Posts Tagged ‘London’

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 14 N4 coffee fruit, Stroud Green

May 29, 2018
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A perfect coffee served in the German Gymnasium.

Hmm, a coffee shop rather than a resto really and strictly speaking not within the rules since I paid up front. But sometimes the quality of service in an establishment is such that one is forced to comment on it even if only to encourage the management to put things right. With this in mind the description will come first and the notes on how to improve things afterwards.

N4 coffee fruit (Yes, lower case. It used to be known as the altogether less irritating Vagabond.) is a pleasant enough room to sip coffee and do the crossword. If you have coffee. Being mid-morning the room wasn’t busy and I was the only person in the queue. I waited for the guy by the till to look at me so I could make my order.

But he was busy. Busy making coffee? No. Busy out back? No. Busy tidying up tables? No. Just busy not serving customers. He was looking down at something. What could it be? I turned it over in my mind. A generous man would say he was looking through a stack of orders and making sure that he’d memorised which one belonged to which customer. Subsequent events would suggest otherwise.

He eventually looked up and I ordered a double espresso and sat down. And waited. I perused the paper and observed a few people come in and order after me. Including a man with a cute fluffy dog, who was obviously a hit. After about ten minutes I was starting to wonder where my coffee was so found it less easy to focus on Janan Ganesh’s skewering of the Brexit crisis and its catastrophic effect on strategic policy thinking among our political leadership. I observed that everyone in the coffee shop had arrived after me and also that they all had coffee.

The till guy was chatting to a friend on a table at the window and occasionally looking at his phone. I fixed him with a basilisk stare. He looked up absently then went back to his phone. The woman on the coffee machine was similarly gripped by social media. It must have been 15 minutes or so since I’d gone in.

So I got up on my hind legs, walked to the counter and asked for my coffee. ‘Coffee?’ ‘Yes, a double espresso.’ ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ Till guy was still absorbed in his phone. The coffee arrived without comment from either party and I drank it and left.

This was the worst service I’d had since a legendary dinner in Margate. But in a spirit of generosity I offer a few pieces of advice from one customer service worker to another.

  1. When a customer comes into your business look at them. It will help you to realise that they are a human being and not just a disembodied voice. You might also consider taking the experience one step further by smiling at them.
  2. While you have customers in the room observe them – do they need anything? Make eye contact to give them the opportunity to speak to you. Not only will this make them feel looked after it might also encourage them to buy more things.
  3. If you do make a mistake apologise.
  4. If you do make a mistake apologise.
  5. If you DO make a mistake apologise.
  6. In person. Don’t let a colleague do it on your behalf.
  7. Do not under any circumstance play jazz lite over your sound system. Combined with the combined nervating effect of high amounts of caffeine and bad service this could result in a Falling Down style situation. You don’t want that. And more to the point nor do your customers.

0/10

#Coffee #London

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

 

Crouch End Festival 2018

May 14, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Now that A Midsummer Night’s Dream has finished it’s time to flag up my own next production with the Crouch End Players as part of the Crouch End Festival. As part of an evening of new writing I’m directing a new translation of the French classic, A Door (Should Be Either Open Or Shut).

The original is a short play by the Romantic writer Alfred de Musset, perhaps most famous in this country for being the lover of Georges Sand which inspired both of them to write classic memoirs of their time together.

The original concerns the romantic tribulations of a pair of aristocrats in mid-ninteenth century Paris but I’ve updated it to post-War London with saltier dialogue and a real period feel.

The venue once more is the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who were such excellent hosts for Corbyn Island in 2017 and there will be three shows at 7pm on the 15th, 16th and 17th June. Tickets are free and available from crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. It would be great to see you there!

#theatre #London #Musset

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

Resto 5 Middeys, Crouch End

February 25, 2018
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Middeys. Or should it be Middey’s? You be the judge.

Saturday morning was set for a Frühschoppen with a visiting Frankfurter so we met in Crouch End at 11 o’clock. Could we find a pub that was open? No we couldn’t. Since the demise of Wetherspoon’s the Broadway has definitively rid itself of working class drinking culture and breakfast beers are off the menu. So we turned to Middeys and a second helping of breakfast to supply the required helping of whoopee soup.

I’ve never been in any of the various incarnation of food outlet in the old ‘lectric board showroom (apparently they’re a source of constant heated debate on the Crouch End Appreciation Zzzzzzocietyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Fazbook page) so this was a new experience for me. A nice big, bright room is what you get – filled on a Saturday morning with the usual CE suspects. But that’s not a bad thing, although it does limit one’s liberty of expression somewhat when you’re surrounded by pre-teens and grandparents.

Prosecco was demanded before we saw the menu and I had a look at breakfast. I didn’t want to go large so went for a sourdough toast with cheese of goat and sundried tomato. It was fine. Across the way the classic 80s combo of baked potato and cheesy beans was a far more substantial affair.

Service was prompt if not disposed to any kind of verbal repartee and for fifteen quid a head the cost was par for this area of London. But we did have to repair to the Queens to get what we had wanted an hour earlier – cold lager, uninhibited, occasionally scabrous conversation and nice’n’spicy nik naks. Such things are too easily taken for granted.

7/10 (docked a point for being undertrapped in the ladies)

#food #London #N8

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

 


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