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Chilli Week at Gaucho

Chilli Week at Gaucho

January 16, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant

The weather was raw and inclement as we descended on Gaucho Smithfield for what was promising to stand out in the annals of gluttony as an evening of masochistic excess. Good thing, then, that we were attending a press dinner that would put a fire in our belly (and admittedly a bit in the colon the following day), as Ketel One’s resident expert David Beatty and Gaucho had combined efforts to develop a special, five-course, cocktail-paired tasting menu calibrated to bring a sheen of perspiration to the hairline, a burn to the tonsils and a smile to the lips, all in the good name of National Chili Week.
 
We were given a nice little table in the fore section of the restaurant. If you’re unfamiliar with Gaucho, it’s an Argentinean steak-led dining concept that has been wildly successful at home with a burgeoning presence in foreign markets. Yep, you guessed it, Dubai. The dining rooms at the various locations are all of a piece, dimly lit and a touch sexy, with cowhide and crystal chandeliers generously apportioned throughout. On the Friday evening the kitchen was doing a bustling trade, churning out sizzling slabs of South American beef at a frenetic pace.
 
We were the last to arrive at the table, and by the time that we had shook hands with our neighbours there were cocktails in our midst. The first, The Vesuvius, shook together habanero infused Ketel One with chipotle chilli powder and floral jelly. It was a trial by fire, separating the men from the boys and the women from the girls. My guest ended up in the latter category, ostensibly a kind of hermaphroditic youth. His remained on the table untouched throughout the evening until I consumed it as a shot before stumbling out into Farringdon, clutching my chest like a cardiac-afflicted geriatric, mewling plaintively for an overdose of Zantac.
 
The rest of the Ketel One cocktails were devised to offset the sweltering burn, which was a relief as there were already cataracts of saliva spilling over my tongue, an oral Victoria Falls. Our bouches were amused with a hot Scotch Chilli chicken broth, served in a tiny little white cup. It felt a bit domesticated after imbibing the aforementioned napalm but was simple and to the point, a nice introduction to the meal. Especially
 
Prawn ceviche with green jalapeno chilli vodka brought a bit more anger into the mouth. Enough so that the notion of punching my guest, who was appearing vaguely smug after abstaining from the initial drink, was becoming morally valid to my thinking. What made me increasingly feral was the following course, a churasco de cuadril (what Evita and Juan Peron would have called a sirloin), slaked in orange and Mexican habanero peppers. The aggression was mounting. Luckily there were a few more courses to put between us and a dangerous walk past the queue at Fabric.
 
A granita of vodka and Krimson Lee chilli helped us to chillax. The titular chillis are from Peru and very mild. It was a nice breather course. This was followed by an unctuous dark chocolate fondant with sultanas, each one of which was infused with Scotch Bonnet chillis. Followed by the fateful (fatal?) shot and the rest of the night, both of which are probably better off forgotten. The best parts of Friday can definitely be chalked down to the hard work of Gaucho and Ketel One. The low parts I attribute to my guest – and myself, I guess, perhaps – but 85% guest. 
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Caprice Holdings Pulls Out The Big Guns with Jackson + Rye

Caprice Holdings Pulls Out The Big Guns with Jackson + Rye

January 7, 2014 By Nick Savage Restaurant,

Alright, so London may be experiencing a bit of collective indigestion from the American dude food trend, but it’s not dead yet, and you can count on serial restaurateur Richard Caring and his Caprice Holdings group to give it the sophisticated shot in the arm necessary to keep it in rude health. Enter Jackson + Rye on Wardour Street… trading in boozy brunches, all day dining, east coast American cuisine and a small ocean of the eponymous whisky, it’s dishing up the kind of experience people often buy flights for, and giving our current fav Soho Kitchen & Bar a run for its money. Caring’s go-to designer Martin Brudnizki channelled Midtown Manhattan elegance with pendant lamps, tessellated tile flooring, olive green banquettes and chairs packed closely together to generate that trademark New York hum, and a sexy bar slinging rye based cocktails in the middle of it all. The burger will make many of ‘Best Of’ shortlists, and the steaks are excellent, but there’s a lot more to the menu than cow candy. Shrimp and grits, buttermilk fried chicken and cornbread all rep the Carolinas, while crab cakes and chowder pay homage to New England. We’d be remiss not to mention the desserts, which include peanut butter cookie sandwiches with chocolate sauce and a ridiculously tasty melting chocolate sundae with butterscotch sauce. Best thing of all? They accept bookings so you don’t have to queue in the January weather.

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Top 5 Fine-Dining Restaurants for London Visitors

Top 5 Fine-Dining Restaurants for London Visitors

January 6, 2014 By Restaurants Nick Savage

Scott’s /J Sheekey / The Ivy – Richard Caring is one of Britain’s premier restaurateurs, and as well as having a handsome smile and a suntan to rival vintage Don Johnson, he also lays claim to a billion dollar fortune and at least three of London’s quintessential fine dining establishments. If you’re travelling to London and want to get a taste of its upper crust, ensure your wallet is well padded out and then head straight to Scott’s, J Sheekey or The Ivy. Between them, this gourmet holy trinity has been attracting stars, royalty and politicians for nearly two centuries. Each chair and table seems to be worn with significance, copper bars wear the patina of dangerous liaisons, and you’d be hard pressed not to notice a face familiar with a camera lens. These are the types of restaurants where power resides, parliamentary majorities are made or lost, and tabloid scandals have a tendency to appear. On top of all of this, the food is damn near perfect too.
 
Other possibilities: The Wolseley, The Delaunay
 
Dinner By Heston – Heston Blumenthal quickly stepped in to fill the void left when Big Sweary Ramsay crossed the pond to make his mark on American telly – and now has established himself as the national treasure of Brit fine-dining. If you’re popping into London for a visit, why not apprise yourself of some of the molecular delights that have made their way into Famous Feasts? Case in point is the meat fruit at Dinner by Heston, one of the most sophisticated chicken liver parfaits in the land, impeccably crafted to resemble a glossy tangerine, which in fact is a mandarin jelly casing (paying homage to the resto’s location to within the Mandarin Oriental Hotel most likely). It takes its inspiration from the Tudor era trend of sending up diners’ expectations with dishes that mimic another food altogether. Each of Blumenthal’s creations are listed with the time period in which they were most popular, ranging from the 15th century up to the present, however executed with all of the finesse and gastronomical wizardry that has become Heston’s calling card, by head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, who won the restaurant’s second Michelin star in 2013.
 
Other possibilities: The Ledbury, Marcus Wareing
 
Le Gavroche – Le Gavroche opened its door in 1967 and now, nearly half a century after, it tops the list of perennially booked out eateries. If you can manage to finagle a table reservation, don’t ever cancel it, and prepare to experience the restaurant that launched the career of culinary luminaries including Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing. It’s a family affair, founded by brothers Albert and Michel Roux Sr with Michel Roux Jr, no stranger to Masterchef followers, as the current chef patron.  What’s on the menu, you might be asking? French cuisine par excellence, the kind that will swell your stomach and tighten your arteries, a couple of which have been around since the restaurant’s opening, such as the Soufflé Suissesse, the famous cheese soufflé cooked on double cream. The dining room is what you might call vintage. It’s a white table clothed affair with carmine hued seating, with a waiting staff of such plurality that they nearly outnumber the diners.  For a bite of masterful, historic fine dining, sink your teeth into Le Gavroche. 
 
Other possibilities: The Square, The Greenhouse
 
Sushisamba – There have been a spate of high-flying openings in the City of late, and while, in lesser locales, skyscraper dining can err on the side of cheesiness, London has very few offerings with views of its cityscape and they really are a thing to be cherished. Sushisamba is one of the best. Guests are whisked to the summit of the building in an external elevator ascending with unbelievable swiftness, with London’s landmarks including St Paul’s and Big Ben revealing themselves as you go. Once there, guests are seated in a towering room with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, bamboo arches arced and latticed with exposed filament lights dangling from them, and the most enviable vistas in Britain. The menu merges Peruvian, Brazilian and Japanese cuisines and doesn’t disappoint, flavours are subtle and seductive, with amazing sushi and dishes like tempura fried green beans served with truffled aioli dip. Those looking to catch some great views of the capital whilst enjoying world-class dining amongst a slick and sexy clientele will have their desires met in full.
 
Other possibilities: Hutong, Aqua Shard, Searcys at The Gherkin
 
Berners Tavern - When Berners Tavern arrived in The London Edition hotel it became an instant classic. The room is beyond striking. Gigantic Edwardian cornices that would pique Louis XIV’s envy descend from a ceiling so high that it seemingly has its own stratosphere, with a towering, amber backed liquor display nearly reaching the ceiling. The walls are packed from floor to ceiling with paintings, intimating that the designer had a hidden talent for Tetris, and the room is bisected by a row of plush leather banquette booths which are some of the most prized seats in the city, and often occupied by a celebrated bottom. Food is prepared in an open plan kitchen with the menu devised by restaurateur Jason Atherton, one of the busiest chefs in London, who opened three restaurants in the capital in 2013 with another planned for 2014. The menu hinges on British grill staples and has received the adulation of critics and public alike. For those who are interested in paying a visit to a hot new restaurant and instant classic, it’s hard to do better than Berners.
 
Other possibilities: Hawksmoor Air Street, Social Eating House
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Mamounia Lounge Mayfair

Mamounia Lounge Mayfair

December 13, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurants,

Mamounia Lounge has long been tantalising Mayfair and Knightsbridge’s upper crust with elegant North African cuisine, sophisticated shishas and lovely libations, and now with the relaunch of the flagship Curzon Street venue there is even more of a pull. The destination den boasts beautiful mosaic flooring, silver leaf ceilings, air perfumed with orange blossom and jasmine, and tables drenched in deep red Moroccan rose petals. It will be exceptionally seductive during the evenings, when the venue will be candle-lit, belly dancers will take to the floor in displays of whirling eroticism, and guest will be plied with potent cocktails, including the excellent ‘Sheik Royal’, an amalgamation of Moroccan orange infused vodka and elderflower, or Mamounia’s signature ‘Gold Digger’. There are plenty of delicious Moroccan sharing plates on the menu, including ‘moutabel’, a smoky aubergine dip blended with tahini, and ‘meshoui’, a slow roasted shoulder of marinated lamb served with dates, oranges and apricots. For those who enjoy indulging in the smoky delights on shisha, Mamounia offers a snug terrace with heated flooring and a canopy, where guests shishas are prepared fresh daily with molasses and ripe fruits like apples, pineapples and melons.

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Rextail

Rextail

December 13, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurants

Arkady Novikov is not a man to rest on his laurels. Following the opening of La Sirena in 1992, he blazed a trail across Russia, and now owns over 50 restaurants employing over 7,000 people. Rextail is his third London opening in as many years. Situated in a long room on Albemarle Street, Rextail bears all the hallmarks of a popular Mayfair eatery. The finish is a particularly high-spec, with an abundance of exposed brick, taxidermy, varnished wood floors and tables, and a plethora of collectibles. It plays out like a fusion of midtown Manhattan and the Khamovniki District in Moscow. There’s a bar in the entrance area serving international-influence cocktails ranging in price from £10-£27. For a posh date after office hours it would fit the bill. Food is prepared at the tail-end of the restaurant, from an open-plan kitchen. There are many dishes on display, and when you take your seat the waiting staff proudly present them to you. These included a roast kid goat and a suckling pig served with caramelised apples. Like the cocktails, the food menu borrows inspirations from diverse cuisines. For starters, we enjoyed and tremendously tasty tuna tartar with koshu dressing and pickled cucumber as well as an octopus and French bean salad, both of which were punchy and delicious. There are an array of excellent steaks from Scotland, Ireland, the States and Australia, all of which are shown to the diner on a butcher’s block. Alternatively, opt for a fish or wood roast. Braised beef shortrib with smoked bone marrow was a revelation, supple yet smoky. There are a variety of desserts on display in the entryway, including a light, airy Russian Napolyeon Tort that has already generated much fanfare. Judging from his track record and the high quality of this opening, it looks like Novikov has created yet another successful restaurant with Rextail. 

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Casa di Fiori

Casa di Fiori

December 13, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurants

Casa Di Fiori, tucked away on Woodstock Street in Mayfair, combines a maximalist design with accomplished cooking to create and overall experience that is one of a kind, in this city at least. Translating as ‘house of flowers’, the dining room is filled with the eponymous blooms, as well as floral-themed chandeliers created by Venetian artists, an array of trinkets and artefacts collected across Europe, baroque furniture and a Wedgwood-inspired, blue and white colour scheme. It toes the line between kitsch and class, stopping just short of sensory overload. The food tones things down a bit. Head chef Mirko Tesolin hails from Venice and exhibits a hard-earned talent at creating refined food. We started with a lobster terrine, its richness cut through with fresh grapefruit as well as a hearty, rich ball of burrata served atop a chequerboard of tomato gelatin and basil pesto – a nice riff on the insalata tricolore. Both were top-shelf. Veal ossobucco with braised saffron risotto was flavourful and tender, the veal shank bathed in a rich sauce which impregnated the rice and increased its savour. Dessert, however, really took the cake. It was one of the best tiramisus we’ve tasted, served with a mix of tuilles and coffee ice cream. While appealing more to the female gender for obvious reasons, Casa di Fiori would be great for a date or catching up with friends.

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Chor Bizarre

Chor Bizarre

December 5, 2013 By Alexandra Ivett Restaurant

Set amongst the white-washed walls of staid Mayfair waits Indian neighborhood favourite Chor Bizarre, a hidden jewel of colour, vibrancy and warmth. Minimalism is off the menu as you enter an Aladdin’s cave of red velvet, market antiques and the wafting scent of incense and take your seats amongst a sea of ornate wood and patterned drapes. It is a setting designed for cosy dinners and lunches, and offers a warm welcome from the biting cold outside.  
 
Named after an Indian ‘thieves market’, Chor Bizarre draws inspiration from the hustle and bustle of a busy marketplace with a specialty winter Old Bombay Street Food Menu. The menu is a range of shareable selections representing the unique flavors and cooking styles of street road hawkers across Indian – a smorgasbord of hot and spicy comfort food in the heart of wintery London. 
 
The menu offers 10 dishes, priced from £5 - £9.50, with a number due to be offered on the restaurant’s permanent menu. We start with the ‘all day snacks’. The first, Bombay Bhel, is rice puffs intensely flavored with spices and chutney and served in a green leaf cone. It is a fun twist on traditional ‘beer food’ – a moreish spicy snack best washed down with a cool drink. 
 
The Bata Wada Pao is another quirky dish worthy of an ongoing role on the menu. An ‘Indian burger’, it offers up a turmeric spiced chickpea and potato dumpling in a soft bun, the warm flavors offset with a spicy peanut chutney sauce. Fans of paneer will be impressed by what we designate the ‘Indian toastie’ – thick slices of crispy bread packed with salty paneer cheese and served with a delicious mint chutney. 
 
It’s not just flavours which get the street food twist, with the menu heavy on unique presentation. The Anda Paratha Roll is served as a wrap – a thin egg layer serving as the wrap encasing a flavourful mix of spiced chicken. It’s followed by the Pao Bhaji, a soft, warming mountain of mashed vegetables which you can scoop up with accompanying toasted buns. Minced lamb, Keema Ghotala, is cut through with egg and served up with lemon to bring out the tangy flavours. 
 
However, it is the street food take on masala curry which deserves a special mention. Delicate pieces of juicy, tender quail are soaked in a rich, creamy sauce, and offer a mouthwateringly finish to this extensive menu. Except, of course, if you have room to squeeze in dessert. 
 
This is evocative dining at its best, the comfort food of Old Bombay served up with warmth by the friendly staff. On our way out we duck into the recently opened Bollywood Basement – a private dining room which pays tribute to Bollywood stars past and present with a sea of glamorous photographs. Matched by the decorative exuberance of a Bollywood set, it seems to have captured the Chor Bizarre spirit – good food, in a lush comfortable surrounding.  
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BBQ For Grown-ups at Foxlow

BBQ For Grown-ups at Foxlow

December 5, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Hawksmoor requires no intro. But if you insist, it’s the off-the-chain steakhouse concept that has taken London by storm. It’s so popular that they’ve created mad buzz for their newest joint simply by not opening a steakhouse. But it’s much more than that. Foxlow is centrally located on the foodie circuit that is St John Street. The brains behind the beefy empire have decided to diversify their portfolio with this entry, opting for both a different design and a more affordable and forward-thinking menu. However, that’s not to say that they aren’t operating on the same principles! The design scheme, for instance, cleaves to their tried and true method of sourcing impeccable materials, utilising 1950s oak flooring and light fittings from a Wigan workingman’s club and chemistry tabletops from a school in Yorkshire. Overall it’s a light and airy design that bears more in common with Scando chic than the moody industrial vibes we’ve become accustomed to. The food marks a major divergence as well, yet still shares the fundaments, those being Ginger Pig cuts prepared perfectly. Opt for the anchovy and goat’s butter crisps to amuse your bouche. They’re already incurring quite a stir on the foodie blogosphere. The pork ‘pluma’, a Madrid style cut, is as well, however it is often unavailable due to sourcing issues down south. The ten-hour short rib contends with London’s best. It gives way slatternly under minimal pressure from the fork and promiscuously beds down with the kim chee. Bacon-dusted fries are a joy, as are soft-serve sundaes, ornamented with oral orgasm inducing toppings. Unfortunately for your beltline, the cocktails are damn near perfect too. We had a Smokestack Mary (gin, tomato, chipotle, smoked paprika, peated Scotch) and the Miami Dolphin (rum, lime, strawberry, pina colada). Very different, but very good. Just like Hawksmoor and Foxlow. 
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Acciuga

Acciuga

December 5, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurant

Whilst we strive very hard to cover everything worth your attention that opens in this fair city, occasionally an opening slips underneath the radar. Acciuga is one such restaurant, and our radar must have been especially faulty at that particularly moment, because it’s definitely worth your attention. Spearheaded by recovering lawyer Guglielmo Arnulgo, Acciuga strives to replicated the simplicity of Ligurian cuisine that he enjoyed from his childhood. The menu hinges upon freshly prepared pasta, meat and seafood, with salient dishes including his garden-green courgette flowers with troffie al pesto, slow cooked veal with caper mayonnaise and a phenomenal Tuscan cuttlefish stew. The room exudes an unadorned elegance, with a monochrome colour palette, clean lines, interesting artwork, and panelled walls in the rear quarter of the restaurant that bring to mind the Coliseum. For neighbourhood, trattoria-style simplicity in High Street Ken, Acciuga hits the mark.

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Earlham Street Clubhouse

Earlham Street Clubhouse

November 28, 2013 By Nick Savage Restaurants

Anybody who knows anything knows that the 90s are the new 80s – and Earlham Street Clubhouse are serving it up by the slice just off of Seven Dials. This new place is replete with prepster signifiers that will make you feel like you’re hanging with friends at Central Perk. ESC is cobbled together out of reclaimed wood panelling, boardwalk signs straight off the Jersey shore, battered suede seating and Coney Island lighting, not to mention retractable cocktail menus that hang from the ceiling and booths tucked away in secret alcoves. There are two forthcoming projects on the way that we’re pumped about. The first is an actual pump, a fuel dispenser to be precise, which will dispense beer so you can dispense with your inhibitions as well as your next-day productivity at work. The second is an app that will let you control the jukebox from your iPhone, circumventing any embarrassing walks of shame to your table after ordering up Kenny Rogers croon-jobs. There’s a cocktail list dreamed up by Soul Shakers with names like Stifler’s Mom, Axel Foley and Cruel Intentions - our fav was the Power Ranger (egg whites, whiskey and red wine – sounds odd but it works). If you need some bread to sup up the wine, there’s a delish range of pizzas on offer to boot. If you’re in the mood for chilled out, slightly cheesy fun, the Clubhouse is a good bet.

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