All posts filed under “cheese

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Antidote

Four clues..

There were rumours that a certain Michelin star chef has quietly moved in at an existing restaurant address around Carnaby Street. He shunned the aids of PR. I was also further teased, “you had his food before and you liked it”. That’s about it. My two clues: the “Carnaby” location and that the chef is a “he”.

My brain labour started, no doubt. Social media network didn’t help much. The “no PR” works most effectively to obscure, when a lot of restaurants these days (especially in Central London) rely on PR bombs. Luckily, I was able to single out a couple of possible sites that had recently been refurbished. My foot work followed. I looked through the menus of my narrowed-down restaurant list.

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Five Guys + Shake Shack UK

Best burgers in Covent Garden?

Five Guys

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

Rating 2/5

Originating from DC, Five Guys is known for its history of offering freshly made burgers with hand-molded patties and hand-cut fries. That’s the start of its fame. The freshness, however, was the thing of the 80s. The brand has itself franchised and now in 2013 that it lands in London it is no more than just another fast food joint.

The Central London joint is vast and located just half way between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. The ambiance is pumped by music and benefits much from the jolly heavily American-accented wait staff. There are private booths in the basement. There are also two wicked computerized soda-blending machine that will make Willy Wonka proud. (I would queue for a Raspberry Coke Zero and many more)!!

As for the burgers, it depends on which point of view you come from. The menu at Five Guys is basic – Burger (£6.75), Cheeseburger (£8), Bacon Burger (£8) and Bacon Cheeseburger (£8.75) – and you can opt for the Little options (prices at £4.75, £5.50, £6 and £6.75 respectively). The price does not include fries (from £2.75 – £5). There are also sandwiches (£3.75 – £5). The taste, for me, is junk, but surely for a few others, nostalgically indulgent. My Little Cheeseburger did not kill me. The buns were flabby; the patty was not greasy but very bland; the cheese was heavily processed; the crunchy vegetable bits were redeeming. My Grilled Cheese Sandwich (£3.75), however, might kill me. Utterly processed.

(I did return to Five Guys for soda).

 

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Shake Shack

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Rating 3.5/5

Shake Shack – one of the most-loved ventures by NYC restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer – has also unpacked at the Piazza of Covent Garden. Unlike Five Guys, Shake Shack burgers do not suffer much from jet lag from their look and are possibly the most photogenic burgers to date in London.

The “Shack” experience is, however, less inviting and very disparate. You need to roam around between the outdoor, the indoor, and the outdoor again. (The dining space inside the Piazza will prove challenging when the weather gets colder). The staff, on two of my visits, was not as charming as at Five Guys.

The menu covers much of what’s available at its counterparts in New York but supplemented with UK ingredients. (Think Angus beef patties and Cumberland sausage hot dogs). There is a good selection of “Shake” (£4.50 – £6.50). The price range is kinder than Five Guys: £5 – £7.25 for burgers, £2.50 – £3.50 for fries, and £4 – £5 for hot dogs. Shake Shack also sells dog treats.

I liked my Shack Stack (£7.75), which is a combo of a cheeseburger with an additional deep-fried cheesy mushroom patty. But, it was the mushroom patty and the fresh veggies that tasted. The beef patty itself was too thin and too docile to make an impact. The chew-y, pillow-y buns were a joy to eat. SmokeShack (£6.50 for single patty), containing smoked bacon and chopped cherry pepper, was a disappointment. I thought it was too bunny and yummy. (If you get this, it might work better by doubling the patty). Shack-cago Dog (£4.75) was studded with onions, cucumber and pickles, and dressed with Rick’s Pick Shack relish and mustard. I thought the whole thing was too sweet. While the halved and grilled beef sausage had a lovely strength of beef and a delightful texture, it was overwhelmed by everything else. Fries were gorgeous on their own, but the cheesy sauce did not leave much impression of cheese. (Oddly mayo-like and buttery).

(I also went back to try ‘Shroom Burger, which I liked).

Quick note. To put these new arrival burgers in the context of London hamburgers, they are great contribution in reviving the burger mania. Taste-wise, however, I find Shake Shack just respectable and Five Guys just edible. The burgers that I think most highly of are Patty and Bun, Byron and the Wagyu Sliders from the bar at 45 Park Lane

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FIVE GUYS

1 Long Acre
London
WC2E 9LH

www.fiveguys.co.uk

SHAKE SHACK UK

24, Market Building
Covent Garden Piazza
London
WC2E 8RD

Tel. 020 7240 0054

http://www.shakeshack.com/location/london-covent-garden/

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La Petite Auberge

One evening, just about a year or so ago, I was abducted to this French restaurant La Petite Auberge, on Upper Street, Islington, by a friend of mine, who happened to live around the restaurant’s corner. She was adamant to prove we did not have to spend hundreds to get good French food in London.

And I was adamant she was WRONG!!!

I was totally on the fence, being forcefully dragged into this country-house looking place. God, what would my cat do if one of those wheel fall on my pretty head!!??

