Tempo

Tempo is a recently opened Italian restaurant on Curzon Street, right near the now-defunct Mirabelle. There is a bar upstairs on the first floor, and the ground floor houses the dining room which is contemporary but not flashy. The colour scheme offers up warm, beige-y tones and large paintings splash the walls. This is a pretty and comfortable restaurant, even if the tables are squished together and the seats are small. I guess space is precious in Mayfair.

I liked the menu. Subdivided between cicchetti (small eats), carpaccio, antipasta, pasta and risotto, fish and meats, side dishes and desserts over a compact two page format, it offered a reasonable range of choices without overwhelming the audience. It made me want to try a little bit of everything.

I dined as a guest of the restaurant. From the cicchetti section, an insalata di polpo, seared octopus, pomegranate with apple (£3.75) was lovely. The octopus was tender and and nicely seared, and there was a lovely freshness coming through from the pomegranate and julienned apples which well with the octopus.

Insalata di polpo

Insalata di polpo

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Corrigan’s Mayfair

I have always thought highly of Richard Corrigan. I’ve been to his now closed Lindsay House and Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill and enjoyed them both. His style is big and bold, with lots of flavour, and it usually scores high on the comfort factor scale. So when I went to Corrigan’s Mayfair, I went with great expectations. This was the ‘replacement’ restaurant for Lindsay House which use to hold one Michelin star. In fact, when this place opened about a year and a half ago, there was much fanfare and great critical acclaim.

Well I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but my meal was riddled with disappointments. A starter of wood pigeon, soft boiled quail’s egg with sweet and sour onion (£15.50) turned out to be a terrine. Surely this should have been clearly stated on the menu? So while I was expecting a hot dish, I received a cold one instead. The terrine was only memorable for the fact that it was so heavily seasoned that the salt killed off any flavour.

Wood pigeon & soft boiled quail’s egg

Wood pigeon & soft boiled quail’s egg

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The Square

A selection of canapés

A selection of canapés

It was that time of year again, yes, my birthday. I decided against organising a large celebration this year, instead listing a couple of things that I most wanted to do with a few close friends. First on that list (yes you guessed it) was a good meal, and second was a nice spa afternoon. The latter I duly accomplished in fine fashion, but to the nice meal…

My choice was The Square, a two star Michelin restaurant. It’s been many years since I have been, and I was craving something with great finesse. The chef and co-owner is Philip Howard, who after spending a summer cooking in the Dordogne region in France, went on to work under Albert Roux OBE at the Roux Restaurants group for a year. This was followed by another year long stint with Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s, a restaurant that was situated where Chez Bruz now is, and then a similar amount of time under Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum.

The Square has won many awards along the way since it opened in 1991, and arguably Philip Howard, who is known for his elegant, classical French cooking is one of the best chefs in the UK today.

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Sketch- Afternoon tea at The Parlour

Tea for 2 at The Parlour

Tea for 2

I love the odd spot of afternoon tea. There’s something so quintessentially English about this culinary art form, working your way through the sandwiches, the scones (with all that gorgeous clotted cream) and then the cakes, all washed down with tea. I remember up to about four or five years ago, some of the 5 star hotels in London would serve an opulent all-you-can-eat affair of unlimited quantities of sandwiches, scones and cakes. This doesn’t seem to be the norm anymore, which is probably better for my waist line, but is being sorely missed by my greedy little foodie disposition.

Having eaten at Sketch before, at both The Lecture Room and Library (the one star Michelin restaurant), and The Gallery (the less formal dining room), I thought it might be time to try out The Parlour, the third of the dining areas at Sketch. The patisserie on display look delectable, and there is a long list of amazing sounding concoctions on their cake menu such as the ‘Gariguette Tartlet’, (strawberry and black pepper cream tartlet, strawberry and tomato tartare, loukoum-rose water and strawberry icing); the ‘Red Pepper and Manjari Tart’, (manjari ganache with a flourless chocolate biscuit filled with preserved red peppers on a sweet dough base); and the ‘Hojicha éclair’ (pâte à choux filled with hojicha cream, hojicha fondant). All of these are priced at £5 each.

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Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

A note from A Girl:
After finally conceding a couple of days ago that ‘A Boy Has to Eat Too’, I thought it might be time for a girl and a boy to eat together! This time it would be with another boy blogger, Gen.u.ine.ness. But after the eating, must come the writing, so to read our collaborative blogging effort on Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, just scroll down the page…

Pigeon from Racan

Pigeon from Racan

Hélène Darroze is one of the leading female chefs in the world. Her restaurant in Paris, Restaurant Hélène Darroze, holds two Michelin stars, and she gained a further star for her restaurant at The Connaught in 2009. This 41 year old single mum’s career as a chef started later than that of many other chefs as Darroze never aspired to be a chef until her mid-twenties. Initially deciding to follow in her father’s footsteps, she trained to become the general manager of their family-owned Relais & Château hotel and restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan in Southwest France. It wasn’t until 1990, when Darroze began working for Alain Ducasse at his three Michelin starred Le Louis XV in Monaco, that her path took a turn.

“There is a place for a girl in the world of gastronomy, and you are the one.” – Alain Ducasse

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The Greenhouse: A Touch of Style in the House

Pre-dessert of poached beetroot and beetroot sorbets

Pre-dessert of poached beetroot and beetroot sorbets

Although I have been to the one-star Michelin restaurant The Greenhouse before, this lunch was my first visit since it was refurbished in January 2008. My previous visit was at dinnertime, and my memory of the restaurant was that it was rather romantic. However, this time round, the dining room seemed a little more sombre. Perhaps my original impression was influenced by the volume of champagne I had drunk, or by the person I was dining with that evening. And being daytime, there was also no soft hue emitting from artificial lighting to provide a more seductive feel, instead there was a lovely, albeit slightly harsher, natural light pouring through the windows instead. Nor were there the lights that shimmer of an evening along the length of the pathway leading up to the entrance, and which also serve to illuminate the lovely landscaped garden. And rather than a clientele who might dine at night for the primary pursuit of culinary pleasure (or other pleasures), the lunchtime crowd appeared to have a more business focus. And my dining companion: he was just a very good, platonic friend.

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Angela Hartnett’s Murano Restaurant

Polenta with parmesan and poached farm eggs

Polenta with parmesan and poached farm eggs

A girl has to eat, and when a girl has to eat, a girl has to eat well. A fellow girlie friend happened to have the day off from work, and so I had to think of somewhere nice for our girlie lunch. I cranked through the inner recesses of the restaurant database in my brain. Hmm, perhaps something a little bit upmarket. Yes, a Michelin-starred restaurant would be a nice touch. After all good food is what one would expect a girl to eat. Mayfair came to mind, perhaps somewhere near the Elemis spa in case we feel like a bit of pampering afterwards. Aah, what about Angela Hartnett’s recently crowned one-star Michelin restaurant Murano I thought? One-star Michelin, Mayfair, and with Angela Hartnett, one of the most successful female chefs in the country at the helm, it seemed only just to support her restaurant as a nod to girl power.

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Flash Restaurant, Royal Academy of Arts

This restaurant is no longer open.

The humble cheeseburger

The humble cheeseburger at Flash

I was reading today about a piece of artwork commissioned by the Czech Republic, the current holders of the EU presidency. The artwork was meant to go on display at the European Council building in Brussels to mark the beginning of the Czech presidency. Completed by David Cerny, a Czech artist, the finished piece of work – the ‘Entropa Installation’ – is a mosaic of each of the EU members and the ‘national symbols’ of each country. The result has caused Bulgaria to lodge a complaint as the work of art depicts Bulgaria as a series of squat toilets. France seemingly fared better as a nation of strikeaholics. And Britain? Well, it isn’t even included in this particular piece of work.

I am sometimes amused by what can actually constitute pieces of art. When I read about the Entropa Installation, I simply laughed out loud. That was amusing in a funny ha-ha kind of way. At the other end of the spectrum, art can be amusing in a puzzling sort of way when it doesn’t quite connect with my brain. If you’re anything like me, you might have on occasion ambulated around an art gallery and stared blankly (or in confusion) at one of the pieces of artwork, and asked of yourself that all perplexing question: “Is this art”?

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