All posts filed under “Mayfair

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Gymkhana: The Tasty (Colonial) Memories in Mayfair

Social and colonial stuff

For those with limited cultural and Commonwealth knowledge (like me), Gymkhana may be summed up as a posh colonial-style sport club where members come dine and drink. And walking in, the ambiance and the design – a well-lacquered floor, framed pre- and post-colonial equestrian memorabilia, hunting taxidermy, and so forth – did live up to the brief. Social, nearly informal. There was also an unmistaken vibe of masculine gentility as I was seated at the table by a pristinely uniformed staff (in a Nehru jacket?) who explained away, with great but simplified detail, the culinary crux of Indian cuisine that I am never familiar with. (Yes, by now, I hope you have spotted that the cuisine of South Asian origins is not my forte).

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Michelin Guide London (2014 Results)

The most controversial yet?

2 stars – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Greenhouse.

1 star – HKK, Angler (South Place Hotel), Outlaw’s at the Capital, Story, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction (seriously!?), Brasserie Chavot, Bo London, Lima, Social Eating House.

One Leicester Street retains its star after the transition. Yeah!!!!

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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 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.

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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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London Round Up: The Asian(s)

The London restaurant scene moves forward at the speed of light. Even some of the good restaurants don’t survive the test of time, and for those that do live on, I think they need some extra mentioning here ^_^

ASADAL

Asadal on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

Situated on the basement level of a building next to Holborn Tube Station, Asadal is my slightly-more-expensive-than-average Korean restaurant with quite a wide selection on the barbecue menu (£6.50-18.50) and a relatively effective and non-intrusive extraction system. (No ventilation tube at table to suck your eyelashes off, so to speak). Useless as this may sound, I never try order anything else at Asadal apart from barbecue, kimchi and rice dishes. The pungent, variably spiced selection of Kimchi (£6) was crunchy and reliable. Namool Selection (£4.50) was less successful and lacked some vital aromatic dimension of sesame oil. That said, in most Korean restaurants in London, kimchi and namool dishes are complimentary. An Chang Kui/Rib Eye Marinated with Sesame Oil (£13.80) spoke quality but was too calm in taste. More robustness and fragrance from the marinate and the char would have made it brilliant. Bulgogi/Marinated Topside Beef Slices (£9.20) had more flavours, notably sweetness. Gal Bi/Stripes of Marinated Rib (£9.50) was my usual favourite – beefy, well-marinated and quite full of tenderised bites. Dewji Bul Go Gi/Spicy Marinated Pork (£8.50) was lost on the spicy side. Sang Chu/Fresh Lettuce with Seasoned Bean Paste (£2.50) was nice, though I would have loved the paste with a little more heat. Pa Seng Che/Shredded Spring Onions in Sesame Oil and Chilli Powder (£1.90) was fresh, feisty and vinegary. Great foil to the mellow taste from the barbecue. Kimchi Bokum Bab (£8.80) was a dish of stir-fried rice with kimchi and small beef cubes. The rice was grainy but quite wet; the heat was there to please (me) but it could induce a kimchi sweat from irregular chilli consumers; the beef cubes were tough and lost in taste.

 

MITSUKOSHI

Mitsukoshi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

For those in the know (of Japanese shopping), Mitsukoshi is the long-standing Japanese department store with many of its branches spreading across Japan, Asia, Europe and America. The one in London – on Lower Regent Street and next to Japan Centre – attracts mostly Japanese (and some Chinese) tour groups. You may expect the same groups of diners in the basement restaurant. You can also expect an all-encompassing, everybody-can-eat menu. And, you can expect Japanese authenticity. The ambiance is low-key, but it is often busy.

The lunch menu contain mainly set courses, costing between £15-27. Most options are served with a bowl of rice, soup and side salad. The dinner menu is dearer but features a wider range of A La Carte dishes. Given my experience at Mitsukoshi, it’s best to go for lunch; the non-deep-frying dishes are usually acceptable; the sashimi, sourced by the same fish supplier as Sushi Tetsu, is reliable.

My Una-Ju Zen (£26.50) from the dinner menu was decent. The accompanying sashimi starter (of salmon, akami and seabass was fresh, though the wasabi was quite dry and tired and didn’t taste much. The eel grilled and caramelised with kabayaki sauce was meaty and fell apart apart in my mouth. The smoky sweetness was quite distinct and the rice was nicely cooked. More spectacular was my A La Carte De Luxe Sashimi (£28.80) from the lunch menu. This premium assortment included salmon, akami, sea bass, yellowtail, flounder, scallops, prawns, squids and vinegared snow crab. It went down quickly with a bowl of rice ^_^

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

Centrepoint Sushi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2.5/5

Centrepoint Sushi is a hidden Japanese restaurant above the Japanese-Korean supermarket on St Giles High Street. The budget-priced menu covers a wide selection of dishes, from sashimi and sushi to deep-fried and cooked dishes. Not a destination restaurant, but more of a place you pop in and order the safest-sounding dishes on the menu and hope the kitchen will execute it right.

My chicken karaake bento box (around £12) was decent. The batter was crispy; the chicken did taste like chicken; and the rice was nicely cooked. The side order of assorted pickles (£4) was full of crunch. From my previous experience, however, the sashimi here isn’t usually the freshest. (Generally you can’t really go budget for good sushi or sashimi).

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

Princess Garden on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

The Mayfair scene is usually the place for swanky, inventive Chinese restaurants (say, Bo London, Novikov Asian, Kai and Hakkasan) but its much more traditional Cantonese Chinese restaurant neighbour Princess Garden of Mayfair will have enjoyed its 30-year-old success in 2013.

For me, Princess Garden isn’t the place you go for a *wow* dim sum lunch but a reliably well-done one. The pricing for dim sum (around £3-4) is also quite a steal for the Mayfair location. To my knowledge, they are also the only Chinese restaurant that offers abalone and sea cucumber as the fixed staples on their dinner menu.

My char siu puff (£2.90) flaked nicely and was without grease. The pork was gently spiced and deliciously sweet. The shredded mooli cake (£2.90) was tangy, crispy and crunchy. The beef cheng fun with enoki mushrooms (£4), thinly wrapped and doused in rich sweetened soy dressing, also boast a correct texture. The turnip cake (£2.80), oozing a mild turnip aroma, was soft on the inside and fried for delectable crisp on the outside.

MANGO TREE

Mango Tree on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2/5

Mango Tree and Pan Chai by Ian Pengelley are counter restaurants at Harrods Food Hall. The former took over the old dim sum bar; the latter the older sushi bar. Interestingly enough, the majority of the menus of the former restaurants have survived this rechristening. One desperately hungry moment led me to taking a seat at Mango Tree, now a dim sum bar with a modern *fusion* Thai menu. The price range is high enough to make a Harrods regular gasp. The *cheapest* options on the menu are Spare Ribs and Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce at £7.50 each; the most startlingly expensive option is Thai Green Curry with Wagyu Beef at £59.80.

Seeing the menu, my appetite dwindled and I resorted to Goong Ten (£15.80). The dish – or, rather, my martini glass – held three king prawns steamed in ridiculously bland and watery tom yum dressing and a bed of banal (but fresh) salad of carrot and cabbage. This was edible but overwhelmingly disappointing, which is a shame because Harrods’s recent redevelopment of its restaurant section is really exciting.

 

NAHM (Closed)

Nahm on Urbanspoon

2012 also saw the end of the era of Nahm London – the world’s first Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Chef David Thompson has moved on not only to opening Nahm in Bangkok to great acclaims but also to branching out in London, Hong Kong and a few other destinations in Asia for more casual ventures. I will miss the macho, meaty and slightly salty take of Thai cuisine at Nahm as well as its sparkling array of Thai desserts (the best I’ve ever had in and outside Thailand).

Below was a combination platter of Nahm’s iconic desserts Pumpkin and Taro Custard, with threads of syrup-poached egg yolk and caramelised sesame biscuits. (Well, Bangkok is just one 12-hour flight away)..

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ASADAL

Kingsbourne House
229-231 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7DA

Tel. 020 7430 9006

www.asadal.co.uk

 

MITSUKOSHI

Dorland House (Basement)
14-20 Lower Regent Street
London
SW1Y 4PH

Tel. 020 7930 0317

www.mitsukoshi-restaurant.co.uk

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

20 St Giles High Street
London
WC2H 8LN

Tel. 020 7240 6147

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

8-10 North Audley Street
London
W1K 6ZD

Tel. 020 7493 3223

www.princessgardenofmayfair.com

 

MANGO TREE

Harrods (Ground Floor)
Brompton Road
London
SW1X 7XL

Tel. 020 7730 1234

www.harrods.com

 

 

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Bo London: From Hong Kong With *Sex* and Caviar

Imported XTREME

Alvin Leung of 2-Michelin-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong is a self-taught chef best known for serving condoms, second-best known for re-interpreting and pushing the boundaries of Chinese cuisine, and third-best known, perhaps, for being a Heston Blumenthal of Asia. The cuisine is defined by the term XTREME, which according to reports far and wide, suggests either utter genius or ludicrous gimmick. In London, however, Bo isn’t too bogus.

The 15-course tasting menu at Bo London is priced at £138 (currently served at dinner only), but there is also a more bearably priced lunch option – of 2 dim sum dishes, 1 main and 1 dessert – at £35. Also available at lunch is the concise dim sum menu with a price range between £5.50 and £28. The infamous signature dish *Sex on the Beach* – yes them condoms – is available at £8. The restaurant is pretty much a coarse granite cave with chairs not dissimilar to the certainly famous Danish restaurant. The service is helpful, genuine and informative.

The good & the (very) mad..

I went for the lunch option with add-on dim sum. Foie Gras Wrap (£15) was a dish of generously-sized, seared foie gras on a bed of fried vermicelli and crispy iceberg lettuce. The drizzle of “Abby’s Sauce” added sweetness to the buttery liver. Not a bomb of taste but lavishly enjoyable. Calamari Balls (£6), boasting dense and bouncy intensity from the mashed calamari paste, was far more delicious. There was a pleasant dimension, especially of fragrance, from the kaffir lime mayo, though it could do with more citric tang. Black Truffle Taro Croquettes (£6) oozed piping hot truffle-y emulsion. The enjoyment, however, ended at the aroma as the puffs did not taste of much. Steak and Kidney XLB (£6.50) arrived toppled with avruga caviar. The minced beef and kidney filling was unmistakably robust and soupy but also quite peppery; the XLB casing could have been thinner; the avruga did not do much. More successful was Sichaun Spicy Lamb XLB (£6), which leaked a polite dose of chilli and a lovely oily finish on the lips. I liked Black Truffle XO Har Gau (£7). The musty shrimp floss, in theory, went nicely with the chopped marinated truffle and XO sauce. In practice, it could also benefit from a thinner wrapping and a little more sauce.

 

Before my main of Wagyu Beef Cheng Fun (with £ supplement), I was sent a couple (free) signature dishes in the multi-course tasting menu from the kitchen probably because I seemed to be taking an awful lot of photos. Bed & Breakfast was a flimsy basket of taro croquette with smoked quail and farmed Chinese caviar. The idea of the dish is constructed not only around the British term Bed & Breakfast but also Leung’s interpretative take on the pompous, traditional Chinese delicacy of Bird’s Nest. The luxury, of course, was well-matched and the attempt to promote ethically farmed Chinese caviar is commendable. Taste-wise, it was a posh croquette. The quail egg was crazily smoky; its slight elasticity caressed my tongue; and then it burst into gooey, yolk-y protein. The caviar could have had a more clearly pronounced taste if the smokiness was more finely tuned. Mackerel with “British Cloud” – a concoction of raw mackerel, citrus cream, ponzu and sesame foam, on a contraption of rose water and dry ice – was less promising. The dish cried for refinement as I could only taste the mackerel (acceptable but not the freshest) and the mayo-like cream. Back to my (paid) course of Wagyu Beef Cheng Fun, it was an utmost delight. There was an insanely good contrast of taste and texture. The melt-in-my-mouth Wagyu was skillfully seared, along with some crusty fat; the truffle puree was potent but not intrusive; the rolled gummy cheng fun was glazed in soy and (again) truffle and claimed umami richness. Together (and to me), it was pretty much an opulently playful interpretation of Beef Ho Fun and something definitely to go back for at Bo London. The fried rice with pickled vegetable could have been less oily.

For desserts I asked for “Sex”.

Leung’s name-making “Sex on the Beach” (£8), innitially conceived in support of AIDS charities, is a visually off-putting dish of fake condom, fake sand and fake jism. If these were real, they would be less off-putting? While the original “Sex” was more of a savoury delight (made from mushroom, honey and ham, the London “Sex” was a sweet affair (biscuit crumbs, Sichuan peppercorn mousse and condensed milk ice cream). While I loved the zing of the peppercorn, it overpowered the spunk (and the other elements) on the plate. The condom itself had a good tenacity in its texture. The more visually pleasing dish of Rum Baba was just nice. The sponge soaked the alcohol nicely but could have been lighter; the fresh blueberries did not taste much. The real star of the dish was lychee sorbet – cleansingly sweet and exuberant.

Bo London does make quite an impression. On the one hand, I had some issues with my dishes. The execution could be more refined, and after the meal, I felt a lightly greasy aftertaste. (There could have been more acidity). On the other, this is the menu nowhere to be experienced in Europe (or even Asia?), contributing much to its uniqueness and potential. Leung’s interpretative approach to Chinese cuisine is inventive, relatively well-informed and.. believe it or not.. quite *fun*.

And that’s certainly not something to dislike..

 

RATING: 3/5

BO LONDON

4 Mill Street
London
W1S 2AX

Tel. 020 7493 3886

www.bolondonrestaurant.com
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