Posts for the 'Cuisine/Type' Category


Qvintessenza

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

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

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/

Square Meal

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


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School of Wok – Woking with Jeremy Pang

SCHOOL OF WOK

School of Wok in Covent Garden has been doing some fine work in recent years. Founded by Jeremy Pang who comes from a long line of Chinese restaurateurs, School of Wok has been running for about 4 years and is one of the few Chinese Cookery Schools in the UK. Before opening School of Wok, Jeremy was already teaching students Chinese cookery at homes, trying to share with them the true essence of Chinese cooking. His enthusiasm of the subject matter is striking and is a testament to why School of Wok has seen such success.

School of Wok - London Food Blog - Woking with Jeremy Pang

School of Wok – Woking with Jeremy Pang

Last week I attended an event at the School of Wok to learn some wok skills from Jeremy. The class was called “Understanding the Wok” and was to showcase the new Dexam School of Wok wok range, made by Dexam in consultation with Jeremy. The woks are made with carbon steel to heat up quickly and bamboo handles for easy handling. What’s more, the woks are light, to enable the cook to lift the wok and easily toss the food!

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The Frog Restaurant

THE FROG RESTAURANT

The Frog is the latest restaurant by Adam Handling, one of the most notable young chefs on the London restaurant scheme. He first came to fame as a finalist in the 2013 series of Professional Masterchef and was the youngest person to be tipped by the Caterer magazine as one of the ‘30 under 30 to watch’ in the 2013 Acorn Awards. In September 2014, he became the head chef at The Caxton Grill by Adam Handling in the St Ermin’s Hotel, a fine dining establishment for which he was awarded three AA rosettes. Adam was also recently featured in ‘The World’s Best Food Magazine’ FOUR, as the ‘one to watch’ for 2016.

With The Frog, Adam brings his love of Asian flavours and techniques to his menu which is very in vogue, with small sharing a la carte dishes priced at around £10 each, as well as a daily-changing tasting menu priced at £45 per head. The restaurant itself, located in Shoreditch, is much more low key and rather eclectic in taste. The floors are concrete and the finishings are bare. It feels grungy, made somewhat odder by the mismatched outdoor space perched under an awning.

The food was very good, and in some places great. There was lots of skill and flair on show, even if I did occasionally find the dishes somewhat heavily seasoned in parts. We had the tasting menu which began with a number of canape sized snacks. The first was chorizo, cheese and onion, a lovely and crispy croqueta made with chorizo and served with treacle for a touch of sweetness and some onion puree for contrast.

Other snacks included a delicious and freshly dressed crab with seaweed and green apple. This too was tasty if a tad salty. My favourite of the snacks was a beef tartar with egg yolk perched upon a beer cracker. The beef was meltingly tender and packed a punchy flavour. Warm bread made from hackney flour followed, served with a delectable chicken butter.

The Frog - London Food Blog - Crab, seaweed, apple

The Frog – Crab, seaweed, apple

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Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh

RAFFLES HOTEL LE ROYAL PHNOM PENH

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh was built for luxury, and for years has been THE premier hotel in the Cambodian capital. The colonial design of the hotel – an artistic combination of Khmer, art deco and French influences – has instilled it with a sense of gracious elegance. The hotel opened in 1929, and since then it has been the ‘go-to’ hotel for many famous guests. It was once the only place that the Cambodian Royal Family would invite their foreign dignitaries to stay at, including the former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1967.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh - London Food Blog

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh is located a short distance from the city centre, across the road from the American embassy. This landmark luxury hotel offers easy access to the Central Market and the local sights of Wat Phnom, the Royal Palace and the National Museum. Other must dos in Phnom Penh include the “Killing Fields” memorials, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Museum, both of which offer much insight into the genocide during the years of the Pol Pot regime. These are also easily accessible by tuk-tuk or taxi from the hotel.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh - London Food Blog

Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh

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Lao Cafe – Laotian masterclass

A few weeks ago I attended a masterclass in Lao cuisine hosted by Saiphin Moore, Chef and Co-Owner of Rosa’s Thai Cafe at the School of Wok. Born to a native Lao family in Thailand, Saiphin has a diverse understanding of both Thai and Laotian cuisine. And on the back of her success of her pop-up restaurant Lao Cafe earlier this year, Saiphin will open a new Laotian restaurant called Lao Cafe at 60 Chandos Place in Covent Garden later this year.

I love Laotian food for its freshness, spiciness, herby fragrance, acidity and other things nice such as ginger and garlic. I travelled through Laos last year and therefore had a great chance to taste the best of Laos – you can read about my Laotian eating experiences in Luang Prabang in Laos last year in this blog post here. But more to the subject at hand – on the night of the masterclass Saiphin took us through some of her classic family recipes including free-range chicken soup with black sesame seeds, mixed mushrooms curry with ant’s eggs, and the most classic of Laotian dishes, a salad of laab pork Laos style.

Lao Cafe - London Food Blog - Chicken soup

Lao Cafe – Chicken soup

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Koji – Visit no. 2

KOJI

I first tried Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green last year, not long after it first opened and had a fabulous dining experience. Koji was a collaborative effort between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant.

In January 2015 Rolando Ongcoy joined the ranks, replacing Nobuhisha Takahashi, and took the food at Koji up another notch. A Japanese chef for some 33 years, he began his career in the Philippines before coming to London. In recent years he has also been the head sushi chef with both the Nobu group and Uni in Pimlico.

The ethos at Koji is to provide diners with first class Japanese food in a highly elegant setting, but without any pretentiousness. The Koji menu centres around contemporary Japanese cooking, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi, to meat and seafood on the robata grill, to a variety of modern Japanese dishes that draw upon European and South American influences.

Second time round, and I found Koji to be that much better than first time round – no mean feat considering that the benchmark standard had been set pretty high during my first visit. At Koji, only the finest ingredients are used. This coupled with the finest of techniques makes for splendid dining experience.

We shared a variety of dishes as is customary with Japanese food, and one of my favourites of the evening was the salmon tartare with caviar umami jelly (£19). This dish was divine. The salmon itself was fresh and flavoursome, but it was the umami jelly – a thin layer of jelly placed over the salmon – which electrified the tartare. The umami jelly was abundant with flavour and it paired perfectly with salmon.

Koji - London Food Blog - Salmon tartare

Koji – Salmon tartare

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