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
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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.

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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.

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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
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I’ve enjoyed visiting Hawksmoor, albeit only intermittently, since the days when there was just one of what later became a mini chain of five; each new property to open serving the same impeccably sourced and delicious steaks, super and inventive cocktails and tasty desserts in a wonderfully individual, beautifully furnished, welcoming setting. Owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott created a wonderful brand; a sure bet if you ever fancied a damn good steak at someone else’s table.

In 2013 they sold a majority stake (geddit?) to investors but remained involved in the business, turning their efforts to launching sibling steakhouse Foxlow, which provides a similar offering to Hawksmoor but is aimed at a more local neighbourhood clientele. There are now four Foxlow properties – in Clerkenwell, Stoke Newington, Chiswick and Balham – and certainly on the night of our visit, the newest to open was doing a roaring trade.

Although I’ve seen Foxlow referred to as a less expensive sibling to Hawksmoor, I’d say that prices for the star of the show – steak – are pretty much on a par with Hawksmoor. Starters, sides, sauces and puddings are a touch less, though, but it’s not a huge differential. The vibe is more relaxed though, not that it’s overly formal at Hawksmoor, and the location of this branch close to a tube stop makes it handy for weeknight dining even if you’re not a local.

Just as it does at Hawksmoor, the beef is from native breed cattle reared by The Ginger Pig in North Yorkshire, the meat is dry aged for 35 or 55 days, depending on the cut. Seafood is caught off the South Coast and travels directly from Brixham every morning. Chicken is slow-grown herb-fed Yorkshire Ross. Charcuterie, cheese and bread are similarly carefully sourced.

Which means that whatever you choose from the menu, you’ll be in for a treat.

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7694

Burrata with Sorrel Salsa Verde (£7.5) is fresh, creamy and wonderfully matched by the citrus notes of the sorrel. A good example of allowing quality ingredients to speak for themselves.

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7697

Salmon Crudo, Chilli & Ginger (£7.5) is thinly sliced and lifted perfectly by a light gingery dressing, slivers of hot chilli and a scattering of micro herbs. Delicious and disappears alarmingly quickly!

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7704

300 grams D-Rump 55 days (£18) is cooked medium rare as requested and is a truly delicious piece of meat. (D-Rump, by the way, is cut from the centre of the rump). It’s served with a small bone marrow and onions, no vegetables included, so don’t forget to order (and factor in when assessing the prices of a main meal) your choice of sides. This is as good a steak as any I’ve had in the last year or two, and beautiful smeared with a very tasty Béarnaise, generous servings of which are £1 each.

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7701

We select a 250 gram Rib Eye (£21) from the board (because it’s a smaller weight than the 275 gram cut listed on the menu) and ask for it medium, to give the fat a chance to cook. It’s served rare, so we send it back. Not a bother, a new one cooked exactly as requested is back with us before too long. Never feel nervous to return a steak that is not cooked as you requested – even a good kitchen can get a steak wrong from time to time, especially a thin cut like this, and any good restaurant won’t baulk at changing it for you, as was the case here.

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7703 Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7709

Our sides are a super soft Baked Sweet Potato (£3) and lovely Buttered Anya Potatoes (£3.5).

To drink Pete enjoys a 375 ml carafe of Foxlow House Red (£8.5); it’s odd not to see any hint of what kind of wine it is, but I imagine this allows the restaurant to switch in different wines more easily, and he deems it a perfectly satisfactory easy-drinking red. I have a Vietnamese Iced Coffee (£3.5) which would also make a nice after-dinner drink if you don’t have room for dessert but fancy something sweet and caffeinated!

Foxlow Balham Steak Restaurant on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7714

The desserts list is full of temptations and I lament my lack of space for the Black Forest Brownie (£6.5) but decide instead to steal a few spoons from Pete’s Bourbon Caramel Soft Serve Sundae (£5.5), especially when it arrives with unexpected candied pecans which he doesn’t like but which I am happy to devour.

