Category Archives: Review

Fischers Restaurant – Baslow, Derbyshire

Its my birthday, but friends know that I am easy to buy presents for. Just take me out somewhere nice to eat. It doesn’t have to be expensive as long as the food is memorable.

I’ve been to Fischers several times. It is the ‘go to’ restaurant for a celebratory meal for the smart set of Sheffield. The service is very reverential, hushed and gracious. Rich calls it ‘Uriah Heepish’ but I think he’s being a bit mean.

It was an unusually (for this year) warm day so we had an aperitif in the wonderful, manicured gardens that surround the house. Spiced nuts and drinks were brought to us along with a choice of the three menus that were available. There is not an a la carte offering at lunch time. The promotional 2012 menu that they were offering was a pretty good deal with 2 courses for £20.12 but as it was a birthday we went for the Best of British menu which offered 7 courses with paired wines for £90 (without wine £50).

After the drinks we were taken into the main restaurant which is spacious and airy with the feel of a country manor drawing room. The atmosphere definitely is hushed though and wouldn’t appeal to everybody.

OK, down to the food. This is definitely refined cooking and the type of edgy and beautifully presented food you would expect from a Michelin starred establishment. Experimental combinations of food are attempted and in the most part are successful. Presentation is not done just for effect but compliment and show the food of in its best light, there are no traditional meals with a ‘twist’ thankfully. The menu is intelligently thought out and put together.

We started with a Mozzarella Panna Cotta with Tomato Consommé, a spoon size portion of wobbly. creamy  Pannacotta in an intensely flavoured but visually contradicting clear tomato essence. Only the paired wine let it down slightly. A rather acidic Chardonnay fought and won the battle with the Consommé. Following this was Tempura of Quail Breast with miring aspic, toasted seeds and grains and pine nut puree. This was excellent. The tubes of tempura quail breast were expertly constructed and the miring aspic added a focused umami punch. The seeds added crunch and texture. Only the pine nut puree was slightly lost, though its mild flavour addition was quite welcome. This was served with a lovely fruity Viognier which complemented the delicate flavours well.

Next up, Wye Valley Asparagus with goats curd and blood orange. Absolutely heavenly. A welcome final chance to eat English asparagus, both green and white and a lovely, rich goats curd and fizzy blood orange. The accompanying Pinot Gris was light and crisp though perhaps a little too dry. Almost immediately after finishing this we received our Crab and Bloody Mary Cannelloni with Lime and Lemongrass snow. Bloody mary jelly strips encased a generously meaty crab filling topped with a shaved ice sorbet of lime and lemongrass. Intelligently thought out and clever cooking. Quite unforgettable. This came with a complex 2010 Sancerre which we wanted to linger over so slowed service down at this point.

Shoulder of Derbyshire Lamb Slow Cooked Over Coals with Goats cheese potato puree and Gold Rush apples. Served with a 2010 Pinot Noir. Generous portion of lamb, of course, perfectly cooked sat on the goats cheese potato puree, richly sauced and accompanied by garden vegetables picked literally minutes ago from the kitchen garden. Wildly successful. Rich and fruity Pinot Noir was a great foil for the lamb.

Our pre dessert was Cardamom, Coconut and Carrot. This was rather strange but quite delicious. Obviously Indian inspired, Coconut ‘snow’ was served with a cardamom sorbet and carrot puree with a ‘sail’ of carrot toffee. A 2009 Gewürztraminer gently edged us in a sweet direction.

Finally, Chocolate Tree Trunk was a pretty  ‘bark’ or chocolate planted in chocolate ‘soil’ with vibrant accompanying orange and chocolate mouse and lime and dark chocolate sorbet. Washed down with a Maury red dessert wine from the Roussillon region of France it made an excellent finale to a flawless lunch.

A final stroll around the manicured gardens we headed home well fed, well watered and inspired.

Superb.

Score 10/10

Fischers at Baslow Hall

Calver Road  Baslow, Derbyshire DE45 1RR
01246 583259

Wheelers – Whitstable

Wheelers is the foodie destination for anyone heading for Whitstable. In fact it becomes a reason to visit Whitstable all by itself. You would be hard pushed to find such good food without any pomp and pretension anywhere else in the UK.

Getting a table is a feat by itself. Hint: Book early and be flexible. We booked about 2 weeks in advance and got a lunch/dinner reservation at 3pm. There are two things against you, firstly the food is very good and more and more people are finding out about this, secondly, there are just 4 tables so the commodity is very scarce.

The front room has an excellent fish counter and there are a couple of stools allowing you to hop up if you didn’t score a main table. Through the beaded curtain you enter a parlour decorated just like your nan’s best room and after squeezing onto your seat and handing over your wine (its BYO and no corkage!) you take a look at the always interesting menu. This time I chose the Skate with Langoustines, confit belly pork, steamed clams and fennel puree. Possibly all my favourites foodstuffs on one plate. Before that we had excellent seafood soup and three types of oyster: natural natives, cooked with lardons and Worcestershire sauce and guinness battered. They were all delicious.

My main was a work of art. The skate was perfectly cooked and shaped into fun curls and the rich belly pork and fragrant fennel puree proved excellent foils. The clams were beautifully steamed and a real treat. After this we scraped room for a dessert which was an astonishing apple crumble soufflé with salted caramel ice-cream. It was incredible. Needless to say after all this food we caught a taxi to the train and snored our way back to Victoria.

Score 10/10

Wheelers

Telephone: 01227 273 311
Address: 8 High Street, Whitstable, Kent

Spice Market – London

Lime Salmon Salad

Lime Salmon Salad

Sorry about the length of time in posting. This year I am taking a year of from work to travel, so far I have travelled all over Europe on an Interrail pass and have just completed a month around France. Am back now for a month before heading off to North and South America so have been eating out again in London. My wise Chinese uncle from San Francisco mentioned that Spice Market has opened in the W Hotel at Leicester Square and he missed it when he visited last. I’ve not had a great experience at the W. I took my family for cocktails there recently and found whilst the cocktails were good they were expensive even for London and meanly didn’t come with any nibbles. Also, even though the place hadn’t been open long it was pretty grubby, including bizarrely the waiters clothing.

Anyway we passed by it on the way to having a look at M&M World on the other side of the W which has 4 floors of plastic crap that you didn’t know you needed but bizarrely doesn’t sell the full range of M&M’s. Amazing!

Spice Market was advertising a 3 course lunch express menu for just £18. The room is slightly below street level so you have the odd view of peoples ankles as they walk past the window. It is done out in a pan asian / moroccan mix which shouldn’t work but does. Staff are efficient and friendly and their clothes are not grubby!

The food was wonderful. Between us we covered all the choices and they were all tasted clean and balanced. Before the starters came our waiter brought popadoms and a super spicy salsa that seemed to have a strong tang of tamarind. Thankfully they kept it coming.

Remarkable Ovaltine Kulfi

Remarkable Ovaltine Kulfi

I had Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Rich had Beef Satay. Both were subtle and satisfying. For main we had a Salmon Salad with Lime and Chicken Pad Thai. Both excellent. We weren’t going to have dessert but were intrigued by the  Ovaltine Kulfi, Banana Brulée Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce . It was amazing. The Kulfi was malty and was garnished with a shard of Banana encased in caramel.

It seems a shame that other reviewers don’t agree but I think that this restaurant is a real find and certainly the best thing about the W. Am looking forward to going back for a bash at the full menu.

Score 8.5/10

W LONDON – LEICESTER SQUARE

10 Wardour Street, Leicester Square, London, W1D 6QF

Harts – Nottingham

Perfect slice of cow

Perfect slice of cow

A bright Sunday morning in Nottingham and after half an hour trying to find a parking space near Nottingham Castle we strolled back 1/2 a mile to make it to new restaurant and hotel Harts. Harts has had incredible write ups in the London press including a glowing report from hard to please Times critic A A Gill. Harts is owned by Tim Hart who also owns Hambleton Hall in Rutland. His famous sons Sam and Eddie also run Quo Vadis in London as well as the super tapas emporium, Fino.

We came for Sunday dinner and were quickly lead to a nice table replete with crisp white linen which overlooked the rest of the room. Service is charming and discreet leaving you to enjoy the food and conversation. Rich had a tomato soup to start which was perfectly executed and came with good bread. I had smoked salmon which came with a quenelle of horseradish cream and beetroot puree, it was delicious. We selected a rascally Malbec to accompany our roast sirloin of beed with horseradish hollandaise. It was astounding. The meat was perfectly cooked nestling in a crispy yorkshire pudding. For dessert we had a thoughtfully selected cheeseboard and finished the rest of the wine. A faultless Sunday lunch and we will definitely be back to sample the a la carte menu in the evening.

Score: 9/10

Hart’s Nottingham, Standard Hill, Park Row, Nottingham, NG1 6GN.
info@hartsnottingham.co.uk 0115 988 1900

Hare and Tortoise – London

Hare and Tortoise

Hare and Tortoise

More Sushi for ya this time at Hare and Tortoise, the oddly named mini chain of pan asian restaurants in London. The one we went to is near Blackfriars on New Bridge Street which is presumably swarming with business folk by day and was pretty full when we visited in the evening. We were given a rather grim table in the corner on a raised platform but any port in a storm.

Service was brisk and efficient, we started with two plum wine spritzers and some edamame beans.

Unagi Deluxe

Unagi Deluxe

For mains we ordered a sushi platter and an amazing unagi roll which had a huge slice of unagi draped across the top. Pretty decadent and for 6 pieces at £7.70 pretty good value.

