All posts filed under “Brasserie

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London Round Up: Little Social + Brasserie Chavot + Ametsa + Outlaw’s + Sketch (Lecture Room)

AMETSA WITH ARZAK INSTRUCTION

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2/5

Replacing David Thompson’s Nahm at the Halkin Hotel is Ametsa, a spin-off restaurant by 3-Michelin-starred Arzak from San Sebastian, Spain. The team, comprised of Veuve Clicquot Best Female Chef Elena Arzak (2013), is in London on an “Instruction” basis – whatever that means. My lunch experience at Ametsa, however, was not indicative that it was a restaurant with good instructions.

I went for a la carte options (starters at £14.50-16; mains at £27-39; desserts at £12.50). The nibble of rockfish – salted, mousse-d and encased with crispy rice crackers – was finely seasoned but its fishy scent was just too intrusive for my liking. Goat’s cheese was infused with tumeric and turned into a “Puzzle”. The taste – of an ordinarily processed kind of cheese – and the texture – of an extraordinary processed kind of cheese – were both puzzling. Soup of “Quickly Changing Squid” (£16) contained four square parcels made from butternut squash and painted with squid ink. When the lukewarm broth of squid was poured over, the color of the soup *quickly changed*. Yeah (read with low voice). Theatrical attempts aside, the dish did not do much in term of taste. The soup itself lacked depth and once the squid ink paint was diluted into the broth, it created a texture combination that stole away some liquid smoothness. The filling of butternut squash parcel was gummy, sweet and nutty, a taste that was jarring, rather than complementary. Hake with Clams and Ham “Salt” (£27) did not go swimmingly. The fish itself was watery and had a taste that could be any white fish. The clams that leaped and remained on top of confit potatoes smelled. I found the modern twist on Spanish green sauce – parsley and olive oil here – daunting but not delicious. The grating of dried Jamon as “salt”, though a nice touch, did not make any impact to the dish. The desserts were a little more palatable. “French Toast” (£12.50) featured mangoes that had been re-textured into sheets. The sheets were then used as wrapping for something that was vaguely identifiable as “Toast”. The dish was then finished with milky coconut soup and a scattering of broken pistachio nuts, dried petals and lime zest. The taste did not translate into the joy of eating an actual Spanish “Torrija”. “Moon Rocks” (£12.50) was the most likeable of the bunch. These chocolate pebbles were filled with orange flavored Cointreau. One bite into my mouth. Popped liquid… Bill.. Please..

Overall, this was a meal that disappointed at many levels – unskilled execution, unsuccessful taste combination, poor quality produce. But it might just be me thinking this? You may, of course, opt for their tasting menus (£52 at lunch; £105 at dinner), which might promise a better result.. (or not).

 

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BRASSERIE CHAVOT

Brasserie Chavot on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Brasserie Chavot at the Westbury Hotel marks the return of 2-Michelin-starred chef Eric Chavot (formerly of The Capitol Hotel) to London. The fare here is not fine dining but a French brasserie with some very polished front of house. As typifying a French brasserie, you may expect a menu that is utterly uninspiring – snails, steak tartare, choucroute and something meaty from the grill. The price tag (starters at £8-15; mains at £16-24; sides at about £3.50; desserts at £6.50-7.50) fits and does not exaggerate its prime Mayfair location.

My lunch at Brasserie Chavot was a delight. Selection of Charcuterie (£9.50), (not all French as there was chorizo involved), was of very good quality. I particularly enjoyed the “Pate de Campagne” which oozed liver-y goodness. Steak Tartare (£9.50) was appetizing. The chopped steak was fresh and served pleasantly chilled; the concoction of chopped capers, shallots and gherkins with mustard dressing packed real zing but not intrusively acidic; the soft boiled quail egg was lush and precise. (In my opinion, for London, this version is only second to BBR’s Imperial Tartare). Ricotta and Parmesan Gnocchi (£16) was a vegetarian dish that I wouldn’t mind repeating on a regular basis. (Obviously not for a health benefit). The gnocchi were skillfully prepared – soft, fluffed but not too gummy – and the cheesy combination was distinct. (Think a kink of Parmesan followed by the smoothness of ricotta). The sauce – a refined white sauce and an exuberantly juicy tomato sauce – was reminiscent of lasagne and brought quite a smile to my face. The smile did not fade away with Baba au Rhum (£6.50). Though this was not the lightest baba I had eaten, it was perfectly synchronized in taste and price. There was a clarity between the spongy cake, the perfuming citric glazing and the coy dose of rum. The marinated and thinly shaved pineapple – neither too ripe nor too anemic – foiled well with the freshly whipped Chantilly.

I will be back.

 

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OUTLAW’S AT THE CAPITAL HOTEL

Outlaw's at The Capital on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

Now resident of The Capital Hotel is British chef Nathan Outlaw, who has gathered loyal followers from his 2-Michelin-starred seafood restaurant in Rock, Cornwall. The outpost at the Capital Hotel also showcases the menu that is seafood led. The price (starters at £12-16; mains at £26-32; desserts at £10-12) verges on being high. The vibe is formal and quite Knightsbridge.

My lunch (I just don’t seem to go out for dinner!?) at Outlaw’s was nice. The nibble of mini salted cod croquette was tasty. The quality of the fish used was not skimped. That said, I found its garnish of herb mayo (mainly garlic and parsley) too strong. Scallops with Hazelnuts, Saffron and Jerusalem Artichokes (£16) was not life-changing. The herb and hazelnut crust was soggy; the puree of Jerusalem artichokes was sticky and sweet; the drizzling of saffron oil, despite its wonderful aromatic contribution, was excessive and intrusive for its glossy texture; the pickle-y dimension did not find itself much tasted. The identically formed medallions of scallops, however, were of decent quality, but their taste was not aggrandized enough amidst the garnish. Hake and Cuttlefish with Braised Lettuce, Red Pepper and Ink Sauce (£26) was more promising. The very fresh hake was excellently sourced and perfectly cooked. The garnish was individually lovable but disparate as a combination. I loved the sun-kissed richness of the red pepper but thought the cuttlefish ink cried for more depth. As a result, the ink failed to bind the whole dish. Equally nice was Lime and Chocolate Tart (£12). The construction, though deceptively minimal, was a successful maneuvering of different temperature and texture. The cocoa-infused tart crust and the silky chocolate mousse – both at room temperature – encased the sharp and zesty lime sorbet. The proportion of taste could be more finely tuned. I found the sugary content from the chocolate to undermine the sorbet.

 

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SKETCH (THE LECTURE ROOM AND LIBRARY)

Sketch Lecture Room and Library on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Brainchild of maverick French chef Pierre Gagnaire, Sketch The Lecture Room and Library is now a holder of 2 Michelin stars. The best way to *sum up* this restaurant is that you need to know how much a meal there can cost before walking in, otherwise you will feel f**ked. (It is also advisable that you tell your companion how much a meal there can be, otherwise he or she is also f**ked). In a more polite manner of phrasing, the 6-course tasting menu at SLRL is billed at £95. The price for a la carte dishes is dearer (starters at £33-42; mains at £43-55; desserts at £13-25).

If you wonder why THAT much money, the Sketch townhouse complex is laboriously designed and periodically revamped. Pretty much a club for *cool* and wealthy kids (and adults). The FOH was pristine and meticulous. Together with Gagnaire’s cuisine and serving style, this is the place that excessive pomp is stubbornly encouraged. (This means, you might need to spend extra ££££ for your outfit for the occasion so that you won’t feel *humbled* by the place).

