Rossopomodoro

Rossopomodoro is a chain of restaurants serving Neapolitan cuisine and pizzas. A global operation, Rossopomodoro had its origins in Naples and is a well-recognised brand name in Italy. It has seven branches throughout the UK and in a string of other countries throughout the world.

At the invitation of Rossopomodoro I ventured to both the branches in Wandsworth and Covent Garden. My visit to the Wandsworth branch coincided with ‘RossoMusica’, a singing competition sponsored by Ferrarelle where London-based Italian singers perform and compete for the chance to win the prize of RossoMusica champion. The last of the heats was last week, and the final will be held on Thursday, 26 September 2013. For £10, RossoMusica promises you not only get some good music, one drink and a buffet of pastas and salads, but a night of frivolity as well.

The Wandsworth branch is split over two floors. It is a spacious area with a modern industrial look, and the floor to ceiling glass windows on the ground floor allow in oodles of natural light. On the first floor there is a fabulous terrace area that is perfect for al fresco dining.

The Covent Garden branch by contrast is a little bit more compact and less spacious than the one in Wandworth. Being in Covent Garden, its more hustle and bustle. There is a rather hectic feel to it, but it is also more conveniently placed for the attractions of the West End. There are also some tables outside which allow for a spot of people watching.

Rossopomodoro stays true to its Neapolitan heritage by impressively importing all its ingredients from Naples including items such as the flour used in its pizza bases. The fresh buffalo mozzarella (£15.45) that we ordered came in that day and was delicious, especially with a drizzling of olive oil and fresh basil. Accompanying the mozzarella was some bruschetta with a yummy cherry tomato topping that was fresh, ripe and sweet in that superb Italian way. However, the bread was less appealing as it was a tad bland.

Buffalo mozzarella with bruschetta

Buffalo mozzarella with bruschetta

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School of Wok – Experiencedays.com

Experiencedays.co.uk has a wide array of ‘experience days’ to suit every guilty pleasure, ranging from spa pampering temptations to a tonne of adventure experiences. There are airborne exploits such as skydiving and flying lessons, thrills such as track days and off-road stunts, and a wide array of water sports – all of which are available in a variety of locations throughout the UK. And it was through the Experiencedays.co.uk website that I stumbled upon something closer to my heart, The School of Wok which offers a gourmet day out. More specifically The School of Wok is a Chinese Cookery school based in Covent Garden specialising in Oriental seafood and fish cookery courses. The school is unique as it is one of only a handful of Chinese cookery days in the UK. Founded by Jeremy Pang, The School of Wok has officially been in operation for about a year, but prior to that Pang use to teach cookery courses from home.

The course was priced at £95 and the session began with some basic knife skills with a Chinese cleaver led by our instructor Stefan. We chopped our way through a spectrum of vegetables that formed the mise en place for our meal.

Stefan demonstrating knife skills

Stefan demonstrating knife skills

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Mishkin’s

Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the people behind the successful eateries Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and Da Polpo, have produced another offspring with Mishkin’s in Covent Garden. Mishkin’s bears the trademark of the other Norman and Beatty restaurants in the sense that it is cool, hip and happening, but deviates as it steers away from their Italian tapas theme. With Mishkin’s they’ve tapped into the vein of a New York styled Jewish deli, one that also serves cocktails.

The restaurant has a grungy Lower East Side vibe to it with its exposed brick work, metallic topped bar and banquette seating. And let’s not forget the cramped space which makes it feel even more like a New York eating hole. Towards the back of the restaurant were some tiny tables, and it was on one of them that were placed. Our particular table was lopsided. It was unclear to me whether this was a deliberate attempt to be avante-garde , but irrespective, it was rather impractical as our matzo ball soup split when it was placed onto the even table. The chicken broth in the soup (£6) had a nice chicken flavour running through it, although it was rather too peppery. The matzo ball itself held together well and had a light and springy texture.

Chicken matzo ball soup

Chicken matzo ball soup

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Loch Fyne Covent Garden

Loch Fyne offer an online seafood and larder ordering service and is probably best known for the oysters that they grow naturally in the waters of Loch Fyne, Scotland. Loch Fyne works closely with the Marine Conservation Society and uses only sustainable methods for farming. The oysters feed on plankton and no artificial feed is used. In addition to the oysters, Loch Fyne also farm a variety of fish, again using only sustainable methods. Their fish stocks are also topped up by their wild fish catches that are landed from the waters off Cornwall and the South-West.

The online business is only one part of what Loch Fyne do. In addition, they also operate 42 seafood restaurants throughout the UK. There are two in London, one of which is on Catherine Street in the theatre heart of Covent Garden. The restaurant has a charming brasserie feel to it and oozes warmth and congeniality. At the back of the restaurant is a seafood counter that displays the seafood of the day. It’s a really good way of checking out the freshness of your seafood before your order.

Seafood bar

Seafood bar

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Green Man & French Horn

Ed Wilson and Oli Barker, the boys behind the renowned Terroirs and its sister restaurants Soif and Brawn, have created a certain niche by selling biodynamic wines imported through wine specialists Les Caves de Pyrène. The practice of biodynamic agriculture refers to the use of organic, sustainable and ecological methods in wine making, and it is a practice that has gained momentum in recent years.

Wilson and Barker’s latest restaurant is The Green Man & French Horn. They’ve kept the name of the pub that once graced the site where the restaurant now stands. Located right in the heart of Covent Garden, it’s a quaint little place. But it’s also a tight squeeze with cramped tables and noisy acoustics.

The French menu is rustic, homely and comforting. A starter of chicken livers (£8.50) with artichoke and mâche were fat, silky smooth and dripping in flavour. Cooked to medium rare, they were well seasoned and superbly done. A drizzling of merlot vinegar and olive oil dressing left the dish with a lovely glaze and added a moist finish.

Chicken livers

Chicken livers

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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – Potato Menu

Potato Week will soon be upon us (1st – 7th October 2012), and to celebrate the versatility of the humble spud, the people at Many Faces of Potatoes and the two Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon have come together to create the world’s first ever Michelin-starred potato tasting-menu which will be served during this celebratory week at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Executive chef Olivier Limousin, a protégée of Joël Robuchon, created the menu and was on hand to cook during the preview of this dinner that I attended recently. An eight-course menu with matching wines, it is priced at £152.

The décor at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is decidedly black and sexy. There is a choice of counter seating around the open plan kitchen on the ground floor and table seating on the first floor. Furthermore, there is a lovely bar and terrace area upstairs, which is where we enjoyed a welcoming potato gin cocktail topped with fried potato skin before dinner.

Potato gin cocktail

Potato gin cocktail

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Bill’s Produce Store – St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden

Bill’s Produce Store and Restaurant in Covent Garden has a lovely spot overlooking the chic St Martin’s Courtyard which houses a string of shops and restaurants such as Dalla Terra. Bill’s is a darling restaurant full of charm and warmth, but on a sunny day, a table outside overlooking the courtyard is particularly pleasant.

Bill’s might be a restaurant, but serves a dual function as a produce store with a range of products available for sale lining their shelves. There is something wonderfully endearing about this restaurant, and best of all, the prices are low, with most mains hovering around the ten-pound mark.

We shared three starters including a hot smoked Scottish salmon (£5.65) that was beautiful, fleshy and full of flavour. The accompanying peach salad with red chicory and pomegranate, honey and mustard dressing worked well with the fish and was a successful combination.

Hot smoked salmon

Hot smoked salmon

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Brassiere Blanc Covent Garden

Raymond Blanc, the two Michelin starred chef behind Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, lends his name to the new chain of restaurants called Brasserie Blanc which serves French brasserie food. The branch at Covent Garden has taken over the space where Chez Gerard once was, on the rooftop patio overlooking Covent Garden Piazza.

The interior of Brasserie Blanc Covent Garden allows for a lot of natural light, but the restaurant feels cramped with all the tables being tightly squished together. There is no disputing the fabulous location, but our table on the terrace did little to guarantee a view given the high stone balustrade that runs along the terrace.

A selection board (£11.90) of guinea fowl rillettes, Milano salami, seared mackerel, apple and pear chutney, cucumber crème fraîche, carrot vinaigrette, celeriac remoulade proved to be decent. The rillettes had a good gamey flavour running through it, and surprisingly did not taste overly fatty. The mackerel was fresh and nicely cooked.

Selection board

Selection board

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