Tag Archives: venison

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

Karpo, King’s Cross

Karpo should be renamed convenient. Leave King’s Cross from exit two and you’ll be standing in front of the entrance. There’s no time wasting; you arrive, you drink, you eat.

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It’s also hard to miss. The exterior depicts London’s largest mural; a 450 square metre piece of street art that’s as gaudy as it is spectacular. The restaurant itself is sandwiched between a hotel and basement bar Megaro. The owners are the same, but a good job has been done to make each feel unique.

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We were sitting at a chunky wooden table towards the back of the restaurant by the open kitchen. Our chairs were white, plastic and fairly low, meaning our coats dragged on the floor. A cloakroom would have avoided this.

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The meal kicked off with a Gogi Berry Kir Royale (£8) and a bowl of my favourite green Sicilian olives (£2).

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The Cumberland Scotch Egg (£5) was the obvious choice of starter and came sitting on a yummy bed of celeriac remoulade and mustard seeds. I was delighted to see a runny yolk inside the thick meat case and, from the first mouthful, could understand why it’s the restaurant’s ‘signature’ dish.

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We had to ask twice, but our bottle of Malbec arrived with the main courses (£39). Unusually for me, I went for the vegetarian option of Wet Polenta with Mushrooms (£12) as the fish dish didn’t appeal and the rest seemed too heavy after my giant egg. I wasn’t blown away by the flavour, but on behalf of all veggies, appreciated Karpo’s inventiveness.

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Across the table, the Pork Belly looked a little anemic and lacked the crisp crackling my friend had looked forward to (£14). It also came with iceberg lettuce – an odd, and equally insipid, accompaniment. Luckily, a side of crisp, roast new potatoes saved the day (£3.50).

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L’s Chargrilled Venison won the main course competition (£17). The meat was tender, juicy and completely in love with its partners – sweet red cabbage, cauliflower and peppercorn sauce.

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Desserts were shared – a beautiful Vacherin Cheesecake (£6) and a Hot Chocolate Pot (also £6). The soufflé gave me the chocolate fix I needed, but all I really wanted was the cheesecake. Rich, creamy and incredibly smooth, it was worth fighting my friends for.

Karpo gets a LLE Rating of 7/10. A few tweaks would push the points up and I’d happily go back if I was in the area. Probably for a scotch egg, slice of cheesecake and a cocktail. Three of my favourite things in life.

Karpo, 23-27 Euston Road, London, NW1 2SD

Karpo on Urbanspoon

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

Bond & Brook, Mayfair

Peaceful and relaxing. Two words you wouldn’t normally use to describe hectic central London. Well, that’s unless you’re having lunch at Bond & Brook – aka an oasis of calm on the second floor of Fenwick.

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Inside is like a foodie spa – white, decadent and fresh, with mesmerising music seeping out of hidden speakers. Splashes of colour are found in the artwork and fashion books, hinting at the department store setting.

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The restaurant itself is the brainchild of critic Fay Maschler and journalist Simon Davis, who devised a menu made up of brunch, main plates, desserts, afternoon tea and the ‘Collection’ – oversized appetisers served in threes as a main, or alone as a starter. This is the concept that tempted us at lunch today. This…and the puddings.

I ‘fashioned’ my meal with Lobster Thermidor, Seared Benison Tataki and Devon Crab Cakes. For The Boyfriend, it was Scotch Salmon Tartare, Carpaccio of Scotch Beef Fillet and Line Caught Tuna Ceviche.

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When our plates arrived, they almost looked too pretty too eat. Each one was decorated with delicate flowers that added a special touch to the already exquisite presentation.

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The fishcakes had the intense flavour of crab with a manageable kick of chilli – definitely my favourite of the group.

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The thermidor was made up of a horseradish crumb sitting on top of a piece of lobster, which then lay on a bed of new potato. An interesting take on the traditional recipe that had a suprisingly light and subtle flavour.

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When it came to the venison, I would have preferred it a little rarer, but the overall combination of rich meat, smooth parsnip puree and sweet Japanese dressing almost made me lick the plate clean.

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Across the table, The Boyfriend was happily munching on his three choices. Stand out for him was the ceviche, which had a strong zesty flavour. He did mention he’d need pudding to feel full, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d have been more suited to the steak frite enjoyed by the man next to us, leaving the ‘Collection’ to us ladies who lunch.

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Pudding was Orange Creme Brûlée for me and Winter Mess for him. My Creme Brûlée was special. Crunchy on top, its taste was intensified by the added segments of orange and buttery, lavender shortbread.

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We both agreed that we preferred good old strawberry Eton Mess, but the fragrant, seasonal combination of chestnut puree, crushed meringues, chantilly and cranberry sauce didn’t stop The Boyfriend polishing it off.

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Price wise, three plates from the ‘Collection’ came to £17 and each pudding was around £7. Not cheap, but let’s face it, we were in Mayfair darling.

If I’d known it existed, I probably wouldn’t have waited five London years of my life to go. As someone who loathes crowds, queues and crazy red-faced shoppers fighting over the last pair of jeans, Bond & Brook will now be my perfect hideaway.

Bond & Brook, Fenwick, 63 New Bond St, London W1A 3BS

Scotch Eggs at The Pot Kiln, Yattendon

If you like game, this is the pub for you. Opened by Mike Robinson from Countrywise in 2005, The Pot Kiln is the rural cousin of The Harwood Arms in Fulham – the only pub in London with a Michelin star, which it gained when Mike and his partner from The Ledbury, Brett Graham, took over a few years ago.

As a meat eater, the restaurant menu is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, filled with locally sourced organic produce. As soon as I had it in my hand I found myself salivating over the thought of Pave & Stalker’s pie of Lockinge Fallow deer with Hispi cabbage, Roasted crown & confit leg of Yattendon Estate red legged partridge and Braised feather blade of Hereford beef with bone marrow, beetroot and roasted shallots. But, I wasn’t at The Pot Kiln to try any of these delights today as we’re still working our way through Christmas leftovers. Instead, I was taken to try one of their highly praised venison scotch eggs from the bar menu.

It’s not that I talk about them all the time, but anyone close to me knows I’ve always been a fan of scotch eggs – I’ve just re-read that, so in case you’re wondering, I’m referring to my close friends and family, not anyone standing close to me as I don’t believe I give off some kind of scotch egg aura.

The combination of fully flavoured well seasoned venison that’s shot by Mike on one of four local estates, a perfectly boiled egg that remains ever so slightly runny in the middle and the non-greasy deep fried breadcrumb casing, made this scotch egg one of the best I’ve tasted.

A single scotch egg is priced very reasonably at just over £3 and for a couple of pounds more, you can turn this perfectly adequate bar snack into a well-rounded lunch as it comes on a wooden board complete with luscious salad leaves, gherkins, pickled onions and a far too tasty celeriac remoulade.  The only downside was the addition of rock salt. Yes it’s nice to have little to hand so you can sprinkle some on the yolk, but was an entire pile absolutely necessary? I don’t think so as without even meaning too, I managed to get it all over the wooden board, contaminating numerous lettuce leaves that by the end would only appeal to a salt marsh sheep.

The Pot Kiln, Frilsham, nr Yattendon, Berkshire RG18 0XX

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