Tag Archives: cod

Cafe Murano, St James’s

Cafe Murano appeared in almost every 2014 ‘best restaurant’ list. Everything from the olive oil to the cocktails were praised, along with the light and breezy price tag. Angela Hartnett had done it again and I wasn’t going to waste another Saturday night without experiencing it for myself.

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What struck me on arrival was the smart, sophisticated dining room. The prices might be easier on the eye than nearby Murano, but that certainly wasn’t reflected in the decor. This is the place to impress a date, whilst secretly high-fiving yourself for not breaking the bank.

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Over a glass of Champagne (dry January eat your heart out), we nibbled on my favourite Sicilian olives (£3) and a couple of light, aromatic truffle arancini (£4). A perfectly simple way to start.

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We both choose starters from the Antipasti menu, not that the Primi options weren’t crying out for attention. I went with an Octopus salad with potato, preserved lemon and parsley (£9). The flavour was lovely, but it confirmed something to me. Cold octopus is not nice, it’s slimy.

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Up next was cod with romanesco and an Italian cured meat called Guanciale (£17.50). I loved the simplicity of this dish. Tender white flakes of cod were boosted by the meat and nutty romanesco. It also went well with our sides of buttery polenta and wild rocket (both £3.75 each).

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I had a cheese plate for dessert (£12) served with yummy London honey and biscuits. As for L, the Amalfi Lemon Tart (£6) proved too tempting and disappeared in an instant.

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It’s rare to find a central restaurant serving near perfect food at a reasonable price in a gorgeous setting, but that’s what you get at Cafe Murano. I will go back and I will recommend. This really is a ‘best restaurant’.

Cafe Murano, 33 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1HD

Food 4/5 – Price 5/5 – Staff 4/5 – Atmosphere – 5/5

Cafe Murano on Urbanspoon

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

Berner’s Tavern, Fitzrovia

Berner’s Tavern is one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen. I know I’m gushing, but it’s worth the hype.

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The magnificent room is decorated in an insane number of gold framed paintings that reach up to a dramatic ceiling and magnificent chandelier. To the side, a grandiose bar shines in the eyes of its customers, tempting them to ‘just one more drink’.

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We were there for a late lunch and had all the time in the world. So, we made each course of Jason Atherton’s award winning food count, starting with freshly baked bread and a glass of Ruinart Brut (£12).

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Egg, Ham & Peas (£8.50) was the only starter for me. The deep fried egg sat on a bed of mushy, minted peas, overflowing with golden yolk. Next to it, crispy Cumbrian ham acted as soldiers, adding salt and texture to the egg. I couldn’t fault it and – despite L’s tempting Potato & Parsley soup with black pudding & Dorset snails – would choose it every time.

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Roast Cornish Sea Bass came next (£24.50). All the mains were on the small side, which suited me, but might leave a man wanting. The fish was quickly drowned by the waiter, who poured too much mustard sauce on top. Perhaps he was hoping to revive the poor creature, but for me, it was overkill.

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I envied L’s Atlantic Halibut with Squid Ink Risotto (£24) and H’s South Coast Cod (£19), but we all agreed that the starters showed up the mains. That said, the Duck Fat Chips (£4) couldn’t have been better.

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Chocolate Filled Doughnut (£7) and Chocolate Rice Pudding (£7) weren’t the most attractive, but each mouthful filled my heart (and stomach) with joy. The Caramel Apple & Calvados Eclair was quite the opposite – incredibly pretty, the pastry felt dry and I’d have preferred a creme patisserie filling.

The infectious atmosphere and glorious surroundings forced us to the bar for a cocktail. We didn’t want to leave, and why would we? The food was almost perfect, the staff friendly and the drinks expertly made. So for all of that and more, I’m giving Berner’s Tavern a LLE Rating of 8/10.

Berner’s Tavern, 10 Berner’s Street, London W1T 3NP

Berners Tavern on Urbanspoon

Octagon Dining Room, Marylebone

I’ve to-d and fro-d about writing this. The restaurant’s in Home House, so unless you have membership – or know someone that does – it’s unlikely you’ll go. Then again, I made it in, so I guess anything’s possible.

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The Octagon Dining Room is one of two restaurants in this exclusive private members club, famed for an eclectic clientele and fabulously avant-garde parties. The room is golden, sleek and relatively small, with soporific velvet armchairs and black, stone tables that nod towards the Asian fusion menu. Over head is a beautiful 1820s ceiling – a splendid contrast to what’s at eye-level.

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Sitting in luxury, we nibbled Edamame Beans, drank Sancerre and perused the menu. Our order was simple – a special sushi platter to share (£20), three Black Cod with a Miso-Mirin Marinade (£31 each) and sides of Steamed Jasmine Rice, Pak Choi and Baked Aubergine at £3 per dish.

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The fresh sushi platter combined California Rolls with Prawn Tempura & Avocado, Salmon & Avocado, Futo Maki, Salmon Nigiri and Tuna Roll. I’m a sashimi fan, but couldn’t deny the depth of flavour and meticulous preparation.

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It was my second time eating Black Cod and yet again it blew me away. Each sweet, succulent flake melted like butter in my mouth. It ruined any chance of remembering the sides – they were superfluous to my dish of dreams.

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I had the Jivara Chocolate “Pot” with Cherry Compote & Green Tea Curls for dessert (£7). It was deliciously chocolatey and maintained the meal’s artistic attention to detail.

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The Octagon Dining Room gets a LLE Rating of 7/10. It looses points for exclusivity, but gains many for the beautiful Black Cod. See you again dear fish.

Octagon Dining Room, Home House, 20 Portman Square, London W1H 6LW

Breddos vs The Player, Soho

You’ve gotta love a ‘soft opening’. There are no queues, the staff are full of enthusiasm and – best of all – there’s almost always a discount on food.

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Breddos vs The Player is a great example of this. Normally found at Netil Market, Breddos Taco Shack quietly opened its pop up in The player last week – a dark, underground bar that I avoid in the sunshine, but enjoy when winter closes in.

Twitter spilt the beans, so we pitched up at 7.30pm last Wednesday, were immediately sat at a large table and, after around ten minutes, found ourselves tucking into yummy Tacos with 50% off the price tag.

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Feeling hungry – and seduced by the price – we each ordered a Taco Tray (normally £14). On the tray were all five tacos; Spiced Chestnut Mushroom, Jerk Pulled Pork, Crunchy Nut Fried Chicken, Twice Fried Cod Cheeks and 10 Hour Chipotle Beef Short Rib.

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The attentive staff topped up our water and wine at least five times and served our tacos with a smile.We all had our favourites. For me, it was the juicy pork and beef tacos, both packed with flavour and punchy heat. By contrast, the cod cheeks were a little dry and the veggie taco was…well…veggie.

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On the side, Chipotle & Jalapeño Slaw (£2) was crunchy, fresh and hot, hot, hot, whereas Pork Belly Croquettes (£5) were indulgent cubes of fatty goodness that our waistbands insisted on sharing.

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Breddos vs The Player didn’t blow me away, but Tacombi in New York was a hard act to follow. That said, I enjoyed the fun atmosphere, tasty tacos and attractive price, so will give it a LLE Rating of 6/10.

 Breddos vs. The Player, 8 Broadwick St  London W1F 8HN 

*It was too dark to take pictures, so the ones you’ll find above are courtesy of The Gaztronome 

The Fish & Chip Shop, Islington

Ordering at The Fish & Chip Shop wasn’t easy. How did they expect me to choose between Shrimp Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Fish Pie with Cheesy Crust, Lobster & Avocado and Beer Battered Cod? Not to mention Breaded Scampi, Fish Fingers and Whole Lemon Sole! I was somewhere between heaven and hell; stuck in a fishy limbo.

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As I looked round the restaurant’s nautical interior, I knew I had to make a choice. So, I confidently ordered Isle of Man Crab on Toast (£10.75), followed by Griddled Tiger Prawns (£15). Why the confidence? Well, I’d already struck a deal to eat half my companion’s Fillet of Cod (£16).

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Isle of Man Crab on Toast lived up to its price, both in size and flavour. Brown crab meat was spread on a large slice of toasted brown bread, topped with a generous layer of white meat, slices of avocado and a lemon juice and chilli dressing. It was delightful and – despite my earlier hesitation – the perfect start to our meal.

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When the Griddled Tiger Prawns arrived something wonderful happened. Out of nowhere, our waiter questioned the number of prawns on my plate. Apparently, eight wasn’t enough, so he promptly brought four more. The sweet, juicy prawns tasted fantastic, so you can imagine my delight.

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As for my compadre’s Fillet of Cod, it had spent a little too long in the oven, so was drier than hoped. However, the bed of spinach and thick, parsley sauce gave the sustainable fish the flavour and moisture it needed.

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Our greed also bought us Fresh Cut Chips (£3) and Crushed Peas (£3). The bright green peas tasted like they were fresh from the garden, enhanced by mint.

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Other reviewers had been unkind  to the chips, but we couldn’t see a problem – they were well salted, crisp on the outside and deliciously soft inside. A perfectly adequate chip in my humble opinion.

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We left it there, partly because we were asked to move tables to make way for another booking. Not a huge issue, but slightly irritating as we’d booked in advance and had only been sat for an hour and a half.

Although The Fish & Chip Shop lost points at the end and was a tad over priced, I’m still giving it a LLE Rating of 7.5 / 10. I can’t wait to go back and try more from the mouthwatering menu – London Particular Fritters, Shrimp Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Burnt Chocolate Cream are next on my list.

The Fish & Chip Shop, 189 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RQ

The Fish and Chip Shop on Urbanspoon

Zenkichi, Brooklyn, NYC

By our ninth day in America, my stomach had grown accustomed to super sized portions, so an eight course Omakase Tasting Menu at Zenkichi felt like a walk in Central Park.

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Zenkichi is a modern Japanese brasserie in Brooklyn, perfect for first dates and  romantic meals. Its extraordinary layout couldn’t be more intimate, made up of private, warmly lit wooden booths hidden by bamboo blinds. It’s a popular style in Tokyo, where the owner calls home.

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At $65 a head, the seasonal tasting menu is changed every five weeks, filled with popular Tokyo dishes. Sake is the drink of choice and there’s an a la carte menu for those not wanting to go the whole ‘tasting’ hog.

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Our first course was a traditional Miso Soup, filled with fried tofu and scallions. Well made Miso always takes me by surprise. I don’t understand how something can taste amazing and also be good for you.

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Next up was a beautiful ‘chilled plate’ of Sashimi, Sea Bream Sunomono and Tamago Tofu Shrimp Anake.

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The sashimi melted in the mouth, making me wish for more. The sea bream came marinated in the most wonderfully sweet plum-shino vinegar sauce, and the chilled egg custard tofu was brought to life by a yuzu pepper shrimp broth.

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The Zenkichi Salad of homemade tofu, baby greens and yuba arrived next, coated in a sesame dressing. I was wowed by its simple, yet powerful flavours – this was a dish to replicate at home.

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The meal continued with perfectly cooked Late Spring Tempura of Mongo Iha squid, inen beans and corn, along with Saikyo Miso Cod. I could write an entire post about the cod. It was heavenly – soft like butter, succulent and sweet, it now takes centre stage on my list of desert island foods.

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I was so blown away by the cod, it was hard to concentrate on the rest of the meal.   Takiawase and Filet Mignon Tataki Donburi were both delicious, but hard to remember after the best dish of the evening.

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We decided to order three of the four desserts – Mineoka Tofu, Frozen Black Sesame Mousse and Walnut Chocolate Pudding.

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The chef clearly gave as much attention to dessert as he’d given the rest of the meal. Each pudding was as individual as the main courses, with creamy and light Mineoka Tofu topping the bill (a surprise for me).

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If I ever go back to Zenkichi, I’ll probably choose a la carte. That’s not to say my American sized stomach can’t handle eight courses, but in an ideal world, I’d be eating Black Miso Cod for starter, main and dessert.

Zenkichi, 77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211