Thursday, 29 December 2011


I've been back in the UK for a week now, and I have a, frankly overwhelmingly, lengthy list of meals in London, Singapore and Australia that I am keen to document here.

To start off, and ease myself back in to blogging after 3 months off, here's a mainly photographic account of an outstanding meal at Roganic, where I dined with a group of friends back in September.

We opted for the 10 course dinner menu, starting with this pretty amuse.

Then the most spectacular bread selection I've ever seen was presented, 1 between 3 (we were 6 diners in total). This was one of my highlights, there was a quite brilliant soda bread, sweet tasting, and unlike any bread I've tried before.

Heirloom tomato, poached lamb tongue and dill custard - amazing and intense dehydrated tomato.

Bradock white (egg yolk), pickled roots, ox eye daisy and salt beef - best dish of the night for me.

Cured and smoked Cornish char, Watts farm pepper and crab apple.

Pig and smoked eel, sea purslane, black mustard and pickled corn - this, I don't seem to have photographed for some reason. I do recall the sea purslane being the best thing about the dish, salty and crunchy.

Grilled langoustine, purple sprouting, elder and loganberry oil.

Royal kidneys (potato) cooked in chicken fat, snow peas, goats curd and clam juice - tastiest potato EVER.

Skate belly, young beetroot, caramelised cauliflower and King scallop.

Cumbrian rose veal cooked in buttermilk, cobnuts, mead and wild cabbage puree - I come from Kent and find it a joy to see cobnuts on any menu. The ingredient list here perfectly illustrates the clever and interesting cooking one can expect to enjoy at Roganic.

Warm salted chocolate, William pear, chesnuts and buckthorn.

Billberries, dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme.

Service deserves special mention, each member of the team is knowledgeable and helpful. The room too, which is cosy and warm, though the taller of our party had trouble with those pesky hanging lamps!

We started off with gin and tonics all round, and somehow managed to see off 5 bottles of wine throughout the night (Droit chablis '08, Chateau Filhot '99 and Rillard Morgon '09). 10 courses (plus canapé and pre dessert), I didn't feel overly full when we left and all this came to under £160 per person. I thought Roganic was terrific and am keen to try chef Ben Spalding's food again. Or, perhaps a trip up to Cumbria to sister restaurant, and head chef Simon Rogan's permanent home, L'Enclume is in order - this is certainly food worth travelling for.

19 Blandford Street

8/10 (if you've not already been, go in 2012, as Roganic is a 2 year pop up and you really don't want to miss this)

Roganic on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Boo not in London

I'll be out of the country for the rest of the year visiting Singapore then traveling around Australia.

I'm not likely to be posting whilst I'm away but plan on eating lots!

Until 2012! x

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Nid Ting, Holloway Road

Clichéd Saturday evening entertainment = dinner and movie.

I did exactly this a couple of weekends ago with a visit to Nid Ting on Holloway Road followed by the Inbetweeners. Both proved to be underwhelming.

The restaurant was pretty busy with a steady flow of diners, it's a handy location for pre or post cinema dining just along the road from the Odeon. Which is perhaps the only positive thing I can find to say about the spot. Service was efficient and friendly, we'd not booked and were deftly accommodated.

Starters were solid yet unimaginative, prawn toast, dim sum-esque dumplings and spring rolls all prettily presented and generous in portion. The table dining next to us asked for 'spring rolls for 3' to start and got the giggles when 3 of the below (minus the arm) were presented, rookie error and spring roll overload.

I opted for the lamb massaman curry from the specials for main course. I really liked the sauce, mild and sweet, sprinkled with red chilli and peanuts and bulked up with potatoes but the lamb was tough and would have benefited from a longer slower cook.

Other mains were well received, the red chicken curry and a fiercely hot chicken stir fry with tonnes of chilli. There seemed to be a contingent of faithful regular diners appearing throughout the evening to a rapturous reception, Nid Ting is a safe but not out of the ordinary local find. They have an extensive menu, which I found it very tricky to select from, and prices are average (between £7 and £12 for mains).

I'll probably stick to Charuwan in future.

Nid Ting
533 Holloway Road

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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Le Pain Quotidien

I know it's a chain but the girls and I love Alain Coumont's Le Pain Quotidien so much that we ate there twice in one day on Noy's birthday weekend.

I usually have the cheeseboard, as indeed I did last Saturday. It hits the spot with an oozing blue, a pungent camembert, a hard, crumbly red and a creamy goats cheese. Served with a few dark grapes, some baguette, fruit and nut bread, wheat bread and butter. I love it, so simple, I have no idea what the cheeses are but they are consistently good.

Also great are the platters, meat, fish, veggie, mezze, they all look appealing. The fish platter with salmon pate, crab, prawns (let the side down as they lacked any flavour) and smoked salmon is perfect for grazing over the course of a long leisurely lunch. Noy enjoyed the Italian version, with tapenade, pesto, roasted veggies, artichoke, mozzarella and prosciutto. Nibs was happy with her tomato and mozzarella salad, the salads all look seriously good, generous portions and a huge selection to choose from.

Billed as a communal dining venue, at the Soho branch there is an enormous long wooden table running through the centre of the dining room as well as smaller tables seating 2's, 3's and 4's along the outer walls. I like the relaxed feel to the place and I like the prices. I'm not sure about the tartines, open sandwiches, never tried them, probably never will but there's a whole section of the menu devoted to them, and a daily special.

After a mooch around the shops we returned for some tea and cake, a pot or earl and a bakewell tart for me. An excellent crunchy pastry tart with a wickedly sweet and almondy centre, you can't go wrong with anything almond flavoured as far as I'm concerned.

Nibs went for the lemon tart and the birthday girl had cream tea. A monster scone with fluffy whipped cream and a selection of jams.

With a glass of prosecco lunch came to £20 a head with service. There's a lengthy breakfast menu available until 12:30 daily and more substantial dishes on the dinner menu from 5pm. It seems like there's a lot going on here with a befuddling combo of guises - cafe/boulangerie/pâtisserie/deli - but that's precisely what we like about it, particularly on those indecisive days where you can't pinpoint exactly what you all fancy.

Le Pain Quotidien
18 Great Marlborough Street

Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bocca di Lupo

On a busy Wednesday evening I scoffed at the size of the queue at Barrafina and head to Bocca di Lupo instead, finally making it a tardy 2 and a half years after the launch.

I've read great reports from fellow bloggers about meals here but my dear friends John and Sue were not so keen so I was keeping an open mind. We had to wait a mere 10 minutes and were seated at the bar. My companion thought the stool to bar ratio was off and felt pretty uncomfortable for the rest of the evening. I'm fairly short so wasn't bothered.

First up came an excellent selection of bread, served with olive oil to dunk and a bowl of those amazing vibrant green olives.

The concept is sharing plates, you're advised to order multiple dishes to split. We started with some courgette flowers with honey, mozzarella and anchovies. I loved these, the cheesy filling and the crunchy coating contrasting nicely.

Served next was the tomato and basil bruschetta which I found to be dull and lacking seasoning. Luckily it arrived with my favourite dish of the night, the orecchiette with 'nduja "extremely spicy home-made salame," red onion, tomato & rocket. It was as spicy as promised and we both agreed this was a fine dish, just the kind of food I'd hoped to find on Jacob Kenedy's menu.

The next batch of dishes to arrive began with the clams, mussels & borlotti beans stew, freshened up with a sprinkling of basil but a great hearty bowlful. The linguini with spider crab tomato and basil was a little devoid of flavour, nice al dente pasta but disappointingly bland. Our final savoury choice was grilled langoustines which were, I think, overpriced at £16 for 6 of the creatures, they yield so little meat.

It can be said that the desserts are a particular speciality here, what with Gelupo across the road. We tried the wickedly boozy rum baba with strawberries and cream and the gelato cup zuppa inglese, or trifle, sour cherry and zabione gelati with toasted almonds, this was wonderful, and refreshing. Most memorable though was the caffe allo zabaione, coffee with sweetened beaten egg yolk, incredible. I saw one of these being prepared and we just had to have one.

The meal came to £80, a lot given that I found some dishes didn't quite hit the mark. The good was very good and service was lovely but I think I might just brave the queue in future as my heart still belongs to Barrafina.

Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street


Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Horseshoe, Hampstead

As a birthday treat I had the ultimate indulgence package at Natura day spa in Hampstead last weekend, heartily recommend them by the way, if pampering is your thing, it was fantastic. Anyhow, following a morning of relaxation, I dined at The Horseshoe for brunch.

This place's main appeal has to the the micro brewery, most of their home brews have recently relocated to bigger surroundings in Chalk Farm but there are still several barrels to be found under the dining room here in Hampstead. But the food is certainly not an afterthought and I have to say this is perhaps the finest smoked salmon (bizarrely from Camden apparently) and scrambled eggs I have had in a long while.

Great bread was served too on a nice little wooden board, rustic and hearty seems to be the ethos here, the room is minimal and service is nonchalant. Excellent toasted sourdough the perfect platform for the fine coupling of salmon and eggs.

They had regrettably sold out of the eggs Benedict Thomas' first choice so he went for the cheeseburger. Another use for the little wooden boards, and chips in a bucket, again, seeing this everywhere!

I really liked the relaxed vibe at The Horseshoe, having stumbled upon it is fun too, I usually plan meals so it's nice to discover somewhere having not researched beforehand, how we used to do things pre food blogs.

I'd like to come back, the mussels smelled great. Less than £15 a head, my dish came with a glass of rose for £12.50. Lovely day for it.

The Horseshoe
28 Heath Street

Horseshoe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Trattoria Nuraghe, Tufnell Park

Another little local gem discovered. Due to location, the Tufnell Park Spaghetti House grabs any passing custom and is always packed, wander a little further up Dartmouth Park Road though and you'll find Trattoria Nuraghe, a tiny and incongruous venue, serving hearty Sardinian dishes to a loyal bunch of diners.

One Saturday evening we remembered a while back somebody recommending the place to us, at 9pm we turned up without reservation on a rainy night and we had to wait a mere 10 minutes or so before the charming and wonderfully welcoming owner, Cristiana Curreli, seated us and poured us some wine.

To start we went for a parma ham and melted fontina plate with thin crisp breads. This was fantastic and I had major envy when my bruschetta with mozzarella turned up. It was a great dish but was completely outshone by the simplicity of a plate of ham and oozing cheese. Wonderful and a superb start. We shared some olives too.

The menu is split into pizza and other mains, those dishes are mostly fishy and I couldn't resist the seafood spaghetti with squid, mussels and prawns. The portions at Nuraghe are so generous I begin to notice most tables are taking their leftovers home with them in little plastic containers. An excellent sign that 1) I can expect a huge pile of steaming pasta and, 2) it will be so good that I will not be able to leave thinking any of it might go to waste. I wasn't disappointed, the seafood was excellent, the pasta cooked al dente and I was indeed beaten and took the rest home for lunch the next day.

Thomas' main was crab meat encased in cuttlefish ravioli with tomato sauce. He's been raving about this dish and about Nuraghe ever since and with such spectacular pasta dishes we will definitely be returning to explore more of the savoury menu.

For me the desserts were a let down given the standard of the previous courses. I had the zabaglioni which had the consistency of ice cream, I felt sure this had been frozen but the berry pannacotta was a better choice, wibbly and creamy, I think perhaps I was too full up to have enjoyed another morsel at this point.

One thing's for sure, Nuraghe is a wonderful find and we will be dining here for many years to come. Loved the hospitality, the hatch through to the kitchen where the chefs can be seen , the food and the location. With one final act of generousity, a free limoncello each, I almost felt like I had been whisked off to Sardinia, then I walked out to the street into the rain and fell dramatically back down to earth.

Trattoria Nuraghe
12 Dartmouth Park Hill
Tufnell Park

Trattoria Nuraghe on Urbanspoon

Friday, 29 July 2011

Bistro du Vin, Soho

Newcomer Bistro du Vin, Soho, is the second so far to arrive in London this year (the flagship being the Clerkenwell restaurant). The venue instantly piqued my interest being part of the 'du Vin' umbrella, the chain of elegant hotels having impressed whenever I've visited.

I am unable to attend many evening events these days due to work commitments so was sad to have missed the grand opening but I did make it along a couple of weeks ago for lunch with some colleagues.

Upon learning they have installed a josper grill here, it had to be steak all round. A fine selection of bread kicked things off as we selected a wine. I forget which, a red, a fine choice from Axel and great match for the steaks.

We were pleasantly surprised to be served an amuse, a cute little cup of gazpacho. I found it very tart, would have liked it to be a tad sweeter but it was a pleasant start.

I ordered the fillet, galloway and shorthorn cross, 250g, with peppercorn sauce (choose from this, béarnaise, sauce gascon,`cafe de Paris or garlic butter). Having ordered a medium well steak I was disappointed to find it blue in the centre. Naturally, I didn't send it back and ate it without fuss, I may yet learn to communicate dissatisfaction when eating out, though I doubt it. The accompanying frites and haricot vert were great, the sauce too, rich with that peppery kick.

My fellow diners all enjoyed theirs, other cuts tried were cumbrian rib-eye and the Donald Russell côte de boeuf.

I had to scoot back to the office for a 2pm meeting but the others all enjoyed dessert and accompanying wine. I'd definitely love to head back to explore the legendary cheese room and also for a cocktail at the bar. The sprawling room is lovely and a vast improvement on the previous occupier. Service was very attentive though at over £70 a head (for me without pud), it's not going to become a regular lunch haunt. Still a nice new addition to the ever impressive Soho dining scene.

Bistro du Vin
36 Dean Street

Bistro du Vin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Rocksalt, Folkestone

Mark Sargeant's new venture, Rocksalt, in Kent, sees him championing local produce with a nod in particular to fish, after all, it's located right on Folkestone harbour. There have been few positive reports since the opening in June but I found much of the food I tried to be well worth the trip out of London.

The setting is picturesque, if a little industrial, Folkestone is hardly the prettiest of backdrops but the glass walled room is flooded with light and there's a sprawling deck from which to observe the creeping tide. I very much enjoyed a pre lunch Rocksalt mary with samphire vodka.

Black olive bread served with olive oil was presented shortly after the menu, which is fish heavy but offers plenty of meaty dishes too. I started with the crab dressed with harissa, sprinkled with baby coriander with toasted bread. I order crab at any given opportunity and this was a fine dish. Other starters of goatscheese with heritage tomato salad and pork pate were perhaps less successful but my Mum's order of whelks were outstanding.

Onto mains, I couldn't resist the special of lobster with aioli and beef dripping chips. The finest example of the crustacean I have ever had, beautifully tender served simply with a wedge of lemon and tomato salad. Portions are generous here, always a bonus!

Other mains enjoyed included breaded plaice and chips with mushy peas, salt marsh lamb, mackerel with green sauce and another fishy special, monkfish with peas and smoked ham. The sides are fantastic, minted peas and potato gratin deserving special mention.

Desserts were the highlight of the meal for me. My mum's favourite, Kentish gyspy tart, was a no brainer of an order and was the finest pud I've tried all year, up there with the rice pudding at Pollen Street Social. I find I so rarely rave about a sweet dish but this really is special.

Also good were rhubarb fool and elderflower jelly with creme fraiche ice cream.

Whilst the food was really very enjoyable I was slightly irritated by the service on a couple of occasions. We were asked to order desserts and later coffees with half the table in the toilet, surely they didn't think we would readily order for our fellow diners? Twice. Also, plates were cleared as my Mum was still eating, very absentminded waiting staff. They were polite however, even when a member of our party lit a cigarette on the terrace, which is non smoking.

It's early days still so some tweaks need to be made but in all the experience was an enjoyable one. 3 courses each and a few glasses of wine came to around £50 a head. Were Rocksalt closer, I would happily return. Though South Eastern high speed trains from St Pancras can have you there in under an hour.

4-5 Fishmarket
CT19 6AA

Rocksalt on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Kentish Canteen

A few years back I had an unhappy brunch experience at the shockingly named R.E.D (really excellent dining). Really excellent it was not and I was delighted to see the place has had a recent revamp, it's now called Kentish Canteen, there's new signage, new and improved staff and the menu's had a complete overhaul.

Upon entering diners are greeted with an inviting display of cakes and salads, reminding me visually and in spirit of the counter at Lantana, and the decor is bright and airy. It couldn't be more different to how it was in it's former guise. Having wandered by on numerous occasions, I live a mere 5 minutes away, I was already interested in trying the place out when I was kindly invited to do so.

To start with I sampled the crushed broad bean and feta bruschetta which is so up my street it's as if this was plonked on the menu just for me. I loved it.

Equally impressive was the tomato and mozzarella salad, up there with the finest example of the cheese I've ever tasted, this was simple perfection and portions were generous to boot.

Onto mains, there's a huge selection, the sort of menu that usually sees me kept busy for at least 15 minutes, I found it tricky to choose as many dishes appealed. In the end I settled for a salad selection, the menu recommends trying a combination of 2 as a main course. I plumped for aubergine with a tahini sauce and long stem broccoli with chilli and ginger. Both were excellent.

The best dish of the evening though was the ravioli. Cooked al dente with a creamy but light sauce and lovely cheesy ricotta and spinach filling. I was very impressed. Other dishes I saw on surrounding tables which looked good included the burger and the fried chicken, think escalope, not KFC!

We had a passion fruit cheesecake and a creme brûlée for dessert, these were ok, though the least successful of the 3 courses, then I often find that to be the case.

With a nice concise wine list and a daily changing specials board, there's something for everyone to be had here. The house red anfora rossa was good and service was lovely. In stark contrast to the laughable efforts on my last visit to the same building, fortunately that's all that Kentish Canteen shares in common with R.E.D.

New owners, Owen Crinnigan and Wendy Sinclair also own PJ’s Bar and Grill and Guanabara, in Covent Garden and I believe they have a hit on their hands here. I'll be back for more very soon.

Kentish Canteen
300 Kentish Town Road
Kentish Town

I was invited to dine at Kentish Canteen and received complimentary food and drink.

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