Captivating Kaiseki Cuisine at Hoshinoya Kyoto

Is there anything more charming than a restaurant to which one travels by small boat along a serene stretch of river in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities? One that also serves the highest quality Japanese cuisine, each dish a perfect balance between traditional classic and inventive modern?

If there is, I am yet to find it but it certainly has a hard act to follow in Hoshinoya Kyoto, a top-level kaiseki ryōri restaurant within the luxury inn of the same name.

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Kaiseki cuisine is a traditional multi-course meal consisting of a succession of seasonal, local and beautifully presented little dishes. Although its origins are in the simple food served as part of a traditional tea ceremony, it has evolved over centuries into a far more elaborate dining style now served in ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and specialised restaurants.

Such meals usually have a prescribed order to what is served, though each chef takes pride in designing and presenting their own menus based on local delicacies, seasonal ingredients and their personal style.

A typical meal may include a small drink or amuse-bouche to start, a selection of stunningly presented small appetisers, a sashimi (raw seafood) course, takiawase (which translates as ‘a little something’ and is most commonly vegetables with meat or fish alongside), futamono (a ‘lidded dish’, often a soup but sometimes combined into the takiawase course in the form of a broth with simmered ingredients served within it), sometimes there is a small tempura item (battered and deep fried) or some grilled fish, all this to be followed by a more substantial dish such as a meat hot pot or grilled steak with local seasonal vegetables, then rice served with miso soup and pickles, and finally fresh fruit or another dessert.

If that sounds like a lot, it is! That said, most of the dishes are small enough that most diners are able to enjoy the full meal comfortably, albeit with very little room left by the time the rice arrives! And most kaiseki menus don’t include every single one of the courses above, though they usually cover the majority.

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Views of Hoshinoya Kyoto; the hotel grounds later in the evening

Hoshino Resorts is a family business launched over 100 years ago when Kuniji Hoshino founded a forestry business in Karuizawa. The area, nicknamed the Japanese Alps, became increasingly popular as a location for holiday villas and in 1914 Kuniji opened a ryokan there which is still one of the company’s flagship properties today, albeit hugely updated since Kuniji’s era. Today, fourth-generation family member Yoshiharu Hoshino is CEO of the company and has lead the business through two decades of transformation and expansion, modernising existing properties and purchasing several new ones that are marketed under the brands Hoshinoya, Kai and Risonare.

A few years ago Hoshino Resorts purchased a beautiful historical Kyoto property originally constructed in the 16th century as the home of Ryoi Suminokura, a wealthy merchant and trusted advisor to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Suminokura played a major role in the construction of Kyoto’s canals and river systems, earning him extended shipping rights within the city. He built his beautiful home in the bamboo forests of Arashimaya, on the banks of the Katsura River. In the centuries following, his home was turned into a traditional ryokan.

In 2012 the ryokan closed for two years while the company completely refurbished the property, retaining and enhancing its historical treasures.They hired Japan’s most skilled architects and designers to repair the existing property and to design and construct extensions in keeping with the original yet offering a more modern luxury and comfort. The best artisans in their fields were invited to repair original pieces and to create new furniture and artworks throughout.

The newly completed resort opened in 2014 and has been another flagship for the brand ever since.

At the helm of Hoshinoya Kyoto’s kitchen is Head Chef Ichiro Kubota. Kubota’s father was the head chef at one of Kyoto’s top restaurants and instilled in his son an appreciation of culinary excellence and Japanese traditions. Initially intending to become an artist, Kubota studied art as well as English language; indeed it was a two year stint studying in America that helped him better appreciate the beauty of Kyoto’s culture and cuisine, and to change his focus and career plans. Kubota went on to train as a chef under his father and in many of the region’s top kaiseki restaurants before heading to Europe. There he apprenticed at Paris’ three-star Michelin restaurant Georges Blanc where he perfected classic French techniques, also taking advantage of days off to eat his way around Europe. He was poached from Paris in 2004 to head up the kitchen of Umu, London’s first Kyoto-style banquet restaurant. After seven years (and a Michelin star of his own, awarded within a few months of Umu’s launch) Kubota accepted the invitation to head up Hoshinoya Kyoto’s new restaurant – keen to return with all the expertise and knowledge he had gained and receive recognition in the home of the cuisine.

Since then, Kubota has developed a truly incredible offering that brings many innovative touches to this most traditional of formats.

So often, when chefs try to modernise classic dishes and methods, it just doesn’t work – it’s either so far from the original so as to be virtually unrecognisable (in which case naming it as such seems a travesty) or it simply isn’t as good and is therefore a rather pointless change. But Kubota achieves what very few do, retaining all that is glorious about the best traditional kaiseki ryōri whilst also applying European influences and modern techniques, flavours and presentations to each dish he serves – and these innovations not only work, they positively shine!

A meal at Kubota’s table is one to keenly anticipate; his reputation – and Hoshinoya’s – have already earned him high praise and the restaurant has a consistently busy reservations book. Most of the diners are, of course, residents of the resort but others, like us, book in for dinner only. The kaiseki menu is priced at 20,000 yen per person plus taxes and service, very much in line with Kyoto’s high end restaurants.

