Tag Archives: lamb

Typing Room, Bethnal Green

In April, Lee Westcott must have been the most stressed chef in London. He not only opened a restaurant under the watchful eye of Jason Atherton, he boldly filled Nuno Mendes’ shoes after the master chef packed up Viajante for The Chiltern Firehouse – a place so annoyingly popular, you’re unlikely to find it here.

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Fortunately for Lee, stress levels diminished as the reviews came in. Faye Maschler called it a ‘triumph’ and I, for all it’s worth, struggled to find fault with much other than the price (a drunken look of shock swept across our faces when we got the bill).

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We entered Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel and took a right into the Peg & the Patriot. Here we had an obligatory aperitif (we make our own rules), before moving across the hall for dinner. As we walked into the dining room, we were struck by the attentiveness of the many, many waiters, along with the decor, which was fresh, modern and streamlined, dotted with quirky artwork and vases of wild flowers.

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The menu had – thank goodness – ignored the stale ‘sharing’ trend, instead adopting a traditional three course approach, or a six course tasting menu for £55. Over complimentary brioche smothered in chicken skin butter, we decided to start with a £5 ‘snack’ – Cumin Lovoche, Crab, Sweetcorn & Curried Egg.

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Then, ‘To Begin’, we had Mackerel (£10), Langoustine (£15) and Veal Sweetbread (£15). The Mackerel was lovely and light, served raw with a fresh medley of passion fruit, burnt cucumber and radish. The rich, soft Sweetbread was richer, but balanced by a summery bed of crunchy raw pea, white asparagus and buttermilk.

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The Langoustine was my favourite of the three. Fat and juicy, the shellfish paired wonderfully with carrot, coriander and nutty pistachio. That said, even with my cold, I knew each dish needed a touch more seasoning.

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‘To Follow’ we were all about the meat. Pink, succulent lamb (£24) came with aromatic accompaniments of smoked aubergine, wild garlic, creamy yoghurt and sweet onion, reminding me of one of my favourite Ottolenghi creations.

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Pigeon (£26) was smoked in pine (something I probably wouldn’t have realised if it weren’t for the waiter) and the Suckling Pork Belly (£22) didn’t last long on the plate – crisp on top (good) and served with a sweet combination of peach, mustard and lettuce (better).

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‘Treats’ were a must, so we ordered three between three (you do the maths). Counting down, Green Tea with Yoghurt & Sesame (£8) came in third; the flavours were unique, but I always crave chocolate. Strawberry, pistachio & white chocolate (£9) was up next – an intensely fruity dish, it was like summer in a bowl.

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But the winner had to be Chocolate, Amaretto & Almond (£9), which won over our hearts and stomachs with its multiple textures and delightful flavours.

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I really enjoyed Typing Room and would certainly recommend it – just watch the price as it’ll creep up on you like the Candyman. I hope Lee Westcott has received a well deserved pat on the back from Jason, but either way, I’m giving his restaurant a LLE Rating of 8.5/10.

Typing Room, Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

Lyle’s, Shoreditch

When Lyle’s opened a month ago, it offered 50% off the bill to all Tea Building residents. A great idea…until I showed up with ten colleagues one Friday afternoon.

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The staff did well to smile when we arrived twenty minutes late, ruining any chances of seeing the sunshine before evening service. We settled onto a long table in the light, spacious dining room, making it clear we were in for the long haul.

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After a few bottles of fizz and more than our fair share of almost fresh bread (it’s not made on site, but will be soon), we ordered two of every sharing dish, ignoring the random fish and meat main, which seemed out of place on the menu.

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As plates arrived in swathes around me, I quickly identified my favourites. Semi-soft Gull’s Eggs (£6) were sitting pretty on whole shells, sprinkled with seaweed salt that really enhanced the flavour, whereas Asparagus (£8.50) was lightly grilled before being dipped in a nutty walnut mayonnaise.

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We ordered extras of these, as well as beautifully presented Raw Highland Beef covered in shavings of Cured Sea Urchin (£9), and Lamb’s Sweetbreads (£8.50), which I found slimy, but my colleagues raved about.

