Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Resto 18 Bufala di Londra

June 11, 2018

As any Haringey resident who’s had dealings with the council over arranging a parking permit would testify it is the simple things that are often the most difficult to get right. Similarly, the preparation of a decent pizza and salad would seem to be a task that is beyond some restaurants. Fortunately Bufala di Londra doesn’t fall into that category. In fact on the food side of things it nearly hits Paesano level heights.

Being ravenous helps – after an afternoon of intense theatrical discussion I needed something filling and I’d had my eye on Bufala for some time. The room was fairly quiet on a Sunday teatime but plenty of pizza was going out the door for takeaway, an encouraging sign.

The menu is simple – classic pizzas with no gimmicky ingredients, just high quality Italian produce. I noted that they fermented their dough for 72 hours and started slavering in anticipation. The wine list is strong but with only house white (or red) by the glass. But that doesn’t matter if it’s a good straw coloured Sicilian with plenty of oomph. Some juicy Nocellara olives while we waited was a good idea.

I had a pizza with mushroom, truffle salami and chilli. And it was good. Such chewy dough that would have been a treat on its own without the addition of high quality mozzarella and deliciously bosky mushrooms. The rocket and parmesan salad on the side was big enough to share between two. I’m getting hungry all over again just thinking about it and I’ve only just eaten lunch.

With friendly, efficient service and a good table in the window the only way this meal could have been improved was if the restaurant was at the end of my street rather than being on the wrong side of the tracks.

9/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 17 Khoai Café, Crouch End

June 9, 2018

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After Matthew’s Kitchen I’m slowly munching my way through Topsfield Parade during the Crouch End Festival prep. In fact not prep because my visit to Khoai was a pitstop on the way to the excellent Storm in a Teacup, which acted as a phenomenally good curtain raiser to the dramatic freebies on offer.

And it was a good pitstop too. For my dining companion it was memorable as once being the venue for a date with a man who turned out to be a (fortunately non-lethal) knife obsessive. For me it was memorable for overturning my harrumph at the could be better Kho of the previous week. What Kho got wrong Khoai gets right.

Starting with the service. I was early so the room was pretty empty (I think a younger member of the Khoai crew was doing her homework in one corner) and it was a pleasant thing to be told to sit pretty much anywhere. The room is good for either getting in the window and gawping or tucking yourself away; I did the latter.

A requested cold beer was delivered promptly and I’d slugged it down as the rest of the party arrived. We went for soft shell crab up front then a spicy Bun Hué for me. There was a good amount of crab and rather than any stickysweet sauce  there was a pleasingly simple garnish of fried onions and chilli. I’d gone for the Bun Hué as I fancied a bit of heat and boy did I get it! A rash stuffing of the bird’s eye into the maw of a hungry man brought on a chilli induced apoplexy followed by the enjoyable sensation of one’s mouth returning to acceptability. There were plenty of prawns in there too and the whole thing did what I wanted it to do, i.e. fresh veg, fresh noodles and flavoursome soup.

At around twenty quid a head invlud my drinks in this was not fine dining but it was good value in an area of London that suffers from a slew of hipper places (I think Khoai is family run) that charge a premium for having such crucial things as curated music and cutting-edge fonts on the menu.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 16 Koh Thai, Southsea

June 5, 2018
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Koh – probably more difficult to get into now than when it was a bank.

Well, this was an odd one. It was a sunny evening in Southsea, a part of the country I’m not familiar with, and we were looking for spice. Koh seemed to fit the bill. The restaurant is in a pretty impressive building (probably a former bank) in a residential area and when we entered it was to find an equally impressive room with a bar at one end and tables on ground and mezzanine floors.

A hen party lay in one corner of the room and a smattering of other diners populated the rest. We asked the maitre d’ for a table for two? She eyed us suspiciously, ‘Let me have a look’ she said before retiring to a far away computer. Once there she spent five minutes sizing us up like Johnny Wilkinson  addressing a difficult 60 yard punt from the left touchline. Then she went to another computer and had a look at that. Perhaps it was linked to the Criminal Records Database. I turned to my son and said, ‘Ok, let’s go’ and just as I turned to leave he tugged my elbow and muttered, ‘She’s coming back!’ So I turned back to find her about a foot from my eyeballs. Apparently she’d managed to locate a spare table. And we’d cleared the security check.

So that wasn’t awkward.

This fitful start out of the way we looked at the menu. Koh does Thai tapas, a nonsense term that could not disguise the fact that the menu was your standard fare such as you’d find listed in pretty much every local Thai joint in the country. We were offered a taster menu but decided to go for a crispy squid and spicy spring rolls up front followed by a red curry for me and stir fried noodles for him. Did we want cocktails? Two for one was tempting so we ordered some prawn crackers to go with them.

My Kohparinha (geddit?) arrived with the crackers. The prawn crackers were legion and excellent. The cocktail on the other hand was a tame beast. The other one (which was better) showed up just about when we’d finished the crackers and I was ready for a beer. Draught Singha being off we had a couple of Koh’s own  lager which did the job. I had the feeling that everything was skew-whiff and that there was a gap between what the management thought their restaurant was (an exclusive hip eatery in a buzzy part of the city) and what it actually should be (a friendly local restaurant serving excellent food).

While the drinks were disappointing the food continued to be top class. Spicy spring rolls were genuinely spicy – tight little rolls of fiery veg in a crispy shell. The squid was fluffy battered good stuff with a sweet chilli dip. Then my red curry also delivered a powerful dose of heat but with plenty of flavour to back it up. With a chef like this Koh deserves to be a success whatever shenanigans the front of house team were getting up to. The room remained resolutely half-full throughout our stay and with three people behind the bar and three or four waiting staff it was a mystery as to why the service was so hit and miss. The kitchen deserves better.

5/10

#Food #Southsea

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

Resto 15 Matthew’s Kitchen, Crouch End

June 4, 2018

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Looking to lay in some bait prior to a date with the Players on a Friday night we had a stroll around Crouch End, open to suggestion. Bistro Aix had its door open was a bit Marie Celeste like with music blaring out, provoking us into a rapid retreat.  Matthew’s Kitchen on the other hand looked very inviting with it’s window open onto the street and a friendly smile from the waitress as she showed us into the room. Early on a Friday evening the room soon filled up with a good selection of locals while we looked at the menu.

MK specialises in fish (though you can get meat off the grill if you’re a carnivore and veggie dishes if you’re a herbivore). Smoked mackerel with beetroot and horseradish leapt off the page at me as a good test of a fish restaurant. This warhorse can be memorable or forgettable depending on whether it’s served or cold both in temperature and creativity. I took a main of cod loin with veggies and a bit of mash potato on the side.

The mackerel was only ok – a generous piece of cold smoked fish with plenty of beetroot but not a hint of horseradish in the sauce. I know that horseradish is a powerful beast but I do want to taste it if I’ve ordered it. The cod on the other hand was much superior. Perfectly cooked and just what I wanted. Even better looked the bacon-wrapped monkfish across the way.

A very good Riesling for 30-odd quid was a good accompaniment. I’d go back to Matthew’s Kitchen – for Crouch End on a Friday evening it was very peaceful with a perfect atmosphere for a bright summer’s evening.

7/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 13 The Life Goddess Store Street

May 7, 2018

This was a very pleasant surprise. I’d walked past the Life Goddess Store many times on my way to Buckbuck or the IHR but never been in. To be honest I’d been put off by the name, which evokes in a man of my class and generation an god-awful 70s Fontana paperback with some hippy in the lotus position on the cover.

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The Life Goddess – not a 70s earth mother fantasy novel

Which isn’t fair. I was meeting a friend with a Greek husband who said that it was his go to place for genuine Greek cooking and recommendations don’t get much better than that. The room is bigger than it looks from the exterior, with a more restauranty section to the rear and a convivial café style area at the front. A gaggle of friendly fellers behind the counter kept service bubbling along contentedly.