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Arashimaya at dusk: tourists in kimonos, tourists on the river bank, a bride under the cherry blossom, our boat at the Hoshinoya Kyoto landing dock

The journey to Hoshinoya Kyoto starts at the Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashimaya, a famous West Kyoto district that is popular with locals and tourists alike. If you’ve not visited, a stroll through the famous bamboo groves followed by a visit to Tenryuji Temple are both umissable activities; Tenryuji’s garden is amongst my favourite of the Japanese temple gardens we have visited. There are many other attractions in this area too – more temples, a scenic railway line, tourist boat trips (including trips to observe cormorant fishing in season) and even a monkey park, if you are so inclined.

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On the boat to Hoshinoya Kyoto; views from the boat

The Hoshinoya dock is close to Togetsukyo Bridge and easy to find. We are lead onto a small boat with large windows around the passenger area to enjoy the view. The boat slowly putt-putts its way up the river taking about 15 minutes to reach the hotel’s landing dock, where we are greeted by guest relations manager, Tomoko Tsuchida.

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Arriving at the hotel by boat; the path up to the restaurant and hotel

After taking a few photos in the darkening dusk outside, Tomoko takes us into the restaurant and shows us to our counter seats, of which there are 8. The other 30 covers are at regular tables. Tomoko settles us in, gives us the menu for the meal to come (which lists each course in both Japanese and English) and serves our meal assisted by an army of polite, well-trained and quick-footed waiting staff. Each dish is carefully explained and any questions patiently answered; sometimes the origins or patterns of the artisanal tableware are explained too – traditional lacquerware with painted gold flowers and fish, sake cups from Shigaraki (a pottery town we visited just two days earlier), and other beautiful handmade plates, bowls and cups.

Throughout the meal we watch the two chefs stationed in front of us create the first three courses again and again. Other chefs work on other courses in other kitchen spaces and their dishes appear in front of us as finished master pieces, from the fourth course onwards.

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Before the first morsel arrives, we are served a glass of Kasegi Gashira, a junmai sake with a light, lemony flavour that is accentuated by the mugwort pudding that arrives shortly afterwards.

I’ve been learning in recent years, and shared my beginner’s guide to sake last year, but am still a novice when it comes to selecting sake from a list. Luckily Tomoko gave us some suggestions for the two sakes we choose to accompany the rest of the meal.

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The amuse bouche is listed as Mugwort pudding with white shrimp, chopped fern root, horse tail bud, lily root petal and umami jelly. Tomoko explains that Mugwort is a sign of spring, and the dish is the introduction to their very seasonal menu. Near the property is a field of greens and yellows with a lone cherry blossom tree within it; the construction of the dish has been designed to represent this scene. The dish as a whole is light and refreshing, though I’m still not sure I could describe mugwort to you – I’d say slightly bitter with a hint of floral.

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When our next sake is served, we are offered a box of sake cups to choose from, each one a very different design. I recognise the distinctive look of an unglazed Shigaraki piece and of course, I select that one. This sake, in the very pretty blue bottle, is a junmai daiginjo made by Eikun, a sake brewery located in Kyoto’s Fushimi district, an area known for sake production. It has a rich, deep flavour, strong and punchy, not at all like the lighter one we started with. It’s unlike any sake I’ve tried before, and I like it.

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The selection of appetisers served next are beautifully presented; each item listed separately on the menu.

From left to right: bamboo shoot and cuttlefish marinated with cod roe dressing, lady fish sushi, simmered hamaguri clam and river lettuce with umami jelly, deep fried Japanese dace, broad bean stuffed with shrimp dumpling, simmered baby octopus with sweet soy sauce with simmered sea bream roe with ginger

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The dace fish, Tomoko explains, is threaded onto the skewer in an Ƨ shape so that it looks as though it is swimming!

I don’t pay much attention to the little leaf sat on the octopus and sea bream, and don’t realise until later that one of the intense flavours I detect on eating this is from the leaf rather than the braising spices used to cook the seafood.

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The next course is one that the chefs at our counter are responsible for, and throughout our meal we watch them make it again and again; their intense focus and attention to detail as they construct each plate is a pleasingly practised choreography.

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Described on the menu simply as Seasonal sashimi Hoshinoya style, Tomoko is on hand to give us all the details. When she tells us the plate itself is a design known as ‘blossom falling in the wind’, I realise I’m so focused on the beautiful food that I didn’t even glance at the plate. A good reminder to observe all the wonderful details.

The two pieces at the edges are the same; the one in the centre is different. The two pieces are both baby melon on fresh seaweed, wrapped in sea bream with diced wasabi and sea urchin on top. The ‘crystal jelly’ spooned onto the plate at the two corners is made from konbu stock and the white foam ball is sakura flavoured. A home made soy sauce dressing is provided for the outer two pieces.

The centre sushi is a piece of fresh sea bream roe which has been briefly boiled and then grilled. On top is a tiny layer of pureed leek topped with a circle of Japanese tangerine jelly (the citrus fruit chosen for its exact balance between sweet and sour) melted over the top, and a single Japanese red peppercorn sat on the jelly. The plate is garnished with crisp sugar snap peas and edible leaves and flowers.

The entire plate is altogether stunning, especially the sea bream roe which melt-pops in the mouth as though it’s filled with a mild and creamy liquid center. This dish is about beauty, freshness, seasonality, texture and flavours and it’s delightful!

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As we open the poached greenling coated with Domyoji sweet rice crumbs in a clear soup with yuba cake and fern root Tomoko tells us to check for the fish artwork under the lid before explaining how best to enjoy the soup. First, on lifting the lid, bend over the dish and inhale the aromas released, especially of the fragrant sansho leaf sat on top. Move the leaf into the broth so it can impart a little flavour, then use your chopsticks to hold back the other ingredients as you sip the broth. Finally, enjoy the other ingredients in the bowl.

This time, when I eat the leaf it’s a knockout punch to the taste buds! Not only is the flavour intense, it comes with a tingling numbing sensation akin to eating Sichuan peppercorns – I wonder if the two plants are related? The numbness lasts for a good few minutes, so you may prefer to nibble just a tiny bit of leaf for a hint of the flavour, and set the rest aside.

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Next comes charcoal grilled king fish glazed with rapeseed sauce. The fish is rich and meaty, and the seasonal topping of spring onions with rapeseed greenery is delicious. To visually represent the yellow of rapeseed flowers, bright yellow karasumi (salt-preserved mullet fish roe) is grated over the top – it contributes to the flavour too, of course. Also on the plate are baby ginger, shiitake mushroom and udo, a mountain vegetable.

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Shiraki Brewery in Gifu are the makers of this unusual Daruma Masamune sake that has been aged at room temperature for 15 years. The flavour is incredible, reminiscent of mushrooms though that makes it sound unpleasant when it’s actually very delicious!

Although aged sake is nothing new, today’s market is predominantly focused on new sake, released every spring – to the extent that Shiraki faced both bemusement and confusion when they first started to sell their 3, 5 and 10 year old aged sakes in the 1970s. Aged sake is still not very common, but these days there are enough aficionados to make this a premium drink.

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The next course arrives in a very unusual dish, unlike any I’ve seen before. If you’re starting to feel full just reading about this multi-course meal, I can assure you, it’s exactly how we feel as the containers are placed before us and we wonder if we can do justice to the contents.

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Inside the custom-crafted clay container (with one clay lid and one made from wood) are pieces of beef fillet and simmered spring vegetables. Wasabi and salt crystals sit in the condiment spaces, though for me the beef is perfectly seasoned as it comes and it’s absolutely superb – full of beefy flavour, meltingly soft without being pappy and cooked to just the right point. Hard to beat beef (and cooking) of this quality!

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Lest you think the savoury courses are over because the ‘main’ dish has been served, as with any Japanese meal, the rice course is still to come. Tomoko brings out a black lidded dish of seasoned rice with bamboo shoot topped with charcoal grilled conger eel which is served with red miso soup, assorted Japanese pickles and green tea.

We ask for small portions to be served, and the eel is delicious, so we do dig in even though we manage just a few mouthfuls each.

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Next comes an elegant strawberry and mint financier, strawberry sauce and rich milk ice cream served on a chilled metal block. The flavours are vivid, and brought to life by the tiny fragments of mint on the top.

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But lest we think that a more traditional Japanese dessert has been dropped in favour of the French-style patisserie, a second dessert arrives of melon and papaya with mint, served with a cup of hojicha (roasted black tea).

The papaya is nice enough but the melon, oh my goodness, this is the most delicious melon I’ve ever tasted! I ask for more information and learn that it’s a green melon from the musk melon family and grown in Shizuoka Prefecture. It’s so perfectly ripe that the perfume is heady and the flavour intense, with a texture that is almost liquid in the mouth. It’s glorious and a genuinely revelationary experience!

Full to bursting, yet a little sad that such an incredible meal has come to an end, we are walked to the reception area to settle our drinks bill before one of the resort’s private cars drives us back to Togetsukyo Bridge for our onward journey back to our hotel.

On this trip, we experienced several high end kaiseki meals and this one was our clear favourite (though others were certainly excellent, more of which soon). Kubota’s delightful weaving together of traditional Japanese techniques, ingredients and dishes with global influences from his exploration of world cuisine, along with his whimsical, artistic, delightful presentation lifted this meal to another level.

Kavey Eats dined at Hoshinoya Kyoto as guests of Hoshino Resorts.

Mat Follas’ Bramble Cafe & Deli | Dorchester

If there’s one trend in the restaurant industry that’s really come to the fore since the turn of the century it’s the rise of the second-career chef.

