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Neil Rankin at John Salt preview photos

11 Jan

Nobody else in London cooks meat and fish using fire quite as well as Neil Rankin so we were excited to hear the news that he was taking over as resident head chef at John Salt. It’s not easy to follow in Ben Spalding‘s footsteps, but we have every confidence in Neil. We’ve been well acquainted with him in the last year or two both from visits to Pitt Cue and his occasional forays at Maltby Street Market, most recently the pop-up Cornish Bird collaboration with Little Bird Gin and Matt of Cornish Grill fame (who will continue to supply Neil). The steak was to die for.

Neil revealed an example menu earlier in the week, and food photographer Paul Winch-Furness was there to snap some food porn, embedded below. (Paul is everywhere! If you see a beautiful photo of a London restaurant or its food there’s probably a 50% chance it’s Paul’s, I swear…)

Almost 90% of the menu has had some degree of smoke or fire added to it. Even the cold dishes, the salads and a couple of the desserts. It’s my intention to use charcoal and smoke almost like a seasoning. Sometimes its very subtle but you’d notice it if it wasn’t there.

A few examples from the menu are:

  • Potted dishes including pork jowl, smoked brisket and shrimp all with sourdough
  • Salami cure crackling
  • Starters include – raw bass with apple and bergamot; raw beef, pear, sesame, oyster; oysters, lardo, bacon dashi; scallops with peanut and shrimp; crab and fennel on pork skin; scallops, popcorn, bay ice and frozen, cured and smoked loin; burnt leeks, shiitake, parmesan and truffle vinaigrette.
  • Mains include Half/whole coal baked crab with bisque butter, green chilli poussin and a whole megrim sole in bone sauce with capers. There will also be rare breed beef, all with bone marrow butter, including skirt steak, sirloin and a 1k rib eye for two.
  • Sides include frites with pulled pork, kimchi and cheese, chicken skin hash, cheese and brisket on dripping toast as well as pickles and salad.
  • And finally, for dessert there will be brown butter ice cream, salted caramel and peanut sundae; old-fashioned trifle with clementines and bacon panna cotta.
As for us, we’ll hopefully be visiting for a test night next week. Can’t wait!
  1. More gently filthy delights @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef – Crab & Fennel on Pork Skin @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UTtjn2r2MU/
  2. Raw bass, apple & bergamot @JohnSaltN1@FrontLineChef @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UTrtZbL2Kz/
  3. Coal baked crab & bisque butter @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UTu5_or2Nk/
  4. Oysters, lardo, bacon dashi @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UTwmn0L2PE/
  5. Scallops peanuts ponzu @JohnSaltN1 @FrontLineChef @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UTyDGuL2Af/
  6. . @FrontLineChef getting busy with the @BigGreenEggUK @ John Salt http://instagr.am/p/UT1Vi-r2DJ/
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Cornish Grill & Little Bird Gin popup restaurant at Maltby St

1 Dec

On Friday 30th November we went to the Cornish Grill and Little Bird Gin popup at Lassco on Maltby Street (aka Rope Walk) in Bermondsey. If you’ve never explored this particular area of London, and you like antiques and quirky reclaimed furniture, then you need to visit.

steaks

Resting ribs of tasty tasty beef

Neil Rankin is one of the most talented chefs we know when it comes to handling a good piece of meat 😉 on a barbecue.

Neil Rankin cooking mackerel

Neil Rankin hard at work with the mackerel

BBQ Grill

Red hot grill

Lassco is full of treasures that make you wish for a large house that you could decorate using the items found here.

The building was transformed into a gin palace and beef eatery for one night. The photos below are grainy as it was dark, but it gives you an idea of the atmosphere.

When we walked through the door, the smell of well-aged beef hit us straight away. To us, that’s one of the greatest aromas ever.

We sat in the bar area and had a pre-dinner dirty dry gin martini (this was after a Delgrado Amontillado sherry aperitf at Bar Tozino) before going to take our table in the dining room.

Entrance and 'bar' at Cornish Grill & Little Bird popup at Lassco, Maltby Street.

Entrance and ‘bar’ at Cornish Grill & Little Bird popup at Lassco, Maltby Street.

Below is the menu. We were all about the beef, so didn’t get to try the mackerel, but I am sure it was delicious as well.

Cornish Bird Menu

The #CornishBird menu

Hand-dived scallops with jamon Iberico provided by Tozino.

The scallops were sweet, prepared raw and sprinkled with paprika salt. Chuse’s ham, as ever, is delicious and cut to the requisite thinness.

Hand-dived scallops with jamon iberico

Hand-dived scallops with Jamon Iberico

Côte du Boeuf with beef dripping frites and chimichurri.  If this had been my last meal I would have died happy. Beef was perfectly cooked and it tasted properly of cow.  The frites were well-seasoned and crispy, done in beef dripping. Proper.  The chimichurri was delicious. There was also aioli, rich and garlicky, but I didn’t take a photo of it.

Côte du Boeuf with beef dripping frites and chimichurri

Côte du Boeuf with beef dripping frites and chimichurri

Poached pear with hazelnuts. The pear was poached well, still slightly firm, but juicy and sweet. A nice light end to the meal.

Pear with hazelnuts

Pear with hazelnuts

Fleur de lis water glass

Fleur de lis water glass (or was it gin?)

We are looking forward to seeing what Cornish Grill and Little Bird Gin do next. We’ll be there.

Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons Wedding Dinner

20 Dec
The Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons courtyard at night

The Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons courtyard at night

Our overall impressions of the food at Le Manoir lived up to expectations of a two Michelin-starred restaurant. The service was outstanding – so unobtrusive you didn’t even notice them constantly topping up the wine glasses (which was a little dangerous!) and the waiting staff had personality.

The only criticism was that there was inconsistency in the presentation of some of the plates of food. Paul’s red mullet dish came out looking completely different to mine and the other guests, and there were inconsistencies in the sizes and pieces of partridge as well from another guest’s account. This is something that Chef Raymond Blanc would not stand for on his BBC show The Restaurant, but it did not detract from an otherwise perfect meal.

Table setting for wedding at Le Manoir

Table setting for wedding at Le Manoir

The wedding dinner menu

The wedding dinner menu

We had the honour to be invited to our friends Dominique and Gabriel’s wedding at Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin starred establishment ‘Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons’, located in the village of Great Milton in Oxfordshire. The wedding was a  10 course Menu Découverte.

Assiette apéritive, pumpkin soup

Assiette apéritive, pumpkin soup

Parfait of duck liver, spiced pear chutney, toasted country bread

Parfait of duck liver, spiced pair chutney, toasted country bread

The assiette apéritive was a light and foamy pumpkin soup, a slightly sweet yet savoury delight. It was served with a La Tour Château Grand Moulin Corbières Blanc 2008 from Languedoc.

This was followed by the first starter, the duck liver parfait – lovely and creamy with the textural contrast of the nuts, and the bread was delicious. The sweet and subtly spiced pear chutney cut through the richness of the liver.

Risotto of wild mushrooms, truffle cream

Risotto of wild mushrooms, truffle cream

Pan-fried wild Cornish gill-netted red mullet and "jig caught" squid, salted cod brandade, bouillabaisse jus

Pan-fried wild Cornish gill-netted red mullet and "jig caught" squid, salted cod brandade, bouillabaisse jus

As the risotto course was placed in front of us – risotto of wild mushroom with truffle cream – the tantalising smell of truffle wafted through the room. The flavours were intense. It was perfectly seasoned and the rice was well cooked. Bizarrely though, the slice of truffle on top seemed a bit bland! Despite this, the depth of flavour in the rice made it a winner for Paul.

The pan-fried Cornish red mullet fish course was Sarah’s favourite dish out of the entire meal. The squid had the most intense chargrilled flavour, and was extremely tender. The brandade was satisfyingly salty on top of the potato, and the mullet was cooked to perfection. The accompanying fennel acted as a suitable partner to the gorgeous fish and the bouillabaisse jus added plenty of fishy flavour in the background.

Roasted partridge, smoked mashed potatoes, caramelised salsify, redcurrant jus

Roasted partridge, smoked mashed potatoes, caramelised salsify, redcurrant jus

Farmhouse cheeses

Farmhouse cheeses

Next came the roasted partridge breast which was tender and still slightly pink, the way it should be, served with smoked mashed potato which was a real winner. Some of our fellow guests found the partridge breast a little tough, and the presentation was a bit hit and miss. Sarah’s looked as pretty as a picture but Paul’s was just piled up. Added to the fact one or two guests had shattered bone and one found shot, this was a bit sub-Michelin standard – but didn’t detract too much from the rest of the meal.

At this point the red wine – Château Le Roc Le Classique 2006 – was served. This was followed by the cheeses, which were presented beautifully – each cheese was paired with an accompanying condiment: honey, chutney, glazed pecans, etc.

"Kaffir" lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet

"Kaffir" lime leaf and coconut tapioca, passion fruit and banana sorbet

Hot "Guanaja" chocolate fondant with amaretto cream, pistachio ice cream

Hot "Guanaja" chocolate fondant with amaretto cream, pistachio ice cream

The first dessert course was a Kaffir lime leaf and coconut tapioca creation – an explosion of tropical flavours which was very welcome after the heavier cheeses. The tiny soft tapioca pearls sat on top of finely diced passion fruit, and the banana sorbet was delicately placed on top in a tiny quenelle. The lime flavour from the Kaffir leaves was surprisingly powerful.

With this came a rich sweet dessert wine – Mas Amiel Maury Vintage Reserve 2006, from Roussillon.

Sarah’s winner out of the dessert courses was Raymond Blanc’s signature dish – a chocolate fondant. The beautiful, absolutely stunning mini fondant was meltingly perfect, accompanied by pistachio ice cream that tasted of real pistachios – no artificial flavours here! The amaretto creams were delicious too.

Petit fours et chocolate du Manoir

Petit fours et chocolate du Manoir

Finally, petit fours were exquisitely hand crafted and presented like a work of art, like all of the food on the menu. They were accompanied by little cups of coffee and then liqueur orders were taken. And with the fantastic wine free-flowing throughout the meal and a couple of Cognacs to finish, the evening was a complete success!

We would love to go back to sample more of the food in the actual restaurant setting, and we’d like to see more of the grounds as well as we didn’t have that opportunity on this occasion.

Anchor & Hope Restaurant Review

4 Mar

The Anchor & Hope is a gastropub run by the same people at St John, The Fox, and The Eagle – all known for their offally good food. Great food, great service – and the best chips we’ve ever had – but you might have to wait for a table, especially if you visit at peak hours. Bearing in mind we only arrived at 10pm and still had to wait, on a Tuesday night, that gives you a rough idea of how popular the Anchor & Hope is. Definitely one of South London’s gems.

Anchor & Hope, Waterloo, London

We paid a visit on Tuesday, 27th February, around 10pm, after a few post-work drinks. We hadn’t booked, and in fact I think there is a no-booking policy, however the waiting staff were extremely helpful, even offering to serve us in the bar area. However we wanted to eat in the non-smoking restaurant area, (yes, rejoice those of you who prefer to enjoy your food unsullied by the rude w*nker next to you who decides to light their cancer stick) so decided to wait with our bottle of Rioja.

Sharing tables
We waited about 30 minutes to be shown to our table that we shared with a couple of sapphic lovers. Due to the demand at this gastropub I think sharing tables is fairly common, so if you go, don’t be surprised if you do have to share. However this didn’t impact on our enjoyment of the victuals which were about to arrive at our table.

To start I ordered the brandade with salad, although I had to enquire what brandade actually is. It turned out to be a mixture of pureed potato with salt cod and some herbs – delicious with a rich creamy texture and a not overpowering flavour. Being a potato fan I thought it was delicious, and substantial as a starter. Paul ordered beef consomme accompanied by a slice of artisanal toast with duck pate, which he enjoyed.

To follow we ordered the beef fore ribs for two – accompanied by fresh, hot, crispy chips, and a green salad lightly dressed. The beef was cooked to perfection – medium rare, a fresh rosy colour and had all the fat round the edges to give extra flavour. Tender and juicy, it was heavenly to a couple of hungry carnivores.

The chips
Ah, the chips – the best I have ever had in my life. They were thick cut, double-fried and seasoned to perfection, salty, without being over salted, and it would have been an insult to even wave the ketchup bottle in their direction. Crispy on the outside, steaming hot on the inside with rich fluffy goodness filling our senses. If you go even only for their chips, it will have been a trip worth making.

We polished off our mains in good order, and followed those by a creme caramel which was light and delicate, though a bit small. To be fair that was probably a good call as Paul had ordered a deliciously creamy coffee ice-cream, which we also shared. It tasted like real home-made ice-cream, without a hint of chemicals or that tacky gooiness you tend to see in commercial varieties.

Reassuringly expensive
The three course meal totalled £30 per person, the bottle of wine being extra which was £18.50. Most mains aren’t too expensive, ranging from £13-£17 but we did splurge on the beef for two which was £40.00.

Our waiter was very attentive and obliging, even though some dishes had been sold out, he came back with alternatives and was very helpful – well worth a tip!

Order by the bottle
The only discordant note we saw struck was by a couple in front of us in the bar area who had chosen to have their meal there instead of waiting to be seated in the restaurant area. As they had ordered wine by the glass, it arrived in a little juice tumbler, and they were envious of our wine glasses – we had purchased by the bottle. And why not – let the customer who buys the bottle have a better glass, for they are spending more money. It’s all in the benefits of the upgrade – upgrade to a bottle from a glass, and you’ll get the wine glasses. I understand some may only want a glass, but really, who in their sane mind over a lovely meal will want only one glass? If it’s a dinner outing, splurge a bit. You only live once.

Anchor & Hope
36 The Cut, London, SE1 8LE
Tel: 0871 0757279