Seated and almost tied to the chair, I started flipping through the menu and found La Petite Auberge did cook several traditional French dishes–Boeuf Bourguignon, Saucisses de Toulouse, Coq au Vin–and serve a few types of meat–snails, rabbit, venison–not very easily to find in such a tiny place as this. What surprised me most was the pricing at La Petite Auberge, with the most expensive main course’s being only £12.95!

It didn’t take me long to order all these dishes, and when they were served, I was rather happy with how they looked.

There they were …

(1) Deep Fried White Bait with Tartar Sauce
My friend’s favourite. The white bait in golden fried breadcrumbs was light and crispy. The portion–you can see for yourself–was very generous.

(2) Venison Terrine with Walnut Bread
Again a huge portion!! The silky smooth terrine had the right proportion of saltiness and worked wonders with the caramelised onion and sultana relish.

(3) Deep Fried Camenbert with Redcurrant Jelly
My other bib’s favourite at La Petite Auberge featuring two massive pieces of Camenbert that could give you a heart attack if consumed without sharing :-P The Camenbert was perfectly deep-fried. When you forked through the crispy skin and breadcrumbs, the gooey melting cheese poured out. Mix this with a bit of the sweet, alcoholic redcurrant jelly; et, voila, a very decadent starter (for less than a fiver!).

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Gauthier Soho

It took me ages to finally get to go to Gauthier Soho–a new gastronomic venture by Alexis Gauthier of Michelin-starred Roussilon–at Lindsay House where Richard Corrigan’s used to be. This is a rather intimate restaurant, I must say, a period house with two dining rooms split over two levels on a quiet West End street, but with the imposing sign “Gauthier”, I was sure nobody could miss it.

I went for the Gout du Jour menu, which was a seasonal eight-course tasting menu, but I asked to have Le Carre Napoleon replaced by Louis XV, a dessert dedicated to my most favourite chef Alain Ducasse and inspired by Gauthier’s three years at Ducasse’s Louis XV, at the Hotel de Paris, Monaco. The manager had no problem with me changing the course. I felt comfortable, at least there was some really great vibe from the front of house ^_^

Crunch Time!

(1) Canapes/Amuse Bouche of Carrots with Ricotta Cheese, Cherry Tomato with Smoked Fish Cream, Choux
I loved the choux, though it would be nicer if they were less crunchy and with softer texture. The filling was fantastic. I found, however, the carrots and the cherry tomatoes to be rather forgettable.

(2) Bread
There were quite a few variations, served warm. I picked Olive Bread, Brioche with Sultana, and with Tomato and Basil. The pieces, though small, were incredibly delicious–the very best bread I had this year. Sadly, I let my head rule and didn’t dare ask for too many of them. The Olive Bread at Gauthier was very similar to one at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, albeit more appetising!

(3) Foie Gras, Sultana, Apple, Crispy Herb Caramel, Calvados Reduction, Pork Jus
A good dish that showed a lot of skills and understanding of flavours by the chef, which would go down brilliantly with a flowery, fruity glass of white wine. I made a mistake of not ordering the wine, though. Taste-wise, without the wine, it was a little too much on the sweet side and I think a bit of alcohol will perfectly compliment and cleanse the palette. Nonetheless, a very lovely dish.

(4) Langoustines, Cumin Confit of Red Pepper, Parsley Jus, Crustacean Dressing
Another good flavour combination, but in my opinion, with a major flaw. That is, the portion of the red pepper confit on the plate was far too large, almost the same as the langoustines, hence the sweetness and the meatiness from the langoustines’ being massively overwhelmed by the bold, vibrant confit. If it were well balanced, this could be a fantastic dish.

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Fernandez & Wells: Sipping and Nibbling
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Fernandez and Wells: Spanish Nipples on Lexington Street

Fernandez and Wells has been around in Soho for a while and sustained itself across three locations. Beak Street and St Anne’s Court for sandwiches, cakes and coffee.

My fave one?

… on Lexington Street!

 

Described on their website as “European market stall in an English setting”, the Lexington cafe specialises in cured meat–most of which are from Spain–cheese–Spanish and French–wonderful salads—only on weekdays–and sandwiches–with some Italian influences. Expect the exclusive range of Jamon Iberico de Bellotta, Chorizo, Manchego cheese, Focaccia replacing white or wholemeal bread in sandwiches, and the list goes on (and changes from time to time!).

My all-time favourites, the Monte Enebro cheese, which is made from goat’s milk but has an amazing, though not as rich, Roquefort taste, and fried Chorizo with Manchego cheese. Both are served with toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil.

For a bigger treat, there is occasionally this melting cheddar on sauteed jersey royales. The dish comes with pickled gherkins, which refreshes your palette with their sour-and-saltiness. Greeeasssyyy. Deliciousssss.

 

Imagine all this with a glass of white wine. My heaven on earth…

To conclude..

IMPRESSION: 4/5
INNOVATION: 2.5/5
COMFORT: 4/5
NUMBER: 10.5
GO FOR: Snacking


(read about rating here)

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FERNANDEZ AND WELLS

43 Lexington Street
London
W1F 9AL

Tel. 020 7734 1546

www.fernandezandwells.com

Fernandez & Wells on Urbanspoon