Posts Tagged ‘London’

Resto 7 Lao Café, Covent Garden

March 6, 2019

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The first birthday dinner of 2019 was a leftfield choice. Lao Café is the only Laotian resto in London, possibly the UK. One of us had been to Laos (not me) so knew what to expect – leaning more towards Thai food than Vietnamese but quite distinctive. I was happy to try it out.

Lao Café’s interior is refreshingly modern and zappy with a great big mural on one wall. We had a table in the window. In fact we’d commandeered two tables to cope with the amount of food that we’d ordered, so I felt a bit guilty since there was a queue at the door by the time we left but the owner didn’t seem to mind.

I sucked on a glass of wine while perusing the menu – my interest was immediately piqued by ant eggs. This was a new thing to me. I’d have them as part of a Lao mushroom curry. Alongside that we took a Lao papaya salad and a fish dish for two with some grilled sticky rice.

“You want that spicy?’ enquired the owner. ‘Yes please.’ She looked sceptical. ‘One, two or three chillis?’ I looked at Karen for guidance but she stared back inscrutably. ‘Three, why not?’ ‘You’re sure?’ I sensed a challenge being laid down. I nodded resolutely but ordered a beer just in case.

I definitely needed that beer! The heat was slow to arrive but ferocious when it did. In a good way. At least that’s what I said in between glugging down cold booze by the brace. The fish was excellently cooked – meaty and bony so requiring delicate knife skills. Ant eggs were less of a delight, although the curry they rode in on had an excellent depth of flavour with a high mushroom content that would make it a good lunchtime option. The Lao element to the papaya salad appeared to be hard-shelled baby mud crabs, which I was happy to deposit alongside the fishbones uneaten. I was also less than enamoured of the grilled sticky rice, though that may be due to the fact that I’d had a tooth extracted at the weekend and the hole in my face rapidly turned into a sticky rice mine.

Despite ordering less than the recommended amount of two salads and two mains we still couldn’t finish everything that was brought to us. The service was outstanding – really friendly and quick. I especially liked the feller with the low slung jeans who brought us the wrong bill (lower than we expected) and quite happily admitted his own doofishness about it. Even at the higher rate the bill was reasonable for this part of town for the amount of grub/drink we’d got.

I’ll be back to Lao for curry but without the ants or crabs – this is a place where it’s good to know your way around the menu.

8/10

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

Resto 6 Tomo, Hornsey

February 17, 2019

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Back in Hornsey for a play (someone else’s) at the Great Northern it was thought wise to lay in some bait before in prep for the after-show party. Not having had the greatest experience at La Giaconda across the road we decided to give their rivals a go.

Tomo was busy but not too busy to squeeze us into a corner table. The menu is full Italian – pizza, pasta and fish/meat – but we kept it simple. A Tartufo pizza with sausage and truffle (an altogether superior production to that we saw at the National the night before) accompanied by a rocket salad with artichokes. The pizza was delicately turned and sausaged enough to satisfy. House white by the carafe did the job on the side.

The service was outstanding – three members of staff keeping the whole room happy. If I hadn’t had an appointment with fringe theatre I would have stayed for home made sorbet and grappa. I’ll happily go back soon to amend that.

8/10

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

Resto 5 Franco Manca, Kings Cross

February 11, 2019

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Once upon a time the only place to get a decent drink or a bite to eat if you were on the way to Kings Place was either the Lincoln Lounge or the venue itself. Now all sorts of shit is springing up around York Way to service the ever gentrifying residents and workers of the area.

The Lincoln Lounge is still keeping it real but alas they don’t do bait (well, they’ve got crisps) so we took a punt on a quick dinner in Franco Manca before the excellent Steven Osbourne did Prokofiev as it should be done.

This FM is proper restaurant-sized so it was a mystery to me why, in a half empty restaurant, the waiter should squeeze us into a corner between two other couples. I couldn’t be arsed to argue, I was too hungry.

The menu is pleasantly brief – snacks, salads, pizzas and pasta. We went for an alfalfa (or as they called it when I was growing up, ‘cress’) salad, a meat board and a mushroom pizza to share.

Then the craziness began. The salad arrived in record time. Now I like a salad but I don’t really see a small bowl of it (and no plates to eat it off) as worthy of putting down in front of two people and retreating as if you’ve just delivered a feast in Cana’. So we stared at it and wondered if anything else was going to show up. After about ten minutes we got the pizza. Counterintuitive – where was our thin, raw meat?

Oh, you wanted that? Yes, we did.

Someone taking your order without writing anything down is only impressive if said food is actually delivered.

So now we had pizza, two plates, meat board, salad, wine and water on a table the size of a postage stamp. But we managed. The pizza base was excellent but was scant of mushroom. The meat too was top quality, while the salad was a salad.

If you want to survive in the Italian market you’ve got to do better than that.

5/10

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

Resto 3 – BFI Riverfront, Waterloo

January 28, 2019

 

Bonnard provokes nostalgia – all those sunburst gardens, shady book-supporting desks, sinister cats and naked bints in baths (together with their underlying psychological tremors) recall times past in many climes.

As does the NFT. It will ever be the NFT for those of a certain age.

Reincarnated many times since I proposed marriage while waiting to see Hamlet Goes Business, whatever is done to the Riverside Bar it will never recapture the tobacco-stained, schlobby fading glory of my first visits with Clive James in my pocket.

However, the latest splurge of cash on the place has seen a definite improvement since the time when I had a memorable row with one of the rudest servers I’ve ever encountered. (And there have been a few.)

The offer now is Italian small plates, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. We took a spread of cold and warm things, including a vegetable pizza (vulcan was at the pizza forge, doing a damned fine job as far as I could see). This brought high quality salami and olives, zucchini (battered) and excellent pizzette.

A bottle of house white did the job very well and I’m glad to report that the service was excellent. Though perhaps less so for the lady next to us who had a glass of white poured down her dress.

So, a vast improvement in food, service and atmosphere, I’d like to go back some time and try out the rest of the pizza. Alas, we didn’t have the time to linger and watch some Antonioni, spontanaiety being more elusive thanks to my recent marriage to Mrs Woof.

8/10

#food #London

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

Resto 2 – Holborn Dining Room, Holborn

January 21, 2019

Back in Blighty, I was to Holborn to meet a friend for dinner. He insisted that I book the Holborn Dining Room on the recommendation of Jay Rayner. (I don’t read The Guardian – not because of JR but because I can’t be arsed. As an academic this is quite the social disease.) In return I insisted we have one in the Princess Louise first, it wasn’t a difficult sell.

The HDR turned out to be in the Rosewood Hotel, seemingly a venue where superlawyers of various nations go to spend their Brexit earnings. We seemed conspicuous by our normalcy, perhaps that was why the waiter marched us past a whole slew of empty tables and plonked us in a corner at the far end of the room. Was he worried that we might make a break for it before settling our bill? Certainly Phil, with his double hip replacement, isn’t up to some Olympic-level table hurdling, so he needn’t have worried.

And besides, that’s not the way we roll.

This minor irritation aside the service was excellent throughout, as was the food. And at £23 for a steak and kidney pudding (accompanied by the richest sladge of gravy, poured steaming hot from the boat) I should bloody well hope so. But Rayner’s no liar, this stuff was the shit and no mistake. Fray Bentos seemed a very distant memory.

Sides of sprouts (a bold move in the post-festive season!) and chips were equally good even at the risk of pushing the bill to the yamma hamma end of expensive. If you’re on a budget and hungered for stodge load up on bread, it’s complimentary.* The cheapest wine comes in at £34 (if you’re drinking red) so bear that in mind too.

The room is a great barn of a place, quite masculine and, frankly, full of the kind of people I would usually cross the street to avoid. So a weird one this – I had an excellent dining experience that cost me a packet yet I couldn’t wait to get back to my usual milieu amongst the Pitmen of The Whippet for a digestif and a good chat about home.

6/10

*Though I forgot to check if there’s a cover charge.

#food #London

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

Resto 45 Winchmore Hill Tandoori, Wichmore Hill

December 24, 2018
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One of these teams knows how an offside trap works. Can you guess which one?

Having watched Granit Xhaka and his defensive chums only just fail to sabotage a fine attacking display by Arsenal’s front four in a lunchtime kick off by the time we’d reached the food part of our post-match festivities in Winchmore Hill stomachs were empty but we were bonhomie full.

The WHT was buzzing of a pre-Chrimbo Saturday night. Did we want three popadoms? Did we hell. We wanted many popadoms. And rice. And naan. We wanted to tick off all of the clichés and possibly coin some more. The staff were gracious in indulging our middle aged goofery.

And we ate like kings in our own tiny minds.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 44 The Betjeman Arms, St Pancras

December 23, 2018

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Christmas is the time to catch up with old friends and family isn’t it? The Betjeman is an old friend; a reliable standby to meet other friends freshly arrived on trains from the North or fellow football fans on the way to various matches. So I’m well used to the pub side of the operation but less so with the restauranty bit.

Trying to remember the prices of the food (a key part of a review being the price/quality quotient) I looked at the JB’s website to find that they weren’t as high as I recalled. But I also discovered atrocious grammar and an insidious whiff of nostalgia-laden commercial bullshit in the copy.

‘Reminiscent of 1920’s nostalgia and times gone by; a charming spot to wait for your train to Paris whilst soaking up the iconic atmosphere of The Grand Terrace. ‘

Were one of my students to have written this guff I would have been forgiving of youthful lapses in grammar, syntax, honesty and style. The misplaced apostrophe, the redundant semi-colon, the appearance of the hideous ‘i’ word, and the frankly idiotic use of the word charming to describe a ‘spot’ usually inhabited by drunks of varied income and states of dishevelment.

Ah but that 1920’s (sic) nostalgia! Who wouldn’t yearn for the days of chronic unemployment, civil war in Ireland, Armenian genocide, the rise of fascism and sterile, bat-dominated Test cricket? Really they could have gone much further back for the authentic whiff of nostalgia – their toilets need no linguistic gloss, being genuinely mediaeval most of the time.

But what about the food? It’s standard pub stuff – burgers, fish & chips, platters to share and a smattering of vegetable things. Being already booked for the India Club (a room suffused with nostalgia in a way that marketing arseholes just can’t comprehend and thus recreate) I wanted a light lunch. Moules frites did the job and unlike my previous pub moules didn’t give me gastro enteritis. Which is a shame, I could do with losing a bit of weight.

The moules were cooked nicely but the cream and chilli sauce was notable by the absence of chilli. I wonder if anyone in the kitchen had actually tasted the dish. A glass of white on the side was fine. My fellow diners were unimpressed by the fish to batter ratio on their no doubt iconic fish & chips. The room is fine, in fact the height of the ceiling does give a sense of light and space even on the dullest of December days but with erratic service and bog standard grub there are better places to eat at the same price within staggering distance of the Betj.

It is, however, a good station pub.

5/10 (a mark off for whoever wrote the website)

#Food #London

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

Resto 43 Tavistock Tandoori, Bloomsbury

December 13, 2018

After the final S&L seminar of the year (and it was a good one, thanks to Dave Dee) I suddenly found myself craving Indian food. Which would usually mean Motijheel in this neck of the woods. But oh dear, it did look bleak in there as we approached.

So we strolled on, following the scent of spice for not very long before we arrived at Tavistock Tandoori, which had at least half a dozen customers as the M. In the same room. With the same menu. And the same music. Why mess with a seemingly increasingly unappealing format? I can think of a £eason why.

Well, I’m old fashioned so it still appeals to me – I went for a chicken rezalla with the usual trimmings and sag bhaji. Bottled Cobra was fine and the curry, though a bit on the sweet side for my taste, was good enough. Chutneys, popadoms, rice, nan and sag were all decent.

The meal rounded off with a comic air as a regular customer stuck his head through the door to exchange some Baba-like bants with the waiter but by this time we were already halfway to the door and unable to join in the fun in any meaningful way. Which was a shame. Still, for curry in this part of town it’s worth going the extra half mile to The Rusty Bike for something beyond the bog standard.

7/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 41 My Cottage Cafe, Finsbury Park

November 22, 2018

Finding ourselves once again in Finsbury Park on a Saturday it was with a sorry glance that we walked past the now boarded up Walnut to on our search for dinner. Pasta Remoli‘s curious way with food is still quite vivid so we thought we’d try Lebanese at My Cottage Café. As it seems did everyone going to the theatre that evening (we were not) meaning that we were lucky to get two places at a shared table.

The room is bigger than it looks from the outside and the food is more ambitious than the monicker My Cottage Café would have you believe. The last time I was in a Lebanese (insert joke here) it was in Mayfair and I was talking to a tiny, aged Jewish man with a statuesque wife 40 odd years his junior who had been Cy Twombly’s (among others) art dealer in New York. This wasn’t quite the same clientèle, though this being North London theatreland we weren’t short of Jewish company. Just no Naomi Campbell lookalikes. Which was a shame.

The menu was typically east Mediterranean – meze, grilled things and stews – but the cooking was a cut above Petek up the road for about the same price. A massive plus was not being offered death by bread before we’d even ordered. The bread when it came was a refined flatbread in just the right amount. Starters of baba ganouj and okra were excellent, as was the chicken shish. Plenty of heat on the baste meant recourse to a very good Lebanese white was required.

Our table-sharers were a gossipy couple of old baggages who managed to eat three courses before we’d ordered coffee. They indulged in some faux-bants with some fellow codgers across the way and when an elderly lady with an improbably wide Zimmer frame tried to exit the building my neighbour resolutely stared at the wall rather than move her seat. However, ZimmerGal was equally obdurate and deftly span her frame sidewards, all the while scowling at our pair like they’d just shot her cat. The theme from Larry David began to play through my mind.

In five minutes flat the room was empty of theatre-goers leaving just us two to sip a beautiful coffee (which arrived with four baklava) while the waiting staff took a well earned fag break outside. It took a while to get the bill but that was the only fault in an otherwise faultless service.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 40 Thai Granary, Stroud Green

November 12, 2018

Finsbury Park can feel a bit bleak after a few days research in Paris so it was a happy thing that I was invited to dinner by friends to a new (to me) restaurant to get over the post-trip blues.

Thai Granary (or Granary Thai) is a tardis like room. We headed up to the mezzanine inside, which is cosy and looks out on a bijou one table terrasse.

The room was not as busy as it could be on a Friday night in SG, which is a shame as the cooking was first class. A starter of spring rolls (we hadn’t specified but they’d guessed correctly that we were carnivores) crispy and meaty. And I was fortunate to get in on some summer roll action from across the table – they were even better, really fresh and aromatic.

My main was a spicy chef’s special (wish I could remember the name), and I mean spicy, and there was plenty of it. The rice alongside had a good helping of bean shoots (yum) and despite predictions to the contrary I demolished pretty much the whole lot. Helped by a couple of good, cold beers.

At 25 quid a head this was as good value as you’ll get in these parts for this quality. I’ll look forward to another Friday night outing with les Travis soon.

8/10

#Food #London

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


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