Tag Archives: halibut

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy

Kaspar is not just any cat. He’s is two foot high, shiny black cat that’s been The Savoy’s Fourteenth Guest since 1926.

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He’s reassured superstitious diners at a tables of 13 for almost 100 years. I won’t go into why – a simple ‘Google’ will fill the gaps – but I shall say that his job’s so important, The Savoy named its river restaurant after him following the multi-million pound restoration of 2010.

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The restaurant is Art Deco fabulousness, just like Kaspar. Overlooking the Thames, it’s bustling, vibrant and relaxed – a stark contrast to the prim and proper Thames Foyer next door.

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Covered in mirrors, turquoise chairs, a chequerboard marble floor and brass railings, everything circles the central seafood bar, which has stunning stalagmites of glass hanging precariously above busy waiters serving Champagne, oysters and other oceanic delights.

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I’ve been to Kaspar’s twice – once for breakfast and the other time at lunch. The breakfast menu is enormous, covering off the classics, the continental, Kaspar’s more unusual Breakfast Favourites and a Japanese and Chinese selection if you fancy something exotic.

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I was drawn to Cornish Crab on an English Muffin with a Fried Egg (£17), but settled with a less adventurous, but absolute favourite, Salmon Royal (also £17). Oozing poached eggs fell on thick cut salmon and lightly toasted muffins, covered in a golden, lemony sauce. On the side, an endless supply of orange juice, fresh strawberry & raspberry tea and rye bread smothered in fruity jam filled my stomach. I was in breakfast heaven.

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Lunchtime was all about the fish, starting with a cured platter from the central bar (£22). Beetroot Cured Halibut, Peppered Monkfish and Star Anise Cured Salmon all had enormous flavour, needing nothing more than a vessel of toast and a squeeze of lemon.

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Dover Sole came ‘from the grill’, covered in a brown caper butter sauce (£35). The simple white meat was succulent and rich, accompanied by well executed sides of Sautéed Spinach and Chilli Garlic Fried Sprouting Broccoli (£4 each).

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If I’m as lucky as Kaspar, I’ll get to dine at his restaurant for a third time – perhaps in the evening when the Thames is aglow with our city’s lights. Until then, I’ll give him a pat on the head and a very well deserved LLE Rating of 8/10.

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy, The Strand, London WC2R 0EU

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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

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Dabbous, Whitfield Street

In January, Ollie Dabbous opened the doors to his self-named restaurant (pronounced Da-Boo).  A few weeks later, Fay Maschler called the food ‘game changing’ and awarded it four stars in the Evening Standard. Today, Dabbous is known as one of the biggest success stories of 2012, with a waiting list that reads like The Fat Duck and one Michelin star under its belt.

Chef Ollie Dabbous

Ollie Dabbous’ impressive CV features some of the best restaurants in the world, from Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Hibiscus in the UK, to wd-50 in New York, Murgaritz in San Sebastian and Noma in Copenhagen. As he’ll tell you on his website, Dabbous focuses on clean flavours, seasonal ingredients and innovation. His aim is to create food that is modern and impressive, simple and restrained – you won’t find overcomplicated, lavish sauces on Ollie’s menu.

The popularity of Dabbous means tables must be booked months in advance – around five for lunch and up to a year (yes, a year) for dinner. Our recent lunch reservation was made back in June, so when the day finally came to go, we were quite literally champing at the bit.

Situated just around the corner from Goodge Street, Dabbous is protected by a tall, heavy black door that may seem more at home at a bank, or indeed, the MI5 building. Inside, simple wooden tables and chairs sit on a concrete floor, surrounded by wired screens and exposed pipes. It’s safe to say the décor is urban, edgy and cool, without feeling grimy.

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 The theme continues downstairs at the bar, run by award-winning mixologist Oskar Kinberg. Although we were there for the food, a quick peak at the menu told us the cocktails were seasonal, made up of ‘The Classics’ and Oskar’s own creations. There are also bar snacks available, many of which we recognised from the menu upstairs.

Talking of upstairs, the staff – who were trendy, yet approachable – showed us to our table before taking us through the menu options. As it was lunchtime, we had the choice to go A la Carte, with the Tasting Menu or the Set Lunch. Considering the hype, Michelin star and quality of ingredients, the prices were surprisingly reasonable, with the set menu coming in at just £26 for four courses.

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At the other end of the scale, the Tasting Menu was £54 per person, covering off seven dishes and an eighth that asked for a £9 supplement. This menu was a commitment for the whole table, so knowing this might be the only time we’d get to sample the delights of Dabbous, it was the obvious choice. That, and a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet from the extensive wine list of reds, whites and desserts, all at varying price points.

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With wine came a paper bag of freshly made bread and a whipped spoonful of creamy salted butter sat on a dark piece of slate. As moreish as it was, we were careful not to eat too much as it wasn’t long before the tasting menu began, starting with Hispi Cabbage with Sunflower, accompanied by a short description from our knowledgeable waiter (obligatory at the start of each course).

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It must be a good sign when a chef manages to make cabbage taste so good. Blanched and crunchy, it came with a nutty sunflower mayonnaise that had a rural beauty due to the petals and seeds lightly sprinkled on top.

