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.
The Albannach is pretty established now. I went there a few times just after it opened, eating in the restaurant and in the bar. I was impressed by the quality and style of the place, especially when you consider its location in Trafalgar Square. So now several years later we decided to make a return visit. The decor and layout had changed a bit, but the Alabannach still has its own distinctive style. The interior design incorporates some stunning customized lighting, using a Stag and Antlers theme.
My reservation was based on ordering from the set menu (part of a deal I used to cash in on some of my toptable points). This turned out to be a bit of a false economy, as we found this menu to be a little too basic for our taste. On past experience I think going a la carte might be a better option here.
The 3 fish terrine we had for starters was good, but the main courses were disappointing, in that I had to order an extra dish to go with my sea bass and the alternative main course option of lamb stew would not have been out of place in a soup kitchen. The watery stew was definitely not sophisticated enough for this type of venue. Fortunately we ordered a very nice (if expensive) bottle of Gewürztraminer to drown the rather disappointing food.
The Cross Keys is a historic pub in the heart of Chelsea. It has a couple of lovely rooms that can be hired out and a separate restaurant at the back with a retractable roof to let in the sunshine. We dropped in for Sunday lunch, not realising that the pub had changed ownership earlier this year.
The service itself was a bit patchy, with the bread and one dip arriving first, then a second dip coming just as the main courses arrived. I am pretty sure the rather loud argument we heard from the serving area did not help the ambience!
The bread with fresh pesto dip and olive oil was a good start, but the menu selection was not very exciting, none of the starters grabbed our attention, nor did the desserts. So we ended up just having main courses, specifically the Lamb Cutlets and the Wagyu beef burger with Truffle fries which at £16.00 has to be one of the most expensive burgers I have ever had. The Truffle fries were nice, but the burger was very ordinary, and served with way too much Kos lettuce. At that price I was expecting something a bit more sophisticated, like the “frenchie” burger served at Bar Boulud for example.
So maybe on my next visit I will just stick to drinks and bar snacks and avoid disappointment.
Does it give gourmets a good reason to leave London?
Well, it is most definitely a find, already fully booked weeks in advance, and serving up top notch food that puts a lot of London Restaurants too shame.
Getting there is really easy now too, 1 hour 16 minutes on the high speed train from St Pancras to Ramsgate then a 5 minutes taxi ride.
It is located on Ramsgates’ King Street. Not the most salubrious of locations as it is a few streets away from the more attractive harbour area. However as soon as you part the chainmail curtains at the entrance to the fishmongers on the ground floor you just know this place is a quality establishment.
To start we had the scallops and what is fast becoming Eddie Gilberts signature dish, duck egg and smoked eel soldiers, both delicious. Then came the main courses, we went for the turbot and the cod with chorizo, another two stunning dishes. All the dishes were well cooked with nicely balanced flavours. You do get the impression that you could choose anything on the menu and not be disappointed.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality and presentation of the desserts. The only weak spot if we were being picky was the limited choice of dessert wines, from an otherwise fairly impressive wine list. The Trimbach Pinot Gris was a good match for the dishes we chose.
This restaurant deserves the plaudits it has received from the national press. We certainly plan to return.
UPDATE : August 2011, added a few more pictures from a return visit.
Last Post for the Foliage, not last post for No Expert – we are still going strong. The Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental however had a farewell lunch service today. It was lovely to be there but tinged with sadness, as it marked the end of an era for us.
The team pulled out all the stops. We started with a complimentary glass of superb champagne and some very tasty canapes. This was followed by the amuse bouche. We then had the opportunity to go off menu to choose some of the dishes. One of the standouts being the Sea Diver Scallops with chicken and mushrooms. It was also impossible not to order our last gnocchi, one of the Foliages sublime dishes. For main course we choose the lamb and an off menu beef dish, the wine selection chosen to go with this was absolutely stunning. Indeed all the wines selections were off a very high standard. I especially enjoyed the Trocken Beerenauslese, Nittaus, 2004 dessert wine.
The ever attentive staff were on hand to bring us up to date on the progess being made to complete the Daniel Boulud Restaurant (Bar Boulud) in the basement, due to open in May, and the Heston Blumental Restaurant which would be the Foliage replacement, due to open towards the end of this year. It is just a shame that a such a fine restaurant is closing prematurely to make way for these changes. It was good to see the Head Chef Alex Marks come out of the kitchen to talk to some of the regular dinners, where he received some direct praise for his teams work over the years. It was also a nice touch to be presented with a copy of the menu signed by members of staff as a memento.
So it’s a fond fairwell to the Foliage. We and the other regulars will miss you.
We had heard good things about Inopia, but were not sure it would be our scene, as it seemed a little too trendy and lively for our tastes, but we decided to give it a go. Following advice from other food bloggers we arrived early (about 7:30 to avoid the queues) the red rope was raised and we got the last two seats.
The place was already buzzing, food bloggers were clearly in situ, armed with cameras and note books. For such a busy place the service was exceptional, friendly and efficient.
Here is a short video:-
As you would expect with the el Bulli connection (Inopia is owned by el Bulli’s dessert chef, Alberto Adria), the food quality and service was definitely well above your average tapas. We were happy to follow the waiters recommendations, sampling top quality tapas favourites like Patatas Bravas and ham croquettes, along with other dishes such as the Russian Salad and the Tuna carpaccio, we had about 7 dishes in total, washed down with a couple of glasses of Kalimotxo and a refreshing complimentary liqueur.
UPDATE November 2010 – Last weekend, the last tapas were served at Inopia, co-owned by Alberto Adrià, who is said to have been too busy working on another project to mourn over the closing, the place is soon to reopen under a new name, Lolita.
I have been to Roussillon a number of times. It is a first class french restaurant in a pretty town house, just off Pimlico Road. An ideal spot for a really special occasion. The Food is off a high standard, and the tasting menus are excellent. This is one of the few places I know that seriously caters for the Vegetarian Gourmet.
On my last visit, I had a lot more wine than normal due to fact they matched 4 different wines with the cheese course – very OTT, so be warned.