Tag Archives: potato

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

Fika, Brick Lane

‘Magical’, ‘authentic’ and ‘darkly seductive’. Ambitious adjectives used to describe Fika. Adjectives I chose to ignore, putting them down to pure PR drivel.

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Turns out, the PRs are spot on – Fika is a charming, Scandinavian restaurant that’s well worth a visit. The interior perfectly captures the delightfully unique nature of Brick Lane and the food looks good enough to be served at a banquet for fairies, elves and goblins.

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Em and I sat upstairs on the restaurant’s quirky roof terrace. We drank Prosecco and ate like Queens of an enchanted land, starting with Beetroot & Birch (£5) and Tre Sorters Sill (£5.50).

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Served on a round slab of wood, Beetroot & Birch was made up of a warm, miniature loaf of savoury beetroot bread, goats cheese, foraged wood sorrel and a shot of birch tree water. The flavours were earthy, simple and – even though I left the somewhat superfluous shot – really rather wonderful.

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Across from me sat Em’s Tre Sorters Sill – three flavours of pickled herring on crushed purple potatoes with blobs of dill yoghurt. The potatoes were deliberately cold, so not particularly tasty on their own. But, the overall effect was again very good.

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We chose completely different mains – I went for rich, sweet Swedish Elk Meatballs (£10.20) that I now want to replicate at home (pass the Elk please). As for Em, it was Foraged Salad with Goat Cheese (£12), which combined some unrecognisable leaves and flowers, along with quail eggs, samphire and black truffle potato. Calorie wise, it was nice to know you could be very good, or very bad when dining at Fika.

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My Kladdkaka was hands down the best chocolate brownie / cake / whatever you want to call it I’ve ever had (£4.60). Chewy on the outside, melting on the inside, it was beautifully presented as a flower (in case you were wondering…) with an equally pretty floral shaped scoop of Vanilla ice cream on the side.

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Em had Fresh Mint Granita, which was luminous on arrival (£5). I wouldn’t have traded my Kladdkaka, but the mixture of beetroot, fresh fruit and berries seemed to go down well.

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Fika proves you should never judge a book by its cover (or prologue). It oozed charm and made our eyes light up with every dish (example below). So for that, it gets a LLE Rating of 7.5/10.

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Fika, 161 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

Fika 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

Pieminister’s Cattle Market, Camden

Grab a cardboard box and fill it with creamy mash. On top, place one, perfectly formed, homemade pie* and cover it with a scoop of mushy, minty peas, lashings of thick, rich gravy, grated cheese and crispy, golden shallots.

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That, readers, is what they call The Mothership. The tasty, pie medley that you can now get at Pieminister’s Cattle Market – a laid back, spacious pop up right by Camden Market.

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Once you’ve chosen your pie – we went with Heidi (an ingenious combination of goats’ cheese, sweet potato, spinach & red onion that’s even a hit with carnivores) and Matador (Pieminister’s Spanish offering with farm assured, British beef steak, chorizo, olives, sherry & butter bean) – you can decide on your donation.

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Money goes to Pieminister’s Send a Cow Cattle Drive campaign to kick start 30 farms in Africa. A very worthy cause that the founders Jon and Tristan firmly believe in.

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The pop-up’s due to last a month, but with those pies – plus Camden’s need for somewhere decent and cheap to eat – I’m sure we can keep Cattle Market open a bit longer. It certainly gets my vote. Moooooo.

Pieminister’s Cattle Market, 21-22 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8AG

*all Pieminister pies are handmade in Bristol, something that will always stay the same (I heard that from Tristan himself)

The Balham Lounge…Balham

Quick post on a little gem I came across last night. The Balham Lounge is in…erm…Balham, but isn’t in fact a coffee shop or a full time bar. What it is, is a charming, family run Spanish tapas restaurant that serves great food and has a wonderful atmosphere.

Food wise, I ate what the lovely owners Philippe and Manuela recommended to me – Patatas Bravas (sautéed potatoes in spicy tomato sauce), Camaron al Ajillo (prawns in garlic oil and chilli), Almejas a la Marinera (clams in a spicy white wine and tomato sauce), Pincho de Ternera (beef rump shish kebab) and Chorizo al Vino (you can probably work that one out for yourself).

I wasn’t disappointed by anything. The meat was tender, the potatoes crisp despite the sauce (I’ve had some mushy Patatas Bravas in my time) and the fish, bursting with flavour. The highlight for me were the clams – without noticing, I ate almost all of them, leaving just two for L (sorry!).

For two, it came to £70 for all the above, bread, olives and more Cava than I’d like to admit. What’s not to love? The Balham Lounge gets a LLE Rating of 7.5 / 10 – Balamites, go forth and indulge.