Ex Bermondsey Kitchen soon to be Pizarro’s

José Pizarro’s Tapas bar “José” in Bermondsey Street is oh so popular and rather small to say the least, it’s near impossible to get in. So when I heard that he was opening a larger restaurant in the premises formally occupied by The Bermondsey Kitchen just a few yards further up the street it was music to my ears.

The official opening of the new restaurant which will be called Pizarro is in October, but unusually they started earlier by opening up The Bermondsey Kitchen again with the new Pizarro team, for just a few weeks before it closes in September for its make over, which will involve extending the bar to take up the whole front of the restaurant. The new restaurant will also feature a traditional Spanish menu and provide London’s first Cava bar.

This premature opening was confusing enough to make me unsure if I was visiting/reviewing a “real restaurant”. Although the bill for two of £80 was pretty real and not particularly great value.

The room currently lacks atmosphere and was half full on our visit on a Friday evening. The menu looked quite interesting with tapas like starters and more substantial mains, they all looked like fairly traditional Spanish dishes to me, but I do not know if this food style is a true example of what will be served in October.

We had the prawns and anchovies – both very good tapas style dishes. However when the mains arrived we rather wished we had just ordered all of the starters, as they were less successful. My Rabbit was rather unseasonal to say the least, a hearty rabbit stew in August! My companions Iberian Pork was pretty basic served with mashed potatoes and piquillo peppers, a bit dull really.  For dessert we had the figs which were burnt on the bottom and a rather ordinary orange and almond cake.

On the plus side we had a  very nice bottle of Ribero de Duero and a couple of glasses of PX.  However based on this “taster” I think I will wait a while until the real Pizarro is in place and has settled in to the area. Then if I can not get a booking at nearby Zucca I might try it again.

Marks out of 10

Food 4.9

Service 5

Ambience 4

LOCATION INFORMATION

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Launceston Place – Impressive

So many reviews of Launceston Place ask the same question. Why does it not have a Michelin Star?.  It is a mystery, as Launceston Place has it all.  An attractive location, first rate service and some rather impressive cooking.

This was our second visit, the first time was 2 years ago when we indulged in the tasting menu. This time we were determined to stick to the set lunch.

I could not help but compare the set lunch here with last months set lunch at the Michelin starred William Drabble. At William Drabble’s I felt that the set lunch had been well under par (inferior cooking and ingredients). It did nothing to showcase that restaurant.  In stark contrast Launceston Place pulled out all the stops.  Providing lots of extras – the home made crisps to start, a small loaf of bread with pickled herring, a lemon posset pre dessert and little lemon sponges at the end of the meal. The only negative here was that it was hard not to make a mess when eating the bread.

Then there was the meal itself.  We started with a vibrant green watercress soup with smoked eel and poached quail eggs and a warm heirloom tomato salad with home made ewes curd. However  it was the main courses that stood out. I had the Mackerel which was quite lovely, both in respect of presentation and taste. My companion had the duck, which he enjoyed so much more than the duck dish he had at Heston Blumentals Dinner earlier this year. To go with these dishes we had a side order of Jersey Royal New Potatoes, they were smothered in butter, perfectly cooked with that wonderful earthy taste that epitomises Jersey Royals – just fabulous.

For dessert we both had the Treacle Tart with creme fraiche ice cream, very nice – especially when accompanied by a generous glass of PX. We were so pre occupied talking with the Sommelier about the history and variety of PX sherries that we forgot to photograph the tart, which was quite pretty before we demolished it.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.5

Service 7.3

Ambience 7.1

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UPDATE: April 2012 – There is now a new head chef at Launceston Place – see Press Release

UPDATE : September 2012, Lauceston Place has finally been awarded a  Michelin Star.

UPDATE: October 2016, Lauceston Place no longer has a Michelin Star.

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Quay – mana from heaven and 8 textures of chocolate WOW!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Quay is considered one of the best restaurants in Sydney, certainly at number 26 in the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, it is the highest placed Australian restaurant. It is also one of only 3 restaurants in Sydney to be deemed worthy of 3 hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide this year. When we arrived, on a wet Sunday night, with a group of friends, our expectations were very high, and we had been saving this visit for a special occasion, my birthday.

Now I have to confess that my experience of the service at Quay may have been extra special, as we had an ace up our sleeves.  One of the guests at our table is a wine distributor for some amazing boutique wineries, and we were fortunate that Quay are one of his clients. As a result,  we were treated to one of the best tables in the house, with views of both the Opera House and Bridge, fabulous service, and a delicious complimentary bottle of Clover Hill Sparkling from Tasmania, courtesy of Daniel the sommelier.  Service all night was exceptional.

The food at Quay was delicious, although we opted for the four course menu, over what the Aussies call the “dego” (short for degustation – how that makes me cringe), primarily because Peter Gilmore’s signature dish, the Guava and Custard apple snow egg, did not feature on the taster menu.

My starter of sea pearls was divine, a selection of beautifully crafted seafood dishes presented beautifully on a platter.  Mud Crab, Yuzu and Tapioca with silver leaf, Smoked eel, Dashi and Abalone and Sashimi of Tuna were all delicious and left us with the dilemma did one pop a pearl whole into one’s mouth, or did one use a knife and fork to examine the insides and savour it slowly. Needless to say each of us took a different line of attack!  In retrospect I believe that we were missing a 5th pearl, the Sea Scallop Sea Pearl. Check out this Peter Gilmore’s video and you’ll see what I mean!

The second fish course of southern squid & rock lobster, lettuce hearts, golden tapioca, lobster velvet, button squash, pea flowers, was a little unmemorable, but the Mr T’s Slow braised pig’s cheek with abalone, palm hearts and an amazing mushroom consommé was mouthwateringly delicious. For my main, I opted for the wagyu beef poached in an oxtail and morel reduction, molé puree, farro & ezekiel crumbs, which was accompanied perfectly by a 2004 Muga Rioja Reserva. Now in case you’re curious, Ezekiel bread is made without flour and is made from sprouted whole grains. It’s the original super food, and what the bible refers to as manna, i.e., mana from heaven. A pretty good description of this dish. Mr T chose the Confit of Suffolk lamb loin, smoked white carrot cream, fennel infused milk curd. This dish featured fennel pollen, although I have to confess I couldn’t really taste the pollen.

Lastly,  the  famous snow egg…..well never has something that’s so difficult to make, 3 hours and 8 different processes, been polished off so quickly. It was delicious with amazing layers of flavour.  I also had a very generous portion of Mr T’s 8 textures of chocolate, which arrived with a hot chocolate sauce in a separate copper handled pot, which when poured on top, melted into the pudding, like a glorious chocolate volcano.  Accompanied by a PX,  it was sublime. I know I’ll be choosing this dish if I return to Quay.

Overall, fabulous service, great views and divine food, although in the food stakes, this didn’t quite knock Tetsuya off it’s number one spot for me.

Marks out of 10

Food  8.9

Service  9

Ambience  9.2

 

 

LOCATION INFORMATION
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The Glasshouse in Kew – Sparkles

Timing will always impact on dining experiences. Our trip out to Kew was on a lovely spring day, the sun was shining. It was also the day after our rather disappointing meal at Dinner by Heston, so we were desperate to have a very special lunch. The Glasshouse is the only restaurant in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants we had not been to and it most certainly delivered that special touch.  There is nothing over-hyped about this place, it’s not somewhere to be seen, it’s just everything a good  neighbourhood restaurant should be.

The food and service were spot on. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable Sommelier was delightful. Letting us try out some additional wines to compliment our food.

I started with the perfectly made salmon and skate ravioli and my companion went for the smoked eel, a stunning starter full of flavour. For main course I had something I am sure Heston would have called “Rock Pool” or “Seaside on a plate” and delivered with an iPod playing the sounds of the sea. It was an amazing looking fish dish with a crispy baby squid  sitting on top of a bed of silver mullet, surrounded by more crispy squid rings and olives. The flavour combinations and texture were perfect, it tasted as beautiful as it looked.  My companions main course was more conventional, he went for the delicious daube of beef.

The Glasshouse has a fairly comprehensive cheese board – lots of British cheeses, as well as some French and Spanish ones, so we decided to share a cheese plate.  It was matched with multiple glasses of wine.  Then for dessert I had some light moist ginger cake with rhubarb ice cream and a sauce that had the lovely intense flavour of ginger beer. My companion had the Rum Baba. The one dessert the sommelier did not match a wine with, being soaked as it was in boozy rum.  However as the dessert wine list was extensive (it even included two different PX‘s),  we just had to try more wine.  I had a glass of the Ice Cider (my dessert was not an ideal match for this, but I just wanted more of the wine I had tried with the cheese), the sommelier also let me try some of the wine she would have matched with the ginger cake, it was  a smooth and subtle wine that complimented the ginger flavours in my dessert beautifully. My companion went for the raisin flavoured PX.

We drank a bit more than planned, but left the restaurant happy and in no doubt that we would return again. Indeed we are thinking, maybe it’s time to repeat the whole Nigel Platts Martin circuit again, starting with La Trompette.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.8

Service 8

Ambience 7

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LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Ledbury – embarassing leaks

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 ensure that collectively we were 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 favourite, 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 Ice cream, which was large enough for us all to try  – a perfect Souffle.

 

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Catalina – Unique and Distinctive

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Unique and distinctive, is a frequently used description for the Catalina flying boat, that was so successfully used in the defence of Australia in WWII. In my view, it is also an apt description for this restaurant in Sydney’s Rose Bay. Located next to the Sydney Seaplane’s base, and the site of Sydney’s first international airport,  the Catalina Restaurant is named after the famous flying boats that once operated here.  There are numerous other fabulous waterside restaurants that can boast amazing water views, but what makes this restaurant truly unique in Sydney, is not it’s location, but the fact that it opens all day!  In my search to find a suitable restaurant to take my husband for his 40th birthday lunch, I was to discover that  fine dining restaurant’s that open for lunch on Saturday are as rare as hen’s teeth in Sydney!  Catalina is not only open for lunch, but boasts a kitchen which “remains open from midday to late”. Hurrah!

Despite being nearly 30 minutes late and looking incredibly dishevelled from the boat trip, staff greeted us with a friendly warm welcome. We enjoyed a glass of champagne while deciding what to order.  My husband elected for the Blue Swimmer Crab linguine to start, which was delicious, accompanied by a Rose from Crawford River. I selected the Scallops with Zucchini and goats cheese croquettes, which was perfectly cooked, but a little overwhelmed by huge quantities of tomato puree. The scallops were well matched to a Gruner Veltliner. Judge for yourself, but in my view the portions were huge!
Fortunately the main courses were a little more modest! The beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked, and well balanced with fondant potatoes. The lamb rack a little on the fatty side, but enjoyable none the less. Main courses were accompanied by a very delectable 1998 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz, recommended by the very patient Sommelier. The wine list at Catalina is wide ranging, and features a substantial number of aged wines, at an equally substantial price. A 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A for five thousand dollars, anyone? Undoubtedly the highlight of the meal was the desserts! The Passion fruit soufflé was a delight to eat, melting in the mouth, and well worth the wait! Raspberry and apple crumble with raspberry sorbet, had just the right balance of tartness and sweet. Not wanting to stir from such a lovely spot, we dragged out lunch until sunset, with a few glasses of Port, and my current favourite, Pedro Ximénez.

Overall a delightful place to spend a relaxed afternoon, watching the sea planes land, and taking in the views. Food was good, but not exceptional. The wine list awe inspiring, but possibly more suited to the wallets of the pop stars that are said to frequent the restaurant. Service was the most formal that we have experienced in Sydney, but at the same time relaxed and incredibly un-pressured. Catalina has certainly perfected the art of the lazy lunch!

Marks out of 10

Food  5.9

Service  7.9

Ambience   8.0

 

LOCATION INFORMATION
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