Tag Archives: samphire

8 Hoxton Square, Hoxton

I think I’m suffering from ‘blogger’s block’. Over the past few weeks, I’ve chomped my way through Michelin starred food at Club Gascon, French fancies in Provence, breakfast at Shoreditch House and sharing plates at Blanchette. But have you heard about it? No.

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Well this is stopping, right now. The tonic? My review of 8 Hoxton Square – the newly born sister of 10 Greek Street that made me a meal I don’t mind re-living.

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In a medium-sized, rustic dining room, we shared plates of food over a bottle of Riesling, whilst enjoying a course of fresh air from the open fronted restaurant. I loved the crisp, golden croquetas (£6) almost as much as I enjoyed the fresh, simple flavours of Dorset Crab with a lightly battered courgette flower, roasted cherry tomatoes and salty samphire (£9).

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Fried Goats’ Cheese came topped with peppery rocket, beetroot and large, crunchy walnuts – a heavy ‘starter’, but no less delicious (£5). That said, it was the Shallot Tart Tatin with girolles, goat’s curd and truffle (£14) that stole the show for me.

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The light pastry was stuffed with sweet shallots that balanced the sour goat’s curd. Punchy truffle shavings sat atop watercress and green beans that added  freshness to the buttery girolles. This was a dish that could turn a carnivore.

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We greedily shared three desserts between two. Baked Ricotta covered in crumbled amaretti and a blueberry and grappa compote looked attractive, but was too savoury for my sweet tooth (£6). I far preferred the fun and aromatic Lemon Curd with meringues, strawberries and fragrant basil (£5), and the indulgent plate of cheese, chutney and crackers (£7).

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Aside from the Baked Ricotta, I couldn’t really fault 8 Hoxton Square. Everything from the food to the staff was lovely and more than enough to drag me out of my block. So to say thank you, I’m giving 8 Hoxton a LLE Rating of 8/10.

8 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

8 Hoxton Square 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 

Medlar, Kings Road

There aren’t many London restaurants that can list AA Gill, Giles Coren and Jay Rayner as fans. Luckily for me, I’ve now been to one of them – Michelin starred restaurant, Medlar.

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It might not look like much from the outside, but enter Medlar and you’ll find the best food on the King’s Road. When we arrived for an early dinner – 7pm to be precise –  the restaurant was already half full. A good sign, wouldn’t you agree.

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Our lovely French waitress seated us by the window and handed us a three course Prix Fixe menu. The price changes depending on when you go – for us, it was £42 per head – and on it sits typically French dishes made without ‘over-elaboration or pretension’.

Choices, choices, choices… I wanted everything on the menu, but eventually decided on Crab Raviolo to start and Wild Turbot for main. For The Boyfriend, it was the daring Crisp Calf’s Brain, followed by Under Blade Fillet with Cafe de Paris Snails.

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My raviolo was crab-tastic. Bursting with fishiness, the surrounding samphire, brown shrimps and bisque sauce pushed the flavour to the extreme.

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Across the table, The Boyfriend was appreciating his calf’s brain. Appreciating the  taste, the precision in cooking and the accompanying smoked duck breast, aioli and pink fir potatoes. Not appreciating the texture because let’s face it folks, eating brain is only going to make you think of one thing – eating brain.

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My turbot was light, delicate and infused with its bed of ginger, mushroom, soy broth, white asparagus, pak choi and prawn dumplings. It was a charming dish that almost looked too good to eat. Almost.

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It was also a complete contrast to what The Boyfriend devoured across from me. Continuing with the adventurous theme, the snails had absorbed the steak’s juices so each one tasted like a meaty truffle. The triple cooked chips caught my eye. Chunky and crisp, only one word could describe them – delicious.

I didn’t care how full I was, I was ordering pudding and eating it all. The waitress suggested the Cannele with Camp Ice Cream and Molten Congolese Chocolate. I obliged.

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It was a stunning combination of crisp yet soft, custardy cannele, sweet ice-cream and luxurious chocolate. Certainly worthy of ‘desert island pudding’ status.

The Boyfriend seemed content with his Lemon Curd Ice Cream with Blackcurrant Compote and Meringues. I’d have asked more about it, but to be honest, I was too busy enjoying mine.

Medlar, you get a LLE Rating of 9 / 10. You also have one more one more person to add to the fan base. Me.

Medlar, 438 Kings Road, Chelsea Sw10 0L

*Images 1 & 2 ‘borrowed’ from the Medlar website

Medlar on Urbanspoon

Caravan, Kings Cross

Being lost will put a strain on any relationship. When The Boyfriend and I couldn’t find our way round the port in Athens, I complained, he got flustered and bam. We had our first proper argument on the first day of our first holiday. Not ideal.

A few years later and I sensed similar tension when we tried to find Caravan on Saturday night. The restaurant is built in an old grain store across a bridge that’s so new, it doesn’t show up on Google maps. In fairness to Caravan, there are very clear directions on its website, so it’s a shame we didn’t look at them.

Twenty minutes late, we received a friendly welcome at the front desk as if we were bang on time. After a quick and very reasonably priced cocktail at the bar, we went to our table in the middle of a magnificent dining room that felt very cool, without being pretentious.

The menu takes influence from around the globe. There are Italian sourdough pizzas, an Israeli couscous dish, a British lamb chop and very American grits. Fortunately, Caravan gets away with this ambitious array of food and everything we ate was ‘lick the bowl clean’ delicious.

Three of us ordered from the small plates section, two others went for pizza and The Boyfriend’s Atkins style diet demanded Wagyu striploin with horseradish, parsnips and chard from the land of the large plates.

Us small platers went to town with our order. Here’s the list: Chorizo & Butternut Squash Croquettes; New Potato Salad with Duck Egg & Samphire; Goat’s Curd with Nectarine, Braised Onion, Pine Nuts & Cress; Scallop Ceviche; Ox Tongue with Mustard, Honey & Beetroot; Grilled Quail with Chickpea Puree, Sumac & Charred Lemon; Jalapeno Corn Bread with Chilli Butter; Summerhimu Blue Cheese with Figs, Vinacotta & Truffle Oil.

We didn’t hold back, but it felt like the right amount for three people. Highlights for me were the rich croquettes, the crisp corn bread and the citrussy, sharp ceviche, but I’m pleased to say I couldn’t pick holes in any of it.

Our meal was finished off with three desserts to share – a Caramel Pot with Salted Shortbread, Treacle Tart and Affogato al Caffe. Pudding wasn’t as good as main, but after so much rich food, I think my taste buds would have found it hard to pick out any flavours.

I loved Caravan, so am happy to give it a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. Between six of us, we got through a mountain of food and booze, so I was pleasantly surprised that the bill only came to £50 pp. Especially when I consider M’s penchant for Expresso Martinis…

Caravan, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA

The Wet Fish Cafe, West Hampstead

Considering I didn’t even know samphire existed until I came across it in the Jersey fish market this summer, it suddenly seems prolific on restaurant menus and a hot topic for food writers. If you like the taste of fish, the fact that samphire is now in plentiful supply can only be a good thing as it brings out the flavour in most seafood due to its saltiness.

In case you haven’t heard of it, samphire is an edible plant that grows in coastal areas, typically on shorelines and in marshy shallows. Named after the French saint of fishermen ‘Saint Pierre’, samphire is sometimes aptly called sea asparagus and is at its best in July and August.

The main reason I’m dedicating a whole post to samphire is because I recently enjoyed once of the tastiest starters I’d eaten in the while, which had samphire as the star.

The starter was a product of The Wet Fish Café – a small atmospheric brasserie in West Hampstead. It was a very simple dish consisting of fried chorizo with cloves of cooked garlic and lots of lovely samphire, all served with warm crusty French bread.

As soon as I saw samphire on the menu I was interested to try it, but I had worried my choice would be too salty, with each dominant flavour conflicting with one another. Thankfully, I was pleased to find that the overall effect was deliciously well balanced and I finished wishing it had been my main course.

Now I’ve discovered samphire I’m keen to start using it in my own cooking, even if it’s just a simple risotto or pasta dish. As it happens, I’d even hoped to use it in my prawn linguini this evening, but clearly others are cottoning onto my new favourite vegetable, as there was none to be seen on the fish counter. I suppose I’ll have to start keeping my mouth shut about it…

The Wet Fish Cafe, 242 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1LG