Men and women who worked in all manner of highly successful, and often high-paying, careers – lawyers, doctors, engineers, corporate managers, computer programmers, management consultants, hedge fund gurus – choose to give these careers up for the hard labour and long hours of a professional kitchen. There are many routes to this journey from an informal start running supper-clubs, short-term residencies or street-food stalls to a more conventional training and graduation from a professional cookery school.

Some, like my friend Mat Follas, win a TV cooking competition and take it from there. In the UK, winning Masterchef doesn’t come with any prizes; no monetary bursary to put towards training or setting up one’s own business, no book deal, magazine column or paid apprenticeship with a top chef. But it does give you a readymade reputation for reliably good cooking and a short-lived celebrity from which to launch a new career should you choose. After Mat won Masterchef in 2009 he strode through that door of opportunity with an immense steadiness of nerve, opening his own restaurant within just a few months.

Beaminster-based, The Wild Garlic restaurant was immensely popular with locals and visitors from further afield and the food was excellent. Pete and I visited a few times; well worth the trek from London.

After the restaurant closed in 2013, Mat cooked at a number of other venues including a summer beach cafe and a local hotel in Dorchester. He also wrote two cookbooks, the first Fish: Delicious recipes for fish and shellfish came out last April, the second Vegetable Perfection: 100 tasty recipes for roots, bulbs, shoots and stems was published a few weeks ago, (review coming soon).

Now he has launched his latest venture alongside wife and business partner Amanda, and long time colleague and business partner Katy.

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The Bramble Cafe & Deli is located in a newly built area of Poundbury – the experimental urban development on the outskirts of Dorchester, built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. The development ethos is to create an integrated community of shops, businesses, private housing and social housing and the architecture is a modern interpretation of classic European styles. As a fan of yellow brick, I like it.

Bramble fronts onto an elongated ‘square’ with all the properties facing in onto an open space, commonly used for parking. There’s a deep portico providing shade to the patio area in front; go through the front door into an airy interior with huge windows and plenty of tables. Behind the dining space is the kitchen, cosy and domestic rather than gleaming-metal; very much in keeping with the relaxed style of the space and Mat’s cooking. Everything is on one level, including the toilet, making disabled access straightforward.

The deli is set to open in a few weeks, with products to be displayed on a large set of shelves to one side of the main room. For now, the cafe is open Monday to Saturday from 8.30 to 4.30, offering pastries and cakes, light lunches and drinks. As of a couple of weeks ago, the cafe is also open for dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings; Mat offers a pared back menu with three choices per course and an affordable wine list to match.


During the day, customers can come in for a breakfast croissant, a hot or cold lunch, or perhaps an afternoon tea with a sweet baked treat.

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The macaroni cheese with smoked salmon is one of the best macaroni cheese dishes I’ve had. I’m not a fan of the thick style where a block of stodge can be sliced with a knife; I prefer my macaroni cheese to have a slippery-slick sauce full of intense cheese flavour, coating perfectly cooked pasta and that’s just how this one comes – with the added bonus of two generous slices of smoked salmon, made flaky by the heat of macaroni cheese below and grilled cheese above.

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Also superb is a crab and cheese toast. Crisped slice of bread is thickly covered with a generous layer of flavour-packed crab, heavy on the brown meat, and topped with sharp salty cheese, grilled till its bubbling. Served with some crisps and an unadorned salad, it’s perfect for a satisfyingly delicious lighter lunch.

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On the counter are a few indulgent bakes, flapjacks and gluten-free chocolate brownies on the day of our visit. These are huge slabs – my photo shows a half portion of the brownie I shared with Pete! It’s good, dense and fudgy with a lovely crisp surface on top.

I enjoyed my share with an extra chocolate hit – a Jaz & Juls hot chocolate; Bramble offer a dark chocolate or a milk chocolate option.


The Bramble is currently open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. Walk ins are welcome but book ahead to guarantee a table. The menu changes seasonally, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

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Tempted by all three starters, we follow Katy’s naughty suggestion of sharing the Asparagus with hollandaise sauce (£6) as a pre-starter and then having the other two starters afterwards. The asparagus is excellent with lots of flavour, no woodiness, very fresh. And Mat makes a killer Hollandaise, glossy with butter and lifted by a real kick of lemon juice. Gorgeous!

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Not what we expect from the description of Smoked salmon, tomato and pea (£7), this dish doesn’t feature any smoke-cured salmon, rather it is fresh hot-smoked salmon served in a jar with tomatoes and pea shoots. The theatre of Mat opening the jar at the table to release swirls of smoke is fun, but the dish isn’t a favourite – perhaps because I had expected smoke-cured salmon instead.

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The Ham hock and wild garlic terrine with pickles and toast (£5) is enormous! Actually large enough for two to share as a starter, and could be the basis of a fabulous lunch plate too. Delicious soft and meaty pork with a hint of wild garlic, crunchy lightly pickled vegetables and crisp melba toasts.

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Pork belly, crackling, apple sauce and smoked mash (£14) is so very delicious. It may not look it from the photo but the (enormous) portion of pork is cooked perfectly till the fat is melty, melty, melty and the meat is soft and tender. Crackling is gorgeous, though a little too salty for me. Mash is rich and buttery and with just the right level of smoke. Apple sauce has the sharpness to cut through all the richness. I may need to get out my indigestion tablets later after all this butter and fat, but it’ll be worth it!

On the side, cauliflower and broccoli cheese (£3.50).

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Pete orders Rabbit cooked in red wine, served with a crusty roll (£13). It’s really not a pretty dish any which way you look at it, but it does deliver on flavour. The rabbit and vegetables are well cooked, the sauce full of red wine and meatiness, perfect for sopping up with the bread.

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We don’t really have room for desserts but cannot resist, especially with a bit of gentle nudging from Katy!

My Chocolate and marmalade orange tart with clotted cream (£6) is a grown up jaffa cake on a plate – rich, smooth dark chocolate ganache over a marmalade orange jelly, inside a crumbly pastry shell.

Pete loves his Lavender pannacotta with raspberry powder (£6), so perfectly judged that it wobbles most pleasingly yet yields like creamy custard to the spoon.

At no more than £30 for a three course meal with a side per person, this is fantastically good value. Of course I appreciate that prices are lower outside of London but for good quality ingredients and cooking like this, it’s still a steal.

We booked a wonderful B&B a few miles outside of Dorchester to make a short break of our visit and took the opportunity to enjoy some of the gorgeous gardens nearby. There’s so much to do in Dorset, look out for another post in coming weeks sharing my favourite attractions (and lodging) in the area.

Date Night & Staycation All-In-One at One Aldwych, Covent Garden

Once upon a time, dating was what you did before you got married and once you were married, well you were married, weren’t you? It wasn’t that married couples no longer went out, just that it wasn’t referred to as dating, just married life, I guess. But over the last couple of decades, the term ‘Date Night’ has done an about-turn and these days I most commonly see it used to describe a dedicated night to themselves for married or long-term couples.

For Pete and I, with no kids underfoot, you could say that most of our meals out, and all our weekends away and longer holidays are dedicated time to ourselves, and it’s true that many of them are; sometimes we grab our Kindles and read, companionably, over our meal whereas other times we leave them behind and natter away, making plans for the allotment or a future holiday, talking about the news or some interesting local development, sharing synopses of good books we’ve recently read or giggling over whatever is the latest thing to tickle our funny bones…

I imagine that for couples with young children, setting aside dedicated child-free time to be a couple must be essential to maintain their relationship as lovers and friends, as distinct from their mutual roles as their children’s parents; whether it’s weekly, monthly or only every now and then.

Whatever your situation, if you’re looking for an indulgent Date Night idea, I have a terrific suggestion for you – Film, Fizz and Dinner in a luxury hotel followed, if you like, by an overnight stay.

Film & Fizz

Luxury London hotel One Aldwych host Film & Fizz nights in their dedicated 30-seater cinema – you are greeted and seated with a glass of chilled champagne and a box of sweet or salty popcorn to enjoy during the film, after which you head to the hotel’s Indigo restaurant for a delicious three course meal. Or night owls can opt for a later screening; fizz and film without dinner afterwards – perfect if you want to dine in one of the many excellent restaurants in the vicinity.

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On our One Aldwych Date Night, Pete and I enjoy Trumbo – an engaging film about how the American fear of Communism lead to the Hollywood Blacklist, as told through the story of top screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The cinema is adorable – wide and comfortable blue leather seats with plenty of legroom (enough for Pete’s lanky legs) and good image and sound quality too.

After the film, we and other guests head to Indigo restaurant for dinner.


This is very much a trip down memory lane for me. When we first moved to London, our salaries (and therefore our budget for eating out at restaurants) were much lower and my approach to eating out at decent restaurants was to take advantage of their pre-theatre dinner menus; these allowed my friends and I to enjoy two or three courses for significantly less than an a la carte meal would cost, albeit we had a restricted selection of dishes to choose from. Indigo (and the hotel’s other restaurant, Axis) were both firm favourites on my pre-theatre dinner circuit and I have happy memories of many excellent meals here.

Today, Indigo’s kitchen is headed up by Chef Dominic Teague. Over the last year, Teague has quietly developed lunch and dinner menus that are entirely gluten and dairy free, though those without allergies certainly won’t feel they are missing out; if it weren’t mentioned on the menu, I doubt most diners would even notice.

Top quality ingredients, conscientiously sourced, are allowed to shine in light, delicious dishes.

First, gluten-free bread – samphire, rosemary and roasted onion mini loaves with rapeseed oil for dipping; perfectly decent.

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Pete orders red wine, a young Bordeaux that could do with another year or two to mellow – there’s not much choice in the lowest price bracket; mark ups seem on the high side. My One D.O.M. cocktail of Benedictine, Finlandia Vodka, honey, kaffir lime leaves and egg whites is delicious, but similarly pricey at £14.

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Pete’s Wild garlic soup with poached egg and croutons is superb, with a clear wild garlic flavour that is perfectly balanced; rich yet not overwhelming. The egg is beautifully cooked and a gentle cut of the spoon spills it into the soup to add its yolky creaminess. Croutons and wild garlic flowers garnish with texture and fresh flavour.

