Friday, 16 March 2012
He is variously described as a "night life impresario", a "cultural engineer" and a man with such magnetism that his mere presence can assure an attractive clientele. With all of this hype, it sounds like he could be the Messiah for all things Mexican. Can his just opened Soho gaff lead us to the promised land?
Whilst the restaurant has not yet opened, the bar/cafe/taqueria shows all of the hallmarks of the Messiah's touch: think a cross between a retro student diner and your favourite hole in the wall bar. Very new world, very urban cool, very much the place where the cool kids of the West End will hang out.
From a culinary perspective, we have new takes on old favourites. Starters consist of the likes of red snapper ceviche with tomato (£9), chorizo and coriander lettuce cups (£9) or grilled corn with crema mexicana (£3.50). Standing out from the crowd however if the wonderfully rich and limey guacamole with sesame tostados (£5) - this is pure guacamole heaven that almost (but not quite) surpassed Ms P's perfect take on the Mexican favourite. If those don't call your name, try the three tacos selection (£6): six choices, some of which are the seared steak with salsa picante, chorizo and potato or cochinita pibil pork with salsa verde. I tried the cochinita - a wonderfully rich slowed cooked pulled pork that was meltingly tender and enlivened by a tangy salsa verde that was on the right side of taste bud wham.
Mains consisted of the likes of huevos rancheros with frijoles negros with added bacon or char grilled steak (£7.50 - £14), whole grilled sea bream with al mojo de ajo (£16) or the skirt steak with salsa rachera (£13.50). I opted for the chilaquiles with slow braised shredded beef and ancho chilli (£10.50) - to the uncool (like myself) this is a fussed-up nachos with part toasted corn chips slathered in a rich tomato sauce and covered in a mount of meat. The shredded beef was flavoursome with hints of corriander and certainly better than anything I have seen topped on nachos before. However, overall the dish lacked the kick of flavour I expect from Mexican - it seemed to be missing zing or the whack of spice.
In the drinks department and for those that love tequila, it will be shots all round (£3.80-£27.10) with an extended list that is likely to induce dancing on the colourful bar. Cocktails are imaginative (£7.50), with the hibiscus frozen margarita waiting for me for next time.
Serge's La Bodega Negra didn't take me to the promised land, but in time it might - it is early days. Let his magnetism entice you through the door of this new Soho haunt, have a tequila or ten and enjoy some new takes on Mexican favourites.
Sunday, 4 March 2012
|Sleek slate tones (picture by Mark Whitfield)|
|(Picture by Mark Whitfield)|
The menu is a deconstructionist ride through the Italian kitchen, taking the best dishes and ingredients from across the country and moulding them into something new.
Our entrees, reflected Bruno's creative mindset and the best dishes that Italy has to offer. Ms P and one of our companions Marcus, chose the 'Zuppa Imperiale', a Bolognese-style bread soup with a capon broth and mortadella quenelle (£13). Both felt that it was satisfying on some levels, but was much too highly salted . My Pietmontese beef tartare with taleggio cheese and pistachio fondue was beautifully presented but once again the seasoning was unbalanced. The beef appeared to have been mixed with some form of cured meat (or had been overly salted) and this impacted the ability to enjoy the flavours of the fondue. Fifi, another companion chose the smoked aubergine tartare with garlic, mint, pressed olives and burrata sauce (£11). It was enjoyable, but could have had more depth. If I return, my bet for entree would be the 'fregola' pasta cooked in seawater with a shellfish and seawater stew (£18). Sounds like an adventure.
