Tag Archives: chips

The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead

Keats, Byron, Dickens, Stoker, me. No, I’m not trying to compare myself to these great writers and poets. As if. Instead, I’m including myself in the ever-increasing list of punters that have visited The Spaniards Inn.

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Built in 1585, this pub of literary dreams is filled with ladies, gentlemen and children from London and further afield. We went on a sunny Sunday, so rather than sit in the dark, cosy dining room, we found a spot in the huge, beautiful garden.

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Garden diners have to order at the bar, so after a brief look at the menu, we went for a Scotch Egg with Picalilli (£5) and Cornish Sardine Fillet (£7.50) to start, followed by good old Fish & Chips, or Sustainably Caught Cod in Cider & Tarragon Batter as they call it (£14).

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The sardine stole the starter show. Sitting on toasted sour dough, it had a lovely smokey flavour that was brightened by sweet and juicy confit heritage tomatoes. The Scotch Egg was fine, but I found the meat casing a tad mushy and couldn’t help but compare it to the pulled pork and chorizo wonder I’d devoured in Brixton Village the day before.

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The Fish & Chips were great. The batter was light, the double cooked chips crisp and the pea puree fresh as a daisy and laced with summery mint. No complaints there.

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We skipped dessert, deciding to wander round the Heath with an ice-cream. Had I relented, Orange Meringue with Raspberries & Strawberry Coulis would have been the obvious choice.

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I’ve already planned my next visit, so unsurprisingly, I’ll give The Spaniards Inn a LLE Rating of 8/10. Go with friends, family and out of towners who love great pub grub with a side of history.

The Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London NW3 6JJ

Spaniards Inn on Urbanspoon

Rockfish, Dartmouth

With so much talk of smog, I craved fresh, sea air. So, my friends and I left our poor, polluted capital and drove four and a half hours to Devon – a place where the words ‘this certainly blows the cobwebs away!’ are said far to regularly.

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Saturday was spent driving along the coast, stopping in between showers for walks along the beach, ice cream and lunch in oh so pretty Dartmouth.

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Rockfish looks out onto the harbour, sporting a very turquoise exterior that’s in keeping with its seaside location. Inside, the sea theme continues, with white washed walls, thick ropes and an open kitchen.

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We ordered fish, followed by fish, starting with two pints of Norwegian prawns (£9.50) and a plate of calamari (£7.50). It was nothing I hadn’t had before, but tasted all the more delicious when paired with the Rockfish slogan ‘Tomorrow’s fish are still in the sea’. Watch out Nemo.

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Mains were a mix of Haddock & Chips (£12.95), Plaice with Salad (£11.95) and my lovely South Devon Crab Roll (£9.95). Aside from the stack of chips, I’d managed to choose the healthiest option – two brioche baps cradling fresh, undressed crab meat with salady bits. It was lovely, but I should have picked deep fried, golden haddock, which – from the bite I tried – tasted superb.

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We decided to wander outside for dessert – a 99p Devon Ice Cream with the obligatory flake – so ended our meal at Rockfish with coffees (some Irish).

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I hope to return to Rockfish one day. The setting couldn’t be prettier and the food is exactly what you crave after breathing in so much pure, smogless air. So Rockfish, I’m giving you a healthy LLE Rating of 7.5/10.

Rockfish, 8 South Embankment, Dartmouth TQ6 9BH

The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

When Tom Kerridge opened The Hand & Flowers, he put pretty Marlow on the map. It’s a gastropub with two Michelin stars. A gastropub that’s been on my restaurant bucket list for well over a year.

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We booked at Christmas and went three weeks ago – something the hungry punters at the bar should have done. Our square, wooden table was at the back of the charming restaurant, complete with exposed beams, white-washed walls and wild flowers.

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We chose from the Michelin priced menu, whilst munching on complimentary white bait and bread. The homemade sourdough and soda was delightful and the lightly battered fish was dunked and devoured in an instance. We were off to a great start.

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Pumpkin soup from the very reasonable set menu (two courses for £15, three for £19.50) was velvety, nutty and made all the more special with aromatic truffle.

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Crab Ravioli (£11.50) had a wonderful flavour, but the best part sat on top – sweet, chargrilled calcot onion smothered in smokey butter. Delicious.

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Mains were Cornish Monkfish smeared in a peanut crumble and served with roasted cauliflower (£29.50) and a Half Beer Roast Chicken with Glazed Celariac and more of that tasty truffle (£28).

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The chicken was succulent and, much to my surprise, blew the monkfish out of the water. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the fish – who knew it went so well with peanut?

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Across the table sat pork belly from the set menu. The verdict was clear from the mmms, ahhhs and ‘this is the best crackling I’ve ever had!’ statements. Another hit.

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We couldn’t refuse a couple of sides (all £4.50 each), so chose Curly Kale with Crispy Ham Hock (a meal in itself) and the Hand & Flowers Chips – a staple for any good gastro.

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Dessert was a must. Sweet Malt Gateaux with Malted Milk Ice Cream (£9.50) wasn’t my usual choice, but Lent made chocolate off limits. It was presented beautifully, but for me, didn’t have as memorable a flavour as the other courses.

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Tom Kerridge – aka Mr Gastropub – deserves a handshake and a bunch of flowers. This bloomin’ marvellous pub gets a LLE Rating of 9/10 and a strong recommendation to anyone visiting or lucky enough to live in Marlow.

The Hand & Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2PB

MEATmission, Hoxton

I wrote about MEATliquor in 2011, so will keep this post brief. The menu at MEATmission is very similar – deep fried pickles reign supreme (a bargain at £3.50) and there are more burgers than you can throw your patty at.

