Kouzu

KOUZU

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kouzu, which means ‘composition’ in Japanese, sits in a beautiful historical 1850s Grade-II listed period building in Belgravia. Kouzu is a slick, modern affair spanning two levels, with a sushi bar on the first floor and the main dining room on the ground floor. The contemporary décor is further glamorised by a lavish set of chandeliers gracing the entrance area.

Kouzu’s head chef is Kyoichi Kai who hails from Kyushu in Japan where he worked as a chef before moving to London in 1988. Chef Kai has cooked at notable restaurants such as Zuma and most recently at The Arts Club in Dover Street. His menu includes traditional Japanese fare such as sashimi, nigiri and maki. These are moderated by modern twists such as the ‘new stream’ contemporarily styled sashimi, charcoal grills, a range of tempuras, and cooked dishes such as miso-marinated black cod. On the drinks list there are a range of Japanese whiskies, cocktails, Japanese beers by the bottle and a variety of sake.

From the ‘new stream’ sashimi, the salmon with yuzu soy dressing (£11.00) was flavoursome, but the dressing of yuzu soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame seed and hot sesame oil was a little too acidic and salty and therefore slightly overpowering against the salmon.

Kouzu - salmon with yuzu soy dressing

Kouzu – salmon with yuzu soy dressing

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The Botanist

The Botanist has long been a sloaney favourite, ever since it opened in 2008, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s located right on the heart of Sloane Square, and its prime location combined with a stylishly contemporary décor means its perfectly suited for a well-heeled glamorous clientele. The Botanist is hip and exciting and radiates a highly charged energy. It’s a great venue for people watching and more often than not there is nary a standing room at the bar.

This past Saturday evening was a bank holiday weekend so the size of the crowd was more temperate than usual which provided us with a more relaxed space to savour our pre-dinner drink. Space in the restaurant is a little tight, but the setting is elegant and chic with its beautiful chandeliers and an exotic back wall mural featuring some beautifully drawn pictures of flora and fauna.

Food is served all day with breakfast starting at 8am during weekdays and 9am on weekends. Breakfast transforms into lunch from 12 noon and dinner is available until 11pm. On top of the all day dining there is also a bar menu and a pre and post theatre menu for the Royal Theatre crowd.

Being May, Gull’s eggs are in season, and as part of the specials soft-boiled Hampshire black headed gull’s eggs were available with celery salt and a herb mayonnaise (£6.50 per egg). The egg was perfectly cooked with a runny centre and a lovely texture, and the celery salt gave the egg a tasty seasoning.

The Botanist - Gull's egg

Gull’s egg

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The Thomas Cubitt

The Thomas Cubitt, named after London’s legendary master builder, is a gorgeous and inviting pub located in the heart of Belgravia. On the ground floor is the pub itself with the dining room located on the first floor. The Thomas Cubitt is owned by the same group who also own The Grazing Goat, and they do a fine job of providing rustic British gastropub food in an inviting setting.

In the upstairs dining room we sat down to a chicken liver and port parfait (£8.50) which was well made, flavoursome and wonderfully creamy. It was paired with a pumpkin, thyme and blood orange compote that was fruity and aromatic, and boasted a good amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the parfait.

The Thomas Cubitt - Chicken liver parfait

Chicken liver parfait

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Palm Restaurant

The Palm Restaurant in London is an American steakhouse that first opened in New York in 1926 and which has since grown to several dozen restaurants throughout the United States. The London branch feels American through and through, and is located on Pont Street in Belgravia, right next to the Belgraves Hotel, a destination hotel for many American tourists. It is therefore unsurprising that most of its clientele are Americans, like the ones we spoke to while we had a drink at the bar. It’s a classic American steakhouse through and through with its white-linen tablecloths, soft lighting and booth seating, and it suits the well-healed clientele of Belgravia well.

For something reasonably light to start ahead of our big meaty meal, we went for the half a dozen Colchester oysters on the half shell (£13), which gave way to a sea-salty flavour and rich texture. Also yummy was the beautiful sesame seared yellow fin tuna (£15.90) with pickled ginger, wasabi, mache greens and ginger vinaigrette. It was a delight to eat and it needed little by way of accompaniment because the fish was elegant and flavoursome.

Colchester oysters

Colchester oysters

Yellow fin tuna

Yellow fin tuna

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Ametsa by Arzak Instruction

Note: Ametsa was awarded a Michelin Star in September 2013.

Ametsa by Arzak Instruction

Ametsa by Arzak Instruction

As the name suggests, Ametsa by Arzak Instruction draws its culinary inspiration from the famous three-Michelin starred Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. Arzak made its name by introducing Nouvelle Basque cooking to the world. By taking the traditions of this fine food region and overlaying it with an inspired modern touch, the imagination of Arzak caught the world’s attention. In 1989 it attained its three-Michelin star status, an accolade that it continues to hold to this day.

And so it is that the philosophy behind Ametsa is also one of ‘New Basque Cuisine’, a matching of the traditions of the Basque region with modern techniques. It opened in March 2013 at the Halkin Hotel, taking over the space that was once occupied by David Thompson’s Nahm. A quintet of chefs from Arzak consulted on Ametsa including Mikel Sorazu, Igor Zalakain and Xabier Gutierrez, and most notably the famous father and daughter pair of Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak who was recognised by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards as the World’s Best Female Chef of 2012.

No expense was spared on the interior and it looks expensive. The most eye-catching aspect of Ametsa’s décor is the ceiling that was created from 7,000 dangling glass receptacles filled with spices. It’s impressive, but the overall feel of the restaurant is quite cold with whitewashed walls and furnishings that give it a rather stark effect. In some respects, it was difficult to warm to the atmosphere of the restaurant.

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A Wong

A Wong is the latest ‘buzz’ Chinese restaurant in London at the moment and is the baby of chef Andrew Wong who has studied in kitchens throughout China. But Chef Wong already came from restaurant stock for his father use to run Kym’s, the Chinese restaurant that previously occupied the same space as A Wong. Basically Andrew has taken on the same address as his own and refurbished it with a more minimalist taste. The result is a restaurant with shiny surfaces and none of the Chinese chintz. Not that there is anything wrong with Chinese chintz, but this style is much more in keeping with Western ‘cool’.

Chef Wong’s solid bio shows in his menu with a diverse range of dishes drawn from throughout China. During the day he serves dim sum from Hong Kong, and in the evenings the a la carte menu includes touches of the Sichuanese, etc. The pricing of the menu is also fabulously cheap, something of a bonus in this day and age.

To the starters and sweet and sour ribs (£1.50 each) were tasty if a little overcooked leaving the outer layer of the rib a bit dry. The sauce was well made and had a lovely sticky, sweet quality to it that was delicious.

Sweet and sour ribs

Sweet and sour ribs

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One-O-One Restaurant

One-O-One Restaurant situated at 101 (yes) Knightsbridge is merely a stone’s throw away from the glamorous retail shops of Knightsbridge. Specialising in seafood, it probably has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the ugliest restaurant frontages in London. It’s attached to the Sheraton Park Towers, a monstrosity of a grey building that dates back to the 1970s. The interior of the restaurant fares better than its exterior but is quite formal and somewhat soulless. But what is attractive about the restaurant is that it has received a variety of accolades including recognition as the Fifth Best Restaurant in Great Britain in The 2012 Sunday Times’ Food List.

Also attractive about One-O-One is that it seems to regularly offer discounts through TopTable that makes a dining experience at the restaurant much more affordable as their prices are high. Starters range between £11 and £28 and mains between £28 and £39. My booking provided for a fabulous 40% off, but I pity the poor tourist souls who stay at the hotel and have no knowledge of this insider’s tip and simply walk into the restaurant to pay full price.

The meal kicked off with an amuse bouche of salmon rillette with croutons that was very good. The rillette was pleasant with a nice salmon flavour and nicely creamy.

Salmon rillette with garlic croutons

Salmon rillette with garlic croutons

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The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods, the 10-day pop-up restaurant by six-Michelin starred Chef Thomas Keller (3 stars at The French Laundry, 3 stars at Per Se) was a project that was 18 months in the making. The idea was conceived in April 2010, and every detail has been meticulously planned, including the timing of the harvest at The French Laundry Yountville garden to ensure that the vegetables that were brought over for the pop-up would be perfect. Yes, lots of ingredients were flown in from the US to recreate a true French Laundry experience, but let’s not judge the food miles but the meal alone.

The pop-up restaurant occupies part of the Georgian Restaurant on the fourth floor of Harrods. Much has been done to recreate the feel of the original, from the sign at the front door to the clothes peg pinned to our table napkins. Crockery came from The French Laundry Yountville, and a number of the chefs and the service team were made up from a cross section of chefs and waiting staff from within The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group including The French Laundry and Per Se.

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