Social Eating House

This is a place I’d been wanting to try for ages, finally we managed it, not once but twice in a just over a week. We’d been upstairs in The Blind Pig many times before but this was the first time we had managed to sample the food other than the incredibly good bar snacks. It was Lunch time and we were seated at the Chef’s Counter, an area that seats eight but for the majority of the time it was just Beverley, me and a kitchen brigade until two more people joined as we were finishing dessert.

IMG_5674We opted for the Lunch Menu which at £22.50 for two courses or £26.50 for three courses, is outstanding value. Unusually for us we both chose the same, cured salmon with truffled scrambled eggs and caviar mayonnaise. It was a dish that I would happily eat every day if I could, never mind lunch I’d have it for breakfast. We can all make scrambled eggs but even without the addition of the truffle they were better than any scrambled eggs I’ve had before, creamier, lighter, fluffier, basically the best scrambled eggs ever. Combined with the perfectly cured salmon and the caviar mayonnaise this really was a dish to be remembered, simple yes but a perfect introduction for us to Paul Hood’s cooking.IMG_5675 Being sat at the chefs counter gave us a chance to talk to Paul and his team, to watch the preparation, the precision and the attention to detail that went into every plate.

Paul surprised us with an extra course, Beverley being a pescetarian had the crab with quince, nashi pear, apple, bitter winter leaf salad, cured egg yolk and brown crab mayo on toast. I sneakily had a taste of this and it was gorgeous, incredibly light and perfectly balanced. I had the foie gras with winter vegetable, pearl barley, pickled ginger, kombu glaze and dashi. I loved this but that will come as no surprise if you’ve read any of the previous blog posts as I love foie gras. IMG_5676But the reason I enjoyed this wasn’t because of the foie gras but the precision that had gone into the garnish and explosion of colour and taste in the wonderful broth. You could have taken the foie gras away and it would still have been a great plate IMG_5680of food. Whilst we were sat at the counter, Paul had a delivery of some sample bread which he shared with us for our opinion. It looked really interesting but unfortunately it didn’t taste as good as it looked.

I’d been looking forward to this main course since I first became aware of Social Eating House and it’s been on the menu (I think) since they opened. now that I’ve tasted it, I can see why it has remained. Having just had the best scrambled eggs ever, we now had the best Macaroni Cheese ever. Montgomery cheddar and Parmesan, chanterelles and shaved mushroom, pangritata and the addition of truffle elevated this simple dish to Michelin levels.

To be honest we were both pretty much full after the Macaroni and Cheese but Paul insisted we have a dessert, the sorrel, grapefruit and mint. It was very light and refreshing and finished the meal off perfectly,

IMG_0106We were both so impressed with the food, we wanted to come back as soon as we could, so we booked for the following Saturday. I really enjoyed the Lunch Menu but this time I had to try the Chefs Counter Tasting Menu.IMG_5704 At £78 for seven courses, personally I think is good value when you consider the standard of cooking especially when compared to some other tasting menu’s in London which are double the price. It started with the Crab dish that we had previously before moving on to artichoke with langres, autumn truffle and iberico. Yet again a wonderful combination of taste and texture. This was followed up by the all ready mentioned foie gras which again I throughly enjoyed. A beautiful piece of Sea Bass appeared next complete with the obligatory crispy skin, a delightfully light sauce and foam, accompanied by yet more truffle.

IMG_5707Up next was the Venison, it was so tender it just melted in your mouth.The gravy (I’m in England, you get jus in France) was packed full of flavour, the gnocchi were soft and crispy, and there was yet more truffle, but lets be honest you can never have enough truffle. It all just worked together for another perfectly balanced dish.

IMG_5681The sorrel, grapefruit and mint was next. Having previously had it just as a dessert, it was now in what I think is its rightful position on the menu as a pre dessert or palate cleanser and if anything it made it taste even better than before. I’m not sure if this was because of the food that preceded it or if it was the IMG_0107way it revived my palate before the milk tart, ginger and fromage frais. I thought this was going to be quite a heavy finish to the meal but boy was I wrong. It was sweet, it had crunch, it was cold and it was rich without being heavy. I know I’ve said it before in this post but it was yet another perfectly balanced plate. All of the tasting menu was washed down with matching wines chosen by the sommelier and there were some absolute stunners amongst them. It was all rounded off by some beautiful petit fours, none of which I got to try but I am assured they were beautiful.

For me Social Eating House ticks all the boxes for a lunch or dinner. Upstairs at the Blind Pig you’ve got some of the best cocktails in London, including the non-alcoholic ones, downstairs in the restaurant you’ve not only got some of the best food in London and some of the best value food in London, but you’ve got the best Macaroni and Cheese arguably on the planet. Trust me, It’s worth going just for that.

 

Adam

Scott’s, Mayfair, London

Scott’s is one of those restaurants we’ve been meaning to go to for years and just never been, finally we have. Situated between Park Lane and Grosvenor Square, It’s in a very expensive and exclusive part of London which was further demonstrated by several Rolls Royce Dawn’s parked in the street outside. The bowler hatted doorman only added to the glamour as he smiled and held the door open. Inside is a beautiful art deco dining room with a central bar which you can also sit at and in the middle of it is a display showcasing the fresh seafood.

img_4923Beverley ordered a prawn cocktail to start, its resemblance was nowhere near the one’s I remember from the 70’s. It was beautifully prepared with finely cut lettuce and cucumber, a sumptuous dressing but most importantly succulent juicy prawns and even a langoustine for added decadence. I went for the Monkfish cheeks and snails with bacon and bordelaise sauce. The surprise addition of bone marrow to spread on the crispy bread was a joy, yet another touch of luxury. The bordelaise sauce was gloriously rich and one of the best sauces I’ve ever had.

I’d love to tell you more but the words above were written in July and to be honest I’m struggling to remember what we had. The Blog came second to a busy period at work, our nephews wedding, a month long holiday and then more work, next thing I knew we were heading for October and I’d not done the Blog for three months. Just as I was about to start catching up with where we had eaten over the summer months, some of you will know what happened next but for those who don’t, our son Sam was crossing a road in London and got knocked down. The London Air Ambulance service attend him and placed him in an enduced coma which he was in for 42 hours. He also had a 5 hour operation to rebuild his pelvis. Sixteen weeks on, his recovery has been incredible. We are both training to run the Virgin Money London Marathon in April for the Air Ambulance Service, something we were planning to do before he had the accident. If you’d like to read more or donate please go to http://JustGiving.com/Adam-Woodyatt or http://JustGiving.com/Sam-Woodyatt

Why have I restarted the blog? Two reasons. One, I really enjoy it. Two, it’s getting me out of training today!!

 

Adam x

 

The Ivy, London.

I first ate in The Ivy as a seventeen year old trying to impress his then girlfriend. I’d asked a friend’s dad to recommend a restaurant and that was his choice. In his booming ex military voice, “The Ivy young man, it has to be The Ivy. And wear a tie”. Back then it was all wood panels and full of cigar smoke, the food and service was the best my young self had ever had, and I fondly remember the Tournedos Rossini…

Thirty years have now passed and this latest refurbishment really takes me back. The stained glass windows retain the familiarity from the past, though the more open plan Art Deco dining room – which now has a central bar area – is a welcome addition which helps to create a wonderfully vibrant atmosphere.

Despite fondly remembering the meal of ’85, over the subsequent years I wasn’t always able to say the same. The food was OK but there were other places I’d rather go, which probably explains why we haven’t visited The Ivy in about seven years. Would I feel different after this visit?

We sat at the far end of the restaurant with a view towards the bar as the restaurant narrowed to its entrance, a great spot for people-watching. The menu still had some “classics” present in both shepherds pie and sausage and mash, but there were plenty of new influences present and lots of choice even for my Pesky Pescetarian, although I guessed what her main course was going to be before she even looked at the menu: Dover Sole – off the bone. What I hadn’t guessed was the side order of chips and mushy peas. She was having posh fish n chips!

imageMy starter was the fried duck egg with grilled asparagus and black pudding. It was really quite simple but everything worked together: the rich yolk, the sweet asparagus which still had some bite and wasn’t too soft, and the texture of the slightly salty black pudding all combined to make a wonderful starter. To follow I went for the day’s special, a kind of fish mixed grill containing Swordfish, Stone Bass and Turbot on a bed of Crab and Spelt. All the fish was perfectly cooked, their varying textures flaking with a gentle push of the fork, the crab and spelt were like a wonderfully creamy risotto and the peas and pea shoots added a sweetness and vibrancy to this very enjoyable dish. All of this was washed down with a glorious bottle of Condrieu. Due to the low yields of the viognier grape in the region, there are only about 30,000 cases produced each year, which means it’s not a cheap wine. This one was £60 for a half bottle, but it’s a rich, full bodied and aromatic wine that paired incredibly well with all the seafood and particularly with the creamy crab and spelt. It’s one that Everyone should try at least once in their life if they have the opportunity.

The dessert menu arrived, and how I didn’t order the nemesis of my childhood – the Knickerbocker Glory  – I’ll never know. Was it the fear of having to stand on the seat so that I could reach the strawberry in the bottom of the glass like I did all those years ago in the Wimpy in South Woodford? I’ve got to say the dessert menu had some very appealing options, if we ever take our prosecco princess there she will probably try and order them all. I was torn between Welsh Rarebit and the Cheese Board but if you’ve read our previous blog posts you can probably guess what we chose to share. Although if I was ever sat at the bar post theatre I think the Welsh Rarebit would be a certainty.

So, in conclusion… Wine List offers something for everyone. Sommelier was knowledgable and helpful. Menu had plenty of variety. Food wasn’t quite up there in the Michelin star bracket but was tasty and well presented. Service was notably effortless. And the atmosphere? Buzzing.

So will it be another seven years until we return to The Ivy?

No. I think we’ll be back very soon.

Adam & Beverley xx

(Proofread and edited by Sam)

 

 

 

Restaurant 23, Royal Leamington Spa.

I first ate in Restaurant 23 nearly 10 years ago, when it first opened in Dormer Place. It was small but the food was good, which goes without saying really as its survived to celebrate its tenth birthday. Despite enjoying our meal, this was my first visit since then. I kept meaning to go back but didn’t manage it but I’ve watched from a distance as its grown. It moved to premises in Holly Walk a few years ago, the old Irish Club to be precise. Gone is the cramped little restaurant opposite the band stand now there are two private dining rooms, a terrace, an upstairs bar called Morgan’s and a beautifully appointed dining room. Everything oozes class without being aloof.

We’d been invited by Peter Knibb the Chef Owner to celebrate Restaurant 23’s 10th birthday, unfortunately Beverley couldn’t make it but our good friend Richard came along as my “date”. The evening started on the terrace with some prosecco, I missed the canapés as I got stuck on the motorway, hardly surprising on a Bank Holiday Friday, although being late did give me a chance to talk to Peter and his wife about the last 10 years as the rest of the guests were dispersing before we went back into the dining room, where we opted for the classic tasting menu with the wine pairing.

Now I’ve started to notice a distinct choice between restaurant’s, some freely serve bread and some charge. This bread was included, the olive and rosemary focaccia was good but the treacle one was gorgeous, I’d have happily paid for it. An amuse Bouche appeared, unfortunately we were to busy catching up on our sons being at University to pay any attention to what it was. I really must learn to make notes for this Blog otherwise it going to be a series of posts about food I enjoyed but can’t remember!! For the purposes of the blog I messaged Peter and he refreshed my memory, it was a Wild Garlic Panna Cotta, white asparagus, ham hock croquette with truffle emulsion.

The first real course of the Classic Tasting Menu was a Hay Smoked Quail with Truffled Goats Curd and Pickled Girolles paired with a Portugese Wine with two grape varieties I’d never heard of. Now Quail can easily be over cooked but this wasn’t, it was just right, lovely and moist.

imageOur second course was a Cornish Crab Salad with Curry Oil, Mango, Avocado and Brown Crab Croquettes paired with a Chablis. As our Sommelier presented and explained the Chablis that was paired with the dish I learned something new. Chablis is the northernmost region that the Chardonnay grape is grown which gives Chablis its distinctive flavor. That’s all well and good but I’d have preferred a Chablis with a bit more oomph and richness to compete against and cut through the curry oil. However, this was my favorite dish of the evening, fresh and full of flavor and the curry oil bought every thing together.

Third course was Blythburgh Pork, barley, globe artichoke and English asparagus. Again a perfectly executed plate of food, beautifully cooked and presented, with nothing that could be faulted other than I’d have liked more crackling.

image

Before our dessert, we had a pre dessert – a palate cleanser. For me until this point, all the flavours had been very subtle and delicate, suddenly it came through with an almighty punch. It was a goats curd mousse, poached rhubarb and ginger beer granita. The overwhelming flavour was ginger with more ginger, it completely overpowered the goats curd and the rhubarb but in a good way if that makes sense. It was like the other elements were just there as texture and the ginger was only there to wake up and cleanse your palate. Which it did.

The dessert that followed was a Brilliat Savarin cheesecake, macerated strawberries, strawberry sorbet and candied pistachios with an accompanying glass of Sauternes. Some petit fours and coffee followed to finish our meal.

imageAs I sat and reflected with Richard on our evening out and subsequently talking to him again as I’ve been writing this post to try and give it some balance because I’m not a food critic, I go out to enjoy my meal not criticise it. Are there things Restaurant 23 could do to improve, possibly. The service all evening was faultless, the only thing I noticed – and I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t seen the waiter at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud ironing the table cloth as he relaid a table recently – was a cross like crease from where the table cloth had been folded to store and then unfolded as it was laid. Yes, It’s a trivial detail but if a two star restaurant does it there must be a reason. All of the food was beautifully cooked and presented, but with a little more tweaking and refining to drag another ounce of flavour out of these good dishes, they would become very good dishes. I can’t comment on the Wine list as we opted for the wine pairing, which for me didn’t quite work. The sommelier talked with knowledge, passion and enthusiasm about each one but for me (apart from the Sauternes) they didn’t enhance the food. They were all perfectly drinkable but I didn’t get that feeling you get with a perfect pairing when the food improves the wine.

Am I comparing Restaurant 23 fairly as everything I’m comparing it to has a one or more Michelin stars, is that fair? Yes. Over the years I’ve ate in lots of Michelin starred restaurant and it’s obvious that this is what Peter is striving for and to be honest he must be close. A few little tweaks and I’m sure he will get it.

Adam xx

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I like my food and in particular Michellin starred food. In Ireland there are only nine Michellin starred restaurants and only one with two stars – Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Having opened in 1981, it gained its first star in 1989 and its second in 1996 which it has retained for the last twenty years. Having managed to get a last minute table for a Saturday Lunch (there’s an entire post that could be dedicated to getting that table but that really is another story) we were shown through to the lounge with its high ceilings, well spread out seating and although it’s not my forte some very impressive artwork. The Sommelier came over with a wine list that was thicker than War and Peace. Over the years I’ve picked up some wine knowledge including what to do when confronted with a wine list of this size. My mate Peter who who is sadly no longer with us, always told me you should trust the Sommelier as he will always know what he has that is drinking well and he will never give you a duff wine. So that’s what I did. We wanted some bubbles to start and he recommended a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2006 from a Champagne House we’d never heard of and in all honesty would never have picked ahead of some of the more familiar and often over rated names that appear on wine lists. It was a wonderful choice, pale gold colour with tiny bubbles and very dry and crisp. (I was going to write Crisp and Dry but I didn’t want you to think it was like cooking oil)

We were taken through the bar area and to a short flight of stairs which opened into the dining room. It was bright and airy, there was a buzz about the room, a mix of romantic tables for two and some larger groups of six possibly more. This wasn’t a staid and reserved dining room where you could here every word the person across the room whispered, this was a dining room where you could happily hold a normal conversation and know that the people at the table next to you wouldn’t hear you.

A selection of breads were offered, I opted for the one containing bacon. Bread and Bacon? Could this be true, had I found the white van mans holy grail? A Two Michellin starred Bacon Butty? No, it was just a roll, a very nice roll though. An Amuse Bouche followed, a pea and mint mouse with ham and croutons. It was incredibly light and delicate but had so much flavour for such a small dish. The pea was sweet, the mint was fragrant, the ham added a touch of salt and the crouton some crunch.

I’d been reading up on the restaurant and its awards prior to our visit, one dish was consistently being singled out – Blue Lobster Ravioli coated in coconut scented lobster cream with toasted almonds and split curry dressing. The pasta was incredibly thin, but not translucent which meant that the ravioli only revealed its beautifully cooked lobster once you had cut into it. imageAll the accompanying garnishes on the plate were perfectly balanced and added to the dish without overpowering or competing with the Lobster. My guess is this dish has been on the menu for a long time and has been refined over the years into the faultless dish In front of me.

Beverley went for the Red KIng Crab and Cucumber Maki, Lemon Croquant, Bombay Sapphire and MInt, with Vanilla Oil. The presentation was beautiful, simply beautiful, as I looked longingly across the table hoping Beverley might leave some. Not a chance. Before I could hoover up, it was gone. Now an insight into writing a Blog because obviously we are learning as we go along, I’ve just spent 30 minutes trying to come up with verbose ways to describe the structure of the dish, it’s impeccable presentation but I keep deleting what I’ve wrote and starting again because nothing we could write would come close so please just look at the photo on the left and trust us that this was in Beverley’s words refreshing and mouth-wateringly good.

imageBeverley went for the Annagassan Blue Lobster poached in salted butter with Sweet Chive Emulsion and Green Apple Jus, again another stunning looking dish. But I wasn’t just looking at the dishes on our table, I was looking around the room, at the tables near us, almost every plate that came out of the kitchen had a wow factor. I went for the Roasted Milkfed Veal and Sweetbread, with Parmesan Cremeux, Wye Valley Asparagus and Pearled Veal Juice. Again another beautifully presented plate of food although compared to some of the other dishes it didn’t have the “wow” factor in looks, it certainly had them in taste. LIke every other plate that had reached our table, it packed punch but without being overpowering, all the garnishes complimented the main ingredient and enhanced it. Our conversation now turned to a return visit and we hadn’t even finished this one.