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Next up was an equally inventive dish, again made with the simplest of ingredients – celeriac, grapes, hazelnuts and lovage (a hard to come by herb that has the flavour of parsley, celery and aniseed).  All ingredients were brought together in a pretty consommé topped with an olive oil emulsion. The result was refreshing, light, fragrant and unique, something that was becoming a common theme at Dabbous.

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Much like Heston’s Meat Fruit, the third course has already become the restaurant’s signature dish. Coddled Free Range Hen Egg with Woodland Mushrooms & Smoked Butter came in an eggshell that sat in a straw filled plant pot. It was the highlight of the meal so far, tasting like an intensely rich fry-up, with the smoked butter acting the part of the bacon.

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The next two courses were what you could call the mains – Braised Halibut with Coastal Herbs and Barbecued Iberico Pork with a Savory Acorn Praline, Turnip Tops & Apple Vinegar. The halibut was light, poached to perfection and brought to life by the wonderful sauce of verbena, vermouth and bright pink pickled garlic, whereas the slab of pork was rare, salted and substantial, sitting on a bed of crunchy acorns that sweetened the dish.

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We now had a decision to make – do we, or do we not, pay £9 to have cheese when there are still two desserts to come? It wasn’t just greed that made us say yes, our waiter talked us into sharing one. On a plate lay four slices of creamy artisan cheese – two sheep, one goat, and a cow – next to half a baked, caramelised apple and a portion of toasted sourdough. I’m glad we decided to have it, but I’m also glad we decided to share. After five courses, one each would have quite possibly killed our appetites and ruined pudding.

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The first dessert was Fresh Milk Curds, Birch Sap, Winter Fruit & Vegetables. The sweet yet savoury curds hid chunks of chewy birch sap and crunchy vegetables, one of which chorogi (Japanese artichoke). The dish was unusual, but by no means unpleasant, making an interesting bridge from the mains into pudding.

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For me, the best came at the end with a bowl of Chocolate Soaked Brioche served with Barley Malt Ice-Cream, Azuki Beans and Pecans.  It was everything you’d ever want from a pudding – varying textures, balanced sweetness and a cooling, melting topping. Simply sublime.

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At the end of our eight courses, we felt like Ollie Dabbous had not only treated us, but also taught us a few things. In two and a half hours, he’d shown us how simple ingredients can feel exciting and exotic, that you don’t need to hide behind white tablecloths, fancy lighting, suited waiters and bound menus if the food is excellent, and it’s always worth adding a few complimentary surprises to the meal – the French sponge cherry pudding given with our bill being a case in point.

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Dabbous gets an LLE Rating of 9.5 / 10 – the half point cap because I’ll probably never get to eat there again.

Dabbous, 29 Whitfield Street, London W1T 2SF

LIMA London

Best New Latin American Restaurant (Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2012),  One to Watch (National Restaurant Awards 2012) and Restaurant of the Week (London Evening Standard, 18th July 2012). Wow, Lima must be EXCELLENT.

It also crossed my mind that Lima must live up to the hype, as I made my booking for The Boyfriend’s birthday. But they’d have felt no pressure from us. That was saved for Giles Coren, sitting on the table opposite.

Two Pisco Sours kicked off the celebrations, accompanied by fresh bread, oil and red salt. “Red salt?” I asked Juan, our knowledgable waiter. “It’s from the Amazon” he replied. At that moment I knew our meal would be special. If, albeit, a little pretentious.

Pisco Sours became wine as red salt became starters – Sea Bream Ceviche for me and Braised Octopus al Olivo for The Boyfriend. The ceviche was made with white tiger’s milk. White tiger’s milk?! This was all getting too much, but it turns out Head Chef Virgilio Martinez doesn’t have a white ‘milking’ tiger in the garden. Instead, it comes from fish and is one of the essential ingredients that made my bream tangy, tender and ultimately, delicious.

Half way through the ceviche, The Boyfriend’s octopus caught my eye, so I went in for a bite. The succulent, lightly charred tentacles (shudder) made my stomach crave another forkful, much to The Boyfriend’s dismay.

For main, we went with Juan’s recommendation of Halibut with Andean Herbs and Confit of Suckling Pig. Polar opposites in taste and presentation, they were both wonderful. But, it was the halibut that won the main course trophy, mainly because of the Cancha Corn Parfait that lay alongside. It was like a delicate corn bread. Sweet and savoury, spongy and crisp, it was the perfect accompaniment to the fish, yet could have done the job on its own.

Our Peruvian adventure ended with Cacao Porcelana 75% with Mango & Hierbabuena Granita, topped with…wait for it…Blue Potato Crystal. I was impressed that without asking, Juan had arranged for Happy Birthday to be spelt out in granita on our plate. I was also impressed that Juan hadn’t sung happy birthday as the pretty chocolate dessert made its way to our table. No offence Juan.

I loved this restaurant and, if it wasn’t for the slightly scary prices (our meal with drinks came to just under £120 with tip), I’d go back in a heartbeat. Lima, you can now add one more accolade to add to the list – a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. You never know, that might actually mean something one day.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH