Resto 29 Café Populaire, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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After a morning at the Joan of Arc Experience I was in the mood for a barbecue. Just kidding! No, we were looking for something for lunch less obviously touristy than the previous evening so we gravitated towards the less picturesque side of town. Café Populaire is a pop up located next to a pleasant square beside a modern shopping centre. The whole square is surrounded by restaurants but I liked the look of CP’s terrace so we plonked out front and looked at the menu.

Not all architectural glories are Gothic in Rouen

Again, this was classic bistrot fare and being less ravenous we opted for a single course each. Onglet is always a risky pick. It can be a mouth-wateringly flavoursome, if slightly gristly, cut. More often in my experience you’d need jaws like Mrs Woof to get through a whole onglet, which is why I’ll never eat in Café Rouge again. But I trusted the folks in Rouen as the menu stated that all meat was sourced locally, and having seen a whole shop earlier that day dedicated to Normandy beef I expected high standards.

My confidence was repaid handsomely. It was a high class lump, yeah there was a bit of gristle but the flesh was generous and tasty. Alongside some spuds but I regretted not having ordered a side salad. To drink there was local cider on offer but I stuck to a glass of red.

Service was very good given that there was soon a good crowd of diners (mostly locals) reaching all the way down into the square and it was a joy to enjoy late summer sunshine and watch the Rouennais go by. I hope they convert the pop up into a permanent establishment. In the slim chance that I’ll be in Rouen again I would go back for an evening service.

8/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 28 Le Bistroquet Chez Cédric, Rouen

September 2, 2018

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A testing day once more on the Eurostar – this time because we were two minutes late for check-in and therefore had to wait four hours for the next train to Paris. And cough up 88 quid for the privilege. In fact they fleeced us so swiftly at St Pancras that we still would have had twenty minutes to board our original train. Instead we had to kill four hours in the rain having got up at 6 o’clock in the morning.

I used to be able to tell people that despite its savage reputation I had never been mugged in London. No more. Fortunately the staff at Gare St Lazare were much more accommodating and gave us a fresh ticket for the connection to Rouen at no further cost.

Thus by the time we got to Rouen we were in the mood for prodigious grub and wine. The cathedral in Rouen is open gratifyingly late (until 7 p.m.) so we had a quick pop in there before scouring for food. Le Bistroquet is on a touristy strip of restos right next to the Eglise Saint Maclou.

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Rouen is blessed with a surfeit of Gothic Beauty. While the room at the back of Le B seemed more convivial, packed with locals in fact, the rather less busy space at the front had the advantage of the view of St M so we were glad when the waitress seated us there. I guess if you’re Rouennaise you take that shit for granted.

The menu is typical French fare with a bias towards local produce – exactly what I was looking for. Up front I thought I’d ordered pigs’ innards but what I got was terrine. I wasn’t complaining though, it was a lumpy lumpy of chunky with cornichons which had fresh bread alongside with which to transport it to my mouthole. A main of pollock was good as well but not as good as the king-size chicken leg across the way. We rounded it off with a heavy dosage of Neuchâtel cheese and with a red burgundy to help it down the problems of the a.m. were a distant memory.

Service was efficient without being especially outstanding. I’m assuming it was Cédric of Chez Cédric who ruled corpulently over the room. He seemed a character. I liked Le B, especially when the bill came in at a surprisingly moderate 60-odd euros. The ability of good food, wine and company to assuage middle class woes is something that I am very aware of and never take for granted.

7/10

#Food #Rouen

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 27 Machiya, Leicester Square

August 19, 2018

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Panton Street is the go to place for a quick, reasonably priced lunch in the West End so it’s inevitable that it will be redeveloped at some point soon. So I recommend that you get down to Machiya soon to enjoy the best of a pretty good bunch of Asian eateries slewn together on the south side of the street.

It’s taken a while for me to go to Machiya as there’s usually a queue out the door so were lucky this time to be able to walk straight in. The room is crammed with tables so this isn’t the place to come and discuss a sensitive business deal or dump a lover but it’s ideally suited for a lunchtime gossip, or indeed a solo mission.

