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Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs&: Gastronomy behind the Curtain

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My first meal at Kitchen Table dated back to its very first opening slots in October, but given a long meal and many returns, dishes had piled up; my taste memory was overwhelmed; and any effort to write had never been quite materialized.

Now 7 months after.. you have this post!!

Worthy of note(s)

Let’s start. Kitchen Table, by ex-Per Se, ex-Noma, ex-Ramsay, ex-Wareing chef James Knappett, is an inventive Anglo-American “restaurant” tucked away in the behind of London’s most unique champagne bar Bubbledogs&. From a diner’s perspective, there are a few points that you need to note. First, Kitchen Table only does one menu of 12-or-so courses (£68) dictated by the freshest produce that is delivered to the restaurant on a nearly daily basis. James’s cooking philosophy centers on his own carefully orchestrated impulsiveness and faiths in produce and his suppliers. Some herbs and vegetables are foraged by the young and energetic kitchen team at weekends (fingers crossed they get OT); some are acquired from very obscure growers; others are developed and tended in James’s own allotments. Dishes are frequently reworked to reflect this limited availability and micro-seasonality. Second, Kitchen Table isn’t a “restaurant” per se (pun badly intended) but a 19-seat counter in a meticulously polished, awesomely ventilated kitchen. Two sittings (currently at 6pm and 7.30pm) are operated. The meal can take some time between 3 and 4 hours. From my experience, the early sitting lasts longer and often finishes just half an hour or so before the second sitting. Once seated, you observe live kitchen action and get served at that counter. No glam. No sensationalism. Chefs may get frustrated (not with diners). Emotion may blaze up. (But, it is not guaranteed in the price). For the majority of the time, dialogue between chefs and diners are encouraged. This physical encounter means the barrier between diners, chefs and cuisine is eased, and if you are food/produce enthusiasts, you might find this new synergy between chefs, raw produce and diners enlightening.

 

Nude inventions

The cooking at Kitchen Table focuses on all things bare and naturally untampered. Say, there will be no more than 3-4 components going into one dish. The complexity of taste derives from premium quality produce and thoughtful inventiveness. James’s idea is to strip away gimmicky construction and serve food that is not only well-intentioned but also tastes like great food. The influence for flavor combination via James’s and Sandia’s Anglo-(Franco-)Asian-American roots are implicit and leans towards being playful comforts – popcorn puree or hot cross bun ice cream? – while James’s skill sets, especially in classical French training, are explicit.

From my multiple meals at Kitchen Table, due to the periodic and unexpected nature of produce availability, the menu is loosely formatted but consistently delivered. The meals, therefore, have ranged from good, very good, bl**dy good, to exceptionally good. Some day you’ll get more meat; another day, more fish. (And below was my most recent meal at KT. You can find other meals on Facebook here).

The meal began with raw iodine-rich “Oyster” under the tangy, herbal granita of Balfour Brut Rose. The iciness also naturally firmed up the flesh of the oyster, resulting in a minimally springy texture. “Ling” – a fish from a cod family and traditionally salted – was served as mayo made from its roe with a piece of rock-lookalike bread. The mayo itself was loose and studded with unbroken pearl-like roe. The voluptuous milky exterior from the warm, crusty bread that was buttered and fried mediated the delectable saltiness of the mayo nicely. There was also an extra smoky dimension from the grating of dehydrated scallop roe. “Chicken” has now been registered as the permanent staple of Kitchen Table’s tasting menu. This was a surrealistically flat piece of dehydrated chicken skin finished with a smear of rosemary-ed mascarpone and bacon jam. The skin, tasting completely fat-free and mildly chicken-y, became a medium for texture to carry forth the aromatic mellowness of mascarpone and the cubes of toothsome, onion-sweetened bacon. Just to die for. “Scallop” was among one of the freshest I’d eaten in London. Firm but crunchy – suggestive of its just being “put to sleep” – the scallop was seared in hot pan and simply seasoned with salt to bring out its natural sweetness. The garnish was that of bergamot puree – made from the skin and oozing a fragrant orange-y taste – and raw bok choi sprout. The puree had a good balance between acidity and fruity sweetness, which foiled well with the chlorophyll bitterness of crunchy bok choi. Personally, I would prefer less bergamot puree per serving as it had a tendency to overwhelm the scallop.

