Posts for the 'Central London' Category


Eneko

ENEKO

Eneko at One Aldwych is named after its famous owner, Eneko Atxa, the chef of Azurmendi Restaurant, a 3 Michelin star restaurant in the Basque region of Spain and currently No. 38 on The World’s Best 50 Restaurants List. Azurmendi is an exemplary example of modern Basque fine dining, and at Eneko, Chef Atxa seeks to introduce to Londoners the joys of his approach to Basque cooking, something that we were excited to go and see for ourselves. Enoko is the flagship restaurant at the luxury boutique five-star hotel One Aldwych London in Convent Garden, and is prominently located at the junction where Aldwych intersects with the Strand.

We began our evening experience at Eneko in ground floor bar which was curved in its layout and cosy and comfortable in its design. Following recommendations from the extremely friendly and attentive staff, we went for the suggested Gorki Izagirre Bizkaiko Txakolina (£10 for 175 ml). The Basque white, apparently made at Mr. Atxa’s uncle’s winery, was well-balanced in terms of acidity. However, it wasn’t particularly memorable as a wine to enjoy on its own, but would be ok to have as an accompaniment to wash down food with.

As for the restaurant itself, this was on the lower ground floor and was spacious and well-appointed. Carefully designed, it was both intimate and social, with the acoustics being properly monitored to minimise any amplified chatter and clanking that often fills other establishments. This space in every way epitomised what a modern fine-dining restaurant could aspire to look like.

Our first course was a delightfully tasty dish with a burst of summery colours, the Traditional Talo (£12). This was a basil-rich salad of heritage tomatoes served on a bed of talo (Basque tortilla chips) and it proved to be an epitome of basil freshness and deep rich flavours of well ripened tomatoes. The edible flowers helped to create a multi-sensory, visually arresting, seasonal experience. This was the best dish of the evening.

Eneko - London Food Blog - Traditional Talo

Eneko – Traditional Talo

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Machiya

MACHIYA

Machiya is the little sister restaurant of Kanada-Ya, the ramen bar famed for its tonkotsu ramen. There are two branches of Kanada-Ya – the original on St Giles High Street, the other virtually next door to Machiya itself on Panton Street. The concept at Machiya is something like a gastro izakaya – a Japanese pub with homemade tapas-sized plates of food for sharing. That said, Machiya looks nothing like the typical izakaya joints found in Japan which are typically quaint, dimly lit, and worn around the edges. Here, with its clean cut and brightly lit natural wood and metal interior, Machiya has much more of a clinical modern feel to it. Downstairs is a bar which offers a list of cocktail delights.

Machiya’s menu is a mix of some izakaya classics and Japanese cafe staples like tonkatsu, kare-raisu, and zaru-soba. At Machiya, the chicken yakitori (£4.50) proved to be two skewers of deliciously moist and slightly crisped flesh. The chicken was well seasoned and did not need any gimmicky sauces, sometimes deployed in restaurants to hide a poor quality base ingredient.

Machiya - London Food Blog - Chicken yakitori

Machiya – Chicken yakitori

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Sakagura

SAKAGURA

Sakagura is an upscale Japanese restaurant snugly hidden behind Burberry’s flagship store right off Piccadilly. The street-side entrance does in no way betray its interior: a glitzy post-modern izakaya with strategically positioned lighting and judiciously chosen Japanese memorabilia. The management team are from Kyoto, the original Japanese seat of the imperial court, where a high culture of luxury and sophistication has matured over one thousand years. Those influences of high culture were apparent throughout our dinner at Sakagura.

We started with maguro tartare with yuzu dip (£16) which was served on a tiny wooden tray lying on a bed of ice and decorated with multi-coloured edible flowers. There was also a layer of black capelin roe which added an exquisite visual touch as it created a contrast with the tuna’s pink. The tuna was delicious, as was the yuzu dip. The array of accompanying Japanese condiments that came along with it – wasabi, pickled ginger, toasted sesame seeds – also worked really well with the tuna.

Sakagura - London Food Blog - Tuna tartare

Sakagura – Tuna tartare

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Cha Chaan Teng

CHA CHAAN TENG

Note: KK from Russian Revels and I (Agirlhastoeat) attended a bloggers dinner at Cha Chaan Teng together. This is a guest blog post written predominantly by KK, with input from myself.

Meet Jeremy Pang, the man behind School of Wok, a British Chinese guy with generations before him who have cooked and worked in Chinese restaurants. Chinese cookery is in his blood, and having opened his own Chinese cookery school, he is now also the consultant chef of Cha Chaan Teng, an unashamedly ‘inauthentic playful’ take on the popular Hong Kong tea houses (cha chaan teng translates literally as ‘tea restaurant’) which began springing up in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Effectively ‘Chinese-style Western food’ (and not Westernised Chinese food), they are a Hong Kong institution in themselves, serving a form of fast food that where diners can eat quickly and leave. Given its popularity in Hong Kong, surprisingly, this is the first ‘cha chaan teng’ of its kind in London.

Housed discretely in the basement of the never-quite-upcoming Holborn, Cha Chaan Teng is a glitzy affair, combining the comforts of booth seating with glamour of the huge mirrored bar and white lanterns. Style-wise, it is a far cry from the cha chaan tengs you get in Hong Kong. You’re not just going to be drinking tea here, darling! Already in the second week of opening, there was a buzz with an eclectic mix of people in crowd. What a great start to a new restaurant opening.

We attended a bloggers dinner, dining on a banquet chosen by Jeremy himself, around a tall round table with two lazy susans in the middle (which were a bit too lazy as they almost didn’t move too well!) Generosity and sharing are part of a traditional Chinese meal, no matter how far the recipes have travelled. There’s a huge disclaimer on the menu that the menu at Cha Chaan Teng isn’t intended to be authentic (whatever authentic ‘Chinese-style Western food’ is), and so we tried not to compare to the food might have tasted like in Hong Kong. Even so, it was fun to think back to Agirlhastoeat’s childhood years spent back in Hong Kong when she use to eat in a cha chaan teng as a child. However nostalgia can play a part in defining one’s connectedness to the food eaten. As for the menu itself, it draws inspiration from some classic cha chaan teng staples such as French toast and macaroni soup, as well as a smattering of other Chinese dishes.

Before we began stuffing our faces, Jeremy gathered us up to show how bao buns, the steamed rice buns that have been so trendy in London lately, are made. We prodded, sniffed and stretched the brilliant white dough, to get the feel for this all-important base food. Special, super fine, flour is often used (often bleached back in Hong Kong, a technique which is banned in the UK). Jeremy’s team had spent weeks perfecting that one skill of making bao. In themselves the buns are rather bland, all the better for carrying fillings with strong flavours.

We were ‘allowed’ to choose our little appetizers, either bao or a crusty roll. Our duck bao with hoisin sauce, cucumber and carrot pickle (£5.50) was a lovely mini manifestation of the classic high street staple of crispy duck. It was a good flavour, if a bit too dry.

Cha Chaan Teng - London Food Blog - Crispy duck bao

Cha Chaan Teng – London Food Blog – Crispy duck bao

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Zima Russian Street Food & Bar

ZIMA

When Zima ‘Russian street food and bar’ opened next to Ronnie Scotts in Soho, we were very hopeful. Russian cuisine has struggled to break onto London scene up until now. Maybe this is because it has taken Russia a couple of decades (after the fall of communism ) to start growing its own chef talent. But right now, the Moscow restaurant scene is frothing with people and places that dig into their Slavic roots, combining them with the techniques of the brave new world (just look at ‘White Rabbit’ in the top 100 restaurants this year).

Zima - London Food Blog

Zima – The menu

The man behind the Zima menu is Alexei Zimin, a known chef on the Moscow restaurant scene. With a bushy beard, kindly intense eyes and just a smudge of a smile, he fronts the brand perfectly –a kinda 21st century style Russian bear. Zima is located in a Grade II listed building. Originally Zima was only a bar that occupied the tiny basement, but it has since expanded and taken over the ground and the first floor in the building– a sure sign the guys were doing something right.

We sat on the first floor, which was all starched white table cloths and understated colours , with the ‘Russianness’ of the place only being hinted by some (well curated) hip and happening Russian art. The ground floor ryumochnaya (vodka bar) had a livelier vibe of mainly Russian speaking youngsters. Russian rock music and vintagy enamel bowls of homely food boded well in the bar, but upstairs seemed out of place (and was frankly a tad boring as there were so few customers – we are in Soho prime estate after all).

The service was warm and friendly, with recommendations on what to choose given with a genuine twinkle.

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Noble Rot

Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar is located on quirky Lamb’s Conduit in Bloomsbury and is run by Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, the same pair who founded the well-known wine magazine of the same name, Noble Rot. Wines obviously play a key part in this Parisian-styled wine bar, but the sizeable dining room serves a seasonal British menu which changes regularly. The kitchen is headed by Paul Weaver who has worked at both St John Bread & Wine and was at The Sportsman for 5 years. Noble Rot also has another link to The Sportsman, with chef/owner Stephen Harris acting as a consultant.

Our first course of gazpacho, Lincolnshire smoked eel and lovage (£8.50) was lovely and fresh. The sweet and slightly tangy gazpacho was richly intense with flavour, and it married wonderfully with the smokiness of the delicious, fatty eel. This a wonderful dish, packed full of punch and finesse.

Noble Rot - London Food Blog - Gazpacho

Noble Rot – Gazpacho

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Inn The Park

As the name suggests, Inn the Park is a contemporary British café and restaurant set in the beautiful and picturesque St James’s Park. Surrounded by beautiful views and a lakeside setting, Inn the Park provides a lovely spot for some British dining in the heart of central London.

Inn the Park is circular in shape, and the wrap around wooden-cladding of the exterior allows it to blend effortless with its natural surroundings. There is a rooftop terrace area which follows the swoop of the circular building, offering views of key London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.

Inn the Park opened in 2004 as an initiative between restaurateur Oliver Peyton and Royal Parks. It is a year-round venture and is opened for all day dining (except Sunday evenings), stretching from breakfast to lunch to afternoon teas and dinner. Overseen by Head Chef Tom Catley, Inn the Park serves an ever-changing seasonal British menu. The café/restaurant is divided between a more formal section where diners can order from the a la carte menu, and a more casual dining area where guests can choose from the ‘Grab & Go’ self-service bar that offers a range of sandwiches and ready-to-serve hot food such as burgers and sausage rolls. There is also a freshly churned ice-cream counter serving a variety of ice cream flavours with all the toppings.

We had an a la carte lunch at Inn the Park on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. St James’s Park looked stunning, brimming with sunshine and warmth and bursting with the energy of happy people out enjoying the brilliant day. We started with a variety of seafood starters including charred octopus with jersey royals (£8), flamed Newlyn squid with a wild garlic emulsion (£6.50), and handpicked Cornish crab with avocado and nashi pear (£7). The octopus was delightful, being fresh and tender with a slightly charred flavour. The potatoes were slightly overcooked, but the quality of the octopus spoke for themselves.

Inn The Park - London Food Blog - Charred octopus

Inn The Park – Charred octopus

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The Balcon

THE BALCON

The elegant Balcon restaurant at Sofitel St James is modeled on a traditional French brasserie and serves a French menu founded on classic principles, but with a modern twist. With its exquisite décor, The Balcon is ideal for lazy breakfasts, power lunches, intimate dinners or even a drink after work. What’s more The Balcon also serves afternoon tea. But if you are angling for afternoon tea at Sofitel St James, then I would thoroughly recommend the Rose Lounge at the hotel as it is a truly beautiful spot (you can read about their afternoon tea experience here).

But back to The Balcon. We began our leisurely lunch with a gorgeous starter of grilled scallops, pea tortellini and lobster sauce (£12). The scallops were nicely cooked and had a nice level of caramelisation on it. The tortellini was well made. But it was the lobster sauce which was the winning element of the dish. Offering a rich lobster flavour, It was creamy, decadent and showed off real class.

The Balcon - London Food Blog - Scallops

The Balcon – Scallops

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