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But, it’s a darn sight nicer inside. Housed in an old church, it has high ceilings, vibrant stained glass windows, a Dj Booth and a round central bar. It’s cleaner, airier and cooler; I didn’t leave feeling like I’d just joined the pickles in the deep fat fryer.

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Plus, you can book! That’s right my friends, there will be no queuing in the rain as you inhale burger steam bellowing out from the kitchen. There will be no arguments when your friends show up late making you miss your table. This is a restaurants with morals.

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Food wise, I decided to branch out with a healthy Halloumi burger – it was January after all (£7). Yummy and enormous, it was made up of three giant slabs of cheese burst out of two buns, smothered with mushrooms, red onion, lettuce, mustard & ketchup.

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We shared Gravy Fries (£6), which was a mound of chips topped with caramelised onions and gravy. It reminded me of the last, gravy drenched roast potato you can’t quite fit in. Soggy, mushy, yet wickedly tasty.

MEATmission gets a LLE Rating of 7/10. It’s far nicer than MEATliquor, so the only place I’ll go for a dirty burger and a side of juicy pickles.

MEATmission, 14-15 Hoxton Market, London, N1 6HG 

MEATmission on Urbanspoon

Paramount, Soho

Paramount has had a hard time of late. First Duck & Waffle opened in the Heron Tower, stealing its crown as London’s highest restaurant. Then, The Shard poked its pointy nose in with Oblix – the new dinner destination for hungry tourists. Oh dear Paramount, what’s a 149-meter restaurant to do?

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Luckily for Paramount, it can rest assured that it still has an incredible view of the Capital, serves tastier food than the poorly reviewed Oblix and – unlike its towering rivals – can usually be booked at a moments notice. Read more…

Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DD

Hixter, Shoreditch

As Mark Hix continues his London takeover, so opens Hixter opposite Liverpool Street station. It’s very similar to Tramshed, specialising in chicken and steak, but minus the formaldehyde cow with a cockerel on its head. I guess they’re hard to come by…

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The restaurant’s also a lot smaller, but the long mirror at one end makes it feel more spacious. There’s bright, modern art on the walls and red leather seats perfect for local ‘city’ boys looking to fill their bellies before heading downstairs to London’s second Mark’s Bar.

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We shared all of food, starting with Yorkshire Pudding & Whipped Chicken Livers (£3.95), De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon with Pickled Cucumber (£5.25) and Cock ‘n’ Bull Croquettes with Wild Chervil Mayonnaise (£4.95).

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Each was perfectly tasty, but it was the Yorkshire Pudding – or rather the Whipped Chicken Livers – that stood out for me. The chicken livers had a sweet, wholesome flavour that was carried by the crisp, bouncy pudding. A triumph.

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Next up it was a Herb Roasted Chateaubriand (£75) and half a Barn-Reared Indian Rock Chicken (£25). We asked for a whole bird, but the waiter looked at our enthusiastic faces and suggested half. Thank god for that.

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The steak was cooked rare and our knives slid through it like butter. The chicken was juicy and succulent, but not as impressive as what I’d had at Tramshed. I disliked the half hearted stuffing, which was dry, flaky and resembled a heap of moss.

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We didn’t need sides, but ordered them anyway – it was Christmas after all. The Grilled Field Mushrooms (all £4.25 for small, £6.95 for large) were deliciously garlicky and definitely what I’d recommend. The chips were chips – yummy, but not spectacular.

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The Credit Crunch Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Sauce (£1.90 per scoop) was a delicious, but unnecessary dessert – we’d consumed rather a lot by this stage. Another time I might have one less starter and indulge in the Salted Caramel Fondue.

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Hixter doesn’t have the wow factor of Tramshed, or the variety of Hix Soho, but it’s still an enjoyable joint that I’d be happy to go back to. It’s also very well priced, so for all that, I’m giving Mark a pat on the back and Hixter a LLE Rating of 6/10. 

Hixter, 9a Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4AE

Hixter on Urbanspoon

MASH, Soho

I felt sorry for MASH. I went three days after my magnificent meal at CUT, so it didn’t stand a chance in the Battle of the Steaks.

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To make it fair, I’ve deliberately left enough time between both meals before writing my ‘non-biased’ review. Gone are my memories of CUT with its glorious bread, glistening meat and gorgeous puddings. My focus is now – entirely – on MASH.

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We were there for its 1st birthday, partly to celebrate, partly to enjoy 50% off its huge list of steaks. The smiley, handsome waiter sat us in a leather booth at one end of the dramatic, chandeliered basement and quickly persuaded us to order a rather expensive bottle of red. Damn him and his good looks!

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We skipped starters and went straight to mains. The Uruguayan 300g Ribeye caught my eye (£29 full price), served with sides of fries, mushrooms and indulgent Mac ‘n’ Cheese (£4.50 each).

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We shared accompaniments and sauces – Bearnaise, Pepper and Red Wine (all at £2.50). I shouldn’t really say this, but the sauces were almost double the price of those at CUT. My first and last comparison, I promise.

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The steak itself was full flavoured, juicy and cooked as requested. It was also gristly, so not completely wonderful. The sides were fine and I did enjoy the macaroni, but could only manage a small spoonful.

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We were too full for dessert (rare for me), so paid the bill, lifted our weary bodies and made our way home.

MASH gets a LLE Rating of 6/10. The food was decent, but if it wasn’t for the 50% deal on steaks, I’d have felt ripped off. I’d rather go back to CUT. There, I said it.

MASH, 77 Brewer Street, London W1F 9ZN

MASH on Urbanspoon