Is Foxlow the perfect neighbourhood restaurant? Yes. While the interiors may not be as lavish as those of elder sibling Hawksmoor, they are comfortable and attractive. Service is friendly and enthusiastic (to everyone, not just those of us invited to review). And the food, particularly the steak, is every bit as good. Certainly I’d love to have a branch near me (though this one is within easy reach of my current workplace). That said, £90 between two for three courses and only minimal drinks, remains on the high side for an everyday meal, although that line is, of course, different for everybody. But for a little splurge on pay day, or for those little celebrations of milestones achieved, anniversaries and birthdays counted, it’s spot on.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Foxlow Balham.

 

Once upon a time, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. Disguised as a beggar, he came across three friends who lived together in the forest – Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru) and Rabbit (Usagi) and asked them for something to eat. Monkey leapt up into the trees to gather fruit and nuts; Fox ran to a stream to catch a fish; these they presented to the old man. Rabbit raced around the forest grassland finding nothing but grass and returned forlorn to the teasing of his two friends. Desperate to help their visitor, Rabbit asked him to build a fire. Leaping into the flames, he offered himself to the old man to eat. Quickly the beggar changed back to his true form and pulled Rabbit from the fire, restoring him to life. He thanked each of the forest friends for their generous kindness but to Rabbit he said, “Your selfless sacrifice was the kindest of all. I will take you to the moon with me!” To this day, if you look up at the moon, you can see Rabbit there, pounding mochi in his mortar and pestle.

This is the story of Tsuki no Usagi (Moon Rabbit), told to me recently by a Japanese friend.

The myth originated 2400 years ago in the Indian Buddhist Jātaka tales, stories about the previous lives of Buddha in both human and animal form. One such tale tells the story of a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit, similarly called upon to find food for a beggar. When the rabbit offered himself in the fire, the beggar revealed himself as a god and drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon for all to see.

As is often the case, the details of the story changed as it spread. In China, the rabbit pounds medicinal herbs to make an elixir of life for Chang’e, the Moon Goddess.

Only in Japan is Rabbit thought to pound rice for the creation of delicious mochi (rice cakes).

Short-grain japonica glutinous rice (known in Japan as mochigome) has a higher protein concentration and less amylose in its starch than other types of rice, which results in a soft but firm consistency – it is delightfully chewy, the gummy elasticity a highly prized texture.

Traditional mochi are made by pounding soaked and steamed mochigome into a smooth paste. The paste is formed into a variety of shapes, often with a filling of sweet azuki bean paste. In other variations, flavourings are mixed into the paste itself, and these days there are many different fillings to choose from. Mochi is enjoyed in many dishes, savoury and sweet; one of my personal favourites is mitarashi dango – solid balls of mochi served on a stick with a sweet-savoury soy sauce glaze.

Another popular sweet is mochi ice cream – a ball of smooth, delicious ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of chewy mochi. These are a relatively recent phenomenon, appearing for the first time in the early eighties but they have quickly gained popularity across Japan.

Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7671 Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7684

I first encountered Little Moons mochi ice creams two years ago, at a pop up dinner by United Ramen. Asking afterwards about the utterly gorgeous ice cream mochi dessert, I learned they were made by Little Moons, a fledgling company launched by entrepreneur siblings Howard and Vivien Wong. Several months later, I came across them again when I visited Kanada-ya ramenya just after they opened. Today, Little Moons are served by several Japanese restaurants across London including Bone Daddies, Tonkotsu and Shoryu Ramen. Ramenandmochitastic!

Howard and Vivien worked with Nobu’s head patisserie chef, Regis Cursan to develop their range, and have updated the new Japanese classic by using artisan gelato fillings in six flavours – currently Vanilla, Toasted Sesame, Coconut, Matcha Green Tea, Mango and Raspberry. Little Moons mochi are hand-rolled in London to the traditional Japanese method, and the range is free from artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives. The mochi are also gluten free and less than 100 calories per ball.

