ETM Bar crawl

This past Wednesday I attended the ETM bloggers bar crawl which was super, super fun. Blogger friends who came along included Greedy Diva, LondonFoodie, WineSleuth, Missimmo, Teatimeinwonderland and Faerietalefoody. ETM operate a number of gastropubs in London and we hopped along from one ETM bar after another, sampling food and drinks (listed at the bottom of this post) along the way.

First up was the lovely, elegant Chiswell Street Dining Rooms where we tried a number of canapés such as seared Isle of Man king scallop with crispy bacon and pea purée; smoked eel with horseradish; foie gras ballotine on brioche with Madeira jelly; leek and wild mushroom tart and soft boiled quail’s egg with truffled duxelle. Particularly delicious was the mini Aberdeen Angus beef Wellington as the meat was plump and juicy.

At The Hat and Tun we had a starter of Herefordshire snail & smoked bacon pie with a Guinness and mushroom cream sauce. The snails were nice, but the sauce was very runny, and both the filling and the pastry needed more seasoning.

Snail & smoked bacon pie

Snail & smoked bacon pie

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Tinello

Italian restaurant Tinello has a prestigious backer in the name of Giorgio Locatelli, the one Michelin starred chef of Locanda Locatelli fame. Locatelli part owns Tinello, and it was with his blessing that brothers Federico and Max Sali, the previous head chef and sommelier of Locanda Locatelli, moved on to set up Tinello.

Tinello opened last September on Pimlico Road, on the site where L’Incontro use to be. For a restaurant located in one of London’s priciest residential areas, the restaurant is surprisingly low-key. The décor on the ground floor is clean cut and draws on the use of dark wood, red brick work and low copper lighting. The basement dining room is basic and lacks for atmosphere, so if at all possible, book for the ground floor.

Another aspect of Tinello’s low-key approach is its prices. The menu consists of a selection of antipastas, pastas, secondi piatti and desserts. But what appealed the most was the reasonably priced ‘small eats’ which ranged in price from £2 to £4.50. Given how cheap they were, we decided to try four plates between the two of us rather than have a starter each.

‘Burrata’ cheese and tomato bread (£3.20) was a combination of cheesy goodness and bread doused with a warming, rich tomato flavour. This was a lovely dish.

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

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Chutney Mary – Visit # 2

Chutney Mary is an up marketing Indian restaurant in Chelsea which focuses on Indian cooking from six different regions. The last time I went to Chutney Mary I tried the tasting menu for £45 which I enjoyed (to read that post click here). The service was polished and all around the food was very enjoyable although I had wanted a bit more spicing and a little more veg.

But the food was good enough to go warrant a another try and this time around I again went for the tasting menu (still priced at £45). A generous piece of nizami tandoori prawn chargrilled in roasted seasame, fresh dill and a Kerala white pepper marinade was resplendent with flavour. It had been cooked beautifully, and was moist, plump and juicy. The delicate hints of chilli thrown into the mix had been expertly judged. It was served with a wonderful blueberry chutney made with curry leaf, mustard and garam marsala which gave way to a zingy mix of complex flavours and spices.

Nizami tandoori prawn

Nizami tandoori prawn

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L’Art du Fromage

In some respects, L’Art du Fromage is the most interesting opening to hit London this year. As the name suggests, the restaurant specialises in cheese, which you will find in virtually every dish on the menu. It might be a bit hard to imagine eating cheese with every course, but you have to admit the idea is novel. La Cave à Fromage in South Kensington offers cheese and wine tastings every other Thursday, but L’Art du Fromage is the only restaurant of its kind in London to make cheese a core ingredient.

The restaurant is the brainchild of two 24 year-old Frenchmen, Julien Ledogar and Jean-Charles Madenspacher, both from Alsace. L’Art du Fromage stocks some 100 cheeses which are brought in weekly from Lyon, a lot of which are proudly on display as you walk into the restaurant.

The restaurant is quaint, simply furnished, small and cosy. Situated on Langton Street, off the Kings Road in Chelsea, it shares the same street as that favourite haunt of the well-heeled, La Famiglia.

We started with smoked salmon and goat’s cheese roulade with fresh herbs and beetroot carpaccio (£6.40). There was a little too much goat’s cheese relative to the amount of smoked salmon on the plate, but otherwise the roulade was lovely. The classic combination of goat’s cheese and beetroot worked a treat, with the sweetness of the root vegetable cutting the creamy richness of the cheese nicely. The cheese accentuated the smoky sweetness of the fish.

Smoked salmon & goat's cheese roulade

Smoked salmon & goat's cheese roulade

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Chutney Mary

Chutney Mary

Chutney Mary

Like restaurants such as Benares, Amaya and Rasoi, Chutney Mary falls into the category of Indian fine dining. It doesn’t possess a Michelin star, but it does have a New King’s Road location, fine cutlery service, a luxurious decor and prices that are ‘higher than-your-local-Indian’ to make it worthy of a fine dining classification.

We settled on the 6 course tasting menu which is priced at £45. First up was a scallop caldeen. A fat, succulent piece of Atlantic scallop, it had been cooked to a beautiful doneness that left it with an opaque sheen. The accompanying caldeen sauce had a lovely cumin and coriander kick to it, and it worked with the tomato and ginger salsa that dressed the top of the scallop. This was a masterful display in spicing and flavour matching. This starter was served with some lovely, fluffy naan bread.

Scallop caldeen

Scallop caldeen

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The Cadogan Arms

Sunday lunch was at The Cadogan Arms, a gastropub which is owned by the ETM Group who also own other well known gastropubs such as The Well, The Gun, The White Swan and The Botanist, etc. The Cadogan Arms closed for extensive refurbishment in December 2008 and reopened for business in April this year. Although I have had some good meals at the various ETM establishments in prior years, my last outing was a far less positive experience. We were at The Botanist last year (pre-blog) when we were served bread that was still frozen. This was probably a one off, but I just got the feeling that on that particular occasion the food was not going to be good and that we would be better served to simply abort our mission and leave before our mains.

Scallops with smoked pork belly & pea puree

Scallops with smoked pork belly & pea puree

We didn’t get good bread at The Cadogan Arms either. Our sourdough bread was dry and tasted a little stale. A starter of seared scallops with smoked pork belly and pea puree (£9.50) was also disappointing for the scallops were rubbery and bland. Unevenly sized to the point where one piece was about double the size of the other two, this bigger piece surprisingly released a noticeable amount of liquid when I sliced into it, as if it might have been cooked from frozen and was still defrosting on my plate. The pea puree was tasty, although the smoked pork belly wasn’t particularly smoky. The presentation of the dish was also poor for some of the balsamic dressing had smudged on the plate. This dish was unappetitising and I was unable to finish it.

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Aubergine

Note: This restaurant has now closed. It was really bad anyway…

Scallops over mushroom puree

Scallops over mushroom puree

My latest lunch adventure was at Aubergine Restaurant, which is perhaps most famous for the fact that this was where Gordon Ramsay won his first Michelin star in 1995 and a second in 1997. A desire to own his own restaurant coupled with differences with the owners resulted in Ramsay leaving shortly thereafter to open what we now know as Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road. In Ramsay’s place stepped the current Executive Head Chef, Billy Drabble. He too soon attained a star which he has managed to hold onto ever since.

So I came to Aubergine with an element of curiosity, inspired by its history more than anything else. But under Drabble, Aubergine has also collected its share of accolades. Since 1998, along with its Michelin star, it has also continuously held onto 4 AA Rosettes. And in 2006 it won the ‘Grand Prix of Gastronomy’ as awarded by The British Academy of Gastronomes.

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La Famiglia: A weekend of indulgence (part 1)

The best way to approach a weekend of eating indulgence is to have a designated driver, someone who is preferably not you. The flexibility of being able to drink is the most obvious bonus, but when you’re rolling out of a restaurant after a meal it’s rather nice not to have to worry about how you’re going to make your way home. Then there’s the matter of when you’re heading out of town for Sunday lunch where, practically, a car is a definite must. In our case, lunch was at The French Horn in Sonning-On-Thames. Practicalities aside, it was also rather nice after having eaten yourself silly to be able to doze off in the car on the way back to town… but more on that later.

First up on the weekend were our Saturday night exploits at La Famiglia, a Tuscan restaurant. It bills itself ‘as a destination for the rich and famous’. Case in point: Jennifer Aniston’s flying visit to London back in June this year to meet up with her then (now?) beau John Mayer. During that trip she dined at La Famiglia and the event was captured all over the tabloid spreads. Enough said.

Located just off the Kings Road, La Famiglia also caters to the well-heeled of Chelsea, and on this particular Saturday night, every table was thus filled. The décor is rustic, predominantly white with splashes of blue, and softly lit. To create that family feel, there are abundant pictures of ‘the family’ lining the walls. The space is tight however, and the tables were small, and in our case too small to comfortably fit four. (No doubt Jen wasn’t forced to squeeze into her seat like this)! But it’s wonderfully seductive with a charming ambiance and a sense of time-honoured tradition that seems to draw you back time and time again.

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