"After years of continuous eating,'A Girl has to Eat', a self-confessed food lover and eat-aholic, has been spurred on to create her own food guide & blog. Read about her fabulous (and sometimes not so fabulous) culinary adventures in her restaurant reviews. This and more!"

Helene Darroze

Posted on Wednesday, 18th January 2017

HELENE DARROZE

Helene Darroze has long been recognised as one of the world’s best female chefs, receiving one such acclaim when she became the winner of The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2015. Darroze is a fourth generation chef, with the generations before her running a family restaurant in Landes, Frances. Helene Darroze honed her skills under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse at the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, before returning to the family restaurant in Landes and then ultimately opening Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris. This, her flagship restaurant won her the first of her three Michelin stars in 2001. In 2008 Helene Darroze opened at The Connaught, taking over from the site previously occupied by Angela Hartnett. Helene Darroze at The Connaught currently holds two Michelin stars.

The dining rooms at Helene Darroze at The Connaught are resplendent and beautiful. The interior is filled with beautiful wood panelling, floral touches and plush furnishings, and the dimly lit space bestows the restaurant with a timeless intimate elegance. The classically French a la carte menu is priced at £95 for 5 courses or £130 for 7 courses. Therefore the 3 course lunch at £52 is comparatively good value. With restaurants in both Paris and London, Helene roughly splits her time between the two cities.

The menu at Helene Darroze at The Connaught is presented using a very unique format and is worthy of a mention. A round board containing marbles is given to each diner, and each dish on the menu is inscribed on an individual marble. A full listing with a description of the dishes is also presented to the diner, and so you are therefore able to choose your meal by eliminating the marbles with the names of the dishes that you don’t want. Genius! And so much fun.

Helene Darroze - London Food Blog - The menu

Helene Darroze – The menu

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Amici Miei

Posted on Thursday, 12th January 2017

AMICI MIEI

Amici Miei is a casual Italian restaurant on Kingsland Road serving rustic fare such as wood-fired sourdough pizzas and pastas, along with a range of Italian regional dishes. The name, Amici Miei, translates as ‘my friends’, and it is indeed a welcoming spot with its bare brick-work, relaxed ambiance and cozy vibe.

I dined at Amici Miei with Artour from food blog Nifty Noshing and as we both love eating the Asian way which is to order multiple dishes and to share them all. That way, you get to try more and share not just the physical space, but share the enjoyment of the food as well. And the menu at Amici Miei is truly ideal for sharing. Apart from the pizzas and pastas, the comprehensive menu also dishes up a range of cicchetti – Italian tapas and antipastas.

We started with the polpette, meatballs (£5) which came in a faintly garlicky tomato sauce. They were simple and tasted of “homemadeness”. These exuded a rustic quality and were very enjoyable, although no distinct flavours to speak of were discerned.

Amici Miei - London Food Blog - Meatballs

Amici Miei – Meatballs

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Maze Grill – Sunday Roast

Posted on Monday, 9th January 2017

MAZE GRILL

Maze Grill by Gordon Ramsay in Mayfair was the first of the three Maze Grills to open (the other two are on Royal Hospital Road and Park Road) and sits adjacent to Maze, the original fine dining establishment that bears the word ‘Maze’ in its name. Whereas Maze offers an eclectic European menu with an Asian twist in a more formal setting, Maze Grill took its inspiration from the Manhattan grill rooms where steaks are the order of the day. Maze Grill is the kind of place where select US and British cuts of aged prime steaks are brought out on a board for customers to choose from. But also prevalent at the restaurant is a range of sushi and sashimi. On Saturday afternoons, Maze Grill Mayfair offers a bottomless bubbles and sushi menu for £40.

We visited Maze Grill on a Sunday afternoon, during which time the ever popular Sunday roast is served. For £25, diners can have a 35 day dry aged sirloin beef with slow braised shin of beef, Yorkshire pudding, rich bone marrow gravy and unlimited sides such as buttered carrots, honey glazed parsnips and wagyu fat roast potatoes.

But before tucking into the Sunday roast we decided to try a number of starters. Salt and Szechuan pepper squid (£5) with chilli and lime was fairly tasty with a crispy coating. Deep fried onion rings (£4.50) were fat and big and nicely done. Also pleasant (and also deep fried) were the buffalo chicken fillets (£5). These were crunchy and well made, but at £5 for a few measly pieces, this plate felt a tad overpriced.

Maze Grill – London Food Blog - Salt & Szechuan pepper squid

Maze Grill – Salt & Szechuan pepper squid

Maze Grill – London Food Blog – Onion rings & chicken bites

Maze Grill – Onion rings & chicken bites

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Oliver Maki

Posted on Sunday, 1st January 2017

OLIVER MAKI

Oliver Maki, a Japanese restaurant located on Dean Street, Soho, was founded by Lebanese-Canadian Oliver Maki and his family. The Zeitoun family come from a long line of olive grove farmers (Zeitoun means ‘olive’ in Arabic) and the influence of olives can be felt throughout the restaurant, from the impressions of olive trees on the mirrors in the restaurant, to the use of the word Oliver in the restaurant’s name (alluding to the word olive). But even so, the restaurant is about combining the traditions of Japanese food with modernity. At the helm is Executive Head Chef Louis Kenji Huang, formerly a sushi chef at Nobu in Las Vegas.

Oliver Maki has a number of branches throughout the Middle East, and the Soho branch is the first in Europe. The restaurant is set on two levels and is modern, understated, chic and comfortable.

The menu is deal for sharing and is divided into various sections, ranging from the Cold and Hot Appetisers, to the signature sashimi to the mains, but to name a few. The first was Filo Ebi Tempura Shots (£12.90), consisting of three beautifully presented pieces of prawn, wrapped and fried in vermicelli rather than the traditional batter, and served semi-submerged in a spicy creamy sauce in a shot glass. The prawns were perfectly cooked and worked well with the hint of chilli in the sauce. On the side was a yamamomo peach which was a nice accompaniment as it offered a touch of acidity.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Shrimp tempura shot

Oliver Maki – Shrimp tempura shot

Hamachi Chilli Sashimi (£10.90), slices of yellowtail dressed with ponzu, extra virgin olive oil, slices of jalapeño and coriander cress proved to be very tasty and well presented. The yellowtail was fresh, but had been cut quite thin, perhaps a touch too thin, but it went well with the acidity of the ponzu and the hint of chilli.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Yellowtail sashimi

Oliver Maki – Yellowtail sashimi

Unagi Tacos (2pcs – £8.60) was a fine dish using chopped eel, avocado, spring onions, cucumber and wasabi emulsion, the use of which combining to create a lovely explosion of flavours on the tongue. The tacos themselves were a little too thick in texture, but otherwise this was a very enjoyable dish.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Eel taco & nigiri

Oliver Maki – Eel taco & nigiri

We tried a selection of nigiri including sea bass (£3.50), a nicely proportioned piece of fresh seabass on well vinegared rice. The aburi o-toro (£6.50), a torched flame fatty tuna was delicious, although the aburi wagyu beef (£8) was decidedly chewy and difficult to eat.

For maki we chose the interesting sounding wagyu burger maki (6pcs) (£18.00) made from Australian wagyu with a mushroom sauce, avocado, Japanese pickles, tomato and cucumber on a base of rice. We weren’t particularly impressed with this dish. Expecting a more luxurious texture from the fat content that is typically found in wagyu, we found the beef to be a tad dry.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Wagyu maki

Oliver Maki – Wagyu maki

To the mains, and a matcha yuki udon (£13.70) consisted of stir fried homemade green tea udon with thinly sliced scallops, shiitake, black truffle oil and dill. The scallops were over cooked and overall the dish was very salty, resulting in the flavour of the truffle oil being lost. Conceptually the idea was good, but the execution could have been better.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea udon

Oliver Maki -Green tea udon

Gindara (black cod) shiitake (£27), a dish of miso grilled black cod with shiitake, was a very well cooked dish. The fish was moist and succulent, and the miso sauce was lovely and rich.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Black cod

Oliver Maki – Black cod

For dessert we opted for the Terrarium matcha tiramisu (£8) made up of fresh mascarpone, white and dark chocolate, green tea, and “rock” chocolate on the side (chocolate made to resemble the appearance of a piece of rock). Served in an elongated see-through glass jar, the presentation was made to look like a garden and was very appealing. What’s more, it tasted delicious, although there was some unevenness in how the tiramisu had been layered.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea tiramisu

Oliver Maki – Green tea tiramisu

From the mochi (£3 per piece) selection we chose green tea, mango and toasted sesame. These were excellent with the right level of consistency in the rice casing and each filled with delicious and well-made ice cream.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Mochi

Oliver Maki – Mochi

Oliver Maki makes a nice mark in the world of Japanese fusion cuisine, balancing traditional Japanese food with a contemporary culinary approach. On the whole, the food was well prepared, interesting and affordably priced, especially for a Soho location. The menu including the drink menu was very extensive, meaning diners are spoilt for choice. There were a few elements in the food that we didn’t like (avoid the wagyu), but overall there was a high level of consistency in the well judged cooking.

We liked the service, finding it very effective and appealing.

Summary Information:
Likes:
1. Filo Ebi Tempura Shots
2. Unagi Tacos
3. Hamachi Chilli Sashimi
4. The matcha tiramisu
5. The mochi

Dislikes:
1. Aburi wagyu beef nigiri
2. Wagyu burger maki
3. Matcha yuki udon

Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: about £40 to £50 per head. Excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://www.olivermaki.co.uk/

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Oliver Maki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Frog – A Parmigiano Reggiano Celebration

Posted on Wednesday, 21st December 2016

THE FROG -PARMESAN CELEBRATION

I reviewed a lovely meal at The Frog recently, but last week was an opportunity to try more of Adam Handling’s excellent cooking at a bloggers’ event (again at The Frog), this time to celebrate parmesan cheese. Adam Handling “leapt” to fame as a finalist in Professional Masterchef in 2013 and since then has gained further awards along the way. And on our night to celebrate Parmigiano- Reggiano, Adam came up with a creative 3-course menu take us through the various ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a much revered cheese, not only by Italians, but in every corner of the world.

The event started with a lively reception in the conservatory area of the restaurant. Italian prosecco Ca’di Alte accompanied a generous array of Italian cured meat antipasti – a spread of Parma ham, bresaola, mortadella as well as freshly baked bread with olive oils. Plates with chunks of Parmesan cheese were dotted around tables to flag the star ingredient of the evening. We had to be careful not to nibble too much as the dinner was still to come, although good quality Parmigiano and fresh bread were hard to resist.

The Frog - London Food Blog - A celebration of parmesan

The Frog – A celebration of parmesan

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Qvintessenza

Posted on Thursday, 15th December 2016

QVINTESSENZA

Italian restaurant Qvintessenza set out with great intentions. The site says that the owner, clearly a lover of great wine, wanted to bring the best of Italian produce to his restaurant. And despite an awkward location on noisy Borough High Street in between Elephant and Castle and Borough stations, Qvintessenza is spacious, cosy, with lovely wooden surfaces, and lines and lines of wine bottles.

Italians often joke with seriousness how the magic ingredient in their food is simply love. That certain je ne sais quoi, the careful throwing of great ingredients together, where nothing extra is added other than attentiveness. Provenance means a lot. You need to know the source to guarantee the quality of ingredients when there’s so little to hide behind. So all the more disappointing that the food that followed was not very good.

No, not inedible, but so non-descript and lacking, well, in love, that we couldn’t help but feel this is a place that stopped caring. We know how disheartening it could be for staff to stay motivated when the numbers of punters dwindle (which we sense may be the case at Qvintessenza), but black slates and large square plates can’t prop up the lack of attention.

To kick off we asked for a basket of homemade bread – a joy and pride of Italian restaurants across the globe. Here we got a few small slices of bread at a highly overpriced £3.50. Furthermore, the bread had been shop bought despites claims of being homemade.

Burrata cheese (mozzarella filled with cream) with Parma ham (£12.50) said to be matured for 26 months was just fine, but it was difficult to enjoy to the dish fully without any proper bread to soak up the flavours.

Quintessenza - London Food Blog - Parma ham & burrata cheese

Quintessenza – Parma ham & burrata cheese

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Bo Drake

Posted on Wednesday, 7th December 2016

BO DRAKE

Found in the heart of Soho, Bo Drake is the brainchild of Jan Lee (a former chef de partie at Roka). Bo Drake opened at the start of 2015 and is a modern East Asian restaurant with a Korean-style anju bar. It draws predominantly from Korean and Japanese inspirations with a bit of a European twist thrown in. The result is a contemporary experience that combines, for example, the sweet and pickled influences from Asia with slow-cooked BBQ methods of the West.

The interior can be best described as a sleek casual hipster joint, with exposed bricks, pipes and tungsten lamps. The centrepiece is the bar fashioned from iroko with tall bar stools. Alongside it is simple wooden tables and there is a small dining area at the back.

On the whole Bo Drake offered a fine eating experience. The dishes were well presented, nicely cooked and creatively constructed. The menu is essentially a sharing one, with la carte dishes priced at around £10. It was an enticing menu, covering a good choice of smalls, meat, fish, veg, bowls and sides.

We began with some smalls. The first was the bugolgi beef sliders (2pc – £10.80) which were excellent and the star dish of the day. The minced beef was succulent and moist, and had been topped with some delicious caramelised red onions and crispy pancetta, all sitting in a warm and gently toasted brioche bun. It was well presented with some miso mayo on the side which was tasty.

Bo Drake - London Food Blog - Bugolgi beef sliders

Bo Drake – Bugolgi beef sliders

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View 94

Posted on Thursday, 1st December 2016

VIEW 94

View 94, by Head Chef Antonio Sanzone, is a modern European restaurant located in the Riverside Quarter jetty in Wandsworth, and serves as a superb riverside dining location. Previously the Head Chef at Caffe Caldesi, Chef Antonio first started cooking at the age of 13. Learning to cook from his dad who was also a chef, he learnt to draw inspiration from the local Italian produce. With View 94, Chef Antonio has continued to stay close to his Italian roots.

View 94 sits right on the bank of the River Thames, and therefore boasts stunning panoramic views along the river, stretching from Putney Bridge along to Wandsworth Bridge. The restaurant is split over two floors, with the ground floor being a lounge area serving a more casual bar menu, and the first floor being the restaurant proper. The design is modern and pretty minimalist, sparse even. It’s not a place to cosy up on during a dreary winter’s day, but instead would be to perfect place to linger during a spectacular sunny summer’s days. View 94 has a circular shape to it. Therefore you pretty much get good views from wherever you sit, especially as it has high, broad windows. There’s also an outdoor sitting area as well, again perfect for warm sunny days.

We started our lunch with a lovely beef tartare (£8) with cep dust, cured egg yolk and served in a well constructed Reggiano (parmesan) crown. As the waiter explained to us, no salt was used in the preparation of the dish. Instead the cep dust, a much loved Italian ingredient, acted as seasoning. The beef had been finely diced and was flavoursome, and the Reggiano crown added both further flavour and texture. There were also capers running throughout the tartare to provide acidity to this lovely plate of food.

View 94 - London Food Blog - Beef tartare

View 94 – Beef tartare

Homemade smoked salmon (£8) was also very tasty. It had been lightly smoked so that you could still taste the sweet, delicate flavour of the salmon. Alongside the smoked salmon sat some pickled Romanesco and a refreshing salad of fennel and oranges with a chilli dressing.

View 94 - London Food Blog - Smoked salmon

View 94 – Smoked salmon

A main of lobster moka risotto (£22) served with spring onion puree, spicy tomato coulis and finished with shellfish cappuccino was a generous portion. The lobster had been nicely cooked, and sat on a bed of black squid ink risotto. The risotto had a nice flavour running through it, creamy from the squid ink and not too fishy. However I would have preferred less cooking of the risotto so that the rice had more of an al dente bite to it. The spicy coulis was lovely, giving the dish a refreshing element, and the shellfish cappuccino was rich and smooth, providing an added dimension to the dish.

View 94 - London Food Blog - Lobster moka risotto

View 94 – Lobster moka risotto

Pan fried duck breast (£17.50) was also very pleasant to eat. The duck was nicely cooked, pink and very tender, and it came with solid and trusty worth accompaniment of marinated red cabbage. In addition there was a sprinkling of almond flakes and a citrusy mandarin jus.

View 94 - London Food Blog - Pan fried duck breast

View 94 – Pan fried duck breast

To desserts, and a fondant black forest (£7.50) with vanilla ice cream and a sour cherry coulis was solid. The fondant was rich with a runny centre, and the coulis serving as a good acidic contrast to the chocolate. A second “Cappuccino” dessert (£6.50) consisted of an espresso cheese cake with coffee jelly fiordilatte ice cream, Italian meringue and gluten free cantucci. It was well made, creamy and smooth and with a good flavour. But overall I found the cheesecake a touch too sweet.

I liked the food at View 94. Chef Antonio does well to draw out flavour from the fresh, seasoning ingredients that he uses. It’s not cutting edge cooking, but rather smart, steady, solid cooking with some modernity thrown in. The service was pleasant and in the round View 94 is a very pleasant place to eat. The views are spectacular with the setting working best on a nice sunny day. Although the food was good, View 94 isn’t a restaurant I would go out of my way for during the winter. But come the summer – no question at it. It’s a superb riverside dining location.

Summary information:
Likes:

1) The beef tartare
2) The amazing views.

Dislikes:
1) I enjoyed the lobster risotto, but would have preferred it more al dente.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: about £26 to £38 a head. Excludes drinks and service.

Website:http://view-94.com/

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View94 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato