Hatchetts Restaurant & Bar

Hatchetts Restaurant in Shepherd Market has quite the back story and to make a nice change, it’s a real one rather than a marketing fairy tale (albeit with no direct link to the new business). Built in 1703, Hatchett’s Hotel (with the White Horse Cellar pub in the basement below) was a popular stopover for cross-country travellers catching a horse-drawn coach to or from the West Country. Dickens mentioned it in his Pickwick Papers and the traffic jams caused by the flurry of mail and passenger coaches earned it the local nickname of Piccadilly Nuisance. For well over two centuries it ran as a hotel and pub, but the business failed in the 1950s. A few years later it was bought by an entrepreneur who turned it into a glitzy nightclub, music venue and restaurant (known as Hatchetts without the apostrophe); a glamorous hub for celebrities and party animals in the sixties and seventies.

This month, Hatchetts Restaurant and Bar has opened at nearby 5 White Horse Street (the street name no doubt being the tie in to the historic hotel and bar). It offers a small ground floor bar serving cocktails and small plates and an 80-seat downstairs restaurant offering modern British cooking. Owned, designed and run by Duncan Watson-Steward, an experienced pub restaurateur, the kitchen is run by Chef Andrew Evans who’s worked alongside many of the UK’s top chefs including Hix, Ramsay, Wareing, Hartnett and Henderson.

On a warm summer evening, with windows and doors flung open, the upstairs bar was full of boisterous customers but the basement restaurant was very quiet with just the two of us, and later one more couple. I imagine the too-loud music was an attempt to provide some ambience but I’d have been happier without it; I’m sure that will improve as the restaurant becomes better known and more popular.

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The menu is enormously appealing, making it really hard to choose – we skipped the small plates and salads and ordered from the more traditional starters, mains and desserts.

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While we were enjoying the fresh bread (with Netherend Farm butter), a lovely amuse bouche was served. Described as Modern Greek Salad, this sounded deceptively simple but delivered such intensity of flavours, it was quite a revelation. The fresh ripe tomatoes were, as expected, each distinct in flavour but it was the combination of whipped feta (with a texture like yoghurt), little cubes of pickled cucumber and powerful black olive tapenade that really made this dish shine – each one balancing so beautifully with the star-of-the-show tomatoes.

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My starter of Devonshire Crab & Nectarine Salad, Brown Crab Mayo, Cucumber, Samphire & Borage (£11.5) was another winner. I couldn’t imagine in my head quite how the combination of very thinly nectarine and crab mayonnaise would work but it did – the sweetness and texture of the ripe fruit complementing rather than disguising white crab meat mixed into a brown crab meat mayonnaise. On the side, a pretty salad of samphire, cubes of pickled cucumber, tiny rolls of fresh cucumber and lovely borage flowers and leaves. I sometimes find that unusual cheffy pairings of ingredients don’t work – there’s damn good reason they aren’t a classic combo – but this peachy crab duo was spectacularly successful.

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Pete’s Scorched Mackerel, Apple & Fennel Purée, Mackerel Tartare (£7) was quickly polished off too. The scorch-blackened  fillet was nicely cooked – crispy skin and silky soft flesh in every bite. Apple and fennel puree balanced the oily fish and the tartare on top added a welcome freshness.

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When ordering my starter I dithered between the crab and the Spiced Lamb Sweetbreads, Minted Peas & Beans, Lamb Jus (£8.5) so the chef kindly sent out a little sample of the sweetbreads for me to try. Sweetbreads, when cooked well, are a thing of beauty and these were sublime, meltingly soft with a deep rich flavour further enhanced by a rich gravy. Peas and pea shoots were a great foil, the slightly woolly broad beans less so.

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I could not resist the 12oz Shorthorn Ribeye on the Bone, Lyonaisse Potatoes & Bone Marrow Gravy (£24) and wasn’t disappointed. Shorthorn beef, dry-aged for 35 days, the steak was full of flavour and perfectly cooked to my requested medium despite the thin cut – I go medium rare for most cuts but prefer the extra cooking to melt the fat in a rib-eye. The Lyonnaise potatoes were delicious, finished in butter and mixed with properly caramelised onions, I ate far too many! A deep, rich chicken stock gravy and a pile of watercress finished the dish. When you serve a simple classic, it must be done flawlessly and for me, this was.

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The first thing I want to applaud about the Caramelised Onion Tart, Roasted Baby Beets, Braised Courgette & Watercress, Rosary Ash Goats Cheese (£11) is the price – how often are vegetarian dishes ludicrously overpriced to be in line with the meat and fish? Very refreshing to see prices reflective of the cost of ingredients! As for the dish itself – crisp and crumbly shortcrust pastry filled with caramelised onion and rich cream and cheese, though the filling was far sloppier in texture than expected. In the side salad, salty Ash goats cheese balanced sweet roastd baby beets, tossed together with braised courgettes and mixed green leaves. A really lovely summery dish with lots of flavour.

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Desserts were too much of a temptation, even though we were fairly full. My Dark Chocolate Marquis, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Cherry Glaze & Cherry Sorbet (£7) was decent – rich dense dark chocolate base, light milk chocolate mousse and a really punchy morello cherry sorbet – a new take on the flavours of black forest cake.

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Pete’s Buttermilk Pudding & Poached Rhubarb, Rhubarb & Hisbiscus Sorbet (£7) put a smile on his face. The wibbly-wobbly rectangular buttermilk pudding layered with poached rhubarb was panna cotta-like in texture, and nicely complemented by a ball of rhubarb and hibiscus sorbet. Also on the plate, little blocks of gin and tonic jelly, wild hibiscus flowers poached in rose tea syrup and some freeze dried yuzu. Attractive and unusual without being outlandish, this was a pretty and well balanced pudd.

Through all of the dishes we tried, the combination of flavours and textures and the skilful way everything was cooked were a delight. I’m certainly keen to go again in a few months and see what chef Evans does with autumn and winter seasonal ingredients.

I’m not a fan of noisy shouting-filled restaurants, but the ambiance and low-level buzz of more customers will certainly improve the experience, and that shouldn’t take long. I am sure it’ll be busier a few more weeks into business.

Be aware that, like many basement restaurants in historical buildings, there is no disabled access, nor would any but the narrowest of wheelchairs be able to access the ground floor facilities. There are (long term) plans to install a lift, but no ETA on that for the moment.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Hatchetts Restaurant.

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Shaking the Shakshuka at Cafe Loren, Camden

A dish from the Middle East that’s become increasingly popular in recent years, shakshuka is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner – a delicious bowl of eggs braised in a spiced tomato sauce, usually served with freshly baked bread. Cafe Loren owner Lee Penn is a huge fan which is why his Camden-based restaurant specialises in this one dish. He first learned to make the dish from his grandmother, who cooked it for the family often. But he soon branched out to innovate many variations, running his own shakshuka restaurant in Israel before moving to London and launching Cafe Loren.

Just under the bridge by Camden Lock, several small tables are nestled in the space beneath one of the arches, right at the heart of Camden’s best shopping and eating. It’s a cosy little space, warm and welcoming.

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The menu is short and sweet; eight different shakshukas plus a seasonal special that changes daily and a few sharing plates that make a great shared starter or a handy lunch for one on their own. There are also a few sweet treats if you want to pop in for a quick coffee break rather than a full meal.

Not all the shakshuka options include tomato – there’s a Green Shakshuka (£8.70) featuring spinach, leeks, green peppers, avocado and basil and a White Shakshuka (£8.60) that combines onions, mushrooms, feta and cream cheese.

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We start with the Mediterranean Plate (£5.50) of challah bread, homemade hummus, cheese burakas and olives. Also on the board are sharp salty olives, some crunchy slices of cucumber and a glossy pot of tahini. The hummus is delicious, fresh and with great texture and flavour. The cheese buraka is lifted by the properly tangy mature cheese within and the challah bread is wonderfully fresh and soft.