 

 

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Superbly fresh “Crab” – flaky white and creamy brown meat – was layered and dressed with lemon skin puree. The latter was exuberant, with a healthy dose of zesty acidity and aromatic bitterness. Generally, this was a good progression of taste from the bergamot puree in the scallop dish. The topping of multi-textured radish (raw and poached), deep fried spiky artichokes, coriander and chervil provided zingy, sweet and earthy dimension and cleansed the palate. I did not as much love “Haddock”, which had been slow-cooked and served with warm buttermilk sauce, poached mussels, grilled fennel and dill oil. While the sauce was very finely made – delicious yogurt-like acidity – and the aniseed-y note from the garnish was thoughtful, it took the limelight of taste away from the rather calm-tasting fish. The mussels were also too good they became distracting! “Truffle” was a pasta dish – homemade and appetizingly al dente – with wild garlic sauce, raw slices of wild mushrooms and (a lot of) Perigord truffle. Mind-blowing. A kind of taste that married the emerging joy of spring with sumptuous farewell of.. eh.. prime winter truffle! That said, I particularly loved the slight earthiness from raw mushroom slices which worked to sponge up the wild garlic goodness. “Beef” was British (in fact Welsh) and aged. The robustness, almost akin to cheese, was imminent in its untrimmed fat. The beef – pan-seared and roasted for a perfect darkish pink hue – had a good chewy texture, slowly releasing the depth of taste. The garnish was a quirky coupling of classic red wine jus and grit-like puree made from popcorn (!!). The maize-y sweetness from the puree contrasted and complemented the spiced acidity of the jus very well.

“Soureliette” – a semi-hard French sheep’s milk cheese – was boost with a taste skin to the Mediterranean (juicy red pepper, olive tapenade and balsamic-like reduction of Worcestershire sauce). Alfonso “Mango” granita with lime, young coconut and yogurt ice cream was a bomb. The young coconut had a mild fermented taste and addictive jelly-like texture. The intense velvety mango puree was quickly whipped with finely shaved ice and lime juice (and zest). The yogurt ice cream was smooth but possessed great lactic strength. The interplay between texture and temperature contrast of two icy elements – granita and ice cream – left my taste bud craving for more. Like “Chicken”, this “Mango” is a more permanent staple at Kitchen Table. It was followed by an additional festive dish of “Hot Cross Bun” ice cream. James tipped some mixed spices on top of a fragile crispy pastry and served it on a rather milky, bread-tasting ice cream. “Beetroot” forewent my stereotypical idea of sponge cake. Very moist, fluffy and red, the cake only retained a hint of beet muddiness. The natural aggression of beet taste was also diluted by the zingy, caramel-like liquorice ice cream and powder. The additional pairing of sour cream and beetroot sorbet was a clever way of re-constructing a dish and made me relate back to an experience of (savory) taste that wasn’t too alienating. The meal concluded with “Orange” – James’s twist on traditional English teacake with orange marmalade and frozen marshmallow.

So.. KT.. Go!!

 

 

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RATING: 4.5/5

KITCHEN TABLE @ BUBBLEDOGS&

70 Charlotte Street

London

W1T 4QG

Tel. 0207 637 7770

www.bubbledogs.co.uk

Bubbledogs& on Urbanspoon

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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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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.

 

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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!

 

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RATING: 4/5

THE QUALITY CHOP HOUSE

92-94 Farringdon Road
London
EC1R 3EA

Tel. 020 7278 1452

www.thequalitychophouse.com

The Quality Chop House on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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London Round Up: The Burgers

*TASTE DISCLAIMER*

I have a preference for clean-tasting, not so greasy burgers and used to be on the hunt for them. But, ever since the arrival of much trusted Burgerac and Burgerapp! I just eat according to their rating.

But for this post.. I ate for you, for my own indulgence point of view. Please enjoy and feel for my wobbling calories.

PATTY AND BUN

Patty and Bun on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Roast alumnus Joe Grossman has made the name for Patty and Bun from various pop-ups and finally decided to go stationary next to Selfridges. The burger menu here is more extensive – 3 kinds of beef, 1 chicken, 1 lamb and 1 veggie – with the prices fluctuating between £7 and £8. (The Ari Gold Cheeseburger is the most talked about). Chips (with rosemary salt) aren’t included.

