the dining room which is smart yet buzzy – very ‘Soho’! The menu serves most dishes as small or large plates, so it’s possible to try lots of small plates which are great for sharing or you can simply choose a large one, or if you’re greedy, like us, you can order a combination of the two!
On our recent visit we started with small plates to share: ‘Sea bream carpaccio, Rosemary & Orange’, ‘Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil’, ‘Olive Stuffed with Minced Pork & Veal’ and ‘Rigatoni with Sheep Ricotta, Broad Beans & Basil’. These were all incredibly good; the wonderfully fresh seabream was complemented with the delicate flavour of orange which gave the dish the right level of ‘tang’. The mozzarella salad, although simple, had flavours that took me straight back to Italy, the distinctive taste of the basil was quite stunning whilst the tomatoes were those flavoursome, meaty ones that you can only really find in Italy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t share the rigatoni as I am gluten free, the same went for the minced pork ball which was fried in breadcrumbs – Nick rather smugly informed me that they were both delicious (he can eat for England!). Moving on, we chose the ‘Honey Marinated Pork Chop & Rosemary’ – the pork was cooked perfectly with a hint of pink, whilst the subtly sweet gravy was delicious. On the side, we ordered Courgette Trifolate, which was simply courgettes sautéed with chilli & parsley, but the freshness of the ingredients made this a stand out dish. Also simple yet stunning was our order of salad – traditional Escarole lettuce with a lemon dressing. We then got rather carried away ordering desserts – the idea of sharing plates encouraged us to order rather more than we could comfortably eat however, somehow we managed! We chose: ‘Chocolate & Marzipan Ball with Rum & Raisins’ (a must for marzipan lovers!), ‘Wild Strawberries with Rice Gelato’ (a lovely milky ‘rice pudding’ ice-cream complementing the sweet, tiny wild strawberries), and ‘Hazelnut Gelato Profiterole & Chocolate Sauce’ (beautifully balanced flavours). We didn’t stop there, we also ordered a couple of their dessert-like sweetened coffees, ‘Caffè allo Zabaione’ (espresso topped with creamy beaten egg yolks) and ‘Bicerin’ (hot chocolate & espresso topped with cream); what a finale they were to a magnificent meal!!… We were well and truly stuffed but in that most pleasing way.
So, I am sure that you can recognise that I would, without a doubt, recommend a visit to Bucco di Lupo! It’s the type of restaurant where I would like to spend my entire day; eating through their menu from morning until late into the evening. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be possible, as due to their popularity there is naturally a demand for reservations, and the friendly restaurant staff have an art for encouraging the turnover of tables!…
*TIP: Bucco di Lupo also owns Gelupo, a wonderful authentic gelateria. It can be found across the road from the restaurant – it is well worth a visit. In addition to the classics such as chocolate and pistachio they have more unusual flavours, including my personal favourite ‘Ricotta Sour Cherry’!
Having had a few weekends away, we were back eating out in London on Saturday night and we enjoyed a meal at ‘Kitty Fishers’ with friends.
When Kitty Fishers opened its doors in December 2014 it attracted rave reviews and it was nigh on impossible to get a reservation. At the time, when I did manage to get a table, although I enjoyed the food, I did think it was overhyped – a little too trendy for its own good. In recent years, the buzz around Kitty Fishers has calmed, and I must admit, when I visited last weekend, I preferred the calmer not so smug atmosphere. The dimmed interior has a warm boudoir style to reflect its namesake, Kitty Fisher, who was a famed 18th-century courtesan who lived nearby. The space is rather snug – I have only ever eaten in the upstairs, small dining room beside the bar, I like this rooms cosy yet lively vibe. They also have a slightly larger basement dining room lined with red banquette seating; both rooms have quirky character. The advantage of being seated upstairs beside the bar is that you can see all the wonderful signature cocktails being made, the disadvantage is that they’re difficult to resist!
