Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

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

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


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