Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Resto 30 Café Gandolfi, Glasgow

June 29, 2017

With a rather forbidding exterior (but then Glasgow is that kind of city) Café Gandolfi is surprisingly light and airy inside. A high raftered room and homely knick knacks and art around the room make for a warm atmosphere that is supported by friendly staff and the feeling that this is a place people return to time after time.

We kicked off with excellent gin and tonics while mulling over the grub. It’s big on local seasonal ingredients so I went for an asparagus and pea risotto which was absolutely delicious. A reasonably priced bottle of Muscadet helped that down after a few days worth of conference booze. An excellent culinary farewell to Glasgow where I failed to have a bad or even mediocre experience all the time I was stayed.

Though not reviewable within the rules special mention should also go to Gordon Street Coffee who provided me with breakfast rolls and excellent coffee three mornings in a row. If only my home city’s mainline stations could boast such excellence in their coffee provision I’d be a much happier Londoner.

8/10 for both

#Food #Glasgow

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

Resto 29 Paesano, Glasgow

June 28, 2017

In my brief visit to Glasgow I experienced three world class works of art that nearly reduced me to tears. The first was Seurat’s Boy Sitting in a Meadow in Kelvingrove. Every piece of Seurat’s that I’ve seen is memorable but this is the primus inter pares. Off-kilter simplicity that left me incapable of description. So I just sketched it and wrote ‘This is genius’ at the top edge where he has a strip of abstract sky and ‘As is this’ in the centre of the field which thrives under your eyes. It’s hard to explain.

The second was Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea in the Hunterian. There’s a certain similarity of atmosphere to Seurat’s canvas in that we are witnessing a moment in time, a moment of exquisite stillness. There’s also a similarity in that although both contain a significant human figure it’s the details of the background that grab the attention. In this case the red card table (with its typically open drawer), the brown teapot and the whisp of steam rising from its spout. It is perfection.

It is also flanked by two quieter masterpieces of a Cellar Boy and  Scullery Maid. These are fine pieces of characterisation and empathy. By contrast to the Dutch Masters’ depiction of servants (excepting perhaps De Hooch) Chardin always makes us empathise with his subjects rather than objectify them. And his servants have as much dignity as their masters. I like that.

The third is the pizza dough at Paesano’s. We were seated (after a bit of a wait but we hadn’t booked) next to two tubs of fermenting dough. And then the finished product arrived. Two rough discs of beautifully cooked pizza that I could quite happily have eaten without any topping. But the topping was good too – one of tuscan sausage and asparagus, the other spicy pepperoni and peppers. It was the best pizza I’ve ever had, simple as that. Salads on the side and a bottle of red made me happy, as did the service from cheery Glaswegians.

9/10

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

Resto 28 Café Andaluz, Glasgow

June 28, 2017

Owing to the travails of a 5 hour train journey followed by pre-conference socialising my exact recollection of Café Andaluz is rather vague. My chief recollection is of a lot of food for your investment (set menu of six dishes for £16 quid or so a head) and decent wine. I can’t remember the service so it must have been fine.

?/10

#Food #Glasgow

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

Resto 27 Assaggetti, Haymarket

June 14, 2017

On a sunny Monday lunchtime we strolled to Assaggetti tempted by their lunchtime offer of two courses for £16.95. It was a good choice. The room is massive and a trip to the loo can add significantly to your step count if you’re concerned about that sort of thing. Fellow diners were sparse (there’s a lot of competition in this part of London), being mostly office workers as far as I could tell.

The food was good value. Smoked salmon to kick off was a generous enough portion with a drizzle of balsamic and some shavings of sweet onion. The spicy tuscan sausage pizza was delicious and big enough for a larger appetite than I possess. I tried to finish the lot because the crust was delicious but I just didn’t have the capacity. The house white at just over 21 quid a bottle was fine and helped the conversation along.

The one downside for a musically sensitive soul like myself was their decision to play Sting after Sting after Sting. For me a little Sting goes a long way. I didn’t like it. The service however was excellent so if you want a quick cheap lunch around here, and you can tolerate wanky Geordies, Assaggetti isn’t a bad option.

#Food #London

7/10

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

 

 

Resto 26 Bhatti, Covent Garden

May 28, 2017

Half three in the afternoon is a bit of a weird time to go to for a curry but we’d been to a concert and hadn’t had lunch. On our way to Dishoom (which we knew would be open) we were surprised to see that Bhatti, which screams trad Indian, also had its doors open. So we took a punt.

Two other diners and the waiter were the only other souls in the room. Most of the other restos on this stretch of Great Queen Street have gone upscale but Bhatti has stuck to it guns and retains a whiff of the 1970s in its décor. The menu is solid British Indian staples at pretty reasonable prices for this location but how was the cooking?

Mixed. My starter of aloo chat was some watery spuds and lettuce in an insipid sauce. Reports from across the table on the state of the onion bhaji were not encouraging. However, the main of a chicken jalfrezi delivered the required heat if not being altogether a taste sensation. Good naan bread and okra compensated slightly but it was rather disappointing that two chilled mugs couldn’t be wrangled for our Kingfishers – I had to settle for the warm one.

Service was good and it was obvious that they only had a skeleton crew on for the afternoon crowd. I would hope that things improve once the evening session gets started but if you want the trad Indian in this part of London it’s a better option to hang on if you can till The India Club starts cooking.

5/10

#Food #London

Resto 25 Searcy’s St Pancras Grand Restaurant

May 9, 2017

I’d often wondered, as I hurried along to get a Midlands train, who dined in Searcy’s trackside at St Pancras. It seemed a halfway house between the luxury of the Gilbert Scott and the midbrow convenience of Carluccio’s et al elsewhere in the station that couldn’t really work. The door is narrow and you can’t really see inside to get a handle on who your company might be once you’re inside. So we gave it a go at the weekend.

The room is tardis-like, much bigger than you expect, and pleasingly appointed. There are big tables, proper nappery and good, brasserie-style décor. The food is standard bistrot fare too. However, there’s nothing to mark out the restaurant as worthy of note, from food to service. It’s all competent without making you think you must go back so it’s noticeable that most of the customers (on our visit at least) appear to be out of towners who are indeed less than likely to need to go back again. And alas the prices reflect the location rather than the value of the experience. It’s all a bit soulless.

#Food #London

6/10

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

Resto 24 Saki, Crouch End

April 30, 2017

Opposite the now defunct Ohba Leaf Saki is maintaining a solid Japanese option in Crouch End. The elimination of its rival has obviously not harmed business for we were lucky to get a table even at around 6 o’clock. People arriving after us without a reservation were being turned away.

The menu is standard sushi/sashimi, bentos and curries but no ramen as far as I remember. Which was good as it made me try something different for a change. We took a range of appetisers to share which arrived as they were cooked. Duck dumplings were excellent – crispy and squidgy – while the octopus balls (‘When was the last time you had octopus balls?’ badinaged across the table) were okay but not especially life-enhancing. Best of the three was the squid; fluffy batter sweet and hot chilli sauce, made for not sharing, you’ll want the whole plate.

Big food was eel on rice. How I love eel! This was well cooked in a tasty sauce on sticky rice. I wish I’d got some veg to go with it but apart from that it was perfect. Asahi on the side worked fine and for about twenty quid a head this is a good option in a fiercely competitive N8 market.

#Food #London

8/10

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

Saki

Resto 23 Cinnamon, Soho

April 19, 2017

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Between the library and a gig at the Wigmore we were looking for a bit of spice. Soho’s Kingly Street being on the way we took a chance on Cinnamon, which from the outside looks rather too carefully put together in the Bills/Dishoom tradition. I was wrong to have doubts.

