Diciannove 19 at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Blackfriars – Visit No. 2

We dined at Diciannove 19 at the Crown Plaza Hotel about a year ago and loved the experience. We tried a variety of cicchetti (Italian tapas) and home made pastas and enjoyed all our dishes as everything was absolutely delicious. The service was really fabulous as well. So it was with great expectation that we decided to visit Diciannove 19 again. You can read about that previous visit here.

The menu hasn’t changed much since our last visit other than the fact that Diciannove 19 are currently offering an exclusive white truffle menu created by Executive Chef Alessandro Bay. There is a starter, pasta and main dish, all accompanied by shavings of glorious white truffles from Umbria and which can be ordered a la carte.

To get things started we began our evening with the Il Supremo for 1-2 people (£17.50), the antipasta platter. This included fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto Toscano ham, Finocchiona salami, Mortadella di Bologna, sausage, Parmegiano Reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles. This was a great cross section of Italian nibbles that did much to whet our appetite. The meats were tasty, and there was a lovely crunchiness to the calamari and zucchini.

Diciannove - Il Supremo - Fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto toscano ham, finocchiona salami, mortadella di bologna sausage, parmegiano reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

Diciannove – Il Supremo – Fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto toscano ham, finocchiona salami, mortadella di bologna sausage, parmegiano reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

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Gaucho Charlotte Street

Gaucho - Steak tray

Gaucho – Steak tray

Gaucho is a name that needs little introduction. With a string of steakhouses throughout London, it is famous for it’s brand of grass-fed Argentinian cows which are left to roam freely over the fertile lands of the Pampas. The beef is then shipped chilled to the UK and is never frozen. Of interest to the diner is that Gaucho also offers a reasonably priced lunch menu (2 courses – £23, 3 courses – £26), a cigar menu, a selection of fine Argentinian wines as well as a take out service.

I headed to the Gaucho branch on Charlotte Street which is slick and shiny with black floors, black walls and chandeliers. Gaucho Charlotte Street has a clubby feel and a prevalence of moo-cow seat covers which are quite strong on the eye. There are also lots of circular booths for big groups. The restaurant has been designed so that diners can sit comfortably and really enjoy themselves.

The meal begins with a bit of theatre – the presentation of the meat board which showcases four key different cuts, these being the rump, sirloin, rib-eye and fillet, as well as the churrasco de lomo (more on this later). There’s a good range of cuts of steaks on the menu as well as varying sizes.

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Moti Mahal

Moti Mahal is one of a number of high-end Indian restaurants in London that adds a sophisticated twist to this much-loved cuisine by incorporating some expert spicing and elevated cooking techniques. The head chef is Delhi-born Anirudh Arora who has been cooking at Moti Mahal since it opened in 2005. He draws his influences from India’s famed Grand Trunk Road, a 1,500-mile trade route between India and Pakistan built in the 16th century. The food at Moti Mahal therefore takes diners on an inspired modern food journey of India, with dishes that have its roots in regional cooking.

Like the food, the décor at Moti Mahal is modern in its design. It’s very smart, with white-linen tablecloths, polished wooden flooring and gorgeous chandeliers that help to set a stylish tone. There is also an open kitchen partitioned behind a panel of curved glass which affords diners a bird’s eye view of its goings-on.

Moti Mahal were offering a ‘season’ special, a tandoor baked truffle naan with vintage cheddar, cumin and white ‘Alba’ truffles (£24), something impossible to pass up. I mean how can anyone possibly resist truffle naan? It was heavenly because not only was the truffle gorgeous, the combination of the melted cheese with the warm softness of the bread was also something magical.

Moti Mahal - Truffle naan

Truffle naan

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Kintan

Kintan is the first yakiniku-style restaurant in London, a style of Japanese BBQ where the diner orders a selection of meat, seafood, and vegetables and barbeques the food using a grill set in the middle of the table. In Japanese the word yakiniku means ‘grilled meat’, and it is a concept similar to the better-known Korean barbecues. It is a hugely fun and interactive experience and engages everyone at the table. What’s more you also get to cook the food how you want, which in my case is medium rare for the red meats. The grills at Kintan are smokeless, so you get all the flavour of the food without having smoke in your eyes or on your clothes. It’s hot work though as the heat radiates off the grill, but it’s also a really nice way to warm the soul as we make our way into winter.

Kintan opened in July 2014 and is part of the Kintan yakiniku group of restaurants which also have branches in Hong Kong, Jakarta and Tokyo. The restaurant is very slick and modern and spaciously spans two floors. It is a very professional operation and you get the sense that the waiting staff have been well-trained to guide the diner through the menu and the finer points of yakiniku. Our grills were constantly changed as they got dirty, a service which I appreciated as there is nothing worse that getting burnt bits on your food.