A pre dessert arrived, a very light mango coulis with tapioca. It garnered childhood memories for me but on a far more sophisticated level than Ambrosia with a dollop of Robinsons Jam. This was so light and a perfect palette cleanser before dessert.

imageAnyone who has read the previous Blogs will have guessed that Beverley went for the Cheese Board, but this wasn’t a Cheese Board, it was a trolley. I’ve never seen that many cheese’s together apart from behind glass in a delicatessen. Four were chosen along with a selection of crackers, some of which I’m guessing were baked In house. All I know is when we go back I’m having the cheese as well as a Dessert. I went for the Cosmic Apple and Pistachio, it certainly lived up to it’s name, it was a stellar dish. Nine elements of differing tastes and textures combining to make a vibrant and very refreshing dessert. (I forgot to take a picture so I have used one from Head Pastry Chef Aoife Noonan’s Twitter Feed). Some petit fours followed, all incredibly light and delicate. Like all the courses, the waiter serving them described what they were, annoyingly I can’t now remember but please be reassured they were gorgeous!! I think the Macaron was blood orange and the “Lollipop” had a liquid centre encased in a crisp shell. Our friend Rory had the Nougat and I’ve no idea who had the pastry but it was the perfect finish to a perfect lunch.

It was a perfect lunch not just because of the food but the service and ambience which all comes together to enhance your visit. I watched Stéphane, the Restaurant Manager, but he is much more than that. He worked that room making time for every table and guest regardless of wether it was there first visit or they were a regular and he has been doing that since 1986. Whilst talking to him I praised his sommelier who had perfectly paired a glass of wine with every dish, I watched the table linen being ironed prior to the next service, I discovered that Patrick’s son was working as a waiter and I learned that in the Autumn it will be shutting for three months for a refurbishment. I’m already planning our next visit.

My only complaint… I wish we lived in Dublin!!

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is one of the best restaurants we have been to. Ever.

 

Adam & Beverley xx

 

 

The Tame Hare, Royal Leamington Spa.

I stumbled on this restaurant by sheer chance. I’d gone to the Leamington Wine Co next door and the owner was helping me load the car when the heavens opened and she enlisted the help of the man next door to expediate the process. The man next door was Jonny Mills, the Chef from The Tame Hare. In my haste to avoid the rain I didn’t even notice his newly opened Restaurant but I’d noticed his help and subsequently a tweet between the two neighbours. After some cyber stalking I realised that this Restaurant had only been open for a matter of weeks but the menu and the pictures they had posted on social media of the food caught my eye. I just needed an excuse to visit…

Technically I should set up a new blog site for this review as I went with my mate Chris and not Beverley, so It was not peregrinations with a pesky pescetarian, instead it was two old mates putting the world to rights over dinner. Not the catchiest of titles for a blog!!

We opted for the tasting menu which was six courses, seven if you include the Sourdough with home churned butter. I’ve got to mention the butter as it was shaped like a Hare, a nice little touch.

As we were both driving I can’t tell you anything about the wine list but I can say that the table water came in a beautiful bottle with a stopper.

Our first course nearly went by unnoticed as we were deep in conversation. The first thing I noticed was that we had finished it. We broke off from talking, looked down at our plates and it was gone. Our eyes lifted from the empty plates and we looked at each other…

…and I realised Beverley was missing out on some seriously good cooking. Chris was opposite me!!

The second course was probably my favourite of the night. It sounds simple when you say spelt and barley, hens yolk and asparagus but there was nothing simple about the execution of this dish. It just worked, The asparagus both sliced and whole provided different textures, along with the grains, then the rich yolk – once cut into – then running through and combining all the ingredients together.

I’ve just written that the previous course was my favourite but as I sit here and type this and remember all the flavours and textures that came with the Hake, fennel, brown shrimp, peanut and an incredible bisque, it’s a really close call. Probably the most telling thing is we both looked to see if there was any bread left to mop up the bisque.

So I’m splitting hairs over which is the better course so far, the Asparagus or the Hake… And then the next course arrives…

Single Muscle Rump with Crispy Cheek, Onion, Asparagus and Creamed Potato. I don’t know where to start with the description as Rump isn’t one of my favourite cuts of beef (and believe it or not I’m a former butcher) but this was superb, unbelievably tender. The croquette like ball of crispy cheek was full of flavour not quite packing the punch of Glynn Purnell’s cube of corned beef or Tom Kerridge’s pork cheek beignet but close, bloody close. As for the creamed potato, mash to you and me, that was up there with L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and they do some seriously good mash.

Anyone who has read the previous blogs will know that we are not fans of dessert, occasionally one will catch my eye, so to be faced with two on the tasting menu did make me nervous. The first one was white chocolate, rhubarb and sorrel. First fear was white chocolate, this is going to be too sweet for me. How wrong was I. Perfectly balanced between the sweetness of the white chocolate and the tart rhubarb, they combined superbly. I didn’t pick the sorrel up, but did I miss it? Probably not. The last course arrived, banana, celeriac toffee and milk ice cream. Would I have preferred a cheese board? Probably but it wasn’t an option. I hoovered up Chris’s banana (that really sounds wrong!!) as its not one of his favourites but yet again it was a superbly balanced dish.

Before I finish this post, a little more background to Jonny and the Tame Hare. He’s started this up with his Dad’s backing, his mate Lee is alongside him in the kitchen, they have no pot washer, they do it all themselves from the cooking to the cleaning, and one of their girlfriends is running front of house on her own. They want this to succeed and having been there once I want their venture to succeed. If you live near Leamington this restaurant is one to visit. If you don’t live near Leamington, it’s worth the journey.

So in conclusion…

No idea what the wine list is like.

Superb food.

 

Adam xx

 

 

 

Kaspar’s, Savoy Hotel, London

It was a surprise to end up in Kaspar’s recently, it wasn’t a planned visit at all. We were going to the Royal Opera House to see Giselle and our Son Sam and his Girlfriend joined us for a pre drink in the American Bar. I could easily turn this into a post about the American Bar, going on about how good the Sam Collin’s Cocktail is or how Seedlip (a non alcoholic distilled spirit) is now being used to provide a more sophisticated alternative in non alcoholic cocktails. I like Seedlip but from my friends who have tried it its split, it’s 50/50. Anyway, we decided to meet up again after Giselle and the easiest place to do that was Kaspar’s.

When the Savoy reopened on 10.10.10 it was a completely different restaurant (The River Room) and menu to the one I now know as Kaspar’s. I understand why Fairmont took the decision to change it again so soon after a multi million pound refurbishment and it really has been for the better as Kaspar’s has recently been voted best seafood restaurant in London. Tough competition when you consider Scott’s, J. Sheekey’s, Randall & Aubin are all close by.

Originally this was our belated Valentines night out, it had now become an impromptu evening out with our son and his girlfriend, which to be honest was a lovely surprise. Whilst we waited for them to arrive I ordered some Salmon and Tuna Sashimi (a Scooby snack for me!!) and as it was a special night for us I ordered some Caviar for Beverley knowing that we would all end up sharing it. It was beautifully presented with the Caviar taking centre stage on the top of a two tier serving platter with accompaniments of perfectly chopped shallots, egg white, egg yolk, and chive with blinis and creme fraiche filling the lower tier. It was well worth the expense as it became a shared experience, a talking point and something we will all remember.

The other thing I will take from this evening was watching Sam’s girlfriend cajole him into trying a snail, I was hoping he’d say no and I could have it but he ate it. Can’t remember if he enjoyed it or not though.

Mains arrived and befitting of being in the newly crowned Best Sea Food Restaurant in London, we all had fish. Everything was beautifully plated and cooked, they really have improved over the last three years including the service which previously was very good, now it’s just short of faultless. I had Skye Lobster with French fries – the lobster tender and moist, the fries crispy, but the surprise was the hollandaise that came with it. Wow, wow, wow. Undoubtably the best hollandaise I have ever dipped lobster into, it made the dish. My previous favourite Lobster ‘n’ Chips was at Randall and Aubin in Soho but this smashed it out of the park.

Dessert was a cheese board and a glass of port for me, the perfect way to round off the evening. The other desserts were picture perfect except we didn’t get our phones out to take a picture as we were all too busy chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Sam offered me a spoonful of his, but I was happy enough with my cheese and declined.

I like Kaspars, it’s got a good choice of food to suit vegetarians through to meat eaters, obviously pescetarian’s won’t have a problem. The short wine list is more than ample, some great wines by the glass or carafe and the service is fantastic.

Adam & Beverley xx

 

Cocktails

As we haven’t eaten out much lately, I thought I’d look back at some of the cocktails we’ve had so far this year. Sadly the only way I can mention Berry and Rye in Liverpool is by saying we haven’t been so far this year but there is no way I could write about cocktails and not think of how good that bar is.

It starts with Espresso Martini, which I had three different versions. At The Square it was the one so many of us know and love, not to bitter and not to sweet with a lovely froth on top and the requisite coffee beans. At The Butchers Arms in Priors Hardwick, Jorge (who I keep meaning to ask what exactly the ingredients were so I can make it at home) made a Flat White Espresso Martini. Adding the creaminess of the Baileys to an Espresso Martini was like adding cream to your coffee but with added alcohol. Slightly sweeter but perfect as an after dinner cocktail. At the Hand and Flowers, I asked Alex if he could make it using the Marmalade Vodka from Chase Distillery, he wasn’t sure if it would work but I knew it did as I’ve made them at home. I just wanted to see how to make it properly!!

