Posts for the 'More than £45' Category


Helene Darroze

HELENE DARROZE

Helene Darroze has long been recognised as one of the world’s best female chefs, receiving one such acclaim when she became the winner of The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2015. Darroze is a fourth generation chef, with the generations before her running a family restaurant in Landes, Frances. Helene Darroze honed her skills under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse at the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, before returning to the family restaurant in Landes and then ultimately opening Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris. This, her flagship restaurant won her the first of her three Michelin stars in 2001. In 2008 Helene Darroze opened at The Connaught, taking over from the site previously occupied by Angela Hartnett. Helene Darroze at The Connaught currently holds two Michelin stars.

The dining rooms at Helene Darroze at The Connaught are resplendent and beautiful. The interior is filled with beautiful wood panelling, floral touches and plush furnishings, and the dimly lit space bestows the restaurant with a timeless intimate elegance. The classically French a la carte menu is priced at £95 for 5 courses or £130 for 7 courses. Therefore the 3 course lunch at £52 is comparatively good value. With restaurants in both Paris and London, Helene roughly splits her time between the two cities.

The menu at Helene Darroze at The Connaught is presented using a very unique format and is worthy of a mention. A round board containing marbles is given to each diner, and each dish on the menu is inscribed on an individual marble. A full listing with a description of the dishes is also presented to the diner, and so you are therefore able to choose your meal by eliminating the marbles with the names of the dishes that you don’t want. Genius! And so much fun.

Helene Darroze - London Food Blog - The menu

Helene Darroze – The menu

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Oliver Maki

OLIVER MAKI

Oliver Maki, a Japanese restaurant located on Dean Street, Soho, was founded by Lebanese-Canadian Oliver Maki and his family. The Zeitoun family come from a long line of olive grove farmers (Zeitoun means ‘olive’ in Arabic) and the influence of olives can be felt throughout the restaurant, from the impressions of olive trees on the mirrors in the restaurant, to the use of the word Oliver in the restaurant’s name (alluding to the word olive). But even so, the restaurant is about combining the traditions of Japanese food with modernity. At the helm is Executive Head Chef Louis Kenji Huang, formerly a sushi chef at Nobu in Las Vegas.

Oliver Maki has a number of branches throughout the Middle East, and the Soho branch is the first in Europe. The restaurant is set on two levels and is modern, understated, chic and comfortable.

The menu is deal for sharing and is divided into various sections, ranging from the Cold and Hot Appetisers, to the signature sashimi to the mains, but to name a few. The first was Filo Ebi Tempura Shots (£12.90), consisting of three beautifully presented pieces of prawn, wrapped and fried in vermicelli rather than the traditional batter, and served semi-submerged in a spicy creamy sauce in a shot glass. The prawns were perfectly cooked and worked well with the hint of chilli in the sauce. On the side was a yamamomo peach which was a nice accompaniment as it offered a touch of acidity.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Shrimp tempura shot

Oliver Maki – Shrimp tempura shot

Hamachi Chilli Sashimi (£10.90), slices of yellowtail dressed with ponzu, extra virgin olive oil, slices of jalapeño and coriander cress proved to be very tasty and well presented. The yellowtail was fresh, but had been cut quite thin, perhaps a touch too thin, but it went well with the acidity of the ponzu and the hint of chilli.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Yellowtail sashimi

Oliver Maki – Yellowtail sashimi

Unagi Tacos (2pcs – £8.60) was a fine dish using chopped eel, avocado, spring onions, cucumber and wasabi emulsion, the use of which combining to create a lovely explosion of flavours on the tongue. The tacos themselves were a little too thick in texture, but otherwise this was a very enjoyable dish.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Eel taco & nigiri

Oliver Maki – Eel taco & nigiri

We tried a selection of nigiri including sea bass (£3.50), a nicely proportioned piece of fresh seabass on well vinegared rice. The aburi o-toro (£6.50), a torched flame fatty tuna was delicious, although the aburi wagyu beef (£8) was decidedly chewy and difficult to eat.

For maki we chose the interesting sounding wagyu burger maki (6pcs) (£18.00) made from Australian wagyu with a mushroom sauce, avocado, Japanese pickles, tomato and cucumber on a base of rice. We weren’t particularly impressed with this dish. Expecting a more luxurious texture from the fat content that is typically found in wagyu, we found the beef to be a tad dry.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Wagyu maki

Oliver Maki – Wagyu maki

To the mains, and a matcha yuki udon (£13.70) consisted of stir fried homemade green tea udon with thinly sliced scallops, shiitake, black truffle oil and dill. The scallops were over cooked and overall the dish was very salty, resulting in the flavour of the truffle oil being lost. Conceptually the idea was good, but the execution could have been better.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea udon

Oliver Maki -Green tea udon

Gindara (black cod) shiitake (£27), a dish of miso grilled black cod with shiitake, was a very well cooked dish. The fish was moist and succulent, and the miso sauce was lovely and rich.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Black cod

Oliver Maki – Black cod

For dessert we opted for the Terrarium matcha tiramisu (£8) made up of fresh mascarpone, white and dark chocolate, green tea, and “rock” chocolate on the side (chocolate made to resemble the appearance of a piece of rock). Served in an elongated see-through glass jar, the presentation was made to look like a garden and was very appealing. What’s more, it tasted delicious, although there was some unevenness in how the tiramisu had been layered.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea tiramisu

Oliver Maki – Green tea tiramisu

From the mochi (£3 per piece) selection we chose green tea, mango and toasted sesame. These were excellent with the right level of consistency in the rice casing and each filled with delicious and well-made ice cream.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Mochi

Oliver Maki – Mochi

Oliver Maki makes a nice mark in the world of Japanese fusion cuisine, balancing traditional Japanese food with a contemporary culinary approach. On the whole, the food was well prepared, interesting and affordably priced, especially for a Soho location. The menu including the drink menu was very extensive, meaning diners are spoilt for choice. There were a few elements in the food that we didn’t like (avoid the wagyu), but overall there was a high level of consistency in the well judged cooking.

We liked the service, finding it very effective and appealing.

Summary Information:
Likes:
1. Filo Ebi Tempura Shots
2. Unagi Tacos
3. Hamachi Chilli Sashimi
4. The matcha tiramisu
5. The mochi

Dislikes:
1. Aburi wagyu beef nigiri
2. Wagyu burger maki
3. Matcha yuki udon

Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: about £40 to £50 per head. Excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://www.olivermaki.co.uk/

Square Meal

Oliver Maki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Koji – Visit no. 2

KOJI

I first tried Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green last year, not long after it first opened and had a fabulous dining experience. Koji was a collaborative effort between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant.

In January 2015 Rolando Ongcoy joined the ranks, replacing Nobuhisha Takahashi, and took the food at Koji up another notch. A Japanese chef for some 33 years, he began his career in the Philippines before coming to London. In recent years he has also been the head sushi chef with both the Nobu group and Uni in Pimlico.

The ethos at Koji is to provide diners with first class Japanese food in a highly elegant setting, but without any pretentiousness. The Koji menu centres around contemporary Japanese cooking, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi, to meat and seafood on the robata grill, to a variety of modern Japanese dishes that draw upon European and South American influences.

Second time round, and I found Koji to be that much better than first time round – no mean feat considering that the benchmark standard had been set pretty high during my first visit. At Koji, only the finest ingredients are used. This coupled with the finest of techniques makes for splendid dining experience.

We shared a variety of dishes as is customary with Japanese food, and one of my favourites of the evening was the salmon tartare with caviar umami jelly (£19). This dish was divine. The salmon itself was fresh and flavoursome, but it was the umami jelly – a thin layer of jelly placed over the salmon – which electrified the tartare. The umami jelly was abundant with flavour and it paired perfectly with salmon.

Koji - London Food Blog - Salmon tartare

Koji – Salmon tartare

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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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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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The Meat Co

Established in South Africa in 2000, The Meat Co Steakhouse opened in London in 2008 at the Southern Terrace end at Westfield’s Shepherds Bush. It is an expansive space, with the ground floor operating as a bar, and upstairs as an enormous dining area decorated in warm dark tones. The headline act is the Connoisseurs’ Choice of Cuts, which includes chateaubriand, wagyu and kangaroo. There are also super-aged steaks, and these meats, sourced from both the UK and the US are firstly basted in a secret traditional recipe before being flame grilled to order. Also on the menu is a variety of chicken, seafood and veggie options. And paramount to its success is that The Meat Co prides itself on offering an approved Halal menu.

I first visited The Meat Co a couple of years ago and had a very respectable and enjoyable experience. This time around it was just as enjoyable. Moreover the desserts had stepped up another level and were even better than I remembered.

We tried a variety of starters including the salt and pepper calamari (£8), peri-peri prawns (£10.50) and chicken wings (£8.75). The calamari was excellent, being tender and coated with a light, crispy and well-seasoned batter. The prawns in a peri-peri sauce had been pan-fried with shallots and garlic and were firm in texture with a good flavour. The peri-peri sauce itself was decent, if a little bit too strong in flavour from the use of peppers. The chicken wings were solid and had been coated with a sweet, sticky sauce that was ever so moreish.

The Meat Co - London Food Blog - Calamari

The Meat Co – London Food Blog – Calamari

The Meat Co - London Food Blog - Prawns peri-peri

The Meat Co – London Food Blog – Prawns peri-peri

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The Ninth

THE NINTH

The Ninth on Charlotte Street is the latest restaurant by chef Jun Tanaka, a chef who has worked at some of London’s best restaurants including Le Gavroche, The Restaurant Marco Pierre White and The Square. Jun’s last venture was Pearl – a gem of a place at what was previously the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in Holborn. At Pearl, the food was a refined, modern take on classical French cooking. With The Ninth, Jun has migrated to a sharing menu that boasts of French Mediterranean-style dishes.

One might call The Ninth cosy, but I felt the more appropriate word to describe it was cramped. The restaurant was very small and tables had been squeezed into every spot imaginable, including the one where we were perched which was right by the front door. It was a very unpleasant spot, especially as every time the door opened it let in a draft, which was basically about every 5 minutes.

I had great expectations about The Ninth, having thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful and precisely cooked food at Pearl on several occasions before it closed. The a la carte menu at The Ninth – available at lunch and dinner – was divided into various sections including hot starters, a raw and cured section, fish, meat and vegetables. It made for an inviting read with many lovely sounding dishes.

From the raw and cured section, a razor clam ceviche (£9.50) was pleasant but underwhelming. The razor clams were fresh and had been nicely dressed with the right level of acidity. But the dish lacked for seasoning, and in all, the ceviche was just a little bit boring. The razor clams had a very gentle flavour, and what the dish needed was something to lift it. Even some contrasting crunchiness would have helped the dish by giving it added texture.

The Ninth - London Food Blog - Razor clam ceviche

The Ninth – Razor clam ceviche

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