If there is a secret formula for what makes a good restaurant then Chez Bruce mastered it years ago. We have eaten lunch here numerious times, it’s surprisingly good value (currently £35 for 3 courses). Definitely one of London’s best Michelin Restaurant deals.
On this visit I started with some stunning fish cakes with just a hint of saffron and my companion had a Spanish chilled Tomato soup called Salmorejo, this was so beautifully spiced he felt that it had spoilt him for other soups. For main course I chose the Confit Rabbit with coco beans, pepper relish, cherry tomatoes and Provençal sauce, a nice rustic dish of comfort food and he went for the Wild Brill with Roast Scallops, both dishes were of the usual high standard. Then we had an extra cheese course prior to our dessert – The Chez Bruce Cheese boards are not to be missed. The dessert, which we hardly had room for after this feast, was an Apricot and Almond Tart and a Bramley Apple and Blackberry Crumble. I would also recommend asking the friendly Sommelier to select glasses of wine to match your dishes as they have a good range by the glass (most for less than £10.00). Another nice touch here is the lovely home made shortbread that comes with the surprisingly reasonable bill. We are already looking forward to our next visit 😉
Dim Sum has always seemed to me to be more suited to cold wintery weather, lots of stodgy dumplings etc. My experience with it has been limited to really conventional venues like the New World in Chinatown – not that there is anything really wrong with the New World, which has its own old world charm. I also was very much of the view that you just don’t bother ordering dessert in a Chinese Restaurant unless you’re a fan of lychees. A Wong however blew my misconceptions out of the water.
I had read most of the reviews, the glowing and the not so glowing, so I knew to expect something a bit different. Ken Hom raves about this place in his tweets, so I also had pretty high expectations on the food front.
I did a walk-in on a sunny lunch time (it’s best to book though, just in case you’re not as lucky as I was). The service was spot on, my menu arrived just after I had settled into my seat. I ordered a nice glass of Rosé, some tap water and four Dim Sum dishes. Dim Sum is just a small part of the menu, which also includes a tasting menu that will have to wait for another visit.
One of the things that really hit me about Andrew Wong’s restaurant was just how “Cool” it was in every sense of the word – the ambiance, the service, the clientele, and the beautifully presented food. I am sure the weather helped – it was nice to see that some diners had also chosen to eat outside in the small cordoned off section of the pavement that I had passed by many times and never seen used.
The dishes I ordered seemed just right for a summers day. I started with a quail egg croquette puff, it was hard to eat with chop sticks, but I managed – nice runny egg, crispy seaweed and a refreshing ginger dip. Then shortly after I finished that my beautifully presented Chinese chive pot sticker dumpling arrived, it was light and surprisingly refreshing. The next two dishes were more substantial. Crab, Seafood and Beancurd Cannelloni with Pickled Cockles – the Pickled Cockles adding just the right amount of kick to the Cannelloni and the Sesame buttered Smoked Chicken, a dish that is perhaps not to everyone taste, consisting of strips of smokey chicken and cucumber.
The dessert menu was so inviting I seriously struggled to choose from 3 of the 4 dessert options on offer:-
Snowball Meringue, lychee granite, mango puree and lime sorbet
I eventually choose the Coconut Ice cream dish – which was nothing like I expected based on its description. It arrived in a martini glass topped with candy floss. It was lovely, I had to use my fingers to eat the candy floss, and all the ingredients just worked beautifully together. The people at the next table had ordered the other two desserts listed, so I also had the chance to see how spectacular they were as well. Amazing, much to my surprise I had finished my meal with a superb dessert – in a Chinese Restaurant!
The best thing I think any diner can say about a Restaurant is that they will be back, and I will be back.
UPDATE : August 2013 – popped in for the excellent value Set Lunch, had the Dim Sum basket and Scotch Beef Rump fried noddles with a glass of wine for £12.95, then I just had to go for a dessert. This time I ordered the Snow ball meringue, lychee granite, mango puree and lime sorbet, it was very light and really refreshing. I have added some more pictures from this visit.
UPDATE: September 2013 – A Wong have been awarded a Bib Gourmand – “Michelin Inspectors’ Favorites for Good Value”.
UPDATE: October 2017 – A Wong have been awarded a Michelin Star.