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My Organic Rhug Estate pork, granny smiths, truffle mayonnaise looks a bit of a mess and when it arrives I mistakenly think it’ll be a bit meh. Actually, it’s gorgeous, with thin slices of soft, meaty pork accentuated perfectly by crisp sweet-tart apple, a pea shoot salad and a beautifully truffled mayonnaise, with extra truffle grated over the top. The truffle with the pork is a winning combination!

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Pete’s Brixham plaice, confit pepper, olive, fennel is perfectly cooked, just just just enough – creating a softness and silkiness that’s very appealing. This is a light dish that speaks of the summer to come.

My Braised new season lamb with spring vegetables, wet polenta is more solid, a dish that speaks of the winter just gone. The lamb is superbly cooked and with excellent flavour, as is the gravy. Vegetables are so so, the beans are a little woolly but the peas, carrots and greens are good. But the slop of wet polenta does absolutely nothing for me, lacking in flavour and with all the texture of wallpaper paste.

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Pete is delighted with his Lemon posset, poached Yorkshire rhubarb which comes with a quenelle of pastel pink rhubarb sorbet and a crumble garnish as well as the poached fruit. The posset hasn’t set, so it’s more of a cream but the flavour is excellent, and the dessert is, once again, very nicely balanced.

My Alphonso mango sorbet, passion fruit jelly comes with both mango sorbet and fresh mango, perfectly ripe and flavour-packed Alphonso, the king of all mangoes. The passion fruit jelly suffers in comparison, with very little flavour other than a not-too-pleasant acidity. Luckily, it’s easily left at the bottom of the pretty glass bowl and the mango sorbet and fruit more than make up for it.

It’s an enjoyably meal with only a few minor niggles and I think it would be a particularly nice place to visit with friends on gluten-free or dairy-free diets, allowing them the luxury of choosing anything on the menu rather than being forced to pick the one dish they can eat.

Our set menu dinner is rolled in with the price of Fizz & Film, at £55 per person for a glass of champagne, the film and a three course meal. (Drinks are, of course, extra).

Ordering from the a la carte menu, a three course meal in Indigo ranges from £35 to £53, based on the menu at the time of our visit.

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The film was a long one so we’re dining later than usual (though there are post-theatre diners that come in much later than us). The staff kindly serve our tea and coffee to the room, a nice touch that speaks to thoughtful service.


Speaking of our room, it’s an absolute delight. We are in one of the hotel’s spacious Deluxe Doubles. The beautifully elegant room features a king size bed, two comfortable armchairs and coffee table, a desk and chair and a TV (with safe hidden in the stand). The bathroom is gorgeous, all dark red tile and white suite with a deep tub by the window and a walk in shower. Both the bedroom and bathroom look out over the heart of tourist London but good quality glazing means no street noise to worry about.

Indeed, the only thing that disturbs the peace is a poorly-designed low-water flushing system that makes the most awful racket after you flush, and the screeching noise lasts for ages too. I’m happy to see hotels take eco-friendly measures seriously but these need to meet the standards of the rest of the fittings and furniture, and right now the loo lets the bathroom down!

There are lots of lovely touches that other hotels could learn from – an international plug adaptor in one of the drawers, a card detailing the next day’s weather forecast left in the room during turndown service, a hairdryer that isn’t attached to the wall as though I’m going to steal it if it isn’t, and a decent amount of space for opening cases and storing clothes.

One thing we miss though is the provision of tea and coffee making facilities; unusual not to have them in a hotel of this calibre.

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A nice touch when it comes to breakfast is that you can enjoy it delivered to your room for no extra charge, or dine in the restaurant if you prefer.

The downside is that it’s awfully pricey at £29 per person and the Full English Breakfast isn’t very full!

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The plate above is Pete’s cooked breakfast; he asks for the Full English as it comes, stipulating streaky bacon over back and eggs to be fried; this minimalist plate is what he is served – two eggs, some bacon, a small piece of black pudding, half a grilled tomato and half a small flat grilled mushroom! Oddly, no sausages, though they are listed on the menu and my breakfast (for which I name items I want individually) includes them! The basket of pastries and toast is meagre with three different pastries and a few slices of toast between two, though if you order room service, you’ll be given your choice of four per person, selected from a list. We ask for more pastries, and staff do oblige. Breakfast also includes fruit juice, tea and coffee.

There are national newspapers available at the entrance, always appreciated, particularly on a weekend.

Date Night Score

For Film, Fizz and Dinner, we give One Aldwych a solid 9 out of 10. It feels like a real occasion; the little cinema offers a decent selection of films – a different one each weekend; Dominic Teague’s cooking is very enjoyable, and the dining room is comfortable and welcoming too.

For Bed, it’s an 8 out of 10. We loved the generous size of our room, the elegant colour scheme and furnishings, the comfortable bed and the luxurious bathroom. Only the noisy plumbing and lack of tea and coffee making facilities let it down. Note that this is a luxury hotel; plugging a few different dates into the online reservation system returns Room Only prices starting from £350 for standard doubles and twins, a good bit more for the Deluxe room we enjoyed. That said, the location truly is in the heart of tourist London, less than a minute’s walk from Covent Garden, Waterloo Bridge, The London Eye and many more of London’s best attractions.

Breakfast is the only element that gets a thumbs down, 2 out of 10. For the hefty price of a three course dinner, it’s not remotely good enough and I’d recommend booking Room Only instead. Use the £58 you save to cover both breakfast and lunch in the many local cafes and restaurants nearby instead.

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Exterior hotel image courtesy of One Aldwych

Kavey Eats was invited to review One Aldwych on a complimentary basis, including the fizz and film dinner experience plus bed and breakfast. We were under no obligation to write a positive review, and all opinions are our own.


Your Date Night Ideas

Do you and your partner do Date Nights? If so, what are your top suggestions for a romantic or fun experience to enjoy together?

Four Fantastic Reasons to Visit Lübeck

One of the most picturesque cities in Europe, Lübeck is the perfect destination for a Northern European city break. During my recent March visit the wind chilled to the bone but the end-of-winter sunshine showcased the Old City in glorious golden light.

Situated on the River Trave, Lübeck is the second-largest city in Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein region, and a major port in the area. For several centuries it was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, a commercial confederation of merchant guilds and market downs that dominated trade in Northern Europe, stretching along the coast from the Baltic to the North Sea. Lübeck Old Town, on a small island entirely enclosed by the Trave, is much admired for its extensive brick gothic architecture and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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A Rich Mediaeval History

If you enjoy learning about Europe’s history, you’ll certainly appreciate a visit to the European Hansemuseum which opened in Lübeck last year.

Even though I love history, I’m not always a fan of museums; far too many of them present information in such dull and unimaginative ways. That absolutely cannot be said of the Hansemuseum which is one of the best museums I’ve visited! Housed in a purpose-built modern structure adjacent to Lübeck’s Castle Monastery, the museum focuses on the rich history of the Hanseatic League (which South East England was very much a part of) over six hundred years. The museum makes excellent use of modern technology to bring history to life; not only are there informative interactive visual displays and audio content, but every other room recreates a scene that immerses you in an aspect of the tale – a lively bazaar, a traditional wooden merchant ship or the league’s council chambers during a session. As in any museum there are also a range of historical artefacts on display, and best of all, an excavation of ancient constructions down at basement level.

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Of course, you can also see much of this history in the many beautifully preserved old buildings; Lübeck is a veritable jewel of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.


An Enormously Walkable Old Town

A great way to appreciate some of that is simply to walk around Lübeck’s delightful Altstadt (Old Town), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with very good reason.

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A local guide can really bring the history alive for you, pointing out details you might otherwise miss, and relating the history and stories associated with each place. We were shown some of Lubeck’s treasures by Mr Colossus, a real character with the most wonderfully bushy handlebar moustache; hugely knowledgable and an entertaining narrator, he really enhanced our visit. Certainly, you can explore on your own though it’s well worth picking up a guide book or Tourist Information map to ensure you don’t miss the highlights.

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The iconic Holstentor – a fifteenth century brick-built Gothic two-tower city gate that formed part of the city’s mediaeval fortifications and sits at the Western entrance to the Old Town – is today considered the symbol of the city, and indeed you can buy hand-moulded marzipan models of the gate in Niederegger’s shop (see below).

Burgtor, also built during the fifteenth century, is located to the North of Old Town.

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The St. Mary’s devil; St. Jacob’s church

Lübeck was once known as the City of the Seven Spires, these being visible from quite a distance from the city.

St. Mary’s Church shows the Gothic stone cathedral designs prevalent in France adapted to be built in local brick. Do check out the bronze sculpture of a devil that commemorates a charming fairytale about the construction of the church – as the townspeople were building St Mary’s, the devil paid a visit and asked what they were building. Keen not to anger him, they told him they were building a tavern. Delighted with this idea, since many souls had found him in just such a place, he leant a hand and the church grew quickly. Only when it was nearing completion did the devil realise he had been tricked. Furious, he picked up a huge stone boulder, intending to demolish the new place of worship. Thinking quickly, the townspeople promised to build a tavern directly next to the church and this they did, the Ratskeller. Appeased, the devil dropped the boulder where it lies today next to the walls of the church – the devil’s claw marks are clearly visible. The bronze sculpture of the devil was created in 1999 by artist Rolf Goerler.

Lübeck Cathedral is the oldest place of worship in the city; construction of the brick cathedral began in the 12th Century, but before that a wooden church stood on the same spot.

St. Peters, a Roman church built between 1227 and 1250, is no longer a church but an exhibition and events centre. At Christmas, a large arts and crafts market is hosted here.

You may also like to visit St. Giles, St. Jacob’s and St. Catherine’s churches.

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The Rathaus

The Rathaus, Lübeck’s Town Hall, is still the city’s seat of administration, so you can’t wander around inside on your own. However guided tours are available regularly throughout the day to allow visitors to see the lavish interiors and architecture more closely.

The Heiligen Geist (Holy Spirit) Hospital is one of the oldest social institutions in the world – any sick or elderly townspeople were guaranteed care here, regardless of their financial means. During advent, the city’s largest and best known arts and crafts market is hosted here.

If you do get tired and want to rest your legs, you can hop on a boat for a leisurely view of Lübeck Old Town from the water.


A World Centre of Marzipan

Lübeck is famous for marzipan. The most celebrated manufacturer is Niederegger, founded over 200 years ago.

Once upon a time there were many hundreds of marzipan makers within the old town alone. A local legend suggests that marzipan was first made in the city in response to either a military siege or a local famine. The story goes that the town ran out of all foodstuffs except stored almonds and sugar, and these were combined to make loaves of marzipan “bread”. In reality, marzipan is believed to have been invented far earlier, most likely in Persia though historians are undecided between a Persian and an Iberian origin.

At its core, marzipan consists of nothing more than ground almonds mixed with either sugar or honey. These days, a wide range of marzipan is available; many commercial versions contain a comparatively low volume of almonds; instead they contain a great deal of sugar with the flavour boosted by almond oils and extracts or even cheaper synthetic almond flavourings and are often sickly sweet. In Germany there are clear labels that describe the various levels of marzipan, from marzipanrohmasse (raw marzipan) at the top to gewöhnliches marzipan (ordinary or consumer marzipan) at the bottom.

Niederegger marzipan products are all marzipanrohmasse, which means they contains 65% ground almonds and 35% sugar; the flavour is subtle and natural and the sweetness is not overwhelming. In consumer marzipan, only a third of the total content is almond, with the rest made up of sugar and flavourings.

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Niederegger Cafe (external photo courtesy of Niederegger)

The best place to visit to indulge to the fullest is Café Niederegger, located in the heart of Old Lübeck. Not only will you find the most impressive range of Niederegger products in the extensive ground floor shop – at far lower prices than you’ll find in the UK – there’s also a charming café on the first floor where you can have a light savoury lunch before indulging in one of the fabulous cakes on offer. And I can personally recommend ordering a marzipan hot chocolate, alongside! Also worth a quick visit is the top floor museum where you learn a little more about the history of marzipan in Lübeck and see twelve life-size statues made entirely of marzipan.

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Dinner in the Seafarer’s Guild

The Schiffergesellschaft is a modern restaurant offering both traditional German classics and newer dishes. The restaurant is proud of its history as part of the city’s historical shipping guild.

The Skt. Nicolaus Schiffergesellschaft (seafarers’ guild) established in 1401 was tasked with supporting those who worked in the shipping trade, and caring for their families. By the end of the thirteenth century there were multiple such guilds, including St. Anne, established in 1495. In 1530 these two guilds merged, forming a single professional body for Lübeck’s shipping industry. The new guild purchased the property across from St. Jacob’s church in 1535 and shortly thereafter, a new headquarters was built there. Over time the guild’s responsibilities expanded to include matters of navigation, taxes, mediation, guarding the harbour and more. All those working in shipping had to be members of the guild but in 1866 the compulsory nature of the guild was abolished and it lost many members and much-needed revenue. In order to counter some of its debt it leased an area of the building in which a restaurant was established. This lease assured the financial security of the guild and helped it to settle its debts. In 1933 the Schiffergesellschaft became a non-profit organisation and in the 1970s, extensive restoration of the building was carried out. Today the restaurant lease is operated by Engel & Höhne.

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The wood-panelled restaurant features wooden tables and ornately carved high-backed bench seating that divides the room into rows of diners. Hanging from the high ceiling are model ships, and lanterns and chandeliers throw a warm and welcoming light.

The menu offers a wide range of starters, fish and meat mains, and desserts.

After malty brown bread served with pig fat, my Roast Duck Lübsch – roasted duck served with gravy and a savoury-sweet stuffing of red cabbage, prunes and marzipan – was hearty and delicious, and desserts were indulgent.

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This isn’t the highest level of fine dining but it’s good, tasty food in an unusual setting and the extensive menu gives plenty of choice.

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I liked our table up on a raised platform by the front window which allowed us to look down into the main dining area; book this if you can.

I spent just over 24 hours in Lübeck and am keen to go back for a longer, more leisurely visit. Have you been? What sights, activities and restaurants do you recommend I check out on my next trip?

Kavey Eats visited Lübeck as a guest of Niederegger who organised transport, accommodation, a guided tour and our meals. We were also given an exclusive tour of their factory, not usually open to visitors.

Enjoying Ice Wine | The Vineyards of Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario

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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Barbeque Bliss at The Grey Horse, Kingston-upon-Thames

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

Peruvian Panache at Señor Ceviche

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Better Late Than Never | The Newman Arms

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Dalloway Terrace in The Bloomsbury Hotel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bukowski Grill Soho | American-Inspired Diner Food UK Style

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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