Resto 45 Ristorante Villa 600, Torcello

August 20, 2017

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We were in Torcello on the recommendation of a friend to see the churches. Torcello Cathedral, pictured below, is quite easily the greatest work of art that I saw during our stay in Venice. Outside it’s a great barn of a thing that is an extraordinary sight in modern times as you approach the island. Imagine what impact it would have had in the eleventh century.

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Torcello Cathedral, a maginicent sight.

If you think the outside is extraordinary wait till you go through the door (sadly something that few tourists manage owing to the extortionate 5 euros entry fee.). Above the door a three storey high mosaic of the Day of Judgement, complete with a bonk eyed devil ordering the consumption of identifiable rotters by various fabulous beasts and demons while the saved polish their nails on the other side and go, ‘Good riddance.’ Above the altar Christ in Majesty and the Apostles and Saints ranged in equally spectacular glory. Utterly breathtaking. And then a troop up the bell tower for a great vista of the Venetian marshes which gives you a perspective on the isolation of the founding community when it came here in the (not so) Dark Ages. All that culture made me hungrythirsty.

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The Devil.

My friend had also recommended a restaurant, the Locanda, but it was shut owing to it being Assumption Day. Fortunately Villa 600 was open across the way and although they seemed reluctant to take on extra diners at first (I’m guessing the staff wanted to get along to the festival at some point, we’d seen a bunch of musicians arriving all day on the boat) the waiter kindly gave us a splendidly appointed table in their shady garden. The rest of the clientèle was mostly Italian, a good sign.

We four ate like kings. First up we shared a mixed seafood antipasti. When we ordered one only he did seem a little crestfallen and when it arrived we found out why. A prawn, no matter how king-sized it is, is not easily quartered. We should have got a couple of platters. However, we managed, and sloshed a bottle of Pinot Grigio as we did so.

For main the turbot was a magnificent thing, a big chunk of fishmeat cooked to perfection with courgette crisped and a bean sauce. Nay stodge but we were loading on bread so that was okay. The mixed salad was a dress your own affair and all the better for that. I sprinkled a bit of balsamic, olive oil and pepper on that and it was good.

A second bottle was near termination by now and we were in an expansive mood. Yes, we would like dessert, we very much would. Sorbets with liqueur seemed a winner. I plumped for the pistachio. It was like the ice cream soup of your dreams, staring up at me like a crocodile’s eye. I wanted to linger over it but it tasted too good, I wolfed it down greedily.

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Pistachio sorbet. Looks like a crocodile, tastes like heaven.

By this point I was glad I’d been for a run in the morning. Coffee next. Proper espresso. And what about grappa? When the waiter said they had two kinds of home made grappa it seemed rude not to take an option on both of them so we did that. One was golden and slightly briny, smooth like a real tequila. The other was white and flavoured with rosemary from their own herb garden. I supped and tried to decide which was the better. They were both good.

It was a treat, and at €50 a head objectively it wasn’t cheap. But it was the kind of meal that was not just a highlight of this holiday but of holidays for years to come and I didn’t begrudge giving a decent tip. We got back on the boat to visit the hell that is Burano before making an inspired decision to decamp to Mazzorbo for a glass of wine at the Venissa Ristorante. Also recommended. Go to Torcello, it really is worth the hour long boat ride.

9/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 44 Hostario All’Ombra, Venice

August 19, 2017
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Apologies for the blurry shot, it was taken during a morning jog.

Famished after a hard day’s art-looking we couldn’t get a table at the three places nearest our hotel so we had to widen our scope to a more touristy part of Venice, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. This is a proper high street with shops and restaurants intermingled and we just plumped for the closest on Hostario All’Ombra.

Don’t let the picture fool you, it looks a lot more glamorous in the evening when they have shutters up and plenty of tables out on the street for you to watch the world go by. The menu is a standard selection of Italian fare with. I made a mistake by going for pizza. Theirs wasn’t a patch on Vecia Gina’s, it was bland and doughy with a scarcity of topping. Fellow diners who’d opted for liver and squid ink pasta respectively were far more satisfied though so I guess my tip would be to stick to trad Venitian fare rather than the Neapolitan pizza.

The service was idiosyncratic I’d say … the manager (I assume) gave us a burst of dialect Venetian in what could have been a rather unnerving way but wasn’t. Otherwise the wine was pretty good for the price and there are worse places to go on this street. We had a villanous set of drinks in Bar Cin Cin up the road that rather improbably nearly put me off booze for life.

7/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

#food #Venice

Resto 43 Caffè la Serra, Venice 

August 15, 2017

Having consumed plenty of hotel buffet breakfast we were looking for a quick bite, and more importantly cold beer, in between Biennale sites. Talk of dick-walloping muppets* in the Finnish pavilion put us in a merry mood and so when it came to ordering we weren’t organised at all.

But rather than getting the rats our waitress was charm itself and returned when we’d focused attention on the important stuff.

This was a good slug of draught lager with a  sandwich classico (or croque monsieur) for me and Kas, and ‘salad pies’ for the rest. We speculated about what salad pies could be. Turned out they are a kind of quiche so all good. As was the croque. We sat half shaded, half scorched in the garden with other Biennale goers.

So, the Biennale? I might blog on it if I can summon up the energy. My top three were the Finns (natch, I didn’t know what the sh*t it was about but it was a fun ride), the Austrians (interactive sculptures are always a winner in my book) and the Uruguayans, who followed up last year’s hole in the ground with a wooden animal pen this.

8/10

*Kas’s summation. I think it was described  as a playful investigation of contemporary society or some such in the blurb.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

#food #BiennaleArte2017

Resto 42 Vecia Gina, Venice

August 15, 2017

Dog tired and hungry after a day of travel we were looking for good, simple food within staggering distance of our digs. And we found it at Vecia Gina.

A terrace from where we could watch the local kids play football was where we sat under a crepuscular sky. We went big on the order. Three plates of antipasti, a salad and two pizzas.

The antipasti – three helpings – arrived quickly, followed seemingly immediately by the rest of the food, necessitating a complex rearrangement of wine and table items to fit them all on. It looked liked the world’s largest tapas.

But it tasted good. Quality meat,  big carves of melon (I could see the cook cutting up a fresh one in the kitchen) and plenty of salty cheese. The pizza had an excellent crispy base and a decent smattering of sausage. Wine was passable but cheap.

The food had been delivered in such a hurry that we assumed they were closing imminently. But no, closing time was 10.15 so we laid in another bottle and chatted in the dark, enjoying the warmth of the Mediterranean and the light nibbles of hungry mosquitos.

7/10

#food #Italy

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 41 Restaurant du Musée d’Orsay, Paris

August 13, 2017

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Day two of the Paris trip saw us take the easy option in the face of mucky August weather and stroll the short trip to the d’Orsay for art and food. Of all the places in the world this is the worst in my experience for selfie arseholes. Unlike at the Louvre where much of the art is on a colossal scale and thus less prone to being ruined by a gurning fool standing in front of, say, Liberty Leading the People, the overwhelming majority of art in the M d’O is domestic in scale and poorly equipped to resist the morons. The unoriginality of this observation doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

My sensitivity to such things may have been heightened by the fact that we’d skipped breakfast with an eye on having a two hour lunch to prep for the journey back to Blighty. I was hungry and anxious. It tipping down with rain we went to the Museum’s restaurant despite having had a rather crappy experience last time round. Our waitress was of the type to soothe scowls and restore order, a rather rare breed.

This time, arriving at the stroke of midday, we weren’t packed in a side room next to a coachful of excitable Japanese tourists but rather had a prime spot in the magnificent old ballroom. If only they’d ditch the garish chairs though, they look like some remnants from a line that Ikea ditched as a failed experiment in 1995.

To the food, another set menu with up front a rabbit terrine. This did the job, a thick slab of meatiness with plenty of bread to go with. For main grilled salmon with couscous wasn’t as effective on the flavour side of things but again was generous enough in size to make me forget I’d missed a meal earlier in the day. But where was the veg? I was beginning to see why the people at Sequana grew their own, perhaps it was the only way they could ensure a regular supply.

As we moved through the courses I observed the queue to the restaurant growing and growing while our waitress manfully tried to serve, clear and do the billage for about twenty tables all by herself. This crazy system whereby the staff don’t have a minion to carry out the menial tasks may be due to restrictive work practices or a desire to skimp on wages. Either way it’s stupid and not apt to make for happy diners. Not that I cared, I had a table. But the businessman in me (there is one in there somewhere) was weeping for all that lost revenue.

We spurned dessert and took coffee, which was excellent. And then to the Orangerie, the rain having stopped, to join a whole bunch of Nymphéa-ruining arseholes. Aargh.

7/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 40 Sequana, Paris

August 12, 2017

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I’d booked Sequana in advance on the basis of it’s location by the Pont Neuf and after reading excellent reviews on G**gle. It’s run by a husband and wife team who produce a six or four course tasting menu with matching wines for a very reasonable number of Euros per head for this area of Paris.

The room is charming although those of a nervous disposition might take the spiral stairs to the jakes at the beginning of the evening rather than after four glasses of wine. We were dining in the company of a smattering of tourists from around the world of many different ages. I liked it, it felt convivial.

Before we commenced the four courses we were given an amuse bouche of radish by the chef, which was a nice palate cleanser to begin. Then the main event. I chose the lobster starter and I chose well. A delicious claw of the crustacean swimming in a sweet soup with delicate pieces of courgette and fresh leaves dotted around. Forgive me if I don’t mention all of the wines (we had three), it’s not because they weren’t excellent that I can’t remember them, it’s just that I don’t remember them!

Next up was duck done two ways. Making it a double duck day, no bad thing. This was also excellent with confit canard hiding under slivers of grilled breast. Alongside there was plenty of veg and everything served with a delicious home made sour dough bread. Course three was the cheese. But a rather surprising combination of a yummy sheep cheese alongside a goat’s cheese ice cream. I have to say I was less impressed with the ice cream, which to my tongue tasted mostly of salt and lacked the punchy whiff of the goat. We considered getting a goat for the garden.

This goat blot was erased by the excellence of the Ardbeg ice cream which rounded off the meal. Served with a Basque pastry it was the most delicious ice cream I have ever had bar none. Smokey and sweet and just perfect. With the dessert came a Chinese tea which I really wished would turn itself by the power of my mind into a Grand Marnier. I stared at it but it resolutely refused to become a big goblet full of orange and ice. Oh well, I sipped my tea.

Our maitre d’/waiter (husband of the chef I think) was very attentive and clearly passionate about the food, much of which had been grown in their own garden. This passion and care for the food clearly came through in the cooking and in the way that the wine complemented each course. However, this is a slow food evening, if you book here you aren’t going to make it to the theatre afterwards. But it being August everything cultural (barring museums/galleries/cinemas) in Paris was off to festivals so we weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere else. Although the Dutch guys to our left who chose the six course option were still munching when we left at eleven.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

 

 

Resto 39 Au 35, Paris

August 12, 2017

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Day one of an overnight trip to Paris and we were looking for a light lunch before attacking the Louvre. Galettes were spurned as being too heavy so we took a punt on Au 35 to deliver. It did so well enough. The room is nice and light and most of the clientèle on our visit seemed to be locals, despite the fact that half of the businesses around were shut pour les vacances.

There was a set menu of two courses for under €20 that contained things that we liked so we went for that. First up for me was a cucumber salad with feta. There was a generous dose of feta and cucumber but I was underwhelmed by the single wee cherry tomato quartered and dotted around the plate. It tasted fine but I’m not Kate Moss and would have liked more of everything. I loaded up on bread.

The main was much more satisfying – a hefty leg of duck in a rich, sticky sauce. Underneath were a couple of herby modestly sized spuds. But again, I was wondering where the veg was? A few green beans perhaps? It slid down well enough though, helped along by some Viognier.

Service was excellent, happy to indulge my French and pleasant in that professional Parisian way. Would I recommend? Yes, if you want a restaurant feel but café-sized eats (if you see what I mean) but not if you’re looking to load up for a 4 hour art binge.

7/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 38 St John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

August 8, 2017

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To my shame I only became a client of St. John in 2017. My first visit was a literary lunch at their Bermondsey branch but that was a freebie so not subject to the rules.  Such was the excellence that day that when my friend suggested we try out SJB&W for a late supper I was very happy indeed.

It being late-ish on a Monday trade wasn’t brisk but that didn’t matter. The room is stripped back yet homely, you feel that everything about the design has been thought through but not in a twattish Soho way. The menu is pleasingly brief – around a dozen or so small sharing plates and then half a dozen bigger ones with a couple of specials on the board. I could have eaten anything or everything on there – St John is the place to go if you want to get out of a dining rut.

Famously, offal is king at St John and we had sweetbreads (I wanted to lick the plate the gravy was so good) from that side of things. But the veg is good too, kohlrabi was beautifully crispy crunchy. I was wishing I’d got one to myself. Half a mackerel with horseradish and beetroot made me want to cry with pleasure. Cheese to finish off was a bit of a bridge too far but I managed to squeeze some down.

Service too was outstanding. From our table I could see the chefs at work in the kitchen and at one point observed them debating the state of the pig skin. The waitress brought the dish to the table and told us that the chef wasn’t happy with the level of crunch: we wouldn’t be charged for them but they left it to us to try it out and see what we thought. I thought they tasted delicious, especially dipped in a sauce that was like a pumped up HP (and I don’t mean that as a criticism, HP sauce is the sauce of the gods). They were however chewy as hell so chapeau to the chef, he called it right. I was still glad we had them though.

The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced – we had a bottle Alsatian white at around 26 quid followed by a beautifully deep glass of Cahors red with the fromage. It was one of those evenings where everything went right; even the error added texture. I’ll be back.

Oh, and the bread! I want to go back as soon as I can please.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 37 Walnut, Finsbury Park

August 2, 2017

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I was disappointed to find that the previous occupant of this site had closed a couple of months ago when I  was in search of my usual post-seminar, pre-quiz meal of pizza, Nastro and rocket salad. What had put paid to the outfit I’m not sure as there always seemed to be a steady enough stream of customers. I’m hoping that Walnut, the new restaurant, endures as this was an excellent meal.

It being early evening it was pretty quiet. The room hasn’t been altered much except the seating is now a mixture of café style and more formal dining (though not overly so). We warmed up with a round of cocktails (£5 in happy hour, worth doing as a post-work wind down on their own) while we had a look at the menu.

The selection on offer is big enough without making your brain ache. I went for the starter special of razor clam (one of my favourite things) in a salad with bacon. The clams weren’t drowned out by the salty bacon and the whole thing was despatched very quickly. The main of hake was perfectly cooked with plenty of crispy green beans propping it up. We shared some noticeably good chips (truffle and parmesan gave them a bit of oomph) and I wished I’d had a bowl to myself.

Alongside this a bottle of Pinot Gris was delicious and reasonably priced for the quality. Did we have room for dessert? Probably but we also had an eye on meeting friends down the road so we got the bill. Service was friendly without being too chummy and we left happy. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

Resto 36 Hanna Maria, Finsbury Park

July 25, 2017

We were looking for pre-quiz eats but it being a Monday most of Finsbury Park’s more refined venues were closed. So we turned to Hanna Maria, which has been around for a long time but which I’ve never visited before. My only previous acquaintance with it was Luca the Pizzaiolo from our football team. He had a dynamite right foot but was a determinedly erratic attender of football matches.

Thus service at Hanna Maria would make Luca proud. On arrival the man making the pizzas, having no English, gave us the Italian equivalent of a Gallic shrug before we sat ourselves in the back room. The room is a bosky bricolage delight. Past old album covers suspended from the ceiling one steps into a log-pannelled den facing a surprisingly well-appointed bar. I liked it.

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Eventually someone appeared to give us menus and after some confusion we ordered. Pizza is king at Hanna Maria and they have plenty of toppings listed. We took half a metre to share and though we picked two different toppings I couldn’t discern where one started and the other finished. It didn’t really matter, the whole thing tasted really good. Crispy charred dough around the edges and plenty of good stuff on top.

The side salad was bigger than expected and though it contained raw red onion (I spurned it) this was mitigated by some excellent olives. The Pinot Grigio was drinkable but nothing more. Several people popped in to ask us if our food was okay, which it was, but when it came to getting the bill we had to go up to the desk. For twenty quid a head it was good enough value for a filling dinner with booze on top.

So I’d recommend HM but with the proviso that you’re not in a hurry. The pizza is excellent but Luca’s spirit lives on in the randomness of its delivery.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


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