In the afternoon there were a selection of meze and salads plus a few hot dishes. Having a seminar to go to I decided to keep it light and went for an okra salad. Good choice, well cooked okra is one of those pleasures that as a child of Ferryhill I never knew existed till I was about 23. The sauce was rich and tomato based with generous lumps of cheese to give it a bit of texture. The house white alongside was a perfect accompaniment, even if it did slightly impact my attention span during Amelia’s talk!

In a  pretty hectic week an hour’s natter with a good friend was just about the perfect way to spend a Monday afternoon. I’ll be back.

9/10

#food #London

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

 

Resto 12 National Gallery Dining Rooms

April 29, 2018

Having been to the excellent Monet and Architecture in the Sainsbury Wing we didn’t fancy walking through filthy April weather to eat and decided to go to the NGDR even though the barren expanse of the room had something of the air of the Marie Celeste about it.

We were given an excellent table by the window with a view over the square and, more immediately, the queue of bedraggled arthounds queueing to get through the desultory security check.

They’ve stripped back the menu in here since last I visited so you now have precisely three options of meat, fish and veg for the first two courses, and a marginally broader selection for the desserts. But at £19 for two courses or £22 for three the limited choice is the sacrifice you make for economy.

I went for the beetroot slanted salmon up front and then a cheese tortellini for main. The salmon was a hefty amount with a crunchy and refreshing cucumber and fennel salad. The tortellini were perfectly cooked and delicious with enough sauce for the job. But I wouldn’t have minded more. House white (French, Rhone Valley) was fine for the price.

Why it was empty on a Friday evening I’ve no idea. The service was excellent, you’re paying around 30 quid a head (more if you want sides) to eat in a room with a world class view with upscale nappery and fighting irons. Maybe it’s more of a lunchtime joint but it’s a good post-exhibition option if you want straight up modern cooking at a good price.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 11 Pizza X Drink, Stroud Green

April 16, 2018

On the site of the now defunct Gustavo’s (not missed) Pizza X Drink has another go at the bargain pizza market. They pull it off nicely. They’ve decluttered the room, a good thing, and kept the big windows so you can do some people watching.

Water was delivered immediately I was sat down (good call as I had a raging thirst from watching Middlesex crush Northants on the hottest day of the year so far) and I perused the menu. It looks more complicated than it actually is. Either you pick your own sauce and toppings or you take one ready made. I went for a Mexican with a side salad and a pint of Stella.

The beer was chilled and delivered by the manager himself (a cheerful feller who was also busy training his staff, good thing). The pizza was good without being amazing but at £5 for a man-sized portion I wasn’t complaining. Properly fiery jalapeños, ground beef and onion were perfect for me. The disappointing thing was the base, which was a bit on the pale side, I’d have liked a bit more crunch. The salad was a generous measure and they remembered to hold the red onion.

All in all Pizza X Drink is perfect if you want a quick pit stop to meet friends or on the way out. And for a total of £13 you’d find it hard to eat that well for that kind of money elsewhere in Stroud Green.

8/10

#Food #London #N8

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

Resto 10 Radici, Islington

March 21, 2018

In Islington for a production of Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Almeida we were looking for something quick before showtime. The bar at the A being packed Radici directly opposite the theatre seemed a good option.

Radici does Italian and while the modern/modernist room doesn’t scream italia the bambina they’ve employed to bowl around in a charming fashion certainly gave the place a homely feel.

We were in a hurry but we were also starving so couldn’t avoid ordering a couple of cichetti to warm up. The test of an Italian for me is often the state of their calamari. Radici’s was excellent, putting to shame the filthy greasy stuff served up at Prezzo. This calamari was of the tentacular variety with fluffy batter and a mean (in a good way) squid ink mayonnaise. I wanted them all to myself. As I did also the aubergine, smoky and luscious, that was on the other plate. Unfortunately marital bliss doesn’t usually ride on the back of one side of the deal scoffing all the grub so I grudgingly moderated my intake.

A main of pizza was a good choice for the hungry and the pizza was too big for me to consume in the time available. Zucchini fritti were as good as the calamari, being straw-choppped and light as a feather. Booze of a Trebbiano variety likewise had to be wolfed down as showtime approached but being delicious I was happy to do that thing.

We were in unison in thinking that we must go back as soon as we can to eat at leisure and check out the desserts. With excellent service (especially the waiter giving us a reminder that we would have to leave soon at just the right time) Radici works very well.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 9 Polpo, Covent Garden

March 11, 2018

Odd that I should never have been in Polpo before and this omission was rectified for a birthday celebration prior to Macbeth at the National. After some table shenanigans (we were moved twice) we settled in to look at a particularly appealing menu. Polpo bills itself as small plates so I asked the waiter how many we should order between two. He was of the opinion that if we were five at table we should order five dishes. Which seemed a bit cryptic.

So we used our own judgement. While we worked out what we were having we supped on Bellinis (decent, if not outstanding) and grazed appetisers of olives and smoky nuts. As far as I could see a tagliatelle was good enough for me and we decided to share a salad of courgette and basil. The tagliatelle was excellent – plenty of deep flavoured sauce with good lumps of flaky chicken and mushrooms. I couldn’t resist snaffling a slither of venison meat ball from across the way and that too was top drawer. But the star was the salad! Thinly sliced raw courgette in a yummy dressing.

There’s such a selection of wine that it was very difficult to pick something out. A carafe of 50cl of Soave (we thought we’d stick to the Veneto) went down very well. After a shaky start service improved drastically and a nice touch was a sprig of mimosa brought by the management for the lady in our party to celebrate International Women’s Day. I could do without the tastefully distressed faux authentic trimmings in the room but with superb food and booze coming in at under thirty quid a head I can see why the Polpo CG was packed even at teatime on a Thursday. Likely I’ll be back too.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 8 The National Café, Trafalgar Square

March 3, 2018

I’ve reviewed the restaurant on this site before but it’s had a reboot under a different management since then so it does count as a new restaurant. Out has gone the dark wood and red leather banquettes. In comes a more Scandi vibe with pale furnishings and sleek cutlery. They can’t do anything about the windows (obvs) but it does make for a sunnier feeling room even on one of the coldest days of the year.

They’ve also increased the bar area making this a good place to meet if you want somewhere peaceful and reasonably priced on a Friday evening in the West End. I had a glass of wine before looking at the Degas and Murillo exhibs (both free, both excellent) and then returning for dinner in the restaurant.

The restaurant is still a bit ghostly of an evening, there were a few other parties but they were dotted across the room. Queen’s greatest hits on the sound track (the whole evening, I was fortunate enough to catch Another One Bites the Dust twice), while a marginal improvement on U2 and Eddie Reader, was definitely surplus to requirements.

A pre-theatre menu of two courses for 17 quid seemed a bargain. Beetroot salad to start was excellent, with a good lashing of goat’s cheese and plenty of veg. Main of pheasant* was a good portion of leg with yummy crispy skin and a slather of pumpkin for moisture. However, that was it. I should have twigged that anything beyond what was described on the menu was going to have to come from the sides (at £5 a pop) but it wouldn’t have done any harm for the waitress to have asked if we wanted any stodge. A bottle of viño verdhe was very good – in fact the wine list was the star of the show and I wanted to try any number of them – but for carbs I had to pick up some crisps on the way home, which I guess saved me four quid. But I would have preferred my spuds on a plate and daintily boiled and buttered.

* Apparently it was actually guinea fowl. How unreliable I turn out to be on the edibles. But not the music.

7/10 (again)

#Food #London #Art

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


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