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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

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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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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The Wells
The Wells - Hampstead

30 Well Walk
Hamsptead
London
NW3 1BX

Map

We discovered The Wells on our first visit to Hamsptead. It was a crisp December day and we were looking for a nice pub to have drink before dinner. We were pleasantly surprised to find The Wells on the corner of Christchurch Hill and Well Walk. I sampled a lovely white from their extensive wine list and got Rob a pint of Leffe. The atmosphere was lovely and the place had a good feel about it. After seeing their food menu and the awards for Best Gastro Pub on the wall, we decided to return someday and sample the food.

We came back for lunch on New Year’s Day. I was glad we had booked as it filled up quickly. We sat next to the fireplace and enjoyed a latte before our meal. It was another freezing cold day so we started with the soup, which was fabulous. We both had fish for our main courses and the apple and blueberry crumble for dessert. It was all very yummy! We wil definitely go back.

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Vildsvin

Ferran, 38
Barri Gotic
08002 Barcelona
93 317 94 07
Map

Where we should have gone for dinner….

We happened upon Vildsvin after our experience at Ateneu Gastronomic. We were looking for some dessert and a drink to recover from our unpleasant meal. Vildsvin has a clean modern style and looked to be much more our sort of place. There probably would have been a wait for a table for supper earlier, but this is the place we should have gone for dinner. We ordered the Chocolate Mousse, which was dreamy, and the Biscuit a la Creme, which was also exquisite. We enjoyed the selection of foreign beers upstairs in the less formal eating area, but there is also a quieter more formal dining room downstairs. And perhaps best of all, one of the tapas on the menu is a slice from a 120kg Bologna sausage which stands just inside the door.

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La Fonda del Port Olimpic

Moll de Gregal, 7-8-9
Port Olimpic
08005 Barcelona
93 221 22 10
Map

This restaurant was recommended to us by our hotel. Having been to similar places in Madeira, I should have known that a seafood restaurant on the waterfront was probably not what we were looking for having asked for a “nice” place for dinner.

The hotel had made a reservation for us and on arrival we were taken to a tiny table for two at what turned out to be a major crossroads. La Ronda is probably best described as a zoo. The waiters were literally running around with whole fish and crustaceans showing them to the patrons who would later be eating them bumping into our table as they went. The place was bustling with the F1 crowd and outbursts of cheering and singing were not uncommon.

We ordered Fishermen’s Soup and Fried Calamari for starters, both of which were okay. We had a Seafood Paella for main course which was also good, but nothing special. Having spent enough time in this chaotic scene, we declined dessert and made a quick exit.

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Ateneu Gastronomic

Pas de l’Ensenyanca, 2 bis
Barri Gotic
08002 Barcelona
93 302 13 57
Map

Based on previous experiences with “traditional” Spanish and Portuguese food, my first instinct was to avoid this place. But with the Formula 1 race this weekend, Barcelona was very full and there was at least an hour’s wait at better looking places. We should have left before the waiter carried an aluminum table from the outdoor patio into the restaurant and over the heads of unsuspecting patrons. Our table was placed about six inches from two other tables and was right in the middle of the main thoroughfare, as well as directly in front of the toilets.

We ordered the Fishermen’s Soup and Melon with Iberian Ham for starters. Although well over-priced at €15.50, the ham and melon looked to be one of the safest choices on the menu and was in fact very good. (However I think it is difficult to mess up a dish that consists of a piece of fruit and some cured meat). The soup was average and contained both recognizable and unrecognizable pieces of seafood.

For the main course we chose the Fillet Steak and Grilled Sole. The steak was ordered medium but when it arrived it was almost raw and wobbled on the plate. After we reiterated the request for it to be cooked “medium”, the plate was whisked away and returned about twenty minutes later. The steak now looked more seared on the outside and slightly less wobbly on the inside. Meanwhile I wrestled with the Sole which had been grilled to the point of being suitable for use as a weapon. Using both my knife and fork, I attempted to pry the hard rubbery flesh away from the bones while avoiding the drab over-boiled vegetables. As it turned out, it was lucky that my Sole adventure was almost over by the time the steak reappeared. The aluminum patio table was not up to the task of supporting the forces incurred by the cutting of the steak and wobbled almost enough to spill the wine out of our glasses.

When we sat down the couple next to us had just paid their bill and didn’t look very happy. Now we know why… When the bill came we were absolutely shocked. We have never been charged so much for such terrible food. Combined with the dismal table location and nearly being clipped in the head with a chair being carried across the restaurant, there isn’t anything positive to say about this place.

On our way out we heard another couple say to the waiter “Excuse me. This steak is not cooked!” Although tempted to tell them to leave now before it was too late we selfishly left the restaurant as fast as we could. As we were walking away we realized that not once had they asked if everything was okay with the food. I guess they they’ve learned over the years that it’s best not to ask!

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