Monday, 27 March 2017

REVIEW: Brunch at Bar + Block, King's Cross

Bit of a different one today - yes, we went to a steak restaurant. For brunch. With a vegetarian. Bar + Block Steakhouse, part of the Whitbread Group that looks after Premier Inn and Costa, aims to 'bring steaks back to the high street' with accessible prices, quality produce and a modern approach to casual dining. This is a pretty fair analysis of their main menu offering, but when it comes to brunch Bar + Block keeps things easy - classic brunch dishes with a few unexpected additions. 
As usual, we began with coffee, which came from the Costa just across the hotel from the restaurant. This may seem uber basic but I was DELIGHTED! I really like the Costa coffee blend and drink it nearly every day. Call me high-street, call me chain loving - I don't care; it's delicious. We both enjoyed a cappuccino topped with a little cocoa powder. Alex's came decorated with the costa bean shape. Mine was a little less artistic. The orange juice too was nice but had too much ice in so it was really hard to drink. Hello brain freeze! 
Next up were the croissants. They look fairly normal right - WRONG! These buttery pastries are brushed with icing sugar and lightly grilled for added sweetness. And you can forget all about dipping your flaky pastry in jam too as these babies are filled like a doughnut with strawberry jam. Innovative, delicious and unexpected - a real win. 
For 'main' I went for avocado and poached egg on toast with salmon. While on the menu it is billed as 'avocado, poached egg, and chili on toast' the sheer number of chilies on my plate was a bit overwhelming. Does anyone eat all these chilies? I certainly didn't. The avocado was nice, laced with red onion, lemon, and more chili, but I could have done with more. The poached egg was overdone which was a real shame, while the salmon was perfectly nice. 
Alex went for the top billing of steak, egg and breakfast potatoes. The steak was surprisingly well cooked and exactly medium-rare as requested. There was a great sheen to the meat, displaying that it had been well-rested, and the texture was great. The fried egg was perfect and exactly circular (weirdly pleasing) and Alex adored the breakfast potatoes. It's like having chips for brekkie!

This was a really surprising review actually. I fully expected to be badly catered to as a vegetarian, but the number of veggie-friendly options was really surprising. That said, I think Alex's meaty steak and eggs dish was probably the winner of the day. 

If you're catching the train out of King's Cross or St Pancras then Bar + Block is an ideal place to pop in for a little sustenance before your big adventure. 

Thank you Bar + Block for arranging this review. All opinions, images and copy are my own. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

REVIEW: Return to POLO 24 Bar, Bishopsgate

Today we return to one of my favourite breakfast spots in London - POLO 24 Bar just opposite Liverpool Street Station. Last time I visited I was severely hungover (as was Alex) so it was delightful to go back again with a clearer head.
We, naturally, began with coffee. Alex enjoyed a really smooth and creamy flat white with a beautiful flower design on the top. I do appreciate a good bit of latte art. The coffee was strong and would wake up even the most exhausted night-after diner. My breakfast tea came in a classic brown teapot and was lovely. What more can I say?
We enjoyed a little orange juice too, which came served in little milk bottles - cute! Fresh, chilled and sweet, there's nothing better than a great glass of OJ with your brekkie.
Speaking of, we went ALL OUT! I'm telling you we didn't eat again all day after enjoying these massive plates. Alex went for the classic full English with toast, beans, roasted tomato, mushrooms, eggs, bacon and sausages. Incredibly nothing was greasy or fatty tasting and the sweetness of the beans and tomato was, naturally, delicious against the meat. The mushrooms were a surprising highlight. 
Alternatively, I went for the full vegetarian breakfast. Great vegetarian breakfasts, outside of Turkish or Middle Eastern places, are quite tricky to come by. POLO 24 smashes any need for the meat with hash browns, bubble and squeak, avocado and perfectly fried eggs served with beans, toast, mushrooms and tomato. There's at least four of your five ten a day in there! The bubble and squeak could have been crisper but it was comfortingly delicious. I enjoyed layering up the toast with garlicky mushrooms, avocado and a dribble of egg yolk - OMG YUM!!!
While this review was kindly paid for by the POLO 24 team, I have visited a number of times over the last four years and I can honestly say it is 100% reliable. If you're hungry, need feeding and need something to sustain you ALL DAY POLO 24 is the place to go. Plus, you're promised a great chat with the owner while you sip on cheeky espressos at the bottom of the stairs.

Thank you POLO 24 for inviting me to review. All opinions, images and copy are my own. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

REVIEW: Kiri, Mayfair

In appearance, it's a cute French bistro - but when the menu arrives you're slap bang in the heart of Japan, with sake and sushi welcoming your taste buds in for a flavour adventure. Welcome to Kiri.
I usually don't read reviews before visiting somewhere myself, but the love for Kiri is palpable through any Google search. Bloggers, journalists and guests alike love the accessible yet considered menu where wagyu beef sits alongside deep-fried fish bones. Luxury meets honesty at Kiri and it's a bloody joy to dine there! 

We began with a carafe of Fisherman Jumani Ginjo 14.5% sake. Fresh, light and easy to drink this sake had a smooth, almost water-like texture with only a tingle of alcohol at the end of the sip. It worked well with all our chosen dishes. 

We began with ultra thin, completely see-through slices of fluke dressed in a truffle soy sauce - AKA umami itself! The slightly firm texture was intriguing and the heady truffle flavour actually matched the meaty fish very well. Our second dish, a mixed seafood ceviche with yuzu, was a refreshing contrast with mixed cuts of each seafood balanced with tomatoes and celery slices.

Next, a surprising mixed vegetable salad dressed with puffed rice and a slightly sweet house dressing. Vibrant beets and radishes shared spaced with gently steamed broccoli and asparagus giving each mouthful a different flavour. This dish was paired with rock shrimp tempura served with a spicy, Sriracha-style mayonnaise. The sweetness of the shrimp balanced with the spicy mayo was just divine and swapping between the cold, raw veggies and the warm sweet fish was delicious! 
The next pairing came in the form of sweet potato croquettes with an edamame wasabi mayonnaise - perhaps a Japanese take on falafel and hummus! I really liked these little croquettes but when eaten with the next dish (red miso glazed aubergine) was DREAMY! I honestly can't think of a better way to describe it; salty then sweet, crunchy then soft, meaty then earthy - all these different flavour and texture combinations coming together made for quite the spoonful! 
Our final few dishes focussed solely on seafood. Classic California rolls were updated with a topping of grilled eel, whose flavour I loved but texture I was not a fan of. Lemon sole 'kara-age' was a really intriguing dish which arrived on a deep-fried fish spine. We were munching on the little balls of lemony fish when our server noted: "you can eat the bones too!". Similar to pork crackling but even saltier, this dish was definitely one for the brave. We finally enjoyed a really special plate of fatty tuna with spring onion maki. Soft, sweet and meaty all at the same time, these gorgeous little rolls were such a treat and even if you order nothing else, you really need to try these! 
If you work near Mayfair and are looking for a special spot to kick back, relax and enjoy truly the finest Japanese food in a relaxed way then make Kiri your go-to spot.

Thank you, Kiri, for arranging this review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, 3 March 2017

REVIEW: Cinnamon Bazaar, Covent Garden

Tucked away on one of Covent Garden's many side streets and hidden passages sits Cinnamon Bazaar - the fourth concept from the king of modern-Indian cuisine in the UK, Vivek Singh. Opened last last year to rave reviews from both the traditional press and us bloggers, Cinnamon Bazaar takes you on a journey of culinary discoveries. Inspired by the world markets of the past where traders swapped and shared recipes, ingredients and more, the restaurant serves a collection of dishes that draw links between stops along the Silk Route - from Iran to India and beyond. 
Whether you love Vivek's other hot-spots in Soho and Westminster, or you're a first-timer to the Cinnamon Collection, Bazaar will welcome you in with a fabulous cocktail and dishes to warm the soul.

We began with a cocktail each from Cinnamon Bazaar's limited edition menu developed by Mr Lyan - AKA the best bartender in the world. Fadoola Swizzle was my choice of poison, with basil seed, rum and apricot, while Alex went for the Gin Julep with black cardamon and green amchoor mango. I wouldn't normally go for a cocktail with Indian food, preferring either a cold beer or a glass of bubbles, but the intriguing and unique flavour combinations of Mr Lyan's creations are certainly a must-try. 
For food, we kicked off proceedings with Crab Bonda with Calcutta crab and beetroot in a spiced chickpea batter. Fragrant, sweet and earthy, these little balls of joy ended much too quickly but are an ideal starter for sharing. Next, we moved onto Chaats - the most loved street food of Indian. These bowls of loveliness combine salty, sweet, sour and savoury flavours in an array of textures so you'll always find a combination you like. I favoured the spiced onion dumpling chaat with curried white peas and a medley of chutneys, whereas Alex loved the sweet potato cake with chickpea sev. Both are dressed with yogurt, mint and pomegranate so look as beautiful as they taste. 
For mains, there was no way I was coming to a Cinnamon restaurant and not getting curry. I was recommended the Malabar Boatman's haddock curry by a friend and it did not disappoint. Rich, creamy and tomato-ey with a lovely aromatic flavour, it was quite unlike any curry I had enjoyed before. Despite the rich curry flavour the haddock stood strong and the kokum veggies were the perfect accompaniment. Alex opted for the double cooked pork belly 'Koorg' style which was a drier affair than my curry with a crunchy fresh salad and red onion. Sweet and moorish, the meat simply fell apart in the mouth and worked beautifully with a big spoon of dahl.

I thoroughly recommend you making a visit to Cinnamon Bazaar. The interior alone deserves a view, with hand-painted panels, hanging lanterns and a huge bar, and the food simply sings! 

Thank you to Cinnamon Bazaar for hosting this review. All opinions are my own and have been in no way influenced by the complementary nature of this visit.  

Thursday, 9 February 2017

REVIEW: Viet Food, Wardour Street

From the outside, Viet Food really doesn't look like much. Even the website is distinctly okay and until you get to the menu, you'd be forgiven for passing over this restaurant without a second thought. But guess what - you'd be very, very wrong! 

Viet Food is led by Jeff Tan, one of the UK's top Asian chefs and the former Executive Chef at Yuan in the Atlantis Palm, Dubai and, excitingly for me, Chef de Cuisine at Hakkasan Mayfair - yes, that's a Michelin star establishment guys! Jeff took his passion for exceptional Vietnamese food and celebrates it at Viet Food. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the shy and unassuming restaurant is an absolute treat for the foodie who craves great Asian food in the cultural heart of Asian London. 
From the outside guests can spot the chefs hard at work through the floor-to-ceiling windows and once inside will be greeted by the salty/sweet/sour scents of great Vietnamese food. We were invited to dine upstairs and began with a bottle of Saigon beer, duh, while spotting the birdcage hanging lights. 
The free prawn crackers came with a hot as hell spicy chilli sauce, which I loved, before our starters arrived. We shared crispy coconut calamari which was soft and juicy with just a hint of sweetness from the coconut; grilled scallop and prawn served in a scallop shell with the absolutely most delicious dressing IN THE WORLD - slightly sweet, mostly savoury, plenty of salt; and soft shell crab dusted with five spice. This final dish was the only slight let down with this course as the five spice was a bit non-existent but the crab was lovely and sweet. I also really enjoy the onion salad and made wraps out of the lettuce cups. 
When it came to mains, Alex and I went in very different directions. I opted for braised sea bream with fresh chilli and pineapple in homemade sauce, which is comparable to a light curry or soup. The fish was battered, then served in the soupy sauce which was a bit weird and cloying towards the end. However, the fresh pineapple was absolutely dreamy and worked really gorgeously with the fragrant sauce. The homemade sauce also worked really well with the house rice as it balances sweet-savoury spicy-salty flavours.
Alex chose a main of wok-sauteed pork ribs with fresh chive and sweet corn in mint chilli sauce, which visually looks a bit disjointed but actually worked well together. The fresh chilli added a lightness to the sweet, sticky ribs and the sweet corn was an interesting texture. The green bean side with preserved shrimp was really savoury and sort of lost the fresh green flavour.
Frankly Viet Food was one of the yummiest places I've eaten in a while. Compared to Hakkasan (bit naughty to do but there you go), there are definitely comparisons - the rice was equally good and the scallop starter was absolutely mind blowing. I think having this sort of option in the heart of Chinatown is such a win for Londoners as tourists will walk past believing it to be 'just another Chinatown outlet', while us in the know can enjoy great Vietnamese food at a really accessible price.

Thank you Viet Food for hosting this review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

REVIEW: Dinner at Patron NW5, Kentish Town

I think it's safe to say that I am quite literally obsessed with this restaurant. From indulging my inner Frenchie to treating my soul to some of the most delicious food ever, there's nothing I don't love about Patron. The decor, subtly French and darkly decadent; the food, obviously French and utterly delicious; the wines, well priced and inviting - the list could go on. Even the fabulous collection of waiting staff are a joy to chat to over a glass of something sparkling before starting dinner. 

But love letters to restaurants aside, we're here to review. We revisited Patron after enjoying a truly divine brunch last year to taste-test their supper selection. The fabulous restaurant manager helped us select the perfect wine (a Sauvignon Blanc no less) to work with the dishes we selected which included: soupe à l'oignon with garlic coutons and tomme de savoie, goats' cheese tarlet with sweet onion, tomato and pesto, mussels cooked in white wine with garlic and tomatoes with rosemary fries, and duck confit with dauphinois potatoes.   
My soup starter was the highlight dish of the whole visit, pretty incredible for such a simple dish. Sweet yet savoury, smooth in texture but with plenty of slippery onions and topped with the most divine cheesy croutons - I mean you really can't match it. Truly divine.

Alex's starter of goats' cheese tartlet was also delicious but perhaps a touch small in comparison to my soup. The zingy pesto and peppery rocket worked well with the salty cheese and sweet onions. A great balance of flavours. 
 When it came to the mains, I kept things ultra classic with mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, fresh herbs and tomatoes. The portion was impressive to say the least and the lovely general manager brought me fresh bread at the end to soak up all that liquor. Speaking of, while the mussels were cooked beautifully I did feel the liquor could have been thicker or I could have had a little less. It seems such a shame to waste great flavour. My fries, topped with plenty of salt and rosemary were crunchy, crispy and delicious. 

Alex's main of duck confit came drizzled with an intense, sweet red wine jus and served with his choice of dauphinois potatoes. The duck, at times, was a touch dry which could have been helped with a lot more sauce on the plate. The potatoes were creamy yet with bite and worked great with the duck and red wine sauce. A bit of greenery wouldn't have gone a miss but there you go. 

I really can't say no to dessert. I chose the utterly French crème brûlée which was beautifully creamy with plenty of vanilla. The top was really impressive and well blow-torched but not burnt. Alex went for the deconstructed tiramisu meringue topped with vanilla ice cream, fresh espresso and grated chocolate. Light, flavoursome and a really nice take on the original.

Overall yes, I am in love. I cannot fault Patron on the basis of atmosphere, menu choices, staff, or wine. A few tiny adjustments would have made this visit dream-like but really, who cares that much about a touch of sauce here and a little reducing there when the food tastes this good. I thoroughly recommend to all North Londoners, but let's keep this secret gem for ourselves. 

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