Archive for the ‘London restaurants’ Category

From deer to here

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Sign of the times

‘No, I didn’t lose my little finger in a butchery related incident.’ says Chris chef and also butcher at The Pig & Butcher, Islington catching the direction of my gaze and pausing his heavy cleaver in mid-air. ‘I fell down the stairs a few years ago. A stupid accident.’ It’s reassuring to hear because as Will repeatedly thumps down the cleaver small bits of Bambi go flying, some towards me, and I don’t want a stray digit spoiling my day.

He’s busy butchering a Sika, or spotted deer, on site at his meat suppliers, Chart Farm in Sevenoaks. Here the deer are bred for the table and when their time comes, humanely shot. ‘It’s quick,’ says Chris,’ they’re shot in the fields where they live and they don’t know what hit them.’ Indeed as the soft-nosed bullets are supersonic, the shot deer wouldn’t hear the bang, even if the rifles didn’t already use noise suppressors. Read more…

The roof’s the limit. We go up to Skymarket.

October 10, 2012 Leave a comment

We’re all going a bit bonkers for street food right now, but what about roof food? Nick Harman thinks he may be in on the ground floor of a brand new trend.

God of small things

The wind buffets SkyMarket, five floors up over Tooley Street, and a large red chili tumbles off its shelf and rolls over to lie beside a fast growing puddle on the deck. The rain lashes down, occasionally finding its way in, and the sky fades to deepest black. In a few hours SkyMarket will open for the evening’s business and the chefs are prepping hard, oblivious to the wind and rain outside and positively basking in the warmth of the cooking range and the heat lamps.

Long way down

A small lift at the base of Magdalen House brings you up to Skyroom, an award-winning roof construction created by David Konn. It looks jerry-built but is in fact sturdy and secure and it’s a kitchen, bar, deli, art and craft gallery and performance space all on one rooftop.

Julian Bayuni is one of the creators of Platterform the company behind SkyMarket, along with Kevin Darcy. Originally both mixologists at Momo where they first met, Julian went on to manage West London’s Notting Hill Arts Club and worked in the Netherlands with The Fabulous Shaker Boys. Together they’ve  created plenty of cool pop ups and  Platterform itself picked up a Young British Foodies ‘Best Food Experience’ award earlier this year.

Spice of life

‘Platterform suggests what we do as a brand and events company –  large plates of food and a platform for  ideas, bringing together creative energy,  chefs, mixologists, artists, musicians and  performers,’ Julian explains. ‘Two years we worked a pop up at Hel Yes! during the 2010 London Design Week just off the City Road and that gave us our initial impetus. I’m used to working in the food world, but this is about more creative ideas and techniques for food and drinks. We want it to be fun and accessible and not intimidate people, but we want to challenge the traditional constructs of what people expect from a drinking or dining experience.’

No reservations

It certainly does that. When you walk out the lift and feel the wind gust you’re already a bit on the back foot but then a vibe familiar to anyone that’s ever been to Camden Market, or a traveller encampment, embraces you. It’s multisensory with four different musical sounds going on around and a wealth of aromas, some from the satay bar perched dizzyingly out over the drop and some from the range where the main dishes are being cooked.

It’s a local, family thing. Julian, who is half Indonesian and from a restaurant running family, even has his stepfather cooking some days, while meat and vegetables come from local suppliers like Maltby Street along with ethical foods such as jams being made in people’s kitchens from fruit that would otherwise go to waste. In season vegetables also come from the nearby St Mungo’s of Melior Street project and the market up here sells a mix of exciting spices and other stuff you won’t find in Tesco’s.’

Hot off the grill

‘We have six chefs in the team, two are Jamie Oliver trained at 15 and are doing a contemporary take on African and Caribbean dishes,’ Julian says as tables are set up. ‘The dishes are added to each week and they really suit the environment; we can’t seriously expect people to sit down for five courses on a rooftop so we keep a casual street food/tapas thing going along with the market vibe. This week has been Indonesian and Caribbean, next week we’ll be adding some Brazilian dishes. And our SkyMarket Bar takes inspiration from the changing food menu with the bartenders creating bespoke cocktails designed to complement the dishes.’

Nuno Mendes of Viajante is a friend they hope will get involved via his Loft Project, and Gok Wan’s been in a few times too. ‘He’s a family guy,’ laughs Justin. ‘He loves this place because it’s a family unit, my mum’s British, my dad’s Indonesian so I think Gok sees the similarities to his own life.  He even got my mum into hotel GB for lunch with Gordon!’

Evolving, and almost literally moving, all the time SkyMarket is a concept they hope to take to other spaces like railway arches. And more rooftops? ‘We’re certainly looking around,’ says Justin as I start to make my way down.

Open cooking class or presentation every Tuesday lunchtime between 12pm- 4pm

Experiential drinks brand events including workshops and masterclasses will take place every Tuesday evening at 6.30pm

The Skyroom, 5th Floor Magdalen House, 148 Tooley Street SE1 2TU

Angelus, London

4 Bathurst Street  Paddington, London, London W2 2SD

Tres Francais, non?

The sight of a man eating alone in a restaurant is reassuring, one you tend to see only in French restaurants. A good French place is where the lone diner never feels like a sad loner; just someone having a meal. The staff treat him perfectly normally and chat cheerfully, knowing just how long to linger before letting him get on with his grub.

There are two single diners in Angelus when J and I come  in from out of a wet and windy night. Just a few hundred yards from Lancaster Gate tube, this restaurant created from a venerable old pub is cosily welcoming in a Brasserie stylee. A sense of cheerful informality but with steady professional staff at the tiller. The tables are close together, which is another good sign; I actually  like a Brasserie where you can have next door’s conversation as a backdrop and their elbows in your soup.

It’s Angelus’s birthday apparently; five years old and going very strong, and so they have a menu of revisited classics as well as dishes that the locals, and this is a very local restaurant, like to eat repeatedly. This is enough to tempt me out west.

It’s classic stuff. A starter of duck’s liver brulee is something you might find in the quack-obsessed Gascony region, or in Bordeaux’s brilliant La Tupina. The glaze of sugar shatters to reveal smooth, rich, cardiac-arrest klaxon creamed livers ready to be shovelled heavily onto fine bread studded with nuts. It’s as gorgeous as only something so simple can be. A glass of Pacherenc, so much nicer than Sauternes in my book, proves just the ticket to go with it. Read more…

Roast restaurant

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

The Floral Hall, Stoney Street London SE1 1TL

Saved from the scrapheap

It’s been at least five years since I went to Roast. The pace of openings since then has become so fast, so furious, the keen diner need never go to the same place twice. Miss one restaurant’s hyped up, hysterical launch? Don’t worry there’ll be three more along in a minute.

Since my last visit the area around Roast has evolved. Massive building works have changed much of the area’s character but the approach to the restaurant’s lift, past the market shutting for the night, the drifting cabbage leaves and the spray from the pressure hoses cleaning down the wet fish stall, is still oddly romantic.

I remember the lift, I remember there was always a bit of a wait for it. Why? It only serves one floor after all. The lift  finally arrives and it has a dwarf in it, no not a dwarf but one of those middle-class small boys with too-long, too much hair. He’s been playing about, no doubt to the benign amusement of his parents. I get in a light blow to his head while reaching for the buttons and return his aggrieved look with a cheery smile. No doubt he’ll tell mummy and daddy about how he met an evil Tory in the lift. Read more…

Dive right in. Bentley’s Seafood Grill at Harrods

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A struggle to get onto at my age

Richard Corrigan is holding a champagne glass, it’s just an ordinary champagne glass but in his giant paw it looks like something from a dolls’ house. Larger than life he stands out even in a Harrods Food hall thronged with press people going Darryl Hannah ‘Mermaid’ on his seafood.

It’s the press launch of Bentley’s Sea Grill at Harrods, and with the iconic store now closed for the evening we’re free to sit and eat anywhere in the hall. Plates and plates of beautiful native oysters appear. Naked but for a shot of lemon juice, they’re some of the finest oysters I’ve eaten anywhere.

Rock oysters come out with a Vietnamese dressing of shallots and fish sauce, while other oysters come with plenty of butter and garlic and baked in the oven, making the flesh velvety textured and a bite to savour slowly.The seafood swimming by has my eyes on stalks, rather like the enormous langoustines that come just boiled and ready to be dredged in a classic Marie Rose Sauce.

Salt and pepper squid with mayonnaise is perfectly fried, the squid tender and the batter crunchy. Grilled head-on large prawns have been split, but not separated. Spiked with chilli they come roaringly hot off the grill and I burn my fingers tearing into them for the meat, but it’s worth the pain.

Your man himself

Salt cod ‘Scotch Eggs’ are served in egg cartons, fish and chips with mushy peas and plaice goujons both come in paper cones. Smoked salmon from Bentley’s own smoker is served in chunks, so you get something serious to chew on. Oh and there’s lobster and dressed crab and champagne too, so no one goes hungry or thirsty.

Of course this new place isn’t going to be cheap, no one goes into Harrods looking for a bargain do they. On the other hand the quality of the seafood is clearly second to none and it’s a fun place to eat.

Richard weaves his way magnificently through the throng beaming his head off. I tell him I am finally stuffed, I can eat no more. ‘You can never eat too much seafood!’ he roars cheerfully.

Bentley’s Seafood Grill is the third London opening in Richard Corrigan’s London restaurant portfolio, which also includes the first Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill and Corrigan’s Mayfair.

The menu also features the Bentley’s classic Royal fish pie, a dish first served at the Queen’s 80th birthday as part of the BBC series Great British Menu. A choice of desserts includes dark chocolate mousse and crème brulée and the wine list will focus on the Old World.

Windsor Burger. Fit for a Queen?

Now I am no burger nutcase, I mean I like a burger now and then just like most people, but I don’t go all weak at the knees or gabble uncontrollably when I hear of another ‘restaurant’ that intends to serve up minced meat in a bun. Maybe it’s my age, when I was a young man burgers were still the food of people who had crude tastebuds and saw food merely as fuel. Americans we tended to call them.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen were not, I think, the first to try and raise up the burger’s image in order that middle-class parents could surrender to their kids peer-fuelled cravings without having the shame of being seen in Maccy D, but they were among the first. Clean wholesome places with no anti-drug lighting in the loos and quality meat on the griddles and sourced from good, traceable places.

Today GBK don’t really figure on the burger foodies’ radar; too chain, too unhip, but they carry on feeding normal people and doing it very well. Getting in the spirit of Jubilee. they’ve partnered up with the Royal Farms in Windsor to create a limited edition burger available for a restricted time only across all GBK restaurants from May 28th.

The Royal Farms in Windsor produce some of the finest beef in the UK and The Windsor is the only burger to be made from The Royal Farm’s world famous Sussex cattle reared in the grounds of Windsor Castle, with the meat then hung and aged to get extra flavour and tenderness.

Only the best grade cattle are selected and the meat is  aged on the bone for the maximum allowable time. Each burger is fully traceable and made using a specific blend of chuck steak, short rib and brisket.

The Royal Farm’s beef is in finite supply, one doesn’t want all one’s cows going to the plebs obviously, and so The Windsor won’t be around forever unlike our dear dear Queen. It’s priced at £11.95 and available throughout the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics until they are all gone.

I tried a preview and it was certainly how I personally like a burger; not too rare in the centre, just blushing slightly, and with the outside pretty well sealed. The brioche bun was naked but for some mustard mayonnaise, and the lettuce and tomato were outside so you had the option of adding it or not. Personally I cannot stand burgers that have everything but the kitchen sink inside them, I want to taste the meat not a hodge podge of ingredients all mashing together in a gloopy mess that goes down my shirt sleeves. The Windsor is much more of a sandwich, simple and unadorned. Mind you I do like a gherkin.

GBK do a nice range of sauces/dips for your chips, although our skinny fries were so anorexic they hadn’t the strengh to survive dipping and we’d have been better off with the thicker options. GBK also serve Coke in original bottles, maybe it’s just me but I think Coke tastes better out of glass and the iconic bottle always makes me smile.

There are GBKs all over London, so if you’re in a royal mood tell the Queen to burger off in the nicest way.

Cinnamon Soho is coming.

Vindaloo pork pie anyone? That’s a big fat yes from me, especially when it’s been cooked by Vivek Singh. He’s been West at Cinnamon Club and he’s been East with Cinnamon Kitchen, now he’s going central with Cinnamon Soho. I visited the building site to meet Executive Chef Vivek and find out more.

Green day

Just back from a pop up in New York, he’s looking bright eyed and is characteristically full of cheerful enthusiasm as he answers questions and tries to ignore our circling photographer

Have you wanted to be in Soho for some time?

Soho has been our list for a while yes, but you never seem to get the right place and to be honest despite all the doom and gloom people talk about there wasn’t much going, Soho properties still get snapped up fast. Luckily for Cinnamon Soho we were offered this old Red Bar before it went onto the market.

Behind youuuu!

So what’s going to be the difference at Cinnamon Soho?

Well the idea if you like is to be more Cinnamon Kitchen than Cinnamon Kitchen! The City has its own style and that affects what a restaurant feels like. Cinnamon  Kitchen is more suit and tie than perhaps we imagined it would turn out, Cinnamon Soho will be what we originally intended Cinamon Kitchen to be. Read more…

Ken Hom -100 Easy Chinese Suppers

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Happy with in his wok

Ken Hom looks much the same today as he did the day he brought Chinese cooking into our lives back in 1982, except he has a few more lines on his face. His first cookbook, Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery was a mega-seller at the time and it’s still in print today,

He lives now  mostly in his adopted Thailand, but  he is in fact American by birth, along with stints at his home in France. Despite being semi-retired and recovering from cancer treatment, he popped up on Saturday Kitchen recently. It confirmed him as one of the nicest chefs around and still one of the most skilled. Read more…

London Oyster Guide by Colin Pressdee

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment
London Oyster Guide

Go buy the book

‘We’re all going to die!’ screamed the Daily Mail headline warning us of the dangers of eating oysters. Well okay it didn’t quite say that but their general gist was that oysters were very bad for you indeed.

Piffle, balderdash and a fluffy finger up to that, as Stephen Fry might say. Oysters are lovely and oysters from reputable suppliers are as safe as safe can be, having been purified before they get to us.

So forget the scare stories and cuddle up to an oyster or six, it’s one of life’s greatest eating pleasures and an example of how simple can so often be the very best. Lift the lid on a briny bivalve and tip it into your mouth, bite gently to release the flavour and then swallow. No, Stephen Fry did not say that, although he might.

Colin Pressdee is an oyster aficionado as well as a fine foodie. He was born in the town of Oystermouth, an oyster fishing village dating back to the Romans, so it was perhaps inevitable he’d be a mollusc muncher all his life. Indeed he once opened a restaurant called the Oyster Perches.

This book, created together with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, looks at over 150 restaurants, bars, markets, merchants, retailers and producers to be a definitive guide to getting your oyster fix in London. From an intro that explains the difference between Native and Pacific, the seasons for oysters, how to open them (easier than you think) it goes all the way on to how to present them. But why bother when so many restaurants will serve up a glistening plate for you?

Oyster in a man's hand

Shell out

And so Colin is off, exploring all areas of London for the best of the briniest. Clear address details, nearest tube station and brief description of the restaurant make the guide easy to use. Each restaurant entry also carries a price guide and suggestion for wine.

As you eat your oyster, pull the book out of your pocket and mug up on the author’s guide to the different styles and tastes offered by the various UK oyster producers; they are all very unique and terroir shines through. And if you do buy a bag to take home, there are recipes in the book to make the most of them. While any oyster eater will tell you raw is best, simply slipped from the shell, there are cooked oyster recipes in the book that offer unusual and interesting pleasures.

If you are already an oyster eater, then this book sells itself. If you are still, as some people amazingly are, horrified by the thought of oysters then perhaps Colin’s infectious enthusiasm will encourage you to give an oyster a go. Packed with goodness, undoubtedly good for you and very much a UK product to be proud of, oysters open up a whole new world of taste and pleasure.


Copita restaurant, Soho

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

26 D’Arblay St, W1F 8EP

An establishing shot

A veritable armada of new Spanish restaurants has been sailing into London in 2011, their weapons the twin battleships of modern and classic tapas and all aimed straight at our guts. Iberica has opened a new place in the beating heart of Canary Wharf, Jose Pizzaro has occupied Bermondsey without resistance, The Opera Tavern has given Covent Garden a whiff of garlic and Omar Allibhoy has struck camp in Bluewater. I’m assuming the latter must know what he’s doing, and didn’t just sail up the wrong bit of river.

Copita, its name derives from the Spanish for a type of sherry glass, is from the mothership of Barrica in Goodge Street and has berthed further south in D’Arblay Street, Soho. Its sober frontage doesn’t exactly holler for attention but thankfully neither does it go for the faux craphole look which is now getting rather boring.

Inside it’s all about tall stools and high tables with tiles up the walls and along the floor and it’s a nicely judged balance of rough and smooth. Balanced precariously on a stool myself – I can never be truly comfortable on those things, they’re not quite sitting and they’re not quite standing – I’m finding it rather cosy and so is my wingman J. Packed in the evenings, Copita is currently nicely calm at lunch. Read more…