Showing posts with label Restaurant Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restaurant Review. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

REVIEW: Summer Menu at Carluccio's, Spitalfields Market

Is there anything more wonderful than embracing la dolce vita? Come the summertime, there's little I enjoy more than a glass (or two) of crisp white wine, a bowl of juicy olives and some Italian classics in the sunshine. Enter my evening of Italian bliss at Carluccio's last week, where the Spitalfield's terrace became my very own Italian piazza.

This month saw the launch of Carluccio's new summer menu, with special dishes embracing the lighter side of Italian cooking. From burrata to pea shoots, fresh seafood to panzanella salad, the summer offering has plenty of dishes that promise to please any sunseeker.
We began with seasonal starters of burrata from Puglia dressed with pea shoots, fresh peas, broad beans, fresh mint leaves, lemon oil and rich balsamic vinegar. While I would have loved a touch more cheese, the pairing of flavours was so light and refreshing that could be forgiven. I also enjoyed the pane carasau, a Sardinian crisp bread, which reminded my of the very best poppadums from nearby Brick Lane. 
Alex chose the prawns marinara sautéed with white wine, baby plum tomatoes, chilli and fennel seeds then dressed in a tomato and basil sauce - I mean, can you get more Italian! Cooked in their shells for added sweetness, the prawns were wonderfully juicy and balanced with the peppery rocket salad. A sprinkle of salt wouldn't have gone amiss.
For the main event I kept things seasonal with Carluccio's new seafood linguine with white crab meat, prawns, mussels and clams. The heady sauce of tomato and chilli was suitably light, allowing the seafood to sing and the Bottarga (fish roe) sprinkled on top was so rich in umami flavour which, when paired with Parmesan, gave the fish dish a meaty quality. The slippery spaghetti was perfectly cooked and easily slurped up! 
Speaking of meat, Alex went for the unusual duck pappardelle - a thicker linguine style pasta - dressed with slow-cooked duck, pork, pancetta and mushroom ragu. This rich, meaty plate had the natural sweetness of duck paired with tomatoes and garlic with added saltiness from the garlic breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. There's little more I can say other than it ticks all the carby, meaty, cheesy boxes! 
Not forgetting dessert! I went for the classic tiramisu - which means 'pick me up'! The Savoiardi biscuits are soaked in strong espresso coffee and coffee liqueur then topped with mascarpone and chocolate. The lightness of this dairy-heavy dish was really surprising and the bitter chocolate worked really well with the coffee. Frankly, it's an absolute classic so you can't really go wrong! 

Alex chose the new Cioccolato Fondente - a warm chocolate pudding baked with almonds and Kahlua. Due to the almonds, the cake was a touch dry but there was easily negated with a big scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. 
From the Babylon Bianco Sauvingnon Blanc and olive pairing to start, to the rich pasta dishes and through to the light desserts, Carluccio's new summer menu truly is an exploration of Italian heritage. Updated for the modern diner with smaller portions and effortless presentation, I can't imagine a nicer way to spend date night.

Thank you Carluccio's for hosting this review

Friday, 16 June 2017

REVIEW: Lunch at Maple & Kings, King's Cross

SUMMER HAS OFFICIALLY LANDED!
Basking in the sunshine last week was such a joy. Alex and I took a lovely long walk down to King's Cross to enjoy a spot of lunch at the lovely Maple & Kings, the second venue from Maple & Fitz.

Known for their delicious, health-focused menu available at brunch and lunch everyday, Maple & King's is part of the growing foodie hub set behind the two major stations. The cafe boasts a small terrace which is lovely when the sun is blaring down and a small number of seats inside too.
We began with smoothies. I drank my greens with an After The Disco with pineapple and coconut which was deliciously sweet yet balanced with plenty of greenery. Alex went for the Breakfast Smoothie with banana, dates and almond milk, again a sweet choice which we're a big fan of! 
While Alex went for a brunch dish of shakshuka, I went for a lunch box of smoked salmon with softly pickled cucumber, cracked buckwheat, black beans, lime, tomatoes and chopped coriander. The dish boasted all the flavours of a great Mexican plate with the protein-packed addition of smoked salmon. Priced at around £7, it is slightly on the expensive side but hey it's a weekend treat. 
Alex's heady shakshuka with chilli and garlic came topped with poached eggs and filled with protein-rich mung beans. It was interesting to have this classically skillet-cooked dish in a takeaway style cut and it dipped beautifully into the expertly grilled toast. Yum! It was also delightfully filling which, while the portion appears humble, was really pleasing.
Overall, I continue to be a big fan of Maple & Fitz and their Maple & King's outlet. The dishes are completely suited to those looking to combine health and flavour while, of course, getting an amazing Instagram shot too. I'll certainly be back to try some brunch dishes for myself while I'm sure Alex will nab a salad. 

