Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar

The Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar is a newly opened restaurant and bar that forms part of the also newly opened Intercontinental Hotel on Tothill Street in Westminster. The Blue Boar’s décor is understandably very five-star hotel-esque – there’s lots of strong oak panelling throughout, and it has been styled to cater to the suits working around the corner at the Houses of Parliament.

Being a smokehouse, the menu offers smoked meats such as pulled pork and pulled lamb shoulder, charcoal and wood grilled foods, plus a range of starters and desserts. On Sundays there is a special brunch menu, which for £45, you can eat as much as you want from the feasting table (salads, seafood and meats), plus unlimited Bloody Marys, Bucks Fizzes and tea or coffee. In addition to this you can choose a main of your choice.

It was the Sunday Brunch that we sampled, and there was a really good range of salads such as smoked feta cheese, with shaved fennel, pomegranate and toasted pistachios; Caesar salad; and hot smoked Scottish salmon with a Niçoise garnish. They were all nicely done, but the best of the lot was a smoked chicken with Granny Smith apple that was great. The chicken was very tasty and moist, and the combination with the apple really worked.

Salad bar

Salad bar

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Boisdale Belgravia

I had never been to a Boisdale Restaurant before but I was very pleasantly surprised to discover how much I enjoyed the experience. There are four outposts: Canary Wharf, Bishopsgate, Wiltshire, plus the one that I visited which is in Belgravia. This is the original Boisdale and was opened in 1985 by Ranald Macdonald, the eldest son of the 24th Chief of Clanranald.

A happy blend between Scottish restaurant, jazz club, whisky bar and Cuban cigar haunt, this place exudes a traditional, easy charm. Some of this can be attributed to the décor, a mixture of rich reds, dark greens, mahogany and tartan-covered furnishings. But I think most of it was due to the lovely jazzy tunes being belted out by the fantastic jazz band that was there for our entertainment pleasure. Whatever the reason, the vibe at the Boisdale Belgravia works.

Boisdale are operating an Oyster Festival Menu (6 oysters plus three courses) until April 2012 which I tried. To kick off was a selection of oysters, judged by a panel from Boisdale and The Wright Brothers as being the best rock and native oysters. These included a couple of different Maldon Rocks which I loved for their meatiness, a Duchy of Cornwall No.3 which had a deep mineral flavour, and a Loch Ryan Scottish No. 2 which was voted the winner with its particularly complex flavour.

Oysters

Oysters

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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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Tinello

Italian restaurant Tinello has a prestigious backer in the name of Giorgio Locatelli, the one Michelin starred chef of Locanda Locatelli fame. Locatelli part owns Tinello, and it was with his blessing that brothers Federico and Max Sali, the previous head chef and sommelier of Locanda Locatelli, moved on to set up Tinello.

Tinello opened last September on Pimlico Road, on the site where L’Incontro use to be. For a restaurant located in one of London’s priciest residential areas, the restaurant is surprisingly low-key. The décor on the ground floor is clean cut and draws on the use of dark wood, red brick work and low copper lighting. The basement dining room is basic and lacks for atmosphere, so if at all possible, book for the ground floor.

Another aspect of Tinello’s low-key approach is its prices. The menu consists of a selection of antipastas, pastas, secondi piatti and desserts. But what appealed the most was the reasonably priced ‘small eats’ which ranged in price from £2 to £4.50. Given how cheap they were, we decided to try four plates between the two of us rather than have a starter each.

‘Burrata’ cheese and tomato bread (£3.20) was a combination of cheesy goodness and bread doused with a warming, rich tomato flavour. This was a lovely dish.

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Visit # 2

Yep – somehow I managed to score another reservation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. I know I only a few weeks ago (check out that post here), so I debated whether I should go again so soon. But in the interests of research (and for another taste of that meat fruit), I thought why the hell not?

So this blog post will be a little different to the others. I won’t be talking about the things I covered the last time such as the décor. Instead, I’ll focus primarily on the new dishes I tried on this second visit.

But it’s a little hard to past up a mention of the meat fruit (£12.50 – c.1500). It again delivered the ‘wow’ factor to my dining companions who were new to Dinner. The meat fruit looked and tasted great, although it was served a little too cold. This truly has to be one of the most dazzling dishes to grace London tables of late.

JL went for the hay smoked mackerel (£14.50 – c.1730) with lemon salad, gentleman’s relish and olive oil. The mackerel was lovely, and there was a wonderful balance of acidity in this dish, especially from the gentlemen’s relish. (For a copy of this recipe which was published in The Guardian, click here).

Hay smoked mackerel

Hay smoked mackerel

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner

Dinner

The most excited I’ve ever been about getting a restaurant reservation was when the people at El Bulli emailed me to say that I had secured a table. The excitement of getting a reservation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental came close, except this time I managed to control my screams of euphoria. The restaurant receives about 6,000 phone calls a day and is now booked out until the end of June. The arrival of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was highly anticipated and it has to be the hottest opening of 2011. It is so hot that reservations are being traded on ebay.

An Adam Tihany design, the restaurant is beautiful with dark wood panelling and leather furnishings. The previous occupant of this space was Foliage, which Tihany also designed. It’s airy and light, and the high ceilings give it an incredibly spacious feel. It’s also elegant but relaxed, and there’s a touch of mischievousness and fun to the room with the use of some cheeky jelly-mould lights. The kitchen is an open one providing diners with a look-in, but that’s if you don’t find yourself getting distracted by the fabulous views of Hyde Park.

The kitchen at Dinner

The kitchen at Dinner

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Apsleys – The Return

Note: Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have now left the restaurant. Consequently this blog post may not reflect the current state of affairs at Apsleys.

Back in March I went to Apsleys, a one Michelin starred restaurant, and had the five-course tasting menu. Apsleys is the London outpost of Heinz Beck, a chef who holds three Michelin stars with his restaurant La Pergola in Rome. I had therefore expected good things. Instead, I left the restaurant feeling a little under whelmed. It wasn’t a bad meal per se, but my tortellini pasta was a bit overcooked and there were inconsistencies in the presentation of the food. I also found the tuna tartare dish with herbal infusion and green tea sorbet slightly odd.

Somehow the restaurant got hold of my post. Perhaps they had a point to prove because they contacted me several months later to invite me to dine at Apsleys again, saying that things had much improved. Interestingly, The Critical Couple wrote of an underwhelming first experience followed by a much more positive one at Apsleys. I was therefore sufficiently curious to try it again.

To start was a trio of seafood amuse bouches. From left to right, tuna tartare sparkled with the gentle hint of orange pieces. Next was a seabass tartare with cauliflower and candied lemon mounted on some finely chopped cantaloupe melon. The sweetness of the fish contrasted wonderfully with the fruitiness of the melon and the acidity of the lemon. Finally, a stunning sliver of thinly sliced scallop marinated in olive oil and lemon was served on a bed of creamy amaranth (a black corn stock).

Amuse bouches

Amuse bouches

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Jing Tea Launch

Assam, nilgiri, Earl grey & darjeeling tea cocktails

Assam, nilgiri, Earl grey & darjeeling tea cocktails

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the launch of Jing Teas at The Cinnamon Club. Teas and canapés were served – all of which were very nice. But there were also some tea cocktails, and I must admit to enjoying these best! LOL

Here is a recipe for one of them, the nilgiri tea cocktail

Ingredients:

4 fresh raspberries
50ml tanqueray
25ml nilgiri tea
15ml lime juice
10ml martini rosso
10ml sugar
25ml grapefruit juice

Method:

Mix and pour over ice.

What I found most interesting about the whole evening was chatting to David Hepburn from Jing who told me about some of their specialty teas. One of them is the Japanese Hand-Made Gyokuro Supreme Green Tea from Uji.

Hand picked between the 29th April and 2nd May, and hand-rolled by one of the foremost Gyokuro producers in Japan, only 20 kilos are produced each year. Considered to be one of the highest quality Gyokuro green teas available, the infusion point is only 40-50C. A low water temperature is required so as to not burn the tea.

This tea intrigues me and I intend to buy some to try when it is next available (unfortunately it’s currently out of stock). But Jing also stock some other high end teas, some of which also look very interesting. So if you’re a tea lover, you might want to check out their website. Jing teas can only be purchased online through their website.

Website: http://jingtea.com/


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