Although yakiniku is the specialty at Kintan, the restaurant also serves a selection of small hot dishes, salads, rice and noodles. We tried the tuna tartar volcano (£7) starter which consisted of some tuna tartar with spicy mayo served on top of a crunchy rice cracker. The tuna was delicious, especially with the creamy mayo, but it was the crunchy rice cracker that really impressed. It resembled a rectangular block of rice that had been deep-fried so that it was really crunchy on the outside, thereby offering up a really interesting textural combination with the tuna.

Kintan - Tuna tartar volcano

Tuna tartar volcano

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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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Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant London is the first standalone restaurant in the UK for the Frescobaldi family and follows on from the success of the Dei Frescobaldi restaurants and wine bars in Florence and at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. The Frescobaldis are a famous wine dynasty that dates back to 1308. During the Renaissance, the Fescobaldis traded wine for works of art with Michelangelo and were the major financiers to the kings of England including Henry VIII.

The Frescobaldi name is therefore highly prestigious in the world of wine. The family have nine wine estates in and around the hills of Florence and Siena in Italy, and so an essential part of what the restaurant will be offering in London will be the vast array of wines produced by Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. These account for some 75% of the restaurant’s list, with the remainder comprising of a fine selection from both the Old World and the New World. Furthermore, the majority of Frescobaldi’s 150 bins will be available by the glass to allow the diner to sample many of the variety of wines on offer.

Frescobaldi London opened in early November 2014 and stands on New Burlington Place in Mayfair. It is a beautiful restaurant, with lovely floor to ceiling windows that lets in lots of natural light. On the walls are hand-painted drawings and framed pictures that pay homage to the restaurant’s Italian influences. The comfortable furnishings encourage a sense of comfort as well as instilling an immediate sense of sophistication as you walk through its doors.

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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon London

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is a name that needs little introduction with the spectacular French dishes created by masterchef Joël Robuchon winning hearts the world over. Joël Robuchon is the most Michelin starred chef of all time and holds no less than 25 Michelin stars across his nine restaurants around the world. The London L’Atelier, a one Michelin star restaurant, can be found on West Street in the West End and upholds the sleek black and red look that is the hallmark of an L’Atelier restaurant.

There are several levels to the restaurant. On the ground floor is a stunning Japanese-inspired counter with bar seating where diners can watch the chefs go about creating their works of art in the open kitchen. On the first floor is the restaurant area that hosts a more traditional seating arrangement with well-spaced tables, and on the second floor is the bar and terrace that serves an impressive array of cocktails and spirits.

The head Chef is Xavier Boyer who has worked with Joël Robuchon for 13 years and previously led the kitchens at the L’Ateliers in both New York and Taipei. Xavier was involved in the 2006 launch of the London L’Atelier, so this is a home coming of sorts for him. I recently got to try Boyer’s cooking when he was the chef-in-residence during the 10 days of the London in the Sky pop-up and his food was absolutely delicious.

The amuse bouche was a royale of foie gras with white truffle, port reduction and a parmesan foam. This was a gorgeous combination, with the unctuous rich flavour of foie gras pairing beautifully with the deep sweetness of the port. The use of nutty overtones of the parmesan was also a lovely contrast to the foie gras as well.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon - Royale of foie gras

Royale of foie gras

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Chinese Cricket Club

Chinese Cricket Club is a Chinese restaurant located in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blackfriars, right next to another restaurant I really like, Diciannove 19. The name is unusual as one doesn’t usually associate Chinese food with cricket. But the restaurant is named in honour of the original Chinese National Cricket team which played their first international match in 2009, so there you go.

Unlike some Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Chinese Cricket Club follows a more contemporary formula with its décor and is very smart looking. There are also pieces of cricket memorabilia hanging on the walls for those of you who not only love Chinese food but cricket as well. Food wise, the menu offers an extensive range of authentic Sichuan food. There is also a section devoted to dim sum specialties.

We went for lunch, a time of day that saw more of a business crowd. We started our meal by trying a variety of dim sum plates including scallop and prawn siu mai (£6.80) and prawn har gau (£5.80). The scallop siu mai was superb and had been topped with a beautiful piece of sweet scallop. This was a 5/5 dish for the quality of the scallop was superb and the perfect cooking time that meant the scallop was still juicy and delicious. The prawn har gau was also very tasty and plump, with a har gau pastry that was rather authentic – slightly thick, slightly soft and slightly translucent.

Chinese Cricket Club - Scallop & prawn siu mai

Scallop & prawn siu mai

Chinese Cricket Club - Prawn har gau

Prawn har gau

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