DUCKSOUP, SOHO

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Claire and I met up for a catch-up. She asked me where I wanted to eat and I suggested Ducksoup on Dean Street, Soho.

I’ve been once, but just briefly while I was waiting for another friend to go on elsewhere. I really wanted to try it out properly.

Ducksoup, which opened late last year, is the brainwave of chef Julian Biggs, helped by Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy, all hailing from Mark Hix’s Oyster & Chop House.

This is a cool little restaurant. Most of the seating is around the bar with a few tables along the wall. Everyone pretty much sits on top of one another so don’t expect too much privacy! Personally I quite like this. It adds to the atmosphere of the place and more often that not, I usually end up meeting really interesting people this way.


I arrived at 6.30pm and just managed to nab the very last table for two. They don’t take bookings (I can’t remember the last time I was able to book a table in a restaurant!) so you need to get there early. It was a roasting hot day so they had the windows open into the street.


Ducksoup was buzzing with noise, energy and atmosphere as I walked in. That could be because us Brits are always incredibly excited when the sun comes out. The restaurant was packed with people perched at the bar and the tables inside and out were full.


The decor inside is simple and unpretentious. The wine list (all natural wines) is scrawled across the white tiled walls.


As you walk through the door you pass a turn-table and a stack of records. The restaurant has a BYO policy - bring your own vinyl! Fantastic idea.


The menu is updated every day which I like. I love that you know you’re getting seasonal, fresh ingredients each time. It also keeps you on your toes and it makes you keep coming back. The hand-written menu is divided into sections…small ‘bar’ plates and more substantial ‘kitchen’ plates.


As I was waiting for Claire to turn up, I ordered a cold, crisp glass of white wine and the salami toscano (£6)…


The salami was delicious. It melted in your mouth. But for £1 per slice, it seemed a tad overpriced!

When Claire arrived we decided to order a few plates to share. The chopped pancetta on rosemary toast (£6) jumped out at us.


I loved this. Crunchy sourdough toast topped with fried onions and pancetta and lots of rosemary. Strong, punchy flavours. Delicious.

Next to arrive, the grilled sardines and pine nut tarator (£7)….


Claire loved these. I don’t mind sardines, I just don’t like fiddling with my food, checking it for bones etc. I’m too impatient. They were very nice, I just wouldn’t normally order them. The pine nut tarator was wonderful though.

Next up, beautiful fresh, in season asparagus, topped with Guanciale and a poached egg (£7)…


Finally, quail on fried bread, onions and a brandy sauce.


I loved this, although the quail looked rather too much like a women laid back with her legs crossed! She tasted delicious though! The quail was juicy and tender, the sweetness and the softness of the onions was beautiful against the crunchy toast while the brandy sauce brought it all together. Gorgeous.

I ummed and ahhed at having a pudding. They had Torta di Nonna on the menu which is one of my favourite desserts, but we decided to order some more wine instead. Next time…

I liked Ducksoup a lot. Its busy, crowded, full of atmosphere, the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and they offer up great food. The turn table delivered us some classic Joe Cocker and Stevie Wonder the night we were there but that will obviously change day to day. And with their ever-changing menu, I know i’ll definitely be back.


Ducksoup, 41 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PY
Tel: 020 72874599

http://www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk
@ducksoupsoho

The menu is printed on Tumblr every day - http://ducksoupsoho.tumblr.com/

MELE E PERE, SOHO


A couple of weeks ago I found myself in Soho in between meetings so I decided to stop off and have a bite to eat before I headed to my next meeting. I was walking down Brewer Street and noticed a new Italian restaurant, Mele e Pere on the corner of Brewer and Great Pulteney Street.

It’s hard to miss! Its a lovely bright addition to Brewer Street. Mele e Pere translates as ‘apples and pears’ which is illustrated quite literally by the huge assortment of colourful glass apples and pears in the window.


You would be forgiven for thinking this was an antique shop, but venture through the slightly formal reception and down the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a very large whitewashed basement.


I must say, I’m generally not a fan of restaurants where I can’t see inside from outside. I like to see if a place is busy before I walk in. Having to walk up or down stairs to see the restaurant itself usually puts me off. I don’t like staff to see me walk in and then walk back out again if I don’t like the look of it or if its quiet. I hate to see their expectant faces as they hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, followed by their huge welcoming smile as they rush over to me, only for me to turn around and head out. I feel like I’ve just kicked a puppy! So if I can avoid those places, I will.

However, in this case, I was hungry and I didn’t have much time. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I was amazed at how big it was, I was expecting it to be a lot smaller. Unfortunately for a room this size, you really need a lot of customers to make it feel warm and welcoming. The first thing you notice is the large copper corner bar to the right, and high wooden tables and stools to the left with vintage looking Anglepoise lamps attached to the wall above them.


If you look a bit further back, you will see a rather huge, brightly-lit room full of wooden tables and chairs and lamps all around the wall. There were only a few people eating there so I sat next to the bar. Mele e Pere only recently opened so I don’t think too many people know about it, going by how empty it was at the height of lunchtime in a prime location in Soho.


The Maître’d Hugo Roldan couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. I just wanted a few things to pick at so I ordered a few small plates.

I had the fried zucchini with mint…


Grilled peppers, aubergine and courgette and spicy Ascolana olives…


Sardinian ham…


Buffalo mozzarella with yellow and green courgettes and baby basil…


Finocchiona, broad bean and pea bruschetta…


The food was really fresh and light and full of flavour. Everything Italian antipasti should be. Hugo looked after me throughout and was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and the ingredients.

Mele e Pere has only been open a couple of months ago so I’m sure once word spreads, it will fill out a bit more and come into its own. Personally, I’d quite like to see the ground level entrance being converted into a bar so it doesn’t feel quite so intimidating to walk into. It might also make it look more like an eatery and less like an antique shop!

But overall, I’d like to go back and try a bit more of the menu. The service was great and I really like the bar area. I reckon when its a bit busier and there’s a bit more of an atmosphere, it will be a great little place to sit having a few glasses of wine and enjoying a good meal.


Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, London W1
www.meleepere.co.uk
Twitter: @meleEpere

Master Chocolatier, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, London.

143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA
020 7437 0011

www.paulayoung.co.uk
Twitter: @paul_a_young

COPITA, SOHO…yet again!


If you read my blog regularly, you will know that Copita in Soho is one of my favourite restaurants. I have blogged about it many times. (see below)

I was walking down d’Arblay Street on Tuesday when I saw the chef, James, sitting outside. While we were chatting I asked him if he there was anything he could make quickly so I could have a quick bite to eat before going to a work meeting.

He told me they have recently added a burger to their menu so I popped in. There seems to be a burger revolution in London at the moment and Copita’s burger can certainly stand up to the best of them. This burger was amazing and well worth the modest price of £4.50.

The burger is served in a sourdough bun with a beef patty topped with delicious Payoyo, a Spanish goats cheese, sweet red pepper and shallots. Wow! So many flavours yet they don’t fight one another. Its a truly delicious burger.


If you find yourself in Soho, please pay a visit to Copita. It never disappoints.


My other posts on Copita:
http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/18845327503/copita-soho-again
http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/13077059942/copita-again
http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/14517405824/copita-darblay-street-london-w1f-8ep-ajo
http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/12176361745/copita-soho

Copita, 27 d’arblay street, London W1f 8EP
020 7287 7797

copita.co.uk
Twitter: @copitatapas

KOYA, SOHO


Last Friday, my friends Cassie and Fenella went to Koya, an udon noodle bar in Soho, for a bite to eat. I’d heard this place was great so I was keen to check it out.

The rumours were true! We started with Braised Pork Belly with Cider which was divine! It melted in your mouth.


Next we had mixed vegetable tempura which came with a dish of sesame seeds, spring onion and wasabi. There was broccoli, carrot, mushroom and cauliflower and it was delicious.


Then Fenella and I went for the Kamo Nabi Udon – Duck & Vegetable Hotpot…


This was hot brother with hot udon and I loved it. I’m not usually a fan of udon noodles but I really liked these and the broth was packed full of flavour.

Cassie opted for Hiyashi Kizami – Fried Tofu and spring onion – cold udon with cold sauce to pour…


Cassie was very disappointed in this unfortunately. She loves tofu and spring onions but there appeared to be no seasoning at all. She couldn’t tell what was in the pouring sauce but it was nothing of note. She had to put soy sauce and spice on it to make it interesting.

Such a shame as my dish was packed with flavour and I would definitely go back. Not sure Cassie will though!


49 Frith Street, London W1D 4SG
www.koya.co.uk
@KoyaUdon

Warning: they don’t take reservations so be prepared to queue if you get there after 6.30!

COPITA, SOHO….again!


Last Thursday night I went to my current restaurant crush, Copita, in Soho. Every time I go to Copita, I fall in love with it just a little bit more. They change their menu all the time so I can’t just order my favourites over and over again. I’m forced to be a bit more adventurous.

I got there before my friends and ordered a beautiful glass of Aged Dido Garnacha Blanca Macabeo and their pea, cheese and truffle oil croquets.


I adore these croquets. The last few times I’ve been there the croquets haven’t been on the menu so as I saw them I ordered them immediately. As you cut through the wonderfully crisp crust, the delicate smell of truffle wafts up and envelopes you. It’s stunning. The peas taste so fresh and the addition of the cheese is sublime. I love these and could eat them every day if I got the chance.

Then I ordered the duck egg yolk with smoked mushrooms. This is a take on another of my favourite dish of their which is duck egg yolk with pequillo peppers.


I’m not sure which I prefer. This is a beautiful dish. I love mushrooms anyway but this is the first time I’ve tasted smoked mushrooms. And with the richness of the duck egg yolk, I was in heaven. Unfortunately it only lasted for about 5 or 6 bites and then it was gone. I tried to savour each bite but I was fighting myself not to practically inhale it!


When Claire arrived, I promptly ordered another round of croquets so that she could try them (and so I could have some more!). She actually closed her eyes as soon as she could smell the truffle oil. She loved them.

Next I ordered (against my better judgement) the smoked eel pie and mash.


Neither Claire or I had tried eel before. I would never normally order anything with the word ‘eel’ in it. I have a mental block with eel, much like I do with black pudding. It’s just too visual. Whilst eating it, all I could picture was a black eel slithering its way through the water. (My fear of snakes extends to eels.) Aside from that, this dish wasn’t bad at all. It would have been lovely had I not been picturing an eel. Claire loved it. Well, she kept raving about it and I’m not sure if she genuinely loved it or she was doing it to get me to eat it, much like a mother does with a sulky child who won’t eat their dinner!

When I shut my eyes and concentrated on the flavours and pictured monkfish (Claire’s suggestion), it tasted really good. Crème fraîche pastry, cabbage, fino sherry, shallot and a bone marrow sauce running through it. The mash was lovely and smooth. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’d order it again but that really is down to my mental block. If you don’t have this stupid block like mine, and you love pies, I would suggest you try it. I’m very glad I tried it. At least I can now say I’ve eaten eel!

When Carmen (finally) arrived, she practically pounced on the waiter to order the lamb loin, artichoke and broad bean.


This was lovely although I didn’t get much. Carmen practically hoovered it up in seconds! I did have a couple of the artichoke pieces (Carmen was more interested in the meat!) which were beautiful and the lamb was incredibly tender and full of flavour. It’s been a while since I’ve had lamb but it was the nicest I’ve tasted in a very long time.


We all left Copita very happy. Mind you, that could have been the wine…. Carmen has eaten there before but this was the first time for Claire. The general consensus (which is the same every time I take my friends here) is that this is a fantastic restaurant serving the most incredible plates of food. The flavours burst in your mouth, making you want to order more and more. I love it.


You can see more posts on Copita here - http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/13077059942/copita-again

And here! http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/12176361745/copita-soho

FOXCROFT & GINGER, SOHO

I love finding new cafés and bakeries to add to my list of favourite places to visit, and living in London, there seems to be a never-ending stream of places to discover.

A couple of days ago, my friend Matt emailed me some photos of delicious looking cakes and sandwiches from his phone while he was out for lunch. I immediately emailed back saying I’d meet him there the next day!

Luckily I work an 8 minute brisk walk from Soho so yesterday I practically skipped to Foxcroft & Ginger on Berwick Street, in the heart of Soho. When I walked in, I was met with a beautiful array of cakes, tarts, muffins, brownies, corn fritters, French toast sandwiches and filled rolls. No contest, the ham and cheese French toast won hands down.

Matt and I thankfully got a table downstairs so we were able to escape from the bitterly cold wind that hit you every time the door opened. I didn’t fancy sitting at the window.

The décor is exactly my style - mismatched, antique furniture, with a chilled out basement feel to it. There were even a couple of gymnastic vault horses like the ones I used to struggle with in school. They looked a bit difficult to eat off though.

Five minutes after sitting down, Matt and I were presented with our French toast served on wooden chopping boards and drizzled with honey. Wow, it tasted incredible. Nice big hunks of ham, melted cheese and what tasted like egg soaked brioche, were complimented beautifully with the sweet honey.

I was nicely full afterwards so decided against buying something sweet to take back to the office, plus I reckon I maxed out on calories with my French toast. Seeing as this week was supposed to be a ‘healthy’ week, I’ve failed miserably. Maybe next week….

Saying that, I am definitely heading back to Foxcroft & Ginger to try out their amazing looking brownies. I am on a constant quest to find the perfect brownie and theirs looked pretty impressive.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Twitter: @foxanginger

(Source: foxcroftandginger.com)

POLPO, SOHO


I have been trying to get into Polpo in Soho for months. I have been to their sister restaurant Spuntino many times since being introduced to it in July last year. You can see my gushing review of it here - http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/7622292302/spuntino

I had heard that Polpo was as good, if not better but every time I tried to get in, I was turned away as the queue was too long. I had tried running there straight from work in order to secure a table but even arriving at 6.30pm, I was still too late.

So when my good friend and restaurant-buddy Paul and I booked in a post-Christmas catch up last week, I was sure that this would be the night we’d get in. Afterall, it was a Wednesday in mid-January. I assumed that most people were broke and easing off eating out in January. I assumed wrong. At 6.25pm Paul called me from the restaurant urging me to hurry. They had one table left and wouldn’t let him sit there on his own to wait for me. Apparently they need both members of the party to be present in order for you to secure a table. So I ran down Regent Street and made it to Beak Street just in time to get our table. Within minutes a queue had formed at the door and the place was packed all night.

Like Spuntino, Polpo looks like it was lifted from Brooklyn. It has a rustic, stripped-back industrial feel with exposed brick walls, a black-and-white tiled floor and low hanging bulbs over the bar area.


The brown paper menu of small plates (around £2 to £8) makes for appetising reading.

It was too dark to take good photos so I have lifted some I found online. We started with arancini - small risotto balls with a melting mozzarella centre and a distinct taste of thyme. These really were delicious. They weren’t greasy at all but were instead surprisingly light.


Next up was goat cheese, roasted grapes & walnut bruschetta. I personally loved this. The creaminess of the cheese was offset perfectly with the crunch of the toasted walnuts, as the sweet grapes burst in your mouth.


This was quickly followed by pork belly and a side order of garlic and rosemary roast potatoes. I was slightly disappointed with this. The pork itself was beautifully soft and tasty but I like crackling if I’m having pork belly. For me its the best bit, but this was topped with crushed hazelnuts to give it some bite. This didn’t work for me at all. Neither did the bitter taste of the radicchio that was clearly there to balance out the sweetness of the pork and hazelnuts. I didn’t care for it myself. The potatoes however were delicious. But you can’t really go wrong with roast potatoes.


The next dish was the most disappointing…roast pumpkin with parma ham and ricotta. I can’t find a photo of this online so it may be a new dish. I was expecting diced pumpkin with melted cheese topped with parma ham but instead, out came two giant wedges of pumpkin, topped with a slice of prosciutto and some ricotta crushed on the top.

Because the wedge was so big, it wasn’t as soft as it could be. In fact, some of it was too hard to eat. There was also so much ground pepper on it that it looked like a layer of soot! I had to scrape it off in order to get the taste the pumpkin. The ricotta didn’t complement the dish and its not often that I don’t like cheese. Paul and I ended up leaving it after a few bites. It was a shame as I was really looking forward to it but it left a rather bad taste in our mouths.

For pudding we opted for the pot of tiramisu. This was everything a tiramusu should be….light and creamy with a beautiful hit of coffee and a slight hint of alcohol at the bottom, generously topped with cocoa.


Overall I was slightly disappointed with Polpo. Maybe I had built it up too much in my head before going. Maybe the fact its always been to busy to get into had made me think it was extra special. Maybe I thought it would be to the same standard as Spuntino…I don’t know. But I felt rather underwhelmed by the end of the evening.

To their credit, I loved the arancini and the goats cheese bruschetta but I felt let down by their pork belly and pumpkin. Their tiramisu was delicious, but I would expect nothing less from an Italian restaurant. Their staff were really friendly and helpful, even though the guy on the door can be rather brusque. I’m not sure I would go again. Perhaps if a friend really wanted to try it out and I ordered differently, I would have a better experience but I like to leave a restaurant having enjoyed everything I ate, and for a place serving tapas sized dishes, I felt that £88 for the two of us was rather steep.

Polpo
41 Beak Street
London
W1F 9SB
020 7734 4479
www.polpo.co.uk

Copita, d’Arblay Street, London, W1F 8EP.
Ajo blanco & beetroot; duck egg yolk, piquillo & white truffle; venison, jerusalem artichoke & chantarelles; tom jones’ sirloin with foie gras and finished off with salt & caramel ice cream. Sublime!

COPITA…AGAIN!

I can’t begin to say how much I love Copita. I am so glad it has opened! And I am so glad its only a 10 minute walk from my office. I love that they change the menu so that I always have something new to try but they keep the staples such as their sublime ajo blanco.


I seem to be eating there a lot at the moment as I keep raving about it to my friends and then I end up going with them.

Last week I went with one of my favourite dinner companions Paul, who is the male version of me. We like exactly the same things…the same food…the same men… I was so excited to take him to Copita as I knew he’d love it.

We started off with the ajo blanco, a white version of gazpacho, made with almonds and garlic. This version also has beetroot in it. It was incredible. I wanted to immerse myself in it! Paul was slightly hesitant at first as he doesn’t particularly like beetroot but it worked so well in the soup, he loved it.


Then we had duck egg yolk on roasted piquillo peppers and sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts. This was unbelievably delicious. The sweetness of the peppers mixed with the richness of the yolk was stunning and the hazelnuts added a nice bit of texture to it.


We then moved onto fish. The first fish dish was seabass stuffed with scallops and served with roasted fennel in a butter sauce. Wow! This was amazing. Normally I hate fennel, but I loved this. It worked so well together. The dish was light, yet rich. And let’s face it, butter tastes great, so having a butter sauce in it just added to the flavour.


Next we moved onto the salmon. Now, I love salmon anyway, so this dish was always going to work for me. And it was served with roasted artichokes, another favourite ingredient, so this tasted lovely. There was nothing fancy about it, it was just salmon served with artichoke, but it worked for me.


Our next dish was quail cooked with rosemary and served with a slice of pancetta and cherries. Again, this was a lovely dish. The sweetness of the cherries cut through the saltiness of the pancetta and the quail was cooked perfectly.


We decided against pudding and opted for cheese to finish. We had a sheep’s milk cheese called Grazalema, Payoyo which is a blend of tart goat’s milk and sweet sheep’s milk and Monte Enebro, a delicious, soft and creamy goats cheese. All were utterly beautiful with the quince jelly that came with them.


At the end of the meal we were both stuffed but didn’t want to stop eating so we ordered another ajo blanco. I think that was the best dish we’d had all evening and we wanted to end on the highest note possible. At one point I actually looked around the restaurant and everyone seemed to be ooing and ahhing over it. If you get a chance to go to Copita, you must try this.

Each time I go, I am surprised at just how good the food is. The flavours of each dish literally burst in your mouth. Paul said that he has never known food like it before. I’m going back again this week and I’m sure I’ll be raving about it on Twitter yet again!


Copita
26-27 D’Arblay Street, London, W1F 8E

http://copita.co.uk

@copitatapas

I had yet another incredible meal at Spuntino in Soho on Monday night. We had the most fantastic truffle egg toast, eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt, pulled pork and spiced apple slider, croque monsieur served in a tumbler and the most incredible mac & cheese with leeks and wholegrain mustard in the sauce. AMAZING.


spuntino.co.uk

COPITA, SOHO

Oh my God, I am in love! A couple of weeks ago I was walking down D’Arblay Street in Soho and noticed that Bar Chocolate and disappeared and in its place was a very cool looking tapas bar called Copita.

It looked lovely but unfortunately I’d just had a huge meal at Andrew Edmunds and I was stuffed, so my friend and I popped in for a drink and poured over the menu. It looked so delicious that I promised myself I would go back. So last Thursday I went along with my friend Maggie.


Like a lot of restaurants now, there is a no reservations policy, so Maggie got there early to get us a good spot. When I arrived at 6.30pm, the restaurant was nearly full but not overcrowded. There seems to be a trend at the moment with restaurants just having bars to sit around, or wooden counters where you perch on high stools. Copita is no exception. With white glazed tiles on the walls and low-wattage bulbs hanging low over the bar/eating area, the atmosphere is relaxed and chilled. As the evening progresses, and a few glasses of wine are consumed, the place feels more noisy and buzzy. Or was that just us?!


Copita’s menu is divine. Its not your regular day-to-day tapas of chorizo in red wine and patatas bravas. This menu is a little more inventive and exciting. The dishes range from £2.50 to £7.95 with the exception of Jamon de Bellota at £13.50 for 50g.

We started off with the beautiful aubergine marinated olives…


Then came the pea, fresh cheese and truffle oil croquets.


These look a bit scary when you cut into them but I promise you, they taste sensational! The gentle aroma of truffle wafts up as you slice through the golden, crispy shell. And the fresh taste of the peas mixes beautifully with the creamy cheese. We immediately ordered another portion.


Next was the ‘don agustin’ jamon de bellota.


These free-range, acorn-fed Iberian pigs produce the most incredible tasting ham. It was served in paper thin slices which practically melted on your tongue. Sweet, nutty, and just salty enough. Perfect!

Cime de rapa with mozzarella was divine…


Then came the home-made butifarra with piquillo and caperberries (no photo I’m afraid) which was beautiful. It was made from the pig’s head and sweetbreads and wrapped in fat. Now, everyone knows fat tastes damn good. And damn good this was!

Just as I was thinking that this was as nice as pork could taste, out came the Iberico pork ribs, grelot & date sauce – oh my god…these were incredible. The meat quite literally fell off the bone and the sauce was sweet, smoky and sticky…everything pork ribs should be.


I was slightly disappointed at the pudding list as it was rather limited and there was no chocolate in it. But that’s just a personal thing.

We opted for the baked fig with goats curd ice cream.


Warm, sweet fig with a hint of honey in the background, this was delicious. The goats curd ice cream was lovely but we weren’t quite convinced by the combination of the two.

I ordered the custard tart.


It was a custard tart. Not the best custard tart I’ve ever had, the pastry wasn’t as light and flaky as it could have been, but it was still lovely.

Overall this is a fantastic new find. I almost don’t want to rave about it because I don’t want everyone knowing about it. I want this to be my little secret. I don’t want to turn up one night and be told I can’t get in. However, I fear this will happen with or without my help.

The cooking is bold and adventurous and it tastes delicious. The menu changes regularly so there is always more to explore. For this reason, I will be going back time and time again.

ANDREW EDMUNDS, LONDON

Last week, my gorgeous friend Cassie and I went out for dinner in Soho. An easy task you might think, but no! We had initially wanted to go to Spuntino (Rupert Street) but the queue was long and they turned me away. Cue minor devastation! Cassie and I had been looking forward to it all week. So we decided to walk to Beak Street to have a go at Polpo, Spuntino’s sister restaurant. Another fail. They were in the same situation. So we wandered down Lexington Street and saw the candles flickering inside Andrew Edmunds.


I often walk past there and think it looks lovely but its always full so I wasn’t expecting to get in. However, we were in luck - they had a table available until 9pm. Hooray!


The menu looked amazing. I wanted to eat everything on it! Cassie and I opted to share our starters with each other. So we ordered the duck rillettes with red onion compote, cornichons and granary toast…


This was delicious. The duck was so soft and full of flavour. And it worked perfectly with the cornichons. It was a great dish, albeit it rather large! I couldn’t have eaten that by myself.

We also had the marinated black angus beef with warm wild musrooms and shaved pecorino.


This was divine. The beef was so soft, it melted in my mouth and the wild mushrooms added a lovely warm earthiness to the dish.

Then Cassie went for the warm spiced aubergine and lentil salad with goat’s curd and pinenuts.


I only had a mouthful of this but it was lovely.

I ordered the braised rabbit leg with celery, pancetta, mustard, mash and broccoli.


I loved this. The rabbit was so soft and tender it just fell off the bone and the pancetta added an amazing smokiness. The mash was deliciously smooth and creamy and took on the smoky taste of the pancetta. This was a really warm comforting dish, perfect for a chilly Autumn evening.

And onto pudding! We wanted everything on the pudding menu but we opted for lemon and pistachio cheesecake with berry compote…


Delicious. Creamy, soft, smooth, everything a cheesecake should be. Loved it until…

I tried the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream…


Oh my God! This was incredible! Absolutely amazing. It was not only the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever tasted, I almost think it is the best pudding I’ve ever tasted! It was like a warm, gooey, soft hug. Cassie and I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. The sponge was soft, the sauce was heavenly, the ice cream was divine.

We asked the waitress if we could speak to the chef to find out how he made it but we were told he wasn’t in and she couldn’t tell us when he would be in. So we spoke to the manager as we were leaving the restaurant who said that it was a standard sticky toffee pudding recipe…butter, sugar, cream, dates. We left doubting him. We assumed that he was holding something back…there was no way it could taste that good without something extra special being added. So the next day I printed off a few sticky toffee pudding recipes and tried them out this weekend. The result will be posted shortly.

I will definitely be going back to Andrew Edmunds, to work my way through the pudding menu if for nothing else!

BARRAFINA

I have had a lot of tapas in my time. Good and bad. Up until a few weeks ago I was of the opinion that Brindisa was the best I had found in London but that was until I went to Barrafina on Frith Street. Why it has taken me so long to go there, I have no idea. I have been twice in 2 weeks and plan to go a lot more!

Barrafina has no tables, just about 20 stools along an L shaped bar. You can’t book, so it’s first come, first served. I haven’t yet seen it without a continuous queue along the back wall but that just adds to the buzzy atmosphere. The standard response when you walk in is that you will have to wait 40 minutes, but 40 minutes flies by when you’re catching up with your friend with a glass of wine in your hand.


When my friend Carmen and I were queuing up on Tuesday night, we had some ham croquettes to nibble on while we were standing with our wine. The disappeared pretty damn quickly!


These ham croquettes are incredibly crispy yet incredibly light whilst still tasting very creamy and rich. The filling was made up of a decadent, béchamel sauce with ham that oozed beautifully as you broke into it.


