Archive for the ‘Celebrity Spotting’ Category

The Athenaeum – not your average Christmas Dinner

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

When I see the inevitable Christmas meals being advertised, I cringe. They conjure up images of restaurants stuffed with “party” groups, eating standard Christmas fare, turkey, brussels sprouts, christmas pudding etc at inflated prices.  I had spotted a toptable deal for a Christmas dinner at £24.50 for two courses or £29.50 for three with a glass of champagne at The Athenaeum, and  I had my doubts. Then I thought why not, if I am going to have a conventional Christmas meal then I may as well go somewhere that should do it well.

So on the last Saturday before Christmas we trudged through the snow to the hotel in Piccadilly. We had a couple of good, if expensive cocktails in the bar and wandered into a near empty dining room, where we were offered our pick of the tables. The room is nicely laid out to offer a fair amount of privacy. Tables for two in the middle of the room include a small banquette arrangement, that almost forms a booth. Strangely it reminded me a bit of some of the first class seating/sleeping arrangements on long haul flights.

The service levels are exactly as you would expect in a first class hotel, which The Atheneaum certainly is. It is just smaller and more intimate than most, almost boutique like.

So what can I say about the menu. Was it limited? No, it most definitely was not. What a treat. Yes, it did have turkey in the Best of British part of the menu, but it also had a good balanced selection of starters and main courses, and several appetizing dessert options.

We began with an amuse bouche of watercress mousse and parma ham. Then for my starter I ordered the Pigeon with Girolle mushrooms wrapped in short crust pastry and my companion ordered the slow cooked ducks egg with ham hock. Both dishes were main course size portions, beautifully cooked and presented.

For main course we had Pheasant with braised red cabbage, and a perfect dish for a winter evening consisting of braised oxtail, that just fell off the bone, herb dumplings and winter vegetables. It was a large portion and I was just too full to finish it. I definitely did not have any room for dessert. However as coffee and mince pies were also part of the set menu, they finished of the meal nicely instead.

Normally the down side of this sort of deal is that the “free” champagne tends to be fairly mediocre fizz. Not the case at The Atheneaum. It was from a champagne house I know well from tastings at the Hide Bar.  Specifically Ayala a small champagne house, owned by Bollinger.  It was rather fitting – an almost boutique champagne for an almost boutique hotel. Quite stunning.  We also had a reasonably priced bottle of El Grano, Carmenere 2009. A well balanced light red wine that had a smooth almost milky texture.

Perhaps it is my Scottish upbringing that draws me to “real” bargains like The Athenaeum, and it seems I am not alone in this, as on exiting the restaurant we spotted fellow Scot, Billy Connolly – the Big Yin himself.

I would be happy to have more Christmas dinners like this one. The Athenaeum is firmly on my list of return locations.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.8

Service 6.8

Ambience 5.9

First at the Athenaeum on Urbanspoon


Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

Return to top page

The Ledbury – embarassing leaks

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Lunch at The Ledbury was always going to be an occasion. The food is superb.  I simply could not fault any of the dishes I chose from their Sunday Lunch menu.  Indeed it was one of these occasions where I really wanted to try nearly all the dishes on the menu.  Fortunately I was part of a large enough group to be able to order a range of different dishes. There were no dissenting voices at all, every one loved the food.  Only one thing went wrong during the lunch, which impacted on the table next to ours.  Water started coming through the ceiling from the room above,  I guess a burst pipe due to the cold weather. Nothing much the restaurant could do except, put a bowl on the table, call the plumber and move the guests to another table.  However it must have been very embarrassing for the staff, as the guests concerned included Martin Scorsese, Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher who certainly did not seem to particularly want to draw attention to themselves. Something that is hard to do when you have to stand up to avoid being splashed!

However when the food is this good, you do not let little things like plumbing problems get in the way, so back to the food.

My starter was the Flamed Grilled Mackerel with Smoked Eel, Tokyo Turnips and Celtic Mustard, it was a great choice. The Mackerel had so much flavour, it was really fresh and just melted in my mouth. The portion was quite substantial for a starter, but despite that I could easily have had seconds.

I was also tempted by the Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Dill Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish which one of my companions ordered. Visually it did not look as good, but I was told it was delicious, if a little light and summery for a winter menu.

For my main course I choose fish again. The Skate Poached in Brown Butter with Truffle Puree, Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Sea Vegetables. This has to be my dish of the year. It was just so moreish. The Skate was perfect and the Parmesan Gnocchi reminded me so much of another favorite, the Gnocchi dish I had at The Foliage.

For dessert I ordered the Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream, which was matched with a surprisingly fruity Pedro Ximenez sherry from Barossa Valley in Australia, it was very different from the Spanish ones I have had in the past.  The tart was very light and the ice cream was very subtle.  The dessert highlight however had to be the Passion Fruit Souffle with Sauterne Icecream, which was large enough for us all to try  – a perfect Souffle.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.6

Service 7.4

Ambience 8

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon


Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

Return to top page

The Ivy – A list or Z list?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Celebrity hang out? I am not convinced. I have been here twice now and if you do spot anyone familiar, it is pretty much a Z lister. Then again I have not really been there on the popular nights. It was so hard to get a table, we just took what we could get.  To guarantee a table, you may have to book 3 months in advance.

IMGP0467 IMGP0469

The venue is not pretentious, it actually very cosy, a bit of a refuge from all the hustle and bustle of theatre land. The food is surprisingly simple and Italian in influence. It is not cheap, but neither is it rip off prices. I particularly enjoyed the honeycomb icecream desert.

They layout of tables is very good for people watching, no facing the wall for the Gents in this venue. On one visit, we were entertained by the chap at the next table (who had obviously just got back from a holiday in Spain) repeatedly shouting ¡HOLA! to get the waiters attention, the amusing part was when his girlfriend got up to go to the loo, and did not return!

Marks out of 10

Food  5.5

Service  6.5

Ambience  8

The Ivy on Urbanspoon


Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

Return to top page

Tas – get to know the Group!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
We have been going to several of the restaurants in the Tas group for a good few years now. They are ideal venues for vegetarians as well, as the menu covers a number of interesting non meat dishes.

The first one Tas The Cut is still the best, followed by the Tas  Borough High Street.  The one in The Cut  is very efficient and delivers good quality food. Ironically based on my experience you are more likely to spot a celebrity here, than at the Ivy –  the Old and Young Vic Theatres are in the same street. On our last visit  the actress Jenny Agutter was dining at the table next to ours.

Tas - The Cut

Tas - The Cut

The Tas group specialises in Anatolian cuisine, and also runs a couple of delicatessens.

EV - Delicatessen : Underneath the Arches

EV - Delicatessen : Underneath the Arches

They  have a larger venue call EV located under the arches near Southwark Tube station. This is great on a summer evening for drinks or for a cheap night out with a large group, as is Tas Pide,  which is right next to the Globe Theatre.

Tas Pide

Tas The Cut – Marks out of 10

Food – 6.5

Service 7

Ambience 7

Tas Borough High Street – Marks out of 10

Food – 6.5

Service 6.5

Ambience 7

EV – Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 5

Ambience 6

Tas Pide – Marks out of 10

Food 5

Service 6

Ambience 6.3

Tas Pide on Urbanspoon

Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK