Mar 282013
 

It’s not unusual for me to receive invitations to dine at London restaurants with a view to reviewing them on Kavey Eats. A recent invitation contained an unusual twist – Arnaud Bignon, the chef and partner at a The Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair wanted a group of us to taste a selection of dishes and provide feedback to narrow down which five would make it onto April’s tasting menu.

I don’t know how much influence our feedback had in reality. There was certainly one dish we all discussed and fed back on (in a less than positive fashion), but certainly we weren’t grilled for our thoughts on most of the courses in any structured or coherent way. Still, it was a great opportunity to sample Arnaud’s Michelin-starred cooking and was a convivial evening.

There were 8 courses on the printed menus we were given, but first three amuse bouche were served.

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On the small spoons were liquid spheres representing a caesar salad. The flavours were great, though I’d have liked a little raw apple to give a crunch, and a touch more parmesan than the tiny morsel on top.

The mushroom meringues had the most incredible texture and flavour and were probably my single favourite course of the entire meal. They melted away so fast on the tongue but left behind an intensely earthy hit of fungi. It took all my restraint not to “accidentally” steal other peoples’!

The third mouthful was rather dull next to the other two. Prawns with a peanut coating were pleasant didn’t thrill.

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Cornish crab, mint jelly, cauliflower, granny smith apple, curry

The presentation of this dish was striking – and the bowl itself created crockery envy in some at the table. The crab was hidden underneath that green jelly layer and was tasty and fresh. The mint taste was a little too faint but certainly there. In the foam on top, the apple came through clearly. I couldn’t detect (on the palate) either the cauliflower or the curry.

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Foie gras, strawberry, hibiscus, tomato, ginger

I don’t think there was one person at the table who liked the various sweet red accompaniments to what was a very fine slice of foie gras. The strawberry liquid was far too sweet, cloying and overwhelming. The tomato actively clashed in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible until I tasted it. I adore foie gras and order it often, and have to confess that this was the worse foie gras dish I’ve ever tasted.

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Line-caught sea bass, yuzu, chlorophyll herbs, polenta

The seabass and yuzu sauce were superb. The fish was perfectly cooked, soft and tasty and the sauce provided a perfect creamy citrus lift. I didn’t really get the green polenta – the “chlorophyll” was clearly basil so I don’t know why it wasn’t just named so – the flavour was alright but it didn’t do much for me at all.

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John Dory, heirloom beetroot, vadouvan, onion seedling

Another really excellent piece of fish, cooked just as it should be. To my surprise, I loved fish with the sweet earthiness of the beetroot. I didn’t really follow what vadouvan was when our waiter briefly mentioned it but Wiki tells me it’s “a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a derivative of Indian curry blend with a French influence”. Unfortunately, the French tendency to tone down spices to the point of homeopathy seems to have occurred and the spice flavours didn’t come through at all.

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Yorkshire lamb, aubergine, sesame seeds, red spring onion, soya sauce

The lamb was delicious and tender and so full of flavour it was hogget- or mutton-like on the palate. The aubergine was soft and silky but not greasy. I liked all the flavours very much. The slick of sauce poured onto the plates at the table was so thin it ran immediately to one side of the plates, revealing the lay of the table and looking rather unsightly. I realise “jus” is still more trendy, but a little thickening into a proper sauce would have made far better visual impact, certainly.

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Pigeon, cevennes onion, rhubarb, almond

I know I wasn’t alone in being surprised to be served poultry after the red meat, though I do appreciate that pigeon is gamier and redder than many birds are. The pigeon breast was pleasant, as was the rhubarb an onion. The little leg on the bone was dreadful, wrapped as it was in a surprisingly thick and flacid skin. I liked the almond crunch. More thin and bitty juice though.

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Pineapple, pine nut, lavender, lemon

The pineapple and pine nut were hidden under a light foam and lemon sorbet (and the pretty but not-so-pleasant-in-the-mouth petals). It was all delicious and I liked the range of textures very much.

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Orange, saffron, date, filo pastry

This was a super finish. The orange sorbet was probably one of the best I’ve ever tasted; it made me sing Kia-Ora, too orangey for crows! I liked how it was served on a bed of crunchy meringue for textural contrast. The filo pastry with saffron cream was delicate and crunched satisfyingly as I pushed down with my spoon. And oh, the orange segments with tiny slivers of date and mint leaves delighted too. Everything on the plate worked separately and together, creating a complete and happiness-inducing dish!

 

There were wine matches too, but I can’t comment on them. I asked for dessert wine instead, and was given three different ones, all of which I enjoyed.

Of the restaurant itself, I particularly liked the secret-garden approach, hidden away in a quiet but very very expensive residential mews. Setting and service was traditional French formal, though hard to assess at this kind of special event.

The tasting menu is listed at £90, though obviously we were served more courses than are usually included.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of The Greenhouse.

 

Bincho Yakitori has been on my radar and mental wish list to visit since it opened a few years ago but it’s taken the current love affair with Japan to give me the impetus to actually make it there. It is Inspired by Japanese izakayas, bars in which a menu of snack items such as grilled skewers of meat, fish and vegetables and other small dishes are served alongside an extensive range of booze – in this case, beers, sakes, wines and whiskies.

The atmosphere at Bincho Soho is both less raucous and less smoky than it usually is in the real deal izakayas in Japan but it’s comfortable and service is friendly.

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In pride of place on the menu is the yakitori section – grilled skewers of chicken (and other poultry); tori means chicken or bird; yaki describes a fried or grilled cooking technique. Listed are various different cuts of chicken such as wings, breast, oysters and livers as well as tsukune (minced chicken meatballs) and quail eggs. Next come all the other grilled skewers of meat, fish and vegetables – these are called kushiyaki; kushi can mean either comb or skewer, which makes me smile because I visualise tiny tasty morsels stuck onto every finger of a comb, like hula hoops on my fingers… At Bincho the skewers look like tiny wooden swords… more of which later. There are rice dishes, sides and salads and a few yakimono – larger grilled items such as whole sardines, salmon steaks and jumbo prawns that are not cooked or served on skewers. A few sauces, desserts and ochazuke (savoury last dishes) complete the menu.

We arrived early for our 6 o’clock booking and were able to request seating at the counter, from where we could watch the chefs cooking at the imported Japanese grill. The restaurant takes its name from Binchō-tan, a unique white charcoal made from oak wood and prized by traditional Japanese grill chefs because it burns for a long period at an even temperature and gives off very little smoke.

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Our drinks orders were swiftly taken and magic words were uttered: Chicken hearts. And Chicken skin. The first was on the specials menu; the second is one of the extra parts that are often available but in limited stock. Hell yes, to both please; an easy start to our choices.

The rest we ordered from the menu, quickly advised after reeling off several items to pause there and order more later. Which we did because we’re greedy bastards.

Note that all skewers are priced per skewer but require a minimum order of two. If you’re worried that will make it difficult for a lone diner to try much, you can always opt for The Seven Samurai – seven single skewers of chicken and spring onion, pork belly, salmon, chicken wings, asparagus, a tiger prawn and shiitake mushrooms. Like I said, the skewers certainly look like swords..

It wasn’t long before plates started to arrive.

Chicken Hearts (£2 per skewer) were exactly as expected, a generous 5 per skewer and beautifully hearty, meaty and bouncy.

Thick pieces of Chicken Skin (£2 per skewer) , threaded onto skewers in scrunched folds, were grilled until crunchy and soft at once – utterly incredible – but, as I learned with my second order of the same, they are best served and eaten immediately, as that crunch fades away within minutes.

As any cook knows, Sori (chicken oysters, £2.30 per skewer) are the very best meat on the bird – two plump round morsels of dark meat located at the base of the thighs and the cook’s perk in many households. Here, two were served per skewer, with a little piece of skin stretched over each. Delicious.

Tomatobacon (cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon, £1.55 per skewer) went down particularly well with Pete. For those who think they don’t sound very Japanese, they’re definitely common on kushiyaki menus in Japan and popular too!

Shishito Japanese peppers (£2.35 per skewer) were also generous, with 4 to the skewer, and provided a welcome vegetal note against all the protein. They’re much like the small green peppers you often find in Spanish places.

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A Yuba Salad (£5.65) of spinach leaves was enjoyable but not what I was expecting. I’d hoped for more obvious yuba content, but the tiny smoked pellets of bean curd skin might just as well have been more bacon. A good point is that the salad had been properly tossed before serving and the dressing evenly coated all of it, rather than just the top few leaves, which is so often the case.

Nasu Miso Dengaku ((£3.95) was lovely, full of smoky sweetness, but a tiny portion for the price.

Uzurabacon (quail eggs wrapped in bacon, £1.80 per skewer) were good, though not as full of flavour as the tomatoes.

Tori Yaki Meshi (chicken and mushroom rice) was fabulous. Although the portion was a little on the small side for £4.95, it was full of large pieces of chicken, lots of mushroom and full of savoury umami.

Fat slices of Eringi (king oyster mushroom) were full of flavour, though £2 a skewer for just one slice per skewer felt cheeky.

From the Yakimono section of the menu, Sake Teriyaki (£5.75) was a large, thickly cut slice of tender salmon, beautifully cooked to give tender flesh and crispy crackly skin. The sauce was sweet and delicious, but not overly sickly.

After all the great savoury, I probably shouldn’t have bothered with dessert. The Layered Banana Cake (£5.75) served with green tea ice cream didn’t hit the spot. I did like that the cake wasn’t sickly sweet, but found it dense and bland. Pete took over and said it grew on him, though neither of us ate much of it. The ice cream was OK, but suffered in comparison with the superior quality of Shoryu‘s matcha ice cream – quality in, quality out and Shoryu clearly use superior ingredients here.

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More successful were our tastings of sake; ordering the Kyoto Fushimizu at £7 for 150 ml and the Akashi-tai Dai-Ginjo, at £13.50 the most expensive on the menu, we appreciated being able to compare them.

Both were poured into the glasses and allowed to spill over into the bamboo wood cups. We were encouraged to smell and sip them from the wood, which is said to enhance both aromas and flavours.

To my surprise, despite being the second cheapest on the menu, the Kyoto Fushimizu was really smooth, with none of the raw alcohol roughness of some cheap sakes I’ve tried. Made with Kyoto spring water, the menu described it as flowery with a hint of mint. No mint for me, but I’d agree with the floral tag.

For me, the Akashi-tai Dai-Ginjo had a definite hint of aniseed to its flavour profile, which meant I didn’t enjoy it as much.

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From our vantage point, it was fun to glance up from our chatter (agreeing that we’re retuning to Japan, rather appropriately, and talking about possible itineraries) and watch the grill chefs at work – a focused choreography of renewing charcoal, carefully placing new skewers, checking those already cooking and whipping them onto a plate at just the right moment. A sprinkle of salt and wedges of lemon were added by the chef guarding the pass before the waiting staff quickly sped the plates to eagerly waiting diners.

Of course, sitting by the pass meant being served our skewers hot and fresh.

We took our time and stayed a couple of hours, ordering quite a feast during that time, but Bincho would also suit those looking for somewhere for a quick bite, or light snack.

Our bill came to £97 and divided into a little under £60 for food, a little under £30 for drinks and a little over a tenner for service.

 

Bincho Yakitori on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Mar 222013
 

This gal has been wanting to visit Five Guys Burgers and Fries for donkey’s years.

Recently, I spent a few days Massachusetts for work. When the US team leader suggested we go there for our last lunch of the week  I nodded and grinned so enthusiastically I think I startled him!

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We grabbed a table, and a few little trays of peanuts – they’re complimentary and you help yourself from a huge bin just inside the door.

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Ordering was fast – I hardly had time to read the options before my turn at the counter came up.

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I chose a regular burger with pickle relish, pickles, mushrooms and grilled onions, the smallest portion offered of plain (rather than Cajun) fries and a regular soft drink. It came to just over $10 and I couldn’t finish it, though I enjoyed trying!

A nice touch is that all the toppings are included and you can choose as many of them as you like, right up to every single one, though I think that’d overload the burger so much it’d be impossible to eat!

Drinks are self-service from a machine. Your number is called when your food is ready to collect.

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As I expected, the burger was good. Very good. Really, very very good. Two meaty, juicy beef patties, generous portions of my chosen toppings and a sesame bun which just about held together to the end, though it was a close thing. A tasty, tasty burger!

Fries are served in cups but all of us found at least as many loose in the bags as in the (filled) cups. One or two cups between all five of us would have been plenty, though the rest were taken back for hungry colleagues at the office!

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Five Guys isn’t glamorous. Five Guys isn’t gourmet. Five Guys isn’t fancy.

It’s simple, greasy, comforting fast food done really well and I loved it!

Mar 202013
 

Camden High Street, the stretch between Camden and Mornington Crescent stations, suffers a dearth of decent places to eat.

Back in the late ‘90s – early ‘00s, I worked in the beautiful “Black Cat Cigarette Building” opposite Mornington Crescent station, more formally known as Greater London House. It was once a cigarette factory owned by Carreras and the two sleek bronze statues of black cats that flanked the entrance reflected the logo of their main brand, Craven A. The cats had disappeared by the time I started working there, but were re-possessed and returned to their original spots in a huge refurbishment that took place while I was there. That’s when they restored the pretty Art Deco paint colours too.

When looking for somewhere decent to eat out, my colleagues and I rotated between El Parador (still going strong), Café Delancey (long since closed), Pizza Punani (yes really, and no it didn’t last long), two rather excellent local sandwich caffs (both gone too) and a couple of pubs (which don’t even have the same names anymore). There were a few places that were so bad we avoided them altogether, even when we sometimes grew a little bored of the ones that were good enough.

I haven’t been back much since I left in 2002 and when I have it’s mostly been to El Parador, which is still a lovely tapas restaurant, run by the same team as it was back then.

Recently, I received an invitation to visit The Forge & Foundry in Camden. Strictly speaking, these are two distinct entities – The Forge being a music and performance venue and The Foundry being a restaurant and bar. As soon as I saw the address, I knew they were in the location of my old favourite, Café Delancey and was keen to see what had become of the place.

The Forge is a not-for-profit organisation opened in 2009 by musicians Adam and Charlotte Caird. They were keen to create an intimate venue specially designed with natural acoustics for live music. It hosts small concerts and other performances and is also available to book for rehearsals, recordings and other art-based activities.

Also in the same property is The Foundry, a restaurant and bar that is connected to the performance space by a an airy glazed courtyard. The courtyard boasts a beautiful living wall  of plants, the first inside a UK restaurant. I think it would be a lovely space to book for a private function, as there’s plenty of light and space, and it would be perfect if you had a band or musical act booked to play for your guests.

The first time we visited was a special blogger event during which we learned about The Foundry’s Espresso Martini, made with coffee roasted by their neighbour, Camden Coffee Shop. A couple of weeks later, Pete and I went back to see the venue at its best – for dinner followed by the Friday night gig.

On Friday nights, you can either book a regular ticket to enjoy the performance, or one of the handful of dining tables that are set up within the performance space. Tickets for the performance cost £11 (in advance, online). A three course dinner during the performance is £25 and you need to book that via phone.

When we organised our visit, those tables were already taken, so we enjoyed our meal in The Foundry’s dining area. They have a £10 Lunch and Pre Concert menu available from 12-3 pm and 5-7 pm but we ordered from the à la carte menu.

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It was refreshing to be able to choose from an appealing list of cocktails, all priced very reasonably at around £7.50-8. There were also several wines available by the glass, at very reasonable prices, and of course by the bottle.

Cocktails were served in enormous jam jars, jumping on a tired bandwagon trend, but they were very good and generous too. I loved the balance of flavours in the Cherry Drop cocktail of the month and Pete’s Virgin Apple Mojito was similarly very well judged. (The espresso martinis we had on our previous visit were also excellent).

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Pete’s Burrata with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes, mixed leaves and a balsamic reduction (£9.50) was decent. The burrata was creamy with a rich lactic flavour and the other elements were as you’d expect. It was a touch pricy given that it’s a pretty pedestrian set of ingredients, but enjoyable.

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I went for one of the “Gourmet ploughman’s platters”, all of which are served with homemade bread, pickles, onion marmalade, apple, grapes and salad. My Seafood platter (£9.50) came with a generous serving of hot smoked trout, smoked mackerel pate and smoked salmon, all of which were very tasty. However, whilst I must point out how very good the homemade onion marmalade is, I felt it and the pickled gherkins and fruit were far better suited to the Cheese & Meat and British Cheeses platters, and didn’t really work very well with the fish. Instead, for the Seafood platter, I’d rather have a good homemade mayonnaise or aioli, and some much lighter pickles such as soused cucumbers.

The platters also come in a larger size and make lovely shared nibbles if you’re just planning to pop in for drinks and music.

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Pete’s Duck breast with orange cream, cocoa powder and plantain chips (£15) was mixed. He’d really enjoyed the same dish on our previous visit, when the quality and cooking of the duck was perfect. This time, while it was still cooked pleasantly pink the breast hadn’t been properly butchered and had a tough tendon running through every piece and the fat was chewy rather than crisp, as previously. The orange sauce was tasty, with a nice balance between sweet and sharp. The plantain crisps were as strange as the first time though – sandwiched together with an intensely sweet banana cream, they were much more of a dessert pastry than a savoury side.

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My Fillet of beef with foie gras, crostini and madeira sauce (£19.50) was also mixed, though I thought the steak itself was excellent for the price. My beef was correctly cooked, tender and full of flavour. The foie gras on top was decent, though should have been warmer. The sauce was tasty, though again, not hot enough when served, resulting in an almost solid gelatinous texture. The crostini underneath was so butter-soaked it was actually sickly and I couldn’t eat it. And this from someone who often smears an outrageously thick layer of butter onto bread or fruit cake!

Overall I enjoyed the dish, but it needs a few tweaks to shine.

My side of french fries were anaemic and needed longer in the fryer. The green beans were better.

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Pete chose Homemade ice cream or sorbet (£6), and opted for three scoops of sorbet – lemon, orange and pear. These were very good, with a noticeably smoother texture than many we’ve been served elsewhere and rich, intense and fruity flavours.

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I was pretty full but so glad I let manager Samuele tempt me with the Tocino del Cielo (£6), described as an “authentic Spanish crème caramel served with vanilla cream”. The cubes of rich crème caramel were so good, definitely the dish of the day for me. Rich, sweet, and – like the sorbet – incredibly smooth; and they looked so pretty with the gold leaf on top. The vanilla cream was not too sweet, which worked well against the cloying crème caramel. The blitzed caramelised sugar looked pretty, but as it had been left on the slate for too long before serving, it had solidified and become a bit chewy.

This dessert also made me realise why the Spanish like their coffee so dark and strong – the bitterness is needed to cut through all that sugar, but the match is very good. This was a superb finish.

 

Service was patchy though I wouldn’t describe it as poor. Manager Samuele was excellent, both in knowledge and enthusiasm about the food and drinks menus and in anticipating diners’ needs. The rest of the staff were certainly friendly, but we found them lacking in training and not at all attentive, even when the restaurant was virtually empty during the earlier part of the evening. Smiles made up for some of that, but service did let the experience down somewhat.

 

After our meal, we moved into The Forge for the performance. It was fully booked and there was a great buzz to the space.

As Pete was feeling ill, we weren’t able to stay for the whole of Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s performance but we saw enough to appreciate the beauty of her voice and her unique style. Some of her material we enjoyed more, and some less, but appreciated being able to see her perform live in such a small and well-designed space.

 

Within a short walk of both Mornington Crescent and Camden tube stations, The Forge and The Foundry are really easy for us to get to, so I’m planning to keep an eye on the Events list. A few cocktails, a shared platter or two, some fine music and that crème caramel would make for a fine evening!

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The Forge and The Foundry.

 

After the amazing kaiseki dinner we had at Ryokan Kansako I was looking forward to dining at Ryokan Shiraume, our splurge choice in Kyoto for two nights (after which we switched to a hotel in Kyoto station for 3 nights).

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Shiraume is a stunning ryokan situated right in the heart of Kyoto’s well-preserved Gion district. It is built right on the bank of the Shirakawa Stream, amongst the old cherry, willow and plum trees and many rooms enjoy the view and sound of gentle running water. Access is across a small entrance bridge from the street along the other side of the stream and the two beautiful white plum trees for which the inn has been named flank each side.

The Gion district developed to serve the needs of visitors to the nearby Yasaka Shrine, many of whom travelled some distance to see it. Eventually, Gion evolved to become an exclusive and well known geisha district. Incidentally, Gion geisha refer to themselves as geiko, meaning women of the arts, rather than geisha or person of the arts.

Like many of the surviving traditional machiya (townhouses) in the area, Shiraume was once an ochaya – although ochaya translates as ‘tea house’, don’t confuse it with a chashitsu (tea room), where a traditional Japanese tea ceremony may be enjoyed. Geisha entertain their clients by performing the many traditional arts in which they have been trained. Ochaya provide entertainment spaces for such gatherings and Dairyu (Big Willow), as this one was called, was particularly popular with local novelists and poets, including Yoshii Isamu, whose ode to Gion is commemorated on a carved stone monument outside.

Dairyu was opened in 1855, towards the end of the Edo period, and has been passed down from mother to daughter through seven generations. In 1949 the fifth generation owner decided to convert her property into an elegant ryokan (inn) which she named Shiraume. Today, her granddaughter Tomoko Okuda owns the inn. She is a wonderful host and looked after us so warmly during our stay that we can’t wait to return.

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On arrival, we were greeted by Tomoko, checked in and shown to our room before a member of staff arrived with tea and sweets

We booked Umekoyomi, a beautiful ground floor room overlooking the stream. It’s a traditional Japanese style room with pretty antiques and artwork, an en suite bathroom with a beautiful hinoki (cypress wood) tub and has a small entrance hall leading into the main room and bathroom. Sound proofing must be good as we never heard other guests when in our room.

Before taking over Shiraume, Tomoko travelled all around the world and is no stranger to a traveller’s needs. She cleverly provides a traditional Japanese inn with modern facilities including underfloor heating, air conditioning, lovely large thick towels, a hair dryer, telephones in each room, a mini bar fridge (which you can put your own items into, if you prefer), tea and coffee facilities and even a TV and music system. Of course, yukata (traditional robes) and toiletries are also provided.

In the four other traditional inns in which we stayed, I found the futon mattresses quite thin, so asked for my bed to be made with 2 or even three stacked together. But at Shiraume, the futons are far thicker, and the most comfortable we slept on.

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In the afternoon, a selection of drinks and snacks are laid out in one of the public areas for guests to enjoy.

And Tomoko or one of her team are always available to help with local advice or anything you need.

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Once again, I wrote in advance to advise that I might struggle to sit comfortably on the floor for the traditional meal we booked for our first night. Tomoko invited us to dine in one the separate dining rooms, where we could lower our legs into the foot space provided. We sat facing out to the open window, listening to the running water of the stream and watching Gion walking past.

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The first course was a stunning array of appetisers. As you can see, presentation is just as important as taste.

Inside it’s casing, a grilled mountain chestnut; pink mountain potato; in a citrus bowl, teeny tiny fish in a soya sauce; in an intricate basket woven from seaweed, a “persimmon” that is actually a quail egg and two gingko chestnuts; potato topped with ikura (salmon roe); burdock root; anago (salt-water conger eel) nigiri sushi and a long stem of pickled ginger to refresh the mouth after the sushi.

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Course two was dobin mushi (a selection of seasonal ingredients cooked in a light broth).

Within the little tea pot was a light but flavoursome liquid containing prawns, matsutake mushrooms and a fish called hamo. Tomoko explained that hamo is also known as the emperor fish and related a story – the emperor loved ocean fish but, during the heat of summer, only one type could survive the one week journey from the coast . But this fish had so very many bones that he just couldn’t enjoy it. One day a clever chef found a way to sliced the bones out whilst leaving the skin in tact, to hold the fish pieces together. The emperor could enjoy ocean fish again!

It’s said to take 16 years of training to learn the technique…

The English language name for hamo is daggertooth pike conger eel.

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On the next plate was a grilled scallop with sea urchin sauce, a boiled egg with black sesame seeds and a seaweed and wasabi condiment. Decorating the plate, but also edible, was a sprig of new harvest rice from Siga prefecture which had been popped (like corn) on the stem.

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When we booked, we were given a choice between the Kobe beef or the standard kaiseki menu and opted for one of each. Tomoko kindly brought the different courses from each menu separately so both of us could share each one.

First up was the Kobe beef, simply served with Japanese black vinegar. Delicious and tender, though it suffered a little in comparison with that unbelievably silky Hida beef we’d had a few days earlier!

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From the kaiseki menu, we were served a selection of sashimi – fatty tuna, snapper and squid.

After that came sushi with grilled preserved mackerel, a speciality of Kyoto where fish often had to be preserved during the hotter months.

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For our seventh course, we were back to the shared items from both menus again. The star of this dish for me was the yuba (bean curd skin) served with soya and bonitobut the grilled guji (Japanese tilefish), shitake mushroom and spinach were also fresh and delicious.

Guji is also known as amadai in some parts of Japan.

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Diamond crab came topped with tobiko (flying fish roe) and was served with grilled aubergine, soya beans and 2 different vinegars. It was so fresh it was almost sweet!

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Next came rice, pickles and miso soup.

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And we finished with hojicha (roasted green tea) and black sesame ice cream with fresh fruit.

The next morning, we were offered a choice of a Western or Japanese breakfast, and this time we opted for Western.

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First came tea and fruit juice followed by a basket of top quality croissants, walnut and raisin bread (some of the best I’ve had), chocolate brioche (which was amazingly light), bacon pastries and toast plus omelette, fresh fruit and jams. Enjoyed from the private dining room again, with the window open to the light and sounds coming from outside, it was a wonderful start to the day.

Well fortified, we set off to explore Gion and Higashiyama – areas of Kyoto known for traditional architecture, shops and restaurants as well as many temples and shrines. I’ve shared several posts about these temples and shrines in recent weeks.

Unfortunately, the second half of this day turned into quite an unpleasant one. I was hit with one of the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced – it seemed to be both a neck and shoulder tension headache and a migraine combined, more severe than either, and it wouldn’t respond to my normal prescription drugs or to sleep. Eventually, I asked Pete to see if a doctor might be available. Instead, to ensure we were seen as quickly as possible, Tomoko quickly called a taxi and personally escorted us to the local hospital where she helped translate my symptoms, medical history and drugs to the medical staff and waited with us for quite some time. My assigned doctor decided to give me a CAT scan, just to be safe, and pronounced it clear a little later. Indeed, the symptoms finally started clearing of their own accord an hour or two after that. Typical! Before she left to return to the ryokan, Tomoko left instructions with the hospital reception to organise our taxi back and when we returned home, we discovered a simple but very delicious midnight meal left in our room, as she realised we had missed dinner. Being in so much pain is never pleasant, but it’s much more distressing when you’re away from home and I can’t begin to tell you how much easier it was for both Pete and I to have the practical and emotional support of Tomoko. The next day, we had breakfast in our room and Tomoko kindly allowed us to stay late in the room for me to rest, before we transferred to our next hotel.

Of course, just to make it clear, we loved Shiraume even before my illness and had already been impressed by the warmth and welcome of Tomoko and her team, not to mention the clever way that modern comfort has been brought to a very traditional ryokan experience. And the marvellous cuisine! For anyone nervous about staying in a ryokan (although there’s no reason to be), Shiraume is a perfect choice. And of course, it’s just as appealing for ryokan old hands looking for somewhere special.

 

With huge thanks and friendship to Tomoko-san for her kindness during our visit.

 

One of the (many) pleasures of staying in a Japanese ryokan is the wonderful traditional food served for both breakfast and dinner.

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

Such meals usually have a prescribed order to what is served, though each chef takes pride in designing and presenting their own menus based on local delicacies, seasonal ingredients and traditional techniques combined with their personal style. You can expect a selection of appetisers, sushi or sashimi, a stew of seafood, meat or vegetables, grilled fish or meat, deep fried items, steamed items, rice, miso soup, at least one pickle but usually an assortment of different ones and fresh fruit or sweets.

Traditionally, the meals are served in guests’ rooms, at the low tables provided. After the meal, ryokan staff push the tables aside and make up the futon beds in their place, though some of the larger guest rooms have separate areas for dining and sleeping.

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We stayed just one night in the beautiful Ryokan Kankaso, in Nara but would happily have stayed another – we found our time there so peaceful and relaxing.

The ryokan enjoys a fantastic location at the heart of Nara Park, just a moment’s meander from the famous Todaiji Temple’s Nandaimon (Great Southern Gate). Walking through the entrance to Kankaso is like entering an oasis of calm in the chaos of tourists and deer that are Nara Park. A lovely touch is the planks hanging at the entrance, showing the names of arriving and departing guests.

The core of the ryokan is over 1200 years old and it was once used as a sub-temple to Todaiji. Although most elements have been mended or  rebuilt over time, at least one of the beams has been in place for 12 centuries. Although facilities are very well maintained, there is a beautiful patina of age to much of the ryokan.

As the only guests staying that night, we were assigned a stunning room surrounded by an expansive moss garden on three sides. With a small raised walkway to reach the room, it was essentially detached from the central area of the ryokan and felt like a secret hideaway.

Our room had an en suite bathroom with small but deep wooden tub and a wall-mounted shower, complete with traditional tiny wooden stool and bucket. But we were also invited to use one of the three beautiful shared bathrooms; the two larger ones are usually assigned to men or women only but since there were no other guests, we were able to share one privately. Soaking in the searingly hot bath, looking out onto the garden through the large fogged picture window, we felt like we were in a different era.

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Because of my hip pain, I’d asked in advance whether we might be able to eat at a higher table so our hostess, Aya-san showed us to a large room in the central building, where a table had been set up for us. Like our own room, this one was decorated with beautiful artworks such as the painted screen and hanging tapestry to one side and two statues of Buddha and a vase of flowers to the other.

Aya-san was a charming hostess. Though she spoke very little English at all, she was adept at the use of charades and smiles, and when she realised my interest in knowing more about each element of the meal, she used a small electronic Japanese-English dictionary to translate the chef’s explanations of ingredients and techniques. Her enthusiasm and her delight at our own made this a truly memorable evening quite apart from the food.

And the food was terrific. Though it had a lot of competition, I’d say it was the best meal of the trip.

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We started by ordering drinks. Sake for me and beer for Pete.

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Our first dish was an ikura (salmon roe) salad with radish and a salty dressing – a simple combination of fresh flavours and textures to cleanse the palate and start the meal.

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This selection of starters included a hollowed yuzu (citrus) filled with salad, figs with a nutty paste (which may have been chestnuts) and uni (sea urchin) roe sprinkled on top, two pieces of nigiri sushi with pickled mackerel, what looked like a candied fruit but was actually a sweet, preserved egg yolk and lastly, a cube of steamed fish and rice paste with what Aya described as baby potatoes and which I think were mukago. Mukago are often called mountain yams or wild potatoes, though these tiny potato-like bulbils grow on a bush and not underground, like yam and potato tubers.

This small plate represented an incredible range of textures and tastes.

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After serving the tea pots, Aya showed us that the top lid served as a bowl and the inner lid could be used to set the lime upon. She instructed us to squeeze some lime into the broth before pouring some broth into the bowl to drink. We used our chopsticks to fish out mushroom, prawns and white fish pieces which had been cooked in the hot liquid.

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The sashimi selection, served in a bamboo tray over ice, was superb. Prawns included the crunchy head and the soft tail; tuna was beautiful in colour and flavour; a small mound of bream was delicate and astoundingly fresh. Served alongside was some of the best wasabi I’ve tried, a deep dark soy sauce, daikon (white radish) and a shiso leaf.

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We were not only enjoying the food itself but also the beautiful preparation and presentation of the food and the delightful range of dishes in which it was served.

This beautiful purple lidded bowl opened to reveal a tofu and mushroom dumpling, which had been fried, then served in a viscous soup. Over the top were sprinkled green herbs and tiny yellow flower petals and inside was a hidden centre of eel. This was one of my favourite courses of the meal; quite unlike anything I’d had before.

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Described as “harvest fish” the next course was served with crispy fried daikon and pickled onion with a garnish of a bright green gingko acorn skewered onto a pine needle. A wedge of yuzu was provided, to squeeze over the top.

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The tempura course was simple but beautifully decorated with a couple of stems of rice, briefly grilled so that some of the grains popped. There were two types of tempura – one was a parcel of conger eel, pea and mushroom and the other fresh green pepper on its own. Delicious!

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For our next course, Aya carefully lit a tiny ceramic heater for each of us, so we could enjoy a sukiyaki – this popular dish allows diners to cook the ingredients to their liking before removing them from the bubbling broth. Ours contained beautifully marbled beef, enoki mushrooms, onions and mizuna leaves in a delicious sweet and salty cooking liquid. The fat content made the beef marvellously soft and silky, with the most wonderful flavour.

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As is traditional, we finished with rice, miso soup and pickles. The fried rice with fish was gently savoury, but not overpowering in flavour. The miso was intensely umami and rich, with the teeniest tiniest discs of spring onion floating within it. The pickles were Nara specialities and included uri (squash) which was a rich, sweet pickle and daikon and cucumber, which were lighter and fresher.

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To finish we enjoyed fresh pear, grapes and pomegranate seeds in a gelatinous sweet sauce, served with tea.

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We had enjoyed our leisurely meal so much that we popped through to the kitchen area to give our thanks to the chef before retiring back to our rooms for the night, where our futons had been laid out for us in our absence.

After one of the most peaceful nights’ sleep I can remember, we woke up full of joy to slide back the blinds and enjoy our views of the beautiful ryokan gardens.

We returned to the same room as the previous night, for breakfast. Unlike dinner, breakfast dishes were all served together, so we could enjoy the various elements in whichever order we chose.

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The little heaters came out again, this time topped with beautiful lidded bowls in which the very freshest soft tofu simmered, alongside enoki mushrooms, nori (seaweed) and onions. We were given a netted implement with which to scoop out the cooked items, and a rich black sauce in which to dip the tofu.

In addition we had local pickles, a crunchy green salad with a fabulous sesame dressing, slices of tamago (omelette) served with tiny fish and grated daikon, grilled salmon and nori with more pickles and the requisite rice and miso soup. Big mugs of tea were also very welcome. As a counter to the savoury items, some sweet fresh persimmon was a lovely dish to end on.

Ahead of the trip, Pete had wondered whether he’d enjoy eating this kind of breakfast in place of his usual toast and Marmite. He’s fairly adventurous about trying things, but somehow eating unusual dishes for breakfast feels further out of the comfort zone than trying those same things for lunch or dinner. I don’t know whether the wonderful dinner we’d had the evening before had helped set his expectations, or whether he was just in the right frame of mind to go with the flow, but I was very pleased that both of us enjoyed this breakfast equally.

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After a last shower and soak in our gorgeous private bathroom, with its own views out to the garden, we finally packed up our things and reluctantly said our goodbyes to both the ryokan and to Aya, wishing we’d booked a second night in this peaceful retreat.

Next, Kyoto…

 

Sometimes being a blogger is a hard life! OK, stop laughing, I was kidding! There are some bloody marvellous invitations…

In the biting cold of early January I made my way to John Salt in Angel to attend a test and review evening by chef Neil Rankin, two nights before he opened to the public. As it was a test night, I won’t do a full review as dishes may be tweaked a little in the first few weeks. (But I hope they aren’t tweaked much as I thought they were bloody fantastic!)

Instead, here’s an appallingly badly photographed run through the menu that my fellow lucky bastard diners and I were treated to.

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Deep fried oysters with beef fat mayo

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Crab and fennel on pork skin – yes, beautifully fresh crab on a large slab of puffy crunchy crackling, and one of the most popular dishes of the evening.

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Raw bass, apple and bergamot – one of the only dishes that wasn’t universally loved on the night, the bergamot flavour was too overpowering for some but I loved how it was the first thing to hit followed by chilli heat and finishing with the sesame, though I understand comments that it masked the bass itself a little.

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Raw beef, pear and sesame – this was another very popular dish; based on Korean yukhoe (beef tartare), the simple flavours allowed the quality of the ingredients to shine.

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Pork floss, popcorn, bay and smoked loin – one of my favourites; though it sounded a bit “cheffy” when Neil described it, the moment I tasted it I wanted to grab the plate to me and keep it all to myself.

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Grilled salad – who knew grilled vegetables could have such texture and flavour?

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Frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese – meaty, fermented cabbage goodness!

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Scallops with peanut and shrimp – served in a superbly refreshing ponzu dressing.

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Half or whole coal baked crab with bisque – fresh, fresh crab simply grilled, lifted further by the most phenomenal thick, rich and very intense crab bisque sauce to dip.

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Chicken skin hash – billed as a side this was comfort food for the win; lots of carbs, lots of flavour and an oozy egg yolk for extra richness.

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Skirt steak with kimchi hollandaise – there are other places in London making a big deal of their £10 steaks but I’d be amazed if the quality of their beef could rival this Cornish beauty, set off to perfection by the spicy hollandaise.

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Whole megrim sole in bone sauce – I was so incredibly full by the time this arrived, all I could do was taste one bite. The sauce was rich and the fish tender, but I was too full to give it fair attention.

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Bacon panna cotta – somehow I found my second (or perhaps third or fourth) wind when this came along; a rich, greasy savoury cream full of sweet crunchy bacon; it sounds utterly revolting but it was absolutely addictive.

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The banana dog – a banana coated in corndog batter, served I think with brown butter ice cream. Good but the batter was a little soggy on ours.

And lastly, without a photo, an Old fashioned trifle with clementines which was full of boozy cream and rich fruit.

 

Hopefully you have a good impression, in spite of my appalling images, of just how excellent Neil’s food is. Describing it on the night to a friend who wasn’t there, I said it was “innovative without being wanky” and I think that’s a very good summary; it’s all about great ingredients presented simply but with Neil’s own twists and style.

Pricing is very reasonable, in fact much of the menu is an absolute steal.

And it can only get better and better. So go, soon! I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can!

For far better photos of both the space itself and the food, do look at Paul Winch-Furness’ portfolio. His images are sharp, colourful, lively and beautiful… and actually do justice to the feast.

 

Kavey Eats attended the test night as a guest of John Salt.

(It’s not common to write about a test night so I did check with Neil before sharing this quick overview of the menu).

 

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Abisko is located in Northern Sweden, right up at the top of Swedish Lapland and well within the Arctic circle. With very little light pollution and prevalent weather patterns which usually keep skies clear of clouds, it’s considered to be one of the best places to see the Northern Lights.

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Whilst we were unlucky with the Northern Lights during our visit at the end of December, we did enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounded our lodgings at the Abisko Turiststation.

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At this time of year the sun never rises above the horizon, but it’s not completely dark. In fact, for a few hours, it’s actually fairly bright, albeit the light has a very distinctly blue tone. Of course, it’s also dark for much of the day and night. I found it difficult to handle the lack of real, yellow sunlight and can readily understand why depression is a common complaint in polar populations. On the plus side, London, when we returned, felt positively brimming with sunlight!

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Although weather stopped us on the first night, a two night stay meant we were able to ascend to the Aurora Sky Station up on one of the peaks of the Skanderna (Scandinavian Mountains). Of course, when the weather conditions are right and the aurora borealis is putting on a show, the Sky Station gives an unparalleled view.

But even without the lightshow, it’s still a wonderful place to visit.

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The chairlift doesn’t operate during the day, so an evening visit is the only option. That means ascending in the dark and descending in the dark. We’d booked to have dinner at the Sky Station so went up when the chairlift opened at 6pm. Non-dining visitors are invited to ascend two hours later.

The trip took about 20 minutes and it was pretty scary dangling over the barely visible snow-covered landscape below, especially each time the chairlift stopped to let other passengers on or off, and we were left bouncing gently up and down, peering into the gloom, straining to hear anything in the silence. For someone who is scared of heights, it was doubly terrifying!

Abisko in December is bitterly, bitterly, bitterly cold.

Even the clothing we already had (from two wonderful holidays to the Antarctic and a third to the Falkland Islands) was not enough to insulate us from the chill. The chairlift base station provides all-in-one suits but even with several layers beneath, double gloves and socks, scarves and padded hats, our extremities were starting to feel numb towards the end of the journey.

Near the top, we ascended into the clouds and it reminded me of movie representations of purgatory, with characters surrounded by white nothingness on all sides. Or perhaps just a rather chilly sensory deprivation floatation tank.

Luckily, the Sky Station is warm, colourful and a buzz of activity as all the diners arrive and get settled in.

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The station is actually quite small. In the main room, the dining tables take up half the space, with a tiny kitchenette in the corner; there’s casual sofa seating at the other side and a very welcome wood burning fire. A small Aurora room has pictures and panels on science and stories about the Northern Lights. A cloak room at the entrance provides hooks for all the outerwear.

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And there’s an outdoor balcony from which you can see the twinkling lights of the Turiststation and small town below. Of course, it’s cold cold cold, so I didn’t stay out there very long!

On arrival, we were given a welcome warm drink of mulled lingonberry juice and took turns to defrost by the fire before being invited to take our places in the dining area.

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Dinner was cooked and served by charming and friendly staff and was rather delicious.

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The starter was a creamy cauliflower soup with truffle oil. On the side was a slice of sourdough bread and your choice of bleak roe or dried reindeer meat or pickled mushroom with lemon cream and red onion. Both the soup and accompaniments were very enjoyable, though the soup would have benefited from being served hot rather than lukewarm.

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Our meal choices were made in advance. For our main most of us chose roasted reindeer with a red wine and lingonberry sauce, served with potato puree and green pea stomp. The reindeer was fabulously tender, like a fillet of beef, with wonderful flavour. It was just perfect with the lingonberry and red wine sauce. Super mash too!

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Mum, being a pescetarian, opted for the Arctic char and horseradish, served with the same potato puree and pea stomp and what I think were large caper berries on their stems. I didn’t taste it but she enjoyed it. A goat’s cheese and beetroot dish was also available for vegetarians.

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Dessert was a simple smooth vanilla pudding with blueberries and cloudberries.

A small selection of beers, wines and soft drinks were also available.

Oh but be warned – the toilets are outside!

Stepping outside, the cold wind buffeted me immediately, and I had to take care not to lose my footing. And yes, the toilets were bloody cold! It’s a toss up as to whether it’s worth it putting on your outerwear again to make the short outside walk more bearable – doing so also means you’ll spend longer wriggling out and back into your clothing in the tight, cold space of the toilets. I decided not to bother with my outerwear onesie and was nearly frozen solid when both toilets were occupied and I had to wait for what seemed like an eternity.

Take heed if you’re planning a Sky Station visit and considering celebrating with another drink!

Sadly, the skies remained covered by cloud and the wind whipped snow to obscure the views even further. Still, it was a lovely evening and I’d certainly recommend Abisko to those looking for a non-Santa Lapland experience with the possibility of Northern Lights.

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Thanks to my mum for photo of my sister on the chair lift.

 

Hush Brasserie manages to feel like a chain restaurant even though, as far as I can tell, there is only one branch. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as it’s shorthand for a pleasant, modern, somewhat innocuous decor, a menu that appeals to the widest possible customer base, well-trained staff and competent cooking.

Its Holborn location is very central, making it a good bet for weekday lunches or early dinners with colleagues or friends. On our Monday lunch time visit, it was surprisingly busy, which provided a pleasant but not intrusive buzz.

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Like Balans Soho, which I reviewed recently, the menu has an international influence, with American, Chinese, Indian and Italian-inspired dishes, though there are several resolutely British dishes such as Toad in the Hole, Shepherd’s Pie, Sausages & Mash, Chicken and Mushroom Pie and a Sunday Roast. However, these appealing dishes have been relegated to a “Blackboard” section with only one of them available on any given day. A shame, because I found these dishes the most tempting on the menu.

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Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, French Bread & Garlic Butter (£4.95)

A very simple, rustic and generously-sized dish, my starter was full of flavour with the mushrooms benefiting from the kind of slow cooking that intensifies flavours.

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Dressed Dorset Crab with Avocado With Toasted Sourdough (£7.95)

Presentation was a little mixed here, with the crab and avocado served in an elegant tower and then paired with less refined slices of baguette. Flavours were good and this was another decent start.

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Lobster Roll (£15.95) served with New York Chopped Salad and Frites

At first glance, I worried that my lobster roll contained far too much mayonnaise and far too little lobster but appearances were deceiving and it was very generously packed with large, meaty chunks of lobster which balanced well with the mayo. The New York Salad was an excellent accompaniment – the tiny caper berries mixed in with cucumber, tomato and lettuce gave just the right hint of sharpness to cut through the lobster roll. Chips were very good, crisp and with nice colour on the outside and soft inside. For £16 I thought this was both delicious and excellent value.

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Tiger Prawn Masala with Lemon Rice (£14.95)

My fellow Indian friend and I weren’t sure whether ordering the Tiger Prawn Masala was setting ourselves up for disappointment but decided to give Hush the benefit of the doubt. The dish was actually pretty good! The lemon rice was much like I’ve had elsewhere and the curry sauce was good, if lacking any chilli heat and that’s me, the chilli-wuss, talking. Essentially it was a prawn moilee, but given a more generic label.

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Mars Bar Cheesecake with Praline Ice Cream (£5.95)

The dessert was the only disappointment in our meal. Billed as a Mars Bar cheesecake, the only caramel was that sperm or tadpole-like wiggle on the plate. Although the top had been dusted in cocoa, there was no real chocolate taste either. So it was essentially a plain cheese cake with no Mars Bars flavours whatsoever. Luckily, the praline ice cream was so tasty it made up for it, and we satisfied ourselves with that and left the cheesecake unfinished.

With a glass of wine and a green tea each, our bill came to £33 a head plus service. For what we had, that seemed fairly reasonable; the prawn curry was a few pounds overpriced but the rest was fair. Without drinks, £25 a head for 2.5 courses each.

Service was as you’d expect in this kind of restaurant – friendly and helpful but busy busy busy dealing with so many tables.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Hush Brasserie.

 

As I mentioned recently, 2012 has seen London restaurant openings conspire to create a grand Soho ramen crawl.

Bone Daddies, the first solo venture from chef proprietor Ross Shonhan, is a bit different from the rest. Definitely rock and roll – as the sound track in the restaurant testifies.

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Formerly head chef at Nobu in Dallas and Zuma in Knightsbridge, and trained by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa himself, Shonhan is no stranger to both traditional and modern Japanese cuisine, though he was born in Australia and grew up on a cattle farm! He’s clearly invested huge amounts of time learning about the many variations of ramen across Japan, about recipes and techniques, about ramen history and traditions and has finally practised and tweaked to develop his own unique take on this simple noodle soup.

In a great interview with Sous Chef, he explains that the restaurant name is his “tongue-in-cheek reference to the wizardry that happens with a handful of bones” and indeed, the Tonkotsu Ramen on his menu benefits from a deeply savoury pork bone broth.

Like his former mentor, Shonhan isn’t afraid to combine East and West ingredients and influences. Unlike ramen joints in Japan, Bone Daddies offers a variety of different broths and a decent selection of snacks or sides.

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My friend and I dropped into Bone Daddies on a bitterly cold December night. The wind whipped through the streets so sharply that, even when the restaurant filled up, not long after our arrival, no-one wanted to take the stools nearest the front door.

Like many Japanese ramen specialists, the space is informal. Instead of individual tables, all guests are seated at counters or large sharing tables. This works well if you’re visiting alone or with one friend, but makes it unsuitable for 3 or more, if you hope to hold a group conversation. In any case, the stools are packed in close, so it’s clear that you’re not intended to linger. And that’s OK; it is what it is and is much like its Japanese counterparts.

There’s not much to say about the salt-sprinkled Edamame (£3.50). They were perfectly enjoyable but I prefer the more interesting options at Feng Sushi (who offer chilli- and miso-dressed versions) and Shoryu (who serve theirs with a distinctive yuzu salt).

The Fried Chicken (£5), on the other hand, was utterly amazing! Superbly moist and flavoursome, this chicken karaage was as good as any I’ve come across and I’d recommend popping in to Bone Daddies just for this dish alone.

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Then again, since my Tonkotsu Ramen (£10) was also very good, I recommend you visit for that too. The pork bone broth was described as 20 hours in the making, and was suitably rich in flavour. That said, it was actually a little too thick and fat-heavy for my tastes and there wasn’t enough of it for the size of bowl and portion of noodles. I’d rather it were thinned down a touch and more were served. And there was so much fat already in it that I can’t see the point of the menu add-on of a pipette of chicken fat for 50 pence, and this is coming from someone who adores fat for all the flavour it brings. The other elements of the dish were simple – pork belly, spring onions, bamboo and boiled egg. Both the pork and egg were far better in texture and flavour than those I tasted at Shoryu a few weeks previously, and added enormously to the overall enjoyment of the dish.

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My friend’s T22 Ramen (£9) came with a chicken bone soy broth and had chicken and “cock scratchings”, crunchy little flavour bombs scattered over the top. She loved it!

The atmosphere was buzzing, and no sooner was a seat emptied than the counter was cleared and another customer shown in. Bone Daddies isn’t a place to linger, and given that I find tall stools less comfortable than regular chairs, that’s probably just as well.

But it’s a perfect option for an very reasonably priced and tasty lunch or dinner.

Next time, I want to try the soft shell crab and sashimi starters, and explore the Japanese drinks menu which includes beer, sake, shochu and whisky. Of course, I’ll squeeze in the fried chicken and ramen too!

 

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