Lee explains that he buys the bread in fresh every day from a local specialist bakery.

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Red Shakshuka (£8.50) is a classic combination of eggs poached in a tomato, onion, red pepper, girl and harissa mix. It comes with olives, tahini and a delicious plump pitta bread. I find the sauce a little light and liquidy – I prefer my shakshuka sauce to be richer and more cooked down, but the flavours are delicious and wonderful with the pitta.

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The Green Shakshuka (£8.70) is likewise quite wet, though that works well for dipping chunks of the seeded brown roll. It comes with a tangy garlic sauce and I add a tiny pot of smoked salmon on the side (80p). I love this idea of a green shakshuka and the basil flavour of the sauce is delightful.

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Drinks include the usual hot teas, coffees and Hot chocolate (£2.85) plus a selection of freshly made fruit and vegetable smoothies and a list of iced coffees for summer.

Open a year this week, Cafe Loren has already built up a loyal customer base who drop by regularly for a tasty meal at any time of the day.  Open from 8.00 am to 8.30 pm, this is a lovely addition to the food options around Camden Lock.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Cafe Loren.

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Smoke & Salt in Residence at The Chapel Bar, Islington

Residencies are the latest evolution of the London dining scene. A venue with a spare kitchen and dining room rents it out on a short to medium term basis and the menu, cooking and service is handled by the resident(s).

In some instances, a residency is a step forward from the humble supperclub, a path into the catering profession for once-amateur cooks such as Asma Khan whose Darjeeling Express supperclub moved from her living room to The Sun & 13 Cantons Pub and Restaurant in Soho for 9 months. This gave Asma the opportunity to develop a much larger customer-base, many of whom are ready and waiting for whatever she does next and also helped her to hone the business skills needed to manage a project of this scale.

In the case of Smoke & Salt, a residency is a way for young blood chefs to get their cooking out to the public without the full expense of funding their own permanent restaurant, an enormously expensive endeavour.

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Remi Williams and Aaron Webster are the duo behind Smoke & Salt, which they created after meeting a few years ago when both were working in the same London restaurant kitchen. After a series of pop ups during the last couple of years, they have signed the lease on the upstairs space within The Chapel Bar and are offering a £38 tasting menu (available Monday to Thursday evenings) that showcases their interest in techniques such as curing, smoking and preserving, and their commitment to high quality British produce. They also offer a brunch menu on Sundays.

The drinks menu is provided by the landlords who run both the downstairs and upstairs bars and includes a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, wines and soft drinks.

The tasting menu changes monthly, according to what’s in season. We visited in June.

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These Guinness-glazed pretzels served warm with with whipped olive oil butter were a superb start. Beautifully textured and great flavour and a little different to the usual bread offerings.

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Listed on the menu only as “Table Treats”, these consisted of a bowl of Smoke & Salt dry-rubbed mixed nuts, some house-cured biltong with a lovely kick to the spice and little pastries that we were told were thyme panelles made from chickpea and topped with roasted red pepper ketchup. We enjoyed all three snacks but both agreed that we’d swap the serving order, having these served to the table on arrival, to enjoy with drinks and then moving on to the bread as a start to the meal proper.

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The starter, called BLT, was a beautiful bowl of ricotta cavatelli (a small curled pasta shape), heritage tomatoes, grilled lettuce, bacon dashi, crispy bacon, sourdough and lettuce gremolata. It was a pretty dish to look at and enjoyable to eat, particularly the tomatoes and bacon, both of which were delicious.

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A ‘surprise’ mid-course of (Scottish) Wagyu Skirt Tartare was served next with pickled carrots and what was described as home-made marmite. The overwhelming flavour of the dressing was balsamic vinegar, indeed it was hard to taste anything else including the beef itself. The texture of the beef was great but I think the dressing needs work, as does the balance of how much is used for the small portion of beef.

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The main course was a real winner. Spring lamb cooked two ways – a few slices of perfectly grilled leg of lamb, served pink, and a crepinette of lamb reminiscent of a beef faggot. These worked well with a vivid and robust green garlic sauce, pickled okra and chewy roasted sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) which were also served raw in very thin slices – they were crunchy like radish and a great contrast.

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Both my friend and I weren’t sure whether we’d like the dessert, as neither of us are fans of grapefruit but actually we both loved it, in fact I’d describe it as my dish of the meal. Pink grapefruit segments with a little charring, pink grapefruit curd, pink grapefruit gel, pink grapefruit sorbet, and candied grapefruit zest balanced with a lovely elderflower yoghurt and small chunks of pound cake. Full as I was, if they’d offered me a second bowl I’d absolutely have licked it clean!

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To finish, petit fours – a buttermilk fudge with buttermilk gel on top and coconut macaroons with (English) strawberries. The fudge was gorgeous but that sharp buttermilk on top didn’t work for either of us. The macaroons were delightful.

Remi and Aaron have forged a great partnership with both bringing different skills and ideas to the table, resulting in a very enjoyable meal. Overall I found the cooking very good, the inventiveness of the dishes and presentation intriguing and delicious and the ingredients were clearly of excellent quality.

For me, the pricing is a touch high and I’d rather see the ‘surprise’ course dropped in favour of reducing that headline price by a few pounds. Better still, make the table snacks an optional extra and bring the main menu price down another couple of quid. Including tea or coffee with the petit fours would also give a stronger impression of great value and potentially help bring people to the table.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Smoke & Salt.

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Giraffe’s Summer Menu | Guest Review

If you judged the nation’s eating habits from the contents of food blogs alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking we hardly visit restaurant chains at all. In reality most of my non-blogger friends, just like the wider population – especially those with young children – often favour chains, the best of which offer familiarity, family-friendly menus, a comfortable and pleasant environment, consistency (and hopefully good quality) of food and service, all at a known price point. And the truth is that us food bloggers visit chain restaurants too even if you don’t see it on our blogs very often; my personal favourites include Byron Hamburgers and Ask Italian, and I had an excellent meal at Jamie’s Italian last year. It’s just that it’s so much easier to write about (and let’s face it, more interesting and potentially more delicious to visit) one of the many exciting independent restaurants – and us Londoners are certainly spoiled for choice; our city has more restaurants than we could visit in a lifetime!

Today Kavey Eats is visiting Giraffe, a 60-strong nationwide chain currently owned by Tesco’s (but perhaps for not much longer, according to reports that they’re looking to sell).

Guest blogger Janine Marsh visited Giraffe’s London Spitalfields branch to check out some of their new summer dishes and cocktails, as well as a few menu stalwarts. An excellent writer with attention for detail and a nice turn of phrase, this is Janine’s first foray into restaurant reviews, and I think she’s done a great job of bringing the experience to life.

Over to Janine:

My lasting impressions of Giraffe were formulated from a trip once with a (now) ex-boyfriend who had decided that vegan was the best way forward for our relationship and for the ease of cooking. I would eat vegan at home (his not mine) and have non vegan food whilst eating out. This resulted in the exotic dish of Huevos Rancheros full of richness of eggs and cheese that turned me upside down and inside out and left me with a traumatic memory. Thinking it may have been food poisoning but actually now putting it down to my ex and his simple living ways, I have now returned to Giraffe a few years later as a newly reformed non vegan both at home and out and about, hoping to seek pleasure and comfort in a new summer menu.

It was early evening and the branch in Spitalfields was not very busy. Sometimes I have found this can make staff more lax in their service however it was the complete opposite during this evening service. The staff were welcoming and attentive right from the moment we walked in. I noticed everyone was keeping themselves busy cleaning, sorting and attending to the customers with a frequency that was not enough to overstrain anyone’s sense of personal space.

