Category Archives: Eating Out
Dinner with friends that we met on our recent round the world jaunt tempted me to book a restaurant reflecting where we met in Peru but I remember them mentioning an affection for Covent Garden stalwart Rules and as I had never been there, that was where we booked.
The restaurant was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 and stands unchallenged as the oldest restaurant in London.
I was looked up and down by the doorman as I arrived which worried me that I was under dressed but after explaining our reservation he smiled and let us through. The entrance was very welcoming and we were taken through the eclectic dining room to our slightly awkward table for 4 near an alcove. Looking around though it seemed clear that there was a slight awkwardness to a lot of the tables so we got comfortable and took a look at the menu. Having had a few plates of tapas at Moritos at lunchtime we decided to go for main and most probably dessert.
I had the steak and kidney pudding and Rich had the Saddle of Lamb. Prices are around the £20-30 for mains so this is not cheap territory. The wines also started around mid twenties and quickly escalated though we found a decent enough Merlot for about £28 and enjoyed that.
My pudding was delicious and was packed with kidney and rich steak in gravy. Thankfully I was also given a boat of extra gravy to anoint the pudding. It was only served with a small amount of cabbage so sides are ordered which normally annoys me but they are pretty good sides and despite what they tell you are enough to share. I had excellent roast potatoes and Richard had the celeriac gratin. My pudding was so excellent that it turned a normally wary kidney eater like me to an out and out kidney fan. Sadly Richards lamb was, whilst cooked correctly a little tough and tasteless. The waiter asked his opinion before he even had a mouthful and sadly didn’t return for the verdict.
Desserts were on the whole superb especially my apple and blackberry crumble which came with a satisfying jug of custard and Brenda had a super retro white and dark chocolate arctic roll which came with extra chocolate sauce. Sadly Rich struck out again with his steamed chocolate pudding which was dense and even for him un-finishable. Being the generous man I am, I shared my crumble with him.
All in all an excellent meal if you choose wisely and I look forward to returning during game season to try the game there.
Following on from our trip to Washington we went to ‘visit awhile’ in South Carolina with our friends Tony and Betsy in Columbia, South Carolina. Betsy and I had such a great time together swapping recipes and cooking tips. I am fascinated by Southern Cooking and the ingredients and came back with a huge stash from the local Piggly Wiggly.
On a day trip to the beautiful Charleston, South Carolina we were directed to one restaurant above all others as an example of the best of Southern Dining. Magnolias. Before our reservation we went to a super cook shop across the street from the restaurant and I bought the recipe book of the restaurant called ‘Magnolias – Uptown, Down South.’ which later, the waiter happily got one of the cooks to sign. The restaurant is bright and open with large windows and clean lines. We were seated promptly and offered menus. I really wanted to try Fried Green Tomatoes which were huge and came breaded in cornmeal and lightly fried with a cream tomato sauce and salad. They were really delicious though this dish seemed rather substantial for a starter. Other starters around the table were plump and meaty scallops and the signature shrimp and grits.
I’m not sure about grits. I had them for breakfast that morning and even with loads of whipped butter found them to be bland and watery.
For main course I had the classic buttermilk fried chicken breast served with cracked pepper biscuits, mashed potatoes, collard greens, cream style corn, served with grilled roma tomatoes and sausage herb gravy. It was fabulous. Chicken was almost steamed within its crisp breaded coating and the mashed potatoes and collard greens completed the ultimate in comfort food. I wanted to curl up and have a nap halfway through and was surprised that I finished it but I just couldnt resist devouring it. Wonderful!
For pudding I had the Red Velvet cake which was a rich delicious gateau that was oddly dyed red with food colouring. Fine but not particularly exciting. Service was efficient though rather cold. Perhaps we worried if the English know how to tip in America.
Quick weekend in Paris on an unseasonably warm weekend in October. Early Eurostar mean breakfast in the first class lounge (Thank you American Express!) and lunch near the hotel while they were preparing the room. We were at the Best Western L’Etoile on Blvd Haussman near the Arc de Triomphe.
We went to a pretty modern restaurant on the Blvd called Restaurant Eugene. Full of chandeliers and flock wallpaper it offers French bistro cuisine with a modern edge. We had a selection of tartares of fish to start with which were zingy and bouncingly fresh. They were served with a light remoulade which complimented it beautifully. For mains we had a steak tartare which is my default position in a french restaurant. The tartare was delicious, came with perfectly cooked fries and interestingly was slightly grilled on either side. Like the best of both worlds, burger and tartare.
For dessert we had the largest profiteroles I have ever eaten. Light, crisp and delicious.
166, bd Haussmann, Paris, France. Tel: 01 42 89 00 13.
Next day we headed out to the Grande Arch at La Defense, the sort of Canary Wharf of Paris. It was another beautiful day but sadly the Arch seemed to be permanently closed so we sought consolation at a nearby bistro.
I started with Foie Fras which came with a caramelised nut bread with the texture of cake and was absolutely delicious, the best thing I have eaten in Paris by far.
Main was steak frites which was superb and for dessert Tarte Feulletee with Pomme and Poire. Absolutely excellent. All served with a perfectly chilled Sancerre.
Restaurant Le Paname, Le Parvis de La Défense 92800 Puteaux France
Talk about bad timing. We decided to cycle from Clerkenwell to Whitechapel to sample the famous Tayyabs lamb chops. This was during Ramadan and we got there just after fasting broke and a sea of hungry Muslims headed for the green neon of Tayyabs. We were shown inside by someone I assumed worked for the restaurant and we joined the end of a huge queue that snaked around the restaurant. I had to admit that the plates of food being brought out looked spectacular but the fact that the queue so constricted the dinners elbow movements, we decided that it really wouldnt be worth it so we left disappointed.
However our man that showed us in seemed to know what to do with overflow diners and told us about a similar restaurant that had opened on the Whitechapel Road. He gave us directions and we headed there but I was a bit suspicious of his motives thinking that he probably got a kick back from the restaurant and mentioned to Rich that we should perhaps go to Lahore Kebab House, but unknown to me our man was walking behind us and literally insisted on delivering us to the restaurant. When we got there things looked up. It was full of locals enjoying breaking their fasts and we were shown to the most spectacularly wobbly table I have ever sat at.
This was soon fixed by efficient waiters and we started with a mango lassi (no alcohol allowed) which was served in the steel cups that they were prepared in, they were creamily delicious. Feeling like the only outsiders we compounded this by ordering poppadoms (I know!) and mixed grill. The poppadoms were fried and horribly greasy. The pickle tray majored on raw onion and was not particularly impressive but I’m guessing that they rarely served it to locals. The mixed grill however was spectacular. Probably not as good as Tayyabs but extremely enjoyable. It consisted of lamb chops, lamb kofte, chicken tikka and wings marinated in a spicy yoghurt sauce and grilled to a good char.
For main course we had chicken sag and keema. Both dishes appeared worryingly quickly and were disappointing. My keema was very salty and Rich’s chicken tasted pretty generic and didnt have a fresh zing.
Throughout staff were pleasant and we were made to feel very welcome. It was pretty cheap and the waiter looked suprised to be tipped. I wonder if that happened often. I probably wouldn’t go back as only the mixed grill was good and I’m sure Tayyabs do it better.
108 A Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1JE
When I first moved to Clerkenwell, one of the draws was its proximity to Islington and its numerous eateries. In truth I rarely head there to eat preferring to try out some of the fine restaurants nearby. The Clerkenwell set are notoriously cool and fickle so new bars are extremely busy for the first few weeks and Giant Robot was no exception.
We cycled down from the flat (Thanks Boris!) and parked up right nearby. It was pretty busy as expected on a Friday night but we had a hold on the next table and had our cocktails down in the bar area. The cocktail waiters are extremely diligent and made two great Mojitos and one lethal Dirty Martini. The room is achingly trendy with a 50’s diner feel and huge lit menu boards like the title boards outside of a cinema.
The menu is eclectic to say the least. Meatballs, sliders, salami, cheese. Kind of like food that you would grab from the fridge before you sit down for you favourite movie. Which is not a criticism at all especially when the food is done this well. We settled on the crostini starters and large meatballs and spaghetti for main. The crostini each had complicated toppings which I can’t recall probably because they were instantly forgettable and rather poor value. The meatballs and pasta were excellent though. Hand rolled meaty meatballs, perfectly cooked pasta in a spicy rich tomato sauce. Kind of like the sort of after work supper that a friend who knows how to cook would serve you. Again, this is a good thing! No room for pud so did wobbly cycle back to flat.
Will definitely return, especially as local residents get a discount card loaded with £20 instant credit to spend in the bar!
A late train down to a torrential London meant shortly after meeting Simon at Holborn station we had to literally run to the nearest eatery. I used an app for my iPhone called Vouchercloud which listed the usual suspects such as Strada and Pizza Express but interestingly threw up ‘My Old Dutch’ pancake restaurant which was a short sprint away. Are the Dutch really famous for their pancakes?
We were welcomed warmly and after depositing brollies we were shown to our table in a surprisingly full room. On our way to the table I was amazed by the mind boggling size of the plates and the huge pancakes that were balanced on top.
The menu is decidedly odd. Split into Sweet and Savoury the idea presumably is to have one of each but the portion size would mean skipping lunch to attempt this. I went for the mexican which was stuffed with a pretty tasty home made chilli con carne and sides of tortilla chips, guacamole and sour cream. Simon had the My Old Dutch which is bacon, chicken, ham, corn cheese etc etc. Rich had the seafood special which looked pretty gross and had tuna, prawns and olives on a tomato sauce base. He also asked for capers and anchovies which I presume he regretted as I watched him scrape them off and leave them in a neat pile on the corner of the plate. Basically the pancake is turned into the base of the pizza and toppings are generously applied. Simon finished with a waffle with ice cream and hot fudge sauce which we watched him eat partly jealously, partly disgusted with him and we got the bill. They doubled up my 10% voucher to 20 so all in all it was a very reasonable deal.
131-132 High Holborn
Tel: 020 7242 5200
Nearest Tube: Holborn Station – Piccadilly Line & Central Line
I shouldn’t say ‘at last really as Entropy has been around for at least 10 years on Hinckley Road in a rather salubrious area of the city which happens to be on my doorstep! I’ve never eaten there but did try their venture on Dover Street near the Little Theatre in the city centre which sadly failed and was closed down. From what I remember, the food was pretty good but the room was absolutely empty and made the eating experience sombre and rather disappointing.
Fancying a neighbourhood nibble the other week me and Rich met up at Entropy which was surprisingly busy for a midweek seven o’clock sitting. The staff are wonderful and explained that one of the chefs was not in that evening so service may be a little less speedy. In the end it was fine and allowed for chatting. Great bread that was baked onsite was brought to us and we ordered. I had pigs cheeks as a starter and Rich had seafood soup. We both had steak and oyster pie for main course. My cheeks were absolutely delicious and unctuous and came with a sauce gribiche and small salad. Rich’s soup was beautiful, rich seafood broth with a small pile of seafood in the centre. Interestingly, the soup was half served and the rest came in a small jug so you can dilute as you wish.
The pie was absolutely heavenly and certainly the best pie I have eaten in recent memory. Packed with beef and oysters with a rich buttery flaky topping. Small servings of carrots, french beans and mashed potato were served alongside but they were dead on as the pie was so filling. It was all just fabulous.
There was no debate on dessert as there was absolutely no room for it. Urbanspoon rocks.
I really can’t wait to find an excuse to go back as the food is just amazing and I’m excited about what the chef has up his sleeve.
Score 9/10 Would I go back? Hell Yes!
My, my, there has been a lot of negativity spoken on the interweb about Cantina Laredo. Not put off and urged on by the promise of hand prepared guacamole I wandered round Covent Garden trying to find the place. There was a buzz around Upper St Martins Lane as the Indian Tapas joint ‘Dishoom’ had just opened and there was a small queue outside a branch of Jamies Italian.
There were a lot of staff front of house, you were greeted as enthusiastically as you would expect from a branch of an American franchise and we were shown quickly to a table outside. Rich checked for the table being wobbly and promptly shook the pepper pot onto the floor where it smashed. Shortly, a cleaner appeared from nowhere and removed the debris with a smile replacing the pepper pot from another table. Two very good fresh salsas were offered with good substantial tortilla chips. No flimsy Doritos here.
Drinks orders were quickly taken and we both fancied margaritas. Flustered and failing to find them on the menu I just ordered the house margharitas on the rocks as the frozen variety give me an ‘ice cream headache.’ I was asked if I wanted the premium tequila but I declined. This was fortunate as shortly after sipping I read that the margaritas were £9.95 each and it was another £7.50 for the premium spirit. Ouch!
We ordered the guacamole which was cutely prepared tableside. I make a pretty damn good guacamole myself and have rarely had better in a restaurant. Possibly at Rosa Mexicana it was equal where it was also prepared table side in a stone bowl and cost about £20 I think so £6.95 seemed a bargain. Interestingly they used garlic powder rather than fresh which is probably a good idea as its not nice to come across a chunk of raw garlic. The guacamole was cubed from the shell using the hedgehog method slicing both ways across the flesh before scooping out. I made a mental note to start doing that from now on as the I liked the chunkiness. The guacamole was pretty good, in fact it was close to excellent. Really we should have stopped there as it was quite filling but we went on to have chicken fajitas and beef tacos which were pretty good but perhaps not worth the amount they charge.
Most of the criticisms charged at the restaurant are around cost and I concur re the margaritas which weren’t particularly good for the money. It was packed with big ice cubes so was rather unwieldily and the liquid was somehow tepid even though it had so much ice in it. But the food is not that bad value and its the first mexican meal that I haven’t started regretting eating part way through starting. I definately will go back for the salsas and guacamole.
Score 7/1o Would I go back? Yes
St Martin’s Courtyard
10 Upper St Martin’s Lane
London, UK WC2H 9FB
0207 420 0630
Wandering around London post visit to British Museum I managed to find my way to Hanway Street near Tottenham Court Road and came upon the Han Kang Korean Barbeque. Outside, a friendly woman who I took to be the owner was changing some signs on the window but ushered us in. Inside was quite a small room furnished in dark lacquered woods, our table had a large metal disk in the centre and a small metal door to the right of it. How exciting! Fiddling with the top it opened to reveal the barbecue inside each table and the little door led to a gas tap to get things going. Sadly, I was told that the barbecue is only available during the evening so we would need to stick to the main menu. I’ve only had Korean food once before in Las Vegas. I think I enjoyed it. One thing I do remember was the smell in the restaurant which was quite pungent. ‘Kimchee’ my uncle informed me. It was a very heady smell. Mouth watering but also somehow dirty and wrong, like a truffle. I watched a programme showing how they made Kimchee a year or two later and they appeared to be burying a kilner jar containing cabbage into the ground. I was intrigued.
Kimchee was on the menu and I ordered a side portion of that along with a beef bibimbap for me and a beef and mushroom rice dish for my friend. I was advised to upgrade my bibimbap to the dolsot bibimbap as it is served in an oven hot bowl which crisps the rice up whilst it is being served.
A range of Korean beers were available along with wines and sake but sadly the wines weren’t available by the glass but on request I was given a western wine menu. Whilst we waited for the food to arrive we started becoming more and more annoyed by the two Americans on the next table. Their voices started loud but got louder and louder as they feverishly discussed their fellow work colleagues for the benefit of the whole room. Glaring didn’t help, neither sadly did the arrival of food as they somehow managed to keep up the same pace of shouting while eating their food.
Food arrived shortly after, my bibimbap was amazing, beef, rice, raw egg, spinach, mushrooms and cucumber sizzling in the stone bowl.
The waitress insisted on finishing off the preparation and stirred the mixture together mixing the ingredients thoroughly. The egg remained semi raw and added a nice glossy feel to the rice. All in all it was very good though the outside of the rice could have been crispier but perhaps this is due to the temperature of the stone bowl.
Next time I will go back in the evening so I can play with the gas taps.
16 Hanway Street, London, W1T 1UE
Telephone: 020 76371985
Its Sunday Dinner time again, this time I followed the guidance of the Timeout guide and chose the nearby Compass on Chapel Market in Islington. Things started well, we unexpectedly got a table for four right away and ordered a great bottle of Malbec from our extremely knowledgeable waitress. Two orders went through for roast pork and one for roast beef and one for the nut roast (Yes I know).
Things then started to go a bit downhill.
The pork was Gloucester Old Spot natch and was moist and delicious. A tiny diamond of crackling was extremely disappointing and even more so that it was particularly crisp. Roast beef looked better but was rather tough and gristly. Side vegetables and gravy were great. Most disappointing were the roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings which were clearly pre prepared and were cold and soggy.
Its a shame as the atmosphere is great and it was really busy when we were there. I’ll definitely go back but just not their Sunday lunch.
London N1 9PZ