The Wongs have also created a second brand, Tsuki Mochi under which they sell mochi truffles. The Dark Chocolate ones are filled with Belgian chocolate ganache and dusted with cocoa. Tsuki Mochi also make a Yuzu Lemon Cheesecake edition which I must, as a yuzu addict, try soon!

Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7674 Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7681
Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7676 Little Moons Tsuki Mochi on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7683

Last weekend I hosted a lovely afternoon tea featuring all six Little Moons mochi ice creams and the Tsuki Mochi dark chocolate ganache mochi. We enjoyed these with some delicious Adagio Teas served in an absolutely beautiful Japanese teaware set with an elegant metallic grey finish.

The mochi ice cream were as good as I remembered (though I do miss the wonderful pineapple flavour I first fell in love with at the ramen pop up dinner). My favourites were the mango and the matcha, though I loved them all. Pete’s favourite was the toasted sesame – he also loved the flavour of the raspberry gelato but wasn’t sure it worked so well in a mochi wrapping. Our guests both favoured the rich vanilla, flecked with vanilla seeds, with the coconut and mango also winning high praise.

All four of us adored the mochi truffles – these had a superbly rich, dark chocolate flavour and a light mousse-like texture within.

On the tea front, we started with Adagio’s kukicha, a blend of green tea leaves and stems. The tea had a powerful aroma as it brewed, but was light and refreshing to drink. Later we switched to genmai cha, the nutty flavours of toasted popped rice were particularly satisfying on a cold November day.

Of course, mochi are far more than a sweet treat to enjoy with afternoon tea – they make superb desserts after a meal, particularly the mochi ice cream which are stored in the freezer and need just a few minutes to soften before serving. Although small, they are surprisingly filling and just one or two balls would be perfect after a meal.

Little Moons come in a box of six and are currently stocked by Whole Foods (£5.99) and Partridges (£6.95). Tsuki Mochi truffles come in a box of four and are available from Selfridges (£4.50).

Kavey Eats received product samples from Little Moons / Tsuki Mochi plus a Japanese teaware set and Adagio teas, to host a Japanese afternoon tea.

 

When you’re married to a beer lover, the beer menu can be just as important as the food menu, and it’s good to have a few places up the sleeve that will tempt said beer lover into town!

Handily, The Three Johns in Angel is easy to get to – just a couple of minutes’ walk from Angel tube station.

It’s also in the close vicinity of other drinking gems such as The Craft Beer Company , The Lexington (great for American beer and bourbon) and The Earl of Essex (brewpub), not to mention recently opened chocolate palaces Damson Chocolate (London’s new bean to bar chocolate maker) and Jaz and Jules (purveyors of very fine drinking chocolate).

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Images provided by The Three Johns

The space is rather grand, certainly when it’s not too busy it’s easy to appreciate the beautiful copper tiled ceiling and huge windows, with the space divided into two rooms – the main one with the bar and a second one off to one side. It’s an appealing space and the only real downside for me is that lighting is very low; it’s almost as dark inside as the November night outside.

The food menu at The Three Johns is short and simple. There are nine sourdough pizzas, three salads and a couple of desserts to choose from. But, as long as you like pizza, that’s plenty – the pizza toppings are so damn appealing it’s hard to narrow it down and pick just two.

Pizza at The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7663

In the end we select Chilli Con Carne, Tomato, Smoked Mozzarella (£9) and Fennel Sausage, Chilli-Roasted Sprouting Broccoli, Buffalo Mozzarella, Parmesan (£9.50), a white pizza, without the usual tomato sauce, with the intention of sharing both. Both are excellent; the base is so good that I even eat some my crusts – if you’ve ever shared a pizza with me you know this is a rare thing – and the toppings we chose are as good as we hoped.

Pizza at The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7662

The chilli con carne is fiery hot, and generously smeared over the base, reminding me of a Turkish lahmacun with Mexican flavours.

Pizza at The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7659

The fennel sausage and broccoli go together wonderfully, and this pizza my favourite of the two. Since Pete likes the other one best, we’re both happy bunnies.

The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7657

The beer list is extensive with a good range on draught and an impressive list of bottles. During our visit we tried:

  • Gypsy Hill Bounder – Pete liked this old-fashioned draught ale, a “very classic best bitter, perhaps a touch watery, nice English hops more leafy than fruity”.
  • Stod Fold Dark – Like the previous pint, Pete appreciated the traditional nature of this pint, also on draught, and described it as a “a classic Porter, toasted malt, fairly dry, not much in the way of hops… very nice, very traditional”.
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black – Pete was quite a fan of this bottled beer, noting that it was a “very curious, clean crisp Porter that [was] joined 2 seconds in by buckets of grapefruit hops. Unusual but everything you’d hope from a south pacific Porter. Cracking. Very craft!
  • Heretic Evil Twin – Pete’s notes for this one were short and sweet, he described it as London Brewing Co’s “Mad As Hops in a can”.

Pizza at The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7666 The Three Johns Pub in Angel London on Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7668

For dessert, you can have a sweet pizza spread with nutella and toasted hazelnuts (£6) – we added strawberries to one half and bananas to the other; or some very decent ice creams (bought in from Snowflake Gelato, £2.50 per scoop) – the peach was utterly delicious and I appreciated it being peach ice cream rather than sorbet, peaches pair so perfectly with cream.

With my food fixation, even a venue that’s primarily about the beer needs to offer tasty food to make my shortlist. It’s great to have another such pub which will keep both Pete Drinks and Kavey Eats happy.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Three Johns pub, courtesy of Barworks.

The Three Johns Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal

 

I loved Viet Food so much I went two nights in a row. Yep, I really did!

Viet Food opened its doors in the heart of China Town – just where it meets Soho – less than two weeks before my visits, and was packed to the rafters both evenings, with queues waiting outside to boot. Some of that will no doubt be down to its superb central location, even busier than usual thanks to the unseasonably warm weather and with the beautiful red lanterns still hanging after the recent Moon Festival. But I’m sure it must also be because word has already got out about the excellent cooking and attractive setting.

The restaurant belongs to chef proprietor Jeff Tan, who was at the helm of Hakkasan for 3 years from its launch, winning a Michelin Star for the restaurant during his tenure. His aim for Viet Food is to present a menu of high quality, reasonably priced food that celebrates Vietnam’s vibrant food culture. That concept has been translated for the interior by designer Nina Kuan, who has created a very appealing space across two high-ceilinged floors. Several of the walls are exposed brick, the huge upstairs windows are fitted with woven ropes that let in light but break up the pedestrian view outside, flooring is a mixture of oak boards and vintage tiles, ducts and pipes along the ceiling are exposed, lighting is slightly retro and there are wonderful vintage decorative objects such as hanging birdcages, huge mirrors and pretty postcards. The whole effect is very welcoming and I really like it.

My first meal in the restaurant was an invitation to review, organised by the PR; a friend and I enjoyed tasty and beautifully presented food, served with a smile in a charming setting.

The next night Pete and I needed an exciting, delicious restaurant for dinner with my cousin and his wife, visiting London from Washington DC. Happily, the food and overall dining experience were just as good the second night running.

Here’s my low down on what we had; a few dishes were ordered on both nights because they were so delicious and I knew everyone would love them. Visit two was more chicken-, pork- and beef-based dishes, as we had a few non-seafood eaters.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0258 vietfood interior1
Image of interior provided by restaurant

Lovely to discover an appealing range of soft drinks including two mixed juice options. On the left, Coconut Slap – coconut, mango and passionfruit and on the right, Wow Wow – melon, pineapple, apple and lime. Both delicious.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0261

For both meals, we ordered quite a few dishes from the first page of the menu – labelled as ‘Incoming’, this consisted of smaller dishes, ideal as starters.