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The Hispi Cabbage with Mussels & Seaweed (£7) and thick, cheesy Cauliflower, Riseley & Lovage (£5.90) were also tasty, but we didn’t get on with the Mutton Broth & Turnips (£6.30), overly rich Blood Cake with Chicory (£6.50) or the two uninspiring salads.

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The smaller plates were…erm…small, so despite ordering extras, we had plenty of room for pudding. Plates of cheese – Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire & St James (£8.50) – went down a treat, especially when gobbled up with a piece of honeycomb or fruity chutney. Our non-cheese-eater J went for Treacle Tart & Milk Ice Cream (£5.90), which finished the meal on a high point.

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Lyle’s is a lovely looking restaurant that couldn’t be more convenient for us Tea Builders. Its friendly staff easily managed our rowdiness (who wouldn’t be excited on a Friday?!), but a few dishes felt insubstantial, so perhaps the waiters should push the mains a little more.

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That said, it’s not a bad local to have and the discount was particularly generous, so I’m giving Lyle’s a LLE Rating of 6.5/10.

Lyle’s, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ

Lyle's on Urbanspoon

Casse-Croûte, Bermondsey

I can’t get too excited – it’s only early days – but I think I’ve found my favourite London restaurant. You can go with friends, on a date, in a suit, or jeans. It’s the perfect combination of cool and comfortable, fun and romantic.

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You’ll find Casse-Croûte on Bermondsey Street *she says begrudgingly*. The petite, reasonably priced restaurant transports you to Paris, with its gingham table cloths covering wooden, candle lit tables. The waiters and menu are French; the latter written on a blackboard by the bar.

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There were three choices for each course – there were three of us, so we ordered everything. Starters were Terrine de Foie Gras (£8), Cassoulet de Ris D’Agneau (£7) and Rilette de Salmon (£6.5). I couldn’t fault any of it – the Foie Gras was like butter and the wonderfully cheesy lamb cassoulet was a meaty fondue dripping from torn pieces of bread. Even the salmon got an oh la la.

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For main, we enjoyed Barbue (fish), Lapin (rabbit) and Canard (Duck) for £14.50 each. A fantastic, emerald green risotto helped Barbue win the course competition, but the confit Canard put up a brave fight with its creamy, perfectly formed potato gratin. YUM.

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The desserts were all £4.50. Baba au Rhum had been drenched in the good stuff, yet still managed a bouncy sponge. Soufflé au Chocolate was a tad bitter for my taste, but I still ate it, in between mouthfuls of caramel infused dessert number three.

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I’m giving Casse-Croûte a LLE Rating if 10/10 – sacrebleu! I hear you say. Disagree, and you’ll save room for me. Agree, and I’ll see you there next Friday.

Casse-Croûte, 109 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XB

Andina, Shoreditch

The word Andina is typically used to describe a ‘woman in the Andes’, so perhaps Martin Morales intended his second ‘Peru in London’ restaurant for ‘ladies who lunch’ in Shoreditch. Or perhaps he didn’t give it that much thought.

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We (four ladies, one man) went to Andina on a beautiful December day. The restaurant’s long windows, white washed walls and light furniture meant we could bask in the sunshine, despite being indoors. It’s lucky we weren’t seated in the back room or – at worst – downstairs. Not that it would have mattered during the great storms of 2013.

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Just like Ceviche in Soho, the menu is filled with smaller ‘sharing’ plates and plenty of ceviche. Unlike its sister restaurant, it also boasts a number of larger main course dishes for those who secretly don’t like to share (i.e. me).

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We started with a number of dishes from the Street Food and Ceviches sections of the menu. The slightly dry Quinoa Croquettas (£4) weren’t a patch on the enormous Pig Butty (£6), which we greedily ended up getting two of.

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Inside the soft, white buns was a mountain of tender confit pork with sweet potato ketchup and salsa criolla. We even had little pots of pork on the side, just in case we didn’t have enough fatty, oh so tasty, meat.

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Of the ceviches, we had Sato (£7.5), Siwichi (£8) and Cheeky (£8.50), also known as trout, seabass, hake & cods cheek. A complete contrast to the heartier street food, it didn’t have the wow factor I’d experienced at Ceviche. Some seemed over limed and the fish wasn’t as delicately cut as I’d have liked.

