Randa

Tucked around the corner from Kensington High Street is Randa, a fine Lebanese Restaurant which is part of the Maroush group of restaurants. Started in 1981 by Marouf Abouzaki who left war-torn Lebanon for London, The Maroush Group now includes 16 restaurants, ranging from the fast food operations of Beirut Express on Edgware Road to the more upmarket establishments such as Maroush on Vere Street and Randa. All the Maroush restaurants aim to serve authentic Lebanese food the traditional way, and at Randa, the menu offers a standard staple of Lebanese goodies. The selection includes a variety of much loved hot and cold mezzes such as hommos as well as an assortment of baked goods and pastries. There is also a fine selection of main courses including seafood and meat grills.

We began our meal with a selection of mezze including chickpea hommos (£5.50) and moutabal baba ghanouj (£5.75), a grilled aubergine purée mixed with tahine. Both of these were delightfully good. The hommos was thick, creamy and tasty, but the baba ghanouj proved to be my favourite with its rich, decadent and slighted charred flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Cold mezze

Randa – Cold mezze

Charcoal-grilled marinated chicken wings served with garlic sauce (£6) proved to be a winner. The wings were really nicely cooked and succulent, and they paired wonderfully with the strong garlic-y flavour of the wonderfully thick sauce. These chicken wings with garlic sauce are a personal favourite of mine, and on occasion I will pop into Beirut Express on Edgware Road just to order the wings.

Other hot mezzes included kibbeh (£6), deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onions, and falafel (£5.50), deep-fried bean and herb croquettes served with tahine. Both of these were freshly prepared with crunchy coatings and tasty fillings. Grilled halloumi cheese (£6.50) was truly yummy with a robust earthy flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Hot mezzes

Randa – Hot mezzes

Les successful items included the Maroush salad (£5.75) and lentil soup. The salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion, radish and with a lemon and olive oil dressing was also wonderfully fresh. But it was over dressed with too much lemon juice and very acidic on the palate. A lentil soup (£5) was also a little bland.

For our main we shared a plate of grilled king prawns (£18) which was a dream to eat. Four jumbo-sized prawns sat on our plate and were firm in texture and very nicely cooked. The combination of texture and good cooking yielded something that was really flavoursome.

Randa - London Food Blog - Jumbo prawns

Randa – Jumbo prawns

For dessert we tried a selection of baklawa which contained a variety of fillings. The pastry was delicate and the syrupy sweetness of the baklawa was not did overpower the flakiness of the pastry and the tasty fillings. All of these were delicious.

Randa - London Food Blog - Baklawa

Randa – Baklawa

The food at Randa was really enjoyable. The mezzes sang of freshness and authenticity, the prawns were delicious and the baklawa was good too. I would have liked better balance in the salad dressing and greater flavour in the lentil soup, but otherwise it’s a big tick for Randa on the food front. The service was warm and friendly too.

Summary Information:
Likes:

1) The food was generally well executed with the moutabal baba ghanouj being my favourite.
2) The jumbo prawns

Dislikes:
1) The salad and the lentil soup were the weakest dishes that we tried.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: About £20 to £40 a head.

Website: https://www.randa-restaurant.com/

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L’Eto Caffe

L'Eto - London Food Blog - Salad counter

L’Eto – Salad counter

L'Eto - London Food Blog - Salad counter

L’Eto – London Food Blog – Salad counter

L’Eto Caffe is a chain of café-restaurants with six branches across central London that offers an all day dining service. The café is most notable for their dazzling display of cakes and pastries in their front window, all of which are so tempting it’s almost impossible not to do a double take every time you walk past a branch of L’Eto. But L’Eto offer more than just cakes. They also have a counter laid out with vibrant salads and cooked mains. The King’s Road, Belgravia and Brompton branches also serve breakfast and an a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner.

I recently visited the Brompton branch of L’Eto which is located within close proximity to the wonderful V&A and Natural History Museums. It is a very inviting venue with a lovely décor that is peppered with a smart and arty European charm. The wonderful display of great salads and tempting cakes also do much to add spark to the setting.

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Q Grill

Q GRILL

A guest post by Food Porn Nation.

What makes Q Grill, Camden truly special is that it comes armed with its very own charcoal pit grill and oven house Jasper smoker, essentially a purpose built grill and smoker inspired by the smoking and barbecuing traditions of the Deep South. This means that we’re talking about some serious soul food from Memphis, Tennessee. Q Grill means business when it comes to meat and offers a selection of American dishes with a Southern and English feel. All meat dishes are carefully prepared and marinated with their own Q cajun seasonings which is then grilled and smoked for optimum smoky richness. Q Grill also serves a range of southern comfort favourites such as macaroni and cheese, fried buttermilk chicken, beef hash and cheesy grits, just to name a few.

We began our meal with the sticky hen wings with Bourbon BBQ sauce (£7.75) which was absolutely delicious. They were perfectly moist, tender and falling off the bone with a lovely charred surface and smokey undertone. The addition of extra house made BBQ sauce made these wings even more exceptional. Sweet, sticky and smokey, simply scrumptious.

Q Grill - London Food Blog -  Sticky hen wings, Bourbon barbecue sauce

Q Grill – Sticky hen wings, Bourbon barbecue sauce

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Bistro 51 – St James Court Hotel

BISTRO 51

St James’ Court Hotel on Buckingham Gate offers a number of dining options, one of which is Bistro 51. Contemporary in design but somewhat subdued in taste, Bistro 51 serves a contemporary European menu. The hotel is part of the Indian owned Taj Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel chains in the world. As such, the menu also includes a number of Indian-inspired dishes.

We dined from the Chef’s special menu which is priced at a reasonable £30. We started with a boccocini and cherry tomato tian with pickled portobello and pesto which was pleasant and tasty. The mellow flavour of the bocconini with the sweetness of the tomatoes was a lovely pairing, with the pesto providing freshness to the dish.

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – London Food Blog - Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

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The Fish & Chips Shop by Des McDonald

The Fish & Chips Shop by Des McDonald, with locations in Islington and The City, is a posh modern day neighbourhood fish & chip shop that takes pride in serving fresh sustainable fish. Fish and chips takes pride of place as the signature dish, and is cooked using Des McDonald’s own special batter recipe made with Camden beer and served with hand cut chips. But The Fish and Chips Shop doesn’t just serve ‘posh fish and chips’. Instead diners can also select from a range of raw bar items such as rock oysters and Atlantic prawns. There are also a variety of starters such as crab on toast with spiced avocado, and mains such as Scottish mussels marinière and Cornish monkfish vindaloo. Diners can also chose to have their fish served grilled, steamed or breaded.

Des McDonald is a man who knows his food well. Previously a Head Chef at The Ivy, Des later went on to become the group chief executive of Birley Group, Caprice Holdings, and Soho House, before eventually forming his own restaurant group, Des McDonald Restaurants etc. Des is also the restaurateur behind Holborn Dining Room, a restaurant styled in the essence of a grand brasserie. With The Fish & Chips Shop by Des McDonald, the city restaurant resembles a traditional British café, drawing on the use of salvaged timber, duck egg blue panelling and burgundy-glazed tiles. Key to its design is a rectangular bar where one can find a wide range of bottle and draft beers as well as a variety of cocktails. The wine list at The Fish & Chips Shop by Des McDonald features a variety of reds, whites and roses including some of Des McDonald’s own blended wines.

Our first course was the crumbed scampi tails (£11.50) which were wonderfully crunchy, with the coating not only helping to seal in the juiciness of the scampi, but contrasting well with the softness of the flesh. These came with a homemade tartar sauce which was zingy and creamy.

The Fish & Chips Shop - London Food Blog - Scampi

The Fish & Chips Shop – Scampi

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Randall & Aubin

RANDALL & AUBIN

I recently had a lovely Sunday Lunch at Randall & Aubin as part of a Zomato meetup. An oldie but a goodie, Randall & Aubin has been a Soho institution since it opened in 1996 and is known for its fresh seafood and fun, convivial atmosphere. I have often walked past Randall & Aubin and been deterred from going in by the queues outside. But queues can be a good thing too as that must surely mean that the food is good!

Randall & Aubin – London Food Blog

Randall & Aubin

The meetup event began with a cooking demonstration by Chef Ed Baines. He took us through the intricacies of making a good seafood sauce and the key to prepping seafood such as the cod that we had for lunch and other crustaceans. The session was really informative and enjoyable, particularly the bit where we got to try the oysters! Ed began his career at the age of 16 with an apprenticeship at The Dorchester under Anton Mosimann. Thereafter he travelled the world, spending time in Australia where he was instrumental in developing the Pacific Rim cuisine there. Ed has also cooked at Bibendum, The River Cafe, and has worked as the official chef to Giorgio Armani. Thereafter he went on to open Daphne’s in South Kensington before teaming up with Jamie Poulton to open Randall & Aubin in 1996.

Randall & Aubin – London Food Blog – Chef prepping the cod for lunch

Randall & Aubin – Chef prepping the cod for lunch

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Gaylord – Bloggers Dinner

Words and photos by Priscilla from Food Porn Nation and myself.

The award winning Gaylord Indian Restaurant was founded in 1966 and is an offshoot of the original Gaylord in Mumbai which opened in 1956. The cuisine originates from North of India with a menu that is long, varied and eclectic. The décor also embodies an authentic Indian experience with artworks by the noted Indian painter Prithvi Soni.

We dined at Gaylord recently as part of a Zomato bloggers’ dinner and Gaylord took the difficulty of choosing from its extensive menu by serving us a selection of their highlight dishes. There was food aplenty, and it was such a delight to have the opportunity to taste so many different things. We started with canapés before moving onto starters, main courses and then desserts.

For canapés, we tried some zaffrani chicken tikka (£8.50/£14) and chicken murg malal tikka (£8.50/£14.50), both of which were nicely cooked and pleasantly spiced. The aloo tokri chhat, a savoury potato basket was also really tasty and really crunchy.

Moving on the starters, and the tandoori tiger prawns (£10/£20) with saffron proved to be the knockout dish of the evening. The tiger prawns were big, fat and juicy with a firm luxurious texture. They were also really well cooked with the tandoor cooking helping to hold in much flavour. The spicing was lovely, and with the prawns being so plump, they were just a joy to eat.

Crab cakes (£11) with curry leaves, southern spices, sesame seeds and mustard cress were cleverly presented, with each crab cake being perched on a sugar stick. The spicing was pleasant, and the crab cake offered a decent flavour, but I would have preferred more crabmeat for a greater taste of the sea.

London Food Blog - Gaylord'

Gaylord – Crab Cakes Dakshini – curry leaves, Southern spices, sesame seeds, sugarcane stick

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The World’s End Market

The World’s End Market

Words and photos by Katrina from Russian Revels and myself.

The World’s End Market is the second venture of the Markets Group which opened The Crystal Palace Market restaurant earlier last year. The Group set out to introduce ‘an innovative culinary concept’ to the competitive London restaurant scene by focusing on unfussy cooking using the best quality local ingredients, with the result being primarily grilled fish and meats with classic sauces.

The World’s End Market used to be an iconic pub which has been lovingly restored. Today it retains much of the atmosphere of a good old boozer. The interior design is reminiscent of an early 20th century canteen decorated in cosily hushed greens with a gleaming cocktail bar and easy-listening background music. On a Monday evening the restaurant was uncharacteristically quiet because of an important football game (so we were told by the charming French manager), but the loveliness of the restaurant no doubt can draw in the crowds on other nights of the week. We felt we could easily have spent many an hour drinking from a decent selection of wines, most of which were organic.

The concept at World’s End Market concept centres on ‘locally sourced ingredients’, and although the restaurant does not list the source of all their protein the locavore concept didn’t quite hold true as we saw scallops from the Pacific and prawns from Madagascar. But we tried these for our starters, and we found that we loved the plate of simply grilled scallops (£10.50). Three plump molluscs, with roe intact, were well cooked and served with a zingy dressing. This dish was one of our favourites.

World's End Market - London Food Blog - Grilled Scallops

World’s End Market – Grilled Scallops

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