I opted for Jose Jose Chilli Burger (£8) – beef patty, chilli chorizo relish, pickled onion, smokey P&B sauce, and the usual. It was GOOD!! Apparently… it took a while for the burger to be transported between the kitchen and the dining room, and the lost minutes did result in my lettuce being so cooked and my otherwise gorgeously light brioche bun to be a little too wet. Still, I loved the smokey and paprika-scented taste that glazed the perfectly pink and loose patty. The chilli heat was detectable but not strong. Lamb Shank Redemption (£8) was also GOOD!! The inspiration was quite Turkish for me. The lamb patty boast strong taste and zingy infusion but was balanced off by refreshing cumin aioli and cooling feta. The braised red cabbage provided a crunchy contrast. Despite the messy look, both of the burgers had quite a gourmet charm about them. Not so much greasy aftertaste <3 <3 <3

 

TOMMI’S BURGER JOINT

Tommi's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

It is now universally acknowledged that despite its shack-like American decor Tommi’s Burger Joint does not have much to do with America. Rather, it is a small chain from Iceland (country, not supermarket -___-” ). The menu isn’t big but there are 2 different beef patties to choose from. The regular burger starts at £5.30; the cheeseburger at £5.80. For a better quality of the patty, there is Steak Burger at £7.95. You can add £1 extra for cheese and Bearnaise dipping sauce. The price above is exclusive of fries.

My Steak Burger with Cheese was quite neat and okay. The patty – a concoction of rump, rib-eye and fillet – was lean and robust; the garnish – lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard – was downright basic and didn’t do much; the glazed bun was pillow-y. I found the accompanying Bearnaise sauce a little too processed in taste. I also tried Tommi’s regular burger, which was not bad but you could find much better burgers elsewhere in London.

(The ventilation isn’t great so if you don’t want to be as smoky as your burgers, don’t go during busy hours).

SLIDER BAR

Slider Bar on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Slider Bar is a collaboration between the ex-truck, much raved Lucky Chip and the convincingly hip Player (cocktail bar). The good ‘n messy burgers, correspondingly, become trendily sized, and you can choose any two of the sliders at £10 (including fries). (When I visited, there were 4 beef variations, 1 veggie and 1 seasonal special). Also, exclusive at lunch hours is the option of a normal-size burger of any on the menu (£not sure how much). For dinner, aim for a cool scene with things to nibble but it’s not ideal as a sitting down kinda meal.

I went for El Chappo – aged beef patty, blue cheese, roasted jalapenos, smoked bacon and aioli in a sesame-studded bun. The chilli and the stinking blue combo was remarkably delicious; but I found the patty a little too cooked (to about medium well) and dry for my liking. The bun was quite forgettable. Cheeseburger – think a mini-MacDonald Cheeseburger!! – was more of a success story. The bun was nicely steamed for a cushion-y, pleasantly chewy softness; the pickle was crunchy and tangy; the cheese meltingly good; but the patty (again) was a little too cooked. Very good but there was quite a greasy aftertaste.

 

HONEST BURGER SOHO

Honest Burgers (Soho) on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Honest Burger has branched out to Soho but the decor – a strictly organic wooden look – reminds me of its original outpost in Brixton Village. There are 5 variations on the menu: “Chicken” (£8.5), “Beef” (£7.5), “Cheese” (£8), “Honest” (£9), and “Fritter” (£6.5). All orders come with chips.

I went for the Honest, which was just nice. The quality dry-aged beef patty from Ginger Pig was macho and carefully seared for medium rare pinkness; the glazed bun was lovingly toasted; but, I was not keen on their signature sweet onion relish, which not only failed to create a good texture contrast in the burger but also oozed a rather odd fragrance of either herbs or spices. Also I found the chips with rosemary salt so strong in aroma that it offset my appetite for the burger.

 

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PATTY AND BUN

54 James Street
London
W1U 1HE

Tel. 020 7487 3188

www.pattyandbun.co.uk

 

TOMMI’S BURGER JOINT

58 Marylebone Lane
London
W1U 2NX

Tel. 020 7935 5275

www.burgerjoint.co.uk

 

SLIDER BAR

8 Broadwick Street
London
W1F 8HN

Tel. 020 7065 6841

www.sliderbar.co.uk

 

HONEST BURGER SOHO

4a Meard Street
London
W1F 0EF

Tel. 020 3609 9524

www.honestburgers.co.uk

 

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London Round Up: The Innovative

JOHN SALT

John Salt on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

In London restaurant scene, chef Ben Spalding has become synonymous with “young” and “talented” and holds an extensive CV that contains many internationally renowned kitchens. In 2011-2012 Ben won himself critical acclaims as head chef of Roganic and from stints at The Loft and Stripped Back, and his new 6-month residency project at Islington’s rechristened bar John Salt became an instant talk of town. Sadly, Ben has left the venue.

A flashback to my 12-course tasting menu (£85) at John Salt was a testament to Ben’s intuitive and playful cooking. “Salad” was a carefully orchestrated melange of 45 kinds of fruit and vegetables in various states – fresh, pickled, dried, etc. – with sour cream fermented naturally at 25 degrees. The taste – pretty much your breakfast muesli with great twists – was not disparate but came alive at every bite. “Scallop” was pan seared, sliced horizontally, filled with caramelised kiwi and culatello “as if a slider”, and completed with cider butter and truffle. Fun and reminiscent of a sweet-and-sour. The truffle, however, was only a spectacle to the eyes and lacked a distinct aroma. Equally a jolly dish was a reinterpretation of “Chicken on a Brick”, which was chicken liver pate with a garnish of crispy chicken skins, lingonberries and sweet corn. The sparkle of a genius was also apparent in Salmon poached in maple syrup and dressed with layers of acidity (kaffir-lime infused creme fraiche and rotten mango juice).

John Salt, in a short period of time, marked a creative progress away from Ben at Roganic. The restraint of British ingredients (which is the philosophy of Roganic) was lifted and therefore the sourcing and inventions of Ben at John Salt became much more global, notably in Scandinavian ingredients and influences. The taste remained bold, wild but still lent itself flavoursome comfort. The downsides were that some dishes could have done with more refinement and kick-ass developments (reflective of a brilliant restaurant-in-the-making) and that the venue itself – a mezzanine floor above a busy bar – was too noisy for me to indulge and contemplate on the food.

 

APSLEYS

Apsley's at the Laneborough Hotel on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Apsleys is a handsome restaurant at The Lanesborough Hotel with 3-Michelin-starred Italian chef Heinz Beck at its helm. The glass-roofed room is magnificent; the plates are gilded with gold; the head chef Heros de Agostini holds a pristine CV; the menu comes, of course, with some really, really high costs (antipasti £18.50-29; primi £17-21; secondi £33-38).

The cooking was, correspondingly, accomplished. Fresh and deliciously lean Salmon Tartare (£24) with Black Olives and Shallot was complimented with bitter peppery salad and creme fraiche. The immaculate square of crispy potato spaghetti provided extra texture and salty sweetness to the dish. Smoked Capon Ravioli (£19.50) was neat and correctly boiled for a wonderful toothsome texture. The garnish of velvety parmesan emulsion and meaty jus was pleasant, but the puree of pumpkins was weak. Veal “Saltimbocca” with Sage and Jerusalme Artichoke (£36) was an inventive take on the Italian tradition. Here the veal – sliced paper-thin, rolled with sage and finished with toasted amaranth – was a marvel. I loved the finishing touches of hefty veal jus and the nutty sweetness from jerusalem artichoke puree.

The least impressive was the service. I (and my +1) opted for “orange juice” instead of wine, but instead of us being provided with two glasses of orange juice (common sense?) we were given a jug (who would drink a whole jug?). We were unaware of this as the glasses were constantly and unobtrusively topped up. In the end, we were billed around £20 for the orange juice. This, despite the competent cooking, made me feel that it was slightly a rip-off.

 

TOM AIKENS

Tom Aikens on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Tom Aikens is one of the biggest names in the UK’s chef-y scene and known for his innovative, yet uncompromisingly complex approach to French cooking. His formerly inventive French fine-dining restaurant in Chelsea underwent a major refurbishment and looked northward to trendy Scandinavia for inspirations. The results were not only Noma-esque plates, chairs and bare wood decor but also the aesthetics of New Nordic plating. The FOH was also dolled up in a more rustically fashionable attire. (Think Barbour but Chelsea). Currently, the 7-course tasting menu is priced at £85, while the dishes on the carte dishes are individually priced (£13-19.50 for starters; £25-31 for mains; £10-14 for desserts).

I visited the restaurant in spring 2012 and unfortunately did not have the time to write up but I can still recall many dishes from the meal. Celeriac was a masterful construction of the same root vegetable prepared using various techniques – raw, char-grilled, baked, consomme-ed. I loved the effect of the wonderful smoky aroma cutting across the chilled and clarified broth. The vinegary juicy-ness from the pickled raisins was a thoughtful foil to the curd-y truffled creme fraiche and the fragrant note of thyme. Pork and Black Pudding was also a bowl of explosive umami. The perfectly cooked multi-cuts of pork were intense and moreish with black pudding crumbles. The polychrome of garnish – celery branch, celery butter, crispy pig’s skins, almond flakes – elevated the meaty dish with a herbal boost. Pigeon Consomme was a clever *posh-it-up* of your regular pot noodle. The plate arrived with an orderly arrangement of dehydrated, powdered components – grains and vegetables – and a disc of truffle custard. The idea was that these components would blend with the hot consomme and create dimensions for the beautifully pink roasted pigeon. It certainly put a big grin on my face! There were also dishes that did not quite work. Raw Turnip Salad lacked some vital freshness from the leaves and was overpowered by the chestnut puree, while Carrot Granite was just too oddly savoury and carrot-y for a dessert.

 

THE GRILL @ THE DORCHESTER

The Grill at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

The Grill at the Dorchester is a very interestingly dichotomous restaurant. First, there was the traditional look – tartan seats and wall embellishments of Scottish-attired lads. Second, there was the FOH, very prim, proper and courteously formal. Third, there was the roast beef trolley, a fixed staple of the restaurant along with other classics of grilled sole and roasted grouse with bread sauce. But, the menu that existed beyond those Great British traditions (£10-21 for starters; £21-45 for mains; £12.50 for desserts) was unmistakably modern.

Glazed Calves Sweetbread (£26) was paired with crispy chicken wings, lemon and cumin bread. Personally, I found the dish cloyingly sweet and also crying for some refreshing elements to balance the offal strength. Lobster with Falmouth Bay Prawns, Langoustines and Shellfish Cream (£45) was a feast of paramount ingredients. The spiced sauce was comforting and reminiscent of both a bisque and a bouillabaisse. This was served with a small pot of custard-y seafood royale, which verged on being too rich and too generously spiced. Pistachio Crumb with Passion Fruit Bavarois with Apricot Sorbet and Saffron Ice Cream (£12.50) suffered from over-complication. Many textures of both passion fruit and apricot – bavarois, puree, gel, jelly, ice cream – did not create a unison in taste but glued together with the (finely tasting) chalky pistachio. The saffron ice cream which, by itself, would be quite a stunning treat did not seem to fit in.

________________________________________________________________________________________

JOHN SALT

131 Upper Street
London
N1 1QP

Tel. 020 7359 7501

www.john-salt.com

APSLEYS

The Lanesborough Hotel
Lanesborough Place
London
SW1X 7TA

Tel 020 7333 7254

www.lanesborough.com

 

TOM AIKENS

43 Elystan Street
London
SW3 3NT

Tel. 020 7584 2003

www.tomaikens.co.uk

 

THE GRILL @ THE DORCHESTER

The Dorchester Hotel
9 Tilney Street
London
W1K 1BJ

Tel. 020 7629 8888

www.thedorchester.com/the-grill

 

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comments 4

Michelin London 2013 (Leaked?)

Another year (2013)

When I feel Michelin (and the other Best Restaurant list) has become a little bit of banality, there is an explosion of findings on Twitter via Michelin’s own website of the results of Michelin London & UK 2013. No PR. No official release.

Has Michelin just “leaked” its own results. Is this official or unofficial?

Never mind that..

The “winners”, in the mean time, are..

1 star

Alyn Williams at The Westbury
Dabbous
Hedone (yeah!!!!)
Launceston Place
Medlar
St John Soho (Hotel)
Tom Aikens
Trishna

Alimentum (Cambridge)
Hind’s Head (Bray)
Paul Ainsworth (Cornwall)
Raby Hunt (Darlington)
Red Lion’s Free House (Wiltshire)

2 stars

Sketch
L’Enclume (Cumbria)
Michael Wignall at The Latymer (Surrey)

Biggest congrats to all!! :-D

(All stars are now confirmed).

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