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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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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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York and Albany

127-129 Parkway
London
NW1 7PS
T: 020 7388 3344
Map

We discovered this fantastic restaurant last night after visiting the zoo for Zoo Lates, a late night opening of the zoo where we saw beautiful lions and tigers and many other animals. There was some takeaway food available at the Zoo, but we decided we wanted a proper meal and pulled up Google Maps to search for a restaurant. Lucky for us, we found York and Albany right around the corner and decided to give it a try.

It didn’t look that busy as we approached it and we even briefly considered not going in because it looked too quiet, but when we got inside it became obvious that the restaurant was around the back and was quite busy. On arrival, the host made us feel a bit silly for not having a reservation and said he would see what he could do about a table. After what seemed like 5 minutes, he came back and said he had a table for two. When we sat down, there were a few free tables around us (some of which remained empty throughout our meal) and the host asked for our name so he could put it down for the reservation.. which seemed strange, given that we were already sitting down.

However, the evening only got better. The menu was fantastic and the service was perfect.. attentive but not overbearing. So many things on the menu looked enticing but we eventually chose the Quail breast ravioli with confit leg, spinach, truffle and shallot and the Salt and pepper squid with baby gem with anchovy and pepper relish, smoked paprika mayonnaise as our starters. Both were elegantly presented, perfectly proportioned and absolutely delicious! For the main course we had the Smoked squab pigeon with glazed cherries, cabbage,
horseradish spätzel, and toasted pecan nuts
and Roasted cannon of lamb with onion purée, rainbow chard, confit potatoes, green olives, and red peppers which were also heavenly. We chose the Atanasius (Blaufränkisch/Zweigelt) wine to go with the meal and it did not disappoint. It was light, fruity and very easy to drink. We didn’t pass on dessert either.. oh no.. there were too many temptations on offer. We chose the Roasted figs with iced lemon semifreddo and Chocolate and coffee pavé with coffee ice cream, both of which were amazing. The coffee ice cream was an espresso bean dream and the fresh figs were full of flavour and delicately spiced.

It was definitely the best meal we’d had in ages and was especially good since we happened on it accidentally. It wasn’t cheap but for a 3 course meal for two including wine and 2 gin & tonics, we felt it was really good value given the quality of the food and service. I think it’s worth a special trip to experience Angela Hartnett’s fabulous menu and if you’re in the neighbourhood, I definitely recommend popping in. I know I’ll be back!

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Wright Bros Oyster & Porter House

11 Stoney Street
Borough Market
London
SE1 9AD
020 7403 9554

We went to Wright Bros in Borough Market on Saturday night for my friend Shufan’s birthday. It is a small place and the menu is mostly seafood and oysters on the half shell. I had oysters on the half shell with bacon as a starter but unfortunately the bacon overpowered the taste of the oysters. I swapped one with Shufan who had Oysters Rockefeller and it was much better. For the main course I had Moules Mariniere and they did not disappoint. They were small and tender and almost all of them had opened. We ordered a variety of dishes including the Harissa Lobster, Petit Fruit de Mer platter, Traditional Fish Pie and a Steak and Guiness Pie. It was all very good, but not everyone was full up and they only had strawberries and cream or chocolate truffles for dessert. There were other things on the menu but they must have been sold out. It was a good meal, but I must say… nothing beats Malpeque oysters from Prince Edward Island.

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Matsuri St James’s

15 Bury Street
London
SW1Y 6AL
020 7839 11014

I took my mom to this great Japanese restaurant for her birthday. She’s eaten Japanese food all over the world, including in Japan, and she said it was some of the best she had ever tasted. Matsuri St. James is one of the two Matsuri Japanese restaurants in London (the other being Matsuri High Holborn) and has a sushi counter as well as Teppan-yaki grills. We arrived early since we were heading to the theatre afterwards and were seated at an empty Teppan-yaki grill. Perhaps a bit of a novelty, Teppan grills are apparently a new addition to Japanese cuisine. They consist of a large stainless steel grilling surface with a small eating surface (like a bar counter) surrounding it. The chefs cook your meal right in front of you and entertain with quick flipping and chopping of the meat and vegetables before transferring their finished masterpiece to your plate. Some chefs seemed more friendly than others, but all in all, a trip to a Teppan-yaki grill, especially for a first-timer, is an experience that will not disappoint.

We each ordered one of their set menus that consisted of about seven little courses. I had Mikoshi with Rib-eye steak teri-aki and my mom had Wakana with grilled tofu and exotic mushrooms. It definitely wasn’t cheap, but the food and service were both impeccable. My mom and I were both well impressed and would definitely go there again.

Lettuce Roll Sea lettuce maki… one of our many courses.

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Saki Bar & Food Emporium

4 West Smithfield
London
EC1A 9JX
020 7489 7033

I went to this restaurant a few weeks ago with some of my colleagues and future colleagues from Goldman Sachs. The selection on the menu was huge and it took us a long time to decide what we wanted. In the end we mentioned to the waiter a few things we really wanted and asked him to sort out the rest. Several large sushi and sashimi platters arrived shortly after ordering as well as tonkatsu, grilled aubergine with red miso and many other delights. Saki has received several awards for its sushi including Restaurant Magazine‘s Best Sushi award in 2006 and I must say they are well deserved. Although this is the kind of place you might want to save for when someone else is paying, it was very, very good and well worth the price. Not to mention the extra fun we had changing the windows in our private room from clear to opaque with a switch on the wall.
Saki wins its first trophy from the Restaurant Magazine’s prestigious awards

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