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I chose Skewered Lamb Kebabs for main, which came with giant Peruvian Corn and salad. I enjoyed the tenderness of the meat and overall lightness of the meal, but couldn’t help adding a few dollops of delicious lucuma puree for extra pizazz (thanks to the plate of Lomo next to me (£20)).

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Lucuma is a native Peruvian fruit that makes the most wonderfully sweet, creamy sauce. Take my word for it, it’s a wonderful alternative to mayo or ketchup if you can get it.

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Desserts were shared and in plentiful supply. First we had a tray of Picarones (£9) – Pumpkin Doughnuts that were as light as air and even more delicious when dunked in purple corn syrup or chocolate fudge.

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The Quinoa Chocolate Brownie (£5) wasn’t my favourite. The quinoa had dried yet another dish, destroying any chance of a gooey middle and crisp, chewy top.

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Instead, the Mousse De Lucuma took me by surprise (£5). The yummy lucuma fruit had worked its magic once again, producing a sweet, creamy dessert that couldn’t have been more delicious.

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Andina was a mixed bag. Some dishes were a delight, others didn’t live up to the reputation of Ceviche. Then again, the atmosphere, price and ridiculously close location to my office is bound to draw me back. So for now, I’m giving it a LLE Rating of 6 / 10.

Andina, 1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DJ

Andina on Urbanspoon

The Crab at Chieveley, Nr. Newbury

This little gem in the middle of the Berkshire countryside was always going to be a hit with me. Why? Well it has the word ‘crab’ in its title.

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The restaurant is housed in a large, picturesque cottage you’d want to call ‘home’. The interior is typically rural, but a ceiling covered in nets and shells gives a touch of the seaside.

The menu is dominated by seafood, making my choice particularly difficult – how do you choose between Stuffed Baby Squid, Butter Poached Lobster and Pan Seared King Scallops to start? I ended up going with the waiter’s suggestion and eagerly awaited my scallops (£8.95).

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Each white, glistening scallop was just cooked through, exactly as it should be. They shared their plate with a couple of flavour enhancing clams, some crunchy, pickled baby carrots and a few shoots of samphire. It almost looked too good to eat. Almost…

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For main, the Monkfish Wellington won me over with its accompanying spinach puree, cubes of Kohl Rabi and a coating of smoked monkfish liver jus (£22). I was impressed by the tenderness of the meat as a golden pastry case can be drying. It was certainly one of the tastiest fish dishes I’d enjoyed in a long time.

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Next to me, Dad was hoping for a man-sized portion of Scallops (£21.95), but alas, the waiter produced one of The Crab’s few meat dishes – English Lamb Rack with a Dijon & Herb Crumb and Baked Moussaka (£23.50). He couldn’t deny its flavour or presentation, but the mistake left a bad taste in his mouth.

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Pudding was too tempting to refuse, so we shared an Assiette of Desserts between two (£14). Each long white plate displayed everything from creamy panacotta and a hunk of homemade honeycomb, to a ‘texture of chocolate’, lemon tart and poached baby pear. It was no more expensive than ordering a pudding each, so I’d heartily recommend this dream dessert.

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There’s so much more seafood to be had at The Crab at Chieveley, so I’ll definitely be back. My only criticisms are Dad’s main course mistake and the waiter’s slowness when filling up our wine (if you’re going to position it far from the table, keep an eye on everyone’s glasses!). And so, I’m giving The Crab a LLE Rating of 8/10.

The Crab at Cheiveley, Wantage Road, Newbury, RG20 8UE 

Grain Store, King’s Cross

When I walked into Grain Store I saw pine, painted tables dressed with root vegetables, a bustling open kitchen and a well stocked bar. All juxtaposed with an industrial ceiling of metal pipes.

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Then, I noticed Bruno Loubet, meticulously checking food before service. This made me happy. I’ve never seen a ‘celebrity’ chef actually in the kitchen, so appreciated Bruno being there, even if it’s just for one night.

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We were a large group of 12, so had the four course tasting menu at £35 a head. The dishes weren’t on the main menu, so we waited with bated breath (and mouthfuls of bread and wine) until course no.1 arrived.

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Portions of Yoghurt Flatbread with Carrot Spread, and Coco Beans, Roast Pepper & Octopus Salad, were placed in front of us. The Carrot Spread was my favourite – sweet and aromatic, it was unlike anything I’d tried before.

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The Octopus Salad wasn’t as fishy as I’d have liked, but around the table I could hear ‘mmms’ of joy, so knew it was going down well.

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Next we had Wood Fired Scorched Leeks with Sautéed Chestnut Mushrooms, Girolles & Roquefort Dressing. Vegetables are King at Grain Store, so it was nice to see the simple leek given so much attention.

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The Moussaka’s flavour was a tad disappointing, but I liked the novelty of having  minced lamb, mash and other ingredients stuffed inside an aubergine.

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The main course of Savoy Cabbage, Ash Baked Celeriac, Roast Greengage Plum, Roasted Partridge and Tarragon Jus would make a great, if not slightly pretentious, Sunday lunch. This time on individual plates, it was cooked perfectly and I loved the greengage, but probably wouldn’t have ordered it given the choice.

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By contrast, the pudding was exactly what I’d have chosen. Chocolate & Red Bean Cake was served with Ginger Ice Cream, Black Sesame Sauce & Confit Mango. A masterful combination of flavours that forced me to polish off The Boyfriend’s leftovers.

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Grain Store gets a LLE Rating of 7/10The food wasn’t always what I wanted, but each course was interesting and appealed to different people round the table. What’s more, the atmosphere was second to none, they made an excellent White Lady cocktail (always a deal breaker for more) and the staff were lovely – I even managed a chat with Sous Chef Neil Campbell at the end.

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Grain Store, Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, King’s Cross, London N1C 4AB

Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Honey & Co., Fitzrovia

Honey & Co didn’t get off to the best start when they forgot our booking. But after a quick reshuffle – and the promise of free wine – we were soon seated in the small, no frills restaurant packed with happy Londoners laughing the night away.

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We decided to go with the set menu, which for £26 each gave us a selection of ‘luxury’ mezze to start and a main course each. As an added extra, we also ordered Chicken Liver Baklava (£7.50) – a wise decision by Crump Eats.

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Then the wait began. We sat for twenty-five minutes before some – but not all – of our mezze arrived. Another faux pas by Honey & Co., but one the food helped us forget.

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I enjoyed every mezze – my favourites being the crisp Jerusalem Falafel and Burnt Courgette Dip, which had the most deliciously smoky flavour. The Chicken Liver Baklava was wonderfully meaty, sweetened by the grape molasses. I should have kept that dish to myself.

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We decided to share each main, starting with Lamb & Aubergine Moussaka (£13.50), which was fragrant and light, but didn’t have enough cheesy béchamel for me.

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The Royal Mansaf (£14.50) was by far the better lamb dish. The slow cooked meat fell apart and paired wonderfully with the saffron rice, almonds and juicy golden raisins.

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We also enjoyed the Mushahan (£13.50), which was slow cooked chicken based in flat bread with pomegranate and currants…

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…but we regretted our decision to try Kibbe Selek (£13.50). Honey & Co. recommends you try it ‘at least once’. I disagree, unless thick semolina dumplings with a tiny beef filling floats your boat. That said, the ‘crazy beetroot soup’ was interesting and had a rich, earthy flavour.

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Dessert was Pistachio Cake. Beautifully nutty, it disappeared in the blink of an eye, satisfying every sweet tooth around the table.

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When the bill arrived we realised Honey & Co.’s third and final mistake. Two mezze dishes hadn’t arrived – Fig & Goat Cheese Salad and Warm Artichoke Hearts. Dessert was taken off the bill, but we all felt disappointed not to try two of the most tempting options.

Most of the food was excellent and I loved the overall vibe, but there were three too many mistakes at Honey & Co., bringing my LLE Rating down to 6.5 /10.

Honey & Co., 25a Warren Street, London W1T 5LZ