The food is the usual Japanese selection of katsu, ramen and sides. They also do small plates if you want to share a variety of stuff. I went for the chicken katsu and it was the best I’ve ever had. The gorgeously juicy meat and fluffy crunchy batter was just perfect. On the side I had a pickled seaweed salad that was also perfectly prepared. A draught Kirin helped it down admirably and for fifteen quid a head Machiya offers better value than the higher profile Shoryu around the corner. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 26 Kappeli, Helsinki

August 15, 2018

My first visit to Helsinki was in 1994 so it’s taken me 24 years to drum up the effort to go to Kappeli. Or indeed the coin. But I’m glad that I did.

The venue is legendary for Sibelius fans (I’m one of them). This is where he chummed up, scoffed and bantered before doing more self-wreckage across the way in the Hotel Kamp.

One can’t expect the same atmosphere to prevail 140 years on but I would have preferred not to have Mussorgsky piped into the karsi (much as I love Pictures at an Exhibition). Why not Kullervo?

The dining room though is a joy. Glass everywhere to watch people strolling by. A corner tête à tête room shut with a sparrow flapping within as if part of an installation. Solid burghers of Helsinki munching beside upscale tourists. And our Anglo-Finnish party to confuse the waitresses.

The food was solid Nordic grub. A green salad up front with pickled cucumber the star, followed by a beautifully smoked salmon (in Kappeli’s own smokery) with proper allotment style spuds on the side. But a paucity of broccoli. Dessert of a baked Alaska style ice cream with summer fruit could have done with more (wild) blueberries and fewer strawbs.

The wine list is solid and overpriced. I don’t believe that K’s sommelier does much travelling. But then this is an Institution and unlike Pegasus the need is not there to find a clientèle. It queues at the door. Which may also explain the lack of charm on the service side of things.

All the same it’s worth going to more than once. For the terrace. And probably for the cafeteria side. The quality of the food there looked as good, if not better, than in the restaurant.

7/10

#Food #Helsinki

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 25 Pegasus, Tallinn

August 14, 2018

Tallinn has a wealth of mediaeval architecture dating from its time as a prosperous Hanseatic town but I must admit that I was more interested in getting a handle on the Soviet-era attempts to fix a modernist mask to the mercantilist frame of the city.

The Soviet-era concrete of the civic centre; crumbling faster than the Turkish economy

While the appeal of the 1970s Lenin centre was that of being able to stare, Oxymandias-like, at the mighty works of the USSR and pity the hubris it was not all crap-concreted elephantism during the rule of the Reds in Estonia.

For example, the building in which Pelican is situated is a beautiful piece of Soviet modernism with cute idiosyncratic touches like the porthole windows through which we could peek from our terrace seats into the bar.

I wanted to go to Pelican for the architecture and the history. This was a centre for political dissent during Soviet rule. In these days of the revival of the strongman in politics it does no harm to celebrate the achievements of those who were individually weak but collectively strong in the past. Would that their like may triumph again in our own age.

So the location is perfect at Pelican. Could the restaurant live up to it? You betcha. Starting with the welcome. Our waiter was cheerfulness personified and attentive to detail, giving us a couple of rugs (unprompted) in case the weather turned chill.

He also kicked things off with complimentary home cooked bread. This was warm from the oven and accompanied by a slather of creamy butter. Good thing.

The menu features seasonal Baltic ingredients but we kicked off with a mozzarella salad to have a touch of the Med in Eesti. High quality mozz, olive crumble stuff and basil juice (?!) was a good warm up for the main event.

Which was whitefish for both of us. Well cooked fish, beetroot crisps, good gherkin and a fennel foam (better than usual foam in the coherency department) which took us back to the north of Europe. Delish.

So good in fact that we ordered dessert, tempted on my side by rhubarb, which came pickled with a lot of good things alongside.

All of this was accompanied by an excellent Slovenian wine which would have cost double in London. I obviously wasn’t the only one who was enjoying the drink as when I went to the jakes a mature lady, on exiting the trap, walked straight into the full length mirror at the end of the corridor.

The whole was not cheap by Estonian standards. But quality is worth paying for. If you’re heading to Tallinn I would strongly advise you to resist the cluster of tourist traps around the main square, and anywhere where the service is wenchish, and go for the cool modernist vibe of Pelican. You won’t regret it.

9/10

#Food #Tallinn

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Musset update!

August 6, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Doing a bit of housekeeping on the homepage I noticed that last year I put a copy of the script for the festival on the Corbyn Island post. So if you want to download this year’s Musset translation click A Door (Should Be Open Or Shut).

If you’re interested in producing the play please contact me at geoffreylevett@me.com

Resto 24 Dear Pizza, Highbury

August 5, 2018

Another meal, another pizza. But this time the Italian vibe started earlier in the day with a visit to the Estorick. If you don’t know the Estorick you should familiarise yourself soonest. A perfect museum to visit if you have a spare hour in north London, it has a small but perfectly formed collection of 20th Century Italian art with temporary exhibitions that are of an exceptionally high standard in terms of curation and novelty.

At the moment they have two exhibs, so even more reason to go than ever. On the ground floor the rooms are given over to original artwork for Campari, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1990 World Cup (my favourite piece – a football themed jigsaw which put me in mind of not just Toto Schillaci but also Georges Perec).

Early Campari ads. Thirsty again.

Futurists working at the command of fascist era booze mongers turns out to be a match made in heaven for the visual arts. And having been subjected to around 29 images of Campari it was difficult to resist a cocktail in the gallery’s very peaceful garden. (Service 10/10, we didn’t eat.)

I was less keen on the neo-futurists’ interventions in the permanent galleries. Their anti-capitalist rhetoric was a bit one note for me, though entertaining in parts. Irony ladled on irony can be very wearing, especially when funded by the Arts Council. But I’d still recommend it for its variety of approach (music, video, sculpture).

And so to dinner. A shortish stroll to Dear Pizza who lured us in with their promise of a garden. Strictly speaking I’d say it was a yard. But an awning-covered yard on a hot day is rather pleasant. The cooking was higher quality than I was expecting – octopus arrived with a very good sauce. The pizza was excellent (can you get bad pizza any more? Oh yes, p***a h*t), as was the service.

What a great day, and spent in our own manor with no need to get the tube.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 23 Firebrand Pizza, Lisson Grove

August 4, 2018

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in Lisson Grove for a rather underwhelming production of Medea we wanted quick eats out of the sun. Firebrand Pizza looked a good bet.

It’s a shady room with a big window to watch the folks of the Grove go by. The menu is standard pizza and starters so went for a platter of meat up front followed by pizza and a side salad.

The meats were superior fare, even the mortadella (which can often be a bit spammy) pitching in with some smoky flavour. The pizza was good without being wow. A bottle of Sicilian white on the side helped it down.

The service was excellent from two friendly waitresses and at under £30 a head all in it was pretty good value. Worth going to if you’re in the area.

7/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 22 Viet Eat, Holborn

August 1, 2018

In torrential summer rain we ducked into Viet Eat for a quick dinner thinking a bowl of Phô would be just the job. But it didn’t go well. It was early evening and the room wasn’t busy, just a smattering of tourists, so there wasn’t really any excuse for the slackness of the service. Asking for a fork and spoon we were told that Vietnamese food is usually eaten with chopsticks. No shit! But just give me the flatware and save your condescension for someone who gives a toss.

The food too was underwhelming. The broth on the Phô was a bit underpowered so I slathered in some sauce for a bit of flavour. The rest of the dishes were fine, not memorable. Not worth revisiting.

4/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 21 Coriandre, Paris

July 21, 2018

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I’d had my eye on Coriandre for a while as a new wave alternative to the trad Parisian Indian. The room is really welcoming and fresh – exposed brick on one side and a colour scheme of cool green and white giving a modern yet tranquil feeling.

The staff were energised and cheerful which helped to lift my mood too after a long day’s travelling at the end of a tiring week. The menu promises healthy Indian food and this is what it delivers. A selection of meat and vegetable samosas had perfectly crisp pastry without being greasy with piquant fillings. The three chutneys on the side could only have been improved by being delivered in greater quantity.

The healthiness extended to the bread – nan naturel was a simple flat bread, lightly leavened. I knew it was doing me good compared to the Standard‘s product but I hankered for a slather of ghee on there. My lamb main was perfectly spiced and came with good fluffy rice and fresh salad.

It being a night of celebration we added on khulfis at the end and these were the stars of the show. Pistachio packed a punch and the texture was perfectly judged. The Indian red that we’d ordered was robust enough to handle all the spices and we rolled out of there very happy chaps.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap


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