Posts for the 'East London' Category


The Laughing Heart

THE LAUGHING HEART

Probably one of the best meals I’ve had this year, The Laughing Heart in Hackney is a wonderfully smart venue that operates as a late night wine bar, dining room and wine shop. The space is intimate and cozy with a warm and comforting open kitchen and brickwork walls. The tables – all custom built – each hold individual cutlery drawers for every diner. We were really taken aback with this thoughtful, ingenious and quite simply, adorable touch, and it really set the tone for the wonderful meal that was to come.

The food, sharing plates of modern-European with Asian influences, were all inspired, starting with the Dungarvan oyster with shiso and apple (£2.50 each) which was incredibly fresh and refreshing. The oyster was meaty and rich, and both the sweetness and sharpness of the apple, and the aroma of the shiso served as a lovely contrast to the oyster.

The Laughing Heart - London Food Blog - Oyster w. shiso & apple

The Laughing Heart – Oyster w. shiso & apple

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Cau St Katharine Docks

CAU ST KATHARINE DOCKS

Cau (cleverly pronounced as ‘cow’) stands for Carne Argentina Unica, a chain of Argentinian steakhouses by the same people behind Gaucho. I visited the Cau St Katharine Docks branch which is located in the newly refurbished Commodity Quay. On good weather days, the front of the restaurant opens up for al fresco dining, overlooking the West Basin of the marina.

Designed to embody the spirit of the trendy area of Palermo, Buenos Aires, the design of the Cau St Katharine Docks was sharp and funky with booth seating and bright blue sky and grass imagery. Cau has a quirkiness to it, notably with the waiters and waitresses wearing endearing ‘cauboy’ and ‘caugirl’ T’shirts.

The menu at Cau displays the best of Argentinan grass-fed beef. Dominating the menu was a variety of steaks, burgers and steak sandwiches. But for non-steak eaters, there was also a choice of twice-cooked pork belly and fresh market fish.

We began with a selection of starters, the first of which came highly recommended – the homemade jamon and manchego croquettes (£6). These were excellent, with a crispy crumb coating and a gloriously creamy filling. I would highly recommend trying these.

Cau St Katharine Docks - London Food Blog - Croquettes

Cau St Katharine Docks – Croquettes

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Tapas Revolution Shoreditch

TAPAS REVOLUTION SHOREDITCH

Chef Omar Allibhoy’s Tapas Revolution has locations in Shoreditch, Westfield, Bluewater and Grand Central, Birmingham. We recently visited the Shoreditch branch. The restaurant was about a third full, and had a pleasant buzz to it. Built around a central bar, the design of the restaurant embodies a modern Spanish wine and tapas bar.

Having eaten our fair share of Spanish food and visited a good handful of the acclaimed tapas restaurants in London, we have a good understanding of classic tapas. Staple dishes were therefore our primary focus as we feel a good tapas restaurant should be able to produce these to a high standard without breaking sweat.

Service was relaxed and friendly. We started with a glass of pleasant and affordable cava and a fresh and fruity Godello from Galicia. With these they brought us a small basket of bread sticks and sliced salchichon to snack on.

Tapas Revolution - London Food blog - Croquetas

Tapas Revolution – Croquetas

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Fifteen Restaurant

Fifteen Restaurant by Jamie Oliver opened its doors in 2002 with a view to mentoring underprivileged youth and giving them prospects for a future. The scheme revolved around a cooking apprentice training programme to create chefs of the future. Ten years later, and with branches in Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne, Fifteen has seen over 350 students graduate, about 80% of which have continued to work in the food profession. Admirably all the profit from the restaurants gets donated to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

The original Fifteen is in Shoreditch and it is a handsome looking restaurant. Split over two floors, the décor is dark; dark tables, dark floors, etc, made even darker as the sunlight goes down as the lighting is kept very dim. But it sets the tone for an intimate atmosphere made buzzier by the constant chatter of the guests. Tables are closely positioned, but the space works.

Fifteen delivers a daily changing ‘British’ menu. It’s seasonal, cleverly constructed, and is based on whatever is in fresh and available from suppliers that day. Unlike standard à la carte menus, the menu isn’t split between starters and mains. Instead everything is listed on one long list, although in principle there are about eleven starters and five main courses. It’s a sharing feast and the dishes are brought out as and when they are ready, although you may request that they be brought out in a certain sequence.

The beef and barley bun with a horseradish cream (£5) has to be one of the nicest things I have ever eaten in my life. Consisting of a donut dough baked with a filling of minced beer, barley and pickled walnuts, it was stupendously good. The dough was soft and moreish, and the contrasting textures and flavours of the filling went hand in hand with the lightness of the bun. The horseradish cream was also excellent, and with the use of both horseradish ‘juice’ and grated horseradish, it had that extra special little kick that matched with the flavours of the bun really well.

Beef & barley bun

Beef & barley bun

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The Clove Club

The opening of The Clove Club earlier this year was one of the most eagerly awaited restaurant launches of 2013. It’s the combined effort of former Ledbury chef Issac McHale, and the pop-up maestro duo of Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith who ran the hugely successful Upstairs at Ten Bells. The menu is ambitiously refreshing, and focuses on the use of fresh, seasonal British ingredients. Home for The Clove Club is The Shoreditch Town Hall which has been turned into a bar area at the front, and a dining room at the back with an open plan kitchen. The space is light, airy and decorated with a minimalistic approach. It’s rather sparse in fact, and the lack of soft furnishings in the dining room meant dinner was a rather noisy affair.

Nevertheless, the food was excellent. Dinner was a set tasting menu that consisted of three little appetizers followed by three savoury courses and two desserts for a very reasonably priced £47. The first of our three appetizers was some perky and slightly crunchy English asparagus that was served with a fantastic gochuchang mayonnaise. Gochuchang is a Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Here it had been used to create a mayonnaise that gave the asparagus a little kick. A sprinkling of finely ground black sesame was warm and aromatic and worked with the asparagus nicely.

English asparagus

English asparagus

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Monikers

The bus

The bus

Note: Monikers has now closed.

Monikers restaurant and bar recently opened on a corner of Hoxton Square, on a site that was previously occupied by The Hoxton Apprentice, a Training for Life charity restaurant that was set up to train young chefs in the same vein as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The building was once an old schoolhouse and Monikers has cleverly maintained the spirit of its former history with a vintage blackboard that lists the daily specials. The wittiness continues with the upstairs area boasting a façade of an old London bus with trendy retro vinyl seats. It’s all very cool, and the restaurant exudes a sense of Hoxton fun. The bar area is funky as well with its chemistry-style water beakers and science-lab stools, and here you can sample some lovely cocktails such as the Greta Garbo (£8.50) with calvados, rhubarb, agave syrup and champagne, and the French 75 (£7.50) with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne.

Cocktails

Cocktails

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Viajante

Note: Viajante was awarded a Michelin star in January 2011, subsequent to this visit.

House sashimi

House sashimi

After closing his critically acclaimed Bacchus in Hoxton in 2008 and an-almost two year hiatus, Nuno Mendes finally opened his eagerly anticipated restaurant, Viajante, in March. Mendes’ career spans stints under Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and his travels throughout Asia and South America have helped to formulate the concept that is behind Viajante, a word that means travelling in Portuguese.

To get the full Viajante experience, a restaurant located in the Bethnal Green Town Hall, we felt nothing less than the 12 course menu would do. So when we arrived for our 8pm booking, JK wasn’t particularly pleased to be told that we couldn’t be seated. A table of 16 had just arrived, and even though our table was available, we were asked to wait at the bar so that the restaurant could even out the service. We were led to believe we had to book an 8pm table if we wanted to do the 12 course tasting, so it seemed a bit odd that we couldn’t be seated AT 8pm.

The table we got was great though – right in front of the open kitchen and in full view of all the cooking action. The décor is pseudo-Scandinavian and looks a bit like an expensive version of Ikea. Nevertheless, it’s very comfortable and quite informal. Six, nine and twelve course tasting menus are available at dinner for £60, £75 and £85 respectively. Menus are not handed out before the meal as they’re surprise tastings, but brief explanations are given by the server as each course is presented.

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The Loft – A Taste of Love

A Taste of Love

A Taste of Love

I recently got the opportunity to sample a dinner prepared by pop-up restaurant extraordinaire Rachel Khoo. In the last year or so there has been a growing movement in the underground restaurant scene where home cooks prepare meals for members of the public in the comfort of their own abode. Its growth has no doubt been spurred by the fact that the idea is brilliantly novel, and there are similarities between her pop-up restaurant and the underground ones – you eat in someone’s home and the location is kept secret until you have booked and paid. But Rachel’s events are not regular occurrences which is why she prefers to call them ‘pop-ups’. Furthermore, Rachel always creates a different theme for each event, which on this occasion was endearingly called ‘A Taste of Love at The Loft’.

Rachel Khoo, a ‘food creative’ (stylist), has an Art & Design degree from Central St Martins and a pâtisserie diploma from Le Cordon Bleu and is now based in Paris. ‘A Taste of Love’ was the food theme for the evening; and The Loft, in a secret location in East London, is the personal test kitchen of Nuno Mendes who lends Rachel his digs for these occasions. Nuno, who trained at El Bulli, was previously the head chef of the now closed Bacchus in East London and will be opening a new restaurant, Viajante, in Bethnal Green next year. Nuno was on holiday and therefore did not join us for the evening.

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