Les 110 de Taillevent

LES 110 DE TAILLEVENT

Les 110 de Taillevent London is a classic French brasserie which brings the kind of classic French cooking championed by its sister Taillevent restaurants in Paris, the most well-known of which is the two-Michelin starred Le Taillevent, along with Les Caves de Taillevent and the similarly named Les 110 de Taillevent in Paris.

The Taillevent restaurants are owned by the Gardinier brothers, a family which also impressively operates Château Phélan Ségur in Bordeaux and the Relais Châteaux hotel Domaine les Crayères in Champagne, a restaurant which I had the opportunity to try some years back. With such pedigree backing it’s unsurprising that the offering at Les 110 de Taillevent London is refined French cooking using seasonal ingredients.

But what makes Les 110 de Taillevent even more unique is its approach to its wine offering, no less than 110 wines by the glass or half glass. The menu has been designed in such a way as to facilitate ease of choice, with four different wine suggestions in four different price categories listed for each dish.

As for the setting, Les 110 de Taillevent can be described as nothing less than sumptuous. The restaurant, in a listed building on Cavendish Square, is beautifully appointed and elegant. Great food paired with a considered and carefully curated wine list in a beautiful setting – what more could hard core foodies hope for?!

Les 110 de Taillevent - London Food Blog - Truffle Sandwich

Les 110 de Taillevent – Truffle Sandwich *

I dined at Les 110 de Taillevent recently as part of a bloggers’ dinner and enjoyed a wonderfully complete evening. We were firstly treated to a delectable array of canapes including a supremely tasty mushroom veloute and deliciously fresh confit salmon. But the highlight was unquestionably the truffle sandwiches which consisted of layers of bread infused in truffle butter and then layered with truffle. These were really outstanding, what with the flavour of the rich butter and the delightful truffle merging together beautifully.

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Cinnamon Bazaar

CINNAMON BAZAAR

Cinnamon Bazaar is the latest addition to the Cinnamon Collection, a group of Indian restaurants run by Vivek Singh, restauranteur and a celebrity chef regular on a number of television cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Vivek first made his name with his flagship restaurant Cinnamon Club by championing a brand of modern, innovative Indian cooking. His contemporary approach has further translated into his other restaurants: Cinnamon Soho, Cinnamon Star and now, Cinnamon Bazaar.

As the name suggests Cinnamon Bazaar plays on the idea of a “bazaar”, a central marketplace where for centuries ideas and ingredients were exchanged, and cultures converged to come together to create one big melting pot. The fusion concept translates well at Cinnamon Bazaar with the restaurant’s menu drawing inspiration from countries dotted along the trading routes of old. The design of the restaurant also plays on the theme of a bazaar, offering a laid back environment where diners can relax and share a varied selection of dishes and drinks.

Laid over two floors, Cinnamon Bazaar is richly decorated in vibrant colours such as deep blues and fresh greens. The restaurant has made use of organic, natural materials which reflect the history of India. Finally, Illuminated lanterns and hanging ceiling drapes complete the eclectic bazaar ambience.

We visited Cinnamon Bazaar as part of a bloggers’ evening where we were treated to a variety of items from the diverse menu which includes a selection of snacks, chaats and main plates. We were firstly welcomed with a variety of delicious canapes from the snack menu such as crab bonda – pleasantly spiced Calcutta crab with a hint of tangy beetroot in a crispy chickpea batter; creamy chicken Haleem (pate) on some crunchy sourdough toast; and some velvety smooth chana masala hummus.

Also wonderful was the grilled aubergine with sesame peanut crumble, labna and toasted buckwheat. Although not actually a ‘snack’ but an item from the main plates, the aubergine was delicious. It had been beautifully cooked with the aroma of the sesame and the crunchiness of the peanut in the crumble adding a wonderful texture and vibrancy to the soft warmth of the aubergine.

Cinnamon Bazaar - London Food Blog - Aubergine in a canape size

Cinnamon Bazaar – Aubergine in a canape size

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C&R Izakaya

C&R IZAKAYA

Walking along the multicultural and diverse cuisine street of Westbourne Grove, you are spoilt for choice as to what to have for dinner. One of them is C&R Izakaya, a relatively new kid on the block. The location use to house a Malaysian restaurant which has now been transformed into a Japanese restaurant.

The restaurant has a slimmed down, parred back interior design, and so it doesn’t quite induce the buzzy atmosphere that you might otherwise encounter in a central London restaurant, say in the West End. When we entered for our sitting at 6:30pm, modern pop music was playing and there were a sufficient number of tables available with a few other patrons dotted around. The table was set in a simple style with a wine glass, small plate, chopsticks and soy sauce. The lighting was soft, with individual downlights granting appropriate visibility of the extensive menu.

The menu reminded us of similar casual restaurants in Japan, what with its bright colours and photos that teased you with the variety of options available. The pricing is not on the light side, and did make one wary of how much to order, but in the end we decided to go for a varied selection of items from the menu.

The Aki sashimi set (18 pieces, 6 kinds – £25.50) came first which three pieces of each fish, white tuna, tuna, yellow tail, salmon, scallops and sea bass. This was well presented on a bed of ice. The slices were large and substantial – too large to in fact be considered a technically correct cut of sashimi fish. But we didn’t mind as it was all the more for us to eat. All the fish was delicious and fresh. However, the main delight for us was the white tuna. Having never tried white tuna before, we were intrigued as to its flavour and we were certainly not disappointed. The white tuna was excellent, with a softer texture to normal tuna and a longer lingering taste on the palate. If at this point, the meal had ended, we would have all gone home and been happy.

C&R Izakaya - London Food Blog - Aki sashimi set

C&R Izakaya – Aki sashimi set

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Helene Darroze

HELENE DARROZE

Helene Darroze has long been recognised as one of the world’s best female chefs, receiving one such acclaim when she became the winner of The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2015. Darroze is a fourth generation chef, with the generations before her running a family restaurant in Landes, Frances. Helene Darroze honed her skills under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse at the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, before returning to the family restaurant in Landes and then ultimately opening Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris. This, her flagship restaurant won her the first of her three Michelin stars in 2001. In 2008 Helene Darroze opened at The Connaught, taking over from the site previously occupied by Angela Hartnett. Helene Darroze at The Connaught currently holds two Michelin stars.

The dining rooms at Helene Darroze at The Connaught are resplendent and beautiful. The interior is filled with beautiful wood panelling, floral touches and plush furnishings, and the dimly lit space bestows the restaurant with a timeless intimate elegance. The classically French a la carte menu is priced at £95 for 5 courses or £130 for 7 courses. Therefore the 3 course lunch at £52 is comparatively good value. With restaurants in both Paris and London, Helene roughly splits her time between the two cities.

The menu at Helene Darroze at The Connaught is presented using a very unique format and is worthy of a mention. A round board containing marbles is given to each diner, and each dish on the menu is inscribed on an individual marble. A full listing with a description of the dishes is also presented to the diner, and so you are therefore able to choose your meal by eliminating the marbles with the names of the dishes that you don’t want. Genius! And so much fun.

Helene Darroze - London Food Blog - The menu

Helene Darroze – The menu

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Amici Miei

AMICI MIEI

Amici Miei is a casual Italian restaurant on Kingsland Road serving rustic fare such as wood-fired sourdough pizzas and pastas, along with a range of Italian regional dishes. The name, Amici Miei, translates as ‘my friends’, and it is indeed a welcoming spot with its bare brick-work, relaxed ambiance and cozy vibe.

I dined at Amici Miei with Artour from food blog Nifty Noshing and as we both love eating the Asian way which is to order multiple dishes and to share them all. That way, you get to try more and share not just the physical space, but share the enjoyment of the food as well. And the menu at Amici Miei is truly ideal for sharing. Apart from the pizzas and pastas, the comprehensive menu also dishes up a range of cicchetti – Italian tapas and antipastas.

We started with the polpette, meatballs (£5) which came in a faintly garlicky tomato sauce. They were simple and tasted of “homemadeness”. These exuded a rustic quality and were very enjoyable, although no distinct flavours to speak of were discerned.

Amici Miei - London Food Blog - Meatballs

Amici Miei – Meatballs

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Maze Grill – Sunday Roast

MAZE GRILL

Maze Grill by Gordon Ramsay in Mayfair was the first of the three Maze Grills to open (the other two are on Royal Hospital Road and Park Road) and sits adjacent to Maze, the original fine dining establishment that bears the word ‘Maze’ in its name. Whereas Maze offers an eclectic European menu with an Asian twist in a more formal setting, Maze Grill took its inspiration from the Manhattan grill rooms where steaks are the order of the day. Maze Grill is the kind of place where select US and British cuts of aged prime steaks are brought out on a board for customers to choose from. But also prevalent at the restaurant is a range of sushi and sashimi. On Saturday afternoons, Maze Grill Mayfair offers a bottomless bubbles and sushi menu for £40.

We visited Maze Grill on a Sunday afternoon, during which time the ever popular Sunday roast is served. For £25, diners can have a 35 day dry aged sirloin beef with slow braised shin of beef, Yorkshire pudding, rich bone marrow gravy and unlimited sides such as buttered carrots, honey glazed parsnips and wagyu fat roast potatoes.

But before tucking into the Sunday roast we decided to try a number of starters. Salt and Szechuan pepper squid (£5) with chilli and lime was fairly tasty with a crispy coating. Deep fried onion rings (£4.50) were fat and big and nicely done. Also pleasant (and also deep fried) were the buffalo chicken fillets (£5). These were crunchy and well made, but at £5 for a few measly pieces, this plate felt a tad overpriced.

Maze Grill – London Food Blog - Salt & Szechuan pepper squid

Maze Grill – Salt & Szechuan pepper squid

Maze Grill – London Food Blog – Onion rings & chicken bites

Maze Grill – Onion rings & chicken bites

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Oliver Maki

OLIVER MAKI

Oliver Maki, a Japanese restaurant located on Dean Street, Soho, was founded by Lebanese-Canadian Oliver Maki and his family. The Zeitoun family come from a long line of olive grove farmers (Zeitoun means ‘olive’ in Arabic) and the influence of olives can be felt throughout the restaurant, from the impressions of olive trees on the mirrors in the restaurant, to the use of the word Oliver in the restaurant’s name (alluding to the word olive). But even so, the restaurant is about combining the traditions of Japanese food with modernity. At the helm is Executive Head Chef Louis Kenji Huang, formerly a sushi chef at Nobu in Las Vegas.

Oliver Maki has a number of branches throughout the Middle East, and the Soho branch is the first in Europe. The restaurant is set on two levels and is modern, understated, chic and comfortable.

The menu is deal for sharing and is divided into various sections, ranging from the Cold and Hot Appetisers, to the signature sashimi to the mains, but to name a few. The first was Filo Ebi Tempura Shots (£12.90), consisting of three beautifully presented pieces of prawn, wrapped and fried in vermicelli rather than the traditional batter, and served semi-submerged in a spicy creamy sauce in a shot glass. The prawns were perfectly cooked and worked well with the hint of chilli in the sauce. On the side was a yamamomo peach which was a nice accompaniment as it offered a touch of acidity.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Shrimp tempura shot

Oliver Maki – Shrimp tempura shot

Hamachi Chilli Sashimi (£10.90), slices of yellowtail dressed with ponzu, extra virgin olive oil, slices of jalapeño and coriander cress proved to be very tasty and well presented. The yellowtail was fresh, but had been cut quite thin, perhaps a touch too thin, but it went well with the acidity of the ponzu and the hint of chilli.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Yellowtail sashimi

Oliver Maki – Yellowtail sashimi

Unagi Tacos (2pcs – £8.60) was a fine dish using chopped eel, avocado, spring onions, cucumber and wasabi emulsion, the use of which combining to create a lovely explosion of flavours on the tongue. The tacos themselves were a little too thick in texture, but otherwise this was a very enjoyable dish.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Eel taco & nigiri

Oliver Maki – Eel taco & nigiri

We tried a selection of nigiri including sea bass (£3.50), a nicely proportioned piece of fresh seabass on well vinegared rice. The aburi o-toro (£6.50), a torched flame fatty tuna was delicious, although the aburi wagyu beef (£8) was decidedly chewy and difficult to eat.

For maki we chose the interesting sounding wagyu burger maki (6pcs) (£18.00) made from Australian wagyu with a mushroom sauce, avocado, Japanese pickles, tomato and cucumber on a base of rice. We weren’t particularly impressed with this dish. Expecting a more luxurious texture from the fat content that is typically found in wagyu, we found the beef to be a tad dry.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Wagyu maki

Oliver Maki – Wagyu maki

To the mains, and a matcha yuki udon (£13.70) consisted of stir fried homemade green tea udon with thinly sliced scallops, shiitake, black truffle oil and dill. The scallops were over cooked and overall the dish was very salty, resulting in the flavour of the truffle oil being lost. Conceptually the idea was good, but the execution could have been better.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea udon

Oliver Maki -Green tea udon

Gindara (black cod) shiitake (£27), a dish of miso grilled black cod with shiitake, was a very well cooked dish. The fish was moist and succulent, and the miso sauce was lovely and rich.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Black cod

Oliver Maki – Black cod

For dessert we opted for the Terrarium matcha tiramisu (£8) made up of fresh mascarpone, white and dark chocolate, green tea, and “rock” chocolate on the side (chocolate made to resemble the appearance of a piece of rock). Served in an elongated see-through glass jar, the presentation was made to look like a garden and was very appealing. What’s more, it tasted delicious, although there was some unevenness in how the tiramisu had been layered.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Green tea tiramisu

Oliver Maki – Green tea tiramisu

From the mochi (£3 per piece) selection we chose green tea, mango and toasted sesame. These were excellent with the right level of consistency in the rice casing and each filled with delicious and well-made ice cream.

Oliver Maki - London Food Blog - Mochi

Oliver Maki – Mochi

Oliver Maki makes a nice mark in the world of Japanese fusion cuisine, balancing traditional Japanese food with a contemporary culinary approach. On the whole, the food was well prepared, interesting and affordably priced, especially for a Soho location. The menu including the drink menu was very extensive, meaning diners are spoilt for choice. There were a few elements in the food that we didn’t like (avoid the wagyu), but overall there was a high level of consistency in the well judged cooking.

We liked the service, finding it very effective and appealing.

Summary Information:
Likes:
1. Filo Ebi Tempura Shots
2. Unagi Tacos
3. Hamachi Chilli Sashimi
4. The matcha tiramisu
5. The mochi

Dislikes:
1. Aburi wagyu beef nigiri
2. Wagyu burger maki
3. Matcha yuki udon

Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: about £40 to £50 per head. Excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://www.olivermaki.co.uk/

Square Meal

Oliver Maki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Qvintessenza

QVINTESSENZA

Italian restaurant Qvintessenza set out with great intentions. The site says that the owner, clearly a lover of great wine, wanted to bring the best of Italian produce to his restaurant. And despite an awkward location on noisy Borough High Street in between Elephant and Castle and Borough stations, Qvintessenza is spacious, cosy, with lovely wooden surfaces, and lines and lines of wine bottles.

Italians often joke with seriousness how the magic ingredient in their food is simply love. That certain je ne sais quoi, the careful throwing of great ingredients together, where nothing extra is added other than attentiveness. Provenance means a lot. You need to know the source to guarantee the quality of ingredients when there’s so little to hide behind. So all the more disappointing that the food that followed was not very good.

No, not inedible, but so non-descript and lacking, well, in love, that we couldn’t help but feel this is a place that stopped caring. We know how disheartening it could be for staff to stay motivated when the numbers of punters dwindle (which we sense may be the case at Qvintessenza), but black slates and large square plates can’t prop up the lack of attention.

To kick off we asked for a basket of homemade bread – a joy and pride of Italian restaurants across the globe. Here we got a few small slices of bread at a highly overpriced £3.50. Furthermore, the bread had been shop bought despites claims of being homemade.

Burrata cheese (mozzarella filled with cream) with Parma ham (£12.50) said to be matured for 26 months was just fine, but it was difficult to enjoy to the dish fully without any proper bread to soak up the flavours.

Quintessenza - London Food Blog - Parma ham & burrata cheese

Quintessenza – Parma ham & burrata cheese

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