Crispy home made Vietnamese spring roll (£4.50) paired a succulent pork filling with super crunchy vermicelli exterior, fresh lettuce to wrap and a beautifully balanced sauce to dip. 3 in a portion, these were a favourite both nights.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0263

Vietnamese pancake (£5) was far thinner than I expected. Generously filled with perfectly cooked seafood, stir fried vegetables and fresh herbs and served with a sweet chilli sauce for dipping. I loved the filling but found the thinner softer pancake less appealing than the slightly thicker crunchier type I’ve had before.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0268

Pomelo prawn salad (£5.50) was one of my absolute favourites and another dish ordered both nights. Juicy prawns and one of my favourite citrus fruits were complemented by fresh herbs and a fantastic salad dressing – I’m guessing brown sugar, fish sauce and lime or lemon juice as a base, but it’s all about getting the balance right and this was just so good. Perhaps I shall beg Jeff Tan for his recipe, do you think that would work?

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0299

The dressing for the Grilled beef salsa with fresh herb (£5.50) was similar, though the mix of vegetables and herbs quite different. This was another winner on night 2.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0285

The Vietnamese style grilled minced pork balls with lettuce and vermicelli (£5) were also one of the dishes everyone particularly liked – full of flavour, perfectly cooked and great with lettuce, lightly pickled vegetables and vermicelli.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0282

The Chargrilled glazed lemongrass chicken wings (£4) were absolutely delicious, with strong flavours, tender chicken and a wonderfully charred and crisp skin. However the portion was small for the price, given the unusually tiny size of the four wings served. If the kitchen could source more generously sized chicken wings, I would give this dish a bigger thumbs up.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0272 Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0295

The next section of the menu covers ‘Greens’, from which we ordered Morning glory stir-fry with preserved shrimp paste (£5.50) the first night and Stir-fried French bean with minced beef and dried shrimp sauce (£5.50) the second night.

Both were excellent – fresh, beautifully cooked and with wonderful flavour from the preserved shrimp and dried shrimp paste. My cousin-in-law particularly loved the beans, one of her favourite dishes of the evening.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0270

The next four dishes are listed in the ‘Chef Signature Dish’ section. Lamb chop Hanoi style (£8.80) was one of the first dishes I decided to order, lamb chops being one of my favourite foods in the world. Some meat was left on the bone – two ribs joined together, but the rest were served as boneless fillets making the dish perfect to share with those who aren’t as happy to gnaw on the bone as me! The flavour in the glaze was super punchy, and the meat very tender. These didn’t disappoint.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0264

Tender pork belly (£7) was as promised – several generous cubes of belly pork with meltingly soft layers of fat and tender meat, served in its sweet thick braising liquid. This dish must surely be based on Chinese red-braised pork, much like the origins of Japanese Buta no Kakuni, but I found the flavours of the braise a little muted in comparison.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0294

Vietnamese grilled chilli sirloin (£8.80) turns out to be four tight rolls of thinly sliced sirloin, simply grilled (with a little pink inside) and served with okra and a thick, tasty sauce.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0302

Chargrilled lemongrass chicken (£6) is, unsurprisingly, somewhat similar in flavour to the lemongrass chicken wings but with less char and crispness and a lot more meat. It’s a simple but delicious dish.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0292 Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0289

Another favourite on evening two is Bun Thit Bo Nuong (£7.90)– chargrilled beef over vermicelli noodles with a cucumber and herb salad, peanuts and fish sauce. Served with a sweet chilli sauce to pour over. The generous portion makes this one of the best value dishes on the menu too.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0275

On first glance, we thought the Home-style fried rice with king prawn and soy sauce (£4.80) a little disappointing, just a pot of rice with a few prawns thrown in – but as we started eating, we quickly realised it was simple but very delicious; a really tasty fried rice.

