I adore dessert wines. The syrupy liquid nectar is too sweet for some, but I truly love the intensity of flavour that the best dessert wines bring to the glass.

Some of my favourites are produced by noble rot, the action of Botrytis cinerea, a fungal mould that causes infected grapes to partially shrivel, raisin-like, on the vine. This concentrates the sugars, resulting in a delightfully sweet wine, though of course, far more grapes are required to produce a bottle than for regular wine. French Sauterne, Hungarian Tokaji and German and Austrian Beerenauslese are all made in this way.

But there is another method that produces similarly sweet results and that is ice wine. Here, the grapes are left on the vine until a cold snap freezes them – of course it’s mainly the water content that freezes, rather than the sugars and other solids within the grape. Pressing while still frozen means that only a small volume of sweet and concentrated juice is extracted, with the water left behind as ice. This is a tricky wine to produce since the vintner must hope for the right weather conditions to grow healthy grapes, and then for a suitable cold snap during which to harvest. Harvesting is usually done by hand, on the first morning it’s cold enough, and there’s a brief 6 hour window during which the entire harvest must be picked and pressed. For this reason, ice wine is not produced in great quantities, and there are only a few regions with the requisite climate to do so. Canada and Germany are the world’s largest producers; with the majority of Canada’s ice wine being produced in Ontario.

During my visit to the region last year, I enjoyed visits to a number of vineyards in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. Of course, all these wineries produce regular red, white and rosé wines as well as their sweet ice wines, so they are well worth a visit even if ice wine is not for you.

 

Two Sisters Vineyard

Two Sisters Vineyard is the first one we visited, on a balmy early-autumn evening, the sun casting a golden blanket across the beautiful stonework of the vineyard, and the fields of vines surrounding it. We ate our dinner on the terrace, probably my favourite menu of the vineyard restaurants we visited. Kitchen 76 offers rustic Italian food at its best – superb fresh ingredients cooked and served simply but skillfully to bring out their inherent flavours.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1625 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1618

For starters, we shared pizzas, salads and charcuterie boards laden with locally made meats, cheeses and breads.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9770 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-214057
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9771 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9772 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9776

For mains, superb pastas – the rabbit ragu pappardelle was a winner, plates of lamb chops with guanciale potatoes and a ribeye steak topped with a potato croquette that was to die for.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9777 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9780 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9782
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1617 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9765

 

Vineland Estates Winery

Three of us really arrived in style to our lunch at the Vineland Estates Winery, dropped off by the helicopter that had just given us spectacular aerial views of the Niagara Falls. (The rest of our party went by road, a beautiful drive in its own right).

Lunch was served on the outdoor terrace, a perfect spot in the gorgeous sunshine. Of course, there are plenty of tables inside, for when the weather is less amenable!

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-111814 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-113105 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-113418
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-122523 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-123341

From a wine perspective, this was hands-down the best meal for me; Vineland Estates produce not one but several different dessert wines, some made with late harvest grapes and some ice wines. I was served a flight of delicious sweet wines throughout my meal, switching between wine types, grape varieties and years of harvest. It was a wonderful opportunity to identify the flavour profiles of the grapes, not to mention the difference that weather makes, year on year.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9786 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9787
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9798 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9801 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-125350
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9807 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-123330 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9810

Food was again excellent. A very different style to Two Sisters, but very similarly focused on the superb quality local ingredients. I particularly enjoyed Chef Justin Downes’ home-cured charcuterie and home-made rillettes, patés, pickles and chutneys.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9795 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9792

These were followed by an incredible smoked tomato bisque, perfectly cooked beef top sirloin served with cauliflower puree, mustard jus and some blue haze blue cheese. After, a New York cheesecake with brandy-marinated necatines, blueberry gelato and crushed pstachios. Everything was stunningly plated and suitably delicious.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9802 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9809
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9820

The one I bought a bottle of was a delicious classic Vidal ice wine, 2014.

 

Inniskillin Winery

Inniskillin Winery was the only brand I was already familiar with, having come across it’s ice wine in the UK. Founded by Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser back in 1975, the name comes from the Irish Regiment to which one Colonel Cooper belonged in the 1800s; Cooper was the previous owner of the farm where the vineyard was established.

Unlike the other wineries we visited, Inniskillin don’t have an onsite restaurant. But they did organise for chef Tim MacKiddie to cook us a multi-course meal to enjoy with their wines, served in one of the spacious private rooms at the winery.

Before and during dinner we were talked through the wines by the enthusiastic and hugely knowledgeable Sumie Yamakawa, Inniskillin’s Visitor Experience Manager.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0096 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0093 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-211602

The wine that absolutely floored me here was the incredible sparkling Vidal ice wine, 2014 vintage, and this is the Inniskillin bottle I purchased to bring home. This is truly amazing, well worth a try if you can find it!

 

13th Street Winery

Located right next door to Whitty Farms (more of which in this recent post), 13th Street Winery is the vision of Doug and Karen Whitty and their friends John and June Mann, but the man behind the wines is Frenchman Jean Pierre Colas, formerly the head winemaker at the Domaine Laroche in Chablis for 10 years, during which time he produced many award-winning wines.

First into our glasses is a sparkling rosé blend of pinot noir and chardonnay plus a little gamay to add a deeper colour and more fruitiness to the flavour. The colour and sparkles are beguiling and the others in the group confirm, for those with less of a sweet tooth than mine, that it’s delicious.

During our tasting Jean Pierer explains that red gamay is the flagship wine of 13th Street, though of course, they produce other wines too. Having worked in Beaujolais as a student, gamay was a grape he knows how to handle and it grows well here in Niagara; “there is something unique in Ontario that allows us to produce crazy, beautiful, strong, charming gamays”. And gamay is also a wine that is made for food, as the pastry with basil, tomato and Grey Owl blue cheese helps us to confirm.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9885 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9879

13th Street are one of the only wineries in the area not producing ice wine. As Jean Pierre puts it, “we don’t have to be like everybody, we don’t have to do like everybody”. I ask him why and he quips that he has “no interest to pick grapes in the winter and to freeze my arse outside!”

After the gamay, we try 13 Below Zero, a sweet riesling with far less residual sugar than ice wine. With my super sweet tooth, they’re still too acidic for my liking, but are much-liked by the others in my group.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle- Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9877

The owners’ love of art is shared via a selection of modern pieces hung within the winery’s main building and displayed in the beautifully planted gardens just outside.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9857 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9872 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9859

Hopefully I’ve given you a taste of the Niagara-on-the-Lake region’s excellent wineries, and especially the ice wine that many of them produce.

It’s a perfect destination for a self-drive holiday, with plenty to see and do, many charming independent hotels and bed and breakfasts, and some truly world class eating and drinking to enjoy, both at the wineries themselves and in the area’s many top quality restaurants.