On the evening of our visit, I was feeling particularly hungry and was comforted by the traditionally themed modern British menu. For my starter I chose the ‘Pickled Cornish Mackerel, Crème Fraiche & Dill’, I adore mackerel pickled this way, and this dish definitely delivered on the flavour front. Our friends were more adventurous and chose the ‘Globe Artichoke and Herb Vinaigrette’, it looked magnificent, although I must admit I personally don’t have the patience to eat this dish, but my friends assured me that it was well worth the effort and that this particular artichoke was perfectly cooked. Moving on to our main course we all chose to share a couple of the ‘Belted Galloway Wing Rib, Tarragon & Green Peppercorn Butter’, it was a beautiful T-bone steak, a quality piece of meat cooked on the rare side – exactly how we like it! It was served with a watercress salad and delicious crispy potatoes which were unbelievably good – better than the traditional chip! It was a simple dish, cooked extremely well. Finally, dessert, Nick and I both chose the ‘Summer Berry Mess’, which was of course a take on the classic Eton Mess; it hit the right spot. Our friends chose the ‘Tutti-Frutti Ice-cream’ which was also well done.
So the verdict?… Kitty Fishers serves modern British food that cannot fail to please, it doesn’t necessarily offer any great surprises but it delivers quality dishes with honest flavours, although these are pricey. It’s a good place to dine with friends as it’s intimate yet has a lively atmosphere and the cocktail list is sure to be enjoyed!
How exciting…my first restaurant review since our recent, seemingly never-ending, lockdown!…
It was wonderful to be eating out again last week, although unfortunately it was definitely ‘eating out’, as tables inside were still out of bounds due to government Covid restrictions. This outside dining could have been a disaster, as the May weather was proving un-seasonally cold, but fortunately ‘Wild by Tart’, is the perfect ‘outside’ venue as its courtyard has three proper brick walls and a roof – just one side is open to the elements and thus it is quite protected, in addition, there are outside heaters, so for someone like me, who feels the slightest chill, it is perfect!
Wild by Tart was founded by Jemima Jones and Lucy Carr-Ellison, the duo behind the catering company Tart London, who have also published a cookbook, ‘A Love of Eating’. The restaurant is housed in a former power station, just behind Victoria Coach Station, so has a great central location. It’s a lovely large space, with high ceilings and although unfortunately, I couldn’t sit inside the restaurant when I visited, it looked great from outside(!), it has been beautifully renovated with a stylish interior, with lots of greenery and warm lighting.
They offer a relaxed menu of sharing plates, with modern European flavours which are inspired by the seasons and often cooked over charcoal grills or in wood-burning ovens.
When I visited last week they were offering a reduced menu because they were only catering for outside eating, but it was all very appealing. My lunch was a long-awaited reunion with girlfriends, so we all felt that we deserved to start our lunch with a cocktail – something which Wild by Tart’s menu had a great selection of! I chose a ‘Brazil’ which was a refreshing blend of Cachaca, lemon, basil & yellow chartreuse – it was the perfect lift on a rather drizzly day!
We then chose a combination of sharing plates – Asparagus, Tarragon Tomatoes, Artichoke & Roast Garlic which had robust yet fresh flavours, whilst Burrata with Pea & Mint Pesto and Pea Shoots was equally delicious; the burrata was wonderfully soft and gooey, just how I like it, and was beautifully complemented by the flavours of the pea and mint. We also enjoyed Fowey Mussels, White Wine & Habanero Chilli – wonderfully fresh – and Bream with Braised Cannellini Beans & Aioli; the beans with their unctuous garlicky sauce were the winner in this beautiful dish. We also shared freshly baked focaccia – bread is something that Wild by Tart does very well; apparently, their flatbread pizzettes made in their wood-burning oven are something that we should have tried, but on this occasion, we were rather full from our sharing plates – eating out to lunch is obviously still a novelty!…in fact we didn’t even have room for a dessert, although I must admit, later that evening I did regret not ordering the Cardamom Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb!…So, I have made the decision to return soon to enjoy the full menu when the restaurant reopens fully after May 17th…See you there!
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 rather 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 complemented 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 complemented 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!
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!
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.
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 beautifully cooked. 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!