Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Resto 4 La Giaconda, Hornsey

February 6, 2018

Hornsey is an area on the up. Developments in and around the New River water treatment plants mean that the High Street is starting to lose its bleakness and gain a level of spangle that will be welcomed by some but strike dismay into others. Pubwise there’s still plenty of pleasant grot to be had but you can also pay £6 a pint if you’re looking for somewhere more upmarket.

So La Giaconda, which predates the March of the Estate Agents, is in an interesting position. Do they make a bid for the new market, or do they stand on their trad Italian values? At the moment it’s the latter.

It being early evening on a cold Sunday there were few customers other than for the takeaway side of the business so we had the pick of the tables. We had for company a guy in a Napoli tracksuit top who muttered ‘Cazzo!’ every time someone went out without shutting the door (it was a very cold draught), which I found lent a welcome layer of authenticity to the atmosphere.

Mixed antipasti up front was very good, plenty of cold stuff with some especially good mozzarella. To be frank the wine (a Trebbiano) was ropey, if not lethally so. Star of the show was a grilled sea bass across the way. My diavolo pizza delivered the required heat and had a good base. They were also happy to make a green salad up for me, which is a plus. The waiter was a charming feller though it was clear that at slow times like this the kitchen is more focussed on satisfying phone orders rather than those in the room. But we weren’t in a hurry so I wasn’t fussed.

The mystery was how they could have made such hideous coffee! It was simply the worst coffee I’ve ever had in an Italian but in an indescribable way. It looked like coffee, and even smelt like coffee. But it tasted like filth. Which is why I knocked a further mark off. My wife, who didn’t have coffee, would’ve awarded a 7.

#food #London

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 3 Prezzo, Trafalgar Square

January 23, 2018

Prezzo

Looking for somewhere near the Playhouse Theatre prior to Glengarry Glen Ross we chose to walk towards Trafalgar Square rather then the cluster of places by Embankment. Prezzo was the first resto we came to and it being January we ducked in for fear of worse weather ahead.

First impressions were not good. The room is cavernous like a provincial airport lounge. And peopled like one too – the air rang with an estuary twang and I realised that we were in the heart of a specific locus of Tourist London.

The menu is standard Italian – pizza, pasta, risotto and a few meaty/fishy things. We like to share a calamari up front but as I was quite ravenous we opted for breaded mozzarella too. The calamari was average, the flaw was in the batter not being crispy enough. The cheese on the other hand was pure evil. Like deep fried Dairylea. It was a struggle to eat it but being a completer/finisher I stuck it out to the end.

Mains were better – pork belly across the way met with a thumbs up while my Vesuvio pizza, if not quite Vesuvian in heat, was at least a recognisable pizza with plenty of pepperoni.

I couldn’t resist getting a bottle of Andrea Bocelli’s Pinot Grigio, as I suspected it might not be worth the 10 quid premium over the house white and wanted to be sure. Were Prezzo scooping the profit or was it Bocelli himself, spurning his public image as the Stevie Wonder of opera (actually, that’s a disservice to Stevie, who is/was a bona fide genius rather than a bland populist) to chisel mid-table restaurant grazers? Well, whoever it was they’re robbing folk, it was on the level of a Tesco BOGOF.

Service was the star of the visit – friendly and efficient for a place this size – and we left with plenty of time to take a digestif in the excellent Ship and Shovell. As to the play, Christian Slater may nowadays resemble a hamster in a toupée but he’s got star power for sure. And a convincing American accent. The rest of the cast lacked the ferocity that I was expecting from a Mamet show – those boys wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes on the IPE.

#food #London

4/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 2 Le Jockey, Paris

January 12, 2018

Having gorged our eyes on Malick Sidibe’s photos of Malian 70s hepcats in the Fondation Cartier (to a cracking soundtrack) we didn’t want to stray too far to get some grub. Le Jockey was among a cluster of cafés at the end of the road and we were drawn in by its bright interior, the décor having a beach-house vibe about it that made a nice contrast to the drizzly grey day outside.

It was the very end of lunchtime so there weren’t many diners in the room and we took a nice booth table next to a gaggle of grannies. The menu is straight up French fare – not complicated but very welcome when you’ve been marching around all day. We both went for the special of onglet, which came with a good slew of chips but no veg, which was a bit of a disappointment. And as I chewed my way through the meat I was reminded of why I haven’t taken an onglet for some time. But at least by jaws got a work out. The sauce was excellent though and I would have liked to have had a bowlful of it.

Dessert (as it was epiphany) was a galette du roi. Crisp flaky pastry and plenty of almonds in the frangipane made for a good way to round off the meal with coffee (Richard seems to have a monopoly in Paris but at least his product is good) on the side. Service from a floppy haired beau mec was excellent and I’d go back to Le J but although I’d splash out on the entrecôte next time, the meal as a whole was excellent value.

8/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 1 of 2018! Pizza Pernety, Paris

January 8, 2018

After a very quiet festive season on the eating side of things (apart from visiting some old haunts like the Gilbert Scott and Bun&Bar) it took me a trip to Paris to try somewhere new for 2018.

With an evening at the excellent Entrepôt in mind we wanted to lay in some ballast against a long evening of Malian music and the local pizzeria seemed a good option. Pizza Pernety wasn’t too busy on a Saturday evening – à emporter seems to be as popular as dining in la salle – so we had plenty of room for our elbows as we perused the menu.

They do pizza (obvs) but also the usual Italian standards for carnivores. I had a tuna pizza and we shared a green salad. The salad was a good size and fresh. The pizza had a crispy base and plenty of topping. The only disappointment was a fairly ropey Orvieto but for around 15 quid a head I guess that was inevitable.

The owner is a bit gruff but friendly and I’d recommend PP for a cheap bite if you’re in the area. And if you are in the area I would especially recommend that you catch some music at l’Entrepôt. World class world music for €10 entry is hard to beat.

#food #Paris #pizza

8/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 74 Il Pescatore, Southend-on-Sea

December 24, 2017

Should you find yourself in possession of a stinking cold while on a train to Southend in mid-December I don’t recommend taking a copy of Sartre’s Nausea as your sole source of entertainment. However, any bleakness induced by the the crapulous Gallic miserabilist was blasted away by the bracing gust of tangy air blowing in off the majestic Thames Estuary as we made our way to a family rendezvous at Il Pescatore.

Of all the restos of my acquaintance in Southend (and I’ve known a few) Il P reigns supreme. From the street, were it not for the legend ‘Italian Restaurant’ printed not one but twice on the frontage, it might be mistaken for a moderately successful insurance office. Inside it is a womb of fuzzy Sicilian nostalgia. Its check floored, kitsch-fish clutterbound walls create an indeterminate mid-twentieth century vibe that is becoming more and more difficult to find in the retro-wank chainstore faux-ethnic filled high streets of Britain.

A warm welcome is a good way to start and we were given a roomy table for three in a nice corner from where I could see the clientèle arrive in a steady stream over lunch. It seemed rude not to take the Christmas set menu at £21 a head for three courses and coffee so we did that. Prawn cocktail up front was everything I expected, which is not to say it was a taste sensation. But it did take me back to the days when I thought Paul Mariner was a God amongst Men.

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Mariner, to use the terminology of the time, sticks it to the Jocks.

Being full of rheum and halfway into a Christmas week binge I went for fish again for main. This WAS high quality eats. Perfectly cooked bream (grilled golden brown, flaking off the bone) with silver serviced veg. House white (Pinot Grigio, clean tasting, good quality) helped that down and we eyed desserts.

Could I really eat more after consuming my own weight in cauliflower cheese? I could give it a go. Affugato is what Irish coffee thinks it sees when it looks in the mirror. A double espresso after that and we were done.

But The Fisherman isn’t just about the food. You come here for the ambience and the service. The ambience is provided by the people of Southend, who know a good thing when they see it. And the service is the reason why they come back, the professionals at Il P are as good as any I’ve met this year.

To cap off an excellent lunch I went to the loo to make sure that Baggio and the boys from the World Cup were still in place. They were. All is good.

8/10

#food #Southend #Italian

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

Resto 73 The Agricultural Hotel, Penrith

December 11, 2017
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The Beacon, Penrith. The world’s stumpiest obelisk.

With time to kill before getting the train back to London I had a few hours to spare in Penrith. Apparently due to the terror threat to the people of the Lakes the train station isn’t doing baggage storage (me neither) so I humped my weekend bag up to the Beacon to earn my pub lunch, thankful that I’d let Sharon and Trav look after the trumpet in the boot of their car.

Lunch was taken in the Agricultural Hotel, picked because it wasn’t showing football. You can go table service or bar meal in the AH and I picked the latter. A pint of Jennings’ Best was the perfect accompaniment to a chicken curry and with a table next to the open fire I’d hit the sweet spot of unpretentious rural dining.

Fellow diners were all locals, mostly opting for Sunday roasts (they looked good, the roasts weren’t bad either (arf)) with a Christmas party in the Saloon. Service was cheerful, it’s easy to see how they’ve built a regular clientèle.

The curry could have been spicier but there was plenty of it with rice, a naan bread (I knew I was back on home territory when they asked if I wanted chips too, thereby achieving the holy trinity of stodge) and mango chutney as sides. A pint of the broodingly dark and powerful Sneck Lifter (a Timothy Dalton of a pint) rounded things off nicely and I was ready for the trip south.

8/10

#Food #LakeDistrict

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

Resto 72 The Fish Inn

December 10, 2017

After a stroll around the glorious Buttermere we worked up an appetite such as us city dwellers rarely possess. The Fish Inn has a very homely look that tempted us in for good pub food.

If there’s a better place to be on a dry December day than Buttermere I’ve yet to find it.

They have local beer, I can recommend the Loweswater (?) Gold, and a selection of classics on the lunch menu (12-2, useful to know). I went for chill con carne. A generous bowl of chilli with lashings of rice on the side. To my delight the chilli had some serious heat to it but also a deep meaty flavour that was very satisfying. There was an old skool salad on the side and I demolished the lot.

The room is unpretentious with local artworks and photographs. In December it was busy enough with fellow walkers and a smattering of locals, I suspect it may be more like Pic Circus in the summer. But with a friendly barman and good service I’m sure they can cope with that.

8/10

#Food #LakeDistrict

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

Resto 71 Brasserie de la Gare, Brussels

November 28, 2017

After a disappointing experience at the Dom it was good to be back in Belgium where there’s usually a more cheery, wonk-eyed welcome. With an hour between trains we went for a quick snack at the Brasserie de la Gare. This was a croque. Billed as a double it was, to be fair, two separate croques but on reduced sized bread that would add up to a single croque in most places. Next to it was a bunch of salad (good).

There’s a good selection of beer, as you’d expect in Brussels, and I took something Trappist that worked admirably with the salty cheese-ham-bread. We had the room to ourselves so I don’t know what it would be like when busy but with a cheerful manager, clean bogs (not always the case in a station bar) and sport on the telly the B de la G is a good option if you’re waiting for a connection in Brussels.

7/10

#food #Belgium #Brussels

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

Resto 70 Dom im Stapelhaus, Köln

November 27, 2017

This post contains justifiable swearing.

Difficult in retrospect to believe but after the Moisssonnier lunch I still had room for a substantial meal in the evening and this time I wanted sauasage. The Dom was selected principally because it was the first place where we found a free table. This may have been due to the fact that our waiter was the rudest individual we encountered during our three day stay in Cologne. 

We ordered a round of Kölsch and looked at the menu. At our inability to select our meal within a nanosecond the waiter stomped off to get our beer. This didn’t bode well. I wanted sausage and I wanted chips; it seemed almost criminal that I’d had neither yet on a trip through Northern Europe. When our tantrummed friend reappeared that is what I ordered. Oh, and more Kölsch. He had a sour look that I couldn’t exactly read but knew wasn’t good. 

The food arrived: sausage, salad and potato salad. I glanced up at the waiter. His shit-eating grin reinforced my suspicion that he’d got the order wrong on purpose (mine wasn’t the only mistake at our table) but I declined to make a fuss and ate my plate clean like a good boy. Perhaps they’d had a rough night of football fans the night before, it’s the only excuse I can make for such outright wankstainery to a customer.

The food was par for a Brauhaus, i.e. simple and filling. We left immediately on finishing to seek friendlier climes.

4/10

#food #cologne #germany

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

Resto 69 Le Moissonnier, Köln

November 26, 2017

The foodie highlight of the week, and one that we’d already booked in advance as a treat, was Le Moissonnier. It was a good job that we booked as the restaurant was completely full soon after we arrived at half twelve. The room, however, is peaceful with solid local business types as fellow diners and thus a discreet distance between tables to avoid anyone overhearing gossip of deals and trade secrets. Dotted around the walls are old French posters and ads and the whole place has the feel of a classic French bistrot à la Vagenende.

As you might guess Le M specialises in French cuisine and has done so for years. Run by a family it feels as though each of the staff have absolute mastery of their role in the business, which makes for a very relaxing customer experience. We kicked off with a sparkling wine from Alsace as an aperitif while perusing the not too extensive menu and munching on high quality bread.

There’s a tasting menu of a fistful of courses but we went à la carte. To start I had perch with pike mousse and a lot of other detail that I can’t go into here. The cooking is classic yet elaborate. My perch had been deconstructed then reassembled into a fishy masterpiece complete with its original tail for decoration. The pike mousse was fluffy and tasty and arrived in its own jar, and then alongside that some vegetables in their own dish. With three crocks per person per course it was a good job that there was plenty of room on the table!

Some thought this level of sophistication was a bit too much but I don’t often go to such high end places so I was happy to indulge. The price of the food was  slightly eye-popping (€50-60 for mains), excellent wine was available at a more modest rate. We took a dry Muscat from Corsica at €40 that was utterly delicious. This was used to wash down ris de veau, which came with mushrooms, plenty of sauce and lots of other nice little touches such as a thin sliver of foie gras on its own cheesy fluff.

By now we were into hour two of lunch but in no mood to call it a day. A dessert of chocolate ‘pizza’ (of course it was a lot more than that) was good but a slight mis-step for someone who isn’t a chocolate fan. Thankfully I had a Gerwurtzträminer to sip while I cursed myself for going against my instinct. I should have gone for the sorbet. A rum for digestif (they specialise in it here) was nearly but not quite a bridge too far but I was happy enough with that and a perfect little coffee to round off. All I was lacking was a cigar for the walk home.

This was an excellent experience but not one that my credit card could handle too many times in a season. However, to have come into a womb of sophisticated Frenchness after having spent an evening watching the most turgid Europa League match since the last one in a noisy brauhaus was a most welcome thing. And this on the back of an excellent morning in Cologne’s fine art museum where they had an extraordinary exhibition of Tintoretto. After that it was back to sausageland, the latex girls, Kölsch and a man with a very annoying drill in a terrible hotel bar.

9/10

#Köln #food #Germany

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


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