Kavey Eats visited Ontario as a guest of Destinations Canada. With additional thanks to Anna and Michael Olson for being our hosts, and Diane Helinski for being our tour manager and guide.

 

It’s not often I visit Kingston-upon-Thames, being based as I am in the wilds of North London. But an invitation to enjoy Ribstock-winning barbeque in a pub not too far from my sister’s house in South London was too tempting to pass up, and on a gloriously sunny day in late March, we made our way down. We drove and parked in the public pay and display just opposite but if you want to take advantage of an impressive beer list and whisky collection, I’d recommend you travel by train to Kingston station, just a couple of minutes walk.

On our arrival, pub licensee Leigh White filled us in. The Grey Horse is now run by the team behind The White Hart Witley, where Sam Duffin installed BBQ Whisky Beer after moving it out of it’s original Marylebone home. The White Hart became well known for its extensive whisky bar, strong craft beer selection, live music and excellent barbeque. And when I say excellent barbeque, I’m not exaggerating – BBQ Whisky Beer won Ribstock 2013, beating the likes of barbeque stars Blue Boar Smokehouse, Carl Clarke of Rotary, Cattle Grid, Neil Rankin, Prairie Fire BBQ, Red Dog Saloon, Roti Chai Street Kitchen, The Rib Man and Tim Anderson of Nanban!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-123937 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-124231
The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-124223 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-124149

The same team have now taken over The Grey Horse, which closed in 2014 and has since been extensively refurbished. When it reopened in November last year, the space had been reorganised to provide a traditional pub area to the front, a dining room with open kitchen behind and a live music venue called RamJam Club at the rear. RamJam has its own small kitchen too, so either the pub or guest chefs can cater separately for the club and small outside space.

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-143130 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-143147

The new dining room opened this January and it’s a lovely space. A huge skylight lets in plenty of light, giving an upwards view out to blue sky, grey clouds or perhaps a starry night. Along one side of the room is an open kitchen and along the other a row of tables in a long alcove. At the back, exposed brickwork with a mural of Jimi Hendrix – he played here in the venue’s previous heyday, so it’s said. I’m not a fan of the high tables with stools that take up the central space; a killer for anyone with back or hip probblems – always smacks of style over substance, but that’s the only minus amongst the pluses for me.

The pub area is more traditional albeit with whisky-laden shelves (and board list) that make Pete determined to return without the car before too long!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-135803 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8532
The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8557 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-125437

As I mentioned, the beer list is appealing. Pete has a half pint of Twickenham Tusk, on draft which he describes as dry with a pleasant floral hoppiness.

For the rest, we stick to soft drinks including a Dalston Cola and a Rocks Ginger and Wasabi. Both excellent and such a nice change from the big brand fizzies.

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8543 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-131249

We dither so much over which starters to order that we eventually decide on three!

First choice is crab cocktail, charred gem, fried avocado, nduja aioli (£7) and it’s plated in the deconstructed style that’s become so prevalent. Plenty of sweet fresh crabmeat, deliciously charred baby gem lettuces, odd but good-odd crumbed and fried slices of avocado and a generous smear or spicy nduja aioli. Can’t go wrong ordering this one!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8542 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-131414

Next is the only meh dish of the meal – fried Ogleshield, pickled wild mushrooms and spinach puree (£6). Inside the deep-fried balls we expect to find gooey melted Ogleshield, a delicious sticky-soft washed-rind cheese by Neals Yard Dairy, but instead the filling is super dry, way too crumbly and lacking in much flavour. The spinach puree is more of a decoration than a key element – a shame as it tastes great. The big redeeming factor is the heap of pickled wild mushrooms which are redolent with red wine vinegariness and sweet shallots.

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8540

Our third and final starter is chicken wings, hot sauce, blue cheese, sesame and celery (£6). Six plump chicken wings are covered in a fiery hot sauce – tingling-on-the-edge-of-burning rather than blow-your-head-off painful. The blue cheese dip is properly cheesy and thick enough to cling generously to dipped wings. The celery I leave for Pete, who praises it’s braised nature – gentle crunch and gentle flavour, nice with the blue cheese dip.

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-125609 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-133844

For my main, how can I not choose Sam’s Ribstock winner, the Jacob’s Ladder beef rib? Available in small, medium or large (£10, £13, £16) I’m surprised at how hefty my £10 rib is and can’t help but laugh at a nearby diner’s look of shock when his large portion is served! Mesquite-smoked and rubbed with Sam’s own spices before being smothered in homemade barbeque sauce the meat is melty-soft inside with perfect char and texture on the surface; the flavour is smoky and beefy, intense and fantastic!

 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8555

It’s true, Ribstock totally called it, this barbeque is fantastic and absolutely worth the trek across town! Next time I come, I’m skipping the starters, good as two of them were, and going all in on the smoked ribs three ways (£20) featuring beef rib, pork rib and iberico rib!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8549 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-133924

Pete is a sucker for a burger, so he chooses the classic burger (£9) which comes with smoked bacon and American cheese plus lettuce, onion, tomato, dill pickle, burger mayo and ghetto sauce (whatever that may be!) Skinny fries (£3) are extra, or you could order a coal roast sweet potato, dill aioli, black garlic (£4) or house pickles (£3) amongst other sides.

Just three days earlier, Pete and I tasted nine different beef patties (plus burgers made with each of those nine) to help our local pub decide on which to serve in their soon-to-be-upgraded burgers. Three stood out above the other six, of which one was a clear winner – on taste, juiciness and texture.

To Pete’s delight, the patty in this burger is the match of that winner; it has an intense beefiness to the flavour, excellent juiciness and a texture that gives just the right amount of chew without leaving one chewing and chewing like a cow eating cudd! The bun is well chosen, both for flavour and texture, and there is good balance of all the secondary ingredients and condiments.

All in all, this is a top burger!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-135935 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8562

By this point, you’d be right in thinking we are quite full. But I always try to order one dessert just to assess a restaurant’s sweet offerings – too many restaurants treat desserts as an afterthought and they don’t always match up to the savoury menu.

I cannot look past the dark chocolate and peanut butter tart, salt caramel ice cream £6), which Pete won’t enjoy because of the peanut. So Pete goes for the cornflake ice cream sundae, dulce du leche and hot fudge sauce (£6).

The sundae first; a classic bowl of ice cream, cream and sauces with the extra crunch and flavour of cornflakes! It’s good and Pete somehow finishes the entire bowl!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-141315 The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-8559

The tart is delicious too; peanut butter chocolate topping over crunchy base and with crushed caramel sprinkle, it’s super rich and fairly sweet – perfectly partnered with a properly salty salted caramel ice cream, which makes a pleasant and surprising change. I only manage half of this but I enjoy every mouthful!

The Grey Horse Kingston-upon-Thames on Kavey Eats-124112

After all that we’re full to bursting but it’s definitely been worth the bloat – the food has been delicious, and the barbeque rib just phenomenal.

This isn’t our neck of the woods but we’ll definitely be back, as this is way more than just a decent local pub – for barbeque lovers it’s a destination restaurant, well worth the visit wherever you live.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Grey Horse.

The Grey Horse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

If you don’t know Kingly Court in Soho, you’d be forgiven for not realising it’s there. An open space between buildings fronting onto Ganton Street to the North, Carnaby Street to the East, Beak Street to the South and Kingly Street to the West, this tiny enclave has become a bustling food hub with over twenty restaurants, bars and cafes crammed into its small area.

On the second floor, looking out over the open court space, is Señor Ceviche. This funky and colourful restaurant and cocktail bar is modelled on the vibe of Barranco, an increasingly bohemian district of Lima that is home to artists, musicians and designers and full of charming boutiques and lively restaurants and bars.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-124148 Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-124128

At the back of the room is the open kitchen and to one side the bar. Decor is eclectic, with pattern-painted wooden floors, wooden panels on some of the walls and colourful posters on the others. The industrial-style ceiling has been left uncovered, as is increasingly common these days. Some beautiful traditional tiling finishes the charmingly mish-mash look.

The food is fun too, with colourful dishes based on Peruvian streetfood. As is only fitting, a few of the dishes showcase Japanese flavours too; Peruvian cuisine has been much influenced by Nikkei immigration in the last century and this fusion of traditions is prevalent in Peru.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8436 Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8437

Of course, there’s a great cocktail list with several Pisco-based options. Pete has a straight Pisco Sour (£8.50), also available in passion fruit, lemongrass, spiced pineapple and strawberry flavours. I enjoy my tall Ayahuasca (£9) – a blend of rum, peach liqueur, spiced pineapple syrup and ginger beer.

The vibe is relaxed, with upbeat music playing, but not so loud that you can’t chat to your friends as you eat.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8440

The menu is split into several sections and staff advise ordering around 3 dishes per person from across the menu.

From Para Picar we choose Aubergine picarones (£6), sweet potato and aubergine doughnuts with aioli and roasted peanuts. I love the sweet potato batter but the aubergine inside is bland and the aioli lacks punch too. The sweet potato is definitely the saving grace of the dish though, and makes it a thumbs up rather than a so so.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8446

The Sanguchitos (sandwiches) section is short and sweet but we’re keen to try one so we choose Atun (£5.50). The small brioche bun is filled with seared tuna in a miso and honey glaze, with spring onion, cucumber and tarragon mayo and it’s gorgeous! Definitely order one per person as the juiciness of the filling means it disintegrates fast and isn’t easy to hand over; not that you’ll want to share anyway!

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8443

Part of me feels that we ought to choose Senor Ceviche (£9) from the Ceviche & Tiradito section, named as it is for the restaurant itself. But Pete’s not a fan of octopus or squid so we order Mr Miyagi (£7) instead – salmon with tiger’s milk (the colloquial name given to the dressing of fish juices and citrus), pomegranate, purple shiso and salmon scratchings and we’re not sorry. Soft, slippery salmon pairs perfectly with its dressing, and the pomegranate, shisho and crispy salmon skin add sweetness, herb and crunch.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8448

It’s the Peruvian Barbecue section of the menu I find hardest to resist.

First we have the Anticucho de res (£7), two skewers of thinly cut and folded beef heart grilled and served with a crunchy red salad, a vivid sweet potato mayonnaise and a little tapenade-like pile of olives, aji panca (chilli pepper) and mint. I love these skewers; not too chewy and with a mere hint of offal flavour, the beef heart is smoky from the grill and nicely balanced by the garnishes. Pete agrees it’s not too awful for offal but leaves the majority of it to me.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8453 Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-131826

I do like the flavour of the crusted marinade on the Pachamanca pork ribs (£9) but they’ve been cooked too long, resulting in a thicker blackened crust and more lingering burnt flavour than is ideal; a little char is wonderful but too much just tastes of soot! Under the very thick crust, the meat is nicely cooked and the herbs, spring onions and coriander scattered over the top bring a little freshness back. Grilled a few minutes less I think this dish would be a winner.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8456

As it’s name implies, Super pollo (£8) is super, one of my favourite dishes of the meal. The marinated and grilled chicken is superbly moist, and here the charring is just right to add flavour without overwhelming the dish. The red pepper sauce and piquillo pepper salsa are spot on. The only thing I would change about this dish is to suggest better filleting of the meat – too many lumps of cartilage to spit out for my liking.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8454

From Sides & Salads we choose the Frijoles negros (£4), black beans cooked with smoked bacon, burnt aubergine, aji panca, pineapple and sour cream. I can’t really detect the pineapple but the overall flavour is lovely, though in retrospect I think one of the salads may have been a better match for the other dishes we chose.

Senor Ceviche on Kavey Eats-8462

We’re a little full really to have anything from the Postre (dessert) section but agree to share a portion of Tres Leches (£5). I’m glad we do as this modern take on the traditional cake features a delightfully light and moist chocolate sponge, pisco syrup, white chocolate and saffron cream and dulce de leche ice cream. A lovely dish to finish a vibrant and enjoyable lunch.

The bill, with a coffee added, is £61.50 before service, so about £30 a head and we’ve certainly been a little greedy – we would have been perfectly full and contented with one or two fewer dishes!

The food and atmosphere here is lovely, and the place is busy during our weekday lunchtime visit. I’d recommend planning in advance and booking a table, especially if you’re coming in a group for an evening meal. During the weekday, you may be able to wing it, especially if you avoid the weekday lunch rush and pop in for an early or late lunch.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Señor Ceviche.

Señor Ceviche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal

 

Having spent most of the last year working down in New Malden (and living as I do at towards the north end of North London) I’ve really not eaten out in central London very much lately. So in the week following the end of my contract, I’ve really made up for lost time, eating out almost every day of my first week off.

The Cornwall Project Dining Room in the Newman Arms pub, a short walk from Tottenham Court Road station, has made a big impression on many food lovers I know in the 6 months since it opened late last summer. This new restaurant resides in one of London’s oldest pubs, the charming and tiny Newman Arms having been established back in 1730. Downstairs remains a small traditional boozer; upstairs is an equally cosy dining room – booking a table in advance is strongly recommended.

Behind the project are Matt Chatfield of the Cornwall Project and chef Eryk Bautista, a name I’d never heard before but will absolutely remember now I’ve tasted his cooking. Matt set up the Cornwall Project a few years ago, keen to find new markets for fresh Cornish fish, meat and vegetables after a slump in orders from Spain, previously a big consumer of the region’s high quality produce. In the last few years, he has successfully established long term relationships to supply some of London’s top restaurants including The Ledbury, Lyle’s and Pitt Cue. More recently, he has teamed up with chefs to establish residencies in pubs, the Newman Arms being the latest of these partnerships.

Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8186

Given the shockingly low price at lunch, two courses for £15 and three for £19, it was a pleasant surprise to be served a plate of very fresh, very tasty bread and good quality butter.

Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -131020 Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8188

My friend Katy was more than happy with her heritage carrots, smoked ricotta, blood orange & hazelnuts – she’d really enjoyed a similar dish featuring beetroot and ricotta on a previous visit and this version lived up to her memory. It was also utterly beautiful on the plate.

Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8189

I was far too busy eating my Cotswold egg, smoked mash, wild garlic and toasted buckwheat to get the money shot of oozing egg yolk so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was absolutely perfect; cooked sous vide I think. I loved the combination of flavours and ingredients, especially that lightly smoked mash with the wild garlic sauce, the softness of egg, mash and sauces relieved by that scattering of super crunchy toasted buckwheat.

Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8192
Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8193 Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8194

Katy’s main of hake, cauliflower, cider and Coolea featured one of my all-time favourite cheeses. She confirmed that the fish was perfectly cooked, fresh and full of flavour and perfect with the cauliflower, cider and cheese.

For sides, we shared the crispy pink fir with herb mayonnaise, lovely fried delights that reminded me a lot of the beef-dripping potatoes Pete and I had enjoyed at the Bukowski Grill two days earlier. More mayonnaise would have been welcome, but a minor niggle.

White sprouting broccoli with almonds & cardamon yoghurt was another super side dish; I’d never have thought to combine these ingredients but they were wonderfully well balanced and very light too.

Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -125018 Newman Arms - Kavey Eats -8197

The star of the show for me was my pork belly, chicory, miso, peanuts & coriander. Not only was the pork belly cooked as well as I’ve ever had it – soft meat, unctuous melty fat and a super crisp crackling with just the right amount of chew – that charred chicory with peanuts, miso and coriander puree was utterly heavenly. One of the best vegetable sides I’ve ever had.

I still cannot get over the bargain of this level of cooking, of this quality of ingredients, for just £15 for two courses, with sides just £3 extra each.

Too full for dessert, we resisted the cheese board and the cake, but next time I’m coming as hungry as I can!

Definitely one to visit again and again!

 

This month sees the launch of new restaurant Dalloway Terrace, part of The Bloomsbury Hotel and making clever use of the terraced patio garden to one side of the building. A retractable roof and heavy duty clear plastic ‘walls’ have been built to keep diners warm and dry during cold or wet weather; easy to open up when it’s warm and dry.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8200 Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8198

I visited at the beginning of the month and loved the contradiction of sitting outdoors on a cold but crisp day with paving underfoot, greenery climbing up outer brick walls and everything lit by lanterns and generously-strung fairy lights. I was certainly not cold – overhead heaters pour out lots of warmth and every guest is given a thick and soft woolly blanket to drape over their lap or around their shoulders if they prefer. I know it will be a glorious space during the summer but oh, on the cusp of spring giving way to winter, it was magical and romantic and rather enchanting.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8202 Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8205

Cocktails are at the higher end of the London pricing scale, quite a contrast to my recent favourite at Bukowski Grill, though of course I appreciate that the styles of these two venues are completely different. The Mrs Dalloway champagne cocktail (£12) I’m recommended as an aperitif is lovely – champagne, Courvoisier VSOP, sugar and Angostura bitters; I ask them to go light on the latter and they do.

Wines are reasonably priced; a bottle of house red or white will set you back £21.50 and there are (a handful of) other bottles below £30.

Bread is not complimentary, as I’d expect it to be at this kind of restaurant (hell, if the Newman Arms, which I visited the day before, can afford it on their stunningly bargainous £19 lunch menu, surely the Dalloway can too?) Our basketed bread selection (£2.50) contains Guinness brown bread, soda bread, sourdough and oh, that Guinness brown bread has a fantastic flavour.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8207 Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8210

There are many appealing dishes on the menu, so it’s hard to narrow down our choices.

Helen orders the crispy pig cheeks, mustard crème fraîche, apple & raisin chutney (£8), and these are superb. The meat inside each parcel is beautifully cooked, meltingly soft, full of flavour and the breading and deep-frying gives much-needed contrasting crispness. The chutney with it is also very good indeed, and balances the beefy pork cheeks beautifully. A winner of a dish.

My Balmoral Estate venison carpaccio, creamed horseradish, pickled walnuts (£11) is also enjoyable, though I am surprised to be served dried rather than fresh venison; my understanding of ‘carpaccio’ is that it’s fresh raw meat, not cured.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8218 Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8220

No complaints on the number of fat and juicy scallops in my main of hand-dived seared scallops spinach, chanterelles & teriyaki dressing but the price tag of £25 still feels too steep, especially as the dish is not very filling without the addition of sides, at additional cost. The presentation could also do with some work, the scallops hidden in a mess of spinach leaves, drenched in far too much teriyaki dressing which makes everything soggy and forms a huge pool at the bottom of the bowl. That said, flavours are excellent and the scallops are beautiful and nicely cooked.

Shoe-string chips (£4.50, not shown) are decent, though could do with half a minute longer in the fryer. The rocket & parmesan salad (£4.5) is shockingly small, the smallest side salad I think I’ve ever been served anywhere. Stinginess like this makes a poor impression, a shame when the rest of food is making a good one.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8213

Helen’s seared tuna, soy & ginger dressing, pickled radish (£18) is gorgeous, a good portion, beautifully plated and cooked very well. Flavours are again very good. But it’s odd not to include any vegetables on the plate, one is absolutely reliant on ordering side dishes, and if the portions stay as they are, you may well want more than one side dish per person.

Dalloway Terrace - Kavey Eats -8223

Dessert for both of us is a chocolate mousse tart on a crushed pecan base served with salted caramel ice cream and fresh raspberries (at £3.75, one of the best value dishes of the meal). The tart itself is very good indeed; great textures, excellent flavour from good quality chocolate and a perfect portion to finish the meal. The salted caramel ice cream has a properly salty punch, a nice change from many that are far too sweet with hardly a hint of salt. The fresh raspberries finish it off perfectly. We both enjoy dessert enormously, perhaps the joint winner of the evening alongside the crispy pig cheek starter.

Some of the niggles on presentation and portion size will no doubt get ironed out after a few more weeks of service. With two drinks each the bill with service, comes to £140; at £70 a head that feels a little high even taking into account the hotel location and the professional service from well-trained staff. That said, it’s a really rather lovely setting, and perfect for a romantic meal or a low-key celebration.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Dalloway Terrace.

 

Already well-established in Brixton and Shoreditch, chef-owner Robin Freeman’s Bukowski Grill has just opened its third branch in the heart of Soho. The latest location sits amid the trendy coffee shops, juice bars and restaurants along d’Arblay Street.

