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Bobby Chinn Does His Thing in Soho

Bobby Chinn Does His Thing in Soho

February 13, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurants

London has its fair share of Vietnamese restaurants, as anyone who lives within shouting distance of Kingsland Road can attest, but other areas don’t have such a bounty, so it’s good to see some decent options popping up in Soho. Celebrity chef Bobby Chinn has chosen Old Compton Street as the site from which to stage his non-MSG revolution, and what a site it is. Keeping pace with the dimly lit and intimate eateries in the neighbourhood, the dining room is long and circuitous with light oak wooden flooring, muted grey walls, bamboo tables and leather seating. It’s essentially perfectly calibrated for a date night – and this extends to the cocktails and food as well. The drinks remix Western classics with eastern gracenotes. The Ho-groni is case in point, mixed with Campari (obvs), Tanqueray 10 and pomelo bitters. There’s a concise but well selected wine list with a lot of lighter options to complement the dishes. Standouts during our visit included an excellent crab pomelo salad with vegetable noodles, mint, lemon oil and crispy Vietnamese crackers as well as a powerful lemongrass monkfish served in a fish caramel sauce. Perhaps our favourite dish was the commingling of two: Ho’s grass-fed ‘shaking beef’ fillet bedded down erotically with a warm smoky aubergine dish topped with a warm scallion vinaigrette with crispy shallots. A molten Marou chocolate cake was the ideal full stop to the meal – as well as a great segue into the final stretch of an evening out with a desirable companion.

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Augustus Harris

Augustus Harris

February 6, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Augustus Harris, named for the Drury Theatre’s famous 19th century impresario, is importing a bit of Venetian flair to Covent Garden’s blossoming dining scene. Inspired by the bacaros so popular in the City of Bridges, Augustus Harris is spread across two floors with a curved copper bar, large bronze mirrors, and wooden shelves stocked with produce and dry goods. There’s a punchy selection of Italian cocktails and wines, which are ideally paired with a range of cicchetti, crostini, salumi and dolci. On our visit we were particularly enamoured with the dates, impregnated with gorgonzola and enwreathed in crispy bacon. However, there were a few contenders for most effective palate pleaser, namely an almost obscenely rich stracciatelle coupled with crispy focaccia, as well as rocket with bresaola. All things considered, Augustus Harris is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and a strong option for dining or drinking theatregoers.

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Turning Japanese at Sticks ‘n Sushi

Turning Japanese at Sticks ‘n Sushi

January 30, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Sticks ‘n Sushi crossed the North Sea from Denmark to Wimbledon in 2012, and while the Japanese dining concept was met with enthusiasm by critics and locals alike, its far west location may have been just a bit too far west for some of London’s more central-centric. Alas, that issue is now resolved with London’s second Sticks ‘n Sushi, nestled on Covent Garden’s Maiden Lane. The restaurant has been outfitted with a classy warehouse chic design replete with natural woods and brass light fixtures. There’s a backlit, seagrass-hued bar serving up delicious libations such as the Dragon Heart – a creamy concoction of soy, avocado, honey, sake and Japanese shochu. The menu, as you can probably tell from the resto’s name, is divided between sushi and yakitori (sticks). Any diners unfamiliar with the cuisine can rest easy as the menu is laid out with high-resolution photography of each dish. These include some amazing options, like the hotate kataifi bites, crispy scallops served with miso aioli; as well as ebi bites – tempura shrimp with coriander, chilli, miso aioli and fresh lime. Of the sushi, our favourite choices were the Hell’s Kitchen Roll – tempura shrimp rolled maki style with rice, avocado and tuna; and the Ebi Panko Roll. For the sticks, we opted for scallop yakitori, which came wrapped in bacon; and salmon teriyaki with grilled king oyster mushroom, both of which were delicious. Perhaps the most appetising aspect of the meal was the price, which for Japanese in the West End is quite reasonable.