Let’s talk food, and for the sake of food, I quite like Sketch. Japanese influences are implicit in Gagnaire’s cooking, and his thought process was a breath of fresh air for London. Also, Gagnaire’s style of serving is unique. Say, my starter of “Scallops” was accompanied by 4 other mini dishes. The taste of each dish did not jar but together they ascertained a luxurious procession rather than harmony. The highlight was Mediterranean sea urchin with oyster granita. The freezing snow of oyster-scented iodine amalgamated the taste of yolk-y sea urchin. The other dishes in my collection of “starters” faded a little in comparison. For example, the scallops – thinly sliced, assembled into a shape of flower and pan-seared – came with loose, jam-like persimmon fruit. While there were some fresh dices of persimmon to contrast, I found the dish too rich for my taste. Both persimmon and scallops were well matched in (excellent) quality. “Simmental Beef” as a main course was good but not exemplary. The beef lacked robustness; the peppercorn jus was moderately neat; the crisps were deliciously fragile. Vanilla Souffle was very capably risen. The texture was ethereal. The quality of the vanilla used was a statement in itself.

(Honestly speaking, I did not know the price of this meal (but it was within the guided price of what I mentioned above) because my friend took (not “took care of”) the bill.

Go, if you are curious and think you can handle it..

The full photo album is on my Facebook here.

 

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LITTLE SOCIAL

Little Social on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Over the last couple of years Jason Atherton has opened quite a handful of restaurants, in London, Singapore and soon, Shanghai to great acclaim. Little Social, a tiny restaurant right opposite his Michelin-starred flagship on Pollen Street, is one of them. The den-like design – of leather booth, brick walls and neon lights – is cozy and impeccable. The menu is a clever mismatch of comfort and inventiveness. The price tag (starters at £8.50-11.50; mains at £17-22; desserts at £7) is not wallet-blowing.

My meal at Little Social was acutely prepared and outstandingly delicious. Cauliflower and Crayfish Risotto (£9.50) was just GOOD. The correctly al dente risotto was doused in cauliflower cream and finished with robust crayfish essence. The aroma from beautifully roasted cauliflower was unmissable, while the shavings of raw cauliflower lent great taste, texture and temperature contrast. Halibut “BLT” with Portebello Mushroom and Sauce Bois Boudran (£22). The fish was brilliantly roasted; the “Bois Boudran” sauce – chopped tomatoes, mustard, balsamic, parsley and tarragon (I think) – was refreshing and accomplished; the lettuce (again I think) was braised with the chunk of bacon and absorbed its meaty goodness. The latter was the star – smoky, voluptuous and melting in my mouth – adding mature depth of saltiness to the delicate halibut. Personally I thought the mushroom, situated behind the bacon, was redundant. Eton Mess (£7) was upgraded with poached rhubarbs, rhubarb sorbet and velvety ginger ice cream. It was a joy to eat.

(Again) I have no doubt I will return.

 

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AMETSA WITH ARZAK INSTRUCTION

The Halkin Hotel
Halkin Street
London
SW1X 7DJ

Tel. 020 7333 1234

www.comohotels.com

BRASSERIE CHAVOT

41 Conduit Street
(The Westbury Hotel)
London
W1S 2YF

Tel. 020 7078 9577

www.brasseriechavot.com

OUTLAW’S AT THE CAPITAL

The Capital Hotel
22-24 Basil Street
London
SW3 1AT

Tel. 020 7589 5171

www.capitalhotel.co.uk

SKETCH THE LECTURE ROOM AND LIBRARY

9 Conduit Street
London
W1X 2SG

Tel. 020 7659 4500

www.sketch.uk.com

LITTLE SOCIAL

5 Pollen Street
London
W1S 1ND

Tel. 020 7870 3730

www.littlesocial.co.uk

 

 

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London Round Up: The French

THE RITZ

The Ritz Hotel on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

The Ritz Restaurant is one of those *institution* places that are full of codes of conduct – ties, shirts, jackets, shoes, no trainers, no jeans, no sportswear – and the only thing I could do to rebel is, perhaps, to go commando. Not a thing I would personally advise if you are turned on by blings in the likes of ornate chandeliers, gilded statues and prolific tapestries. The room was justifiably handsome and makes a great and relaxingly bright retreat in summer. The front of house in a neatly pressed tail-jacket glided through the elegantly clothed tables and provided a formal, albeit patronising service. The menu – French in nature, but (mostly) British in produce -reflects such grandeur. The price, however, was sensible, from £35 for lunch and £50 for dinner. During my visit, the execution was visual oriented but not awfully precise. My pressed foie gras with girolles, walnuts and prunes exhibited the kitchen’s reliable skills, but a few other dishes – celeriac, for example – were over-salted.