The Coach do one of my favorite cocktails and James very kindly taught me how to make it at home – Sloe Gin Snake Bite. I’m not going to give his secrets away but I’m sure you can guess from its name that it contains Sloe Gin and Cider. It’s a wonderful long drink, slightly bitter but very refreshing and very drinkable.

Hakkasan (both Hanway Place and Mayfair) do some great cocktails. Two standouts for me are the Lychee Martini, quite floral and perfumed without being overly sweet and the Chinese Mule. The Mule is a mix of Vodka, Sake, Coriander, Ginger, Lime and Ginger Beer, it smells wonderful, has a little heat from the ginger with sweetness and fizz from the ginger beer. A very well balanced and moorish cocktail.

L’Atellier de Joel Robuchon has a fantastic Bar upstairs with an extremely warm fire. They have a monthly cocktail alongside their normal list but due to being on the phone on the last two visits I’ve not heard what they were when they bought them over as a welcome!! They were both very good, one was tangerine based and the other kumquat. They also do an incredible Raspberry and Chilli Martini which is my normal cocktail of choice when I’m there, I just didn’t get round to ordering it.

At the Westin Hotel in Dublin it was the start of the Six Nations so various types of Bloody and Virgin Mary’s were on offer for breakfast. I wasn’t there for the Rugby but I was more than happy to try a shot of Bloody Mary and it was bloody good. Lots of fruit, some heat and more kick than my usual double espresso.

Patricks with rooms in the Mumbles gave me a much longer version of a Bloody Mary than I had in Dublin, they also gave me far more heat!! It was made with a homemade Chilli Vodka which made my lips tingle, not in a bad way but you knew that this drink had chilli’s in it. Some may find it overpowering, personally I liked it but it would have been better as a shot instead of the longer drink that was served.

The Gilbert Scott, part or the Marcus Wareing group of restaurants at St Pancras in London is a beautiful location. The bar snacks are faultless from the Cod Cheeks to the spiced nuts, the cocktails are superb and the wine list by the glass is more than adequate but on two out of the three visits the service has been slower than you would wish. It’s a minor nit pick but when you are at a major train hub you don’t want to be waiting for your bill and trying to get the staff’s attention when you have a train to catch. That aside, I love Bramwells Ruin – Gin, Sloe Gin, Apricot Liquer and Sherry. It has a grandeur to it which perfectly fits the location.

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club is always a good night out and I love the bar upstairs, the music is fantastic and so are the Cocktails. Tipple of choice when I’m there is The Soho Martini – mint and basil stirred with citrus vodka. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but it is a very fresh, quite sharp and not to sweet.

The Chiltern Firehouse is not only a great restaurant but also a hotel with a great bar and some very unusual cocktails. We arrived early for our meal so instead of heading for the restaurant bar we thought we’d try the hotel bar instead. I had the English Vice which is based on pink pepper gin with bitters, sherry and syrup. A very well balanced combination with just enough warmth and heat to not overpower the freshness from the eucalyptus.

The Blind Pig which is above Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House is a great bar with a very inventive cocktail list and some fantastic bar snacks. We had several cocktails on our visit including one that came with popcorn but the best one for me was the McBandaq, what I can best describe as an alcoholic banana milk shake. If you get the chance to have one, do, you won’t regret it.

The American Bar in the Savoy Hotel and current Head Bartender Eric Lorincz are both world renowned and some of their latest offerings continue to prove it. Two in particular were outstanding, The Sam Collins and The Caviar Martini. The Sam Collins is part of the London Cocktail menu that is currently running at the American Bar and contains Vodka, Agave, Lemon, Smoked Salt, homemade Caramel Vanilla, Yogurt and Almond Milk, it is a fantastic after dinner drink and perfectly balanced. The Caviar Martini is just sheer decadence. Served in a Baccarat Glass on a Mother of Pearl Coaster with a Silver Cocktail stick and that’s before they have added the premium spirits along with the Oscetria Caviar stuffed Olive, this drink just oozes class and decadence. It actually makes you feel special, bizarrely as it’s just a drink but it does. It’s not cheap, it’s £40, but as an experience it is worth it. It is the best Martini I have ever had and I will be amazed if I find a better one. Eric Lorincz you are a master of your craft, a genius, a living legend, I keep coming back to the American Bar just to see what you have created. Chefs get Michellin stars, you should have a similar award as your work and technique deserves it.

Adam & Beverley xx

(Actually not Bev as she doesn’t drink cocktails, so this one was all me!!)

Hakkasan, Hanway Place.

The original Hakkasan, opened in 2001 and holder of a Michellin star since 2003. Tucked away in quiet turning off Tottenham Court Road, if you weren’t looking for it you’d probably miss it. As you enter there is the wonderful scent of burning essence that straight away transports you to Asia as you descend the stairs. The decor has been well thought out with partitions to give you the feel of a smaller restaurant. The lighting is bright enough that you can read the menu but dim enough to be intimate.

There were five of us in total so I was hoping we would get some dishes I’d not had before but no. We all wanted the same things!! Soft Shelled Crab and Prawn Toast. I totally get that as they are two superb starters, the prawn toast isn’t flat like the prawn toast you get in the supermarket, it’s big and its plump and its juicy (although I do prefer the Foie Gras version from Hakkasan Mayfair) and the Soft Shelled Crab with its deep fried egg yolk is amazing. So that I had something new to write about, I went for the Chrysanthemum Tofu and Lobster Consommé which was far easier to eat than it was to spell. Our Waiter warned me that it would smell quite fishy but when compared to the Prawn Cake from Hakkasan Mayfair it really didn’t. I thought it was a very light and delicate dish, the tofu just flaked apart and gave a lovely soft texture to the incredibly clear consommé. Would I order it again? Yes. Is it better than the Royal sweet corn soup with lobster and minced Gai lan from Hakkasan Mayfair? No, but it’s close.

When it came to the main courses we did get some variety, Bev went for her favourite Lobster in Spicy Black Bean Sauce and I went for the Duck with Black Truffle. We’ve noticed over our visits to both Hakkasan’s that the amount of chilli’s in your spicy black bean sauce varies from chef to chef, today he was erring on the mild side as there were considerably less than our last visit, I’m happy with that because too many easily over powers the delicate lobster. The remaining dishes picked by the rest of the table all suited me but not my Pesky Pescetarian, Chicken Satay, Mongolian Venison and Ribeye with Merlot. I’d had the Venison before and it’s a really good dish and the only reason I didn’t order it again was because my mate Steve had ordered it and I knew he’d want to share what I had gone for. The slices of venison were lovely and tender, coated in a sauce that was rich but not overpowering with a trace of spicy heat. The duck has a gorgeous crispy skin, the flesh was soft and moist but for me, visually it could have been pinker, it had the appearance of being cooked through although the texture said otherwise but we always eat with our eyes first. Both the Chicken and the Ribeye were very pleasant surprises, not things I would normally order, until now. If you want value at Hakkasan, order the Satay Chicken, there was loads of it and it was moist, full of flavor and texture and the  peanut sauce didn’t over power it. The Ribeye was fantastic, the chunks of meat were juicy and tender and the sticky Merlot sauce covering it was a delight.

Sadly we didn’t have time for desserts as one of our party was performing at the Legendary Ronnie Scott’s and we had to make sure we made it in time to watch him, to be fair he was really good and worth cutting short our dinner for. I guess that means we’ve got an excuse to come back.

Adam & Beverley xx

 

The Coach, Marlow

One of these days we’re going to arrive at The Coach in the evening having not gone to The Hand and Flowers for lunch. That’s been the pattern so far and this our third visit was no different. After a wonderful long lunch we strolled down the High Street in Marlow to The Coach. When we got there, James the Bar Manager explained that there were no tables available and there would be a little wait. You can’t book a table here, it’s first come first served, after about an hour during which we were introduced to Seedlip (I’ll write about that in a separate post) we were shown to our seats at the bar with a great view of the kitchen and Head Chef James Beardshaw on the pass, who gave us some Iberico Ham as an appetiser along with a fantastic explanation of how the meat differed in color and taste depending on which part of the it was cut from and why. The food is small plates, perfect for sharing whilst you watch the screens dotted around the room, I tried to get James the Bar Manager to put Ninja Warrior UK on but he said it wasn’t a sport. I wasn’t going to argue with him as he’d just made one of my favourite cocktails – Sloe Gin Snakebite. After our lunch we were all struggling to find room for more food but we did. Bev went for the Mushroom ‘Risotto’ Claude Bosi with a side of Chips. As we were so close to James the Head Chef, I asked him how they made it. He made it sound so simple but that’s why he is a top chef and why we all go and eat out. What’s the point of eating out if you can easily create it yourself at home, I go out to eat something I can’t recreate and this is a dish I wish I could recreate. Earlier in the week on Twitter I’d noticed that they’d had a delivery of West Wycombe Estate Wood Pigeons, I had to try it. It was cooked on the bone in the rotisserie oven before having the breasts removed and served with Soft Polenta, Lemon and Cavolo Nero. It was gorgeous, perfectly cooked, moist and full of flavor. I just about had room to try some of the Lincolnshire poacher that appeared in front of Bev but I was now struggling.

There are so many things on the menu here that I want to try, I just need to come here on a day when I haven’t been to the Hand & Flowers first. I love the atmosphere in The Coach, it’s the perfect Pub for me. It’s got everything I want, superb food and drink with a TV so that I can watch the footie. If only this was my local.

Adam & Beverley xx