Tag Archives: mussels

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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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

The Bonnie Gull, Fitzrovia

‘Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in.’

This English folk song played in my head all day on Thursday. The reason? Well apart from my annoying brain, I was off to the Bonnie Gull that evening – a seafood shack in Fitzrovia that serves fresh British fish to the people of London.


Driftwood chairs, shells acting as doorhandles, white paper table cloths and shelves made from fish merchant’s boxes transport you miles from central London, to a coastal town. A CD playing ‘sounds from the ocean’ wouldn’t feel out of plaice* in this charming restaurant. But I can sea** why that might be a step too far.


Our booking was a late one – 9pm to be precise. Despite getting there a little early, we were seated quickly and it wasn’t long before we’d ordered food and enjoyed an amuse bouche of Jerusalem Artichoke soup.

Staring at the ever-changing menu, we skipped the ‘raw bar’ and went straight for starters – Pembrokeshire Mussels for me and Isle of Man Queenies for The Boyfriend. My mussels were big and delicious. Each delicious morsel had a taste of the sea, wonderfully complimented by the creamy mariniere sauce.

photo 5-1

Queenies are a much smaller variety of scallop – something I didn’t realise when I exclaimed ‘my god, they’re not very big are they!’. Classically paired with chorizo, spinach and lemon puree, they were light, sweet and eaten very quickly.

When it came to the mains, I went for the langoustine, which swam in a creamy, fish sauce, also covering gnocchi and chicken pieces. The langoustine itself was very tasty, but for me, the sauce was too sweet.

Far better was The Boyfriend’s plaice. Covered in cockles and mussels alive alive o (actually, it was just cockles), crispy croutons and a Meuniere sauce, the white fish was perfectly cooked and in plentiful supply.

We debated pudding, but gave in to our achingly full stomachs. Besides, we’d spied the chocolate truffles that came with the bill, so knew we’d get a sweet fix anyway.

Speaking of the bill, having dined on four substantial portions of fresh fish and drunk a bottle of extremely pleasant house white, we were surprised it only came to £43 each with tip.

So, if you love fish as much as I do, I highly recommend paying a visit to the Bonnie Gull – its charm, seafood selection and price give it a LLE Rating of 8/10.

The Bonnie Gull, 21A Foley Street, London W1W 6DS

*Please note that this is a deliberate mistake, just for laughs

**Again, this was done on purpose

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

The Pot Kiln, Yattendon

I’m not fanatical about the royals, but what girl doesn’t dream of being a princess. Well, on my birthday, I got to play Kate as we walked my slightly less glamorous one-eyed dog to The Pot Kiln (sorry Archie), just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Middleton’s family residence.

Anyway, you’re not here to read about my dog walking, so on to the food. Ever since I sunk my teeth into one of their delicious venison scotch eggs at the end of last year, I’ve wanted to go back to The Pot Kiln for dinner.

With a menu that might give vegetarians sleepless nights and vegans nightmares, almost everything hinges on meat either shot on the neighbouring estates, or caught off the coast of Cornwall. As a fish lover, I ordered the Oak Smoked Mackerel Croquettes to start and Roast Cornish Bream with Mussels, Watercress and Sea Spinach for main.

Both courses reaffirmed my love of good gastropub grub – the croquettes were crisp, sweet and perfectly teamed with the sauce gribiche (a cold egg sauce with pickles and capers) and my main was bursting with fishy flavour from the bream, mussels and salinity of the sea spinach.

As for the die hard meat eaters, my parents shared a Haunch of Deer from the specials menu, and what a haunch it was – there was enough tender, juicy meat and roasted, garlicky vegetables to feed four hungry men, which pleased my dad as the majority was taken home in a doggy bag ready to be devoured the next day.

Personally, if I’d gone with meat for my main, I would have sided with The Boyfriend, who went for Hereford Beef Cheeks with crispy shallots and celeriac mash. Fortunately for me, the boyfriend was feeling a little under the weather, so I was allowed to demolish half the divine dish that quite literally melted in the mouth.

For pudding, we all shared a chocolate mousse topped with honeycomb and raspberries…

…and rhubarb and ginger fool, with a rich compote at the bottom and oaty, ginger biscuits on the side. They didn’t last long, so must have tasted pretty good – sadly the happy haze of gluttony had overwhelmed me and my memory by that stage.

I will give The Pot Kiln a LLE Rating of 9/10. It’s by far the best and most satisfying pub food I’ve tasted, whether snacking on a Scotch egg at the bar, or feasting on half a deer in the restaurant. Food this good does come at a price though – around £35 a head without wine – but it’s worth it and you’d be hard pushed to find the same quality in London without paying more.

The Pot Kiln, Frilsham, nr Yattendon RG18 0XX