|Smoked aubergine tartare with garlic, mint, pressed olives and burrata sauce (£11)|
|'Zuppa Imperiale', a Bolognese-style bread soup with a capon broth and mortadella quenelle (£13)|
|Pietmontese beef tartare with taleggio cheese and pistachio fondue (£13)|
Our main courses were once again a trip along the Italian Peninsula. Fifi's 'Cacciatore' style ragu in a crispy parcel of pasta on a bechamel sauce (£18) was extremely flavoursome with the tastes of pigeon, duck and chicken coming through in the sauce. Once again, the kitchen excelled itself in the presentation stakes. Food and art on a plate. Both Marcus and I chose the roasted rack of lamb with artichokes and carbonara sauce (£27). This combined a generous serving of prosciutto wrapped lamb with a rich carbonara. The artichoke was perfectly roasted and was the right counterpoint to the richness of the lamb and sauce. The only downside once again to a very pleasant dish being too liberal seasoning. Ms P chose the quadruccio pasta (a short flat square pasta) in a mussel and saffron broth with parsley pesto (£16). It was as expected, but not a revelation. Perhaps if there is a next time we would try the pan seared sea bass with stewed wild chicory and 'pancotto' with aromatic herbs (£32).
|'Cacciatore' style ragu in a crispy parcel of pasta on a bechamel sauce (£18)|
|Quadruccio pasta in a mussel and saffron broth with parsley pesto (£16)|
|Roasted rack of lamb with artichokes and carbonara sauce (£27)|
Cotidie opens Monday 5th March.
Sunday, 26 February 2012
OK, so I am not a slave to fashion, be it the couture kind (Ms P will assure you of that) or the food/restaurant kind. The urban cool might have been hanging there for ages, but it has taken me while to catch-on to the wonder of Hix Bar and Restaurant - winner of the Timeout 2010 Best New Restaurant and The Observer 2011 Best Place to Drink.
Located in the heart of Soho, Hix offers a contemporary space as well as the best of British tradition in both food and drinks. The basement bar is a modern speakeasy that has plumbed the depths of British cocktail history to recreate the best concoctions from bygone eras. The pressed metal-ceilings, large zinc-topped bar, jumble of modern and antique furniture and buzzing environment make it a magnet for those with something to celebrate. Cocktails are quirky and creative.
|The Hanky Panky - get me another one|
|Awesome wood pigeon|
|Ms P's oysters were delish|
|The most flavoursome hanger steak|
|The silver mullet was a wonder|
|Almond, caramel and custard:mmm|
It might have taken me a while to discover Hix, but I assure you I will be back. The place has a buzz that is engaging and the quality of the fresh produce shines. Extremely good British cuisine.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
|Looking towards Sora Lella & Isola Tiberina|
I love this city for its crumbling mass of history and the enormous array of restaurants (and gelaterias). On a recent visit, whilst London shivered, Rome shone. It wasn't only the sun that quickened the step, it was chancing upon the wonderful Michelin-stared Sorra Lella, located on the tranquial island, Isola Tiberina in the historic centre of Rome.
Continuously owned by the same family for over 50 years, Sora Lella dedicates itself to the art of classic Roman cooking in traditional surrounds. This is not a restaurant for those looking for nouvelle cuisine, deconstructed foams or style over substantive. What you will find is engaging staff, well spaced tables, a calm atmosphere and lots of dark wood.
|Crisp and light croquettes|
The pasta course (between €12-14), delivered all of the traditional Roman delights that a happy man could want. I loved the sounds of the homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach & fresh ricotta in a pecorino, pepper and fresh Roman mint sauce and the jumbo rigatoni with fish ragu with tomato & fresh basil. However, I couldn't go past the homemade tonnarelli pasta with sausage, guanciale (Roman cured bacon), eggs and walnuts. The tonnarelli was perfectly cooked and the sauce (to me, like a souped-up carbonara) gave off a creamy, nutty texture with rich, salty pork highlights.
|The best baby lamb|
|Just something light|
Don't go to Sora Lella if you want mod, moody and cool. This is extremely good, traditional Roman food in the calmest and most convivial of settings. The prices might be higher than those on the mainland (ie off the island, over the road in Rome), but it is certainly well worth the short trip.
Ristorante Sora Lella
via Ponte 4 capo, 16
If your Roman dreams turn into a wonderful reality, you can't go beyond Trevi BnB Roma. I found it by chance, but it has all of the hallmarks of a fantastic pitstop: large historic rooms, plush beds, high ceilings, luxurious bathrooms and in-room sofas for lounging. To cap it all off, it is a hop, skip and jump from the Trevi Foundtain. The breakfast is pretty damn good as well. My superior double was only €120 a night.
Trevi BnB Roma
via del Lavatore, 83
00187 Roma, Italy
Saturday, 11 February 2012
Snowfall in London calls for romance and Andrew Edmunds, a Soho-based institution hits the high notes for intimate bohemian charm with the right degree of buzz. Occupying two floors of a small Georgian townhouse, the effusive service and character-filled interior are combined with an inexpensive, limited European-based food menu and an extensive and reasonably price winelist to create a go-to place for when you want a simple supper with the one you love.
|Go for the terteloni!|
|Can you smell the heady aroma of the truffle oil?|
I am a sucker for a good carpaccio and therefore couldn't go past the marinated Black Angus beef with wild mushrooms, shaved pecorino & truffle oil (£9.00). On a freezing night, this hit all the right notes: warmed mushrooms combined with the heady aroma of truffle and delicate tasting beef. Our warm aubergine, puy lentil, pinenut & pomegranate molasses salad (£4.75) was full of earthy goodness and had the right balance of sweet and sour.
|A well balanced puy.|
The main menu was matched perfectly to the snow falling outside: think hearty classics such as Gloucester Old Spot pork & chorizo stew with peppers & chickpeas (£15.00) or hind of venison steak with mash & braised shallots (£18.50). Whilst these dishes might be calling your name if you visit, we settled on fishier themes. The whole lemon sole with parsley & lemon butter (£18.00) was delicious and perfectly seasoned. Our seared tuna steak with roast daikon, sesame & soy spinach with sweet chilli sauce (£15.00), was the most generous serving of tuna we have ever seen this side of the international dateline. The only let-down was the sweet chilli sauce - something a little more adventurous and homemade would have been better. A big call-out goes to the special of the day: monkfish & lobster torteloni with brown crab & rocket sauce (£20). Our generous serving of homemade pasta perfectly combined our love of carbs and seafood.
|The delicate and perfectly seasoned sole.|
|That is one hunk of perfectly cooked tuna.|
Whilst there were many pudding options, we couldn't go past the warmly recommended sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (apparently it is the second best in London). Whilst generous in size, I didn't feel it had the punch offered by former sticky toffees we have jumped head-long into, and therefore not worth a gold medal. Good, but not great.
|Snow = sticky toffee|
Andrew Edmunds isn't for you if you want trendy or cutting edge. Go when you want a place with an intimate atmosphere and inexpensive dishes, friendly and attentive service. Take someone you love (I did).
Sunday, 29 January 2012
|Lovebird 1 emerges from one of the quaintest pubs in the land|
We've returned, ready to enjoy the wonder of London and the cosiness of the deep midwinter. What better welcome back to the UK, than a day trip to the countryside coupled with a lunch at an ancient pub awarded countless gongs, followed by an extended walk through the forest.
The Duke of Cumberland Arms, has sat looking out at the Leith Hills, in the tiny hamlet of Henley (near Fernhrust, outside Haslemere, 45 minutes from London) since the 15th century and combines the best of modern British food with a cosy interior of roaring fires, flagstone floors, thick walls and local ales. After our journey, I understand why it was awarded the Good Food Guide Pub of the Year 2012 and the Seafood Pub of the Year 2011.
|The Dukes extensive gardens: great spots for alfresco dining. We will be back in the Spring|
|The best outdoor smoking room in Britain|
|The goosey goodness of smoked goose with celeriac|
|Wonderfully fresh oysters|
|The Hunter Pie that hit the spot|
|The pappardelle with rabbit and chestnut ragu|
|The meaty goodness of the slow-braised ox cheek|
|The best of British cheeses|
|Love at first sight for Ms P: roasted pineapple pudding soaked in rum with coconut ice cream|
|The sticky toffee pudding that stopped a grown man in his tracks|
|This chocolate fondant almost led to fisticuffs: it was Lovebird 1's and it should have been all mine|
The Duke fulfilled all of our rural pub wants and desires: it was less than a hour from London but in a hamlet that time seemed to have forgotten (ask a local about mobile reception or internet access), it offered great food at reasonable prices with friendly attentive service and a fantastically comfortable historic setting.
The Duke of Cumberland Arms
West Sussex GU27 3HQ