Archive for July, 2017

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

Resto 35 The Oystermen Bar & Grill, Covent Garden

July 21, 2017

Oysters are attractive. Not in an aesthetic way (although I’m sure there are those who would disagree) but rather as an idea of what it means to live in London. So I was very happy the the Oystermen were laying on Essex oysters straight out of Maldon. Maldon is a town that recalls deep English history and also personal memories of long car journeys on crap Sundays to see people I still don’t know who they were/are. I’d arrived at the OB&G from the Summer Exhibition where nothing to my untrained eye had the emotional power unleashed by the simple scrawl Oysters from Maldon £2.00.

So we ordered six. Which on arrival turned out to be twelve, I guess they’d assumed we want six each. It didn’t matter, we had the capacity between us for a dozen of salty slithers seasoned with a bit of onion relish. We munched them in the window, observing the passing trade of tourists, workers and a curiously shaped man much gutted, not unwealthy and certainly confused. He passed by a couple of times yet did not seem to have reached his destination. The window of OB&G is a good place to sit and stare and I’m glad that we chose there and not a table.

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Two diners enjoy London’s brilliant parade.

The staff are friendly souls, friendly enough that I didn’t umbrage at a pat on the shoulder but instead reflected that I should be able to cope with physical contact from strangers after four decades of walking the earth. Plaice was next, simply grilled in its entirety (head and all) with samphire, butter and capers. Who couldn’t enjoy that? Chips on the side and a splash of Muscadet in the glass made for a good combination and having gone this far we decided to speculate on dessert.

Dessert was ganache or cheese. Ganache then, I was feeling quite full. Yoghurt ganache but too much of that for someone without the sweet tooth; strawberries and basil leaves worked well though. Did we want a digistif? Yes we did but we also wanted to get on with our evening.

It is a good place. The waiter/manager told me they’d been open for three weeks and I hope they make a go of it. Covent Garden has an awful lot of crap but the Oystermen aren’t involved in that scene, they cook straight up good food and serve it well  at a reasonable price for the area. I hope they thrive.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 34 Chaseside Indian Restaurant, Enfield

July 19, 2017

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Warning: This post contains language.

Improbably finding myself in Enfield with a couple of friends on a Tuesday night and fairly refreshed we went in search of food. Chaseside Indian fitted the bill, it was that kind of evening.

We were surprised at how busy the room was until Tariq spotted the lure – Mondays and Tuesdays offered starter, main, side and stodge (rice or naan) for  £10.95 a head. No wonder the joint was packed with bargain hunting suburbanites.

We took a seat and surveyed the menu. This was stripped down to the classics so I went for onion bhaji, chicken naga, channa masala and rice. But first, lager. On tap there was Cobra. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Cobra but even after a day on the sauce this tasted rank. We struggled manfully through half a glassful each before giving up and asking if they had anything else. To his credit the waiter readily acknowledged that the beer was off (in that case why did he serve it in the first place you might ask) and replaced it with a bottle of Kingfisher. Serenity returned to the table.

The food was good enough, the bhaji being the highlight, the rest being adequate. I hadn’t been aware of our causing any out of the ordinary disturbance but halfway through the meal we were interrupted by a neo-Puritan of the old-baggish variety approaching our table to deliver a diatribe about our language. It was too ripe apparently.

Rather than take the obvious path of telling her to fuck off we apologised fulsomely. Perhaps too fulsomely? I hope fulsomely enough to make her feel that her journey had been worthwhile but also fulsomely enough to indicate to the chuckling couple next to us that we were taking the piss.

Told off for swearing in Enfield! Rather like being reprimanded for being overweight in Disneyworld. We settled the bill (under fifteen quid a head), made our excuses and left.

5/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 33 Pall Mall Fine Wines, Haymarket

July 16, 2017

We had a short window for lunch so fell back on an old favourite in Pall Mall Fine Wines in the Royal Opera Arcade. In the centre of tourist London this is a tranquil oasis where you dine on simple food in a calm atmosphere. Being wine merchants they have an excellent selection to choose from and simple plates of charcuterie and cheese to nibble on while you do that.

At lunchtime they have an offer of two glasses of house white or red and a mixed plate of cold for a bargain 15 quid. The ideal accompaniment to an hour of conversation and far more civilized that paying a similar amount of money per head for a sandwich and a can of Coke in the Pret around the corner. With charming service it mystifies me as to why PMFW isn’t more popular.

9/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 32 Great Court, British Museum

July 9, 2017

The Great Court used to be a family favourite when it first opened at the beginning of the millennium. However, over the years its standards declined quite markedly as it seemed to lose a sense of purpose – did it want to be a destination restaurant or did it want to be the kind of place the average tourist would think to pop into with the kids? But I’d heard good things since its revamp under Benugo management and as we were there for an evening of Hokusai (highly recommended) we thought we’d give it a go.

The ‘room’ of course remains unchanged. Nestled under Foster’s great glass roof though sadly one can no longer see into the Reading Room.* The décor is light and airy with generously-sized tables. Service at first was a little slow but improved subsequently. I went for the themed Japanese inflected dishes, starting with a teriyaki swordfish and finishing off with a green tea mousse. The swordfish was delicious but beware, it comes sans stodge; I was glad to have laid in a round of bread and butter on the side. I’m not much of a dessert man but this one I demolished very quickly, aided by an inspired decision to get a Grand Marnier to go alongside it.

With a bottle of wine the bill came to around forty quid a head which is not cheap but did reflect good value for the quality of food and ambience. I’ll be back.

8/10

#Food #London

*As an aside it’s an absolute disgrace that the Reading Room, one of the great sites of global intellectual history, is no longer open to the public. I do hope the new Director has plans to re-open it.

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

Resto 31 Millennium Balti, Leamington Spa

July 8, 2017

Having done Baba’s during Euro 2016 it was time to try their over the road rivals at The Millennium Balti. My first, indeed only, disappointment was that The MB wasn’t crewed by a Wookie but rather by a very charming young Asian feller. He did himself no harm in the tipping stakes by taking the opportunity of my son nipping to the loo to tell me that he recognised him as a regular who was ‘nice and quiet’. What this ambiguous statement actually meant I pondered then decided that it was a compliment.

On to the food. Popadoms with a choice from four chutneys were demolished tout de suite. As was a big bottle of Tiger (a snip at £2 odd), it being one of the hottest days of the year. Onion bhajis were perfect – not too greasy and a good lead in to a Chicken Rezalla which had the required amount of heat without being devastating. Despite the scorching weather a steady stream of customers came in through the door, a testament to the quality of Millennium’s offer. And at under 15 quid a head it was extraordinary value given that we’d had two rounds of drinks.

So how does it compare to across the road? Well, it doesn’t have the crazy edge that comes with King Baba’s random conversation generator approach to customer service, and I’d say that the whole product in terms of food, décor and service is at a superior level.

However, there is a place for Baba’s less polished style and so I’d encapsulate the two in this legend:-

Baba’s for mates, the Balti for dates.

8/10

#Food #LeamingtonSpa

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


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