On my second visit we went for the Egg fried rice with beef ginger, coriander and Vietnamese pickled [sic] (£4.80), which was even better. Again, a simple dish when perfectly executed had us nodding in appreciation.

Vietfood London - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0277

There isn’t a dessert menu, but a note on the main menu promises a Chef’s daily special – ask your waiter for more information. The Pandan sago with banana (£4) was unlike anything I’ve tried before. Pandan gave the custardy pudding a subtle flavour and pretty green colour, sago pearls added a slippery, mildly chewy texture and cubes of ripe banana added sweetness. There were no punchy flavours here; rather a satisfyingly simple ending to our meal – I liked it very much.

There is plenty, plenty more on the menu to try. We didn’t order any of the 8 pho on offer, though I spotted several fellow customers digging in with gusto. There are many more fish and seafood dishes I’m keen to sample. Another return visit is surely on the cards but the difficulty will be in sidestepping so many of the dishes above, in order to give the rest of the tempting menu a fair chance!

Do yourself a favour and make your way to Viet Food soon!

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Viet Food on the first evening, and as regular customers on the second.

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The Truscott Cellar is a wine bar and restaurant in Belsize Park, a residential neighbourhood in North London. As the name implies, it has a strong focus on wine, but food is definitely not an also-ran; the short menu offers a range of small dishes that are delicious, fairly priced and a great sop to the wine. And speaking of  wine, it’s enormously pleasing to note that every single wine listed is available by the glass, carafe or bottle.

There is also a short cocktails list and some decent soft-drink options.

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0236

With glasses of wine served in 125 ml measures, wine lovers can try a wider range than is often the case, and staff are on hand to advise and recommend, if you wish. Pete enjoyed a Muddy Water Pinot Noir from Waipara Valley in New Zealand (£8), a Bodega Ruca Malen Petit Verdot from Mendoza in Argentina (£6.50) and a Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent from Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (£5.50).

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0241

The Meat board (£7 per person, one person serving pictured) includes pressed English pork, Potted Duck and Cured beef and is served with celeriac, slices of pickled gherkins, giant capers and crisp sourdough toasts (not shown). Ours also had additional charcuterie items from those mentioned on the menu. Looking around us, this was clearly a popular way to start the evening.

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0245

The Cornish mackerel, purple potatoes, pickled cucumbers, lemon and chervil (£8) was probably my favourite dish of the night. Everything was perfectly cooked, the salad was beautifully dressed and the combination worked wonderfully. And purple potatoes always looks so pretty.

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0239

The beef cheek, smoked mash and crispy shallots (£10) was Pete’s favourite and a very close second for me. Cooked perfectly, the meat was fork-apart tender and rich in flavour. The smoky mash was rich and buttery and with the beef and gravy, made for a supremely comforting dish. One not to be missed!

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0248 The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0251

The Heritage Potatoes (£6) is a plate of three generously-sized potato cakes – you can order all three the same or one of each flavour. On offer are Westcome cheddar and leek, smoked haddock and spring onion and blackened Lancashire bacon with ragstone cheese and truffle oil. Given the pricing, I’d really like the option of ordering these individually for £2 or even £2.50 each; a plate of three is a lot of spud between two and most fellow diners were solo or in parties of two. Flavours were decent though I’d like a little more of the flavouring ingredients in each potato cake; the truffle oil didn’t come through at all, either on the nose or the palate.

The Truscott Cellar Wine Bar and Restaurant in Belsize Park Londonl - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0253

The chocolate mousse, honeycomb, chocolate soil (£7) dessert was decent with a rich and dark chocolate flavour, but the texture was very dense indeed and had a hint of graininess. The combination with honeycomb was simple but effective.