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Il Baretto – A Neighbourhood Necessity

Il Baretto – A Neighbourhood Necessity

January 30, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Every neighbourhood is in need of a swank Italian, dimly lit with just the right amount of gloss to entice along with perfect, unflappable culinary standards. For Marylebone, this restaurant has been Il Baretto, since it originally launched in 2009. Now with a sleek refurb, it appears to have transported a Mayfair ambience north of Oxford Street. Interior designer David D’Almada claims bragging rights for this, refitting the room with dark mahogany tables, leather banquette seating, an open glass wine cellar, exposed brickwork and an open plan pastry kitchen. D’Almada has also streamlined the upstairs bar area with a more inviting layout, perfect for casual dining with a view of busy Blandford Street and across to the forthcoming Andre Balazs hotel. Il Baretto is owned by the Waney brothers (Coya, Zuma, La Petite Maison) and as with their other projects, the food is impeccable. Standouts from the menu included a phenomenal Fassone beef tartar with quail’s egg; burrata with a corona of silken parma ham; al dente macheroni with saucer sized slices of black truffle and an almost obscenely unctuous pecorino sauce; pappardelle with duck ragout; and an excellent sea bass baked within a salt crust. For dates, business ideas or catching up with friends in Marylebone, Il Baretto hits it on the nail.

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CANVAS by Michael Riemenschneider Paints a Pretty Picture

CANVAS by Michael Riemenschneider Paints a Pretty Picture

January 30, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

In recent years, Marylebone has boasted many of London’s most interesting fine-dining concepts, with extended pop-ups Roganic and Pied Nus as well as classic favourites like Texture, and new Marylebone Lane eatery CANVAS by Michael Riemenschneider looks poised to join their ranks. Helmed by the titular Swiss chef who won plaudits for his talent at The Abbey in Penzance and worked alongside legends including Heston, Gordon and Pierre Gagnaire, CANVAS seats only twenty and is already almost impossible to book. Championing the ‘create your own’ tasting menu, guests will have the opportunity to choose from three to ten courses from five staple plates and eleven seasonally inspired dishes (however they must agree on the same dishes). Riemenschneider will then coordinate the sequence of the service, and, if desired, pair the menu with one of two wine flights. The flavours in the dishes evince an immense precision in preparation, apparent in scallop served with a puree studded with dehydrated shards of potato, or the pig served nose to tail, with sumptuous cuts of belly and loin, compressed spheres of apple and a crispy, puffed rind. This is a special occasion type of place, due to both its boutique dimensions and the calibre of cooking, so we recommend getting those bookings in early.

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Notting Hill's Pop-Up restaurant FISHbone coming February

Notting Hill's Pop-Up restaurant FISHbone coming February

January 23, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Last week we added the excellent Kensington Place to our favoured stable of restaurants. This week we have something else to report about the Notting Hill eatery – they’ll be launching a very special pop-up restaurant this February. Named FISHbone, the kitchen will be whipping up a plethora of ‘fast-fish’ dishes, with enticing options including crab bhajis; a scallopdog served up with brown shrimp and cucumber vierge; prawnish pasties; and even a salmon ‘doner with pitta, cucumber and yoghurt. These are to be accompanied by an inventive range of hard drinks crafted from Sipsmith gin and vodka and imagined by Kensington Place’s talented mixologists, including the ‘Hook, Lime and Sinker’ (three shots of sharp, sour and sweet) as well as a savoury Filthy Dirty Anchovy Martini. Plenty of punters will be reeled in with this one, contact us at [email protected] for priority bookings.

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Speakeasy Schnitzelhaus under one Austrian cultured roof in Soho

Speakeasy Schnitzelhaus under one Austrian cultured roof in Soho

January 23, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

When Austrian culture is replicated over here it’s all cartoonish bosom wenches in dirndls with frothy steins in Tyrolean mountain huts, which is fun, but there’s a lot more going on in that country that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. Ed and Ben Robson, inspired by recipes found from their Austrian grandparents, decided to launch a schnitzelhaus that erred more on the side of sleek minimalism than après ski cheese. There’s even a speakeasy slinging spritzes in the basement, and for those who haven’t indulged in a spritz, you’re in for a treat. The upstairs room features communal benches, muted colours and a beer tap at the far end of the room pouring out their bespoke amber lager, compliments of the local Camden Town Brewery. Dishes basically revolve around the schnitzel. You have a choice of chicken, pork or rose veal – all of which can be pimped out with egg, capers or anchovies and complemented by a range of sides like frites, sauerkraut and spatzle, the Teutonic cousin of mac ‘n cheese. The schnitzels tick all the boxes: paper thin, crisp and golden. However, other areas of the menu deserve attention. Frittaten (pancake soup) makes an appearance, as does smoked eel with bitter leaves, bacon and quail’s egg. 

