Posts for the 'Bistro' Category


Social Eating House

Located in the heart of Soho on Poland Street, Social Eating House was the third restaurant in the portfolio of celebrated Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton, once a protégé of Gordon Ramsay.

Set over three floors with a basement chef’s table, a group floor restaurant and a top floor bar, Social Eating House offers a contemporary bistro menu and currently holds one Michelin star. I loved Jason Atherton’s food when he was still cooking under Gordon Ramsay at Maze, before he got financing and expanded internationally. His restaurants can now be found not only in London, but also in Asia, New York and as far afield as Sydney. It’s not easy to maintain high standards when chefs expand so rapidly. Too often I find that with such expansion the food develops a formulaic feel to it and lacks the sense of heart and substance that won the chef his accolades in the first place.

We went to Social Eating House and dined on the special prix-fix menu which was priced at £29.50 for 2 courses and a cocktail or £34.50 for 3 courses. The vibe was informal and quite buzzy, with a fun and funky energy. It was all very nice if a little too noisy. We found the experience to be acceptable relative to the price we paid, but didn’t find it particularly special for a Michelin starred restaurant. Sure we only had the prix-fix menu, but we hadn’t expected to find errors in the food.

Starter number one was the Normandy chicken with BBQ sweet corn, popcorn, strozzapreti pasta and laksa sauce. The chicken was pleasantly cooked, but the sauce was quite strong which ended up overpowering the chicken. There was also quite a lot of the sauce which didn’t help matters. Moreover the sauce hadn’t been heated up properly and so was slightly cold. I didn’t much like the popcorn in the dish either – it did not taste as it had been freshly popped. However the pasta was lovely.

Social Eating House - London Food Blog - Chicken with laksa sauce

Social Eating House – Chicken with laksa sauce

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108 Brasserie

108 BRASSERIE

Set in the heart of Marylebone, 108 Brasserie on 108 Marylebone Lane is a beautiful brasserie restaurant offering a classy all-day dining experience. Furnished with antique mirrors, sumptuous red leather upholstery and nickel detailing, the showpiece of the brasserie is the dark stained oak bar that helps to create a stylish and welcoming ambience.

108 Brasserie houses several distinctive areas. First is the brasserie’s restaurant, a classy dining space which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. The Executive Chef is Russell Ford who previously worked at The Grove. With 108 Brasserie, he has come up with a menu of simple British dishes made from the finest locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Main dishes include Roast Cornish lamb and a selection of salads including a superfood salad for the health-conscious. There is also a section devoted to the josper grill where a selection of meats and seafood can be cooked to order. Second is 108 Pantry, a bright and modern space where breakfast, light lunches and afternoon teas are served.

The bar is the third space at 108, an elegant and stylish area that serves wines, classic British cocktails and a weekly changing menu of small plates. Here we enjoyed a sophisticated and delicious signature cocktail before dinner – The Marylebone (£13) with vodka, champagne, elderflower and black raspberry liquer. The wine list features a comprehensive selection of wines, including the excellent Nyetimber Classic Cuvée (£11.50 a glass, £57 a bottle) English sparkling wine.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - The Marylebone

108 Brasserie – The Marylebone

Moving into the restaurant proper, we began our dinner by savoring the bread selection (£2.50) that included soda, sourdough and Guinness bread. The soda and sourdough were respectable, but it was the Guinness bread that proved to be a knockout. It was delicious, with a distinct, robust, and slightly sweet flavour. It was so good we had to have seconds. The bread was served with some wonderful Abernethy Butter.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Bread selection

108 Brasserie – Bread selection

From the josper, the tiger prawns (£15 starter, £24 main) with garlic and parsley butter were gorgeous. The prawns were fat and juicy, and delicious with the butter. A second starter of seared tuna (£11) was also lovely. The tuna was fresh and tasty, and it paired well with the soy and ginger dressing with wasabi as it had a good kick to it.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Tiger prawns

108 Brasserie – Tiger prawns

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Tuna

108 Brasserie – London Food Blog – Tuna

To mains, and the lemon sole meunière (£25) cooked on the josper grill was also delicious. The lemon sole can be served on or off the bone (here I had it one the bone), and while I had it as a meunière, there was also the option to have it grilled. The fish was wonderfully fresh and skillfully cooked, and the caper topping added a nice level of acidity to the fish.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Lemon sole

108 Brasserie – Lemon sole

Also from the josper grill was the 8oz steak rib-eye steak (£27). The meat was cooked to order – medium rare and nicely seasoned. It was a tasty cut of meat, but rather chewy, and in this regard it was a little disappointing. The steak came with a choice of sauce and here we ordered a well-made Béarnaise.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Rib-eye

108 Brasserie – Rib-eye

Now a word on the sides. We had some steamed spinach (£4.50) and seasonal greens (cabbage) with toasted seeds and lemon dressing (£4.50), both of which were tasty. But particularly noteworthy was the double-cooked hand-cut chips (£4.50) as these were especially delicious. The chips were wonderfully crunchy on the outside and lovely and fluffy on the inside.

To desserts, and the lemon tart (£7) contained a filling that was good and zingy. However the pastry was soft and let the tart down slightly. The josper grilled pineapple with coconut sorbet, chilli and lime glaze (£7) was light & refreshing, and a vanilla cheesecake (£3), which we ordered from the 108 Pantry display, was also delicious. It was rich and creamy with the right level of density and a good biscuit base.

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Lemon tart

108 Brasserie – Lemon tart

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Josper grilled pineapple

108 Brasserie – Josper grilled pineapple

108 Brasserie - London Food Blog - Vanilla cheesecake

108 Brasserie – Vanilla cheesecake

We had a delightful experience at 108 Marylebone. Although simple in its design, the dishes were delicious, well executed and fresh. The service was warm and welcoming, and the beautiful restaurant created a really lovely spot for dinner.

Summary Information:

Likes
1. The Guinness bread. This was excellent.
2. The meaty tiger prawns.
3. The vanilla cheesecake, especially with its buttery biscuit base.
4. The double-cooked hand-cut chips as these were really crunchy.
5. The warm and welcoming service.
6. The lovely ambience.

Dislikes
1. The chewiness of the rib-eye
2. The soft pastry on the lemon tart.

Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5

Prices: £28 to £49 for three courses, excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://108brasserie.com/

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Bistro 51 – St James Court Hotel

BISTRO 51

St James’ Court Hotel on Buckingham Gate offers a number of dining options, one of which is Bistro 51. Contemporary in design but somewhat subdued in taste, Bistro 51 serves a contemporary European menu. The hotel is part of the Indian owned Taj Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel chains in the world. As such, the menu also includes a number of Indian-inspired dishes.

We dined from the Chef’s special menu which is priced at a reasonable £30. We started with a boccocini and cherry tomato tian with pickled portobello and pesto which was pleasant and tasty. The mellow flavour of the bocconini with the sweetness of the tomatoes was a lovely pairing, with the pesto providing freshness to the dish.

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – London Food Blog - Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

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Arbutus

Arbutus is a one Michelin starred restaurant which offers a modern European bistro menu. Located in the heart of Soho on Frith Street, Arbutus is the brainchild of Anthony Demetre and Will Smith. The pair met while working together at Putney Bridge when Demetre was Head Chef and Smith was the restaurant manager. Demetre previously trained under the guidance of Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koffman and within a year of becoming head chef at Putney Bridge in 1999 he had earned the restaurant a Michelin star. The pair decided to venture solo and thus Arbutus was born in 2006. In 2007 Arbutus went on to win a Michelin star and Four AA Rosettes. Two other restaurants from the pair followed with Wild Honey in Mayfair which also holds a Michelin star, and Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden which offers an all day bar and grill menu.

I first visited Arbutus soon after it first won its star and was thrilled with the energy of the food as it was vibrant, fresh and accomplished, yet not too pretentious. The menu was also well priced and ever changing based on what was seasonal. I also liked the intimacy of the dining room which was simply furnished yet inviting.

Little has changed in terms of the look of the restaurant and it continues to be intimate and inviting. The menu still offers up some interesting choices although prices are of course higher than way back when. During our visit to Arbutus a couple of weeks ago we started with some Scottish scallops (£16) which were plump and beautifully cooked. There was some piquillo pepper which offered a lovely sweet contrast to the scallops. Some nicely toasted hazelnuts added a very enjoyable nuttiness and crunchiness, and pickled sea herbs provided a sense of freshness.

Arbutus - Scottish scallops

Scottish scallops

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Hudson’s – Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York

Note: Words and pictures by Foodpornnation and myself.

Cedar Court Grand - Hudson's

Hudson’s

Located within the Cedar Court Hotel & Spa, Hudson’s offers up a no-nonsense approach to bistro dining, a dining experience that is relaxed and cosy but with a touch of elegance. The Hudson’s menu serves up a contrast of interesting tit bits versus the more traditional bistro favourites. You can take the unconventional vegetarian fish & chips (£15.95), the beetroot Carpaccio (£15.95) or perhaps a more comforting grilled steak.

To get to Hudson’s you first walk through the plush warm interiors of the Cedar Court Hotel & Spa before being welcomed into the warmth of the luscious Hudson’s dining room. It was elegant and plush and oozed a relaxed ambience. Hudson’s might be bistro dining – but smartly done with a fine dining feel.

The Chef’s special spare ribs (£7.50) came with it’s own warning sign. We were warned before ordering, not once, but twice by our waiter, that these were extremely hot. And even though they were hot, a brush of the accompanying maple syrup provided some sweet relief. These got our pick because they were a delectable, fall off the bone, lick the bone clean in one fell swoop type of eating.

Hudson's Cedar Court Grand - Spicy ribs

Spicy ribs

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Balthazar

Balthazar Restaurant opened in Soho in New York in 1997, and within two years of its opening it became one of the hottest restaurants in NYC. It attracted celebrities far and wide, much in the same way that Chiltern Firehouse, London’s restaurant of the moment is doing. Long recognised as an institution in New York, celebrity restaurateur Keith McNally opened a branch on British shores in 2013 to much hype and fanfare.

Balthazar London looks the business and replicates Balthazar New York’s French brasserie design, from the high ceilings to the antique mirrored walls, through to the red leather banquettes down to the mosaic floors. Similar to its big sister, Balthazar London offers all-day menu with breakfast as well afternoon tea, and on the weekends there is a separate brunch menu. The food is French-inspired and includes seafood from the raw bar as well as a wide selection of classical French brasserie and bistro dishes. Next door to the restaurant is the Balthazar Boulangerie that serves an array of delicious looking artisan breads, pastries, salads and sandwiches.

The atmosphere was a little flat and lacklustre when we visited Balthazar London. Perhaps it was because it was a Sunday night, but there wasn’t the fired-up energy that was reminiscent of my past visits to Balthazar New York. With all the hype that surrounded Balthazar’s opening, this proved to be a little disappointing.

As for the food, it didn’t quite fire on all cylinders with starters of garlic prawns (£10) and steak tartare (£9.75) being acceptable if a little lacklustre. The prawns were firm in texture and came in a buttery sauce filled with garlic and piment d’Espelette chillies. But the sauce wanted for a little more flavour. On the side was a warm portion of fougasse provencale bread that soaked up the sauce nicely. But the bread was rather oily and the crust was not crunchy. As for the steak tartare, the meat was tender and flavoursome, but it needed more Worcestershire sauce and seasoning to give it a greater punch.

Balthazar - Garlic prawns

Garlic prawns

Balthazar - Steak tartare

Steak tartare

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5&33 Restaurant – Art-Otel Amsterdam

To round off our recent Amsterdam visit, we had a really pleasant meal at the quirkily named 5&33, in-house restaurant of the Art-Otel, the hotel where we chose to call home for two nights while in Amsterdam.

The Art’Otel is located in the heart of Amsterdam and only minutes away from Amsterdam Central Station. Given its great location, Art-Otel was well placed for the many attractions of Amsterdam such as the Royal Palace, the canals, the Jordaan district, Dam square and many other popular attractions. But it wasn’t just the location that was great, but also the hotel’s innovative art house design. The Art’Otel offers a slick, contemporary experience, and it’s funky décor saw the Art’Otel win the Best Hotel Design 2013 Award by VENUEZ magazine, one of Netherlands’ leading hospitality magazines.

Art'Otel - Our bedroom

Art’Otel – Our arty bedroom

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Private Cabanas at The St Regis Doha

After my last visit to the St Regis Doha, the nice folk at the hotel kindly invited me back to try out one of private cabanas at St Regis Doha should I ever come through Doha again. I had a magical stay at The St Regis Doha when I was last in Doha earlier this year. The hotel’s sumptuous décor and fantastic service made for an incredible experience, not to mention our wonderful Friday brunch at the restaurant, Opal by Gordon Ramsay.

Well the opportunity for me to try the private cabana presented itself a few weeks ago when I popped through Doha again. There are ten cabanas at the hotel, each of which cater up to eight guests and are available for daily hire.

We were placed in cabana No.7 which has pride of place right on the beachfront. Note that not all the cabanas have beach views so be sure to ask for one if booking. The views from cabana No.7 were glorious. What a great spot for a bit of sunbaking!

St Regis Doha - Views of the beach from cabana 7

Views of the beach from cabana 7

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