Tag Archives: risotto

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

Paramount, Soho

Paramount has had a hard time of late. First Duck & Waffle opened in the Heron Tower, stealing its crown as London’s highest restaurant. Then, The Shard poked its pointy nose in with Oblix – the new dinner destination for hungry tourists. Oh dear Paramount, what’s a 149-meter restaurant to do?

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Luckily for Paramount, it can rest assured that it still has an incredible view of the Capital, serves tastier food than the poorly reviewed Oblix and – unlike its towering rivals – can usually be booked at a moments notice. Read more…

Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DD

Delia’s Tiger Prawn Risotto

I’m a big fan of Delia Smith, so was sad to see her blasted in the media last week. It was outdated to criticise her fellow celebrity chefs for making food ‘theatre’ and producing programmes that put fear into cooking, but let’s not forget, Delia’s a traditional cook with traditional values. She’s not molecular Heston, scary Marcus Wareing or spoon licking Nigella. 

So to remind you why we love the queen of boiled eggs, here’s my favourite, ever so slightly amended, Delia recipe – the failsafe, absolutely delicious, Tiger Prawn Risotto.

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Serves 4 (generously)

Ingredients

  • 350g of cooked and peeled tiger prawns (defrosted if frozen)
  • 350g arborio risotto rice
  • 4 cans of Baxter’s Luxury Lobster Bisque
  • 80g butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150ml dry sherry
  • 100g finely grated Gruyere
  • 4 tbsp whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mixed salad leaves to serve

Method

  • Place a large baking dish in the oven to pre-heat at 150°C
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and, over a medium heat, sauté the onion for 7-8 minutes until soft
  • Stir in the rice so it gets a good coating of butter
  • Pour in the lobster bisque, sherry and season
  • Give the mixture a stir and bring it to simmering point before pouring the whole lot into the piping hot baking dish
  • Return to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 35 minutes
  • When the time is up, take out of the oven, give it a stir and taste the rice. If the rice is too al dente, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, adding a little vegetable stock if needed
  • Pre-heat the grill on its highest setting
  • When the rice is as you like it, take the dish out of the oven and stir in the prawns
  • Next, drizzle the cream on top, scatter the Gruyere and place under the grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling
  • Serve straight away with a side salad

The Sportsman’s Arms, Nr. Harrogate

Giles Coren’s latest review reads like a well argued essay. He succinctly addresses the question: are London restaurants the best in the country? For him, the answer is an overwhelming ‘yes’.  For me, the answer is a well-balanced yes and no.

Yes, London has – and is spewing out – some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. No, I’ve eaten at heaps of non-London restaurants that are excellent in their own special ways, even if they lack big city pizazz.

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The Sportsman’s Arms in Pateley Bridge is a case in point. Even though its main dining room looks like it’s been decorated by grandma (mine has great taste, so that needn’t be a bad thing), it’s a charming restaurant with a menu stuffed full of local game and fresh fish.

I went in March when the weather was the same as today – bloody freezing. The Sportsman’s Arms made us forget the White Witch’s curse over our green and pleasant land, filling us with a delicious three course meal and plenty of wine.

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My choices had a distinctly fishy theme. To start, I went for Seared Shetland Isle Scallops on an onion and fennel confit, grilled pancetta and roquette pesto (£11.50), and for main, it was Roast Whitby Monkfish placed on top of beetroot risotto with more grilled pancetta and horseradish sauce (£19.50).

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The chef clearly knows how to treat his fish  – both the scallops and monkfish were expertly cooked, creating dishes fit for a little lady.  He also knows how well white fish goes with salty pancetta. A delicious combination that’s making my mouth water as I type.

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Before my non-fishy pudding, I managed to fit in a mouthful of nearby Roasted Loin of Venison on parsnip colcannon and tapanade (£19.50). I’ve had a lot of venison this year, so know how I like it – pink, tender and juicy. This venison certainly floated my boat and, on another visit, I think I’d choose deer over fish.

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Dessert was shared – Hannah’s Sticky Ginger Pudding, served with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce (£6.50). I don’t know who Hannah is, but the woman deserves a pudding making medal. From the first taste, I wished it was all for me. The sponge was light, warmed by the ginger, and the oh so sweet toffee sauce calmed by creamy vanilla ice-cream. Mmm, mmmmmm.

I’ll finish by saying two things. One – Giles, why not pay The Sportsman’s Arms a visit, you might be pleasantly surprised. Two – this restaurant gets a LLE Rating of 8 / 10.

The Sportsmans Arms, Wath-in-Nidderdale, Pateley Bridge, Nr. Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 5PP

The Bull & Last, Highgate

Dinner at The Bull & Last was the first meal I’d had in five days. So, you can imagine the pressure I put on it to not only taste amazing, but also refrain from giving me food poisoning – unlike one pesky oyster fed to me the previous Saturday (you know who you are).

The Bull & Last is a gastropub with an interesting seasonal menu, cosy, yet spacious interior and friendly staff. That, and a lovely, yet slightly inconvenient location, right by Hampstead Heath.

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I was part of a group of 13, so ordering was done in advance from the set menu. For me, that meant Squid Ink Risotto to start (something I might not have chosen after that oyster debacle), hearty Slow Cooked Ox Cheek for main and indulgent Blueberry Cheesecake Ice-Cream Sundae for dessert.

My risotto had a lovely flavour and the rice was perfectly al dente. On top sat small pieces of crispy squid and what looked like ricotta, but turned out to be thick soured cream. I could have done with more deep fried cephalopods, but that’s probably down to greed.

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Across the table sat The Boyfriend’s Chicken Liver Pappardelle with Sage & Madeira. I had a bite and instantly wished it was mine – a feeling that lasted until a giant pig’s cheek appeared in front of me.

Covered in a rich, dark sauce, the large piece of meat fell apart with the greatest of ease, pairing excellently with the sweet parsnips, prunes and salty bacon. Delicious.

My annual ‘giving chocolate up for lent habit’ dug its heals in again at pudding. There was silence round the table as everyone tucked into mouth watering Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Brownie and Prune Ice Cream…except me. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my sundae, but it a. wasn’t chocolate and b. could have done with a little more creamy cheesecake and a little less ice-cream.

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The Bull & Last isn’t cheap (£35 a head just for food), but you are paying for quality food with more imagination than your average pub grub. That, and the fact it’s dog-friendly,  gives The bull & Last a gastro-tastic LLE Rating of 8/10.

The Bull & Last, 168 Highgate Rd,  London NW5 1QS

*Thank you to The Bull & Last for letting me use their lovely photos…far better than mine turned out…

Ducksoup, Soho

Ducksoup is the type of restaurant I’m a sucker for – independent, trendy and all about the food. Because of this, the hype, and generally favourable reviews, I thought I would love it, but sadly my instincts were wrong. Instead, I left feeling disappointed as for me, Ducksoup wasn’t as good as it should, or could, have been.

In keeping with the rustic interior of striped wooden floors and white washed walls, our menu was handwritten on a piece of paper. This did feel a tiny bit pretentious, but is necessary to accommodate the ever-changing menu. Clearly the poor person that has to write the menu each day is either incredibly slow, or suffers from hand cramps, as there was only enough for one between three of us.

As we gathered around the menu, we felt excited by the variety of dishes, so quickly ordered a few to share. Starting with a couple of snacks ‘from the bar’, we choose courgette, chilli and mint…

….and Mozzarella with Calvo Nero, a dark green, loose leaved cabbage from Tuscany.

Despite my earlier comments, the courgette had a very pleasant flavour and, even though I wished it hadn’t come from the giant bowl sitting on the counter, I would try the combination of flavours at home. Sadly the same cannot be said for the Mozzarella and Clavo Nero as even though the concept appealed, it was doused in so much cardamom that even someone that craves the flavour in their sleep would find it overpowering. Next, we moved onto Scallop & Mussel Risotto…

….and A Plate of Wild Mushrooms.

Any dish that includes scallops, mussels or mushrooms is usually a winner for me but, when it came to the risotto, the rice was undercooked and the scallops had been sliced so thinly they got lost in the mixture. As for the mushrooms, they did have a lovely earthy flavour, but the heavy handed chef had overdone the garlic.

Without wishing to dwell on the negative, the star of the meal was definitely dessert – a Brillat-Savarin & Rhubarb Cheesecake.

I hadn’t tried, or even heard of, Brillat-Savarin before, but now know it’s a soft, white crusted cows milk cheese named after the 18th Century French gourmet and political figure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. The look of our pudding reminded me of Eton Mess, as it was though someone had dropped a cheesecake on the floor, scooped it up and ladled it into a glass tumbler. Whether this was intended or not, the effect was pleasing to my greedy eye and the delicious cream cheese, with sweet crunchy biscuit and  slightly sour rhubarb, was pleasing to my greedy stomach.

Perhaps I was feeling overly critical when I went to Ducksoup, but I almost want someone to give the restaurant a shake as a few simple tweaks could improve it immeasurably.

Ducksoup, 41 Dean Street, London W1D 4PY

Dehesa, Soho

It doesn’t take a genius to notice tapas has become more and more popular over the past couple of years. Not only are gourmet ranges readily available in supermarkets, there are restaurants popping up all over London, from Polpo and its ever-expanding family (Polpetto, Spuntino, Da Polpo and the newly opened Mishkins), to El Pirata in Westbourne Grove and Dehesa, sister to the acclaimed Salt Yard.

A couple of weeks ago I had my second visit to Dehesa, a charcuterie and tapas bar in Soho inspired by the cuisine of Spain and Italy. One of my favourite things about the restaurant is the layout, as the mixture of people sitting at tables and at the bar gives it a relaxed atmosphere that still feels special due to the smart decor.

Tapas is small and made to be shared, so N and I decided to choose two courses each from the fish, meat and vegetable selection. Starting with the fish, we went for Salt Cod Croquetas with Romesco Sauce…

and Grilled Hake with Chorizo Mash, Clams and Cider Sauce.

Although the Hake looked more interesting, my favourite of the two dishes was the Salt Cod Croquetas as the sweet sauce made a delightful contrast to the saltiness of the fish, surrounded in a lightly crisp crumb. As for the meat, we chose Confit Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans…

and Braised Haunch of Venison with Jamon Iberico Trinxat and Brussel Tops.

Just in case you haven’t come across Trinxat before, it’s a food from Catalunya made with potatoes, cabbage and pork meat. This may sounds very fancy and flavoursome, but I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the Venison dish, as it seemed to lack the punch I expected, perhaps due to under seasoning. Luckily, my disappointment was quickly brushed aside when I tried the pork belly. Not only was I pleased to see that it was made with rare breed pork, which produces far better crackling than the commercial pork sold in supermarkets, but it sat on a heavenly bed of lightly scented cannellini beans that brought the whole dish together so it rivalled a full blown roast.

Our final dishes from the vegetable section of the menu consisted of Courgette Flowers with Monte Enebro and Honey…

and a Cauliflower Risotto with Free Range Egg and Black Truffle Dressing.

Much like the meat dishes, I couldn’t get enough of the intense cauliflower flavour of the risotto, but had more of a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude when it came to the courgette flowers. Ever since I first saw Jamie Oliver stuff courgette flowers in one of his early TV programmes, I have always been a fan and ordered them when they pop up on menus. Sadly, in Dehesa’s case they weren’t to be desired as the overly large amount of Monte Enebro goat’s cheese not only overpowered the taste of the flower and light batter, but even managed to strangle the honey, which should have been the balancing act.

I don’t want to finish on a bad note as I clearly like Dehesa, having been back twice in relatively quick succession. It’s a romantic restaurant that produces good, satisfying food that isn’t horribly overpriced – our meal came in at around £70, including wine. Sadly time prevented us from having pudding, so I’ll have to make sure I have longer next time as I’m dying to try the Chocolate Cheesecake with Pistachio Ice Cream.

Dehesa, 25 Ganton Street, London W1F 9BP