The menu is inpired by an American diner, with classic dishes such as burgers, ribs, chicken wings and sandwiches, all showcasing good quality British produce. During the week, a breakfast menu is also available, on the weekend that expands to a brunch offering.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-124455 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8113

Decor is modern industrial (unfinished ceilings and floors, painted walls), and spacious – the chairs are far more comfortable than they look and tables are nicely spread out rather than on top of each other. There’s a view into the open kitchen a the back and the bar runs along one side of the room.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8117 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8116

The drinks menu is a good one; Pete enjoys a pint of Meantime’s Yakima Red on draft (£5 a pint) and I’m pretty sure that no other cocktail I try this year is going to top the frozen cherry bo (£6) from a very affordable cocktail list – bourbon, cherry and vanilla in a slushie format, this is utterly marvellous and I could happily while away a summer afternoon getting progressively happier on this!

The spiked milkshakes appeal too; dulce the leche and kahlua peanut butter or banana and bourbon or chocolate and rum (£5.95 each). That first one is on my list to try next time we visit.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8122 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-125638

Our first starter is puck nuggets with kimchi remoulade (£5.95). To remove the guesswork for you, puck = pork and duck, though I imagine it’s also a play on the puck shape of these treats. Soft, soft pulled meat has been bound in a spicy sauce, then crumbed and deep-fried and is utterly delicious, with or without the accompanying dip. When I say spicy, I mean it, by the way. But then again, I’m a chilli wuss!

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-125531 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8126 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-130330

We also enjoy a half rack of baby back pork ribs with spicy red onions and pickles (£6.15) which are again, very good. The classic barbeque marinade has a more gentle kick of heat than the puck nuggets, the meat is beautifully cooked – tender but not pappy – and the accompanying onions and pickled gherkin are spot on.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8133 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8140

Burgers are the draw here, so we go for two and share. The fat gringo (£9.95) includes a beef patty, Monterrey jack cheese, candied bacon, jalapeno mustard, red onions, tomato, lettuce and a smoked pickled gherkin. Like all of the burgers it’s served in a brioche bun, though you can switch bun for salad if you prefer.

The flavour combination is excellent, and the ratio of all the elements is just right – that jalapeno mustard against the sweet bacon is the big hit. It’s a bit of a shame to be asked whether we want the patty cooked medium or well done (we choose medium) and then have that ignored but since the patty remains juicy, it’s a minor disappointment.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8128 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8137

Burger number 2 is the bourbon bbq chicken (£6.95) which features grilled marinated free-range chicken breast, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and a bourbon bbq sauce. I’m super impressed at how moist the chicken breast is; so often far too dry. The flavours are once again, excellent, and the brioche bun holds together well.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8145 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8135

Prices for burgers don’t include sides, which makes the price of the fat gringo a little steep; it comes in at £12.70 with a side of plain skinny fries.

We go for beef dripping potatoes (£3.50) and chilli cheese fries with sour cream and coriander (£4.95), both of which are great choices, if a little too much between two – if you’re having starters, one of these between two is plenty!

The beef dripping potatoes are essentially deep-fried roasties, and absolutely everything I’d ever want in a roast potato! Super texture, super flavour, all round magnificent!

The chilli con carne served on the fries has a classic chilli flavour and texture (not too sloppy, but not dry either) and is a great match with the fries – my main suggestion for improvement would be to serve the fries in a wider and shallower dish, allowing the topping to be spread across more of them. Add a small extra pot of sour cream too and these would be perfect.

Oh and I must give a shout out to the condiments, all home made. The pickles are super but so too is the homemade tomato ketchup on every table – sweet, a hint of chilli and delicious.

Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8148 Bukowski Grill Soho - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8151

Shared dessert is chocolate pot with rum raisin cream (£3.50), a well-sized pot of rich and tasty chocolate mousse topped generously with whipped cream and rum-soaked raisins. Lovely to have smaller desserts available for a sweet note after such a filling meal.

We both really like Bukowski Grill. The food is good, that’s certain. But I also like the space itself, welcoming without being achingly hipster, and friendly service too.

We’ll certainly be back – I want to try the buffalo cauliflower fritters, the smoked chicken wings, the swaledale lamb cutlets with smokey chilli jelly and the smokey beast burger – a beef patty topped with smoked pulled pork, smokey honey and a chipotle bbq sauce.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Bukowski Grill Soho.

Square Meal

 

I rarely visit new restaurants within a week of opening. I’m never in a mad rush to be first; I tend to plan my diary in advance – I’m not a short notice kind of girl; new places don’t always cross my radar until they’ve already built up quite a buzz. But Galley restaurant and bar caught my eye amongst the flutter of press releases into my Inbox and as soon as I read the menu, I put my hand up to accept an invitation to review. After a soft launch weekend, it opened officially on Tuesday 2nd and we visited the same Friday.

In a prime location on Islington’s Upper Street, not far from Angel tube station, Galley is in a sea of restaurants along a street of little else. Clearly there’s custom enough for all – everywhere was rowdy crowdy, Galley included.

Summarising that tempting press release, Galley is a restaurant and bar ‘specialising in small and large international plates with a strong focus on fish’, founded by siblings Oriona Robb and Marcel Grzyb. Oriona put her styling experience to good use designing the interior while Marcel’s focus is on the menu – now cooking in his own place after 18 years at Randall & Aubin, the last 10 of which as head chef.

galley small interior galley Banquette shot
Images provided by restaurant

I’m late to arrive, so rush to meet Pete at our table in rather a fluster but it doesn’t take long for me to settle in and start to take in the interior. It’s a beautiful space that skillfully balances vintage elegance with a modern aesthetic; the bar sits near the entrance, then a few much-coveted booths before a banquette of tables opposite an open kitchen with a handful of counter seats.

My only bitch is that tables along the banquette are very close together indeed, making me feel uncomfortably voyeuristic towards our neighbours. Perhaps that’s why there’s a banging soundtrack of which, once the place is full, we can hear only the pounding bass; all melody is lost in the babble.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7976 Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7978

Having only recently discovered I like gin, after decades thinking otherwise, I love that a whole page of the drinks menu is dedicated to Gin & Tonic. I choose G’Vine Floraison with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic and frozen grapes (£14) which is wonderful. And yes I pick out and eat the grapes too!

With it I try just one Crispy Tempura Oyster (£3 each). It’s delicious but, goodness me, it’s a teeny tiny little thing – you can just see it peeping out from behind the sauce and garnish there. Not quite a satisfying mouthful, I’m afraid.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7982 Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7984

There are several seafood starters that appeal, including Octopus & Chorizo a la plancha with white bean purée, smoked garlic pesto (£9), Hand-picked Cornish Crab on crostini with smoked garlic aioli, confit tomatoes (£9.5) and Hand Dived In-Shell Scottish Scallops with carrot, cardamom purée, toasted hazelnuts (£9) but in the end we pick two of the non-fish options.

Wookey Hole Cheddar & Ham Hock Croquettes  with harissa mayonnaise (£7) are generously sized, served hot out of the fryer, great texture inside and out. The flavour from cheese and ham is a little milder than I’d like but the harissa mayonnaise makes up for that well enough.

The Hereford Beef Carpaccio with wild mushrooms, beef jelly, pistachio, parmesan (£10) is the definite winner – soft, well-textured beef with fabulous little cubes of vinegared beef jelly, a selection of properly cleaned and delicious wild mushrooms, shavings of parmesan, rocket leaves and roasted pistachio nuts; far more interesting than the usual beef, cheese, leaves and olive oil cliché.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7986 Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7992

The Scottish Venison with smoked potato purée, braised cabbage, thyme gravy (£21.5) is not at all what Pete was picturing – venison three ways rather than a single steak; while I’m not a fan of menus that provide an essay on every dish, more information on this one would have been welcome. All three ways are delicious, full of flavour and with a decent gamey flavour often lacking in farmed venison. I’ve no idea on provenance but it’s tasty meat.

We also follow our waitress’ suggestion that the venison dish needs a side (though on arrival, we don’t think it does). In any case, the Chargrilled Purple Sprouting Broccoli with crispy onions, lemon oil (£5) is a good choice, the broccoli still with some bite in the stems but not too much and a nice flavour from char, onions and oil.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7988

My main of Pan-fried Sea Bass, gnocchi, peas, courgettes, wild mushrooms, truffle oil (£19.5) is delicious! The kitchen have not stinted on that truffle oil, indeed it’s the dominant flavour so if you’re not a fan, ask for less. I love it against the soft fish, crisp fish skin and pillowy gnocchi. The thick sauce of peas, courgettes and mushrooms is just right too. Simple, confident, tasty cooking that is absolutely worth coming back for.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7997

With such success on the starters and mains, it’s hard to resist trying the desserts, though I can’t say we really need them, full as we are.

The Salted Caramel Tart with green tea ice cream, chilli & hazelnut praline (£7) is super rich, silky smooth and sinfully sweet though with a clear bitter caramel flavour in the background and a touch of salt to make everything pop. The green tea ice cream is insipid though, very little green tea flavour discernable.

Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7995 Galley Restaurant Islington on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-8001

My pick of the two desserts is the Amaretto & Verona Chocolate Fondant with cherry compote, mascarpone vanilla ice cream (£7), served hot and gushing hot molten chocolate when I cut it open. The amaretto flavour is clear but not overwhelming and lovely with the sweet chocolate and sharp cherries. Once again the ice cream is rather bland, though in this case that’s no bad thing as it’s simply a cooling hit of dairy against the rich pudding.

It’s been a super meal and one that certainly has me itching to come back – virtually every dish on the menu appeals and there is a tempting Sunday brunch menu too. Prices are very reasonable for food of this calibre in London – that runs through to the drinks, with bottles of wine starting at just £20 and cocktails all priced at £9.50.

It’s hard to judge service so early on when everyone’s peachy keen, excited and enthusiastic – certainly staff seem on the ball already and eager for customers to enjoy their visit. I’m sure the front of house team will continue smiling for the foreseeable; hopefully I’ll be back before too long to check for myself.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Galley Restaurant & Bar.

Galley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal

Feb 062016
 

Ichiryu brings fast food udon noodles to London’s increasingly diverse Japanese dining scene and it’s about time!

In the last 5 years, ramen has spread its wings and there are now umpteen London restaurants specialising in ramen – including a few small chains – selling delicious bowls of the much-loved Japanese noodle soup.

But udon noodles haven’t enjoyed the same rate of growth; not yet at least. Koya, particularly loved by the fooderati, has been a stalwart of course, but the main restaurant closed it’s doors last year, leaving only Koya Bar still in operation; in any case there was never any expectation of the brand expanding. Den Udon in King’s Cross was open for mere months before it closed its doors again, perhaps a victim of its rather out-of-the-way location. And so the best bet for udon-loving Londoners is usually a general Japanese restaurant that happens to offer one or two udon dishes amongst the sushi, katsu and teriyaki.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7917

As one of those udon-loving Londoners, I’m hoping that 2016 is the year that udon makes more of a splash!

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7938 Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7943

Located on New Oxford Street a few steps away from Tottenham Court Road station, Ichiryu Hakata Udon House, to give it its full name, is another business venture from entrepreneur Tak Tokumine, founder of the long-established and much-loved Japan Centre in 1976, as well as Shoryu Ramen — now a chain with five locations. Tak’s hometown is Hakata, in Fukuoka city, Kyushu which claims to be one of the birthplaces of udon in Japan. Just as Shoryu’s original menu focused on Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen (there are now multiple styles of broth available), Ichiryu also looks to Kyushu for inspiration.

Note that Ichiryu is set up for fast dining, though not as fully self-service as your usual burger or chicken joint.

Guests are seated and given a menu as in most restaurants, but must place and pay for their orders at the till, giving their table number on ordering. Food and drinks are then served to the table by staff, and tables are cleared by them too.

The menu focuses on udon and tempura with a range of sides, a few rice bowls and some sushi and onigiri.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7918 Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7921

The Hakata Bun (£4.50) with its filling of BBQ pork, Cod Tempura or Chicken Tempura inside a pillowy white steamed bun will be familiar to Shoryu customers, and it’s just as delicious here. I love the combo of pork, lettuce, cucumber, Japanese mayo and barbeque sauce.

Tempura is hit and miss for me. The single Tempura Prawn (£2) is decent; the batter light and crisp and the prawn cooked just right. But the mixed vegetable Kakiage (£2) is very unwieldy to eat and very quickly goes soggy as steam gets trapped within the ‘nest’.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7930 Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7931

After these snacks it’s on to the udon. For those of you not yet familiar with these noodles, they are thick and white with a distinctive chewy texture that is enormously satisfying. Ichiryu’s udons are made fresh daily using Japanese wheat flour.

From the Hot Udon list we choose Niku Beef (£11.50) described as sukiyaki beef, spring onion in tsuyu bonito soup.

The broth is light yet with a decent beefy flavour, and the noodles are cooked to retain that lovely chew. My surprise on tasting this is that the generous portion of thinly sliced beef is plain and not marinated in a soy, sugar and mirin mix as I’d expected from the sukiyaki label. That makes the dish a little blander than I’d like, overall. It’s good but doesn’t blow me away; when it comes to soup noodles I’d prefer a bowl of intensely rich tonkotsu ramen.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7926 Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7936

Our choice from the Cold Udon list is something far more special.

Ontama Egg (£8.40) comes with an ontama poached egg, spring onion, ginger and tempura pieces in tsuyu bonito sauce. There’s a dollop of fresh ginger paste too.

This dish shows off the udon noodles far more successfully, and the first mouthful of noodles, slippery from the sauce and studded with a few crunchy bits of tenkasu, transports me immediately to Japan. It’s an immediate visceral reaction that remains with me through subsequent mouthfuls. The cold perfectly poached egg, the soft raw ginger, the fresh spring onions and the crunchy tempura fragments combine with the noodles and sauce in perfect harmony.

This is the dish I will be returning for again and again and again.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7947 Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7950

For dessert, Pete enjoys a Kagua Rouge Craft Beer (£6.30, 330ml, 9% abv), brewed on license in Belgium.

I can’t resist Mochi Ice Cream (£6 for 3 pieces) and am delighted to find that they are Little Moon ice cream mochi, which have admired since they launched a couple of years ago. From front to back, they are matcha, sesame and yuzu flavours.

Ichiryu Udon Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle -7937

With it’s fast food approach, Ichiryu doesn’t take reservations. Opening hours are Mondays to Saturdays 12 – 22:30 and Sundays 12 – 21:30. Last orders 30 minutes before closing.

Do yourself a favour and find time to drop in for a Hakata Bun and a bowl of Ontama Egg Cold Udon. You will not be sorry!

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Ichiryu Hakata Udon House.

Square Meal
Ichiryu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Imagine you’re in the mood for Indian food. Sometimes that means seeking out the amazing place you’ve found across the other side of London, the one that makes rotis and parathas just like the ones you had when you travelled around India. Or the one down in Peckham serving Keralan food redolent with curry leaves and coconut. Or the new place everyone’s talking about, specialising in fermented-rice appams and lentil-and-rice dosas. But sometimes it means heading to the nearest curry house for a lamb saag and a naan. And that’s just fine because they are all delicious and satisfying, if they are what you fancy in that moment.

Why am I talking about Indian food in the introduction to a Thai restaurant review?

Because this was one of the topics of conversation when Pete and I visited Suda Thai recently. Suda is one of the collection of restaurants within St Martin’s Courtyard, an open space between the buildings that line the triangle of Long Acre, Mercer Street, Shelton Street and Upper St Martin’s Lane.

Billed as a Thai Cafe Restaurant, Suda’s extensive menu is full of familiar Thai dishes, the classics you already know and love – the traffic-light of curries, som tam malakor (green papaya salad), satay chicken, pad thai (rice noodles), minced chicken sesame toasts and more. But there are also a wide range of dishes that are less likely to found in the Thai equivalent of a curry house, such as tub gai (chicken livers sautéed with garlic and black pepper), gui chay (pan-fried chive cake), kao soi (a yellow curry noodle soup in the Chiang Mai style), kao ob talay (seafood rice pot) and cho-chee pla (sizzling sea bass in a kaffir lime leaf and red curry sauce). This is no Janetira Thai but there are some interesting dishes here nonetheless.

The menu is a little bit all over the place though. Starters are split between regular portions and Small Bites – a kind of design-your-own-platter idea. There’s a Small Bowls section, more of which later. Mains are split across Curries, Thai Salads, Thai Soups, Stir Fried, Chef Recommends and To Each His Own (no, I have no idea what the meaning of that heading is either). And there are separate sections for  Accompaniments and Rice. There’s also a page pulling together all the vegetarian starters and mains.

We are in the mood for familiar flavours, so our order is quite pedestrian. Perhaps next time we shall stray further into dishes we know less well.

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7838 Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7847

The drinks menu is also extensive with a range of wines one side of the sheet and cocktails, smoothies, juices and soft drinks, beers, spirits and liqueurs on the other.

My Lychee Martini (£9.25) is lovely – full-on lychee, exactly as I’d hoped. I’m not as keen on the Thai Pimm’s (£7.85) as I’d asked for recommendations for a sweet cocktail, but this one has more sour and sharp flavours than I like.

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7840

The first starter we are served is the most disappointing, not to mention shockingly over-priced. Roti with Peanut Sauce (£3.25) turns out to be four small pieces of cold, fried roti (flatbread) with a small dish of peanut sauce. It’s genuinely hard to comprehend the pricing on this dish, surely one of the cheapest and easiest to put together?

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7842 Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7845

Some of the Small Bites we pick are a better. The Toast Na Gai (minced chicken sesame toast £1.25 a piece) is nice enough, a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of dish. The Goong Sawan (king prawn wrapped in egg noodles and fried, £1.85 a piece) is far, far smaller than I expected and a little bland. The best of the selection is Gae Yang (marinated lamb chop, £6.50 a piece), though I’m not sure where the fresh green salad and sweet potato crisps promised on the menu disappear to.

The sauces that accompany the starters are served in shot glasses – these no doubt make it easier to fit more items on the serving plate, and perhaps someone decided they look stylish too – but they are awkward to dip food into and a perfect example of style over substance or practicality. Give me wide shallow sauce dishes any day.

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7849

One of the strongest menu ideas for me is Suda’s Small Bowls – a short and sweet list of five Thai curries which can be individually ordered in small portions; I love the option to enjoy more variety than a single main portion of one curry would afford. The Gaeng Kiew Waan (green curry with chicken £4.25) packs a punch of flavour – the thin sauce is hot and delicious. The Gaeng Panang Nua (beef penang curry £4.25) is thick and creamy, generous in the amount of beef and seriously hot. Another delicious whack to the taste buds!

With these we have a portion of Kao Mun (steamed coconut rice £3.50).

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7852

One of Pete’s long time favourites is Pad Thai with chicken (£10.50) and the mound of stir fried rice noodles is generous and enjoyable. Note that you’ll pay a whopping £6 extra for king prawns instead of chicken, and the menu stipulates that you’ll get just two of them – if they’re the same size as the one I had as a starter, I’d steer well clear!

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7856

We also order a Nua Yang Salad (£13.95) of grilled sirloin steak with a spicy dressing. This is good and tasty but the salad alongside is not what I expected – a standard mixed salad leaves affair with it’s own dressing on the side; I think a small dressed som tam would work much better here.

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7857

I cannot resist finishing with Kao Niew Mamuang (sticky rice with fresh mango £5.95), a huge favourite of mine. The sticky rice is unsweetened, dense and chewy – gorgeous against the fresh, sweet mango. Suda Thai do this dish very well, though I don’t think the vanilla ice cream adds anything.

Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7863 Suda Thai London Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7862

Pete orders a Suda Coffee (£2.70) which comes in glass cups tucked into a charming carrying frame. Mild black coffee sits above a layer of sweet condensed milk. The second glass holds richly-scented jasmine tea, provided as a chaser.

There are certainly some missteps in our meal – the pricing and portion size of some of the starters and a boring pile of leaves with the sirloin beef salad. But there are highlights too, the two Small Bowl curries are superbly delicious and well priced; the sticky mango rice is wonderful and the novel (to us) coffee and tea combo is a delight.

Staff are helpful, guiding customers through the menu with warmth and efficiency. The restaurant itself is attractive, split across two floors and with plenty of space, plus a disabled lift to the first floor.

Would I go again? Yes, particularly with a group of friends – I think sharing a few more dishes between 4 or 5 would work well for this menu. The location is very handy too.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Suda Thai, St Martin’s Courtyard.

Square Meal
Suda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Social media – for those of us who follow lots of London fooderati – was filled with photos of plates piled high with grilled meat when Blacklock opened its doors in the heart of Soho last February. Mounds of beef, lamb and pork chops cooked on a charcoal grill and served over bread that soaks up the meat juices.

Despite my best intentions, I never managed a visit last year. Starting a new job last spring – based outside of London and a pig of a commute – put a bit of a brake on my central London dining experiences. But lately I’ve been keen to make up for lost time. And meat is at the top of my list.

Blacklock, then.

The brainchild of ex-Consultant Gordon Ker who decided to swap a desk in the City for running his own restaurant, pausing to take some time working in Hawksmoor along the way, inspiration has come not only from Hawksmoor but from Joe Beef in Montreal, London’s Turkish ocakbasis and steak houses around the world.

The offering is a short menu of top quality meat cooked over charcoal, a trio of snacks to start and a few simple vegetable sides. To wash those down, a handful of surprisingly affordable cocktails, a couple of craft beers, tapped wine by the volume and a soft drink or two.

Named for its main cooking method – meat is cooked ‘on a homemade charcoal grill and seared with scorching hot vintage irons, made in the 1800s by a cast iron foundry in the Deep South called Blacklock’* – the restaurant is located in a basement in the heart of Soho; a former brothel, no less. Note that access is not great for anyone with mobility issues; I expected no lift access – common in basement-only restaurants in historical properties – but what I didn’t expect was a staircase with no handrail for the top few steps. Probably not an issue for the vast majority of customers, but difficult for me.

blacklock interior1
Image courtesy of Blacklock restaurant

Downstairs is an impressively open space with unusually high ceilings for a basement and a slightly retro, low-budget-cool decor. Much of the seating is at large tables with stools, at least one of which is communal, or at high tables with high chairs to match; both are a no-no for me – I need a backrest and I find clambering onto high chairs uncomfortable – but probably not a problem for most customers. There are some tables available with proper chairs or back-supporting banquettes, so reserve in advance to request these.

Menu - Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle
Image from Blacklock website

Skinny Chops are listed on the two-sided printed menu (all at £4 each) but Big Chops are chalked onto pillar blackboards, impossible to read from our table and staff didn’t seem eager to run through the contents for us before ordering – have a quick browse before settling in at your table.

In any case, we went for the All In option – £20 per person for 8 Skinny Chops between two – 2 beef short ribs and one each of all the rest, we were told, plus 1 each of the three Pre Chop Bites, and one Side each.

Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7791

At first glance (of the menu), Pre Chop Bites (£3 for the set or £1 individually) didn’t sound very exciting but actually, they were bloody marvellous! A precarious pile of pickles over sharp cheese, a draping of Dripping Ham and – my favourite – egg mayonnaise with an anchovy fillet and raw onion, all served on bite-sized Peter’s Yard crispbreads; these were perfectly balanced mouthfuls of texture and flavour. A good reminder that the supremely simple can be superb!

With these we enjoyed some of the very keenly-priced cocktails (£5 each); Spiked Lemonade and Aperol Negroni both get a thumbs up.

Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7795

Impatient though we were, we didn’t have to wait too long before the main event arrived. A magnificent mound of ‘Skinny Chops’ of beef, lamb and pork that looked anything but skinny to me – fat, juicy cuts of meat cooked on charcoal and served over bread that soaks up the meat juices. What was served didn’t quite match up to the menu list – we had two beef short ribs as expected, but only two of the pork cuts and four of lamb. This wasn’t a problem, but it would have been nice to be advised on ordering that one skinny chop was not available and asked for our choice of replacement.

Still, the chops were tasty and beautifully cooked. The beef short ribs were the least favourite, for both of us I think – nothing wrong with them but not a cut that’s particularly tender cooked this way, so a little chewy to eat. Pork was superbly tender, with nicely browned fat – the best bit! Lamb had the best flavour of all, and was juicy and tender. I was full after three chops, but luckily my friend has an appetite that belies her lithe body and hoovered up the other five with no hesitation at all!

Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7797 Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7798
Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7801 Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7799

For our two included Sides we chose Beef Dripping Chips and 10 Hour Ash Roasted Sweet Potato. The restaurant also sent out Charred Courgettes, Chicory & Stilton and a green salad with parmesan. Next time I visit I’ll likely do the same and order extra; at £3 each these sides are great value (especially compared to those at fellow meat purveyor, Zelman).

The sweet potatoes were the best I’ve had for a long time, superbly soft flesh full of smoke and sweetness; very special indeed. The green salad (listed on the menu as kale and parmesan but served as rocket) was a welcome addition, refreshing against the unremitting mountain of meat. I’m not a fan of chicory but the courgettes were cooked just as I like them – with a little firmness of bite – and the flavours of charring and stilton worked well. Chips were as good as they sound and look – excellent flavour, and perfect combination of crunchy exterior and fluffy inside.

Not pictured are the sauces (£1 each) – we ordered both available – Chilli Hollandaise and Green Sauce, the former served in a sauce boat and the latter in small jam jars. Both excellent and a nice change from the usual Peppercorn and Béarnaise (even though I adore it).

Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7804
Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7808 Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7809

I was full to bursting but my friend was confident she had space so we went ahead and ordered dessert (£5); there’s only one available and on the night of our visit it was a white chocolate cheesecake with rhubarb compote. Served at the table straight from a family-style dish, my friend would have happily devoured a teetering tower but the portion served was generous enough; a bit of mess dolloped into the bowl, but homely and tasty and a good way to end the meal.

I asked owner Gordon Ker to describe the Blacklock experience in a nutshell; he suggested, ‘the very best meat cooked simply over charcoal for great value in a fun setting with great hospitality.’ Based on our visit, he’s achieved his goal. Three courses (including that impressive pile of meat), 5 alcoholic drinks, a softie and 2 extra sides resulted in a very reasonable bill of £40 a head plus service and the food was certainly an enjoyable feast.

Blackfoot Restaurant Review on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7802

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Blacklock. Interior image provided by the restaurant. Info on Blacklock’s name* and sources of inspiration courtesy of top London restaurant review site, Hot Dinners.

Blacklock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha