Boulestin

Last week I attended a bloggers’ dinner at the lovely Boulestin restaurant, an impressively chic French establishment on St James St in the heart of Mayfair. The restaurant comfortably seats around 40 and is elegant and inviting. There are leather banquettes, frosted glass screens and soft lighting, all coming together to create a sense of conviviality and warmth.

The inspiration for Boulestin Restaurant was the renowned chef and food writer, Xavier Marcel Boulestin. His cookery books did much to popularise French cooking in the English-speaking world. In 1927 he opened the original Restaurant Boulestin, which at the time was the most expensive restaurant in London. The success of the restaurant and the popularity of his writing made Boulestin famous. And so it is that the Boulestin of today is devoted to celebrating many of the French classics that he helped to make so well-known.

For my starter I had the pan-fried duck liver (£18.50), which was deliciously fatty, beautifully cooked, and which went nicely with the roasted quince. But the portion size was tiny, and I thought a little ungenerous for the price.

Boulestin - Foie gras

Foie gras

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London in the Sky

London in the Sky - The view from below

The view from below

Last night we had THE most amazing time at London in the Sky, a 10 day pop-up restaurant which sees five of London’s best Michelin starred chefs prepare their delicious menus in a unique sky table dining experience seating 22 guests. Eating a Michelin starred meal 100 feet above the heady heights of Canary Wharf was truly a gastronomic experience unlike any other.

London in the Sky - The dining table

London in the Sky – The dining table

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Brasserie Chavot

Chef Eric Chavot is best known for his ten-year stint at the two-Michelin starred restaurant at The Capital Hotel where he offered some of the finest French haute cuisine to be had in London. The French born chef trained with some of the most famous names in the culinary world including the likes of Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire and Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. He also worked with Marco Pierre White before venturing out on his own with The Capital.

The Capital Restaurant closed in 2009 after which Chef Chavot left for a two year sojourn in The US. But he came back, opening his self-named Brasserie Chavot in The Westbury Hotel in 2013. It’s a world away from the formality of The Capital. Instead of carpeted floors and white linen tablecloths there has been a move towards tiled floors and banquette seating for a more relaxed feel. It’s still a glamorous looking venue nevertheless, with great accoustics to soften the hum of noise from the conversation of other diners.

The menu at Brasserie Chavot may be less complex then his fine dining days at The Capital, but it still bears Chavot’s trademark of classic French cooking and it was enough to see him win a Michelin star in 2014. We started our meal with a scallop ceviche (£13.50) which showcased scallops of the highest quality. Thinly sliced, they were absolutely glorious with a soft texture and a sweet wonderful flavour. The lemon dressing with basil worked well with the scallops although it was a touch acidic in parts.

Brasserie Chavot - Ceviche of scallops

Ceviche of scallops

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Medlar

Medlar Restaurant is a rustic little number on Kings Road occupying the site that was once Vama Restaurant. It serves French ‘style’ food, but as the Medlar website states it also draws inspiration from “all over”. The restaurant was founded by a couple of experienced old hands of the restaurant trade. Head Chef and owner Joe Mercer Nairne honed his skills at Chez Bruce, The Savoy Grill and the big hitting Sydney restaurant Rockpool, and front of house is run by his business partner David O’Connor who was previously at The Square and The Ledbury.

A reading of the Medlar menu suggests food that is warm and satisfying, and the simplicity of the soft greyish tones of the restaurant décor goes a long way in supporting an experience of comfort. The three-course set menu consists of eight options per course and is priced at £45 for dinner from Monday to Saturday. But the same menu is available during lunch and on the weekdays it is even better value at £27 (Saturday lunch- £30, all day Sunday – £35).

We started with the roast foie gras (+£3 supplement) with poached quince. The foie gras was incredible, being beautifully soft, lusciously rich and satisfyingly decadent. The poached quince had been nicely done and worked well with the foie gras, and a drizzling of sherry vinegar caramel was excellent giving way to a perfect touch of acidity. Finely chopped hazelnuts texture and a nice finishing touch. My only wish was a bigger piece of foie gras as it was quite small.

Medlar - Roast foie gras

Roast foie gras

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Buddha Bar

When Buddha Bar opened in Paris in 1996 it took the city by storm. A visionary ultra-chic designer restaurant, bar and lounge serving contemporary fusion Asian food to the stylish set, the blend of East meets West set a new trend in design unseen elsewhere before. Since that illustrious opening, the Buddha Bar brand has gone global with restaurants and bars throughout the world. The brand has also extended to hotels, resorts and spas, as well as downloads of the funky DJ tunes played in its venues.

The London branch of Buddha Bar is located in the equally chic Knightsbridge, and is headed by Chef King Dey who spent three years at L’Etranger as the Head Chef and has also freelanced at Noma and Zuma. As such there are little twists in the contemporary Japanese-centric menu which places a strong focus on maki rolls, sushi and sashimi. The current location is much smaller than the previous Buddha Bar at Temple. But it’s undeniably a Buddha Bar with its trademark look of chic and a classy clientele.

A king crab and prawn tempura roll (8 pieces – £17.50) was gratifyingly tasty from the sweetness of the seafood. But the tempura batter was a bit soft, and a crunchier finish would have given it a greater textural contrast. The spicy mango sauce was sweet and tangy and a perfect fit for the roll.

King crab & prawn tempura roll

King crab & prawn tempura roll

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Classic West End Afternoon Tea at The Waldorf

I adore going to afternoon tea. The thought of some nice sandwiches followed by fluffy scones with mouthwatering clotted creams and lots of scrummy cakes can easily set my heart a flutter. But not only is it a nice afternoon thing to do, it’s also something novel to take guests from out of town to experience. I was recently invited by the website Afternoontea.co.uk to try one of the afternoon teas offered through their website. Afternoontea.co.uk allows you to search afternoon teas by location, which you can book at no additional cost. Furthermore, it occasionally has special offers. For instance, The Classic West End Afternoon Tea (£33.50) that I tried at the Waldorf also included a free glass of sparkling wine.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea

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Little Social

An Italian Restaurant aptly named 5 Pollen Street previously occupied the address of 5 Pollen Street. The cooking was good, but the portions were miserable and the prices were exorbitant. I remember my meal there as being one of the worst value-for-money that I had ever had in my life and I left the restaurant feeling wracked with guilt that my friends had to fork out so much money for so little. It is therefore unsurprising that the restaurant closed down last year. On a Saturday night not long after I had eaten at 5 Pollen Street, I walked past it to discover that it was bordering on empty. Clearly, the restaurant had gotten its pricing formula wrong. But it has now been taken over by Jason Atherton and converted it into a charming French bistro endearingly named Little Social.

Little Social sits across the road from Pollen Street Social, Atherton’s flagship restaurant that he established after leaving Maze and the Gordon Ramsay fold. Pollen Street Social registers on the upper end of the scale. It’s fine dining through and through with a one-Michelin star to boot.

A pork head and foie gras terrine starter (£11.50) packed a meaty, rustic flavour, but was also strangely a little tangy. The piece of foie gras holding centrepiece in the middle of the terrine was delicious, but meanly portioned as it was quite small. In fact, the slice wasn’t particularly generous. The tea and prune purée was a good match for the pork, and the sourdough was springy and tasty if a little burnt. As our second starter, half a dozen oysters (£15) from Cornwall were fresh and delicious.

Pork head & foie gras terrine

Pork head & foie gras terrine

Oysters

Oysters

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The Greenhouse

My previous visit to the one Michelin starred The Greenhouse restaurant was in November 2011 for the glorious Laurent Perrier champagne tasting menu cooked by Chef Antonin Bonnet. Bonnet has since left The Greenhouse to pursue other ventures and was replaced by French born Arnaud Bignon as Executive Chef in March last year. Bignon comes from a wealth of Michelin experience. Prior to his arrival at The Greenhouse he headed up the kitchen at Spondi, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Athens, and previous to that, he was Eric Frechon’s sous chef at the three Michelin starred The Bristol in Paris.

Before dinner we sat in the bar area for drinks (the lychee martini was blindingly good) and canapés which included a deconstructed chicken Caesar salad, a soft mushroom meringue and minced prawns with spices and peanuts. The Caesar salad was a spherified drop of lettuce jelly containing a liquid centre and topped with Parmesan, a squid ink crisp bread and an anchovy. This was reminiscent of the spherified Greek salad canapé that Bignon served at Spondi, a dining experience that I am able to share with you in this blog post. Cleverly done, it exploded in your mouth with the flavours of a chicken Caesar salad to create an electrifying effect. The soft mushroom meringue was fabulous for it teased with a gentle earthy mushroom flavour and was also light and airy in texture. The prawns were pleasant from the spicing and the nuttiness of the peanuts.

Canapés

Canapés

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