 

 

BISTROT BRUNO LOUBET

Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

In a stark contrast to the glam of the Ritz is Bistrot Bruno Loubet at the Zetter Hotel, Clerkenwell. This is a handsomely casual venue, though populated by quite a smart and suited crowd, with a focus on French classics and comforts with modern touches. The menu is reasonably priced – £7.5-9 for starters; £16-22.5 for mains; £6-7 for desserts – and the portion is generously sized. I found the cooking not rigid and also not the most precise, but it was this carefree spirit that made the place quite lovable. My bouillabaisse was vibrant, large and hearty. The seafood was carefully simmered and the fennel stewed to delicious tenderness. The touch of saffron was a little too heavy, though.

 

GREEN MAN & FRENCH HORN

Green Man & French Horn on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

The Terroir Group keeps expanding and the fourth in its family is an ex-pub Green Man & French Horn. The produce-led French menu changes regularly and is prepared with a focus on big comfort and no pretense. The pricing is kind -£5-12 for starters, £12-24 for mains, around £7 for desserts. There is also an extensive (natural) wine menu from the Loire Valley. The ambiance was heaving at night and the waitresses cheerful. Pork Terrine was packed with flavours and outstanding for its meaty coarseness. I also loved Mackerel, Cucumber and Tarragon. The raw mackerel was very fresh; the cucumber crunchy and refreshing; and the olive oil and tarragon dressing provided somewhat aromatic peppery-ness to the dish. Grilled Langoustines with Lemon were freshly sweet. Boeuf Bourguignon was tender, oozing the perfume of red wine and meaty dimensions. Quite possibly the best restaurant in Covent Garden for me.

 

BRASSERIE ZEDEL

Brasserie Zedel on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

Brasserie Zedel by the operation behind the successful and more expensive Wolseley and Delaunay is a grand restaurant that caters with a price range not much above your high-street average. Say, an approximate cost for a starter is £7 and for a main £14-15. The menu is strictly French and very classical. The location in the heart of Piccadilly Circus also makes it an easy access. Escargots au Beurre Persille (£8.25) were quite oily but meaty Cuisses de Grenouille (£7.75) were finely cooked and accompanied with a rich jus. Onglet Grille, Confit d’Echalote (£10.95) fared better than I would expect for a £10 steak. And if you can’t read French, the English menu is available upon request.

 

GAUTHIER SOHO

Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Urbanspoon

RATING 4/5

Gauthier Soho is a lovable house restaurant not only full of Napoleonic busts but also of carefully selected wines. The service is immaculate but friendly. The price point – £40 for a 3-course, £50 for a 4-course, and £60 for a 5-course – is kind. The cooking has its root in Ducasse-ian Mediterranean French but with Gauthier’s own inventive vegecentric flairs.

The classic-sounding dishes are always the highlights. Truffle Risotto with Veal Jus has been in Gauthier’s repertory for more than a decade and never fails to disappoint. During my most recent visit, the al dente rice was substituted by the healthy, grainy millet, which created a revitalising sensation on the tongue and allowed the rich, explosive truffle with jus to linger much longer. Australian Wagyu with Bone Marrow and Vegetables was both simple and extraordinary. The aged wagyu was cooked for a stunning crosti-bleu effect. This allowed the seared crust to release an appetising aroma and the barely cooked beef a depth of moreish robustness. The root vegetables, braised in beef jus, contributed a varying degrees of texture, sweetness and bitterness.