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My friend (a fellow foodie) and I started with a cocktails from the summer menu and decided to taste one each of the Grapefruit and Vanilla Daiquiri (£6.75) and Mango Colada (6.75). The Daiquiri had an immediate kick to it although you couldn’t taste the vanilla. The grapefruit was really refreshing and summery with sour notes. It was sophisticated and easy drinkable and as a result of its deliciousness, finished rather quickly. In contrast, the Mango Colada was more watery than creamy, with a strong pineapple undercurrent and absolutely no taste of mango. It’s been a while since I had one but let’s say it didn’t take me back to the paradise that I had it in. It slightly changed taste when sipped with the starter of Prawn Saganaki and became a little more intense but still not something I wanted to finish.

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There’s nothing to say about the Prawn Saganaki (£6.50) other than ‘bring me more please!’ From the minute you put the first prawn in your mouth which was succulent and full of flavour, the tomato sauce was simmered to perfection in a full flavoured and mildly spicy way. The feta cheese provided an amazing creamy contrast and depth to the tomatoes. The Tuscan bread was a little dry and not very flavoursome but worked well for finishing the juices off. I would eat that again and again!

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My friend counts herself as a semi officiado of Salt and Pepper Squid (£4.95 and for sharing £8.95) and has eaten a lot of this dish from the antipodean lands of her husband’s birth to the variety of Vietnamese restaurants up the road from this Spitalfields branch, in Hoxton. It’s unusual to have the chilli sauce as a dip and the batter was a bit heavy but the squid was cooked well and it had a nice peppery kick but not very salty although with today’s health warnings, the chef may have been thinking of the customer’s tickers. The portion size was perfect for one.

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We also shared the Tuscan Lamb Meatballs (£6.25). I have had a love affair with meatballs since the heady days of the 90’s as a twenty one year old in Little Italy in NYC. It’s now one of my dinner party dishes and I pack a lot of flavour in when I cook them. With these though, there was not a huge amount of flavour. The lemon yoghurt granita topping overpowered a flavour that should have been there if there was anything to counterbalance. It definitely needed to up the amount of seasoning in the dish. More parsley, thyme, and maybe some evidence of pancetta needed to make it authentically Tuscan? It would give it something worth eating for.

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During the starters, there were eagerly awaiting for our humble fingers, a couple of those Lemon fronted ‘FRESHER PACKET FOR CLEANSING’ sachets. My first thought is, we are definitely not flying first class. Please bring back finger bowls and lemon slices? Hot towels? Nothing at all? The ladies toilets were out of order so we had to form an orderly queue but very happy to refresh my hands using the normal soap and Dyson high speed dryer which is a pre-requisite for most establishments now considering everyone is always in a twenty first century rush.

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For the mains, the waitress suggested we try another of the new cocktails and also her personal favourite the Whisky Cooler (£6.95). We found during the evening that she was very well informed and knew her food and what was the best on the menu. Woah! A straight up your nose fizzy, fruity, whisky with a rounded flavour, passion fruit seeds (like bubble tea but less work) wonderful summer drink! The Whisky Cooler. Finished.

The El Diablo (£6.95) with ginger beer, lime juice, cassis and Tequila, according to my friend was both sweet and sour and refreshing, similar to that of an adult ice lolly. The Tequila gave a sourness and the ginger beer its fizz. Like fangtastic Haribos she said!

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So to the Bombay Chicken Dahl (available from 12-5, Monday – Friday, for £7.95 as part of lunch menu). A plate of Dahl. You lost me at Plate! For someone who regularly eats out with a dining club called the #EATUPCREW based mainly of South Indian food experts, this was Dahl with an identity complex. Black bean, chickpea, butternut squash (hard and watery), chicken (watery), (I hate anything watery) this should be labelled curry but even that is at a push. The tastiest part was the Pink onions on the salad. Salad? Where was the rice? This dahl really doesn’t really know what it is yet in terms of evolution. I felt sorry for it. I now know that I should never go for curries in a non-authentic environment.

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The Scandi Salad (£11.95) however was love at first taste! No celery or cucumber for those whose reflux is of a delicate nature. This salad was packed full of fresh dill, crunchy lettuce, slightly crushed potato, a scattering of salty capers and a vinegary sharpness. It was like the best potato salad you have ever eaten but better as it was topped with a substantial portion of a lightly fragrant poached salmon. It was summery, moreish, light and hearty all at once. It was ‘forks at dawn’ for my friend and I. Never normally going for a main course salad, this was massively substantial and has changed my mind. I would go back for it in an instant!

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We decided to try a vegetarian option in homage to my previous life and Bowl for the Soul (£7.50) came recommended although the waitress said this was not a popular choice with customers but one she had tasted and loved. The dish was vegetarian only because the lack of chicken or prawns which was an extra you could add from the menu. I think that they should think of something hearty like tofu to add texture but the overall dish was exactly what it describes itself as. A comforting Bowl for the Soul. Oozy fried egg with crunchy edges that gave a lovely sauce, fresh coriander, a nice hit of chilli, peppers, French beans that felt like they had been lovingly bubbled in a steamy sauna to crunchy fresh perfection. It reminded me of my first taste of Nasi Goreng in Kuala Lumpar. There could have been an option of soy sauce in the condiments basket but we settled for a splash of tabasco instead.

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There was also a small cheeky side dish of Sweet Potato Fries with chipotle mayo (£3.95) which was crunchy soft and definitely moreish.

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For pudding I ordered the White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Cheesecake (£5.50) and my friend, the Banana Waffle Split (£5.50). I was a bit confused when ice cream sundae spoons were placed next to a fresh napkin. I couldn’t taste the white chocolate and the unusually chocolatey base was crumbly but not very flavoursome. The passionfruit overpowered everything. More flavour in the cheesecake was needed. Give me a good vanilla cheesecake done well any day. Another fall back from my days in NYC.

My friend’s reaction to the first mouthful of the Banana Split Waffle was ‘Oh that’s good’! With a banana gooey caramel taste, chocolate sauce and caramel. There were different textures in one mouthful alongside the sweet crunchy waffle which maybe, on second taste could have been a little lighter on the batter but apart from that it was a waffly good dessert. Could also be good for breakfast, was a suggestion.

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My usual Giraffe Moroccan Mint Tea (£1.95), which was missing its normal sprig of mint in the glass, ended the meal whilst my friend’s chosen ending, a Flat White (£2.55) was too milky but that’s coming from someone whose husband’s antipodean roots invented the drink so she knows her coffee.

In conclusion, I think it’s ambitious to put yourself out there as a World Café. It doesn’t always work when you are selling a wide variety of dishes. I would say stick to simpler dishes that don’t take too long to create stronger flavours. Curries always need a lot of love and attention if they are to have the authentic taste. Make them authentic and bubble them for days, serve dahl in a bowl with a spoon. Be bold! That never to be mentioned again dahl had never even had a curry leaf wafted near it let alone in it.

There are certain world foods that could be created for the mainstream taste like Mexican although Wahaca has changed those flavour combos for me and constantly rocks my world. I will go back to Giraffe for the Prawn Saganaki, Bowl for the Soul (but for breakfast), my usual Mint tea and Halloumi Falafel Burger (a previous favourite) and of course breakfasts (my fave meal of the day) but until next time, I will dream of that Scandi salad. Did I mention that Scandi salad?

Kavey Eats reviewer Janine dined as a guest of Giraffe.

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.

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.

Bed

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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Breakfast

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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?

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
Square Meal

London Bean-to-Bar Chocolate | Damson & Tadzio

I’ve been enthusing for over a year about my friend Dom Ramsey’s bean-to-bar chocolate business, Damson, established in February 2015 and now based in dedicated premises in Chapel Market, Angel Islington. Dom makes superb chocolate which won awards from the get go and you can buy it in the shop or online. If you’ve not tried it yet, his Buffalo Milk chocolate (of which there have been several batches made with different cocoa beans) is amazing, and the Madagascar 70% is also a winner. The Liquorice & Sea Salt is not one I’m ever going to try but I know liquorice fans adore it. And if you can get your hands on the Whisky Cream – milk chocolate aged alongside wooden chips from a barrel in which Glen Garioch whisky was once aged, until the chocolate takes on flavours that soaked into the wood – you won’t be sorry!

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Until recently, I thought Dom was the only bean-to-bar chocolate producer in London – the majority of specialist chocolate shops in London are chocolatiers and most chocolatiers don’t make bean-to-bar chocolate, they buy chocolate in from producers and either use it as is in their chocolate products, or blend different batches to create just what they need. Some work with the producers to have chocolate made to their personal specifications, giving them great control over quality and flavour without taking on the production directly.

But Dom tells me that the bean-to-bar category is expanding fast and that there are now many more people producing their own chocolate across the UK. Some of those are making chocolate at home, for their own pleasure and enjoyment, and others are creating businesses to sell their chocolate commercially.

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A few weeks ago I heard from Tad Osborne, founder of Tadzio Chocolate, another London-based bean-to-bar producer making chocolate from single source beans and unrefined cane sugar. He roasts, hand winnows (peels), grinds and conches by hand and then sets some of the chocolate into solid bars, using the rest to make chocolate truffles.

Tad has always enjoyed good chocolate and making chocolate brownies and truffles for friends but, like Dom, his background is not a culinary one; indeed he is currently still working as a contractor in financial services.

A few months ago he travelled to Vietnam and while there he visited MAROU’s factory in Ho Chi Minh City. MAROU, founded by Samuel Maruta and Vincent Morou, is one of my favourite chocolate brands (one I first tried through Dom, I think), so I can completely understand how Tad was so inspired. As he says, ‘their chocolate is incredible and uses nothing but sugar and cocoa solids. When I got home I bought a grinder and some cocoa beans and got to work. That was about 4 months ago.

Like Marou, Tadzio Chocolate uses nothing but minimum 70% cocoa solids and unrefined cane sugar; Tad is keen ‘to let people taste and enjoy the vast difference in cocoa varieties and regions without disguising their flavours.

I am enormously taken with the Japanese-design packaging – a small circular red seal that turns out to be Tad’s name (‘Tado’) in the phonetic hiragana script – and beautiful artistic stickers used to seal wrappers and bags. I ask Tad to tell me more about it and he explains that he spent some time living in Japan, has a Japanese girlfriend and is also appreciative of ‘the meticulous attention to detail the Japanese have in all of their activities’, something he tries to adopt himself. It’s a way to express something about himself as a person in the way he presents his products.

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As for the chocolate, Tad first sent me a bar of 71% Venezuelan Puerto Cabello and a bag of truffles made from the same chocolate plus cream, vanilla essence and salt. Both are delicious. The chocolate is well made, with a pleasing aroma, nice snap and really rich and intense flavours, mostly in the fruity spectrum – both fresh berries and dried fruit – but with quite low acidity, just enough to give balance. I would recommend that Tad tap the moulds more robustly after pouring in the chocolate as there were a few bubbles in the bar, but this is a minor issue and doesn’t affect taste or texture of the chocolate itself.

The truffles are similarly rich and intense. I can’t detect the vanilla but I’m glad of that – I’m not sure this chocolate needs it. I particularly like the smooth texture and same excellent flavour as in the bar.

It’s great to see more high quality bean-to-bar chocolate in London, and from what I’ve tried so far, Tadzio Chocolate will be a welcome addition to the category once he starts trading fully. I certainly look forward to trying more of his chocolate soon.

Thus far, Tad has set up a limited company and is licensed to sell his products, but hasn’t yet established a website or online store but you can get in touch with him via his Facebook page, or email him directly at tad.osborne@gmail.com if you’d like to place an order. His 50 gram bars are currently £3 each and a bag of 7 truffles is £6. As he makes small batches, you will need to ask him what variety he has available at the time.

Kavey Eats received review samples from Tadzio Chocolate.

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.