Posts for the 'WC2' Category


Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina is a modern Italian restaurant located in the five-star luxury Me Hotel on Aldwych. The décor is stylish with a contemporary feel, and as you first enter the restaurant you are greeted with a slinky looking bar. The cocktails were good and we could have happily drunk our way through a few of the tempting listings on the bar menu. The dining area itself is spaciously laid out and the perfectly pitched lighting serves the restaurant well, setting the tone for a sophisticated night out. Cucina Asellina is a stylish operation and is also well located for all of the theatre attractions of the West End.

As standard with most Italian restaurants, Cucina Asellina offers a variety of antipastas, pastas, pizzas and secondis. The menu makes for an attractive read and could easily tempt the diner into over ordering. And over order we did. An antipasta dish of frittura mista with calamari, whitebait and prawns (£12.50) – a personal favourite – was really tasty and came with a moreish and very crunchy batter. A courgette flower with mozzarella and anchovies (£6.75) was also appetising with its melted gooey filling, although the courgette itself was a little undercooked. Seared swordfish with shaved fennel, olive, Sicilian citrus and orange dressing (£11) was wonderful with the fresh fish pairing well alongside the citrus elements that provided a balanced and contrasting acidity.

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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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Flesh and Buns

Flesh and Buns is the latest Izakaya restaurant by the people from Bone Daddies, the successful ramen restaurant founded by chef Ross Shonhan who previously worked at Nobu and Zuma. The concept of Flesh and Buns centres around hirata buns, folded steamed buns commonly filled with pork. Here, you have a choice of different fillings, all of which are accompanied by salad, a sauce and pickles. You create your own buns here, filling them however you wish. And as a precursor to the buns, there are also a choice of raw dishes, snacks and small dishes.

Flesh and Buns has a common appeal. Not only is its concept of ‘flesh and buns’ original, the décor is funky and appealing with a buzzy vibe. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a long sharing table, and circling the table are cozy booth seats and round tables.

We kicked off with a tuna tataki with grapefruit, dry miso, coriander (£10) which was truly lovely. The tuna was fresh, the use of dry miso added depth, and the coriander provided a fresh fragrance to the dish. There were also little beads of dried rice which gave the dish a crunchy finish.

Flesh and Buns - Tuna tataki

Tuna tataki

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Great Queen Street

Great Queen Street is owned by the same group that also own Anchor and Hope, a gastropub which has carved a name for itself with its inventive British cooking and its use of head-to-tail ingredients. Great Queen Street’s menu plays less reliance on offal cooking, but it is similarly classically British. Its makes good use of seasonal ingredients, and as such the menu is ever changing. Great Queen Street is a rustic looking venue – the furniture is dark, and the lighting is kept low. Located on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden, it’s a perfect spot for a bout of casual central London dining.

A starter salad of ham, egg, beetroot and horseradish (£7) was absolutely scrumptious. There was something heavenly about how the salty crispy ham blended with the earthy sweetness of the well-cooked beetroot. A half soft-boiled egg was perfectly cooked, and the horseradish dressing gave the salad a lovely kick. This was a wonderful marriage of flavours, all of which combined beautifully together.

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

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Classic West End Afternoon Tea at The Waldorf

I adore going to afternoon tea. The thought of some nice sandwiches followed by fluffy scones with mouthwatering clotted creams and lots of scrummy cakes can easily set my heart a flutter. But not only is it a nice afternoon thing to do, it’s also something novel to take guests from out of town to experience. I was recently invited by the website Afternoontea.co.uk to try one of the afternoon teas offered through their website. Afternoontea.co.uk allows you to search afternoon teas by location, which you can book at no additional cost. Furthermore, it occasionally has special offers. For instance, The Classic West End Afternoon Tea (£33.50) that I tried at the Waldorf also included a free glass of sparkling wine.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea

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Mishkin’s

Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the people behind the successful eateries Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and Da Polpo, have produced another offspring with Mishkin’s in Covent Garden. Mishkin’s bears the trademark of the other Norman and Beatty restaurants in the sense that it is cool, hip and happening, but deviates as it steers away from their Italian tapas theme. With Mishkin’s they’ve tapped into the vein of a New York styled Jewish deli, one that also serves cocktails.

The restaurant has a grungy Lower East Side vibe to it with its exposed brick work, metallic topped bar and banquette seating. And let’s not forget the cramped space which makes it feel even more like a New York eating hole. Towards the back of the restaurant were some tiny tables, and it was on one of them that were placed. Our particular table was lopsided. It was unclear to me whether this was a deliberate attempt to be avante-garde , but irrespective, it was rather impractical as our matzo ball soup split when it was placed onto the even table. The chicken broth in the soup (£6) had a nice chicken flavour running through it, although it was rather too peppery. The matzo ball itself held together well and had a light and springy texture.

Chicken matzo ball soup

Chicken matzo ball soup

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Loch Fyne Covent Garden

Loch Fyne offer an online seafood and larder ordering service and is probably best known for the oysters that they grow naturally in the waters of Loch Fyne, Scotland. Loch Fyne works closely with the Marine Conservation Society and uses only sustainable methods for farming. The oysters feed on plankton and no artificial feed is used. In addition to the oysters, Loch Fyne also farm a variety of fish, again using only sustainable methods. Their fish stocks are also topped up by their wild fish catches that are landed from the waters off Cornwall and the South-West.

The online business is only one part of what Loch Fyne do. In addition, they also operate 42 seafood restaurants throughout the UK. There are two in London, one of which is on Catherine Street in the theatre heart of Covent Garden. The restaurant has a charming brasserie feel to it and oozes warmth and congeniality. At the back of the restaurant is a seafood counter that displays the seafood of the day. It’s a really good way of checking out the freshness of your seafood before your order.

Seafood bar

Seafood bar

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Green Man & French Horn

Ed Wilson and Oli Barker, the boys behind the renowned Terroirs and its sister restaurants Soif and Brawn, have created a certain niche by selling biodynamic wines imported through wine specialists Les Caves de Pyrène. The practice of biodynamic agriculture refers to the use of organic, sustainable and ecological methods in wine making, and it is a practice that has gained momentum in recent years.

Wilson and Barker’s latest restaurant is The Green Man & French Horn. They’ve kept the name of the pub that once graced the site where the restaurant now stands. Located right in the heart of Covent Garden, it’s a quaint little place. But it’s also a tight squeeze with cramped tables and noisy acoustics.

The French menu is rustic, homely and comforting. A starter of chicken livers (£8.50) with artichoke and mâche were fat, silky smooth and dripping in flavour. Cooked to medium rare, they were well seasoned and superbly done. A drizzling of merlot vinegar and olive oil dressing left the dish with a lovely glaze and added a moist finish.

Chicken livers

Chicken livers

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