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King's Road is Turning Japanese With Kurobuta

King's Road is Turning Japanese With Kurobuta

March 13, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Kurobuta is a bit of a freak in its King’s Road setting, which we mean in the best possible way. Not since the days of Jimi Hendrix has Chelsea been synonymous with rock ‘n roll, but Kurobuta has given the Royal Borough a potent shot in the arm, and a local alternative to W1 Japanese joints. Launched by ex-Nobu chef Scott Hallsworth as a preview pop-up ahead of an izakaya (that’s Japanese for pub) on Marble Arch, this spot has been so successful that they’re negotiating making it a permanent opening. It’s an intimate setting split over two floors, with an open kitchen that spills out into the dining room (a sushi chef perched on a stool behind us rolling maki) and infuses the whole place with a buzzy dynamism. Otherwise there’s a bar with a cool Kirin frozen head machine twirling atop it and bare, wallpapered walls with the occasional Japanese knick-knack or artefact. Mr Hallsworth spent some time cooking in Dallas, and fun-loving influence is easily apparent in his Japanese gastronomy. Crunchy rice senbei crisps with an avocado/jalapeno dip played out like a Nipponese reimagining of tortilla chips and guacamole. Actually, all of the dips were amongst the best we’ve in London over the past few years. Jerusalem artichoke ‘chopsticks’ were wrapped in a filo pastry and deep fried, then served with a nearly orgasmic truffle ponzu dip. A tuna sashimi ‘pizza’ featured the raw fish atop a crispy tortilla cut into isosceles shards with some more of that truffle ponzu, red onions and green chillies. Wagyu beef sliders were served on a Japanese style ‘brioche’ bun, with a big crunchy onion ring, pickled cucumbers and umami mayo. Even the sushi was a bit naughty, with a spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies. Truth be told, by the time that dessert came around we were a bit too full to enjoy it, but it looked delicious on others’ plates. Kurobuta is just what King’s Road needed, and we’re definitely excited for its forthcoming opening on Marble Arch.

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Trishna Brings the South Indian Heat to Blandford Street

Trishna Brings the South Indian Heat to Blandford Street

March 13, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Hot on the heels of Gymkhana’s wild success, chef proprietor Karam Sethi decided to do a little relaunch of his original restaurant, Trishna, with a redesigned interior, new dishes and an updated wine list from his sister and Zagat 30 Under 30 award winner, Sunaina Sethi. B3 Designers, who’ve proved their mettle with Roka, 28-50 and, of course, Gymkhana, have worked the same prestidigitation with Trishna, softening the stripped back aesthetic with pale blue reclaimed timber panelling, smoky vintage mirrors and a marble-topped bar. On a recent visit, the food and the wine were prefect. This included nandu varuval – a crisp soft shell crab without a drop of grease on it nor the superfluity of the crustacean innards that can often put diners off. Green chilli and garlic imbued it with savour and piquancy, while a white crab chutney served as a soothing, buttery foil. Ajwaini salmon tikka boasted a spicy exterior expertly offset by a creamy puddle of dill raita, and even more so by a Croatian Grimalda, which played out smoothly as if intimating the oakiness of a Chardonnay without committing to its heaviness. A Tulsi scallop with crunchy chickpea exhibited an immensely appealing interplay of texture, not to mention a sturdy meatiness and good-looking presentation. Again, the wine pairing, this one a NZ Pinot Noir, elevated the dish to new heights. Tandoori lamb chops were borderline pornographic, particularly when paired with Trishna’s irresistible roast potatoes and a Pulenta Estate Gran Cabernet Franc. There was a symphonic blend of spiciness from the outset, you could feel it coming on after taking a whiff of the wine, but when combining all of the elements the experience really went next level. We would have happily consumed a whole meal of this – out of a bucket – even if the spices laid us low for a week. All in, Trishna looks poised to remain a titan of Indian cuisine for years to come, and well deserving of its Michelin star.

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Georgian food in Mayfair

Georgian food in Mayfair

March 6, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Supra cuisine and culture is far from ubiquitous outside of Georgian borders, but it probably should be, and with new Shepherd’s Market opening Marani championing its cause, it may well be. Situated in the building that formerly housed Tempo, Marani reflects its Mayfair setting, with a design that brings together traditional Georgian and contemporary European accents, a series of hand-painted murals throughout the dining rooms, handsome cut-glass pendant chandeliers, mantlepieces and lampshades that you might find in a Tbilisi home, and even an upstairs bar doling out the national spirit, cha-cha. Seating is incredibly comfortable – it feels a bit like dining in a very posh friends’ living room. The food also skews toward comfort. Xinkali soup immerses dumplings in a zingy, astringent broth that prepares the palate for what’s to follow. Mezze is best enjoyed in the usual fashion, by splitting numerous plates between a few people. Mtskeri makvalshi is quail marinated in sumac and white wine, fired on the mangal grill, then served with a wild berry sauce. Elaji and bazhe are deep fried polenta and cheese balls served up with an almond dipping sauce. It goes without sayin that they were a guilty pleasure. Salads here are quite filling, suited more for a cold winter night than a summer evening. Of the mains, our favourites were the grilled meats, which was skewered and caressed with charcoal. A mille-feuille was bursting with cream and flavour, a big, fluffy full-stop to the meal. If are interested in Georgian food, Marani is definitely worth a visit.

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Beef Gets a Sexy Treatment In Farringdon

Beef Gets a Sexy Treatment In Farringdon

March 6, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Farringdon is not in short supply of steakhouses, but this newest entry, Strip Bar & Steak, seems to have raised the stakes for the entire neighbourhood. Borrowing inspiration from the New York and Las Vegas eateries so successful at getting your inner carnivore growling, the dining room is doused in neon, with a bevy of bare brick walls and archways, dark wooden tables and leather booth seating – but the most attractive feature in the room is arguably what the waiters are holding aloft on their trays. The kitchens have made the enlightened decision of jettisoning the oh-so-pedestrian bread roll for cheddar popovers, which, for those who are crinkling their brows in confusion, is American for Yorkshire puddings. They were crisp and cheesy on the outside with a cavernous, chewy interior, as they should be. The starters cleave to Yank tradition, relying heavily on shrimp and lobster cocktails and a large selection of salads. As in the States, the starters are more of an afterthought to the beef, but that’s easily done when the steak is this beautiful. Cuts are New York Strip and seriously marbled, with the delicacy and tenderness that you might expect from a fillet. It’s available in portions ranging from 250 to 550 grams, with either béarnaise, herb butter or Roquefort butter available for sauces. These can be accompanied by a wide range of sides, including friable onion straws or sumptuous mac ‘n cheese, which can be pimped out with lobster. Those brave souls with room enough for desserts can opt for a hot fudge sundae or shaken drunken sundaes. For Gatsby levels of indulgence, Strip Bar & Steak fits the bill.Steak a Claim at Strip Bar & Steak

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Café Murano

Café Murano

February 27, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

The days of Gordon Ramsay as the great white hope of British food may have passed, but the legacy lives on in his protégées, particularly Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton and Angela Hartnett, who have honed the craft of producing critically-acclaimed, eternally-booked eateries across London. Where Wareing is the architect of fine-dining chapels and Atherton seems to be supplanting Ramsay as the rising emperor of London’s foodie scene, Hartnett’s cooking was always a bit more, warm, understated, and prepared with both heart and precision. This is patently the case with her newest venture, Café Murano, nestled in the quiet gentility of St James’s. The dining room, designed by Russell Stage Studios, is an exercise in minimalism. An ivory-hued, marble-topped bar runs half the length of the restaurant, which is monochromatically white with art deco frosted windows, a rusticated chandelier with cut-glass pendant lighting and an outsized mirror with distressed bronze-painted frame. The room channels one’s attention to the cooking, which is homey Lombardian cuisine at its best, updated for the contemporary London palate. Rosemary encrusted focaccia served with Planeta olive oil, ostensibly the world’s best, was like sharing a kiss on the threshold of someone’s house – an indicator of good things to follow – and follow they did. Truffle arancini were risotto balls at their best, a crisp exterior crumbled into a creamy center. This was obliterated, however, by an antipasto of succulent warm octopus with chickpeas al dente in tomato sauce, gracile lettuce leaves and an impeccable pesto. It was the best dish of the evening and the best octopus dish of the year. We rounded off our experience by sharing a slate of oozing cheeses and a boozy tiramisu, alongside a pair of strong espressos. Café Murano is grown-up dining that doesn’t disappoint.

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Roka Mayfair

Roka Mayfair

February 27, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurants

Roka Mayfair is a different animal from its forebears. A chimera of sorts, it seamlessly fuses the buoyant energy of its sister restaurants with the ice-cold sophistication of Zuma. Opened on North Audley Street by the Waney Brothers and Rainer Becker, this newest restaurant is calibrated to become an instant classic, and, with only eighty covers, to boast some of the most coveted tables in the capital. As with the other Rokas, the robata grill takes centre stage in the dining room, instilling the restaurant with kinetic energy and the diner with a frisson of excitement.  The interiors echo the design palette of the other openings, with plenty of clean lines and organic materials that are soothing to the eye, including natural woods, casted concrete and raw steel spread throughout the dining room. A bar runs along the right hand side of the room where mixologists craft an array of shochu-based and Asian-inflected cocktails that serve as refreshing aperitifs. The food, as anyone lucky enough to sample Roka or Zuma will attest, is Japanese par excellence, and the flavours at this newest outpost are no exception. Most of the feted dishes make appearances on this menu, including seared yellowtail with garlic and cucumber; wagyu gunkan with oscietra, spring onion and fresh ginger; robata-kissed lamb cutlets with Korean spices; and sumptuous black cod marinated in yuzu miso. However, Roka group executive chef Hamish Brown does have some new tricks up his sleeve, namely softshell crab with roasted chilli dressing and baby back ribs glazed with master stock and studded with cashew nuts. The wine menu is extensive, and includes a strong showing of sakes and Japanese whisky. Perfectly attuned for the Mayfair set, it’s difficult to imagine this newest Roka being anything other than a wild success.

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Brunch at Red Dog - Shoreditching Your Hangover

Brunch at Red Dog - Shoreditching Your Hangover

February 20, 2014 By Alexandra Ivett Restaurant

After spending an evening cutting shapes next door at XOYO, Saturday morning has caught you out in desperate need of hair from the dog that bit you and a forgiving fry-up. You’re craving salt to soak it up and a blast of sugar to make your circulatory system sing.  Throw in a great Bloody Mary, and you’ll be squared away by lunchtime.
 
Where to get this perfect combination of carbs, booze and bite? Well, Hoxton’s Red Dog Saloon might tick all the boxes with a new all-day American brunch menu offering up a range of savoury and sweet options. It’s even got a remixed ‘fully loaded’ breakfast platter serving it all up at once. With four eggs, home-fries, sausage, bacon, and French toast, it’s the perfect option for those who can’t face the morning after decision-making process or a stomach that’s anything less than overcrowded.
 
For those that can, and come down firmly in the ‘sweet’ breakfast camp, the pancakes come in a range of flavours, including an especially beautiful number, toffee-tinged and baked through with banana in the banoffee fashion. They are thick, creamy and delicious.
 
In the salty camp, scrambled eggs are creamy and thick and served with crispy strip bacon and home fries – a plethora of small, fried potatoes that you can spear enthusiastically with your fork, macerate in vinegar and pad out that angry stomach.
 
With the décor strongly embracing the American diner theme, there are plenty of interesting wall hangings – from black-and-white photos through to bull horns – to examine in the case of an awkward conversational lull. Pair this with comfortable leather booths to conceal oneself, and you’ve got the perfect place to rest, recuperate and recover.
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France and India collide at La Porte des Indes

France and India collide at La Porte des Indes

February 20, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

La Port des Indes is celebrating its eighteenth year of operation so we thought it important to describe what’s made it a classic destination for opulent Indian cuisine in Marylebone. Similarly to Fulham restaurant Blue Elephant, La Port is a vast space housed in a former Edwardian ballroom and stuffed to the gills with greenery, creating a verdant rainforest setting, with a forty foot Mughal water feature. The food is inspired by the region of Pondicherry, a former French colony dating back to the 19th century, a unique amalgamation of French, Tamil and Creole influences. On our visit we had the opportunity to try the Menu Maison and sample a wide selection of dishes, but there were a few starters that stood out as chiefly delicious. These included Parsee Fish - sumptuous fillets of sole encased in banana leaves and steamed with a coriander and mint chutney; as well as plump grilled scallops kissed with garlic and served in a saffron sauce. Our favourite main demonstrated the interesting commingling of international influences – black cod was marinatde in fennel, chilli, mustard, honey, tamarind and rice vinegar before being flame roasted over the grill. For those who are looking to impress a visitor to London with high-quality food and a design so extravagant that it borders on the outrageous, La Port des Indes does the trick.

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Hot Dog Heaven: Dirty Bones

Hot Dog Heaven: Dirty Bones

February 20, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

West London has always been a bit dry when it comes to the dude food trend, but the ownership at new Kensington underground cocktail boîte Dirty Bones will ensure that the well-dressed denizens of the Royal Borough can get their rocks off as easy as it’s done in the east. Dirty Bones features an inimitably cool vibe, due almost as much to live DJ sets as it is to the design. But only almost… They enlisted the ample talents of Shoreditch designer Lee Broom, who has tricked-out the room with his signature, cut-glass lightbulbs, resembling something you might sip single malt from. Otherwise Dirty Bones is replete with funky pendant lighting, a glut of neon, glossy throwback tiles, particoloured slatted walls and teal diner-style banquettes. Now, getting to the good stuff: the menu was assembled by Ross Clarke, a former Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen wunderkind, and features some of the best hotdogs in town. There are some truly progressive flavour combinations going on here. Coarse-cut kielbasa-esque pork dogs (beef and veg options are also available) are pimped out with toppings like The Mexican (pulled pork, cactus salsa, lime sour cream and guac) or the Asian (kimchi purée, wasabi mayo, crispy seaweed and sesame seed). If tubesteaks don’t rattle your cage, opt for a selection from the Bones section of the menu. You’ll find some dope fried chicken, ribs and sliced steak there. By the time we bounced we were thoroughly sloshed so it’s great prep before a night out in the West. Our advice is to get together a party of six or more so that you can book a table.

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French kissed in Soho by Bistro Blanchette

French kissed in Soho by Bistro Blanchette

February 20, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

French restaurants have been a dime a dozen since the 1960s and small plates aren’t exactly avant-garde these days, but there was something singular, something quite stirring, about D’Arblay Street’s new Gallic joint Bistro Blanchette. Opened by a band of brothers with consulting from the Salt Yard Group, this charming little number channels the spirit of your favourite petite, bare brick bistro from across the Channel. Antiques sourced from Paris, ornate tiled floors and distressed wooden chairs all bask in the warm glow of candle-lit tables and quirky nautical pendant lighting. Guests who are more interested in a casual bite can opt for the bar area, backed by a painted tile fresco in the Belle Epoque fashion, with potted plants, hams, cheese and various sundries on display. The rustic-chic dining room is well-suited for a date night, and the intimate and slightly sexy ambience amplifies one’s enjoyment of the food, which was excellent. We kicked things off with a Languedoc blend; some crunchy pig’s ears; golden-crisp, creamy cheese beignettes; and a cured Corsican jambon as silky as lingerie. With the promise of the snacks and charcuterie, we suspected that we were in for a good meal, and our suspicions were vindicated with the mains. Grilled beef onglet was an earthy punch to the mug, complemented with snails en persillade, cylindrical salsify chips and a red wine sauce. This was nearly trumped by the porcine brilliance of black pudding with chargrilled pork belly, quince and parsnip puree. We’d be remiss not to mention the sides: chips with béarnaise were as delicious as you’d expect, but fusing Jerusalem artichokes with a potato gratin was a brilliantly enlightened culinary judgement. By the time cheese and dessert arrived, we were thoroughly satiated. It was such a pleasant experience that wandering off into a rainy London evening was almost palatable.

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