Tag Archives: caramel

Blanchette, Soho

Blanchette was a dream come true. The waiters were my friends, the food comforting, and the drinks? Well, they just kept on coming. And let’s not forget the company – Crump Eats, The Edible Woman and handsome Steve Jones (sitting on the table next to us).

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I loved it from the start. The pretty dining room was filled with quirky French ornaments, colourful tiling, brushed wood and exposed brickwork. The memory will inspire when I decorate my dream home.

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Everyone had that Thursday feeling, so we started with a round of cocktails, olives and baked St Marcelin with bruchetta and large caper berries. An indulgent start that couldn’t have been more tasty.

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The menu had a ‘French Tapas’ theme as everyone in our city loves to share. We ordered as we ate, starting with succulent Braised Octopus with radish, tomato and a Verjus dressing (£7.50), along with a Roast Quail, Jamon Sec & Herb Croquette (£7.50). The dishes were totally different, but both were matched in impeccable presentation and taste.

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Steamed Mussels were juicy and enormous (£6) and Roasted Beetroot Salad with girolles, Fleur de Marquis and a tarragon dressing (£5.75) was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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Frites and Béarnaise was a must at £3.75. We all remarked on the flavour of the chips and how well each golden wonder went with the sauce. Could Ketchup and Mayo be a thing of the past?

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At dessert, we were so impressed with Chocolate Marquise, salted caramel puffed rice and pistachio ice cream (£5.95) that we ordered a second pudding – Lemon Pot with Strawberry, Gin & Parsley Sorbet (£5.25). It was a modern take on a traditional French Strawberry Tart, brimming with beautiful creme patisserie and served with thin, crisp shortbread.

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Our last surprise came with the bill. We were stuffed and had drunk more than our fair share, yet only faced a charge of £46 each with tip. There is no doubt in my mind – I will experience this dream again and, for now, leave Blanchette with a LLE Rating of 9/10.

Blanchette, 9 D’Arblay St, London W1F 8DR

Bistro Blanchette on Urbanspoon

Tramshed, Shoreditch

On Saturday, I had dinner under a formaldehyde cow with a cockerel on its back. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.

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Some of you will know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t, I was in Mark Hix’s restaurant Tramshed – the one with Damien Hirst’s ‘Cock and Bull’ sculpture suspended from the ceiling.

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The sculpture is the perfect symbol for Tramshed –  the restaurant specialises in chicken and steak. That, and a couple of veggie options, some ‘seasonal sharing starters’ and puddings you’ll be too full for.

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I was with two carnivores and a pescetarian, so it was Swainson House Farm roast chicken for the meat-eaters and fish fingers with mushy peas for the veggie. The chicken was presented with its legs akimbo, sitting in a bowl of fries. Our friendly waitress tore off the legs before giving us the knife to carve the succulent, juicy meat with dangerously tasty skin.

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The best part were the fries that sat beneath the chicken. Each piece of potatoey goodness was drunk with chicken juice, but still managed to stay crispy. God knows how many I ate.

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On the side, we had sweet, lightly battered onion rings, a plate of chunky, sauteed field mushrooms and a salad with Roquefort and hazelnuts. Our waitress insisted on yet more fries. I wasn’t complaining, but appreciated not being charged for extras.

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All sides came in large and small portions. We went for large (naturally), which I’d recommend as they weren’t all that generous…

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Next to me sat N’s fish fingers with mushy peas, which she happily chomped on as we picked at our chicken carcass. The fish was light and moist, with a crunchy, golden crumb. The peas tasted like they were freshly picked from the garden, delicately flavoured with mint.

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We were stuffed, but couldn’t resist salted caramel fondue for dessert. Pieces of fluffy doughnut, creamy marshmallow and, eventually, our spoons were dunked into melted caramel. Pieces of fruit would have been less sickly, but it was a fitting end to our indulgent meal.

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My jaw dropped when I saw the bill. With two bottles of wine, it was only £32 per person with tip. Amazing given the quality of food, buzzing atmosphere and amazing setting. I was also impressed by the speed of service, which wasn’t pushy, but made the two hour sitting manageable.

Next time I’ll try the steak, perhaps on a Monday when you can bring your own booze. Until then, Tramshed gets a very worthy LLE Rating of 8/10.

Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3EQ

Tramshed on Urbanspoon

Dinner, Mandarin Oriental

Oh beautiful Meat Fruit, sitting delicately on my plate at Dinner last week. As my knife sliced through your shiny orange skin, I asked myself ‘how can chicken liver pâté disguised as a mandarin cause so much fuss?’.

About ten seconds later, I had my answer. This was the smoothest, creamiest, tastiest pate I’d ever eaten. Forget Dinner, this pate was fit for a banquet on Mt. Olympus.

I’d have happily eaten Meat Fruit for starter, main and dessert, but there were other temptations on the menu that evening. For main, I very much enjoyed Beer Cod with steamed mussels, along with a couple of mouthfuls of The Boyfriend’s Rice and Flesh (the flesh being calf’s tail). They may have lacked the theatre Heston is famous for, but they more than made up for it in flavour.

When it came to pudding, there were three to share – Brown Bread Ice Cream with Salted Butter Caramel and Pear (my personal favourite), Chocolate Bar with Passion Fruit Jam & Ginger Ice Cream, and an Autumn Tart of roast figs, blackberries, cinnamon and black current sorbet, all sitting on a light puff pastry base.

Everything was expertly cooked, but it was the starter (surprise surprise) and puddings that stood out for me. The whole meal was sublimely special, which you’d hope for when you consifer the scary ‘only for VERY special occasions’ price tag.

The Meat Fruit alone gives Dinner a LLE Rating of 9.5/10. As my good friend C said last night, ‘once you’ve tried that pate, there’s no turning back’.

PS – just in case you think I’ve got a new camera and enrolled on a food photography course, the picture was taken by the extremely talented Head Chef, Ashley Palmer-Watts.

Dinner, Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

Caravan, Kings Cross

Being lost will put a strain on any relationship. When The Boyfriend and I couldn’t find our way round the port in Athens, I complained, he got flustered and bam. We had our first proper argument on the first day of our first holiday. Not ideal.

A few years later and I sensed similar tension when we tried to find Caravan on Saturday night. The restaurant is built in an old grain store across a bridge that’s so new, it doesn’t show up on Google maps. In fairness to Caravan, there are very clear directions on its website, so it’s a shame we didn’t look at them.

Twenty minutes late, we received a friendly welcome at the front desk as if we were bang on time. After a quick and very reasonably priced cocktail at the bar, we went to our table in the middle of a magnificent dining room that felt very cool, without being pretentious.

The menu takes influence from around the globe. There are Italian sourdough pizzas, an Israeli couscous dish, a British lamb chop and very American grits. Fortunately, Caravan gets away with this ambitious array of food and everything we ate was ‘lick the bowl clean’ delicious.

Three of us ordered from the small plates section, two others went for pizza and The Boyfriend’s Atkins style diet demanded Wagyu striploin with horseradish, parsnips and chard from the land of the large plates.

Us small platers went to town with our order. Here’s the list: Chorizo & Butternut Squash Croquettes; New Potato Salad with Duck Egg & Samphire; Goat’s Curd with Nectarine, Braised Onion, Pine Nuts & Cress; Scallop Ceviche; Ox Tongue with Mustard, Honey & Beetroot; Grilled Quail with Chickpea Puree, Sumac & Charred Lemon; Jalapeno Corn Bread with Chilli Butter; Summerhimu Blue Cheese with Figs, Vinacotta & Truffle Oil.

We didn’t hold back, but it felt like the right amount for three people. Highlights for me were the rich croquettes, the crisp corn bread and the citrussy, sharp ceviche, but I’m pleased to say I couldn’t pick holes in any of it.

Our meal was finished off with three desserts to share – a Caramel Pot with Salted Shortbread, Treacle Tart and Affogato al Caffe. Pudding wasn’t as good as main, but after so much rich food, I think my taste buds would have found it hard to pick out any flavours.

I loved Caravan, so am happy to give it a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. Between six of us, we got through a mountain of food and booze, so I was pleasantly surprised that the bill only came to £50 pp. Especially when I consider M’s penchant for Expresso Martinis…

Caravan, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA

Pizza East, Portobello

I’d always liked the thought of Pizza East – a reasonably priced pizzeria that isn’t as ordinary as Pizza Express, but equally isn’t as random as Fire and Stone (cauliflower on Pizza, really?!). So, when I heard Shoreditch House had opened its second restaurant in Portobello, I made sure my next date with the Boyfriend was there.

I liked Pizza East instantly. Partly because I felt reassured that the restaurant seemed to be serving dinner to everyone on the Portobello Road (perhaps the calm before Carnival the next day), but I also loved the ‘fake’ rustic interior (I’m fairly certain parts of the cladded ceiling was stuck on).

You can’t book a table, but as I was told on the phone, it didn’t take long until we were seated and ordering two carafes of wine – always solves the problem when the Boyfriend wants red and I want white.

The wine arrived quickly with two small tumblers (a bit of a trend at the moment?), along with our menus.  Feeling hungry, we feasted our eyes over the options that ranged from pizza and salads, to meat and fish dishes, which clearly impressed us as we almost over ordered.

We couldn’t resist the starters, so decided to share the courgette and aubergine fritti, which came with homemade aioli. We thought the fritti would be similar to the courgette fries in Byron Burger, so were a little surprised to see the large, clumsy chunks of vegetables in front of us.  They were a little greasy and the aioli wasn’t really needed, but they satisfied our hunger and we finished feeling relieved that we hadn’t each had a plate as the portion was far too big for one person.

When picking our main courses, the Boyfriend’s eyes instantly landed on the pork belly, but he settled on the veal meatball pizza (it sounded a little ‘Fire and Stone’ for my liking).  Unfortunately for him, this ‘signature’ pizza was more like an open top pie that desperately needed gravy to moisten it, so he finished with plenty still left on his plate and a disappointed feeling in his stomach.

I was a little more traditional in my choice, going for pizza with a prosciutto, artichoke (I can’t get enough of them at the moment) and basil topping. I’m glad I went with this as it may not have been the best pizza in the world, but it’s flavours were enjoyable even though it was covered in what looked like regular ham rather than the prosciutto it promised.

The best thing about our meal was the pudding – salted chocolate caramel tart. If you like Lindt sea salt chocolate then this is the dessert for you. The salt married the smooth chocolate and sweet caramel perfectly, so my only regret was sharing it.

I think the Boyfriend was put off by his strangely dry and disappointing pizza, but I would still go back to Pizza East for the atmosphere, price and amazing chocolate tart.

Pizza East Portobello, 310 Portobello Road, London W10 5TA