The Porchester

The Porchester is a gastropub located in the heart of Bayswater. Part of the Young’s Pub Group, it is a colourful local completed in warm autumnal colours. The interior skillfully strikes a balance between a modern and a traditional English pub. Similarly this concept carries through to the menu which is traditionally British but cooked with a modern flair.

To begin, we couldn’t resist ordering a few items from the bar snacks. The chicken wings (£4) fell off the bone and were slightly charred which gave them a lovely caramelisation. Cooked with chilli, they also offered up a light kick of spiciness. A ranch dressing was a nice accompaniment to these subtle yet spicy wings as it provided a deliciously cool and tangy contrast.

The Porchester - Chillied chicken wings

The Porchester – Chillied chicken wings

The chorizo and black pudding scotch eggs (£3.50) was the standout from the bar snacks. The black pudding and chorizo paste struck a great balance in the scotch egg as it was soft and subtle without undermining the delicate flavour of the runny egg. The textural contrast between the soft gooey interior of the egg against the crunchy crumb coating made it even more scrumptious.

The Porchester - Chorizo and black pudding scotch egg

The Porchester – Chorizo and black pudding scotch egg

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El Pirata de Tapas

El Pirata de Tapas in Notting Hill, sister restaurant to El Pirata de Tapas Mayfair, came to fame when Gordon Ramsay named it one of his ‘Best Spanish Restaurants in the UK’ in 2010 on his Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV programme. That recognition belonged to a time when El Bulli trained Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy was still the head chef at El Pirata de Tapas (co-incidentally Allibhoy had also worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant under Jason Atherton prior to taking over the reins at El Pirata de Tapas). These days Allibhoy is busy with other ventures such as his books and Tapas Revolution with the current head chef at El Pirata de Tapas being a Julian Gil.

El Pirata de Tapas is a comfortable looking restaurant and is suitable casual in keeping with the many other casual eating options along Westbourne Grove. The restaurant serves a modern tapas menu, a throw back to the days of Allibhoy.

There was a great value set lunch menu at £9.95 for two tapas dishes including bread and wine, but we elected for the more adventurous offerings from the standard a la carte menu.

Seared scallops (£9) were nicely cooked and came with a sweet and delicious onion purée that worked well with the scallops and some pork roulade that was quite fatty. Overall this was a nice dish but it would have been better had it not come out cold.

El Pirata de Tapas - Seared scallops

Seared scallops

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Bombay Palace

Bombay Palace London is one of eight Bombay Palace restaurants worldwide. Located on one end of Connaught Street in the fashionable Connaught Village, the restaurant recently underwent a refurbishment to complete a very respectable look with fine chandeliers, creamed walls, and a polished walnut bar to grace the entrance. The location helps draw in some upmarket clientele and apparently Daniel Craig was at Bombay Palace only a few weeks ago.

The food was good. For one of our starters we had a kebab platter (£20.95) from the tandoori selection to share. A decent portion, there was an assortment of grilled specialties including a jumbo prawn, minced lamb and chicken. Everything was wonderfully spiced and beautifully cooked.

Kebab platter

Kebab platter

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Angelus – Visit 2

Angelus recently won the title of Best French Brasserie in Zagat’s 2013 London Survey and deservedly so. Last year I visited Angelus, a classic French brasserie on Bathurst Street near Lancaster Gate, to try their ‘small-bites’ pichounettes menu. I thoroughly enjoyed this menu for both its quality and the very reasonable price tag – I couldn’t believe you could get so much for so little.

Pichounette options are still available on the Angelus menu, but this time I was there to try their à la carte menu.

Foie gras crème brûlée (£15) was decadently rich and creamy, as well as being generously portioned. The caramelised topping of almonds and poppy seeds proved to be delicious as it provided crunchiness and sweetness, as well as character.

Foie gras crème brûlée

Foie gras crème brûlée

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Angelus

French restaurant Angelus was opened by founder Thierry Tomasin in 2007 on a site that was once a pub and a covert meeting place for political figures such as Winston Churchill. It’s an elegant restaurant, styled in the art-nouveau fashion with dark wood, leather seating and elaborate mirrors. There is also a gorgeous bar and lounge area at the back of the restaurant for some chilled-out aperitifs before your meal.

Angelus has recently launched a savoury (starter) and sweet (dessert) pichounettes menu. Pichounettes is French for ‘small-bites’, and is served at the Angelus bar from 11.00 am – 11.00 pm, Monday to Sunday inclusive. I love this way of eating where you get to try a variety of different things. Each platter is priced at £13, or for an additional £10, the platter will come with a glass of Angelium, the house champagne recently launched by the restaurant. Seeing as Thierry Tomasin was previously a Head Sommerlier at Le Gavroche and has garnered accolades such as the Excellence Award MCA (Master of Culinary Art) from the Academy of Culinary Arts of Great Britain and a finalist placing at the 2005 Tatler Best Maitre D’ Awards, it is unsurprising that Angelus would develop its own house champagne.

Angelium champagne

Angelium champagne

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Assaggi

Assaggi use to hold a Michelin star which it lost this year. But to be honest, two previous visits to this Italian restaurant have always left me at a lost as to why it ever had a star to begin with. The food was decent, but unspectacular, and very pricey. In my opinion, not only was it not Michelin worthy, it wasn’t worth the price tag either. So it was no surprise to me when it was stripped off its star this year. About time I thought. I’ve never been anxious to go back but friends who wanted to try it invited me along.

Assaggi is housed above a pub in a beautiful Georgian building on Chepstow Place. But the lovely building masks a poorly decorated dining room, which, with its bad lighting and dull wall hangings makes the restaurant feel little better than a cheap café. It was also very noisy as there is no carpeting on the floor.

Culatello di zibello, the prized cured ham from Italy, was delicious. Thinly sliced, the lovely red flesh was sweet and delicate, and further enriched by the tasty pieces of white fat running through it. The ham can be ordered with burrata, a mozzarella cheese with cream (£24.40 with cheese or £16.90 without cheese). I think the combination would have worked well had the cheese been served at room temperature. Instead, it was spoiled by the fact that the cheese had only just been taken out of the fridge and was far too cold to eat. £24.40 is not cheap for a starter, and so it was disappointing to have the restaurant ruin it through careless preparation.

Culatello di zibello with burrata cheese

Culatello di zibello with burrata cheese

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The Oak

Having been away for a couple of months, it was nice to make steps towards settling back into life in London again. My first foray back onto the London dining scene was to the ‘gastropub’ The Oak on Westbourne Park Road in Notting Hill, which turned out to be a far more pleasant experience than another first, one that involved going back to the gym (ouch).

Other than the usual starters, mains and desserts, The Oak also offers a selection of ‘small eats’ and antipastas, but they are probably best known for their wood fired pizzas. We started with paprika deep fried squid with rocket, chorizo, aioli and cherry tomatoes (£8.50), and chargrilled octopus with San Marzano tomatoes and rocket (£9.25). The accompanying salads were lovely and fresh, although the squid was slightly overcooked and chewy, and the octopus was extremely soft and limp – a firmer texture would have been more appetitising.

Paprika deep fried squid

Paprika deep fried squid

Chargrilled octopus

Chargrilled octopus

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Le Café Anglais

Foie gras terrine with Pedro Ximénez jelly

Foie gras terrine with Pedro Ximénez jelly

Le Café Anglais, an Anglo French restaurant, is situated on the second floor of Whiteleys Shopping Centre in Bayswater, a location that I’ve always thought a little peculiar for an eatery pitched at the higher end of the dining scale. For the ‘geographically disorientated’ like me, I traipsed my way, floor by floor, through the shopping centre to get to the restaurant. But readers who want to go should take heart, for there is a lift that takes you directly to the restaurant from Porchester Gardens, and which I only discovered as I was leaving (doh!).

The restaurant is an enormous 7,000 square feet, but it isn’t so much the floor space as the height space that is impressive. It’s tall, tall, tall, and there are gorgeous art deco windows that run along the height of the walls and which are dressed in lush red curtains. There is an open kitchen situated towards one end of the room, and there are elements of glamour to the restaurant, but I must confess to thinking that the patterned maroon carpet didn’t quite work with the rest of the décor. It all looks expensively done, but there is a sense of sterility to it, and it’s probably better suited for bistro-type lunches than intimate dinners.

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