Not keen on the dessert menu we headed across to Refettorio across the road at the Crowne Plaza and shared a great Crema Catalana and plate of cheese with two glasses of Sangiovese.

Score 7.5/10

Hare and Tortoise

90 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6JJ.Tel: 020 7651 0266

Canteen – Spittalfield Market

Pork Scratchings

Pork Scratchings

Canteen is such a beautiful idea on paper that it should work. Traditional british grub, sensibly sourced and prepared should fill a gap that’s been missing for a long time from the restaurant scene. I’ve visited Canteen about 6 times now so they must be doing something right but the last two visits have proved to be the combined last straw and I shan’t return unless I am dragged.

I mentioned previously in a posting about how I loathed food with rules and Canteen are an offender especially with how they police their breakfast / lunch changeover in a similar way that McDonalds do. The thing is that Canteen is not awful and with some changes it could be made quite serviceable. What galls is that they seem to have disdain for their customer shown in their awful service and giddy pricing of their food.

Pie 'n' Mash

Pie 'n' Mash

We started with very a kilner jar of super crispy scratchings which was incredibly generous in size and ran the risk of filling us up before our mains came.

We ordered the roast of the day and the order was taken. Our wine arrived and was fine. 10 minutes later we were told that the roast has sold out. I like the fact that they do sell out of things as it shows that the food is freshly prepared but surely they could have told us earlier. We all switched to the chicken pie which came with mash and spring greens. When it came, to be honest it was fine but this is simple food so it should be perfect. The pastry was a little soggy and the mash a bit tasteless and underseasoned.

Treacle Tart & Clotted Cream

Treacle Tart & Clotted Cream

For dessert we had the warm treacle tart with clotted cream which was unctuous and delicious.

Hmm, its the service rather than the food that leaves the bad taste in your mouth. We were served by an eastern european waitress who was rather cold and seemed to see us as an irritation rather than a customer. There was no apology about the lateness of food, no check back that the food was ok and it took an age to get the bill.

For the first time I witheld the service charge and said that I would tip by cash which I did, but somewhat below the service charge amount. I think I’m going to start doing this as it ensures that tips aren’t taken for granted and I can adjust them accordingly.

I think I’ve had enough of Canteen now. They seem smug and take their customers for granted. The food is ok but if it has to be served so grudgingly what is the point?

Score 5/10

Canteen on Urbanspoon

Toku @ Japan Centre, London

Sexy Sashimi

Sexy Sashimi

Another sushi day. I worry that my sushi habit is quickly becoming an addiction. I don’t seem to let a week go by without having a plate of sushi, or dim sum to that matter. Lets face it, I’m just plain addicted to food. Sushi is one of the few foods that I don’t attempt to cook at home. It just seems such a faff and there are plenty of opportunities now to grab some good sushi even outside of London.

I still love the Japan Centre though, it recently moved from a rather pokey mini department store of all things nipponese to a food only store on lower regent street. It is full of every japanese ingredient you may want including sushi grade fish, finished sushi, dim sum and complete chinese lunch boxes such as pork tonkatsu. Next door is the bright and modern Toku restaurant which we visited on opening day. Presumably they didnt get their alcohol licence sorted out in time as we were prompted to buy beers next door at the store and bring them in to drink which was fine.

Tempura served with curry powder

Tempura served with curry powder

We started with a subtly flavoured miso soup with nice big chunks of smoked tofu. We then had a wonderfully fresh plate of sashimi of salmon, tuna and yellowtail served prettily on a bowl of crushed ice. We also had a super generous plate of sushi, fish was firm and fresh and rice not over chilled. The usual suspects were there including lovely salmon eggs and eel. To accompany this we had a portion of ebi tempura which was wonderfully light and greaseless and interestingly was served with the usual dipping sauce and curry powder to sprinkle on.

This is really good sushi and I will definitely be back. It was rather empty on opening day but I’m sure that this will pick up.

Score 8.5/10

Toku, Japan Centre on Urbanspoon

Giant Robot – Clerkenwell, London

Good 'balls!

Good 'balls!

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.

Inside the Robot

Inside the Robot

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!

Score 7.5/10

Giant Robot on Urbanspoon

Entropy – At last, fine dining in Leicester!

Seafood Soup and Pig Cheeks

Seafood Soup and Pig Cheeks

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.

Masterful Steak and Oyster Pie

Masterful Steak and Oyster Pie

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!

Entropy

42 Hinckley Road
Leicester LE3 0RB

Viva Cantina Laredo

Salsa at Cantina Laredo

Salsa at Cantina Laredo

9.95 for a Margharita!

9.95 for a Margharita!

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!

Guacamole at Cantina Laredo

Guacamole at Cantina Laredo

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

Cantina Laredo

St Martin’s Courtyard
10 Upper St Martin’s Lane
London, UK WC2H 9FB
0207 420 0630

Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon