Gaylord – Bloggers Dinner

Words and photos by Priscilla from Food Porn Nation and myself.

The award winning Gaylord Indian Restaurant was founded in 1966 and is an offshoot of the original Gaylord in Mumbai which opened in 1956. The cuisine originates from North of India with a menu that is long, varied and eclectic. The décor also embodies an authentic Indian experience with artworks by the noted Indian painter Prithvi Soni.

We dined at Gaylord recently as part of a Zomato bloggers’ dinner and Gaylord took the difficulty of choosing from its extensive menu by serving us a selection of their highlight dishes. There was food aplenty, and it was such a delight to have the opportunity to taste so many different things. We started with canapés before moving onto starters, main courses and then desserts.

For canapés, we tried some zaffrani chicken tikka (£8.50/£14) and chicken murg malal tikka (£8.50/£14.50), both of which were nicely cooked and pleasantly spiced. The aloo tokri chhat, a savoury potato basket was also really tasty and really crunchy.

Moving on the starters, and the tandoori tiger prawns (£10/£20) with saffron proved to be the knockout dish of the evening. The tiger prawns were big, fat and juicy with a firm luxurious texture. They were also really well cooked with the tandoor cooking helping to hold in much flavour. The spicing was lovely, and with the prawns being so plump, they were just a joy to eat.

Crab cakes (£11) with curry leaves, southern spices, sesame seeds and mustard cress were cleverly presented, with each crab cake being perched on a sugar stick. The spicing was pleasant, and the crab cake offered a decent flavour, but I would have preferred more crabmeat for a greater taste of the sea.

London Food Blog - Gaylord'

Gaylord – Crab Cakes Dakshini – curry leaves, Southern spices, sesame seeds, sugarcane stick

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Barrafina Frith Street – Visit No. 2

BARRAFINA

Barrafina Frith Street opened to critical acclaim in 2007 following on from the success of its sister restaurant Fino, both of which are owned by the restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart. 2014 proved to be a great year for the pair, with a second branch of Barrafina opening on Adelaide Street, also to critical acclaim, and the original Barrafina on Frith Street winning a Michelin star.

As most Londoners know, Barrafina Frith Street is a tiny establishment. There are 23 stools which line the L-shaped marbled bar. There is a no-booking policy which means that at peak times diners can expect to wait for at least an hour before being seated. I first visited Barrafina in 2010 and thought it was brilliant (you can read about that visit here). The only thing that deterred me from going back was the thought of that dreaded queue. But with a Michelin Star comes the weight of added expectation. So despite the knowledge that we would have to wait, it felt like the right time for a revisit.

And wait we did, an hour and a half no less, and this was on a Tuesday evening. The saving grace was the fact that we were able to order drinks and nibbles as we stood in line. That said, the service was incredibly slow and we struggled to be noticed or served.

We started with two old favourites, the croquetas and the tortilla. Ham croquetas (2 for £4.50) contained a deliciously creamy béchamel filling and a crunchy exterior. They were a little salty, but they were very tasty. A prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla (£7) came with a runny centre that was lovely and warm. This was also tasty, but in contrast to the croquetas, was a little under seasoned.

Barrafina Frith Street - Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street – Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

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Nopi – Visit No. 2

NOPI

Nopi opened in Soho in 2010 to a great reception, and rightly so. It was an extension of the Ottolenghi chain of delis by Yotam Ottolenghi who is famous for his uniquely innovative blend of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking. Nopi gave Ottolenghi a presence in Soho, but it also made his delightful food accessible to a wilder audience.

I visited Nopi in June 2011, several months after it opened and loved it (you can read that post here). Little has changed in terms of the restaurant’s décor or design. Nopi is split over two floors. The ground floor is white throughout with individualised tables, and the basement plays home to shared seating with views of the open kitchen. The menu still holds true to Ottolenghi’s original and inventive fusion of Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, and along with the main size plates, there are a number of sharing options and plenty of choices for vegetarians.

A dish of seared scallops (£13.90) was pleasant on the palate and worked well with the sweetness of a delica pumpkin puree and some savoury red chicory. The scallops were a touch overcooked however and slightly tough, but otherwise this was a good dish.

Nopi - Seared scallops

Seared scallops

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Fino

FINO

Fino Restaurant opened in 2003 and became one of the first restaurants in London to offer a contemporary brand of Spanish tapas. Others followed, but Fino has managed to carve out a niche as an oldie but a goodie on the London tapas scene. Fino comes from the hands of Sam and Eddie Hart, the well-known restaurateur brothers that also brought the critically acclaimed Barrafina to London. The original branch of Barrafina opened on Frith Street in Soho in 2007 and went on to won a Michelin star in 2014. A second branch of Barrafina also opened on Adelaide Street last year.

Fino’s Executive Head Chef is Nieves Barragán Mohacho who originates from the Basque country. Her menu changes daily, drawing on influences from not only the Basque region but from throughout Spain. The Fino menu makes for a tempting read, interspersing modern influences among much loved Spanish classics.

Fino has an address on Charlotte Street although the entrance itself is located on Rathbone Street. From here, diners are led to Fino’s restaurant and bar area in the basement. The interior is contemporary and boasts of a relaxed ambience. It is also spacious and well laid out, which unlike the tiny spaces of both the Barrafinas, would accommodate large parties well.

We tried the Cecina de León (£9.80), a smoked and dried beef which was maroon in colour. It was juicy with a strong character and a slightly fibrous consistency. Lightly salted and with small bits of fat running through it, the beef was delicious.

Fino - Cecina de León

Cecina de León

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Arbutus

Arbutus is a one Michelin starred restaurant which offers a modern European bistro menu. Located in the heart of Soho on Frith Street, Arbutus is the brainchild of Anthony Demetre and Will Smith. The pair met while working together at Putney Bridge when Demetre was Head Chef and Smith was the restaurant manager. Demetre previously trained under the guidance of Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koffman and within a year of becoming head chef at Putney Bridge in 1999 he had earned the restaurant a Michelin star. The pair decided to venture solo and thus Arbutus was born in 2006. In 2007 Arbutus went on to win a Michelin star and Four AA Rosettes. Two other restaurants from the pair followed with Wild Honey in Mayfair which also holds a Michelin star, and Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden which offers an all day bar and grill menu.

I first visited Arbutus soon after it first won its star and was thrilled with the energy of the food as it was vibrant, fresh and accomplished, yet not too pretentious. The menu was also well priced and ever changing based on what was seasonal. I also liked the intimacy of the dining room which was simply furnished yet inviting.

Little has changed in terms of the look of the restaurant and it continues to be intimate and inviting. The menu still offers up some interesting choices although prices are of course higher than way back when. During our visit to Arbutus a couple of weeks ago we started with some Scottish scallops (£16) which were plump and beautifully cooked. There was some piquillo pepper which offered a lovely sweet contrast to the scallops. Some nicely toasted hazelnuts added a very enjoyable nuttiness and crunchiness, and pickled sea herbs provided a sense of freshness.

Arbutus - Scottish scallops

Scottish scallops

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Pachamama – Visit No. 2 Update

I couldn’t wait to go back to Pachamama for lunch after my hugely rewarding last visit (you can read about it here). I loved the food and I was also pleasantly surprised at what good value the lunch menu was. Each dish was priced at a mere £6. So during a spot of gift shopping along Oxford Street two days before Christmas, I decided to pop into Pachamama for a bite to each for some respite from all that Christmas craziness.

This time I tried two new dishes, starting with the lamb anticuchos which were really nicely cooked, with meat that was were tender and very tasty. Charred mackerel with bleeding tiger’s milk was also very enjoyable. The mackerel was fresh and there was a pleasant and well-balanced acidity coming through from the tiger’ milk (the citrus based marinade used in ceviche). The mackerel was cooked through so it wasn’t really a ceviche dish, but the combination worked well together.

Pachamama - Lamb anticuchos

Lamb anticuchos

Pachamama - Charred mackerel

Charred mackerel

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Gaucho Charlotte Street

Gaucho - Steak tray

Gaucho – Steak tray

Gaucho is a name that needs little introduction. With a string of steakhouses throughout London, it is famous for it’s brand of grass-fed Argentinian cows which are left to roam freely over the fertile lands of the Pampas. The beef is then shipped chilled to the UK and is never frozen. Of interest to the diner is that Gaucho also offers a reasonably priced lunch menu (2 courses – £23, 3 courses – £26), a cigar menu, a selection of fine Argentinian wines as well as a take out service.

I headed to the Gaucho branch on Charlotte Street which is slick and shiny with black floors, black walls and chandeliers. Gaucho Charlotte Street has a clubby feel and a prevalence of moo-cow seat covers which are quite strong on the eye. There are also lots of circular booths for big groups. The restaurant has been designed so that diners can sit comfortably and really enjoy themselves.

The meal begins with a bit of theatre – the presentation of the meat board which showcases four key different cuts, these being the rump, sirloin, rib-eye and fillet, as well as the churrasco de lomo (more on this later). There’s a good range of cuts of steaks on the menu as well as varying sizes.

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Pachamama

Pachamama is the latest addition to the Peruvian food scene in London, and a really exciting one at that. It serves innovative dishes by combining together an interesting array of quality ingredients, with fish from Cornwall and meats from Yorkshire. It is going up against other Peruvian heavy weights such as Michelin starred Lima, Coya and Ceviche. But Pachamama is as good as it gets, and holds its own with class.

The décor of Pachamama was unconventionally un-Peruvian and resembled the style of an old British colonial home with reclaimed antiques. But it was very tasteful and comfortable, with the restaurant stretching along an L-shape and backing onto the open kitchen. There is also a swanky cocktail bar serving Peruvian classics such as home-infused Piscos with seasonal berries, herbs and fruits, and other creative and reasonably priced cocktails such as The Curandero – a vodka, lime and chilli sherbet drink topped with ginger beer (£8).

We visited Pachamama for lunch, to try their special ‘Pick and Mix’ set lunch menu which features dishes from various categories – ceviche, robata grill, Josper oven, salad and dessert, all at a very reasonable £6 per dish. This special menu is only available during weekday lunchtimes, and in the evenings and weekends Pachamama offers an a la carte menu.

It wouldn’t do to not try ceviche at a Peruvian restaurant, and at Pachamama we had the chilled prawn and sea bass ceviches. Both were resounding fresh, with the bouncy prawns being paired with some fabulously crunch onions, squash, English mustard and tiger’s milk. It was refreshing and tangy, but a little too sharp on the palate. As for the sea bass ceviche with tiger’s milk, this was very pleasant, especially with the crunchy samphire, radish and luscious sweet potatoes.

Pachamama – Chilled prawn ceviche

Chilled prawn ceviche

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