Thank you Maple & Fitz for hosting this review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

REVIEW: The Devonshire, Balham

To the pub we go!

Today's review is of a newly refurbished Young's pub in Balham - The Devonshire. One of the oldest of the Young's estate, The Devonshire has gone by many names and seen many faces. Today, it is a place to travel through time, from the old-world pub at the front with its etched mirrors to the Art Dec-style dining room in the middle, and the contemporary garden room at the back. Sunday lunch or a quick after-work pint, The Devonshire caters to it all.
As the sun was shining we shimmied through the glorious pub to it's large garden. Here, huge umbrellas save the skin from burning while the background of Heathrow-bound flights provides a quite relaxing soundtrack (trust me).

As per all Young's pubs, the menu takes a naturally 'best of British' approach, embracing cooking techniques from across the world and adding the vest best seasonal ingredients. I kicked off with a small starter of smoked salmon with purple sprouting broccoli, pea shoots, green beans and coriander with honey and sesame dressing. While refreshing, I felt that the salmon could have benefited from being in flakes, rather than slivers just to give the dish a bit of body. The dressing could have also done with a stronger flavour of honey, just like my main at MOMMI last week.
Alex went for another brunch-esque plate of in-season grilled asparagus with fiery British chorizo, crispy egg and lemon oil. This earthy plate balance the heat of the chorizo with the richness of egg really well and the lemon oil cut through well. Again, the chorizo could have perhaps been in chunks so that it could play a bigger part but there you go. 
For mains, I chose the truly vibrant green risotto with wild nettle, spinach, broad beans, goats' cheese and gremolata. I would have served perhaps a third less on the plate but the flavour was absolutely divine. Fresh from the greens, rich from the cheese and really soft in texture - an absolute yum! Naughtily, I also dipped my sweet potato fries into the risotto which was a surprising treat. 
Alex went for the goats' cheese marinated chicken supreme with mixed beans, mustard seed, rocket, pomegranate, toasted coconut salad and dill cream. This was a really lovely dish with big, rich, punchy flavours. The presentation was sublime and made each mouthful even more exciting. Bravo! 
Come pudding, the lovely team at The Devonshire let us order from the Sunday menu (we visited on Bank Holiday Monday). I chose the apple and rhubarb crumble which simply sang of childhood. The sweet, sumptuous custard only helped to bring back happy memories of Sunday's at home. Alex's beautiful Bakewell tart was also reminiscent but this time of his recent trip to actual Bakewell itself. The fresh fruit additions helped to bring a lightness to the density of the dish. 
While Balham is a bit of a trek for me (an hour on the Northern Line, more like!) I really enjoyed our visit. I found the service and the food to be exactly what you want from a great British pub; approachable, effortless and comforting. If you're within easy reach then definitely go check it out, otherwise there's definitely a Young's pub near you to give you a taste!

Thank you to The Devonshire for hosting this review. All opinions are my own, as usual

Friday, 26 May 2017

REVIEW: The Champion, Notting Hill

I've said it once, I'll say it again - there's very little that beats a Sunday spent down the pub. And what a pub The Champion in Notting Hill is. Set just across from Hyde Park and in easy reach of Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Market and High Street Kensington, The Champion is the ideal spot to kick back, relax and enjoy a bite of British fayre every day of the week. Lovely.
We visited on a gloriously sunny Sunday - summer has finally arrived it appears. We took our places in the empty hidden garden, surrounded by old-school Victorian walls and trailing tree vines. Beer was the order of the day, customary when the sun's out, and I went for a Camden Hells lager; Alex chose the Pale Ale. Both were naturally refreshing with a touch of citrus on the palette and stayed cool even in the glare of the sun.
The starters arrived in a quick fashion. I chose the smoked salmon slivers with sourdough, crème fraîche and capers (EW - I picked these off immediately). The smoked salmon was cold, but not freezing and buttery in texture. Each bite of sourdough and salmon together was a salty dream, which was only intensified by the crème fraîche. Alex's choice of fried calamari with sweet chilli was surprisingly soft in texture and not at all chewy. The batter was light and fresh too.
Onto the mains - Alex was a lucky bunny and enjoyed a proper roast lunch of honey and whisky glazed gammon with beef dripping potatoes, red wine jus, red cabbage, leeks, peas, carrots and parsnips. I mean, come on what more do you want! The meat was nice and worked well with the rich jus. The veggies and potatoes were well cooked and not tough at all. The Yorkshire pudding was more like a Yorkshire cake with no rise at all, which was a shame. 
My main of mushroom risotto with pecorino and pumpkin seeds was a touch disappointing. The main flavour was white onions, which while sweet and juicy is not the earthiness of mushrooms. It was also so covered in pecorino and olive oil that the rice was hard to identify. Look, I'm not a food critic who is looking for ABSOLUTE PERFECTION in cooking techniques or utter authenticity in the ingredients chosen, but even for me this was a bit of a let down. Wish I could have had a roast :(
For desserts, I chose the lemon tart with raspberries which was a little more like a cheesecake and void of said raspberries. It was refreshing and light - just what you want at the end of a meal. Alex went for the sticky toffee pudding which was quite the opposite; rich, dense, sticky and sumptuous and utterly delicious if you ask him (which I did). 
The Champion isn't in easy reach of my home but it is worth taking a trek to for the hidden garden. I can't imagine a better spot to while away the hours with a Aperol Spritz or a bottle of something sparkling - just add a couple of starters and you're away!

Thank you to The Champion for arranging this review. All opinions, as ever, are my own. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

REVIEW: The Commercial, Herne Hill

Wasn't the weather just an absolute dream this weekend! Wall-to-wall sunshine, very little wind - summer is certainly making gains in London, and thank god because winter sucks. In light of this very beautiful weather, we headed out of central London this weekend to the deep and dark south London area of Herne Hill. Okay, it's like a six-minute walk from Brixton so not exactly deepest south London, but still miles away from home. The adventures we have for this here blog are unrivaled, I tell you. 
We popped into The Commercial pub, a newly relaunched establishment with a lovely terrace out the front, beer garden out the back and airy dining room in the middle. As with every good pub, beers on tap are local so we went for a Meantime Lager and a Camden Hells Pale Ale.  Predictably, both were good and I particularly enjoyed the lightness of the Meantime. I also *LOVE* a branded glass; it makes the sip feel extra special.
Starters came in the form of a shared baked camembert inside a whole ancient grain loaf. You heard that right folks; a whole cheese, inside a whole bread - what's not to like! The cheese was s[piked with glutinous gloves of fat garlic, a sprinkling of rosemary sprigs and touches of spring onion for that screw your nose up freshness against the rich cheese. The addition of peppery celery sticks, while not necessary, were also nice and gave some crunch to the carby-fatty deliciousness. 
When it came to mains (yep, we're doing three courses), I originally went for the seafood linguine but was sadly informed the sauce is made with 'nduja (an Italian cured sausage) so instead swapped for the seared tuna salad with Med-style accompaniments of olives, green beans, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and (I think) baby kale. This was a much lighter dish that my wished-for linguine but saved room for dessert I guess. The tuna was fine, maybe a touch over in places and could have done with some searing marks for a touch of sweetness. The salad, generally, was quite oily but this worked nicely with the fish. 
My guest went for that 1970s classic - chicken kiev, served with buttery (and I mean buttery) mash and pan-fried kale. Less a kiev, more a breaded chicken breast, the main event was doused in garlic and parsley butter which smelled divine. My guest attested to the richness of the mash-chicken combination which was freshened up by the (also buttery) kale. A squeeze of lemon juice wouldn't have gone amiss but generally a nice, comforting dish. 
We also devoured a bowl of triple cooked chips - nothing more to say here except that they needed more salt. 