The phrase “hidden gem” tends to be overused and misused, but I really believe it applies to the Scooter Caffè. Tucked away in Lower Marsh Street, behind Waterloo station, this is a great find. From the outside especially it still looks like the Vesper Repair shop it used to be. I just loved the quirky eclectic decor, old mismatched chairs, sewing machine tables, Vesper scooter permanently parked by the bar and the laid back bohemian atmosphere. There seemed to be only one member of staff on my visit and she was able to cope admirably with the steady flow of customers, as almost everyone happily returned their empty glasses and plates to the bar prior to leaving. The background music (1920’s salon music?) also added to the ambiance.
The clientele on my visit were a mixed bunch, trendy hipster types and the odd local worker in the know. It’s a great venue to relax and people watch. This place definitely has its regulars too, like the girl in the vintage dress struggling to control her two lovely little dogs as she ordered, the older women poet, expounding her philosophy to her camera man companion, and the Apple Mac users making the most of the free wi-fi (FYI the password is stuck on the bar).
There is also a larger yet still cosy bar in the basement, which is probably used more in the evenings, a small Patio at the back next to the railway arches, and a bench and table outside on Lower Marsh Street itself. This place reminded me of the kind of venue you used to be able to find in Greenwich Village, NYC in the days before it got too touristy.
The coffee served from the classic red Gaggia coffee machine is excellent, indeed the aroma of freshly ground coffee is the first thing that hits you as you walk in. There is also a small selection of cakes available, I had a lovely piece of Lemon Drizzle cake and if you want something more substantial you can even bring your own food to eat on the premises.
While doing a bit of research I also discovered the cafe featured in the third Bourne film (must have blinked and missed that bit), that Johnny Depp has dropped in for a drink and that Ethan Hawke is a regular when he’s in the area.
They also have a new sister cafe in Oval (Cable Cafe) which I will need to investigate, especially since it’s so near to Oval Farmers Market – I rather like the idea of buying some bread and cheese or Galeta cookies at the market and chilling out in the cafe with a cup of coffee or something a bit more alcholic.
We booked for Sunday Lunch, which is a pretty good deal at £29.50 for 3 courses along with those little extras that are typical of Michelin Star venues (the amuse-bouche and the appetizer).
The amuse-bouche of béchamel cheese in choux pastry was a good start, I certainly could have eaten lots of these rather moreish cheese profiteroles, and the caramelized onion and mushroom soup appetizer that followed was rich and tasty.
For starters we ordered Hot smoked mackerel with beetroot, apple, watercress and horseradish ice cream, and Poached Hens Egg with white asparagus, followed by Cornish cod fricassee of peas and broad beans, heritage tomatoes and new season Jersey Royals, and Iberico pigs cheeks, with caramelized apples, sage mash and barbequed Leeks.
Then for dessert we had the 70% Cru Virunga chocolate mousse, caramelized bananas, glazed raisins and chocolate sorbet and the Baked English custard tart with cox apple cooked in caramel and glazed puff pastry filled with Calvados cream, which was effectively a rather lovely deconstructed Apple Tart. The only negative on the food front was the bread, which consisted of a rather ordinary selection of brown bread and sour dough.
Launceston Place is a very civilized and relaxing venue and the staff were just as efficient, professional and friendly on this visit as they were on our earlier visits. I rather like that the Michelin star has not changed Launceston Place too much – it still has the same understated elegance and charm it always had.
This is a first for No Expert – a post on an Ice Cream Parlour!
I have actually been to lots of Ice Cream Parlours all over the world, including some memorable ones in Italy, Spain, North and South America, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark – my favorite Ice Cream surprisingly was Goats Milk Ice Cream sold by a street vendor in Kiev of all places, but that’s another story. So why visit La Gelatiera? which is tucked away in a side street close to Covent Garden. Main reason, it’s serious Ice Cream – seriously good. It’s also kind of nice to know that their Ice Cream is rich in vitamins and protein but low in fat (on average 6% – 8% for gelato and 0% for sorbet).
I tried two flavours today:-
Basil and Chilli Gelato – I first had Basil Ice Cream at the rather good Waterside Restaurant in Eastbourne, so the bench mark for me on this was set pretty high. La Gelatiera breached it – WOW – that little kick of chilli is amazing.
Banana Sorbet – so creamy, so much banana flavour, more conventional but no less of a winner than the Basil and Chilli.
I will most definitely be back to try some more flavours.
The Parlour has a modern trendy feel to it, it is quite small and has a glass floor in one corner that enables you to peak into the “laboratory” where the Ice Cream is made. There is seating for about 8 – 10 people inside and a few seats outside. It also specializes in Coffee from Artisan Roasters and has a nice looking selection of Cakes and Pastries. You can even have Ice Cream with your Cake, so what’s not to like?
Made a return visit on a Saturday evening to try some more flavours.
Mint and ChocolateGelato – Very refreshing, could really taste the fresh mint, plus lots of shards of dark chocolate.
Popcorn, Caramel and Chilli Gelato – Another winner, creamy with soft caramelized popcorn and a touch of chilli
HazelnutGelato – a more conventional flavour, but still very nice.
I would also recommend the Matcha Tea Gelato – very refreshing.
Roganic is a two year pop up restaurant in Marylebone that still has a few more months to go. It’s sister restaurant is the rather more famous L’Enclume located in the medieval village of Cartmel in the Lake District. Roganic is very much a foodies destination, made all the more exciting by its inevitable expiry date.
The restaurant is small and minimalist as you might expect in a pop up restaurant. All the effort has gone into the food and service, which is no bad thing. The staff are friendly, efficient and enthusiastic. You can choose from a 3, 6 or 10 course tasting menu. I felt a bit like Goldielocks in that 3 courses was not enough, 10 courses was too much and 6 courses was just right.
The ingredients used, vegetables, fruits, edible flowers and herbs all come directly from Simon Rogans farm in Cartmel, and the breads are all made on the premises. This level of control is very much illustrated by the depth of flavour found in every dish.
I can not remember the specifics of the amuse bouche apart from the mention of butternut squash, mint and onion ash, but it was a lovely start and a taste of things to come.
The home made bread was also very good, especially the onion bread, which went well with the blue cheese flavoured butter.
The first course on the menu was described as Leek custard with dill broth, salsify and mustard, very flavoursome. This was followed by our favourite, a really stunning dish of Artichoke dumplings with truffle and ragstone. Next we had Beets and butternut, parsley and hazelnuts, again with strong flavours. The fish course consisted of Halibut, chervil roots, clam and wood blewits. The clam puree gave this dish a real boost. The final savoury course was Guinea hen, parsley root, salt baked turnip and yarrow. Very filling and heavy on the salt. Then it was a dessert of roasted pears, chestnuts and crispy cake. A very light dish with really sweet juicy pears.
After dessert we were presented with a small glass of Douglas Fir Milkshake, an unusual way to finish a meal but a nice change from petit fours.
We also asked the Sommelier to select glasses of matching wines, which gave us the chance to try some more unusual wines such as El Bandito – an orange wine from South Africa.
Roganic is unconventional, but all the better for it in my view and is certainly a good advertisement for L’Enclume. I really hope that after the lease ends in Marylebone that a new London premises is found. For more information on that, see Square Meal article – Roganic on the hunt for new Marylebone site.
Anyone who has read our blog knows how much we appreciate Chez Bruce and the other restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin stable. The Medlar in Chelsea although not directly connected with that group of restaurants, is certainly influenced by them. The head chef Joe Mercer Nairne used to work at Chez Bruce and his business partner David O’Connor also managed front of house at Chez Bruce, The Ledbury and The Square. So it was no surprise that we found that the menu and the service style was reminiscent of these restaurants.
I started with a lovely dish, Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce. This was matched with a glass of Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos St Yves 2007, a beautifully smooth fresh tasting wine that I could so easily have consumed by the bottle. My companion was not so enamored by the Lambs Tongue and Lentil salad which was rather dominated by the lentils, he did however very much enjoy the matching wine, a glass of Egri Bikaver, Bolyki a smooth light red wine from Hungary.
For main course I had Cornish brill with Jerusalem artichoke purée, braised chicken wings, crisp pancetta and salsify, which was another good choice, this was matched with a Marlborough Pinor Noir. My companion also had a rather nice fish dish. The Roast cod with a ragoût of mussels, pieds de mouton and charlotte potatoes. It went well with a glass of Chardonnay, Kooyong “Clonale”.
The wines were selected by Clement Robert the UK young sommelier of the year 2010 and were uniformly excellent.
We knew we could not manage to squeeze in a cheese course, so went straight to dessert instead. I had a rather good Chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream and my companion had the Almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli. He really liked the panna cotta part of the dessert, but did not feel that it particularly went with the other elements.
The dress code here is fairly casual, although we did spot one chap who I am sure is on a fashion police wanted poster (there is a certain shade of pink that should only be worn by 5 year old girls). The customers are very much the Chelsea set. We would not have been at all surprised to see the crew from that dire show “Made in Chelsea” swanning in.
The food at the Medlar is good, we enjoyed everything we ate, although the wine did rather eclipse a couple of the dishes. It’s not going to replace Chez Bruce as a favourite, but it’s pretty good for Chelsea.
A visit to Sketch is certainly an interesting and rather OTT experience. I felt rather like a kid with a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. As you enter the building you have the Parlour on your right, where you can order an indulgent Breakfast, Afternoon Tea, Comfort food and Cocktails. The rather low key Parlour is in stark contrast to Pierre Gagnaire’s Michelin stared restaurant in the Lecture Room. The name of the restaurant does not really conjure up what is revealed after you are escorted up the exotically lit staircase. The doors are dramatically thrown open and you find yourself in a jewel box like room, decorated with a red, orange, blue and gold palette.
My companion had brought his camera but had forgotten his SD card, so was annoyed that in such a photogenic environment we were not going to do the place justice, but by using our phones we managed to get a few shots of the experience.
The first hurdle is the Champagne Trolley, something I am not a fan off. If I want a glass I prefer to check the wine list first to make sure I know what I am getting, so we just stuck to tap water while we made our menu selection. Despite the hefty prices you can still go down the less expensive route by ordering from the Gourmet Rapide Menu. However as we wanted to get the full experience on our first visit we opted for the regular Tasting Menu (it is expensive, but as you will see from this post – you do get a lot for your money) and asked the Sommelier to recommend a bottle of wine that would suit the whole menu. He selected a reasonably priced bottle of Irouleguy, Xuri d’Ansa 2004 that was drinkable both on its own and as an accompaniment to the food.
Next came the bread, served with some rather spectacular tasting seaweed butter. Then the feast began. We had a wonderful array of beautifully presented dishes served by Sketches very efficient staff. Ironically though the presentation and service did eclipse the food a bit. The food was very good, don’t get me wrong. The Foie Gras Terrine with Mackerel Bouillon and Clams was an excellent start. The Marinated Stone Bass, Peas, Spring Cabbage, Mint and
Smoked Lardons was quite lovely, nice flavour combinations and textures. The huge King Scallop served with Nettle Cream, Haddock, Watercress Salad, Seaweed Butter and Rhubarb was fabulous. One of these could have been turned into a dozen servings at Apsleys (who served up scallop slivers rather than the more generous presentation delivered by Sketch) and the other dishes were enjoyable too. They just didn’t quite meet our expectations, which were perhaps a little too high, due to the rather excessive hype that Sketch gets. We found ourselves inevitably making comparisons with meals we had in other restaurants. It wasn’t in the same class as Le Bristol in Paris (although the menu was very similar to the one we had there a few years back – especially the lobster and sweet bread dishes). Moments at the Mandarin in Barcelona had the edge on food presentation and taste. The Ledbury, The Kitchin and Tom Aikens (at his peak) also won on the flavour front.
This was a tasting menu that definitely filled you up though, we were getting full even before we started on the Grand Dessert which consists of no less than five desserts and a selection of petit fours. However sometimes less is more and I think I would have preferred just a couple of spectacular desserts, rather than five OK ones. That said, it was still discernibly better than a lot of Michelin starred restaurants out there, and as such I would have no qualms about recommending the Sketch experience, and that’s even without having had the full tour of the premises – we didn’t get the chance to visit the Glade, the Gallery or the East Bar as Blackberry had reserved the rest of Sketch for a product launch, so there was a bit of a buzz around that, as Jessie J was providing the music.
UPDATE : September 2012, Sketch has been awarded a second Michelin Star.
We entered The Modern Pantry via the side door, through the informal cafe and were escorted upstairs to the modern quirky dining rooms, with their designer lampshades and wooden floors which in conjunction with our wobbly table introduced a strange bouncy effect when any one walked by.
As expected the food was imaginative, combining unexpected ingredients to enhance the flavours.
There is a separate charge of £2.60 for the bread, but that makes sense as the bread here is not the boring options provided by most restaurants. The aniseed bread in particular was a real winner.
I started with the the New Caledonian prawn omelette with green chilli, spring onion and smoked chilli sambal, the combination of the sweet prawns and chilli was stunning, making it the best tasting and interesting omelette I have ever had, a dish that if I made a return visit I would struggle not to order again.
My companion ordered the king scallops with Jerusalem artichoke mash, a tasty dish that was unfortunately spoilt by some grit in the scallops.
For main course I had the lamb rump with curry leaf besam chips and curly kale. The chips were great, less so the curly kale which rather dominated the plate. This dish though was served with a quite lovely 1999 Urbina Rioja.
My companion had the roast cod with chorizo and squid ink mash, a terrific dish that successfully combined some very strong flavours without overpowering the cod.
We finished with the pumpkin and gingernut cheese cake with mulled wine sorbet and the eggnog bread and butter pudding, both rather festive choices.
All in all despite a couple of flaws, this is fusion food that really works. We had a very enjoyable meal in a venue I would be happy to return too.
With the Modern Pantry and Bruno Loubets at the Zetter, St Johns Square, Clerkenwell is a developing into quite a foodie enclave, which can only be a good thing.
Not many London Restaurants have been around for as long as RSJ, it opened way back in 1980 and has been in The Good Food Guide since 1981 and not many London Restaurants are fully booked on wet Wednesday evenings either. I suspect RSJs longevity and success are based more on repeat business rather than as a potential pre/post theatre venue – it is a short walk from there to the IMAX and the Old and New Vic Theatres.
RSJ is a rare find, it feels like a “neighbourhood” Restaurant, but is actually in a back street near Waterloo Station. It is also one of the best places in London to sample Loire Valley wines (in fact they specialize in them and run regular wine tasting events – check out the Wine List).
The food is not cutting edge nor is it trying to be – it’s good quality perfectly cooked comfort food. The menu is not large (always a good sign in my view), there are a few a la carte dishes and a nice range of options in the reasonably priced set menu.
I choose from the set menu and started with the Whiskey cured mackerel with beetroot salad and orange dressing – a flavour combination that worked very well. I followed this with a tasty Confit shoulder of Lamb served with Mediterranean Cous Cous and a refreshing cucumber and mint yogurt – perfect, and for dessert I had a pretty large portion of Parkin (Yorkshire Gingerbread) with Liquorish ice cream. However the star of the show here is always the wines. We started with a bottle of La Taille aux Loups Montlouis Pétillant Triple Zero NV, a zero dosage wine – sweetened only with ripe grapes and followed this with a bottle of 2011 Sancerre ‘Les Pierris’ Domaine Roger Champault, a red wine that works well with Fish. Then for our main courses one of my dining companions ordered a bottle of 1997 St. Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Graviers, the delivery of which was rather entertaining – basically we were offered the very last bottle in the cellar complete with a badly damaged label. There was also a concern that the wine might not be ok – check out the pictures – the bottle looks ancient and full of character. The wine thankfully was perfect, and after that indulgence we finished with a bottle of Coteaux de L’Aubance Trie de Vendange Domaine Richou dessert wine before decanting ourselves into a Taxi.
RSJ is definitely the sort of place to take friends who appreciate good wines and one that I am always happy to return too. It is going to be around for a good few more years too I suspect.
We started off the new year on a high, with lunch at The Ledbury. There were two menu options. The special lunch Menu at £45 or the Tasting Menu at £75, both available with matching wine. Such a tough choice, but it was The Ledbury and we just had to go down the “More” route. We had matching wines for each course (including a matching wine for the amuse bouche) making a total of 8 glasses each (I think). Pretty heavy for lunch time drinking I have to say. In retrospect the “Less” route might have been the more sensible choice.
We found the restaurant to be rather quiet on this visit, only a few tables were in use during our mid week lunch. So if you pick your day carefully it is possible to get a reservation at this temple of gastronomy.
We started with Chantilly of Colchester Oysters with a Tartare of Scallop and Oyster, Horseradish and Dill – a very elegant dish, this was followed by Flame Grilled Mackerel with Smoked Eel, Celtic Mustard and Shiso. Then we had Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire and Truffle Toast. The Truffle Toast was the highlight for me, delicious. We were four glasses down at this point when we moved on to the fish course of Roast Native Lobster with Broccoli stem, Natural Yogurt and Indian Spices in Brown Butter. This was followed by Pork Cheek cooked in Pedro Ximénez with Puffed Grains and Spiced Cream and Roast Haunch of Fallow Deer with White Beetroot and Smoked Bone Marrow and several more glasses of well matched wines. We finished with a light pre-dessert and the dessert of Pavé of Chocolate with Milk Purée and Lovage Ice Cream.
The food was universally good, we just felt that we had over done it. I am always happy to go to The Ledbury but I think next time I will stick to the set lunch.
One tip though, if you do want to go down the Tasting Menu route, is to do it at lunch time – the Tasting Menu is £30 cheaper then than the one offered in the evening.