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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

The Dysart Arms

 

Place setting at The Dysart Arms

Place setting at The Dysart Arms

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

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

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Tom Aikens
43 Elystan St
London
SW3 3NT
T: 020 7584 2003
Map

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.

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St John Hotel

St John Hotel
1 Leicester St
London
WC2H 7BL
T: 020 3301 8069
Map

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.

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Opera Tavern

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine St
London
WC2B 5JS
T: 020 7836 3680
Map

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.

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The Three Horseshoes

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

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.

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Powder Keg Diplomacy

147 St. John’s Hill
Battersea, London
SW11D 1TQ
T: 020 7450 6457
Map

In stark contrast to its early days, it is now relatively easy to get a table at this quirky Battersea bar/restaurant. We sat in the garden room, a dark but somehow cosy place populated by ferns, empty picture frames and upside-down house plants, with ivy-covered pillars supporting a glass roof. The setting was only a little surreal until our waiter arrived sporting a top hat and braces.

One of the other unusual features of this restaurant is the drinks menu which features an enormous selection of bottled beers, and 6 micro-brews on draught: 3 lagers, a pale ale, a stout and a cider. There are also cask beers which change regularly. I agonised for a while and picked the one draught beer that was off. Happily, the suggested replacement (the Jokers IPA) was a delight, with a light caramel flavour but still very refreshing. My partner selected a Merlot from the 6 reds available by the glass.

The a la carte menu is straightforward: optional oysters or bread followed by a choice of 6 starters and 6 mains. To start, we chose the spicy beef carpaccio with rocket and fennel, which was light and very tasty, and the curried parsnip soup which was thick, mild and smooth, served with a warm roll.

To follow, I had the Blythburgh pork belly which was excellent – equal parts moist meat and crispy crackling with no sign of the large blocks of fat that you often find in this dish. And it came with an embarrassingly large selection of vegetables: parsnips, carrots, kale, roast potatoes and a celeriac and apple purée, all sat in a very tasty gravy.

My partner had a medium ribeye steak which was cooked as requested as well as being half the size of a dinner plate. Accompaniments were more Spartan here (chips and rocket) but these were no ordinary chips. No, these were nearly half-potatoes, still in their jackets and large enough to be piping hot even as the last of them sat uneaten at the end of our meal because we were both absolutely stuffed.

We called time after the main course as we could not have managed a dessert and found the bill very manageable indeed – only £64 for two including 12.5% service and less than an hour on the clock. So, it’s difficult to find fault with the Powder Keg. Maybe the main courses are a bit big… probably it’s too dark to see how much you’ve salted your potatoes… definitely you would be hard-pressed to find a meal of similar quality at this price anywhere else in this neighbourhood.

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Duck Soup

Duck Soup

41 Dean Street
Soho, London
W1D 4PY
T: 020 7287 4589
Map

Last night we had an amazing meal at Duck Soup with some wonderful friends. We arrived without a reservation (because we didn’t know you could book for groups of four or more!) but were quickly shown to a great table in the back corner. The menu, which is different every day, is mainly small plates and is great for sharing. Our favorite’s from yesterday’s menu were the Lamb Chops with Salmoriglio, Pappardelle with Rabbit, Salsify and Parmesan Cream, and the Chopped Lardo and Rosemary on Toast, which was definitely not low calorie but absolutely delicious. The cheeses were great too. We especially liked the Fourme D’Ambert (a blue) and the Brillat Savarin (soft cow’s milk). The wines are all natural and were unfamiliar to us, but the waiter (who was excellent overall) encouraged us to try a few reds before selecting the one we liked best. He also recommended a lovely white wine to go with the cheeses. A great time was had by all and we can’t wait to go back!

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Le P’tit Normand

185 Merton Road
Southfields, London
SW18 5EF
T: 0208 871 0233
Map

Le P’tit Normand is one of our two favourite local family run French restaurants (L’Auberge being the other). The restaurant is small and cosy, the menu of adequate length and the all-French wine list relatively short. Our starters (Fagot d’Asperges et Lardons, Tartare de Boeuf, Escargots and Gaufre au Basilic) were yummy and the main courses (Entrecôte Steak, Magret de Canard, and Escalope de Veau) did not disappoint. To finish off, we had the Creme Brulee and a Plateau de Fromage (we are avid cheese fans!). The cheese was suitably ripe and there was a large selection to choose from. Apart from a few pieces of bread that were very hard, we were very happy with the food. The service, however, was unpolished. Although it was obvious the woman waiting on us was inexperienced, she didn’t get much help from the others and was even chastised in front of us for not clearing the table entirely before bringing us the dessert menu. Not good.. We’ll probably go back again, but the poor service has moved it down a notch in our local rankings.

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The Wellington Arms

Baughurst Road
Baughurst
RG26 5LP
T: 0118 982 0110
Map

Last night we spent a wonderful evening at this exquisite pub, which we found in Sawday’s Special Places. We were looking to spend the night somewhere after our painting workshop with Deana Kim and struck it lucky with The Wellington Arms. On arrival we were shown to the “Old Room”, which is one of their two rooms in an old barn. It was beautifully decorated, and as with everything here, there was great attention to detail and everything was perfect! The rain shower with wonderfully smelling Aesop toiletries was the perfect for cleaning up after the painting course. The luxurious fluffy towels, warm tile floor and  sheepskin rug were better than at home!

The food in the restaurant was also exceptional. To start, we had the Isle of Man queenie scallops and the vegetable terrine with fresh radishes that tasted like they were straight from the garden (bear in mind, it is February!). A lovely bottle of Barbera D’Alba accompanied our main courses, the roast brill and the butterflied leg of lamb, which were both fantastic.  Because we can’t help ourselves, we shared a sticky toffee pudding and the cheese board with a glass of Sauternes – a great finish to a wonderful evening! The Full English breakfast this morning was equally good.

Everything about The Wellington Arms exudes quality and pride. We were honoured to experience Simon and Jason’s labour of love. Keep up the good work!

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L’Auberge Restaurante

22 Upper Richmond Road
London
SW15 2RX
T: 020 8874 3593
Map

We spotted this small French Restaurant on the South Circular in August, but didn’t get around to trying it until last Saturday night. It’s run by a husband and wife team who made us feel like part of their family from the moment we walked in the door.  We started the evening with an aperatif – I had an amazing but subtle Fig Kir Royale from the extensive list of Kir Royaux. To start we had the Aumonière surprise, a Filo pastry parcel wih a Camembert, pine nut & apple filling and the Assiette Sud-Ouest, a home-made duck terrine with potted duck foie gras & orange smoked duck breast – both of which we would definitely have again! The main course was Entrecôte à la moelle – a Scottish ribeye steak, classic shallot & marrowbone sauce, and Poisson du Jour – squid in a tomato sauce with fresh vegetables. Although we’re on a diet, we couldn’t resist dessert and tried both the Chocolate and Chilli Bombe and the French Cheese Platter, both of which were delicious.  In fact, the whole meal was so amazing that we returned this Friday night and had many of the same things!  Oh, and they do take-away too.. c’est dangereux!

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