All posts filed under “British

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The Quality Chop House: Great British Quality in Central Location

The one..

This might be offensive and untrue. But, as a foreigner living in the haunt of tourists (AKA Central London) and often asked for restaurant recommendations, I have found properly good and properly English food a myth. First there are pubs serving consistently inedible food to a consistent number of tourists. Then there are chip shops where fish swim in oil. You also have so-so food with a grand British space or with a great British view. And, you have an ok place and ok food but a not-as-OK price >__<“” The very nice restaurants are either closing down (sadly) or come often with a slow service. That’s where the newly revamped Quality Chop House comes in. A historical 19th-century “eating house” setup. A simple offering of traditional British fare. A young FOH team with sparkles of enthusiasm. Some cool booths (ideal for those with small behinds). And an awesome wine bar.




The quality of Britain

The ever-changing menus at The Quality Chop House are sensibly priced but a little confusingly segmented. At lunch the rather brief a la carte is available in the Dining Room (£5.5-7.5 for starters; £11.5-14.5 for mains; £6-6.5 for desserts), while the lengthier bar menu (£3.75-15.5) is available at the Wine Bar. The latter may be made available in the dining room, if the kitchen isn’t too busy. At dinner the Dining Room only runs a 4-course set menu (£35). The bar menu stands as it is, in the Wine Bar. Make sure you are in the room with the menu that you most desire. The wine list is very alluring.

My own menu confusion aside. The food at The Quality Chop House is a true British gem and comfort. Game Terrine with Mustard (£6.5) was an exquisite infusion of pheasant, pigeon, mallard, pork and prune. I loved the livery firmness contrasted by the more tender bite of the attractively pink mallard breast. The zingy wholegrain mustard on the side brought these game-y birds to life. Middlewhite with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Apple (originally tagged at £14.5 as a main but here requested as a starter at £7.5) did justice to the Great British tradition. The pork was skilfully roasted and left quite an impression of flavour; the crackling satisfactorily crackled; the apple sauce had good acidity and freshness that made me salivate for more. Game birds were big on the menu during my visit and Woodcock with trimmings (£30) was divinity. The pungent aroma from the perfectly roasted fowl (with its head intact) was mediated by the milky note from the bread sauce. The jus was potent; the lightly dressed watercress fresh and peppery; the crisps were crispy. This was food that delivered and found no better description than what it actually was. Humble. And gorgeous. And there I was.. ordering a second “main” of Longhorn Faggot and Beer Onions (£8) from the bar menu!! The perfume, as I was slicing the faggot open, of porky liver and heart was bold but inviting. Taste-wise, this faggot was very buff. Not so much fat. Not so much excess. Just pure quality meat treat. The beer onions lent quite a robust aroma, too. The caramelized sweetness from the onions had quite a length of taste to nicely foil. Blood Orange Jelly (£6.5) arrived with a little “Mess” (of fresh orange segments, whipped cream and broken biscuit). Intense, though I might prefer my jelly to wobble more.

Verdict? GO!






92-94 Farringdon Road

Tel. 020 7278 1452

The Quality Chop House on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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James Knappett & Bubbledogs& @ The Critical Couple

Two teams of (English) husbands and (American) wives

David and Nicole Williams, collectively known for their blog of gastronomic detours and curation of Great British talents The Critical Couple, have entered 2012 not only with the continuation of their famed private charity “dinners” in support of Manna Society but also with an even greater line up of British chefs. (To dazzle guests in a matter of weeks is BBC Great British Menu 2012 champion Simon Rogan of Michelin-starred L’ Enclume and Roganic). The guest list comprises two parts. The first list is hand-picked, both from CC’s real life and electronic acquaintances, all of whom are asked to donate a minimum prix-fixe toward Manna Society. The latter list is put together by means of auctioning. Two seats (usually) are individually advertised for public bidding (via emails and Twitter exchange), and those who put in the highest bids win. The meals are sponsored by The Critical Couple themselves and their contributors; all the money received goes directly to the designated charity. You can find more information here.

The other couple, James Knappett and Sandia Chang, were the chef and the sommelier of the evening, respectively. Both carry an impressive CV. James has trained under Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller and worked as a sous chef for Rene Redzepi at Noma. He returned to London as head chef for Marcus Wareing and later a senior development chef for Brett Graham. Sandia has graced the kitchen of Bouley and worked alongside (my superhero) Cesar Ramirez. She has also FOH-ed for Per Se, Noma, Marcus Wareing, and most recently, Roganic. With their quirky project Bubbledogs& – the “Sandia” bar that sells nothing but champagne and hot dogs + the secret “James” Kitchen Table with a focus on innovative and interactive dining – in hands, James and Sandia accepted the invitation/challenge to cook up visions of Bubbledogs& at The Critical Couple Dinners.


The visions of Bubbledogs&

James immersed himself in this challenging cooking brief and realised his visions of what could be served as part of the tasting menu at Bubbledogs&‘s own “kitchen table”. “Turbot” was a dish of raw thinly sliced turbot with pea mousse and segmented blood orange. It reminded of a delicate ceviche dish, though with the fish not too cooked by the citric acidity, allowing the purity of the turbot to shine through. “Mackerel” was striped, coated in deep-fried ginger crumbs and (also) served raw. The fish itself was delicate and well contrasted by the crispy fiery ginger. There were also additions of pickled green chilli and coriander leaves, cutting through the mackerel’s natural oily-ness with vinegar-ed piquancy. The marathon of premium quality fish continued with the “Salmon”. The fatty belly cut – think Balik Salmon or some served at few very fine Japanese establishments – was here smoked over woodchips and served with lime zest. Personally I would have liked a little more acidity to juxtapose with the moreish, oil-laced belly but the smokiness from the burning woods itself was enough pleasing distraction. “Scallop” was, arguably, the marvel of the evening. These were plump scallops taken from the shell and sliced at the second of their lively muscular twitching. The results were the cleansing sweetness and also the meat which was firm but yet tender and springy. The pairing with dill-ed lemon vinegar and wild strawberries was ingenious. The mellow fruit tangs from the strawberries and the layering of such acidity with herb-ed vinegar elevated the sweet purity of the scallop. The flavours got heftier with very chunky “Eel” – smoked and served with zingy horseradish cream. There was a kind of nose-to-tail twist as James garnished the plate with salted crispy eel skin and spine, both of which contributed unbelievable crunch to the succulent fish.

Then came an interval of light snacks. “Cod Roe” was finely whipped and served with nori-sprinkled pork crackling. I was somehow won over by the following dish of “Pea” in form of two sweetened filo pastry sheets glued together by mint-infused pea mousse and covered by a blanket of salt-cured pork fat. The sweet nuttiness from the peas came through and juxtaposed brilliantly with the umami depth from the salted pork. This inventive sandwich not only epitomised fun dining but the British sense of humour at its best. I moved on to this healthy polychrome of “Tomato”. There were variations of heirloom tomatoes served at room temperature with compressed cucumber, (orange) melon, chopped and dehydrated black olive, and cous cous. James skillfully combined and balanced those disparate elements with smoked creme fraiche. The latter contributed oomph and wonderful heaviness of sort (stopping the dish from being just a salad). I also liked the mild peppery kicks from the nasturtium petals. “Egg” has somehow become James’s signature, and in this dish there were not one but two kinds. Pheasant egg (I think) was poached for gelatinous unctuousness. The yolk was then separated and served on a crunchy assortment of lightly pickled seaweed. On top was sesame seeds and grated dehydrated scallop roe (the other “egg”), which released an intense sea salt aroma once in contact with the heat from the egg yolk. The croutons completed the dish with butter-scented texture.

There were two “fish” and two “meat” courses but they arrived with “extras”. “Oyster” was a combination of supersized Cornish oysters and turbot. Both the oysters and the turbot (the skirts meticulously trimmed into identical kernal) were poached in butter to perfection and garnished with sea vegetables. (I noted sea purslane, samphires and sea beans). The sauce was an upgrade of your typical buerre blanc as it was prepared using the juice from roasted turbot bone and finished off with yogurt foam. The astringency from the foam was well countered by the more full-bodied white butter sauce and provided elegant comfort to this dish of seaside freshness. Equally original was “John Dory” with textured cauliflowers (butter poached, carpaccio-ed, roasted, puree-d) and almond shavings. Full of marvellous textures. The nutty oil and the sweetness from the cauliflower became dimensions to the masterly roasted fish. As this had so far been a feature without carb (bread), James enticed us with “Truffle” – a miniature serving of home-made macaroni sauteed, very humbly, with butter and finished with wild garlic, wild garlic flowers and summer truffles. The boldness from the wild garlic flower married harmoniously with the earthy truffle. This was a simple dish that showcased not only the aesthetics of food plating (flowery!) but James’s well-grounded knowledge in foraging and making the most out of the foraged items. Contrary to the amicable “Truffle” was “Chicken” – a skewer of two hearts cooked with beurre noisette and elderberry capers and toppled with smashed crispy chicken skin. A innovative, heart-warming concoction (pun intended) for a few (including me) but the others around the dinner table were too shy to consume the creamy offal. “Venison” brought a few back to their comfort zone. The high-quality loin was seared and served with its own jus and a splash of parmesan emulsion. Decent, though I was blown away from the subsequent “Beef”. James grilled and slow-cooked the cut, known commonly as Jacob’s Ladder (thin rib?), for 10 hours. The result was one of the most memorable piece of beef I’d ever eaten. It fell apart in my mouth, but the enjoyment did not end there. The disc of bonemarrow released a smokey aroma that persisted, alongside the sweetness from multi-textured onions and the pickle-y punch from enoki mushrooms.

I reached.. the cheese course billed as “Caviar”. There was no word play but this dainty avalanche of burrata (still with a little chill) with a pristine quenelle of caviar. The buttery creaminess of the cheese went nicely with salted caviar pearls. The grapefruit slices complemented the dish with a citric boost. “Rhubarb” was prepared as compote and served with silky, acutely sweetened panna cotta. This is another of James’s signature as the panna cotta is layered with olive oil, which renders a distinctly uplifting floral aroma. “Pear” – as cake and pear slices – was paired (my pun is lame, I know) with sweet cicely, dehydrated liquorice powder and liquorice ice cream. The cake was spongy and moist; the ice cream provided anise-y zings.

This was, by all means, an incredible marathon for a meal and James has proved through his 19 dishes (with hardly any repetition) his own talents and versatility as a chef. It is also noteworthy that after his many years at Per Se and Noma James has, rather than emulating the styles of world’s greatest chefs, applied his knowledge from his training and experience to develop a unique style of his own. He has emerged as a champion for fish and seafood marrying premium produce with skills to enhance such high quality ingredients, interweaving innovations with identifiable British comfort. And it is very, very exciting to see how this will pan out at The Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs&.

PS I also came home with a takeaway of “Bailey’s” – a Bailey’s-flavoured marshmallow cube coated in chocolate and spray-dusted with gold. Pixie finished it off while I was asleep and sadly she was unable to express her thoughts in human terms..

More photos on The Skinny Bib Facebook here..




70 Charlotte Street


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10 Greek Street: My New European Fling in Soho!

Lust at first sight

Rough. The kitchen bar at 10 Greek Street was stunningly rough. I couldn’t take my eyes off it – that high metallic bar, white-tiled walls, wooden floor and a high conservatory-like roof. I could sit facing the busy brigade of young chefs in their rough-and-ready kitchen. No. I opted for one of the little metallic plank “bar table” that protruded from the walls. They each can only accommodate one dish at a time but can seat two diners. Sharing? Taking turns? The design was unconventional and somewhat kinky. Loved it. (But, if you don’t, there was a cozy minimalist dining room at the front). Relocating from Wapping Project, chef Cameron Emirali is, surely, used to characterful venues; and despite the recent surge in the bare design trend, the kitchen bar emerged uniquely hot.

And love at first bite

The menu was modern-British-meet-modern-European, St-John-hook-up-with-River-Cafe, .. my analogy can go on and on. The bar plates were happily priced between £3- £7; the starters between £5- £8; the mains £16- around £20; and the desserts £4- £5. Lamb Sweetbreads (£5) were served on a hill of velvety mash and finished with enticingly rich lamb jus. A simple recipe but superbly executed. The sweetbreads was correctly spongy and boast light crispy skin. The sprinkle of chopped chive provided slight herbal vibrancy to contrast. Also dainty was Potato Gnocchi, Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Oil (£7). The gnocchi – minimally gummy and oh-so-light-am-I-eating-marshmallow? – was sauteed along with an assortment of earthy mushrooms. A note of truffle oil to balance off the rustic-ness of the dish; parmesan grating added delectable nutty-ness and also peppery-ness from rocket leaves. The portion (you can opt for a bigger portion at £14) was generous. The main event of Scallops, Fennel and Cauliflower Puree (£17) was classically delicious. The springy scallops were perfectly seared for a crispy exterior and a melting creamy texture within; the puree was delicate but pronounced in cauliflower taste; the salad of rocket and shaved fennel left an appetisingly refreshing crunch. I finished my lunch off quickly with Pistachio Praline Ice Cream (£4). Milky. The crystalised praline segments oozed toffee sweetness and shattered wonderfully.

Simple food (almost your kinda neighbourhood restaurant) but fresh and so lively! Probably one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in Soho for such a long time. Yes. I love 10 Greek Street, and it has made it into my top favourite Soho’s casual eateries along with Barrafina and Arbutus.

I’ll pop in again soon!! :-D

GO FOR: Cool kitchen tables. Expertly done food.

(read about rating here)



10 Greek Street

Tel. 020 7734 4677