Pleased to have found Salt in Canterbury, it’s nice to go somewhere that manages not only to serve good British food using quality ingredients, but also manages to stand out by being just a little bit different. Salt does this by avoiding a structured menu and instead focuses on Small Plates designed for sharing. It’s basically British Tapas and it works. Although ironically I belatedly worked out that eating the dishes we tried in a more conventional order would have enhanced our experience. We should have had my favorite dish of the meal first (Scallops with Blood Orange Salsa salad enhanced by adding some really fresh pea shoots) and perhaps even ordered a plate each. The Scallops were a perfect starter and would not have been out of place in a high end restaurant. Another dish we ordered and ended up saving for the end of the meal was the Almond and Goats Cheese balls with Rhubarb dip, a cheese course all by itself.
We also ordered and enjoyed the Rolled Lamb Shoulder with Anchovy Tarte-Fine and the Duck Leg Meatballs with Chilli Jam and a side order of crushed Jersey Royals. Only one dish, the Spring Onion and Garlic Potato Cakes with Poached Duck Egg was a little under seasoned for our taste, something that could easily be rectified by having some rock salt and pepper on the table, but that is a minor criticism.
We left already planning to return to try a couple of the other Small Plates next time. The wine list is also small but the bottle of Riesling we had was nicely chilled and a good accompaniment to our meal. The service was just right, with our waitress clearly explaining the concept of the restaurant and estimating just how many plates we would need (5 plus a side was just right for 2 people).
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.
The Little Polka Cafe in Eastbourne markets itself by saying there is only one “Little Polka” on the South coast. Which is basically my only complaint, I just wish there were more – one in London that I could get to more easily would be great.
I just loved this place. We walked in on a rather bleak bank holiday Saturday for a late lunch, to be warmly welcomed by the owner. The feeling this invoked was rather like the sun coming out. We had stepped into a beautiful Polish parlour. I think we easily spent the first 5 minutes looking round the room and complementing the owner on how lovely it was. With its terracotta walls and eclectic decor like the upright Piano and the dresser filled with Boleslawiec ceramics.
There was only one other customer, an obvious regular, so the level of service was perhaps more attentive than it would have been if the place had been busier. We ordered Pierogi’s for two and the Schabowy (pork cutlets fried in breadcrumbs and egg).
There were 3 types of Pierogi’s – one filled with cheese, potato and onion, another filled with lentils and the third filled with fried mushrooms mixed with pickled cabbage and onions – they were served with beautifully fresh beetroot and a delicious cabbage and carrot salad. They were a meal in themselves (and even now, days later I can still remember how good they were). The Schabowy was also excellent, you could really taste the pork.
Initially I had no room for dessert, so we just sat back and had some more tea. Then after a gap I did order a light piece of lemon zest roll, just to complete the lovely meal.
I do like my desserts, so a visit to The Hungry Monk in Jevington was a no brainer. Banoffee Pie was invented here way back in 1974 and as far as claims to fame go, inventing Banoffee Pie is a good one in my book.
37 years later the Banoffee Pie is still going strong, as is The Hungry Monk.
The previous evening I deliberately ordered Banoffee Pie in another Restaurant, which will be nameless – mainly because I have no intention of returning there as the food was mediocre to say the least.
Verdict on the Banoffee Pies (pictured) :-
The Hungry Monk – cost £7.50 (less when part of a set menu) – 7/10 : Homemade, with a pastry base – you could really taste the condensed milk, bananas and toffee, I would have prefered less cream, but otherwise it was a very nice dessert.
The unnamed Restaurant – cost £3.85 – 2/10 : Factory made I suspect – faintly metallic taste, mostly cream and toffee sauce and some soggy banana’s on an overly crumbly biscuit base.
A prime example of how the invention has been corrupted over the years, even at half the price the “factory” made one was not worth it.
The Hungry Monk
The Hungry Monk Restaurant is in a quaint 14th century building in the tiny village of Jevington on the outskirts of Eastbourne. The building is a bit of a maze – there is a series of small sitting rooms to left of the entrance, where you can have drinks before you are escorted to your table.
The menu on our visit was fairly typical for a Sunday lunch with main courses of Lamb, Roast Beef etc.
To start we had a fairly conventional Scallop dish (Seared Scallops with Crisp Bacon and Minted Pea Dressing) and a smoked salmon dish described as being with New Potato salad (it was actually with potatoes and lettuce), so not exactly as expected, but perfectly acceptable.
The most interesting dish on the menu was the Rabbit Roasted in Prosciutto and Stuffed with Leek and Bacon, served with a Mild Mustard Sauce. I ordered that and certainly had no cause for complaint. My companion ordered the Roasted Rump of Sussex Lamb with Redcurrant and Rosemary Sauce which was nicely cooked, but pretty much what you would expect to get in most pubs for Sunday lunch, so nothing special there. It would have been good to choose from a small selection of vegetables rather than just the ones provided with the lamb.
For dessert I ordered the Banoffie Pie described earlier and we had a generous selection of English cheeses.
We also had coffee with home made chocolates. Something my companion who runs chocolate making courses was keen to try – they were very disappointing to say the least. I can actually say here in all honesty, that I make better chocolates and I have only been on one course!
The Wine list was very reasonable, indeed some wines seemed to have hardly any mark up at all!
Jevington and Willingdon
The area has another claim to fame in that Jevington is in the same parish as Willingdon. Willingdon was the base for the local village of the same name in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We drove round Willingdon which has now been subsumed by Eastbourne, although there is still a couple of interesting looking pubs and houses and a windmill which looked very out of place on the edge of a housing estate. Jevington is more picturesque with a lovely church and access to country walks.
Marks out of 10
Update – September 2012 : After 44 years The Hungry Monk Restaurant has now closed.
Cafe Luc in Marylebone is as advertised, a European Grand Cafe. The atmosphere on entering is inviting and the service is efficient. It was running like a well oiled machine when we popped in for brunch – well the idea was to just have brunch, but we extended it to having dessert as well.
We ordered the Eggs Royale, and a couple of glasses of wine, and sat back to relax and people watch. The wine and food arrived quickly. The clientel seemed to be pretty international. American, German and Australian accents could be heard. The age group was fairly mixed too, ranging from young families to older couples. The place had a real buzz to it.
We moved on to dessert, I just had coffee and a selection of petits fours – Palmiers, canelé de Bordeaux and chocolate truffle. My companion made a better choice by going for the Roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet and pistachio. This was delicious. A larger portion of pineapple than expected, with some rather good coconut sorbet. The dish is served with a knife, fork and spoon. The spoon is essential for the juice, which is not to be missed. The combination of the pineapple juice, coconut and a hint of pistachio, makes for a very moorish sweet soup.
So if you are in the Marylebone area, Cafe Luc is worth remembering.
However unlike the Foliage and Parc des Eaux Vives which also closed this year. Harveys closure was deserved. We can only hope that this prime spot on the harbour does not stay closed for too long.
We have also been cheeky using the tag line “Gone for a Burton” – a play on the celebrity chef John Burton Race’s name. Isle One got in first with that one, but since they seem to have used one of our photographs without crediting us (tut….tut) it seemed only fair that we copy their tag line.
UPDATE – November 2010
Harveys has now been replaced by Jacks (The Cantina on the Marina) . I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Why the council gave the go ahead to deface this building situated in a prime location on a Victorian Harbour is beyond me. This really is in bad taste and we haven’t even tried the food yet!
UPDATE May 2011 – The “Orange Blot” that was Jacks is gone, the building now has a new more suitable paint job. Wonder who will move into this prime spot next? It would be a great location for Eddie Gilberts if they were thinking of expanding.