All posts filed under “Wine Bar

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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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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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Le Dauphin, Paris

Praises sung

Praises have been sung and we have all heard too terribly well about Inaki Aizpitarte and his Chateaubriand, the best of France according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, for its innovative, tremendously reasonably priced, ever-changing tasting menu. The thing is, when I was there, I only found my menu of that day hit-and-miss and left nowhere near the edge of satisfaction..

Le Dauphin, neighbour to Le Chateaubriand, is Inaki’s second addition into Paris’s booming “bistronomique” scene. It follows the formula not otherworldly from its brother restaurant. Innovative dishes, jovial ambiance, and no website. The only difference is that Inaki scrapes off the tasting menu format and institutes a tapas dining menu of over 30 dishes, excluding cured meat and cheese options. The price per dish fluctuates between €6 and €20, with the average being €11-14.

The place looks a quirky coupling of wooden tables, granite floor, a lot of mirrors and stark white fluorescent lights. There is an island of wine bar in the middle and an ad hoc wine glass chandelier. Booking at Le Dauphin is, of course, essential but the reservation line isn’t so much a pain in the arse. You can call all day, as opposed to Le Chateaubriand’s line only taking calls from 12-2pm. Walking in after 9pm is also possible, and you can sit+eat at the bar.

A meal of no boundary!

This tapas bar format means liberty. (A lot of it).

I ordered some few dishes, topped up my meal with some more, and more. Food can land on the table as one dish at a time or all at once, depending on the kitchen. (I rearranged the sequence below in order of what I think it should be).

Oursins, Navet & Citron Caviar (€13) was a dish to behold. This was a chilled broth of lemon carpaccio, pickled radish and sea urchins. Very clean and refreshing taste that merited from an acute layering of acidity. The subtle sea aroma from curd-y urchins was pleasantly juxtaposed by seaweed dust and sea purslane. Ravioli Grilles (€6) was delicious gyoza with a twist of shallot & red wine vinegar dipping sauce. The casing was expertly done – delectably chewy and crispy – while the filling oozed very well thymed meaty-ness. St Jacques & Panais (€16) was one of the most memorable dishes of the evening. Here two succulent scallops surfing on a wave of sweet parsnip puree were seared to heavenly crispy-ness on one side while the other was left raw and naturally, exuberantly silky. The pickled turnip discs added zingy pleasantness and the parsnip crisps bitefuls of mild medicinal bitter taste.

Poireaux, Oignons & Oeufs de Truite (€10) featured charred leeks and perfuming onions. The latter was slow-cooked for an intensely sweet and moreish effect. Trout roe provided accidental pearls of fishy salty-ness. That said, it’s not one of the most rave-worthy dish of the evening. Risotto a l’Encre (€11), however, was the quintessence of luxurious comfort. In this dense and glossy pool of squid ink, the al dente rice grains did not float or sink, but were suspended in between the surface and the bottom. The cheese-infused ink had miraculous consistency to do just that. The taste was rich and sublime, but more liquidified than its Spanish counterpart of Arroz Negro. I could lick this bowl clean over and over and over and over and over again!!!!! Marquereau, Persil & moules (€11) was, by no means, less impressive. The fillet of mackerel was pan fried for an exceptional crisp and served minimalistically with parsley puree and watercress. Grassy herb sauce lubed up the oily, nicely salted fish and implemented flavours not short of being explosive and cleansing. Good acidity from the pickled radish, and the perfectly poached molluscs injected an oceanic scent to the dish.

(Half way to my finishing line of writing this post. I can’t believe I had eaten this much!!!)

Meat!

Demi Pigeon de Paul Renault, Coing & Figues (€14) arrived with a crispy skin but still blood-leaking pink. Game-y, very game-y. The pairing of sharp quince and mellow sweetness from roasted figs was a touch of genuine uniqueness. “Paul Renault” referred back to the farmer who bred the bird (and I can assure you he did a bloody good job at that). That said, my preference went directly to Wagyu, Aubergine Fumee (€15). The majestic beef was just seared. Just! One bite into this led to carnivourous robustness., which the very, very smoky aubergine and the rich dehydrated black olive powder worked to intensify. And to balance this off, there were rings of grilled sweet red onions. Simply gorgeous…

Sweets…

Glace au Lait Ribot (€5) was translated into fermented milk ice cream. The flavour, however, was mild, like a smooth paste of non-fat yogurt ice cream. Big peppery kicks from olive oil. I liked Tarte aux Fruits Rouges (€8) more. The crusty biscuit played a boat for fresh raspberries and strawberries and spiky Italian meringue. Vibrant and expertly assembled flavours. There was a note of lavender in the background, too.

<3 <3 <3

That’s it!

I had 10 dishes at Le Dauphin, all of which delivered. The evening felt unrestrained (unlike at Le Chateaubriand), and the place got more bustling at night break. Le Dauphin is seriously where I don’t have to take myself too seriously, when I know and can rest assured that the food I eat is taken absolutely seriously. While I wouldn’t make so bold a statement that this was one of the best meals in my life, it was, along with L’ Arpege, the best and most exciting meal I had in Paris. The bill wasn’t as explosive as the flavours. €100 including a glass of wine and a bottle of water seems a fair price for such a big meal, high quality ingredients and innovations.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

LE DAUPHIN

131 Avenue Parmentier
Paris
75011

Tel. +331 55 28 78 88

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Viajante Bar: Cocktail Tasting Round 3

It would be wrong not to share this and there is no better way to sum it up..

.. my third round of cocktail tasting at Viajante Bar devised by the magnificent Alex Mckechnie. I blogged about it once (here). This time (as it was for the other bib’s birthday) I went a little further from the “usual” 4-course tasting and requested a shaken-to-order 5-course menu (£50).

No.46

There was no name accredited to Alex’s cocktail this time. Just numbers. My no.46 was a magical combination of Gin, Beetroot, Citrus, Absinthe. Ruby crystal in a glass. Finished with “frozen ball of grains of paradise and apple blossom”. I was instructed to pick up the little brass arrow and strike it in the middle of the “frozen ball”.

B-O-O-M!!

The ball spurted in left, right, here, there, as if a cocktail inspired by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Alchemy in a goblet! The ball now became a glistening layer on top of the deliciously sweet and soft taste of the GBCA mix. Adding not only a delightful aroma but also a distinct layer of texture when my lips kissed the cocktail.

It was paired with Crab Jelly Crissenteno with Hazelnuts and Crysanthemum Petals. Fresh and naturally sweet crab and a squeaky touch from fresh nuts was enhanced by the clean and refreshing no.46.


No.47

My late night Twitter exchange with Alex ended up with.. (1) my confession that I couldn’t drink much and (2) my infatuation with bubble tea. This was a thoughtful touch of tea that cures any hangover, a non alcoholic, bubble tea makeover of Almond Milk and Citrus Bubble Tea. Served warm. A sip into this subtly sweetened almond milk led to a vigorously sour and zesty citrus infusion. The “bubble” here was more refined pearls of gummy tapioca that tickled and massaged my tongue.

This understated non-alcoholic cocktail was paired with Cured Brill with Orange and Tomato Water. The layering of acidity and perfume was geius in the kitchen. It intrigued but never confused my palate. The dish was at first ethereal. Beautiful medallions of brill submerged in cooling tomato essence. The warm tea completed it with a creamy touch, turning a cold dish into a heartwarming one. Big love X

No.48

This cocktail of Rye Whiskey, Rye Bread, Chocolate and Stone had this steep contrast of sweetness and bitterness. Very much in itself like a chocoholic dessert and bread. It formed a rich drinkable jus for Duck Heart, Mushroom Floss. Pink, game-y with a smoke-y, earth-y note and innovative hay-like texture from the mushroom.

No.49

Next up was a pot of Parsnip, Balsamic Granita and Fennel Malto. Very chilled. Silky texture of parsnip drink. Sweetness enhanced minimally. Caramel-like acidity from the balsamic granita and herbal fragrance from the fennel. Arrived with a thick cinnamon stick, which brought about an un-tasted aroma.

Ideal companion to this expertly grilled Iberico tenderloin and crispy vanilla onions. I tasted the porky robustness balanced off by the balsamic ice. The cold and the hot elements made me tongue-tied in excitement! Vanilla onions created a new dimension to parsnip drink. Imagine the taste of parsnip mash enhanced by vanilla and miraculously liquidised. A well thought out pairing and very playful.

No.50

This bowl of drink looked a red crescent peeping through some foamy cloud. Strawberry and Cream, Applejack and Liquorice Oil, I was told. Fruity. Not aggressively strawberry like as the juice itself was creatively diluted. There was also a star-anise-like dimension, the work of liquorice oil, I think.

It, like all of the dishes, formed a layer of taste in my Creme Fraiche, Chocolate and Beetroot with Watercress dessert. I took note of gooey, rich and brownie-like chocolate soil; peppery-ness from the cress; sweet, nitrogen-frozen chew-able beetroot wedges. The rest was a bliss…


Third time round and I still found Viajante Cocktail Tasting Menu an innovative thrill. Out-of-this-world, crazy alchemy. Have I not mentioned Alex created cocktail with butterfly wings!? The food dishes were also states of art, brilliantly executed. Together they were flawless. And my special thanks went to the fabulously cool “ad-hoc” bar maid Tania Fergusson who hopped about the bar and the kitchen to make sure time was well sync’ed and everything was just perfect! <3

If you fancy the “usual” cocktail tasting, it is £40 for a 4-course menu. Bookable from Sun to Wed, from 5pm onwards.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

VIAJANTE BAR

Patriot Square
Bethnal Green
London
E2 9NF

Tel. 020 7871 0461

www.viajante.co.uk

For enquiries and bookings, you can also contact Tania Fergusson via bar@viajante.co.uk too.