South London

The Begging Bowl, Peckham, SE15

October 2021

Since opening in 2012, The Begging Bowl has become a Peckham landmark, attracting diners from all over London to try its authentic Thai menu. Pre-covid, more often than not, there was a queue outside, the fact that this now isn’t the case is by no means a bad thing – they have finally introduced a booking system and done away with their ‘first come first served’ policy…I hate queueing, so this has made the Begging Bowl even better! We returned just the other week for a fantastic meal in their relaxed, light-filled conservatory-style space. We have always eaten wonderful food here and our recent meal was no exception…

The menu consists of small sharing plates served with unlimited sticky and jasmine rice. As always we overordered, but somehow managed to eat everything! First, there was ‘Chive Cakes with Chilli & Soy Dip’, which were wonderfully sweet and salty and extremely moreish, and ‘Charcoal Grilled Sweetcorn, Toasted Coconut & Roasted Chilli Oil’ – these chargrilled sweetcorn bites were a step above the norm; the coconut dressing spiced with chilli was an inspired addition. These were followed by ‘Ginger, Peanut, Shallot, Coconut, Gagangal & Palm Sugar on Betel Leaves’, these were tiny explosions of punchy, sublime flavours – they were seriously good (we should have ordered more!). Next up, ‘Minced Mutton Salad, Tamarind Leaf, Celery, Green Tomato & Crispy Pork’, this was a type of spiced ‘bolognese’ lifted by the light, fresh flavour of green tomato and celery whilst ‘Stir Fry Pork, Ginger, Cloudy Ear Mushroom & Kajorn Flower’, was an eruption of flavours – including a touch of lemongrass perhaps?… the flavours were complex and very good! Our final savoury dish was the ‘Jungle Curry, Grilled Beef Rump, Grachai, Apple & Pea Aubergines’, I must admit I’m a little ‘shy’ of very spicy food, and this was quite spicy for me, but Nick absolutely loved it! Moving on to desserts, we shared the ‘Som Chom – Green Mango, Flat Peach, Lychee, Pandan Syrup, Crispy Shallot &Ice’, this was a beautifully light fruit salad-style dessert with a fresh sorbet base and ‘Banana Sesame Coconut Fritter, Palm Sugar Ice-Cream & Peanut Brittle’ – was, well – I think you can imagine how delicious the combination was – totally satisfying for any sweet tooth!

The Begging Bowl is by no means your ‘bog standard’ Thai restaurant, you won’t necessarily find a green chicken curry featured on its menu, but you will, without doubt, savour vibrant and complex tastes with hot, sour, sweet and salty Thai flavours… plus they do great cocktails!…

Maremma, Brixton

September 2021

After eating at Maremma on quite a few occasions since it opened a few years ago, I have decided that everyone needs a neighbourhood Tuscan restaurant like this on their doorstep…excuse me for sounding smug when I tell you that Maremma is just ten minutes from mine! I like to think that I know a thing or two about Italian food, particularly that from the Tuscan region – we have been visiting this area regularly, having bought a small bolthole in the slightly unfashionable (cheaper) corner of Tuscany, ‘Lunigiana’, 18 years ago. During that time we have not only experienced the food on the well-trodden tourist track but also discovered some hidden gems known only to the locals and have eaten at the homes of our Italian neighbours (the best experience of all!). Italians are incredibly proud of their cuisine and each region is fiercely competitive with the next, each claiming theirs is the best the country can offer. Perhaps I am biased after spending so much time around the Tuscan people, but I think that it’s difficult to beat the specialities that evolve from Tuscany. The region is bordered by the sea on one side and the mountains on the other – enabling it to serve up the freshest seafood ‘al mare’ and also the rich, rustic food inspired by the produce inland and around the mountains, ‘alla terra’.

Sorry, I’m digressing(!)…the point is, is that neighbourhood restaurant, Maremma, brings these regional specialities to the outskirts of Brixton. Serving up authentic Tuscan food, they focus on a simple menu with quality ingredients; salumi, cheese and olive oil are sourced from the heart of the Tuscan region, fresh pasta is made on the premises daily and often meat and fish are cooked on a charcoal grill.

We recently enjoyed another delicious dinner in Maremma’s small, light, slightly rustic dining room. The short menu offers few surprises but is well executed. To start with we enjoyed their platter of salumi which was very fresh and flavoursome. We then enjoyed a rich and creamy ‘Pea and Broad Bean Risotto’ and a plate of ‘Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu’, that was fantastically meaty and slow-cooked to perfection. For our main courses, Nick chose the ‘Tagliata of Beef, Maremman Salt, Rocket and Pecorino’, this is a dish that we often eat in Tuscany, so it needed to be extremely good to please us, fortunately, it passed the test – the meat was ‘like butter’, beautifully tender! I chose the lighter option of ‘Guinea Fowl & Endive with Tarragon Aioli’, the guinea fowl had a wonderfully crisp skin and the meat was tender and moist; the tarragon aioli was the perfect complement whilst the bitter endive balanced its richness. We also ordered a side of ‘Crispy Potatoes’. Finally, we shared a chocolate lovers dream – ‘Chocolate and Plum Tart’ and ‘Yogurt Gelato & Stewed Figs’, which managed to be fresh and light despite the sweetness of the figs… both desserts were superb!

Maremma brings a small corner of Tuscany to South London, if you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s definitely worth a visit;  I would, without doubt, recommend that you try out its simple, authentic menu at the soonest opportunity!…

Naughty Piglets, Brixton

September 2021

I was back eating out in London last week and decided to return to our local neighbourhood restaurant, Naughty Piglets. I hadn’t eaten there since before the pandemic and was looking forward to returning as I had always enjoyed their well-priced, small tasty plates. Fortunately, little has changed.

Naughty Piglets describes itself as having ‘an English heart with a French accent’, which reflects the husband and wife team behind this small, buzzy bistrot; Joe, who is British, is the chef whilst his French wife, Margaux, is the friendly front-of-house face. Likewise, the modern British food has a French accent, indeed one can imagine this tiny, casual bistrot along a back street of a Paris suburb, fortunately for us, it’s just down the road in Brixton.

With just 29 covers the restaurant is very snug, on our recent visit we sat at one of their high bar tables, there is also a compact dining room with tables at the back; the space has a wonderfully casual vibe, just what you want when popping out locally. The menu is designed to share, so I was rather pleased that my son, Felix, had decided to join Nick and I as that meant we could share more plates and really do the menu justice!…We started with their ‘Ham Croquettes’, which for good reason are a regular feature on their menu – they are deliciously crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle. Next up was ‘Burrata Puttanesca’, the burrata was as it should be, wonderfully soft and creamy in the middle whilst the flavours of a deconstructed puttanesca sauce – capers and a rich tomato salsa – complemented it perfectly. ‘Isle of Mull Scallops with Garlic Butter & Parsley Oil’ were sweet, fresh and absolutely delicious with the garlicky butter which we quickly mopped up with bread! These were followed by ‘Raw Beef, Coffee Mayo & Focaccia’, the beef tartare was good and the coffee mayonnaise although a little different, strangely lifted the meaty flavours, but we couldn’t quite understand the need for the chargrilled focaccia on the side. Next, there was our favourite dish of the evening, ‘Roast Cod, Scottish Girolles & Beurre Blanc’, the cod was beautifully cooked with a crisp skin and the blanc beurre sauce was rich yet delicate and perfectly matched the tasty girolles. Finally we enjoyed ‘BBQ Pork Belly with Korean Spices’, the pork melted in our mouths whilst the spices made it sing. Desserts were a fantastic ‘Chocolate Delice with Hazelnut’ – the rich chocolate mousse was lifted by the slightly salted crumb base and whilst there were no surprises with the ‘Crème Caramel’, it was well done, sublime and creamy.

So, it goes without saying that if you are in the vicinity of Brixton do visit Naughty Piglets, but make sure you book first as I noticed a couple of customers without bookings being turned away!

Yummy Cow, Herne Hill, SE24

November 2020

(Unfortunately following ‘lockdown’ this restaurant has now closed)

Last Wednesday, on the eve of the new lockdown, we enjoyed our ‘last supper out’ for what will probably be some weeks. My neighbour had recommended a local restaurant, Yummy Cow, which had opened recently (despite the covid conditions!), and we wanted to show it some support, before this second lockdown! I find that ‘word of mouth restaurant recommendations’ are usually the best recommendations and our visit to this restaurant did not disappoint. The interior of Yummy Cow is rather rough and ready, and very pink (!), but completely suits this casual dining restaurant, and anyway who cares about the interior when the menu is so good?!…The three founders of Yummy Cow share Sri Lankan and South American roots, and the flavours of their dishes reflect this, with seasonal British ingredients injected with international flare and subtle spices.

To start with, the menu offers a couple of house cocktails, which in my opinion is always a good sign – I tried the Chilli Margarita, which was the perfect start to my pre-lockdown meal! Then we moved on to the main event – the food. The menu offers a lot of sharing plates, which you could choose to share as a main course or have one as a starter and then move on to their listed main courses. We chose to do the latter, as I’m not very good at sharing my food! It was difficult to choose only two plates from the sharing menu as they all looked delicious, with really interesting flavour combinations, but in the end we chose ‘Roast Pumpkin, Ricotta, Miso and Cavolo Nero’, it was spectacular with sweet and salty flavours, whilst the ‘Rice n’ Cod Fritters with Sweet Chilli’, were instantly gratifying with their subtle Caribbean spices and were very moreish! Moving on to our mains, I enjoyed a particularly well cooked piece of ‘Plaice with Red Dhal Mash, Leek and Parsnip Crisps’, it was a beautiful dish, really well executed. Nick chose the ‘Rump Steak, Carrot Puree, Broad Beans, Sweetcorn, Rosti Potato and Red Wine Jus’, the steak was cooked to perfection and very tasty, however we weren’t so sure on the accompaniment of the broad bean and sweetcorn, but the rosti potato was a great salty addition. Finally, on this occasion we didn’t have a dessert as such – although we were very tempted by the ‘Doughnuts, Caramel, Chocolate Mousse’, instead I wanted, or perhaps needed, something a little stronger to end my meal before yet another lockdown!…so opted for the Latte Martini, which was on their dessert menu, it was a little like a Brandy Alexander, creamy, so like a dessert, however with the addition of  brandy it was definitely a cocktail!

What a shame we are going to have to wait at least four weeks until we can return to the Yummy Cow, I am honestly thrilled to have this well priced restaurant on my doorstep; our bill was around £75, so was great value. If you are in this corner of London, you must try it!

Franklins, East Dulwich, SE22

October 2020

We returned to our local restaurant, Franklins, on Saturday night. Our ‘home from home’ – a local institution which rarely fails us. How lucky are we to have this restaurant serving quality, traditional British food on our doorstep.  The menu is a meaty affair with earthy and robust flavours, often featuring game and offal, although it does offer fish and vegetarian plates. We have been eating at Franklins since it first opened, around 20 years ago, so it must be doing something right! Admittedly, it can occasionally disappoint, but more often than not the quality of the food is consistent. Situated in an old pub, the restaurant offers a casual dining experience, retaining its ‘pub’ atmosphere; it is a quintessential local, neighbourhood haunt.

On Saturday night, on entering, we were greeted by Boris Johnson, on the front of house TV, in the bar area (the dining area is at the back). He was announcing another national lockdown, this would probably be our last meal out for at least four weeks, so we were determined to enjoy ourselves!

We started our meal with a couple of cocktails – as Espresso Martini for me and of course a Negroni for Nick. For starters we had a ‘Pea & Mint Soup’, a bowl of warmth on what was a dreary, rainy day, and ‘Smoked Haddock Brandade & Piquillo Peppers’, the combination of the smoky fish and the sweet pepper was great, whilst the salad on which it sat was well dressed. Moving on to our main courses, Nick choose, ‘Ham Hock Hash & Fried Egg’, whilst I opted for the ‘Red leg Partridge, ‘Spiced Red Cabbage & Crab Apple Jelly’; earlier that day we had ventured out to Kent for a very wet walk, and having got lost a few times(!) we were pretty exhausted, so these main courses were definitely well deserved – perfect comfort food! Finally, desserts, I can never resist Franklin’s traditional desserts, on this occasion I opted for the ‘Chocolate Rice Pudding & Raspberries’ – a little ‘hug on a plate’, whilst Nick choose the ‘Bread & Butter Pudding’, which was “fantastic”.

So our ‘last supper out’ for a few of weeks did not disappoint! Franklins is an excellent neighbourhood restaurant that everyone needs and should have on their doorstep…

Chez Bruce, Wandsworth Common

October 2020

If you live in South London, you will probably know or would have heard of the restaurant, Chez Bruce. Chez Bruce is a gem in South London’s restaurant scene, situated on Wandsworth Common it first opened its doors in 1995 with the intention of ‘serving the best food and drink but within a relaxed, informal yet professional environment’, it has certainly achieved its goal and 25 years later is still as successful as ever.  I must admit, that as a South Londoner myself, I have been a customer for most of those 25 years, and have never been disappointed with the food – now that is an achievement!

A couple of weeks ago Nick and I enjoyed our first Sunday lunch there since before lockdown and I was so happy to see that little had changed. In fact we were planning to return at the weekend for dinner with friends, but unfortunately due to London entering tier two of Covid restrictions we had to cancel our reservation. However, I am happy to be able to share our fantastic Sunday lunch visit with you.

Chez Bruce serves a modern menu of food based loosely on classical and regional French/ Mediterranean cuisine. The price is fixed for 3 courses, depending on whether you are having lunch or dinner and on which day – the Sunday lunch option at £50 is a particularly good choice. The restaurant itself maintains a lovely neighbourhood feel, its simple dining room has a relaxed interior, with service which is on a par with any top Michelin starred restaurant in town.

On arrival for our Sunday lunch we were pleased to see that everything seemed to be as great as ever; it’s the little extras that Chez Bruce exceeds in, for instance, on receiving the menu you are also presented with their light, crisp parmesan biscuits (and for those who are gluten free, like me, toasted spiced nuts – very moreish!). After these and a cheeky lunchtime glass of champagne, we were more than ready to tuck into our starters, for me, ‘Loch Duart Salmon Rillettes with Horseradish, Smoked Salmon, Potato, Beetroot and Dill’, it was a winning combination of classic flavours and beautiful textures. Nick chose one of the restaurants classics, ‘Foie Gras and Chicken Parfait with Toasted Brioche’ – creamy and fantastic, as always! Moving on to our mains, I wanted something autumnal to suit the outside, blustery Sunday afternoon, so it had to be the ‘Venison Loin with Glazed Game Burger, Cabbage à l’ancienne and Celeriac Purèe’, it was exactly what I wanted, ‘a proper plate of food’! Nick couldn’t resist the ‘Roast Beef with Dripping Roasties, Crushed Squash, Stuffed Mushroom and Yorkshire Pudding’, with its refined flavours it was an elegant take on the traditional English roast. Finally, desserts, Nick opted for Chez Bruce’s classic ‘Hot Chocolate Pudding with Praline Parfait’, as always a winner, whilst I had the ‘Baked Cheesecake with Rum & Raisin Ice Cream and Candied Peel’ – honestly, I think that this was the real winner!

Eating at Chez Bruce is a win-win event and, is thus, money well spent, plus the complimentary chocolate truffles at the end of the meal are more than worth the visit!

Trinity, Clapham

August 2020

Over the next few weeks I will be celebrating a number of birthdays of friends and family…so I have the perfect excuse to eat out! This week it was my friend’s big  ‘5’ ‘0’, so we decided to treat ourselves to a fine dining experience at Trinity, Adam Byatts restaurant which is local to us in Clapham. I have been fortunate to celebrate a number of special occasions in the past at Trinity and I was pleased to see that post lockdown, under the new Covid conditions, that it was still buzzing with energy. We ate in the Michelin starred restaurant downstairs, but there is also a more casual dining room upstairs which serves small plates designed to share (I haven’t tried this yet but it is on my ‘to eat out list’…watch this space!). Downstairs the dining room is a lovely, bright modern space with white tableclothed tables (I love a white tablecloth!), it is all very stylish but still manages to retain the charm of a neighbourhood restaurant.

I am pleased to say that the food was, once again, ‘show stopping’, not only well presented, but bursting with beautiful flavours. The dinner menu is a four course menu. For my first course I had Poached Salmon, Dressed Summer Beans, Cockles & Lovage, the salmon was beautifully cooked whilst the subtle flavour of the lovage and the bright, fresh flavours of the cockles and beans really lifted the plate. We also tried the Salad of Beetroots, Cherries and Graceburn, Rye Bread and White Soy – which was equally delicious. Second courses were Buttered Cornish Crab with Provençal Tomatoes, Gazpacho & Fig Oil – the light gazpacho was particularly memorable, and the Norfolk Quail with Scottish Girolles & Summer Squash was apparently ‘incredible’. Third course was Wild Turbot braised with Tomatoes & Fennel Lyonnaise; the aniseed flavours of the fennel took this dish to a superior level, we also chose Stuffed & Pot Roasted Sutton Hoo Chicken, Ceps, Leeks & Summer Truffle –  exquisite. Finally the fourth course was Fig Leaf Soft Serve Ice Cream – a connoisseurs ‘Mr Whippy’ ice-cream, seriously smooth and creamy with a gorgeous fig syrup, and also a Savarin with Blood Peaches – ‘heavenly’. We enjoyed all of this wonderfully executed food with a beautifully, well balanced, White Burgundy wine. What a wonderful evening…it was one of those meals that you would like to return to and savour all over again!

So if you haven’t already tried Trinity, I definitely recommend that you put it on your ‘to visit’ list – either the main restaurant, where we dined, or ‘upstairs’ for a less formal menu – I am sure you won’t be disappointed!