The Dysart Arms


Place setting at The Dysart Arms

Place setting at The Dysart Arms

The Dysart Arms
135 Petersham Rd
TW10 7AA
T: 020 8940 8005

I read about this wonderful Gastropub on the edge of Richmond Park in a tweet by Andy Hayler last week. Today we decided to go for a spontaneous Sunday lunch and it was definitely a good idea! Everything on the menu looked fantastic and many dishes had recommended matching wines, which is always nice! We finally decided on the Parsnip soup with coconut and lime foams and the Orkney scallop with squid ink dumplings and Insolia veloute, which were both served in bowls on wooden boards and were very tasty! For the main course we both had the Longhorn beef, which was served on a sharing plate in the centre of the table and came with some wonderful side dishes: potato and pancetta pithivier, Grelot onions, salt roast beetroot with toasted  hazelnuts and miso(!) horseradish. We chose the matching wines for both courses which were Bacchus and Chablis with the starters and Azamor, a Portuguese Syrah-Merlot blend with the beef.  After spotting Pedro Ximenez sherry as the matching wine for the Chocolate and praline bar with miso salted ice cream, we couldn’t resist having dessert as well…and it was pouring rain so we needed an excuse to wait it out! We also tried the Pandan creme brulee with a peanut butter cookie with a glass of Late Harvest Torrontes.  All in all it was probably the best Sunday lunch I’ve ever had. Definitely somewhere to go back to.

Chocolate and praline bar with miso salted caramel ice cream.

Chocolate and praline bar with miso salted caramel ice cream.

View from The Dysart Arms

View from The Dysart Arms

Parsnip soup with coconut and lime foams.

Parsnip soup with coconut and lime foams.

Orkney scallop with squid ink dumplings and Insolia veloute

Orkney scallop with squid ink dumplings and Insolia veloute

Victim Cookies

Adapted from Baking Bite’s Vampire Cookies, these victim cookies are fun to make and popular with hungry guests!

Victim Cookies

3/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
red food colouring

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and extracts.

Add flour and salt to the bowl and mix them into the butter-sugar mixture at low speed until dough is just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Divide dough in half and keep the portion you are not using in the refrigerator.

Roll out the dough directly onto the baking sheet liner.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out human shapes and place them on a baking sheet. Or, if you are lucky enough to have a Silpat or other non-stick baking sheet liner, roll the dough out right onto it, cut out your cookies and then peel away the unused dough. I’ve found this means much less wastage because the delicate cut-outs don’t need to be moved.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are starting to brown.

Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pour out a small amount of red food colouring into a shallow dish. Dip a toothpick in the food colouring and drag across the cookies making injury-like marks.

Cookies will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

Meringue Ghosts

These little ghosts are adorable, easy to make and super-tasty! Credit for the recipe goes to SkinnyTaste.

Meringue Ghosts

Makes 36

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Place rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip.

The little beauties!

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (or put sugar in food processor for 30 seconds until fine)
1/2 tsp pure white vanilla extract
miniature chocolate chips for the eyes

In your mixing bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until you get very stiff peaks. Beat in vanilla extract.

Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Before placing the meringue ghosts on the cookie sheet, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper to prevent the paper from sliding.

Transfer the meringue to the pastry bag. Holding the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe with even pressure, 2 inch high mounds of meringue.

Carefully press two miniature chocolate chips into each meringue ghost for the eyes, and a third chip for a mouth.

Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours or until they are dry and crisp to the touch and easily separate from the parchment paper. Turn off the oven, slightly open the door, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying several hours, or even overnight.

Keeps for several days at room temperature.

Nutritional Info: Size: 1 ghost
Old Points: 1 pts
Points+: 1 pts
Calories: 27.5
Fat: 0.3 g
Protein: 0.4 g
Carb: 6.1 g
Fiber: 0.1 g
Sugar: 5.9 g
Sodium: 6.4 mg

Tom Aikens

Tom Aikens
43 Elystan St
T: 020 7584 2003

It was pouring rain on Friday night when we arrived at Tom Aikens and we were welcomed with offers to take our coats and wet clothing and quickly shown to our table. Although the tasting menu looked wonderful, we thought we’d go a la carte and try to avoid over-indulging.

After a Sipsmith’s Gin and Tonic, we started with the Housemade Ricotta with Green Olive Juice, Honey Jelly and Pine Nuts and the Marinated Foie Gras with Beetroot & Port, Pickled Raisins and Dried Plums, which were both delicious. Having made our own cod with vanilla butter, we had to try Tom’s Roast Cod with Confit Carrots, Vanilla Butter and Ham Hock and it did not disappoint. Our other choice for main course was the Partridge with Roast Pear, Chocolate and Foie Gras Mousse, which was also fantastic. To finish off we had a cheese platter and the Pistachio Brick with Caramelised Pistachio and Pistachio Milk, which was unique, yummy and very light.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Tom Aikens and can’t wait to go back. The food was very tasty, fantastically presented and not in the slightest bit pretentious, which is rare for a high-end London restaurant. Yes, there were the gels and powders common in modern gastronomy, but there was none of the usual snobbiness.  To top the evening off, we just happened to run into Tom himself on our way out and were able to thank him in person for a wonderful evening and fantastic food.

St John Hotel

St John Hotel
1 Leicester St
T: 020 3301 8069

We happened upon this place completely by chance on a Friday night. Over a drink at the Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square, we contemplated finding a restaurant which might approach the Hampshire’s level of civilisation in an area which, let’s face it, is not the first place you think of for a quality meal. A quick search on the internet revealed a hidden gem – an outpost of the well-known St John restaurant hidden amongst the casinos and fast food joints.

The restaurant is a large square room with an open kitchen all along one side. The room was buzzing with conversation and the staff were similarly chatty. We chose 6 rock oysters and a beetroot, sorrel, walnut and boiled egg salad to start. The oysters were big and meaty and the salad was very satisfying, with purple and golden beets that had been cooked to perfection, not crunchy but still offering some resistance. As we ate our starters we watched the chefs beavering away, one of them stopping only to slake his thirst with a large bottle of water before returning to the stove.

For the main course we couldn’t resist the ox cheek pie, which was for a minimum of two people. The waiter recommended a bottle of Bandol 2006 for this adventure, which was an excellent choice – a bold wine with plenty of tannins that had no problems standing up to the rich gravy that accompanied the pie. The suet pastry on the pie was simply superb, and we had no trouble finishing it.

We didn’t have much room for dessert but we did manage to squeeze in a honeycomb ice cream. This was excellent but we did rue the missed opportunity for some post-dinner cheese. Next time.

All in all, an excellent experience. This is an oasis of sanity in a strange part of town. I wonder whether the diners at the Aberdeen Angus know what they are missing. The bill was was £136 for two including a £54 bottle of wine.

Opera Tavern

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine St
T: 020 7836 3680

Another excellent meal from the team behind Dehesa. Service is always delivered with a smile here and the waitress offered to let us try a taste of the wine from the specials board, a 2008 Barbera D’Alba, which we agreed was worth having a bottle of at £38.

We started off with the Three Manchegos with quince, which were surprisingly different from each other, each having their own character, and were served with some very thinly-sliced and then toasted bread. We also got a bowl of crispy pigs ears, some fresh bread with a very green, grassy olive oil and a board of Jamon Iberico – a bit pricey at £14 but worth every penny!

Next we moved on to arancini which were filled with wonderfully smooth warm goats cheese, and a square of pork belly which was successfully if somewhat reluctantly divided 3 ways – would recommend ordering 1 each to avoid confrontation. We finished our main meal with Lamb Gigot served with pumpkin purée and braised chicory, and a warm salad of romanescu which was beautifully presented and it seemed a shame to ruin it although we were glad we dug in!

There were 4 desserts on the menu, each paired with a different dessert wine. We briefly considered getting another Three Manchegos before deciding on the caprine and amaretti cheesecake, the Turron ice cream with rhubarb, and the dark chocolate ganache with beetroot ice cream and hazelnut crumble. The standout winner was the ganache – we don’t know how they did it but the combination of slightly bitter chocolate with slightly sweet beetroot and a bit of hazelnut matched absolutely perfectly with the suggested pairing of Pedro Ximenez.

The bill was £52 a head which was roughly half food and half drinks/service. We’ll be back here again before long.

The Three Horseshoes

The Three Horseshoes

Horseshoe Road
Bennett End, Nr Radnage
High Wycombe
HP14 4EB
T: 01494 483273

We arrived in the dark on Friday evening and were shown to a quaint little room overlooking a small pond. After freshening up quickly, we went back to the main building for dinner. The restaurant was busy but not full and we were given a choice of tables. The fresh bread rolls were warm and came with butter that was soft enough to spread (which is always nice!). The menu had five or six starters and main courses with plenty of choice for all tastes. To start we had pan-fried scallops with crispy pork belly (two of my favourite things!) and the duck breast with parma ham and a poached egg. For the main course we chose the fish plate, which was enormous (Gravalax, Smoked Salmon, White Crab Meat Salad, Smoked Trout and Tempura Prawns!), and the 28 Day Aged Sirloin Steak, which was flavoursome and came with chunky chips and peppercorn sauce. To finish off the evening, we shared a cheeseboard that wasn’t particularly exciting and two very small glasses of Sauternes.

In the morning, despite the rain, we were able to appreciate the lovely view over the Chilterns, but overall we felt the experience could have been better. We got the impression that the management are resting on their laurels and coasting on previous accolades. The room we stayed in, the breakfast dishes and the restaurant floor all could have been cleaner (I don’t expect to see leftover chips at breakfast) and the dining tables less wobbly. With a little attention to detail and a renewed passion, I think The Three Horseshoes could be much better.