Posts for the 'London by postcode' Category


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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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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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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Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club serves a refined style of modern Indian cooking, and is widely regarded as one of London’s best Indian restaurants. The Cinnamon Club recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and to mark this special occasion, the restaurant underwent a £1 million refurbishment. Set within the grand Grade II listed Old Westminster Library, The Cinnamon Club’s book lined shelves and traditional features have been updated and elevated with dashes of colour, contemporary furnishings and unique artworks. The result is a refreshed a convivial backdrop for what is a secluded and comfortable fine dining experience.

Chef Vivek Singh is one of the most successful and respected modern Indian chefs in Britain, and he also owns similarly named restaurants such as the City’s Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho. His elevated approach to Indian cuisine has resulted in a number of media appearances including a regular guest slot on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen as well as the publication of five cookbooks,

His menu at The Cinnamon Club is diverse and engaging, and also includes a selection of celebratory sharing dishes and sharing platters for between two and eight guests. As for the two of us, we went for the lazy Sunday menu (£40 for three courses, including a champagne cocktail – £35 from between 5.30pm and 6.30pm).

Our meal began with the Chef’s selection of canapes which were all delicious. These included an Indian mango purée in semolina shell which was sweet and tangy, a cumin and ginger flavoured lentil dumpling with tamarind chutney which was wonderfully spiced, and a delightful steamed rice cake with coriander chutney and curried yoghurt.

Cinnamon Club - London Food Blog - Chef's pre-starter

Cinnamon Club – Chef’s pre-starter

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Bombay Brasserie

Bombay Brasserie, a fine Indian restaurant, looks to the cultural diversity of Bombay, or rather Mumbai, for its menu inspirations. As well as being India’s financial and entertainment capital, the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai draws on the diverse cooking styles of Goa, Bengal, Gujarat and Rajasthan, as well as bringing in Portuguese influences.

Bombay Brasserie is located in the Millenium Hotel on Gloucester Road, with the main entrance to the restaurant being through The Bombay Bar, a stylish Raj-inspired bar that champions the exoticism of old Bombay. It’s a gorgeous place to unwind, particularly before lunch or dinner with plush sofas and photos of India from a bygone era defines the mood.

The restaurant is also a delight. Owned by the luxury hotel chain, The Taj Group, no expense was spared when it came to the décor at Bombay Brasserie. Heading through the double doors which separates the restaurant from the bar, one’s immediate reaction is one of awe. It sings of opulence, with grandiose chandeliers, stucco walls with inbuilt flickering lanterns and a spacious space laid out with comfortable banquette seating.

As for the food, this was a delight. We began our meal with the seafood platter (£24), a wonderful plate consisting of tasty soft shell crab, a perfectly cooked grilled scallop, pleasant monkfish, and a grilled prawn that gave way to a slightly smoky flavour.

Bombay Brassiere - London Food Blog - Seafood platter

Bombay Brassiere – Seafood platter

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Crockers Folly

Crockers Folly in St John’s Wood was a thriving pub in its former life. Built in 1898, the beautiful Grade II* listed building fell into disrepair and was closed in 2004. But in 2014 The Maroush Group took ownership of Crocker’s Folly and lovingly restored it. Crocker’s Folly now speaks of grandeur, but with a relaxed and inviting tone.

The revitalised Crocker’s Folly is divided into three sections – two separate bars and a dining room. It has been beautifully refurbished with bespoke features such as dazzling chandeliers, mahogany woodwork, the use of at least 50 kinds of marble and some gorgeous imported Italian furniture.

I visited Crocker’s Folly last year but that was only for the Sunday set menu. This time around I had the opportunity to try the a la carte menu, starting with the roasted octopus (£12) which was divinely tender and nicely cooked. It was served with a pappa al pomodoro sauce, a rich, intense concoction rich with tomato flavour.

Crockers Folly - London Food Blog - Roasted octopus

Crockers Folly – Roasted octopus

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