Posts for the 'London' Category


Michael Nadra Chiswick

Chef Michael Nadra has an impressive list of restaurants under his belt including time as Sous chef at Chez Bruce and La Trompette and stages at The Square in Mayfair and The Glasshouse in Kew. His first solo venture was a restaurant called Fish Hook in Chiswick which he opened in 2005. Many readers may not recall Fish Hook, but I remember it to be a quaint little restaurant serving accomplished and wonderfully tasty seafood at reasonable prices.

With Restaurant Michael Nadra, Chef Nadra continues to delivery really good quality contemporary cooking at reasonable prices in a relaxed and comfortable setting. For dinner, two courses from a prix fix menu are only priced at £30, and three courses are £36. There are two branches of Restaurant Michael Nadra, one in Chiswick, and the other in Primrose Hill.

We found ourselves in the Chiswick branch, a comfortable looking restaurant with dark furnishings and waiting staff dressed in black. We started with a sautéed foie gras (+£3) which was beautifully cooked and oozed with a lovely fattiness. But the foie gras lacked for a touch of seasoning which contrasted sharply with the blood orange salad which was very over seasoned. An accompanying caramelised red onion tart was impressive for the perfect caramelisation of the onion and the lusciously flaky and buttery puff pastry that surrounded the onion. An accomplished madeira jus worked well with the foie gras. Seasoning aside, this was an extremely well executed dish.

Michael Nadra - Sautéed foie gras

Sautéed foie gras

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Caxton Grill by Adam Handling

The Head Chef of Caxton Grill at the St Ermin’s Hotel, St James Park, is none other than Adam Handling. Remember him? If like me you were a big fan of Professional Masterchef, you would have probably been devastated when Adam failed to win the 2013 series. The ambitious and highly inspirational Scottish chef was probably the most deserved of the title, but unfortunately he failed to pull through on the day of the final. But onwards and upwards as not winning Masterchef hasn’t held Adam back. Not only is Adam the head chef of Caxton Grill, he was listed as one of the ‘30 under 30’ to watch in The Caterer & Hotelkeeper’s 2013 Acorn Awards and recently crowned as the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year, 2014.

Adam started his cooking career at the age of 16 at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. This was followed by positions at Rhodes 24, The Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle and the role of Head Chef at Fairmont St Andrews where he won two AA rosettes. At Caxton Grill, Adam cooks one part creative menu that is designed to excite, and another that is devoted to simple cooking of quality meats and fish from the Josper oven for more conventional palates. But in my view, if you are going to go to Caxton Grill, then a taste the creative inspiration that drives the ‘almost’ Masterchef winner is a must.

Our first interesting flavour experience was a breadbasket containing rye and bagel, and accompanied by a chicken butter with seaweed and mushroom. The rye was tasty, but the bagel was a dream with a centre that was lusciously soft, fluffy and wonderfully seasoned. The chicken butter consisted of 75% butter and 25% chicken fat and was supremely tasty with the seaweed providing the seasoning and the mushroom giving it an earthiness.

Caxton Grill - Bread

Bread

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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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Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel

Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel is an Italian restaurant, and a reincarnation of Refrettorio, a Giorgio Locatelli outlet that was well known for its accomplished cooking. Giorgio’s influence is still visible in Diciannove as Head Chef Alessandro Bay spent over 10 years under Michelin-starred Giorgio Locatelli, working his way up from chef de partie to sous chef and finally as head chef. As such, pasta is king at Diciannove, all of which are homemade daily. Diciannove translates to 19 in Italian and represents the address of the hotel, number 19 New Bridge St.

The restaurant has undergone a complete refurbishment since it’s rebranding from Refrettorio to Diciannove. The space was tastefully done and comfortable. There was ample booth seating, but these tables were perhaps too big, so the smaller tables perched in the centre of the restaurant are probably a better choice for the ease of conversation. At the front of the Diciannove is a little deli offering a number of Italian goodies for sale.

To begin with we opted for the cicchetti (Italian tapas) from the bar menu instead of the starters from the a la carte menu. All of them proved to be really tasty and incredibly great value. The burrata crostini (£3.85) for instance came with a richly creamy burrata that paired well with some softly grilled aubergines, tomato, basil and chilli. Thinly sliced beef fillet carpaccio (£4.50) with Parmigiano reggiano, olive oil and wild rocket was deliciously tender and soft and further enhanced by the nuttiness of the cheese.

Diciannove burrata crostini

Burrata crostini

Diciannove beef fillet

Beef fillet

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Angler Seafood Restaurant

Angler seafood restaurant is part of the D&D Group and located on the seventh floor of the glamorous South Place Hotel. The dining room is elegant, yet unimposing with a relaxed sophistication to it, and its floor to ceiling windows and outdoor terrace provides exciting views of the city. The executive chef is Tony Fleming who previously worked with Marco Pierre White at the Criterion and the three Michelin-starred Oak Room. Tony has also cooked at Oxo Tower, The Great Eastern Hotel and at One Aldwych. Seafood has always been his specialty, and at Angler, this has translated into a British seafood menu with a contemporary twist that saw it awarded a Michelin star in September 2013.

The dinner got off to a smashing start with some of the loveliest langoustines (£5 each) that I have ever tried. These Orkney Islanders were mouthwatering with a delectable sweetness and were firm in texture. If this was anything to go by, the other crustacean options of shellfish platter, clams and crab would no doubt have been exquisite as well. The breads were also heavenly and moreish. Served warm and eaten with the beautiful salted butter made for something moreish.

The langoustines at Angler

Langoustines

Breads at Angler

Breads

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Kai Chinese Michelin Restaurant

Kai Chinese Michelin Restaurant opened in 1993. It was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009, a star that the restaurant has maintained to this date. It has also won a string of other accolades including Best Chinese Restaurant in the Zagat Survey, the Highest Ranked Chinese Restaurant in The Sunday Times Food List 2012 and a placing as a finalist in Restaurant Magazine’s UK Best Dishes Awards. Celebrity chef Ken Hom also recommends Kai as his ‘go-to’ restaurant in London for dinner.

Kai is beautifully and tastefully decorated. There are the usual traditional touches of the Orient such as a fish tank and the giant Buddha heads, and to round off the glamorous finish modern glass pillars, soft, sexy lighting and expensive red tiling have been used. Head chef is Malaysian born Alex Chow who began cooking at the prodigious age of 14. He fine-tuned his skills at the famous Fullerton Hotel in Singapore before moving to London and to Kai in 2004.

Kai’s menu offers up a complex blend of modern interpretations of Chinese food as well as the more traditional Chinese dishes. It is unique and represents a compilation of special recipes that are original to the restaurant, some of which draw on ingredients not commonly used in Chinese cooking. That said the essence of the food stays true to its Chinese roots. The results are therefore a mixture of the familiar tinged with touches of the West.

The menu makes for a scintillating read and there were many dishes we wanted to try, and try we did. We started with a divine Tan-Jia’s broth (£18), a duck and carrot soup with lobster oil, a medallion of lobster, blanched baby spinach and shitake mushrooms. There was a beautiful flavour coming through from the thick, rich soup, and it made for a heavenly combination with the sweetness of the lobster. This was nothing less than classy, and it reminded me of the kind of soups served at Chinese wedding banquets in the best hotels in Hong Kong. We also opted for some matching wines with our meal, and for the soup the sommelier paired it with a 2011 Chenin Blanc, Saumur L’Insolite, Thierry Germain, Loire Valley, France (£13) that had a nice balance between acidity and sweetness.

Tan-Jia’s broth

Tan-Jia’s broth

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Fifteen Restaurant

Fifteen Restaurant by Jamie Oliver opened its doors in 2002 with a view to mentoring underprivileged youth and giving them prospects for a future. The scheme revolved around a cooking apprentice training programme to create chefs of the future. Ten years later, and with branches in Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne, Fifteen has seen over 350 students graduate, about 80% of which have continued to work in the food profession. Admirably all the profit from the restaurants gets donated to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

The original Fifteen is in Shoreditch and it is a handsome looking restaurant. Split over two floors, the décor is dark; dark tables, dark floors, etc, made even darker as the sunlight goes down as the lighting is kept very dim. But it sets the tone for an intimate atmosphere made buzzier by the constant chatter of the guests. Tables are closely positioned, but the space works.

Fifteen delivers a daily changing ‘British’ menu. It’s seasonal, cleverly constructed, and is based on whatever is in fresh and available from suppliers that day. Unlike standard à la carte menus, the menu isn’t split between starters and mains. Instead everything is listed on one long list, although in principle there are about eleven starters and five main courses. It’s a sharing feast and the dishes are brought out as and when they are ready, although you may request that they be brought out in a certain sequence.

The beef and barley bun with a horseradish cream (£5) has to be one of the nicest things I have ever eaten in my life. Consisting of a donut dough baked with a filling of minced beer, barley and pickled walnuts, it was stupendously good. The dough was soft and moreish, and the contrasting textures and flavours of the filling went hand in hand with the lightness of the bun. The horseradish cream was also excellent, and with the use of both horseradish ‘juice’ and grated horseradish, it had that extra special little kick that matched with the flavours of the bun really well.

Beef & barley bun

Beef & barley bun

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