We ended the meal with desserts of Black Forest Eton Mess (YUMMMM!) and sticky toffee pudding. My Eton mess was actually a dollop of cherry-infused whipped cream topped with Flake and meringue and a dusting of icing sugar - can't complain, was sweet and delicious. My guest's sticky toffee pudding was more of a winner and she finished it in about 20 seconds. The sponge was soft and steamed which drank up all that gorgeous sticky sauce. The addition of cool ice cream was great too as it all melted into a gooey pile of sugary yumminess. 
Overall, it was a lovely Saturday lunch spent in great company. The food at The Commerical is nice, easy to eat and reasonably priced for the area too. If you're in Herne Hill or even Brixton, breeze by for a lazy afternoon.

Thank you to The Commerical for hosting this review. All opinions, words, and images are my own.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

REVIEW: Chai Wu, Knightsbridge

This week we were very lucky chickens and were invited to review Chai Wu; the luxury contemporary Chinese restaurant on the fifth floor of Harrods. Decked in shades of dark wood and gold with plenty of trellising to protect your privacy at the table, this is one decadent spot for a celebration which was convenient as it was my guest's birthday! 
Intimate, dark and hidden away from the prying eyes of keen shoppers Chai Wu is ideal for special occasions especially when you've got cash to splash. We began at our semi-private table for two, menus in hand looking forward to diving into some epic Chinese cuisine. I started with the popcorn shrimp in a spicy creamy dressing £21 (stay with me here); while my guest went for the crispy smoked chicken with Szechuan sauce £18. We also shared vegetarian dumplings (£10 for three).
I mean, let's be real for a second - my shrimp literally looks like glazed popcorn thanks to that sauce! A nice touch. The sauce was not that spicy and was more like a Sriracha mayonnaise than anything else, but regardless it worked well with the sweet shrimp. The batter was quite rich so the dish as a whole isn't very light (you don't say!) but tasty.

My guest's choice of crispy chicken came in a shredded style and was actually quite nice. The chicken flavour was maintained despite the fiery sauce and when you bit down on a chilli - whoosh! That certainly woke your tastebuds up. 

The dumplings were my personal highlight. Great pastry, super thin and slippery; crunchy filling with plenty of texture; and a lovely little surprise sauce too. 


It was around this time that our cocktails arrived. We both went for the Blooming Hibiscus with Tanqueray gin, hibiscus flower, hibiscus syrup, lychee juice and fresh lime. Now I love gin; I also like hibiscus, but unfortunately this cocktail was not to my taste. I couldn't taste gin at all and the overwhelming flavour was lavender soap, no idea how but yes that was the final product. My guest, however, did really like hers so there you go. £12 each.
For mains things got real luxury. As it was her birthday, my guest went for a half Beijing duck (£48). For the first serving she tucked little slivers of fatty, rich duck into freshly steamed pancakes and Mantou buns. The obvious additions of cucumber, spring onions, hoi pickled radish and plum sauce all featured, but so did a platter of sauces ranging from sugared vinegar to hot-as-hell chilli sauce and garlic-ginger puree. This was a really nice addition to the 'normal' Western serving of just hoi sin sauce so thumbs up from me. I made little vegetable patties while she enjoyed her hand-carved duck.
For my main course I went for the sea bass in three-flavoured sauce (which is apparently sweet, sour and hot). The dish is served with a deep-fried whole sea base with all its flesh removed which I found really disturbing. I had to turn the fish around so I couldn't see it's eye staring at me as I ate the sticky sweet battered portions of its flesh. All of that scary imagery aside the fish was very tasty and was brilliant inside the little Mantou buns! £28.
For dessert we went for the chocolate sphere with berries and toffee caramel, which, while it eventually became a puddle, was absolutely divine. £9. I mean, who doesn't love chocolate, toffee, cream and berries. We also went for the dessert of the day - a strawberry 'cheesecake' with green tea ice cream. This was much more refreshing and I personally loved the green tea ice cream. £12.

Overall, it's pretty obvious that Chai Wu is a place for those with cash to splash on food. The dishes are well presented, nicely prepared, flavourful and memorable and while I've read some pretty scathing reviews in other places I actually quite liked it. I found the duck to be a real show piece and the accompanying sauces/buns great and that chocolate dessert is certainly a top ten. 

Thank you Chai Wu for hosting this review. All opinions and images are my own.

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