Posts for the 'Charing Cross' Category


Roka, Aldwych

The chain of Roka restaurants offer a unique style of contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine, a cooking method where items of food are slowly grilled over hot charcoal. The original branch of Roka opened on Charlotte Street to much success and subsequent branches followed in Canary Wharf, Mayfair and on Aldwych. But the menu extends beyond just robata dishes. There is also a delectable selection of sashimi and nigiri, fried options including tempura, snacks, soups and rice dishes such as hot pots with lobster and miso butter. Now how good does that sound?

We visited Roka Aldwych which opened last November. Designed by Claudio Silvestrin who was also responsible for L’anima and Alan Yau’s Princi on Wardour Street, the restaurant is spacious and grand with a sleek, contemporary minimalist look, a style for which Silvestrin is well known. Like all the other Rokas, the robata grill plays centre stage at Roka Aldwych, and in addition to the tables in the main dining room, guests can also eat in the lounge area and at the robata bar.

We started with the yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables (£14.60), and the spectacular scent of truffle immediately caught our attention when the dish arrived at our table. This dish was pure perfection. The quality of the fish and the balance of the truffle yuzu dressing was absolutely flawless. It was an exquisite dish and we enjoyed it immensely. If you only order one thing at Roka Aldwych, this has to be it.

Roka - yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables

Roka – yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables

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Afternoon Tea at The Rose Lounge, Sofitel Hotel St James

The Rose Lounge Sofitel St James

The Rose Lounge Sofitel St James

Mum was in town visiting and so I decided to take her to afternoon tea at the Rose Lounge, Sofitel Hotel St James. I love taking visitors for afternoon tea as I can’t think of anything more quintessentially English for a Sunday afternoon treat. The Sofitel Hotel is a gorgeous hotel and epitomises the height of elegance. We only walked through the lobby and The Rose Lounge, but you can tell this is one classy hotel.

The Rose Lounge is where the afternoon tea is held and it is as pretty as pretty can be. The space is cozy and quaint, although the tables are probably a little bit too small. But we loved the décor and thought it was perfectly decorated for an afternoon tea experience. The room was feminine and charming with the glorious sound of a harpist playing in the corner of the lounge to really set the mood.

The Rose Lounge Sofitel St James

The Rose Lounge Sofitel St James

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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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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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Les Deux Salons

Anthony Demetre made waves when he first opened Arbutus. Offering solid accomplished cooking at reasonable prices, it went on to win a Michelin star. Arbutus was followed by Wild Honey which also garnered a star. With such success, there was little doubt that his latest offering, Les Deux Salons, was also going to cause a buzz in the press and the blogosphere.

Situated on William IV Street, just down the road from Terroirs, Les Deux Salons took over the site of a previous Pitcher and Piano. The entrance to the restaurant is striking, and inside it is just as tasteful, embodying a classic French brassiere feel boasting of leather banquettes, dark wood furnishings and mosaic marbled floors. This was designed to be a crowd pleaser, and it’s hard not to feel drawn to its design. The restaurant contains 150 seats over two floors and encompasses a buzzier, noisier downstairs, and a more intimate upstairs.

We started with a warm sweet onion tart (£6.95) which was tasty and boasted of a lovely flaky pastry. The caramelised onions worked well with the classic combination of crumbled goat’s cheese and beetroot. There were also some pine nuts for a hint of crunch. This was a nice dish but a little dry.

Warm sweet onion tart

Warm sweet onion tart

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Lupita

Lupita is one of the latest Mexican restaurants to open in London (the other one that comes to mind is Cantina Laredo on Upper St Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden, right next to Jamie’s new Italian restaurant). Housed on Villiers Street, it’s in an unbeatable location for all the passing traffic that runs between Embankment tube and the Strand. Lupita is an offshoot of its sister restaurant in Mexico City, El Farolito. It bills itself as the first truly authentic Mexican restaurant in London although I suppose most restaurants would call themselves authentic. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

To start was a nachos clasicos (£5.45), Mexican tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, red salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Actually we should have been munching on the nachos Lupita, a meat version with strips of beef and black beans. But the restaurant got our order wrong and brought us the clasicos instead. But as the service was a bit chaotic – we got our food before our drinks – we decided not to bother having the restaurant correct our order.

Nachos clasicos

Nachos clasicos

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Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant – the Return (Again)

Duck rillette

Duck rillette

If you previously read my blog post on Terroirs, you would have probably noted that I have already been to this restaurant and wine bar twice in a very short space of time. So this return trip, my third visit, is really the return after the return. But hey, who’s counting? I really like the place. That, a craving for some of their super delicious duck rillette, and the feeling that I hadn’t explored the menu to its fullest potential meant I was predestined to go back. Call me a groupie, but one’s got to do, what one’s got to do.

Actually, it wasn’t only the duck rillette I wanted to try, but also the Lincolnshire smoked eel with celeriac rémoulade. I had been eyeing it up on both my first and second visits, but some other dish would call out to me more. This time round, I promised myself that there would be no distractions of such nature. And so, the eel was the first thing that rolled off my tongue when the waitress came to take our order. Oh that, and the duck rillette of course.

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Bedford & Strand

Despite its location in Theatreland in the West End, Bedford & Strand has managed to defy the odds by maintaining a reputation as a local, rather than a touristy favourite, with a bar clientele that is typically suited up. It’s almost hidden away, with a nondescript entrance which leads downstairs to a bar and restaurant. On most nights of the week it’s busy, abuzz with conversation and an atmospheric hum akin to a Parisian bistro setting. Having been there several times before for drinks, I was curious to explore whether the constant stream of packed tables concealed a well-heeled eating spot in the heart of Covent Garden.

Our evening began in a rather interesting fashion. Now I’m sure we’ve all had bouts of disappointment at a restaurant where we’ve experienced moments when the food wasn’t so great, or the service could have been better. Usually, I just let these setbacks pass into the ether with only the slightest of comments. But occasionally, I can feel rather self-righteous, and when this happens, I simply cannot seem to keep my mouth shut. Take for instance, my dinner at Floridita last December. I ended up exchanging some heated words with the waiter about the service charge on account of the service being so bad. And on this occasion at Bedford & Strand, well, there was to be no exchanging of words. Rather, when I was presented with my foie gras terrine, mango chutney and toasted brioche starter, I simply stormed out of my chair, grabbed the waiter and proclaimed: “there is no way in hell I am paying £9.50 for that. THAT is not a foie gras terrine!”

Foie gras terrine

Foie gras terrine

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