 

 



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Green Man & French Horn

54 St Martins Lane
London
WC2N 4EA

Tel. 020 7836 2645

www.greenmanfrenchhorn.co

Brasserie Zedel

20 Sherwood Street
London
W1F 7ED

Tel. 020 7734 4888

www.brasseriezedel.com

Gauthier Soho

21 Romilly Street
London
W1D 5AF

Tel. 020 7494 3111

www.gauthiersoho.co.uk

Bistrot Bruno Loubet

St John’s Square
86-88 Clerkenwell Road
London
EC1M 5RJ

Tel. 020 7324 4455

www.bistrotbrunoloubet.com

THE RITZ

150 Piccadilly
London
W1J 9BR

Tel. 020 7493 8181

www.theritzlondon.com

 

 

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Mele e Pere: Italian Fare On Brewer Street

Apple and pear

That’s the meaning of “Mele E Pere”. The designer took it quite literally and mounted a polychromatic window display of apples and pears – some metallic ones, some Murano glass ones – on the street level of this mysterious Italian eatery on Brewer Street. In fact, the entrance was pretty much a camouflage. Judging from the moss green facade, the bright neon signs, the vintage sofas and the vast number of chandeliers, one would certainly assume this was a furniture shop. No staff in sight. Just a menu neatly but unnoticeably placed on an old-school pressing machine of sort. The restaurant itself was situated in a vast, den-like basement, which I accessed via a staircase adorned with vintage handcrafted tiles. The creamy wall paint and the mix-and-match wooden tables glowed in spotlights. Trattoria-style. Cozy. Charming. With a smart bar.

 

Cozy Italian to match

The chef Andrea Mantovani worked at Harry’s Bar and was head chef at Anthony Demetre’s Michelin-starred Arbutus and Wild Honey. At Mele e Pere, the menu was northern Italian and not overfussed. The starters were priced between £7.50- £11.50; the pasta could be served starter-sized (£7.50- £9.95) or as a main (£10.95- £15.95); the main came with a free side of your choice (£16- £19.95); an additional side cost £3.50; and the desserts were around £5.50 each. Warm Salad of Razor Clams (£9.50) was this coarsely sliced, springy razor clams tossed in olive oil, parsley, tomato and a medley of finely diced celery and carrot. The vibrant acidity from tomato and the squeezing of lemon made the dish very pleasant to eat, while the sweet cannolini bean mush balanced it off well. That aside, I detected some minuscule slices of octopus and, as the menu only read “razor clams”, I wondered if they were intentional. Artichoke Risotto with Lamb’s Neck (£9.95) lacked a cheesy shine, while the taste was very intense bordering on being too salty for my liking. This had much to do with the infusion of pungent artichoke cubes and rich lamb reduction. There wasn’t so much flavour from wild mint as billed (which could have elevated the dish). The piece of lamb’s neck, however, was expertly done. Moreish and very tender. I wouldn’t mind eating just a full portion of this. Roast Cod and Fennel (£17.95) was underwhelming. The cod was nicely seasoned and correctly roasted. It would look so much prettier if served with the “roasted” side up. The garnish of a blanched tomato and grilled fennel chunks did not much and I couldn’t help thinking I was eating disparate parts rather than everything as an entity on a plate. My side of grilled vegetables (inclusive of the main course) was also so-so and could do with a finishing touch of extra virgin olive oil drizzle. Tiramisu (no picture and I also couldn’t recall the price) had a lovely coffee forte but could do with more sweetness.

My meal at Mele e Pere was reliable, but not exciting. In fairness, the place delivered what it promised to be – the “trattoria”. The FOH was attractive, attentive and sweet. The bar surely would be quite hip at night. The bill for a 4-course with water, juice and a glass of wine came to just £60.

GO FOR: Easy Italian. Charming space.
RATING: 3/5

(read about new rating here)

MELE E PERE

46 Brewer Street
London
W1F 9TF

Tel. 020 7096 2096
Mele e Pere on Urbanspoon

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Delaunay: Old World Station in Aldwych

Old world..

Everybody will have different views for Delaunay. The Michael Winner type will probably feel besotted even before stepping their feet in, and so it seemed with many suited gents and Mulberry-ed ladies that dined side by side me today. You know, it’s Jeremy King. You know, it’s (nearly) the exact replica of The Wolseley (where if you ask the doorman for taxi and don’t tip, he will bark at you). A kind of comforting place for those getting bored of their maid’s cooking or those aspiring to have a live-in maid. For middle class food enthusiasts with hard-earned money, however, it might be a different story. They may discreetly cringe at the dark mahogany dining room, the elegantly stiff, waistcoated FOH, and even more so, the menu that reads “prawn/crab/lobster cocktail”. This very painfully ancient world still exists..

I should not be mean; I was well looked after at Delaunay, starting with an array of daily newspaper for lone diners, to the waiter’s combing the crumbs despite the fact that I didn’t touch bread. When I inquired about the absence of Battenberg (my Wolseley favourite) from the menu, I was kindly told the cake was reserved for afternoon tea but they would be happy to take my special request next time I popped in. Yes.. you do need to speak a bit of the Wolseley language.

Eastern European galore

The menu was distinctive in its Austrian – Eastern European accent – borsch, goulash, schnitzel of many kinds, frankfurter, kasekrainer – still with a Mayfair price label. The rest was comfort. They also did Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pud on Sundays. Jumping right in.. my prawn cocktail (£13) lacked a taste of success. Despite the fresh ingredients – prawns mixed with avocado cubes and finely shredded lettuce – I found the dressing to be inadequately boozed and spiced. The acidity also came mainly from the lemon juice, and not much so from the Marie Rose. Goulash (£7.25) was generous in meat content and made its appearance with a feisty aroma of pepper and paprika. It tasted accordingly, yet not relinquishing the intense beef stock flavour. Schnitzel Wiener (£10.75) was a thin but vast sheet of veal fillet, deliciously crumbed, fried and jus-ed. Just the way it should be. No unpleasant aftertaste of oil. You need to order separate sides; I didn’t. My meal ended with a very rich Sachertorte (£5.50). I loved the profuse blending of chocolate, the way it clouded and disintegrated on my tongue. That said, the Sachertore came on its own without the traditional garnish of whipped cream. Considering how oh-so-moist the cake was, it didn’t need any..really.

Very briefly, my meal at Delaunay was not bad, but it was, like my post writing today, verged on being quite dull and uninspiring. For many (refer to the “type” above) this will become the destination, in ways that The Ivy, The Wolseley, Caprice, J Sheeky are. I am not fussed over that “type”, so I don’t mind returning when in sheer mood for comfort food. And that’s about it.

 

GO FOR: Eastern European. Old school comfort. Affluent scene.
RATING: 3.5/5

(read about rating here)

DELAUNAY

55 Aldwych
London
WC2B 4BB

Tel. 020 7499 8558

www.thedelaunay.com

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon

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The Balcon: St James’s but Not a Walk in the Park

Not bad..

The Balcon was not a bad restaurant but it was not exciting. Despite its grandiose style, the place struck me no more than a hotel brasserie. The central but obscure location of Sofitel Hotel St James, adjacent to St James’s Park, did not help. That said, the banquette was comfy, the ceiling was high and the human-bird paintings were worthy quirks. Attentive front of house..

Not great..

The menu was, like the combination of the restaurant name (The + Balcon), Anglo- French. Quite a few dishes had clear French or English origins, while others were reinterpretations of this culinary marriage. Generous bread basket. Pork Terrine “Famille Menager” (£7) tasted very much a coarse, liver-y meatball wrapped with belly lining. Not enough herbal infusion going on in term of flavour, though I could see clearly there was a lot of herbs in. Having run out of its usual Apple relish, here the terrine arrived with caramelised onion chutney. Very sweet. The pickle sharpness wasn’t intense enough for this pairing. Brioche “Toad in the Hole” (£9.75), served with medium rich garlic chicken jus, also bordered on being just nice. A thick and good quality Lyonnaise pistachio sausage hereby shafted a gargantuan loaf of brioche. One bite into this brought back some distant (but good) childhood memory of eating Asian-style sausage buns. If you call this “Toad in a Hole”, we might call them that, too. Sadly, unlike my Asian-style sausage buns, this one was quite dry for a dish priced near a tenner. Scallops with Chorizo (£12.50) landed impaled on a bamboo skewer. This was a combo that could but did not work. Succulent scallops were underseasoned and rubbery; the chorizo was mild and not pleasantly cooked (crispy around the edge but soggy in the middle, perhaps a result of being skewed together), and the sauerkraut -like garnish of apple and fennel only undermined the dish.

The main was also average. Rump of Lamb (£22 something) was paired with juniper jus. A light dish. The jus had good berry acidity but the lamb was void of robust scent. Nicely pink as requested, though. The garnish of stir-fried garlic-ed green beans with seaweed was disparately Chinese. Cassoulet (£21) oozed an appetisingly salty aroma. The confit duck leg was excellently done – crispy skin and moist meat. I, however, had issues with the stew which was lacking in bites and quite mushy. Just nice…

As I said, The Balcon was not bad but not great. There were flaws that, to me, did not justify the price and underwhelm my experience. Having taked all this into account – and thinking about the calories too! – I departed…

… sans desserts.

PS I did end up with a dozen of madeleines at the anglophilic St John Hotel, though.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “6 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “5 out of 10″.

THE BALCON

8 Pall Mall
London
SW1Y 5NG

Tel. 020 7968 2900

www.thebalconlondon.com

The Balcon London on Urbanspoon

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Suda Rice Bar: Thai Street Memories in Covent Garden

Recently when the words “Thai” and “street” are mentioned, my heart heaves and my aching memories of anti-government protests in Bangkok rush back. I somehow stop associating Thai food simultaneously with street, so my two trips to Suda Rice Bar did bring back some good memories of Thai street and specifically of Rama I Road, of Siam Square, in Bangkok.. …why?

Just ’cause.. Suda Rice Bar would fit into that downtown area of Bangkok very well. Owned by Patara Group, Suda is a fresh take to Thai dining. A relaxed, contemporary brasserie/cafe. Brightly lit. Utterly urban. A kind of place that has the character of a restaurant in large and luxurious department stores. Not Westfield.. but Thai ones. Siam Paragon or Central World, maybe? You can either pop in for a quick grub and leave or hang around for drinks and a good laugh. Familiar dishes to Bangkokian urbanites. Clinical flavours. Not particularly chilli-fied as middle-class Bangkokians are not as much receptive to heat. Yes, there is Thai food that is not spicy!

Back in London and at Covent Garden’s fashionable quarter St Martin’s Courtyard, Suda Rice Bar charms me with the price tag that I would classify as cheap. Most expensive dishes do not soar above £9.95, and the portion is huge. The menu – too lengthy for my liking – features many popular Thai street nibble (stereotyped but re-presented with some twists) as starters, soups, variations of papaya salad, many noodle dishes and curries.

Free. Sweet potato crisps. Toasted rice crackers. The green ones were caramelised with lemongrass; the brown ones with tamarind. Thoughtful touch so I could take time choosing what dishes to order!

Starters..

Pra Tud Poo Jah (1) Long, skinny firecracker-like rolls deep filled with deliciously seasoned crab and mince pork. Came with sweet chilli dip. Chicken Wings (2) arrived deep-fried with Thai herbs. Crispy? YES!! Herbal? No. Good quality and good value as they were, they lacked the pungent herbal infusion that the menu promised. Chicken Satay (3) There were four skewers. Superbly marinated and grilled to perfection. I could smell the aroma of coconut milk coupled with curry powder. The already smeared peanut sauce facilitated eating. The Ar Jad – cucumber relish – could do with more acidity from rice vinegar and some red onion slices. A great dish, nonetheless. Kor Moo Yang or Grilled Pork Collar (4) was the best I have come across in the UK!! Tender. There was this sumptuous proportion of meat and fat to create a melt-in-yer-mouth effect. The Jaew dip – chilli paste with fish sauce – was salty with a polite hint of chilli working to balance off the sweet skewers. Miang Goong (6) was this canape of big, springy prawn on a bed of rice vermicelli and baby gem lettuce. Served with piquant sweet chilli vinegar dressing. I would have like a smaller piece as ideally you should be able to eat it in one go without struggling to hooving all the elements into your mouth. Kuay Tiew Lui Suan (7) disappointingly arrived as duck and herb spring rolls. The usual version would have featured a square parcel of chopped goodies to be served with fresh herbs. Here many would have mistaken it for more popularised Vietnamese spring rolls.

Som Tam..

There were a few variations but most of them were very metropolitan. Meaning? No foul elements, such as fermented fish or pickled crabs. If you fancy those, I’d re-direct you to The Heron. I went for Sweet Corn Som Tam (8) as Suda is probably the only place in London I can find this dish. Bright and colourful, the dish boast a generous combination of plumb corns, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes and snake beans. Very light and healthy! The dressing lacked a peasant-ly kick and could have done with one more bird’s eye chilli.

Noodles…

Suda does a few variation of Pad Thai. This one called Ma La Kor Pad Thai (9) was deceptively made from shredded green papaya (instead of rice noodle). Very crunchy. A little too one dimensionally sweet for my liking and it was quite wet at the bottom of the bowl. Kouy Tiew Kua Gai (10) Noodle tossed with chunky chicken pieces and oyster sauce was delicious. Texture contrast from shredded lettuce and beansprouts. I would have loved to see it go all the way Thai and toppled with crunchy rehydrated squids and deep-fried dough sticks. Khao Soi (11) or chicken noodle in Northern-style curry soup toppled with crispy noodle had good, pronounced flavours. A LOT of chicken as if the kitchen had dropped a bucketful in (it’s a bonus and I’m SO NOT complaining!!). The dish would benefit from less thickness for the curry, more chilli proportion and a DIY garnish of lime wedges, red onions and pickles. Here everything was all thrown in which took away the fun of assembling the dish the way you like.

Desserts..

I was immensely impressed. A lot of dishes I have never seen on the Thai menu anywhere in London and my childhood favourite of Oh Nee Paeh Kuay (Taro Mousse with Ginko Nuts)!! That said, they seem to run out of dishes quickly..   :’(

I ended up with Mango Sticky Rice (12). Good but not groundbreakingly amazing. Slightly bruised mango slices. Appetising perfume of coconut milk on a warm bed of sticky rice, which when I tasted, the flavours did not let me down. Black Sesame Dumplings in Ginger Syrup (13) had the feisty gingery heat that I had long yearned for. Bouncy texture from the dumplings that were leaking sesame puree. Ideal for cold weather. Sticky Rice and Coconut Ice Cream (14) was also a real Thai treat. Creamy coconut milk ice cream sat on a scoop of sticky rice. Toasted peanut garnish and fresh coconut flesh added texture and dimension. I don’t mind eating this one over and over!

That was pretty much IT.. my two meals at Suda Rice Bar. Many dishes were well executed, while others border on being okay. I particularly admire the restaurant’s courage to put Thai dishes – a few of which aren’t at all spicy!! – that are yet popularised in the UK and break away from the stereotype of Thai food. I hope this risk-taking will pay off as I do taste a lot of Thai authenticity in these dishes. Urban Thai, as I have explained, and strictly not from those dilapidated Thai tin-roofed eateries and unlicensed hawkers western backpackers are used to.

 

But…

 

 

…if you are in search of fiery Thai with bold herbal infusion, Suda won’t give you that!

 


 

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

SUDA THAI

23 Slingsby Place
London
WC2E 9AB

Tel. 020 7240 8010

www.suda-thai.co.uk
Suda on Urbanspoon