Sakagura

SAKAGURA

Sakagura is an upscale Japanese restaurant snugly hidden behind Burberry’s flagship store right off Piccadilly. The street-side entrance does in no way betray its interior: a glitzy post-modern izakaya with strategically positioned lighting and judiciously chosen Japanese memorabilia. The management team are from Kyoto, the original Japanese seat of the imperial court, where a high culture of luxury and sophistication has matured over one thousand years. Those influences of high culture were apparent throughout our dinner at Sakagura.

We started with maguro tartare with yuzu dip (£16) which was served on a tiny wooden tray lying on a bed of ice and decorated with multi-coloured edible flowers. There was also a layer of black capelin roe which added an exquisite visual touch as it created a contrast with the tuna’s pink. The tuna was delicious, as was the yuzu dip. The array of accompanying Japanese condiments that came along with it – wasabi, pickled ginger, toasted sesame seeds – also worked really well with the tuna.

Sakagura - London Food Blog - Tuna tartare

Sakagura – Tuna tartare

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El Pirata

EL PIRATA

If your means are not too constrained, El Pirata in Mayfair can be a good choice for those times in your life when you develop a craving for some excellent home-made food but don’t feel like cooking yourself. This rustic comfortable Spanish restaurant churns out reliably tasty and homely tapas and other classical Spanish dishes, all served with the sincerest of smiles from their knowledgeable staff. The interior leaves no doubt that this is a Spanish eatery – the walls are literally smothered with various reproductions of works by famous Spanish painters. Queen’s Brian May is reported to be a very satisfied customer of El Pirata.

First arrived bread – a thoroughly enjoyable plate of crispy crust and fluffy centre – topped with a smartly undersalted, moist and fresh tomato topping (£2.65). Because the latter was rather lightly seasoned, it enhanced, rather than upstaged any other dishes we might have had alongside it.

El Pirata - London Food Blog - Bread & jamon

El Pirata – Bread & jamon

It was accompanied by a platter of super-fancy ham with a name as long as Picasso’s: jamón ibérico pata negra, gran reserva “don agustin, iberico summon guiguelo. We were counting on a fountain of flavour and lush unctuous texture, perhaps close to that of the French Noir de Bigorre or of one of those eye-wateringly overpriced Spanish jamons in Borough Market. However, this hope did not quite materialise into reality. It was good, solid, but rather very run-off-the-mill stuff, the kind you could buy pre-sliced at El Corte Ingles in Spain. In all honesty it was not quite worth the £19.95 price tag.

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Cinnamon Kitchen

CINNAMON KITCHEN

Cinnamon Kitchen is an upmarket Indian fusion restaurant in the Liverpool Street area. Bearing the word “Cinnamon” in its name, it is part of 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 including Cinnamon Soho and Cinnamon Bazaar.

As we walked into Cinnamon Kitchen, we were immediately seduced by both the aroma of the tantalising smells wafting through the restaurant, as well as by the excited murmur of happily munching clients. The interior is both smart and trendy, and gave both a happening vibe with a balanced sense of a cozy intimacy.

To begin our meal we were offered some miniature spiced potato fritters on a curly bamboo stick as the complimentary amuse-bouche from the chef. Usually, such throw-ins are an opportunity to showcase the chef’s best skills or new, novel ideas, to dazzle and intrigue customers into coming to try more next time. This one was a little bland and unassuming and tasted like a deep-fried ball made of faintly curried mashed potatoes.

Next we tried a variety of chutneys with naan. Of the three chutneys that arrived, the most memorable was the tomato one. With just the right level of hotness, it treated tomato as what it technically is: a fruit, which is that it was intensely rich with flavour and naturally sweet. The naan that accompanied the chutneys was pleasantly spliced with fennel seeds.

Cinnamon Kitchen - London Food Blog - Naans & chutneys

Cinnamon Kitchen – Naans & chutneys

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Tootoomoo Islington

Tootoomoo

Tootoomoo offers a Pan-Asian Tapas-style menu designed by Chef Ricky Pang. The restaurant appears to have more of a reputation as a takeaway; however, the Islington branch was well located (a few minutes from Highbury & Islington station) and reasonably popular on the weekday evening we visited. As the menu covers key dishes from different parts of Asia, we were eager to order dishes across the breadth of the menu.

Tootoomoo - London Food Blog

Tootoomoo

The drinks list was not extensive but covered a handful of classic cocktails, wine, beer and spirits selection enough to cover most tastes. To begin with we were offered cocktails (all priced at £7.50) and we chose the Elderflower Tootoomoo and a Lychee Caipirinha. Both were served as long drinks in glass jars. They were refreshing, quite sweet but balanced. We could not taste the lychee in the caipirinha and wonder if it was missed by accident.

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Bella Cosa

BELLA COSA

Bella Cosa is an Italian restaurant located within a few minutes walk of South Quays DLR station, close to the heart of Canary Wharf. It’s an elegant venue, split over two floors, with the first floor offering a fine dining service, and the ground floor reserved for a more casual Italian experience of antipastas, cold cuts and pastas.

Japanese born Executive Chef Kentaro Torii graduated from culinary school in Tokyo after which he made a move to Italy to follow his passion of Italian cookery. Chef Kentaro has also worked at various Michelin restaurants including Bvlgari il Ristorante in Tokyo, Els Casals in Barcelona and Keisuke Matsushima in Nice. And so it is the combination of his roots, his Italian cookery training and his grounding in fine dining that defines the elegant ‘Italian with a Japanese twist’ menu at Bella Cosa.

I attended a bloggers’ dinner at Bella Cosa recently and we were firstly treated to some excellent canapes including some delightfully fine and crispy black ink chips filled with mascarpone and salmon roe which offered an interesting contrast in flavours. Also very tasty was the cannoli with ricotta, walnut and beetroot powder, with the cheese pairing well with the nuttiness of the walnut.

The amuse bouche was cooked scallop, with cannellini puree, truffle, lardo and olive oil powder. The scallop had been beautifully cooked and contrasted well with the creaminess of the puree and the fattiness of the lardo.

Bella Cosa - London Food Blog - Scallop amuse bouche

Bella Cosa – Scallop amuse bouche

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Remedy Wine Bar

REMEDY WINE BAR AND KITCHEN

The Remedy Wine Bar and Kitchen in Fitzrovia is a cosy, intimate collaboration between David Clawson and Renato Catgiu. The pair met while working together at Terroirs, a Covent Garden restaurant and wine bar which, as most foodies will know, is regarded as having pioneered the “natural” (organic and/or biodynamic) wine movement in London. At Remedy, the team have lovingly curated a list of some 100 natural, low intervention wines from both classic vintages and maverick producers from around the world, and all sold at reasonable prices.

The menu at Remedy is an all-day one, ranging from breakfast to dinner. The morning offering consists of coffees from Climpson & Sons, juices, pastries, breads and such like. For lunch there are tasty sounding sandwiches and reasonably priced mains. The evening menu at Remedy is more comprehensive and included a range of snacks and sharing boards with cured meats from the Ham & Cheese Co and cheeses from Androuet. There were also oysters, seasonal small plates and a delicious sounding array of sausages.

We began our meal with a rabbit terrine with crostini (£5) which was absolutely delicious. The terrine was tasty, moist and well-seasoned, with just the right of amount of fat for flavour. Yet at the same time, it wasn’t overly fatty which terrines can sometimes be. This terrine was pure flavour and a true joy to eat. This was some heartfelt cooking at its best.

Remedy Wine Bar - London Food Blog - Rabbit Terrine

Remedy Wine Bar – Rabbit Terrine

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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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