Although the food is very good, I’d say that Truscott Cellars is aimed at drinkers first, diners second. How so? Tables are tiny oval-topped affairs on which it’s a squeeze to fit drinks and more than two dishes. Given that the menu offers small plate dining, it’s not unreasonable to have three dishes at a time and we only managed by borrowing space on a neighbouring table while we could. As the place filled up, this became less of an option.

The space looks modern and attractive on first glance but it felt to me that it had been designed for style over comfort and without sufficient thought to how the spaces would work when the seats were full of customers – the first table we chose was spaced such that pulling out the chair enough to sit in it meant that it pushed right into the banquette seating of the table behind; we decided to move to another table instead. The decor also seems to have been done on the cheap, with some messiness visible in the finishing.

It was surprising not to have coat hooks available; I’m curious how this will work when it’s raining – will customers really be expected to keep soaking wet coats with them at their tables? When I wondered where I should put mine, a member of staff did agree to take and store it for me, but this is clearly not the default option.

That said, within less than a month of opening, the place quickly filled up on a Tuesday evening and we were told that some customers were already regulars with multiple visits under their belts.

We enjoyed our evening and would certainly recommend visiting for a few glasses of wine and some tasty dishes.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Truscott Cellar.

The Truscott Cellar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Square Meal

 

The Sky Garden is one of the latest ways to enjoy a birds eye view of London. And it’s free!

Unlike some of the other tall buildings of London, it’s not a gherkin-shaped office block with no public access nor a soaring pay-to-ascend tourist attraction. You don’t even have to book a table for dinner and drinks – you are welcome to enjoy the terrace and garden area completely free, as long as you book in advance.

The Sky Garden is on the 35th floor of the building most commonly referred to as the Walkie Talkie, though personally I think it more closely resembles an old-school mobile phone.

We booked our free visit to the Sky Garden for a sunny weekday afternoon in March and marvelled at the views but didn’t stop for a drink or snack at the Sky Pod Bar, as all the available seating was taken.

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Instagram images from our visit back in March

Those looking for a full meal can book a table at Darwin, a brasserie located on the 36th floor, or Fenchurch up on the 37th, which serves a ‘British contemporary’ menu.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7533 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7536
Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7539 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-7543

It was drizzling mid-September evening when we visited Fenchurch but the rain didn’t temper the glory of the views.

Our table, next to the windows at the West of the restaurant was one of only a handful to look out across miles and miles of London.

Other tables along the south-facing internal windows had their views almost entirely blocked by a large empty terrace just outside the restaurant. With the building’s glass roof overhead, locating tables out on to the terrace would be so much lovelier and make use of a somewhat pointless space.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0202

We wondered if the original name for Fenchurch was 37? The menu branding seemed to suggest so.

Fenchurch offers a regular a la carte, a Tasting Menu (£70) and a vegetarian Tasting Menu (£50). The Wine Pairing for both Tasting Menus is an additional £39. With cockles and mussels both featuring in the regular Tasting Menu, Pete decided to order the vegetarian one, which allowed us to try many more dishes between us.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-181543 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0200

The bread was excellent. The olive bread and rosemary focaccia were superb in taste and texture, and very fresh; the butter was soft and spreadable, rather than fridge cold. So many restaurants give scant attention to these two elements so it’s always a good sign when they are given proper respect.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0203 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0205

Although we giggled that the popped rice amuse bouche looked suspiciously maggot-like, the tiny nibbles were delicious. My crumbed pork was fantastic, Pete’s vegetarian one a little burst of flavour.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0209

First course on the non-vegetarian tasting menu: Chopped mackerel, pickled cockles, sea herbs and oyster cream. I loved this delightful jumble of tastes, textures and colours. Soft fresh mackerel, sweet pickled cockles and the most fantastic crunch from crispy tempura bits scattered through the mixture. Lovely bursts of flavour and salt from the sea herbs. A super dish.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0206

The vegetarian first course: Pea soup, poached egg yolk, mint and sourdough croutons. This was a beautiful soup; the essence of pea and mint, crunch from the croutons and richness from the oozing yolk.