It was early evening so the room wasn’t too busy but it soon filled up with mostly local workers and a smattering of tourists. The menu promised classic Indian dishes with a twist (eff). But my eye was immediately drawn to the drinks – £4.80 for a pint of Stella in this part of town is a definite draw! We got stuck in to that while selecting the food.

We shared a plate of lamb shami kebab to kick off – four balls of good stuff with a couple of sauces went down a treat. For main I had an ox cheek vindaloo with masala mash and a dhal to share. The ox cheek vindaloo was a star turn – a good helping of crumbly cheek in a seriously spicy sauce. The masala mash was rather blown away by it and felt a bit unnecessary. I would have preferred a bit more thickness to the dhal but it also had a seriously deep flavour. With an excellent naan to scrape up the juices I demolished the whole lot and wanted more.

The service was excellent throughout and I was completely won over from my initial scepticism. Cinnamon delivers a superior experience to Dishoom at a better price on the same street. And who wouldn’t be happy with that?

8/10

#Food #London #Soho

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 22 Dragon, Crouch End

April 15, 2017

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A Chinese restaurant isn’t the traditional venue for a Good Friday dinner I guess but when you’re in the grip of the perma-hang it’s  a good option. The last time I was in Dragon was at least twenty years ago but it’s a good sign that in a place like Crouch End it still exists. Few other restos in N8 have such staying power.

We got a mixture of starters and then a main each with some mixed vegetables. All of the starters were piping hot and cooked fresh – definitely a good sign in a genre of dining that too often (in my experience) relies on the reheat. We should have got two soft shell crabs as between four of us I was lucky to get a crabnail.

My main of sizzling Szechuan prawn arrived suitably spectacularly and had a good kick of fresh chilli. I should have had a beer but my mind said I’d had enough so we had wine. It wasn’t the best wine but it was quite cheap. In fact the whole meal came in at under 25 quid a head for plenty of food and drinks each.

The room was quiet for a Sunday evening and this is a shame when other places around here are bursting at the seams. The décor may be old-fashioned but the atmosphere was pleasantly calm, and the service was excellent. I think it won’t be two decades before I visit again. For a trad Chinese Dragon does a good job for which more ‘designed’ places in this area would charge you a premium.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 21 Norte by Bilbao Berria

April 12, 2017

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After a dose of cow poisoning from Paris a lighter lunch was called for back in London and tapas seemed a good idea. Norte by Bilbao Berria (irritating name) is a short stroll from the library so we went there. Declining to suck in the noxious London air on the terrace we got a table at the back of the big rustickish room next to a couple of local workers. There being few other diners around it was a bit of a mystery as to why we should be placed cheek by jowl but fortunately the tables are nice and big at Norte and so it wasn’t an issue. For a time.

They do a set menu for 20 quid with a choice of one starter, one main and a side dish. So we went for that. The starters gave you a choice of bread or bread. I went for bread. Across the way’s bread was a few slices slathered with some salty tomato paste. My bread was just bread and a bit of olive oil. The creation of such starters required all the culinary skill of a parking meter.

The mains were better – a good portion of red mullet in sauce and some smoky pork on crushed spuds. Patatas bravas were ok and the green salad was pretty good. But none of it was tempting me to go back and try the à la carte some time. A false start on the wine (we were brought red not white at first) was followed by what could have been some tiresome fiddling around with the credit card machine when it came to paying. As we weren’t in a hurry it wasn’t important but it was just characteristic of the whole dining experience.

Which brings me to the diners on our right! An elderly couple of Spaniards hove into view shortly after we sat down and squeezed in next to us. They proceeded to carry on on their mobile phones like a couple of teenagers on the night bus – completely ignoring one another and chuckling away as they spilled out tinny ‘music’ while watching some shit or other on YouTube. What a pair of old chores.

We decided to take our coffee at Fernandez & Wells in the more civilised ambience of Somerset House.

5/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap


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