Sunday, 28 October 2012
This is simply food according to me.
I wouldn't say I'm a gastronomical genius or a connosieur of culinary delights but I know good food and more than that, I enjoy eating it. I'm not a salad kind of girl, I don't pick at my food and pretend not to enjoy it before grabbing chocolate and sweets on the way home (I know plenty that do) and I enjoy nothing more than a good meal at a good restaurant.
This blog is here to document my endeavours as I stumble my way through London's restaurants so read on and see what I have to say about the eateries of the Capital.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
So last week I ended up at Le Bouchon Bordelais, a restaurant I have wanted to try for quite some time. I'm a fan of French food - I lived there for a year - and so the idea of good, French food at affordable prices ticked every box and then some.
Toptable has some great deals to start with - 50% off food on most nights, a complimentary cocktail, toptable Tuesday (50% off no matter what time you eat). It's really worth taking a look on there. They also have some great set menus and it was this that we chose for our culinary expedition.
The restaurant is French, from the posters on the wall to the slightly knackered looking dark wood furniture. It all comes together to remind you of a Parisian brasserie and it does this very well. When I rang, the person taking the bookings spoke to me in French - don't worry, he does speak English! - and it made me look forward to the evening ahead. Upon arriving, I saw a big, scrubbed wooden table with lots of cheese on (winner!) and got escorted to a lovely table near the front.
The food is good. No photos this time - I was so hungry I didn't pause to take photos - and the set menu was really good. French onion soup with gruyere cheese & a crouton for starter, chicken brochettes with frites & salad for main and a delicious - and large! - creme brulee for dessert. It was all very tasty, the only criticism I would have is that the chicken was slightly undercooked on the skewers and this made one of my friends very uncomfortable.
We did get overcharged on the bill - we drank tap water not bottled - but they were very quick to remove it and apologise. All in all, a great meal with friends! The food was served quickly and piping hot, the staff were delightful and the atmosphere in the restaurant was enough to make conversation flow easily. Apart from food envy for the couple eating the chateaubriand, I couldn't have expected anything more for £20.
Le Bouchon Bordelais
5 - 9 Battersea Rise, Battersea, London, SW11 1HG
Tel: 020 7738 0307
Nearest tube: Clapham Junction Station
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
The neighbourhood isn't the best, admittedly, but the food was delicious. Frank is a small restaurant which, from the outside, is pretty forgettable. It's like a little osteria plonked in a huge, vibrant city and yet oddly enough, it works. Opened over a decade ago, it's still going strong and judging by the crowd there on a Thursday night, it's a people pleaser whatever the night.
So the food... What's it all about? Good, honest Italian nosh is the only answer I can give you. It's not poncy, it's not twiddled about with. It's fresh pasta, melt in your mouth pasta in fact, and the sauces are rich and infused with so much flavour it makes your taste buds tingle. We sat on a table with a couple of other diners and yet didn't feel like we were being fobbed off, the big scrubbed wooden table, low lighting and casually dressed staff only added to the experience.
First off was some bruschetta which was delicious although there was a tomato overload on my plate. Next (and this was the niggle, I'd barely eaten two bites of my starter before the mains came) was 'Uncle Tony's' gnocchi with 'tomatoes, basil and parmigiano'. Honestly the best gnocchi I've ever ever had, probably because it was fresh, spongy and full of goodness. I finished it all even though we had to stay there for ages to allow me to do so. Others tried the penne with mushrooms, a chicken dish (daily special) and the gnocchi like me. All of us were in consensus: Great Food.
The damage was also minimal: Less than $40 inc. tip and wine. Brilliant value and we were all extremely happy customers when we finally left and found a cab back uptown. Frank is somewhere I'd definitely take people to - Happily take people to in fact!
88 2nd Avenue, New York City
Tel: + 00 1 212 420 0106
After a bit of a disorientating time (still being up at 11pm EST when your body knows it's 4am is murder!) I'd soon settled in and with a cup of Earl Grey and a bagel, I was a New Yorker by 8am the next day and looking forward to dinner by that night. Brasserie was the destination we had in mind and after a short cab ride, we were soon at the rather understated entrance.