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My second course was my absolute favourite of the menu: Rabbit bolognaise, harissa, Berkswell and sourdough. Again, the balance of textures between soft pasta, meat which was tender but not pappy and crunch from the sourdough was spot on. Likewise, the balance of flavours between rabbit and harissa was superb, with the harissa giving just the right level of heat and flavour.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0211 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-185122

Second for Pete was Burrata, peach, grapefruit and fennel. The combination was given a thumbs up but the burrata was enormously disappointing, with none of the oozing creaminess that a burrata should have, this was far more like a regular ball of mozzarella and not a very creamy or fresh one at that. Still, the flavours worked.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0217

Confusingly, my next dish was not the Cornish turbot described on the Tasting Menu but Dover sole with brown shrimps, capers and samphire and a single squid ink pasta parcel stuffed with scallop mousse and more brown shrimp. Once again, the combination of ingredients was very good, with sea salt and crunch from the samphire, acidity from the capers and a welcome oomph of fishiness from the brown shrimp but the dover sole was a little overcooked, giving it a texture that was on the chewy side.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0214 Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0215

Next for Pete was a dish very poorly described as Baked potato mash, sour cream and lovage. The description in the a la carte menu of the main dish version was far more accurate: Textures of potato. I loved this more than Pete did – he enjoyed it but felt it was more of a side dish, whereas I thought it stood alone rather splendidly. Potato was showcased three ways – a rich, layered block of fondant potato, a pool of smokey mash and soaring crisps that broke with a satisfying snap. Flavours were subtle but delicious. Pete was particularly impressed with the wine pairing for this course, a Tokaji Dry Furmint Béres 2013.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0221

Goodwood Estate lamb, garlic, artichokes, basil and olive jus was a generous dish with lamb cooked four ways – there was loin served rare, another cut I forget, a meatball and a pulled lamb croquette. The garlic puree was a little too raw garlic pungent for me, but the rest was well presented and delicious.

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Pete’s Jerusalem artichoke and ricotta agnolotti, summer truffle, hazelnuts and sage was one of his favourites. The dish was not the most attractive but once again, textures and flavours came together nicely. The tomato sauce was delicious but the fresh tomatoes were seriously under-flavoured and lacking in oomph. Our message to the chef – if you can’t source better tomatoes, take them off the menu! Critical sourcing of ingredients, and rejection of any which don’t meet standards, is surely a basic tenet of a restaurant of this calibre?

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The two dessert courses were the same across both versions of the Tasting Menu. The first was Coconut cream, lime granita with mango and sesame, a gorgeous little pot bursting with flavours. Very intense. Rich and yet refreshing.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0232

Last was this Glazed peanut and chocolate bar with banana yoghurt ice cream. I loved this! Intense, rich, sweet and salty peanut and chocolate against tangy yoghurt with banana flavour, this was, as we were coming to expect, a lovely combination.

Sky Garden Fenchurch Restaurant - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0233

Petit fours were a decent chocolate truffle, soft and melting in the centre, and a mouth-puckeringly sharp elderflower lemon fruit jelly – so sharp the waiter gave a warning about it as he served it. Pete liked it, finding the level of acidity quite refreshing.

Our meal at Fenchurch was certainly enjoyable and fairly priced for the City location.

The cooking was accomplished; most of the dishes were very well conceived and cooked, providing superb balance of textures and flavours, with visual appeal an added bonus.

It’s a shame the layout of restaurant and terrace doesn’t give diners the view you might expect and I’d have been disappointed had we been seated elsewhere – we were allocated one of just a handful of tables with a wow-factor outlook. Of course, you can enjoy the views by walking around the Sky Gardens before or after dinner but be warned that if you don’t get the right table, you won’t enjoy the full effect of the views while dining.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Fenchurch restaurant.
Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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