Michael Nadra Chiswick

Chef Michael Nadra has an impressive list of restaurants under his belt including time as Sous chef at Chez Bruce and La Trompette and stages at The Square in Mayfair and The Glasshouse in Kew. His first solo venture was a restaurant called Fish Hook in Chiswick which he opened in 2005. Many readers may not recall Fish Hook, but I remember it to be a quaint little restaurant serving accomplished and wonderfully tasty seafood at reasonable prices.

With Restaurant Michael Nadra, Chef Nadra continues to delivery really good quality contemporary cooking at reasonable prices in a relaxed and comfortable setting. For dinner, two courses from a prix fix menu are only priced at £30, and three courses are £36. There are two branches of Restaurant Michael Nadra, one in Chiswick, and the other in Primrose Hill.

We found ourselves in the Chiswick branch, a comfortable looking restaurant with dark furnishings and waiting staff dressed in black. We started with a sautéed foie gras (+£3) which was beautifully cooked and oozed with a lovely fattiness. But the foie gras lacked for a touch of seasoning which contrasted sharply with the blood orange salad which was very over seasoned. An accompanying caramelised red onion tart was impressive for the perfect caramelisation of the onion and the lusciously flaky and buttery puff pastry that surrounded the onion. An accomplished madeira jus worked well with the foie gras. Seasoning aside, this was an extremely well executed dish.

Michael Nadra - Sautéed foie gras

Sautéed foie gras

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Wahaca Westfield White City

Wahaca, the Mexican street eat restaurant chain started by the 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, is one of my favourite cheap eats in London. Wahaca do some key things really well. Their vibe is relaxed and chilled, the ingredients they use are always fresh, and the dishes are refreshingly appetising. You can also expect a general level of consistency in the food no matter which branch you visit as most of the prep is done in the centralised Wahaca kitchen on Charlotte Street before being distributed to the various Wahaca branches. And best of all the food is really reasonably priced. And did I mention the yummy cocktails?

We visited the Wahaca at the very smart Westfield White City, perfectly located for a bite to eat after a spot of shopping. We kicked of with some drinks, heading straight for the interesting Tequila Experience (£10.65) which consisted of three separate tequila shots. First up was the cold sharpness of the Calle 23 Blanco which served as an aperitif washed down with sangrita. Next was the Reposado, a tequila with a light and woody flourish that we slowly savoured during the meal. To finish, we had the Añejo Calle 23, an aged tequila which was smooth and mellow with a nice finish. We also really adored the refreshing and not too sweet passionfruit margarita (£6.25).

Wahaca tequila experience and guacamole

Wahaca tequila experience and guacamole

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Medlar

Medlar Restaurant is a rustic little number on Kings Road occupying the site that was once Vama Restaurant. It serves French ‘style’ food, but as the Medlar website states it also draws inspiration from “all over”. The restaurant was founded by a couple of experienced old hands of the restaurant trade. Head Chef and owner Joe Mercer Nairne honed his skills at Chez Bruce, The Savoy Grill and the big hitting Sydney restaurant Rockpool, and front of house is run by his business partner David O’Connor who was previously at The Square and The Ledbury.

A reading of the Medlar menu suggests food that is warm and satisfying, and the simplicity of the soft greyish tones of the restaurant décor goes a long way in supporting an experience of comfort. The three-course set menu consists of eight options per course and is priced at £45 for dinner from Monday to Saturday. But the same menu is available during lunch and on the weekdays it is even better value at £27 (Saturday lunch- £30, all day Sunday – £35).

We started with the roast foie gras (+£3 supplement) with poached quince. The foie gras was incredible, being beautifully soft, lusciously rich and satisfyingly decadent. The poached quince had been nicely done and worked well with the foie gras, and a drizzling of sherry vinegar caramel was excellent giving way to a perfect touch of acidity. Finely chopped hazelnuts texture and a nice finishing touch. My only wish was a bigger piece of foie gras as it was quite small.

Medlar - Roast foie gras

Roast foie gras

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La Soupe Populaire by Tim Raue Berlin

La Soupe Populaire by Tim Raue (a 2-star Michelin chef of Restaurant Tim Raue) is about as ‘Berlin’ as it comes. Grungy, soulful and heartfelt, the restaurant embodies the essence of understated cool. La Soupe Popularie is located in a building known as The Studio House, a once derelict building on a large block of land, not far from central Berlin on the border of the well-known Mitte area. The building may have been unused for a while, but most Berliners will tell you that the site use to house many an underground party, all of which adds to the building’s sense of cool. Know also that its location feels slightly off the beaten track which also gives it an air of mystic. These days the building not only provides the space for La Soupe Populaire, but it is also houses an art gallery and the very, very cool Crocodile Bar. A multi-millionaire investor bought the site recently and his intention is to transform The Studio House into something bigger with a hotel and many restaurants. La Soupe Populaire is just the start.

In keeping with the design of the large industrial space, La Soupe Populaire has been decorated with vintage furnishings, minimalist table settings and a warm lighting that gives the restaurant a great sense of coziness. Tim Raue might be a 2 Michelin starred chef, but his intention for La Soupe Populaire was that this was to be the people’s restaurant. As such the standard menu, which shows off some true Tim Raue classics such as his famed mustard egg, oozes accessibility with its limited options of four starters, four mains and two desserts. But there’s also a concept piece to the menu with some additional dishes being devoted to honouring and complimenting the nationality of the artist who is on show at the time. These dishes change along with each exhibition change about every three to four months. Also of note at La Soupe Populaire were the prices that were exceptional value for this calibre of cooking.

To start our meal we were presented with some fantastic crusty sourdough bread and a wonderful selection of homemade pickles and a hearty meaty German sausage. For the bread, there was a spread of lard with roasted onions and pickles.

La Soupe Populaire - To start...

To start…

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Great Queen Street

Great Queen Street is owned by the same group that also own Anchor and Hope, a gastropub which has carved a name for itself with its inventive British cooking and its use of head-to-tail ingredients. Great Queen Street’s menu plays less reliance on offal cooking, but it is similarly classically British. Its makes good use of seasonal ingredients, and as such the menu is ever changing. Great Queen Street is a rustic looking venue – the furniture is dark, and the lighting is kept low. Located on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden, it’s a perfect spot for a bout of casual central London dining.

A starter salad of ham, egg, beetroot and horseradish (£7) was absolutely scrumptious. There was something heavenly about how the salty crispy ham blended with the earthy sweetness of the well-cooked beetroot. A half soft-boiled egg was perfectly cooked, and the horseradish dressing gave the salad a lovely kick. This was a wonderful marriage of flavours, all of which combined beautifully together.

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

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Clockjack Oven

It’s such a simple concept, a restaurant that serves one key ingredient – chicken. I mean other than vegetarians, who doesn’t like chicken? The concept is grander than fast food – its chicken done with style – rotisserie style rather than deep-fried. All the chicken served at Clockjack Oven is free-range and comes in the choice of pieces, sandwiches or in salads. There is also a selection of starters and sides to liven up the menu.

It’s a pleasant, friendly looking restaurant although space is a bit of a squeeze. There is a mixture of tables including bar stools by the bar, long tables for big groups and tables outside. The most interesting part of the décor is the rotisserie that sits behind the bar. It’s in plain view of all the diners and you get to watch the chickens cooking as you eat.

For starters we tried some chicken bites (£5.95) which had been marinated in buttermilk, coated in seasoned gram flour and lightly fried. These were really moist and crispy and were scrumptious with the dipping sauces. We tried the ranch, BBQ and chilli sauces, all of which were delicious, particularly the ranch with its creamy, herby and garlicky tones.

Chicken bites

Chicken bites

The BBQ chicken wings (£4.95) were also delicious, being moist and lavished with the tastiest of BBQ sauces. The herb bites (£3.95), crispy sage and onion balls, didn’t appeal however as they didn’t deliver a great sage or onion flavour.

BBQ chicken wings

BBQ chicken wings

We moved onto the rotisserie chicken which comes in either three (£6.95), four (£8.95) or ten (£18.95) pieces. However I was also told it was possible to order one or more pieces should you wish to supplement your order.

There’s the option of brown or white meat, or both, and I went for all brown. The chicken was nice. There was a good flavour and it wasn’t dry. But then again it wasn’t superbly moist either, probably due to the fact that it had been kept warm in a holding dish for a little while after coming down from the rotisserie.

Chicken pieces

Chicken pieces

But we loved all the sides that came with it. The double cooked chips (£3.25) were absolutely fabulous and super crunchy, surprising for chips that had only been cooked twice (rather than three times). The tomato and red onion salad was also good with lots of juicy red cherry tomatoes (£3.95) and little bits of fresh, aromatic basil which helped to lift the salad. And the house coleslaw (£3.35) was really nicely done. The cabbage was crunchy and the dressing was neither too rich nor overpowering.

Salad and fries

Salad and fries

Colesaw

Colesaw

A lemon tart with crème fraîche (£4.95) proved to be a generously sized portion. The tart was zingy, but it was also too sweet and the pastry was rather soft. However the Purbeck Dorset ice cream (2 scoops £2.95) was really yummy. We tried the vanilla and clotted cream chocolate flavours and both were very good.

Lemon tart

Lemon tart

Ice cream

Ice cream

For such a small outfit I was really impressed by the care and quality behind the preparation of the food. And there were lots to like, not just in the chicken but also in most of the starters and the sides. The restaurant was super noisy when it got busy and it was a little short on front of house staff. But that aside, the food was really reasonably priced. All in all Clockjack Oven was a great low key place to scratch your chicken itch and it also seemed like a fun place for large groups.

Summary Information

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3/5

Price range: About £20 for three courses, excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://www.clockjackoven.com/

Clockjack Oven on Urbanspoon

Square Meal


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Monikers

The bus

The bus

Note: Monikers has now closed.

Monikers restaurant and bar recently opened on a corner of Hoxton Square, on a site that was previously occupied by The Hoxton Apprentice, a Training for Life charity restaurant that was set up to train young chefs in the same vein as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The building was once an old schoolhouse and Monikers has cleverly maintained the spirit of its former history with a vintage blackboard that lists the daily specials. The wittiness continues with the upstairs area boasting a façade of an old London bus with trendy retro vinyl seats. It’s all very cool, and the restaurant exudes a sense of Hoxton fun. The bar area is funky as well with its chemistry-style water beakers and science-lab stools, and here you can sample some lovely cocktails such as the Greta Garbo (£8.50) with calvados, rhubarb, agave syrup and champagne, and the French 75 (£7.50) with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne.

Cocktails

Cocktails

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48 Hours in Moscow

At first glance, Moscow does not come across as the prettiest of cities. And the momentary confusion that grabs you as you first walk into the metro feels a little overwhelming as there are no English signs. But as you learn to navigate yourself and chip away at the language barriers, you soon discover that Moscow is not without its charms. The more you dig, the more you realise that there is more than meets the eye. There is an incredible depth of history behind this grand old city – inside the Kremlin walls is a treasure trove of riches and the fine art offerings in its museums are world class. And St Basil’s Cathedral – well it’s hard to capture the sense of awe that you feel when you first lay eyes on its colourful grandeur.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Friends of mine who went to Moscow 20 years ago told me that back in those dark communist times one had to wait about ten hours to get served at McDonald’s. Now the restaurant choices are plentiful and varied, Japanese restaurants are en vogue and some critically acclaimed chefs such as the likes of Pierre Gagnaire have set up shop in Moscow with his restaurant Les Menus at the Lotte Hotel.

So I was on a mission to do some eating of my own, and the first restaurant on the agenda was Expedition, a restaurant that is unique for its sense of adventure and its use of native Russian products. Also popular in Russia are cuisines from the ex-Soviet states so Georgian cuisine at Saperavi Café was up next. Finally Restaurant 57 rounded up the list for a spot of Soviet self-service eating which proved to be surprisingly good.

Expedition Restaurant

Expedition Restaurant

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