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Soho's Caribbean wonder The Rum Kitchen

Soho's Caribbean wonder The Rum Kitchen

January 23, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Fans of Notting’s Hill’s popular Caribbean joint The Rum Kitchen will want to direct their attention to Soho, where the sequel has been launched in technicolour! Both imbibers and those looking to satiate post-office hunger will be well looked after, it boasts the same mellow island vibe as its older sibling and promises to wash away the workaday blues. The design, orchestrated by 44th hill, is a kaleidoscopic acid trip of garishly bright colours, West Indian knick-knacks and corrugated iron. Cocktails take pole position at Rum Kitchen, with signatures like the Rattle Skull Punch (which does what it says on the box) and the soothing Rumbution (with a coconut prescription that intoxicates as much as it cools the mouth). The kitchens are spearheaded by Jones Quaynor (Cottons, Boisdale) and churn out popular Jamaican dishes with panache. On our visit we were particularly enamoured with saltfish fritters with a grilled lime and chilli jam that delivered both the sweet and the heat. The other apples of our eyes were a rich seafood gumbo with squid, prawns, cod, clams and a crispy slab of cornbread. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the classic jerk chicken on the bone, best accompanied by an order of sweet potato fries to sweep up the sauce. A caramelized banana pud with butterscotch sauce and ice cream was a nice, rich conclusion to the meal, and ambrosial when washed down with a vintage expression of the eponymous booze.

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Mayfair's new dining concept Lanes of London

Mayfair's new dining concept Lanes of London

January 16, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

It’s been many moons since Park Lane has witness the launch a new dining concept, which is why the opening of Lanes of London is being met with such alacrity by the foodie set. Branching out from its Mayfair environs to incorporate cuisine from many different lanes within the capital, with Indian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and classic British all well represented (Brick Lane, Edgware Road, Kingsland Road and Portobello Road respectively). They’ve enlisted the efforts of design firm Blacksheep to trick out a late Edwardian mansion block with a beautiful amalgam of marble, traditional leaded glazing, oak, brass and antique detailing – giving the room a well-worn Art Deco finish. Head chef Anshu Anghotra will be doing the heavy lifting in the kitchen, and having acquired his cooking chops working underneath Raymond Blanc at Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, he looks to be hoisting like Schwarzenegger. Delicious dishes on the menu include beef brisket sliders with roasted bone marrow and horseradish cream; confit duck hash with fried egg and HP sauce; minced lamb skewers with smoked baba ganoush and green papaya salad with pork, prawn, peanuts and a spicy lime sauce. Possibly one of the most alluring facets of Lanes of London, however, is that it comes in at a very reasonable price point, especially for its location – perfect for lunches or a boozy dinner before hitting the Mayfair clubs.

 

 

 

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Ember Yard

Ember Yard

January 16, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Salt Yard opened its doors in Fitzrovia way back in 2006, and since then the group has consistently wowed Londoners with each of their newest openings. As it turns out, Ember Yard follows suit, building on the strength of its predecessors (no need to panic, the courgette flowers stuffed with Monte Enebro make an appearance on the menu) while forging its own identity and path. In this case, the forge is the charcoal grill, with almost every single dish incorporating smoke into its savour. The dining room is dimly lit and seductive, earthy and organic, with dark woods, brass and copper, crystal pendant lighting, autumnal paintings and an open kitchen and bar hardwiring the space with energy and resonance. Drinks, like everything else at Ember Yard, are smoky and a bit sultry. The Bloody Mary is reimagined with gazpacho, tabasco and black smoked salt. The Sazerac combines smoked sherry brandy, peychaud bitters and anise perfume and creates a symbiosis between smoky and sweet. One standout from the menu was the lardo-lashed burger, topped with creamy Idiazabal cheese and chorizo ketchup – a creation inspired by the prized Opera Tavern slider. However, this was topped by a wood roasted gratin of root vegetables, smoked risotto and Idiazabal cream. Unctuous, sumptuous and a bit illicit in its richness. Similarly autumnal, charred cuttlefish with pumpkin and nduja hit its mark, as did a salty salt marsh lamb with roasted aubergine and salsa verde. Make sure to save space for dessert – a warm chocolate ganache salted caramel ice cream was the perfect punctuation to the meal, particularly with a glass of Frangelico to booze it up.

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