Posts for the 'Covent Garden' Category


Cinnamon Bazaar

CINNAMON BAZAAR

Cinnamon Bazaar is the latest addition to the Cinnamon Collection, a group of Indian restaurants run by Vivek Singh, restauranteur and a celebrity chef regular on a number of television cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Vivek first made his name with his flagship restaurant Cinnamon Club by championing a brand of modern, innovative Indian cooking. His contemporary approach has further translated into his other restaurants: Cinnamon Soho, Cinnamon Star and now, Cinnamon Bazaar.

As the name suggests Cinnamon Bazaar plays on the idea of a “bazaar”, a central marketplace where for centuries ideas and ingredients were exchanged, and cultures converged to come together to create one big melting pot. The fusion concept translates well at Cinnamon Bazaar with the restaurant’s menu drawing inspiration from countries dotted along the trading routes of old. The design of the restaurant also plays on the theme of a bazaar, offering a laid back environment where diners can relax and share a varied selection of dishes and drinks.

Laid over two floors, Cinnamon Bazaar is richly decorated in vibrant colours such as deep blues and fresh greens. The restaurant has made use of organic, natural materials which reflect the history of India. Finally, Illuminated lanterns and hanging ceiling drapes complete the eclectic bazaar ambience.

We visited Cinnamon Bazaar as part of a bloggers’ evening where we were treated to a variety of items from the diverse menu which includes a selection of snacks, chaats and main plates. We were firstly welcomed with a variety of delicious canapes from the snack menu such as crab bonda – pleasantly spiced Calcutta crab with a hint of tangy beetroot in a crispy chickpea batter; creamy chicken Haleem (pate) on some crunchy sourdough toast; and some velvety smooth chana masala hummus.

Also wonderful was the grilled aubergine with sesame peanut crumble, labna and toasted buckwheat. Although not actually a ‘snack’ but an item from the main plates, the aubergine was delicious. It had been beautifully cooked with the aroma of the sesame and the crunchiness of the peanut in the crumble adding a wonderful texture and vibrancy to the soft warmth of the aubergine.

Cinnamon Bazaar - London Food Blog - Aubergine in a canape size

Cinnamon Bazaar – Aubergine in a canape size

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Kanada-Ya

Where: Kanada-Ya

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kanada-Ya on St Giles High Street opened its doors in September 2014 and has since cultivated a large following with its special brand of ramen. Kanada-Ya is the brainchild of the award winning tonkostu broth master Mr Kanada who has been making ramen in Japan since 2009. It specialises only in tonkostu ramen and does not stray into shio, shoyu or miso based broths.

The secret to Kanada-Ya’s success is its specially cooked 18-hour pork bone tonkotsu broth which is tended to overnight. There are three different types of ramen bowls available – the original, the moyashi (a lighter broth) and chashu-men (ramen finished with a chashu collar). The word ramen is taken from the Chinese word ‘lamien’ which means ‘hand pulled noodles’ and the ramen at Kanada-Ya is literally that – hand pulled noodles prepared on site by their very own noodle whiz. Kanada-ya also serve onigiri (Japanese rice balls wrapped in nori) that can be washed down with a selection of Japanese beers, sake or soft drinks.

Kanadaya - Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

Kanadaya – Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

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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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Moti Mahal

Moti Mahal is one of a number of high-end Indian restaurants in London that adds a sophisticated twist to this much-loved cuisine by incorporating some expert spicing and elevated cooking techniques. The head chef is Delhi-born Anirudh Arora who has been cooking at Moti Mahal since it opened in 2005. He draws his influences from India’s famed Grand Trunk Road, a 1,500-mile trade route between India and Pakistan built in the 16th century. The food at Moti Mahal therefore takes diners on an inspired modern food journey of India, with dishes that have its roots in regional cooking.

Like the food, the décor at Moti Mahal is modern in its design. It’s very smart, with white-linen tablecloths, polished wooden flooring and gorgeous chandeliers that help to set a stylish tone. There is also an open kitchen partitioned behind a panel of curved glass which affords diners a bird’s eye view of its goings-on.

Moti Mahal were offering a ‘season’ special, a tandoor baked truffle naan with vintage cheddar, cumin and white ‘Alba’ truffles (£24), something impossible to pass up. I mean how can anyone possibly resist truffle naan? It was heavenly because not only was the truffle gorgeous, the combination of the melted cheese with the warm softness of the bread was also something magical.

Moti Mahal - Truffle naan

Truffle naan

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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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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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