Monday, 23 November 2009

Galvin at Windows

For our anniversary dinner, Thomas and I visited Galvin at Windows. Having been out of action for the best part of a week with a particularly nasty stomach bug I was glad of a celebratory night out. We started proceedings with some champagne and half a dozen Fines de Claires oysters at J Sheekey Oyster Bar.

Extravagant but brilliant. The Oyster bar was fairly deserted and it feels a little stuffy. I'd like to return later in the evening another time. Perhaps when in full swing the atmosphere picks up, it felt a little flat but service was excellent.

So too was the service at Galvin at Windows. Certainly one of my best meals of the year, there is very little I could fault. We opted for Head Chef André Garrett's Prestige menu which offers 3 courses for £58.

To start things off we were given an amuse bouche of butternut squash puree with parmesan foam. This looked very pretty, almost like a dessert but with deep umami flavours courtesy of the cheesy foam it was deliciously savoury. The texture of the puree was a little more solid that I'd expected but the taste was delicate in contrast to the strong parmesan topping. A fine start.

There were 2 types of bread offered, olive and rye and some salted butter served on a cool slate. We chose a German Riesling to accompany as we were both starting with fish. My starter was perhaps my favourite thing about the meal.

I chose the salmon and crab starter which was vibrantly appealing. The salmon was tender and falling apart whilst still being robust and substantial in flavour. The crab meat, white and dark was scattered over the top and quinelled in the centre. There was a sprinkling of pickled ginger, baby basil leaves, chives and some spots of caviar. A rich and luxurious dish it was absolutely remarkable in it's execution, everything combining together and managing to not overload the tastebuds and remain fresh in flavour. There were some dollops of creamed avocado too, subtle and smooth adding yet another texture variant.

Thomas' started with seared scallops with pumpkin puree and pomegranate. These were cooked perfectly, the interesting combination of pomegranates and pumpkin merging wonderfully, the fruity seeds popping in the mouth and adding an exciting crunch to each bite. The bacon and maple vinaigrette was tangy and meaty, an oft used but doubtless perfect partner for scallops.

For main I plumped for the Game of the Day which in this instance was pheasant with fondant potatoes and mushroom jus. I was impressed with the portion sizes and my main was again nicely presented, the jus being poured over the plate in front of me by the waiter. The bed of caramelized onion and sprigs of broccoli were well seasoned and crunchy, the meat tender and packed full of flavour but the thing that sung out to me in the dish was the potato. Cooked in stock to enrich it with flavour then pan fried and literally makes my mouth water every time I think back to just how good it was, the humble potato turned into something unforgettable.

Thomas' main course of fillet of scotch beef with fois gras, short rib and braised shallots he declared as without a doubt the finest dish he has ever eaten. Due to the darkness of the restaurant my pictures are awful and my picture of the fillet was unreadable. I tasted this too and the quality of the meat was fantastic, there can be few greater things to eat than a great steak and fois gras.

For dessert we were both feeling a little full but decided to continue the extravagance and had the pear tart tartin to share. It was enormous and so very well made, the pastry incredibly buttery and the fruits cooked perfectly, served with a decadent pouring of caramel sauce and pear liqueur laced cream. I managed a few bites before having to admit defeat but savoured each mouthful. This really was the kind of meal that makes you regret that you cannot eat more, I would have loved to sample some of the cheese too.

Once we'd asked for the bill we were presented with a cute plate of petit fours, thoughtfully decorated with a happy anniversary message, I'd mentioned the reason for our booking. The chocolates were a fine end to the meal, there were 3 varieties, 1 dark chocolate ganache, 1 coffee flavoured and 1 orange chocolate.

As a parting gift we were offered a piece of marshmallow, pink or green, I tried one of each, this is the kind of touch which I think sets Galvin at Windows apart from their peers and places them at the very top of my list of restaurants, though admittedly, I still have many to try! Including the new Galvin La Chapelle

We also had a pre meal cocktail in the bar with the most incredible views over the city. Nibbles were nice too, mixed nuts and wasabi peas. This was genuinely the nicest meal I have had in a long time and I am keen to return, both service and cuisine here at Windows are impeccable, coupled with the romantic setting and reasonabley priced set menus, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Galvin at Windows
Hilton Park Lane

Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason

Nibs and I spent the afternoon strolling around Fortnum and Mason one Saturday. It was all going swimmingly until we chanced upon some deep fried tarantulas. We decided we needed some ice cream to recover and head to The Parlour to recuperate.

A subsequent twitter conversation with @foodbymark informed me that said arachnids are not very tasty and that chewing on the legs can leave some unwanted fibres between the teeth. Only the brave would sample the abdomen or the head, unimaginably foul.

Much nicer fare for us at The Parlour, I had the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel which was classically good, plenty of fish and a nice springy bagel. A wedge of lemon is a must and when I make these at home I find they benefit from a few leaves of rocket and a lightly toasted bagel. At £9 a pop these are not cheap but the quality is good and there was plenty of cream cheese squishing out of the sides.

Nibs chose the toasted welsh rarebit crumpets with tomato chutney which were a great choice. The 2 crumpets were brilliantly soft, not at all doughy like pre made ones and the rarebit topping was a brilliant addition. The tang of the chutney was a great addition to the dish. This was £10 and looked rather small but didn't disappoint.

The main attraction at The Parlour is obviously the ice cream. We shared a bowl with 3 scoops, 1 pistachio Siciliano (my favourite flavour generally) 1 chocolate macadamia nut biscuit and 1 praline Niccioia.

The nicest by far was the macadamia and chocolate. It was dark and tasted strongly of cocoa. The nuts and the biscuits giving a nice crunch. The ices were a bit chalky rather than creamy in consistency but were more flavoursome than most I've sampled. Perhaps the final time to get in some ice cream before the cold winter months hit.

The decor at The Parlour is very genteel, we had a couple of glasses of prosecco to wash it all down, considering a cup of tea is £5 we thought we might as well splash out. This is the kind of place that I would bring visiting relatives to but probably won't be back to eat of a Saturday afternoon though I do love wandering around looking at everything, there's a great baking section in the basement for all those hard to source goods.

The Parlour
Fortnum and Mason


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Yalla Yalla

One Friday lunchtime a few weeks back I met @chrispople for a bite to eat. This was a case of third time lucky having been twice cancelled due to illness and the like.

I was pretty keen to see what Jad Youssef's Yalla Yalla had to offer having read some rave reviews following the June opening. Having unsuccessfully tried to book for dinner back then we thought lunch would be a safer bet and arrived early to snag a window seat overlooking the picturesque little Soho alleyway. Picturesque it is not in fact and we needn't have got there early because whilst it did fill a bit - there are only 8 or so tables - there was none of the reported din I'd read of in others accounts.

We were served some lovely little appetizers, jalapenos and pickled ginger, these were very good, the olives were ok, we gobbled them hungrily whilst ordering tap water and our chosen dishes.

First to arrive was the hommos and halloumi along with some lovely warm fluffy pittas. I liked the texture of the hommos, plenty of olive oil on the top and a generous smattering of chickpeas, this was really very good. The grilled halloumi, served with more of the black olives and fresh mint was satisfyingly salty and contrasted nicely by the sliced tomatoes upon which it sat.

Unlike the falafel which Chris noted was crying out for seasoning, I liked the sesame crunch of the exterior but the filling was a little bland. The tahini and garlic yoghurt sauce was a nice accompaniment moistening the dish, this also came with a side of red onion salad. All offerings are generously garnished.

The main of lahém meshoué (lamb skewers) was good, the meat was delicious, perhaps a tad over cooked for my liking and the curious thing about the main dishes is that the meat is served on a bed of vermicelli rice, on a flatbread. There's a lot of carb going on, though the rice had some fried onion mixed through it, when what you really want is the meat. It also comes with a rather excellent sumac onion salad which was very good indeed. A perfect lunch for 1 dish I suppose but it didn't really seem to fit with the rest of our dishes. There was also a pot of garlic sauce that was more like a garlic jelly and was very potent, a bit too much so for an afternoon of meetings back at work!

This all came to just shy of £20, not cheap but I did feel pretty full up. The lack of queuing patrons suggesting to me that the initial excitement has worn off for most but I'll definitely return, probably for dinner rather than lunch.

Yalla Yalla
1 Green's Court,

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Blaggers Banquet and 1 year of blogging!!

Today Boo in London is 1 year old. One of the best things to have happened as a result of the blog is that I have met some great fellow bloggers many of whom will be gathering next Sunday 15th November in aid of Action Against Hunger cooking a 5 course meal at Hawksmoor in East London who have kindly volunteered the use of their kitchen for the day. There will be an auction on the night and in the following days. Tickets to the event are on sale here, all food and drink included.

A big thanks to Niamh of Eat Like a Girl for organizing this and I hope that we raise lots of money. Let Niamh know ( if you have anything to donate for the meal or the auction, or if you are a blogger and would like to get involved!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Tuk Tuk

I rarely have lunch out during the week this being mostly due to work commitments, I usually end up grabbing something quickly to eat at my desk, sob! This is normally always a salad. Some days this just won't do.

Last week Thomas suggested we lunch at Tuk Tuk in Soho (previously Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar, Charing Cross Road), somewhere he used to regularly frequent, mostly when hungover. He recommended the Laksa.

This had chunks of chicken, a few prawns, some tofu and heaps of glass noodles. The laksa sauce was spicy and creamy and very satifying, portions are generous and prices are low. It's by no means the best laksa I've had, the quality of ingredients is certainly not their main concern but for something quick and bargainous this does the trick.

This place looks fairly unappealing but the service was swift and helpful, with a glass of tap water this came to £4.50 each and I was back at my desk within 45 minutes.

Tuk Tuk
Old Compton Street

Tuk Tuk Thai Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fire and Stone

Another work lunch, not a working lunch but a lunch with colleagues. There were rather a lot of us and we needed somewhere nearby, WC2 area, able to accommodate a large group and not be longer than 1 hour.

This time we descended upon Fire and Stone on Maiden Lane, I refrained from gazing longingly at Rules, if only, and averted my eyes.

The service was poor, we were given the choice of 5 pizzas, here they name them after a city or country, I went for the Athena with roasted pepper sauce, spinach, feta cheese, pinenuts and pesto. I tentatively asked whether I might order from the so called a la carte menu (I quite fancied the superfood salad) but, slightly missing the point, the waitress brashly informed that the pizzas come with a side salad.

For the lunch special you get your chosen pizza with a beer or a glass of wine for £10.25. Reasonable I suppose, the food was served very swiftly.

The pizza itself was poor, an over oily base was doused in pesto and I my neighbour commented that I might well turn into popeye that afternoon with the glut of spinach throw on top. There was not much cheese, thick, barely warm (and really pretty hard) slices of tomato and the roasted pepper sauce was doing a fine job masquerading as a plain passata.

I downed my wine, left almost the entire crust, I am so not that person, and left the building with plenty of time to spare before the 2pm meeting. All other pizzas I viewed looked similarly underwhelming.

I'm itching to try the newly opened Pizza East which, by all accounts, is now the pizza to beat in London. For pizza in Central London I still think Rossopomodoro is the best i've tried.

Fire and Stone
31 Maiden Lane

Fire & Stone on Urbanspoon