I could easily have ordered more but I knew there was a lot of the menu I wanted to get through that night so I thought I should hold myself back.

Once we got our seats (in my eyes, the best seats in the house – right in front of all the cooking action), we started ordering. All the seating is positioned around what serves as a bar and open kitchen. The bonus of this is that you can watch everyone’s meals being prepared. This also helps you to add to your list of orders!

We started with fried artichokes served with alioli. I absolutely love artichokes and these were just delicious. Again, they disappeared pretty quickly!


Then we moved onto the courgette flower which was stuffed with prawns. These were packed full of flavour and with the lovely crispiness of the flower, were beautiful.


Next came my favourite dish – neck of pork served with roasted red pepper and fried potatoes. This was a stunning dish. The pork was chargrilled and in my mind tasted like a very good steak. Although Carmen disagreed. She’s a proper steak lover so maybe you should trust her with this more than me! But personally I thought it was a really good dish. The roasted pepper tasted beautiful with the meat. I could have had another portion of this and I will be going back for it again. It was on special on Tuesday night so I’m hoping they’ll have it on again.


Due to the fact that we were right in front of the pass and could see everything that was going out, we were suddenly confronted with what looked like the most amazing dish we’d seen – the rump of lamb! We ordered it immediately.


Wow! This was melt in the mouth delicious! The lamb was so soft and tender and juicy. I could easily have had this again.

Next was the giant tiger prawn with chilli. I’m not normally a fan of chilli so I left Carmen to this. She did however give me a bite and I must say, it was beautiful. It had a lovely chargrilled taste and wasn’t too heavy on the chilli.


For pudding, I deliberated between the chocolate tart and the Santiago tart but decided on the Santiago tart. I always seem to be eating chocolate so I fancied a change, plus my mum makes a mean Santiago tart. The waiter told me that they spread a layer of quince in between the pastry base and the almond filling and that swung it for me.


I loved this. The almond filling actually had nice chunky pieces of almond in it. My mum uses ground almonds so its much smoother but I liked the contrast with this tart. And the quince adds a lovely sweetness to it. I asked for it to come served with double cream as opposed to ice cream and I’m not sure if I’m flattered or slightly offended that the waiter said afterwards that he had never seen anyone “enjoy eating double cream” as much as I clearly did! Hmmmm….could have had something to do with me pouring extra cream onto the spoon before I ate each bite!


By this point we were pretty full and were finishing up our wine but then kept noticing what the guys sitting next to us were ordering. We soon started talking and the New Yorkers very kindly allowed us to have bites of their spinach and ham tortilla (delicious!), the ribeye steak (Carmen said it was lovely) and the chocolate tart (very dark and rich. I’m glad I had the Santiago tart). Overall it was a thoroughly lovely evening. Good chat, fabulous meal and delicious wine. What can be better?

If you haven’t yet been and you love good tapas, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a perfect restaurant to go with one other person. It’s too small if there are three of you and the person in the middle will end up with a sore neck by the end of the night!

Barrafina
54 Frith Street
London
W1D 4SL

www.barrafina.co.uk

MICHELIN-STARRED LONDON RESTAURANT ADDS CALORIE COUNT TO ITS MENU!

Interesting.. Gauthier Soho restaurant (gauthiersoho.co.uk) has become the first Michelin-starred establishment in Britain to add calorie counts to its menus.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23967189-restaurant-with-a-calorie-controlled-menu.do

Restaurant critic Fay Maschler says: “Calorie counts are counter-intuitive for a special occasion meal and would not be the basis on which most people would make their choices.”

I agree. I don’t want people telling me how many calories are in everything I eat. I know what’s good for me and what’s bad and I don’t want it laid out on my menu! Knowing how much butter is used in restaurant kitchens, I think it would put a bit of a dampener on a good night out.

Fat and calories taste good. If you’re on a diet, don’t eat out at Michelin-starred restaurants!

What do you think? Do you want to see calorie counts on the menus of top restaurants?