The most controversial yet?
2 stars – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Greenhouse.
One Leicester Street retains its star after the transition. Yeah!!!!
The most controversial yet?
2 stars – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Greenhouse.
One Leicester Street retains its star after the transition. Yeah!!!!
The blend of two cultures
Lima is a cheerfully casual restaurant that emulates the fun and pride of South America. The cuisine is playful, beautiful and, to a great number of Londoners, exotic. Virgilio Martinez, the patron chef of Lima, was a law student, who with a change of heart, has turned chef. Virgilio headed the kitchen brigade at one of Peru’s most internationally renowned restaurants Astrid y Gaston and moved on to open his acclaimed innovative restaurant Centrale. The cuisine served in Peru is inventive and with indigenous Peruvian produce. Lima London, overseen by Virgilio and run by his long time friend and colleague Robert Ortiz, is instead a blend of two cultures – Peruvian and British. While key Peruvian produce, notably various kinds of chilli and eco dried potatoes, are imported to maintain the crucial cultural links and taste to the mother land, British produce are the main vehicles of the menu. Starters are priced between £7-12; mains £16-24; desserts £6-8. There is also a decent selection of cocktails.
Colours of Peru
Dishes at Lima are spectacular polychrome of colours – (and sometimes they can look more exotic than they taste) – but big comfort in taste. Slivers of Artichokes was very much like a painting. The combination of emulsions – tamarillo and molle pink pepper – was mellow; the green lime provided citric sharpness to contrast; the fava beans were biteful and sweet. The artichokes themselves were understated in taste but became vehicles for the lovable dressing. Causa – one of the most traditional Peruvian dishes – is a dressed seafood mix served on a bed of (or sandwiched between) crushed potato cake. The version at Lima was chopped and seasoned sea bass with minty red shiso garnish and zingy avocado paste. Not the most satisfying, and though a causa is predominantly a potato dish, I would have liked to taste more of the fish. Sea Bream Ceviche, on the contrary, was wonderful. The tiger’s milk dressing was tangy and exuberant; the fresh bream was perfectly *cooked* by the acidity; the sweet and crispy onion skins added an aftertaste and texture of sweetness. Duck Crudo was also pleasant, possessing a taste more recognizable as European. The thinly sliced duck was deliciously meaty and almost livery; the algarrobo tea honey reminded me of sweet balsamic vinegar; the cress was refreshing. All were enriched by the shaved foie gras. Personally, as the dish was quite big, I would have liked more texture contrast or something to mediate the richness of the dish.
Braised octopus al olivio was the dish I can reprise many times and highly recommend. (Been twice and had this twice)! The octopus was tender, boast a perfect char and possessed a great length of taste. The white quinoa was carefully dressed with herbs. The mayo-like Botija olive bubbles was pungent, encapsulating the bold salty-and-sourness of olives that turned quite a bomb with the octopus. (FYI Peruvian Botija olives are also very popular *health food* often found dried and tasting incredible)! Also highly recommended for food enthusiasts were the potato dishes at Lima, as these were prepared using Peru’s unique “eco-dried potatoes” or The Chuño. The Chuño or tunta are potatoes traditionally left to naturally freeze-dry at nights in the Andes, 3000++ metres above the sea level, washed and then dried again on grass. The results are rock solid potatoes with its exterior turning white and chalky in texture. Before re-hydration, they also smell a bit like cheese. At Lima, I tried Eco dried potato stew which came with an assortment of leaves and flowers and finished with aji panca jus. The crushed and re-hydrated potatoes were big in potato-y taste. They also retained a somewhat biteful denseness typical of dried and re-hydrated produce. (Fresh potatoes when boiled don’t quite have this texture). The garnish, however, did not provide much depth or unison to the dish as a whole. Crab with eco dried potatoes and corn reduction was a good dish that cried out for more crab meat. Here the potatoes were crushed and cooked as if a risotto with crab and corn. I liked the juxtaposition of sweetness from the corn and the sea-perfumed crab, but as said, I would have liked a little more crab. Confit of suckling pig brought me back to the comfort not-so-exotic zone of taste. The pig was crispy on the outside and packed with good flavours; the braised lentils were bold and umami-fied; the pear puree lent a sweet fruity note. The desserts, sadly, were not astonishing as the mains. Dulce de leche with maca root crumble and beetroot was the highlight for me, while Andean Kiwicha with sheep milk and purple corn jelly was weak.
31 Rathbone Place
Tel. 020 3002 2640
The Heron Tower, et al.
There are a handful of interesting facts about The Heron Tower but only three that I care about. The first is that it houses Europe’s largest privately owned fish tank, which requires divers to clean. You can see this – the tank and, if lucky, the divers – on street level, from the main entrance. The second is THE lift, the fastest of its kind, which you are only allowed if you dine at The Heron Tower’s sky high restaurants. This lift will rocket you up to floors 38 (Sushisamba) or 40 (Duck & Waffle) in nano-seconds. People with altophobia (me included) will not have enough time to get scared. The third is, of course, the view. The Heron Tower is, currently, the tallest building in the City of London and engulfed by its most iconic architectural landscape. The view from this altitude really makes you frisky, horny and/or romantic. It can make you feel like being god, bankers, or anything that flies.
DUCK & WAFFLE
On the 40th floor of The Heron Tower is Duck & Waffle – a compact “all-day, all-night” casual eatery with a bar and a party-friendly private dining room (below). The kitchen is led by young(ish) talent Dan Doherty. The menu, designed for nibbling and sharing, is American(ish), eclectic and funky. The price is relatively affordable. (Only three items on the menu cost around £30. The rest is billed at no more than £12). And you don’t need to pay surplus for this magnificent view.
The cooking, for the most part, was successful. A snack of BBQ-Spiced Crispy Pig Ears (£4) arrived a bagful of tangy, finger-licking umami bomb. The shredded ears achieved a fine balance of fat and soft bone texture, skilfully fried for perfect crisp and tossed generously in powdered BBQ seasoning. I liked it so much that I nearly teared up when my super gorgeous dining companion offered me the last bite. Chip Shop Cod Tongues (£4.5) was not as spectacular but still much enjoyed. These were meaty pieces of cod tongue breaded and fried as if fish fingers. The frying was neat but the tongues themselves which did not have a bold taste could easily be washed over by an accidental juggling of tartar sauce and malt vinegar. Dorset Scallop (£7 but this time complimentary) struck another high note. The commendably fresh scallop was finely sliced, served on batons of Granny Smith apple and finished quickly (not in the manner of a ceviche dish) with lime juice, black truffle and a sliver of chilli. I loved not only the perfect marriage of texture – springy scallop, biteful apple, slithery lime juice – but also the zingy whirlpool of taste. The citric sharpness and zesty fragrance hit first, was mellowed away by the truffle and then with a little spasm from chilli. Ridiculously tasty.
Octopus (£9) from the brick oven was also another dish done well. The octopus chunks were nicely tenderised to the point that they still retained elasticity characteristic of this species, grilled and served with lemon juice, capers and sauteed chorizo cubes. Lovely but did not come together as much as I expected. I found the strong taste from chorizo distracting me from the octopus-sy goodness. Meatballs ‘n Tomato Sauce (£9) contained 3 big, flavoursome balls toppled with fluffed ricotta that were more of a rustic comfort and as good as meat balls can be. The oven baked bread was pillowy, oozing the perfume of rosemary and the smear of broken garlic. It was a pity that the dish which struck me as work-in-progress was the restaurant’s eponymous Duck & Waffle (£12). This was a playful dish of crispy confit duck leg, fried egg, waffle and mustard-seeded maple syrup (bringing to mind my favourite breakkie of bacon + waffle!!). Firstly, though the confit leg was nicely cooked, I would have loved it to be more crispy. The girth-y duck leg flaked well but the meat itself was still quite moist. Together with the soft waffle (delicious!) and the syrup, there was not much texture contrast to be loved. Secondly, I would have preferred the confit leg to be more salty, which would have made the flavour leap through the cloying, sucrosic richness from the syrup better. It was a very pleasant dish, still, and we did fight for the last bite. (Through the course of this meal, my dining companion had learned not to be too generous with me). We shared a dessert, Warm Chocolate Brownie (£7), served with crunchy caramel and peanut butter ice cream, which I believe can put a big smile on anybody’s face
The meal came to about £30 per person (we didn’t drink).. and in a few more words.. I couldn’t recommend Duck & Waffle more ^_^
My dinner at Sushisamba – a kinda global “chain” restaurant of Japano-Peruvo-Brazilian cuisine with outposts in New York, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas – was nearly entirely unsuccessful. We started the meal with many positives – the superb view of the Olympic Park, the two-level-high ceiling, the bamboo cane structure and the cascading light bulbs. The music was upbeat, and so was the eager Front of House. The cocktail menu was full of indigenous South American fruit and produce. The pricing for food was relatively NOT low. The small dishes to share cost around £10+. The “Large Plates” cost between £15 and £45.
Shishito Peppers (£7) were grilled to mush. The Other Bib left me to them (and he wasn’t being generous). Kanpachi Tiradito (£14) was flawed. The fish, though fresh, was too thinly sliced to carry enough taste to counter the intrusive yuzu and truffle oil dressing. ‘Mixto’ Seviche (£11) on the other hand was weak. The concoction of aji limo, aji colorado and tiger milk lacked piquant complexity and acidity. The mixed seafood and white fish could have been fresher. (They all still smelled fishy). Coxinhas (£7.5), a traditional Brazilian snack made from chicken and spices, was lovely – crispy on the outside and moist inside. The huancaina sauce – cheesy sauce infused with aji amarillo – added punch and creamy richness. Grilled Scallops (£18 for two pieces) were not expertly grilled. The scallops themselves had a grainy texture as if the flame from the robata grill was not properly adjusted. As the scallops were not nicely cooked, the bonito grating only left an unpleasant fishy note to the dish. The accompanying salad of leaves had wilted due to overdressing before it arrived at our table. Grilled Octopus (£12) was finished with spicy aji panca sauce. (Imagine sriracha sauce with a fresher, less vinegar-y taste). The octopus was tender and I liked the encasing scent of charcoal. The most successful dish so far and we felt best to order another round of this. Pork Tsukune (£9.5) was these grilled pork balls. Not so much charcoal effect here and the seasoning of the balls was meek. TOB believed they were undercooked so I ended up eating nearly all. The sweet sauce (soy sauce, sake and mirin) with slow-cooked egg yolk was loose. The lightly congealed yolk (from slow-cooking) resulted in the yolk not mixing into the sauce.
The sushi menu came with an option of making the sushi “special”. The “special” referred to some tailor-made Peruvian/Brazilian inspired toppings. Therefore, my Zuwai crab nigiri (£11 for two pieces) was served with creamy guacamole and coriander. The crab was fresh; the guacamole passable; but the rice was problematic. Too al dente, hard and cold. The sea urchin nigiri (£13 for two pieces) with caviar was much less successful. The sea urchin did not have enough firmness to be molded into a nigiri (as opposed to a gunkan maki). There was no attempt to ward off its strong metallic aftertaste. The botan ebi nigiri (£9) was blanched (I think), dressed with soy sauce and arrived with god-know-what-else on top. (I could taste fried sweet potato and basil but unsure about the rest). It did not make any impact. There was not much to be loved from Wagyu Te Amo (£13) either. This was a roll of seared wagyu beef slices, quail egg, spring onions, fried sweet potato and finished with sweet pear and soy dressing. The wagyu was not of brilliant quality and quite chewy. While I enjoyed the sweetness from the pear dressing, the rice lacked so much character that the dish became very dull. We decided not to have desserts.
Sushisamba was the place I think you could go for scene but not food. The only advantage I could think of for a meal there as opposed to Duck & Waffle is that you can dine al fresco and have a stroll in the terrace area of the restaurant. But, judging from my meal, I could easily do without all that..
DUCK & WAFFLE + SUSHISAMBA
40th + 38th Floors, respectively
Tel. 020 3640 7330
There is so much brilliance I can recall about this meal, but I have decided not to put all into writing. Lazy blogger, no. Necessity, yes. The “elements of surprise” are crucial, according to FAQ. When it was first launched, 41° Experience (or 41 Grados) by El Bulli-famed Ferran and Albert Adria was meant to be just a cocktail bar for the annexed Tickets. But it has morphed.. into a 16-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant, most recently alleged as one of the most difficult to get reservations in the world.
Briefly. There is no reservation line. The booking is made via their website and partially requires payment. There are some drinks included in the €200-per-head tasting menu. You can order a separate alcoholic pairing at €45. Blah. Blah. The venue is a decent-sized bar space, dimmed and dark. There were more FOHs than diners. Above me was a nebula of eclectic images – a kind of modern pop art featuring disparate cultural items around the world – being played in slow motion. And soothing trance-like music..
Not so briefly. The fun at 41° Experience kicked off with a stubbornly square, neatly crafted “41°” ice cube which chilled a smoky liquid substance. Along came a jar containing drops of green olive, preserved in oil. Just your typical jar of olive – but the molecularised EL BULLI style. The liquid olive essence was entrapped in a gelatinous skin. Fragile, it rolled for an escape on the tongue and burst into a taste of what would have been like if I stuffed my mouth with 10 olives in one go. I have never made enough effort to be at El Bulli and I am – or was – never convinced by molecular gastronomy. BUT. That was some alchemy that I highly recommend.
Through my first 3-4 courses, I departed from Barcelona – the 41° latitude as the name of the restaurant portends- wandered through Italy, France, Russia, Asia and many more. Ferran and Albert Adria not only know so much about cuisines but also cultures, wherein lies humourous anecdotes and stereotypes. All these are re-interpreted into all the 41 dishes served at 41° Experience. Some were more successful than others. Some got me to physically interact and/or contemplate intellectually; others made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. (Something about France, of course. And Rene Redzepi might be on the menu). That said, as the concept of the menu relies very heavily on the elements of surprise, of not knowing what comes next and which country where you will end up, it is best not to do so much telling (or display any sharp and clear images). The cooking was exquisite but a complement to the concept. SO.. if you are a global character, know a lot about cuisines and cultures, you will be having a very good time at 41° Experience. If you are averse to internationalism, there is a high risk that you might not get the “jokes”, which are the best part of the meal.
Life-changing? No. But this meal reversed my eagerness in life and I felt happy, giggly.. as if I became a child again
(Sorry. Can’t help not telling you of my most favourite dish – a re-constructed Peruvian “causa”. A thick slice of super fresh and firm yellowtail/hamachi marinated in lime, chilli and garlic was served nigiri-style on a velvety ball of spiced-infused mashed potatoes. The dish paid homage to the Japanese influences in Peruvian culinary tradition and taste-wise it was a bomb of citric umami).
PS Don’t hate me for doing this >_<
Avinguda Paral-lel, 164
My limited knowledge of Peruvian food derived via Nobu, and I became utterly intrigued by a “tiger’s milk” marinate printed on the menu of Ceviche, a little charming Peruvian bar/restaurant in Soho. Was it “tiger’s milk”, or literally, tiger’s milk? Can we milk a tiger? What would animal right activists say to this? It sounds wrong – dangerous – I wouldn’t dare milk my cat. Luckily, the cross-cultural fumble was explained away that “tiger’s milk” was indeed just a marinate of fish juice, lime, onion, chilli and salt. No milk or tiger was involved. *relieved*
Ceviche is the new small-plate upstart to make its way into Frith Street’s swanky restaurant scene. At the entrance, I walked through a slick Pisco bar where I could also perch and eat. The dining room boast a wooden glow from the mix-and-match of high and low tables; teplicas of vintage posters on the off-white walls added a vibrant rush of colours; the FOH was immaculately dolled up in Levi and Van; the music was thumping. Effortless. I loved it already.
The kitchen at here specialised in ceviche (pronounced “seh-bi-cheh”), a cold dish of raw fish or seafood with zingy citric marinate. There were about 7 different variations on the menu. The other half of the menu was dedicated to salad and hot dishes. All was served in a tapas portion. The price was roughly at £6-7 per dish and the most expensive did not soar above £12.50. You are advised to order around 3-4 dishes each, which with a drink, should come to just £35 per person per meal. Sakura Maru (£6.25) – a salmon ceviche – was ambiguously Japanese. I liked the fresh slices of salmon and the crunchy salad but felt the sweetness from mirin (Japanese sweet wine) dominated the subtler citric satsuma and the aji limo chilli heat. Alianza Lima (£7.50) – prawns, squid, octopus and fish of the day – was far more superior. Big tangs from tiger’s milk bedazzled by rocoto chilli punch. The marinate changed the texture of the seafood mix excellently, while the gigantic corn kernels gave chalky sweetness to the dish. I did not heart the beef heart (here billed as Corazon at £6.25). Despite its being nicely prepared – distinct charcoal scent, tenderised texture – I found the accompanying aji amarillo chilli sauce lacking dimensions. The sauce – ideally similar to a loose spicy, zingy mayo – was only piquant and would do better with more acidity. Choclo Cake (£4.50) was a pleasant corn cake and would have been perfect if the portion had been enlarged. Here the crumble-y mix of feta and corn worked together nicely but it lacked fluffiness that would make the dish oh-so-wicked. Jalea (£11.50) was pretty much a fritto misto with salsa criolla (AKA a lot of red onions). Nothing was wrong with it. No greasy taste. But nothing was exciting about it either. Ensalada de Quinoa (£3.75) was, for me, the best dish of the meal and the best quinoa I’ve ever eaten. I loved multiple textures from tickling quinoa to crunchy shallots and dense butter beans, all complimented by the hot vinaigrette burst and the perfumed coriander. I also found joy in Arroz con Pato (£12.50) but more because the dark beer rice with salsa criolla tasted remotely like a westernized Thai green curry. A bit of creaminess and a slap of herbal chilli. The confit duck was cooked to tenderness with coriander and crisp-ed up. That said, I was not over the moon when both elements were paired. And I finished with Lucuma ice cream (£5.75). It was made from lucuma pulp and shared a taste of maple syrup and sweet potato. SOOoooo good! I doubled my order as I didn’t want to share it with my dining companions. They are amazing and all that but when it comes to things I love sharing is a definite no-no
So.. I really liked Ceviche – exciting menu, exotic flavours, greatly relaxed ambiance – and will be back in no time ^_^
GO FOR: Cozy latino buzz. Light vibrant tapas. Exciting stuff.
17 Frith Street
Tel. 020 7292 2040