It's like a big white cave, that's the only way to describe it. You're underneath a building and it's a huge space yet it still feels cosy and achingly chic with white chairs, very suave waiters and a long white bar filled with glamorous folks sipping at their Cosmopolitans. Way to feel like a hick! The restaurant has been there since 1959 and I'd love to see past decors to see how it's changed over the last fifty years.
Luckily I soon got over it and settled down with my fellow diners to peruse the French-fusion menu which offered a hell of a lot of choice ... Fantastic! I opted for the Foie Gras au Torchon followed by a 10oz Filet Mignon with chips (sorry, fries!) and a red wine jus. The Foie Gras was pretty vile; whatever they had done to it had diluted the taste completely and made it taste like putty. I didn't enjoy it at all and the waiters, noticing this, took it away and brought me a gazpacho soup instead which was delicious if a little strange as gazpacho isn't for everybody!
My steak was one of the best I've ever eaten. The knife slid through it like butter, the fries were super crispy and the sauce was smooth, rich and a perfect accompaniment. Especially with the garlic undertaste which complemented the steak and how it had been cooked (medium-rare). Everybody else at the table seemed to have a great main course too; there was tuna, branzino, chicken paillard and mountains of chips and a lot of 'mmm' and 'delicious!' from our table.
The experience was great and for those who had dessert, it didn't end at the main course. The sorbets were fantastic, deemed 'perfect' by somebody if I recall correctly. All in all, the meal was great, the experience was brilliant and the staff should be commended for their attentiveness. Neither wine nor water glass ever reached empty until we reached the end of our meal. They also didn't rush us so we had plenty of time to talk and catch-up, something I wasn't expecting in the Big Apple.
If I was going there again, I don't know if I'd go again but merely because I want to experience as much of New York as possible. I'd like to go to all of the hot spots and the known classics because when it comes to food, variety is the key. A favourite restaurant is all well and good but why not branch out and go elsewhere every once in a while?
Brasserie is a great place for a date or a group catch-up, however, and therefore if you head NY-way, stop by and have a great meal. I didn't pay so I don't know what the damage was but I'm guessing about $80/head including the tip.
100 East 53rd St, New York 10022
Tel: +00 1 212 751 4840
Monday, 19 April 2010
A boozy shopping trip turned into dinner for three at the Bengal Tiger towards the end of March. I had Indian food on the brain and as soon as somebody suggested dinner, I was the first to put forward an Indian as an option! Thankfully it was 2 against 1 and we were soon walking (or weaving) our way to Bengal Tiger, an establishment not far from St Paul's.
The waiters were very solicitous and took no time in sitting us down at a nice table which wasn't too noisy and allowed us to talk without having to lean in to hear what the other was saying. Menus and poppadoms quickly followed and we all decided to have the set menu as it seemed a reasonable price and, even better, allowed plenty of choice. I always find with a set menu that I'll either like the starter or the main, never both, and therefore I was overjoyed to find that all three of us liked everything on the set.
Our platter of starters came first with Onion Bhajee, Paneer Tikka and Chicken Tikka. As we had a vegetarian amongst us, we gave her first dibs on the veggie offerings and stuck in to all of it. It was truly delicious and I particularly liked the delicate currying of the Bhajee. All too often it's just deep fried with too much curry and it tastes like fried curry powder. Yuck! However, these starters were great and my favourite was probably the Paneer Tikka, something I would never usually pick.
For main, two of us had a chicken tikka masala and the other had a vegetarian curry. I never have vegetarian dishes but hers was brilliant; I suppose I forget that in India, a vegetarian curry can quite often be more the norm than a meat curry. It was all truly delicious and although I found my chicken tikka a bit bland & the curry sauce more fruity than creamy, it was still tasty and I enjoyed it enough not to make a fuss. The bombay aloo was my favourite part and was incredible; the potato was really soft and the flavours were blended just enough to make it spicy but not 'hot'.
We didn't have pudding - far too full! - and the bill was reasonable; about £20 each if memory serves me correctly. This isn't a Brick Lane cheap eat but the food is far superior to Brick Lane (watch out for my next review!) and the service/clientele was also much better. I enjoyed it immensely and would go back if I wanted a curry near the office.
62 - 66 Carter Lane London, EC4V 5EA
Tel: 0207 248 6361
Nearest tube: St Paul's / Bank
First on the list is a little Greek/North African place in Covent Garden called Carthage. After watching the Woman in Black, a group of us were absolutely starving and after walking along for a bit, spotted this little restaurant. As most places were busy with it being a Saturday night, we were overjoyed (well, our stomachs were!) to hear that they indeed had a table although we weren't expecting to be led into what was effectively a rather cramped cellar!
The waiters were of mixed quality; some didn't speak any English, which, whilst great if you were Greek, wasn't if you weren't. One waiter did speak English (hurrah) and after a struggle to get the menus and a drink, we had ordered some food and were waiting expectantly.
The girls who were with me had also been to Crete with me earlier in the year and so we got bitten by the Greek food bug whilst there. Moussaka, Kleftiko, Gyros, stuffed vine leaves... We were practically drooling in preparation for what might come! The hummus was middling at best and the odd tasting sausage chilli sauce was... Well, odd. However, we were starving by this point – it had taken a long time to arrive – and therefore were dipping our breads in the dips left, right and centre.
We were rather miffed to order more bread and then have it delivered to the next table. We had to actually ask them to take it off the bill; they'd put it on ours at the end despite our complaints! The main courses came quite quickly – whilst we were still eating the starters if I recall correctly – and they got one order wrong and so the plates were delivered at random times and we couldn't all truly eat together.
I had a very yummy dish which was basically diced pitta bread, tender grilled lamb and chicken with a tomato & garlic sauce on top. I'm not sure how they came up with it but it was utterly delicious and the portions were huge! I started to regret having that starter as soon as I tucked in...
My friends fared differently. Two girls had moussaka which was really quite tasteless and, as there was so much of it, really hard to stomach. Our other friend had calamari which apparently tasted delicious; she finished the lot and said that it was really fresh and had lots of flavour.
All in all, it isn't somewhere I'm dying to go back to. The food was okay but with other restaurants around Covent Garden, I can think of plenty of places to go to before I have to think of Carthage. I think if they have more multi-lingual staff, a better understanding of their own menu (are they Greek? Are they North African?) then they'll fare a lot better and have more repeat business.
Damage: ? About £20/person for a shared starter, main & an alcoholic drink.
9A King Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8HN
Tel: 020 7240 5178
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
Friday, 12 March 2010
Emma, organiser extraordinaire, had booked us in for the toptable deal with allows 2 for 1 tapas with the cheapest being free. Obviously we rejoiced at this and then proceeded to order more than we probably needed... But we wanted it anyway! The restaurant is in the basement/cellar and is brightly decorated in reds, blues and yellow with tiling on the walls and lovely tiled floors. As soon as I smelled the food my stomach started to rumble and I got myself in the mood for some serious tapas eating!
So what did we eat? I'll put down what I remember! There were 8 of us and we all had 4 dishes each so we had a great choice food-wise.
- Cabrales (Cabrales cheese is a natural cheese made in the artisan tradition. Aged from two to six months in natural caves in limestone mountains.)
- Croquetas de jamon iberico (Exquisite, bite size croquettes of Iberico ham. Tasty and very, very Moorish.)
- Albondigas a la Barcelonesa (Fresh homemade beef meatballs with peppers, onions & tomatoes.)
- Pincho Cordero (Pieces of tender lamb infused with spices from Andalucia and then grilled on a skewer.)
- Patatas All-i-oli (Deep fried potato cubes with a tasty Catalan garlic mayonnaise.)
- Boquerones en Vinagre (Fresh anchovies (not salty) cured in oil, vinegar & garlic.)
- Chorizo en vino (Spanish spicy sausage cooked with wine.)
- Chorizo iberico
- Samfaina (A pisto of slow cooked tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, courgettes and onions. A delicious accompaniment to meat or fish.)
Most of the food was really amazing and the only criticism is that it took a long time for different things to arrive. Then again, with 30 odd dishes and a busy restaurant, this wasn't a huge problem. There was also a very strange and horrible pork and chips dish... We're not sure why it was was on the table or what it was but it didn't seem to be what was ordered!
I'd definitely go again. It's a great way to try new things, a brilliant way to have fun with food and it was very much enjoyed by all of us.
And the damage? £17 each with some having wine. Not bad at all!
Barcelona Tapas Bar
13 Well Court, Off Bow Lane, London EC4M 9DN
Tel: 0207 329 5111
Nearest tube: Bank