Tag Archives: salmon

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly

A few months ago, Afternoon Tea was something I’d never experienced…out of choice. Brunch I could handle, but an over priced feed that disrupted lunch and dinner? No thank you.

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But then I tried it and fell in love. Little did I know how much I’d enjoy the decadence of Afternoon Tea. Little did I know about how much I could indulge. Yes it is expensive, but it’s also unlimited.

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The Afternoon Tea that broke me took place at Fortnum and Mason one Saturday before Christmas. There was a beautiful tree, a man serenading us on the piano and more cake than any little lady could eat. It was glorious. My sister even wore pearls.

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We sat on plush green chairs as waiters glided around filling endless cups of tea. I ordered a savoury tower of gorgeous treats (£44 per person) and a magnificent bottle of Champagne. I felt like Alice in wonderland and could have sworn I saw Mary Poppins laughing on the ceiling.

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The top of my savoury tree was adorned with a stunning Oeuf Drumkilbo, Carpaccio of Venison, Smoked Salmon Blinis and Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot.

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Then it was a selection of sumptuous scones – Wholemeal Cheese with Walnut & Raisin Butter (the butter was the best bit) and a Caramelised Onion variation. And it didn’t stop at that as I moved onto sandwiches fit for a queen – Coronation Chicken, Cucumber, Egg and Roast Beef. Yum Yum Yum. Give me more.

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After a couple of rounds, I moved onto a large slice of chocolate cake with the smoothest ganache. It was a classic choice for me and one I didn’t regret from the first to the last bite.

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So I went from being an Afternoon Tea virgin to an Afternoon Tea junkie. I couldn’t get enough, so now must restrict myself to one sitting a year. It’s for the best and at least I have the memory of my day of decadence.

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER

Food 5/5 – Price 5/5  (it’s unlimited) – Staff 4/5 – Atmosphere – 5/5

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason on Urbanspoon

The House of Ho, Soho

When I booked The House of Ho for my birthday, I got some worrying looks. ‘I know you’re newly single S, but is this really the route to happiness?’. Turns out it was, so despite their concerns, my friends dutifully followed me to dark, debaucherous Soho.

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If this was the 70s, my post would be very different, more exciting and – let’s face it – confined to a diary as the wondrous internet was still a figment of TimBL’s imagination . But as it’s 2014, I will focus on what The House of Ho really is – a relatively new Vietnamese restaurant full of lively Londoners of all ages, gender and sexual orientation.

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We kicked off dinner with a bottle of Prosecco and a few dishes from the ‘Light & Raw’ section of the menu. Crab Pomelo Salad (£7) was, fittingly, ‘light’, refreshing and full of texture, and Duck Pho Cuon Rice Noodle Rolls (£5.50) were a lot like cold Dim Sum…in a good way.

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The biggest ‘Light & Raw’ treat was Spicy Salmon Tartare (£7), which was topped with a raw quail’s egg yolk and encircled by chopped pistachio, Shiso (an Asian herb) and Jicama (a type of yam). Our waiter stopped us eating until we’d mixed all ingredients together into one, mushy lump. Turns out that lump was pretty damn good, especially when scooped with a cracker or two.

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Of the ‘Hot & Grilled’, the BBQ Baby Back Ribs (£6) felt too heavy next to the other, more delicate dishes, whereas bland Smokey Aubergine (£6) could have used some spicing up.

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‘Ho’s Dishes’ were much better – The ‘Shaking Beef’ was wonderfully succulent (£14) and Lemongrass Monkfish balanced sweet, sour and meaty fishiness, despite being a little chewy.

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I think we picked the best side (thank you Mr Waiter) as Morning Glory (Water Spinach at £4) was just as satisfying as its meatier counterparts, making us vow to replicate the dish at home.

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My friends’ mischievous faces gave pudding away – Molten Maru Chocolate (£6.50) with ice cream, a candle, Happy Birthday written in sauce and a rousing chorus of singers. It was eaten with relish, just as Birthday cake should be.

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The House of Ho combined interesting, delicate food with good prices and a fun, buzzing atmosphere, making it a perfect birthday treat and a worthy recipient of a LLE Rating of 7 / 10. 

House of Ho, 55-59 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 6HW 

The House of Ho on Urbanspoon

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

Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Pieds Nus, Marylebone

Quick! Pieds Nus is open for business, serving some of the most innovative food you’ll find in London. The problem? It’s a pop-up, so won’t be there for long.

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For the time being, you’ll find it next door to Big Sister restaurant, L’Autre Pied. Inside, it’s small and simple, with rustic white walls and exposed bulbs hovering above each wooden table.

Michelin restaurateur David Moore outside Pieds Nus

Pieds Nus is the brainchild of Michelin restauranteur David Moore, run by Head Chef Ed Dutton from Tom Aikens in Chelsea. The concept is ‘little or no cooking’ – ‘barefoot’ dishes that deliver fresh and simple combinations with intense flavours. An ambitious idea…good thing it worked.

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We started with a basket filled with gorgeously warm bread – Bacon & Onion Brioche, Black Onion Seed Flat Bread and a soft Milk Loaf, served with a tiny bowl of hummus (£4.50). That, and a wooden block draped with melt in the mouth Paleta Iberica (£10.95) and a couple of Pieds Nus Cosmopolitans (£7.50).

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The dishes that followed were made to be shared. But rather than arriving all at once, were enjoyed one by one so each got the attention it deserved.

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Salt Baked Jerusalem Artichoke with Wild Mushrooms and Sea Purslane was a delight, combing sweetness with a touch of sour (£7.50), but the Slow Cooked Duck Egg with Potato and Belper Knolle was the star of the vegetable dishes (£6.50). An egg was hidden in a heap of finely grated potato and cheese. Once mixed, we were left with a  creamy, subtly flavoured paste that focussed wholeheartedly on the egg.

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Next up was Scallop Ceviche (£12.50). Our noses were filled with a fresh aroma from the fish, cucumber and fennel, which only enhanced our experience eating the light, pretty dish. 42˚ Confit Salmon was heavier, but no less sublime with its intense crunchy cauliflower and sharp pink grapefruit (£8.50).

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From the meat section, we chose the aromatic 60˚ Gressingham Duck Breast (£11.50), the clean Rose Veal Tartare with generous truffle shavings (£12.95) and the 98˚ 12 Hour Slow Cooked Pig Belly (£11.45). Each dish showcased the chefs’ attention to detail and skill. I loved the Pig Belly and its perfect crackling. Couldn’t have been better.

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We finished with Banana Financier with Maple Syrup & Banana Ice Cream (£6.50) and the Chocolate, Chestnut Frangipane & Caramel Ice Cream (£8,95). It was the perfect end to pretty damn perfect meal.

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The food, the service and wonderful wine list makes me sad to say goodbye to Pieds Nus. Perhaps it’ll pop up elsewhere, but for now, I feel lucky to have been and give it a LLE Rating of 9/10.

Pied Nus, 19 Blandford Street, Marylebone, W1U 3DH

Pied Nus 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

Hixter, Shoreditch

As Mark Hix continues his London takeover, so opens Hixter opposite Liverpool Street station. It’s very similar to Tramshed, specialising in chicken and steak, but minus the formaldehyde cow with a cockerel on its head. I guess they’re hard to come by…

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The restaurant’s also a lot smaller, but the long mirror at one end makes it feel more spacious. There’s bright, modern art on the walls and red leather seats perfect for local ‘city’ boys looking to fill their bellies before heading downstairs to London’s second Mark’s Bar.

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We shared all of food, starting with Yorkshire Pudding & Whipped Chicken Livers (£3.95), De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon with Pickled Cucumber (£5.25) and Cock ‘n’ Bull Croquettes with Wild Chervil Mayonnaise (£4.95).

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Each was perfectly tasty, but it was the Yorkshire Pudding – or rather the Whipped Chicken Livers – that stood out for me. The chicken livers had a sweet, wholesome flavour that was carried by the crisp, bouncy pudding. A triumph.

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Next up it was a Herb Roasted Chateaubriand (£75) and half a Barn-Reared Indian Rock Chicken (£25). We asked for a whole bird, but the waiter looked at our enthusiastic faces and suggested half. Thank god for that.

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The steak was cooked rare and our knives slid through it like butter. The chicken was juicy and succulent, but not as impressive as what I’d had at Tramshed. I disliked the half hearted stuffing, which was dry, flaky and resembled a heap of moss.

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We didn’t need sides, but ordered them anyway – it was Christmas after all. The Grilled Field Mushrooms (all £4.25 for small, £6.95 for large) were deliciously garlicky and definitely what I’d recommend. The chips were chips – yummy, but not spectacular.

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The Credit Crunch Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Sauce (£1.90 per scoop) was a delicious, but unnecessary dessert – we’d consumed rather a lot by this stage. Another time I might have one less starter and indulge in the Salted Caramel Fondue.

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Hixter doesn’t have the wow factor of Tramshed, or the variety of Hix Soho, but it’s still an enjoyable joint that I’d be happy to go back to. It’s also very well priced, so for all that, I’m giving Mark a pat on the back and Hixter a LLE Rating of 6/10. 

Hixter, 9a Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4AE

Hixter on Urbanspoon

Octagon Dining Room, Marylebone

I’ve to-d and fro-d about writing this. The restaurant’s in Home House, so unless you have membership – or know someone that does – it’s unlikely you’ll go. Then again, I made it in, so I guess anything’s possible.

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The Octagon Dining Room is one of two restaurants in this exclusive private members club, famed for an eclectic clientele and fabulously avant-garde parties. The room is golden, sleek and relatively small, with soporific velvet armchairs and black, stone tables that nod towards the Asian fusion menu. Over head is a beautiful 1820s ceiling – a splendid contrast to what’s at eye-level.

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Sitting in luxury, we nibbled Edamame Beans, drank Sancerre and perused the menu. Our order was simple – a special sushi platter to share (£20), three Black Cod with a Miso-Mirin Marinade (£31 each) and sides of Steamed Jasmine Rice, Pak Choi and Baked Aubergine at £3 per dish.

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The fresh sushi platter combined California Rolls with Prawn Tempura & Avocado, Salmon & Avocado, Futo Maki, Salmon Nigiri and Tuna Roll. I’m a sashimi fan, but couldn’t deny the depth of flavour and meticulous preparation.

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It was my second time eating Black Cod and yet again it blew me away. Each sweet, succulent flake melted like butter in my mouth. It ruined any chance of remembering the sides – they were superfluous to my dish of dreams.

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I had the Jivara Chocolate “Pot” with Cherry Compote & Green Tea Curls for dessert (£7). It was deliciously chocolatey and maintained the meal’s artistic attention to detail.

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The Octagon Dining Room gets a LLE Rating of 7/10. It looses points for exclusivity, but gains many for the beautiful Black Cod. See you again dear fish.

Octagon Dining Room, Home House, 20 Portman Square, London W1H 6LW