Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant’

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 42 De Peerdestal, Antwerp

December 2, 2018

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After a rather intense couple of week of starting a new part-time job and beginning the production of a new play (of which more soon) it was a real pleasure to be able to switch off for a day or two for an overnight trip to Antwerp.

Key to kicking off this kind of jaunt is selecting the restaurant for the arrival meal. Antwerp was new to me so I was happy to let Mike take a pop and with one caveat he made an excellent choice in De Peerdestal.

It was a late lunch so were concerned that we might be the only people in the room for the afternoon. However, with a big party on one table and a smattering of other customers there was enough atmosphere to give the room a bit of a buzz.

The downstairs room is dominated by the back end of a horse (not a live one you’ll be glad to know; though I remember some meals where I wish the person seated opposite me was sitting under a horse’s arse) and this is a rather unsubtle clue to De P’s USP. I didn’t go for horse up front, instead opting for a shrimp bisque (shrimps also being a local speciality) which was deliciously fishy and salty.

The fact that it arrived about two minutes after an apéritif of gin and tonic was an indication of the one flaw in the meal – erratic timekeeping. We took the hasty delivery of the starters as an indication that they wanted us out of there in a hurry. Boy were we wrong.

Anyway, I snaffled up the G&T and we moved onto mains (this time perfectly accompanied by a bottle of the ‘Bosch’s – Stellen not Hieronymous – finest red). Fillet of horse was a new experience for me, but a good one. Lean and flavoursome with a good dollop of béarnaise and mushrooms, this was excellent cooking. Stodge was chips (cos, like Belgium) delivered in a gurt big bowl to share. And they were very good, I wanted to tip the bowlful into my mouth.

We were feeling pretty convivial by now and it being a holiday we decided to get stuck into dessert. Some devil inside prompted me to ask for a Grand Marnier alongside my trio of lemon things. The waitress pointed out that since I already had a dose of limencello coming on the plate I hardly needed more citrus booze in me. It was difficult to argue with such powerful logic.

By this time it was around half three and we’d been in the company of the horse for a couple of hours. It would take us an hour to take delivery of dessert and the bill, which seemed odd given the way the meal had started. But mebbe it was for our own good … a little rallentando at that stage of the day (and a siesta on arrival at the hotel) ensured that we could make the most of gatecrashing a 70th birthday party later in the day.

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Partying like Belgians – birthday boy is with the grey hair in the background

8/10

#Food #Antwerp

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

Resto 39 Brooklyn Pizzeria, Bastille

November 8, 2018

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Let’s put it out there straight away – Pizzeria Brooklyn is the kind of tourist trap that I would normally avoid. But with an appointment with an Opera we needed food in Bastille quick. PB delivered on that, in fact in terms of food it overdelivered.

But everywhere else it didn’t. Let’s do the food first. We got veggie antipasti up front and it was very good – a generous helping of autumny veg. The pizzas (we got the MBappé specials in honour of the great man) were excellent and massive. I now know what a pizza pie is – it’s a puff pizza with deliciously moist dough which when you pierce it with a knife let’s out a column of steam to reveal its meaty tomato guts. But I’d been walking all day and I still couldn’t finish it – we should have got one to share. House white was bland but drinkable (and cheap, it’s France after all).

The room was set up for Instagram – a pizza oven with something sloganned on it. Bits and pieces of vaguely New Yorky stuff around and a soundtrack of things I wish I didn’t know the tune to from the 1980s. And the bogs! Who would not get rajjed having to take a leak with the legend, ‘Keep calm and eat pizza’ drilling into their eyeballs?

Well, people who like to take selfies in front of food, pictures of their food (the pizzas were square (so wonderfully Instagrammable), wonky pictures of pizza ovens and selfies with pizza ovens. They love that shit. No wonder the staff had all the chaleur of a late night petrol pump attendant.

Did I say the pizza was good?

5/10

#Food #Paris

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

Resto 38 L’Aubergeade, 11th Paris

November 7, 2018

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A late arrival in Paris and we wanted to eat local. I had a hankering for Cambodian but there was none of that going on near us so we chose L’Aubergeade on the basis that it looked like a friendly. Good instincts.

It was empty when we arrived at 7 but it didn’t take us longo to realize that we were lucky to have got a table. The next time I looked round I was being handed a menu and the place was full.

The menu is nose to tail rustic French stuff. Up front James chose veal head and I chose mushrooms but what’s this? A sinister amount of egg on the mushroom meaning we had to swap plates. I have to say that eating tête de veau isn’t something I’ll do again in a hurry. The meaty bits were ok but the gluey bits were … gluey. No amount of piquant sauce could hide that fact. But if you’re an aficianado of that kind of thing I guess you’ll have booked a table already.

Main was a more conventional swordfish steak with cheese-creamed rice. That hit the spot on a cold damp autumn night. As did the Anjou red it rolled in with. But not the affogato dessert. This was a mug of whipped cream and not enough coffee.

Which was a shame as the cooking is obviously skilled and popular with the locals. I should have trusted my instincts and just rounded off with a coffee rather than indulging in the sweetness. I’d definitely go back but with a more rigorous eye for what works for my palate.

7/10

#Food #Paris

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

Resto 37 Bon Vivant, Bloomsbury

October 29, 2018

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Where does one go when one’s just staggered out of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée wondering ‘What the f*** was going in that thing?’ French I guess, to keep the vibe going. Not too far either if it’s the coldest day of the year and you’ve got a stinking manflu. So we went to Bon Vivant, which has replaced a perfectly good Italian on the corner of Marchmont Street, something I’d slightly held against it when walking past previously.

But rarely does London stay still and BV does a good job of imitating a standard French bistrot. A pungently good French soup worked wonders as a starter. Despite being in the grip of  la grippe mâle. I could taste the garlic and got a good fishy slap around the chops to boot. The Viognier fared less well against such a blast of flavour, I should have picked a red. Good bread kept us going while we waited for the next round.

For main a confit duck leg was good without being to slaver for and came with death by spuds (one of The Fall’s B-sides compilations) but not by vegetables. Some frizzy lettuce made like tumbleweed across the plate before I pronged it and scoffed it. A sticky red wine sauce was excellent, as was the service.

The room was empty when we arrived at 6 on a Sunday but it soon started to fill up with mostly visitors to these shores. The music was all over the place, starting Europoppy and then moving onto to something more soporific. Except for the volume which always stayed just the wrong side of discreet. I could have done with some Georges Delerue, or indeed to keep with the Orpheé theme, some Georges Auric. And what the pre-pubescent boy at the next table made of the rather lascivious décor in the ‘powder room’ I’ve no idea but it wasn’t to my taste. The food, on the other hand, was. Next time I’ll order me own légumes.

7/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 36 Fah Thai, Southsea

October 24, 2018

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I’ve been in serious training for the Great South Run for several months. Dr Oddbin’s and Dr Nando’s carefully calibrated groundwork meant that when I arrived in Pompey the night before the race I only required a visit to a couple of local hostelries and a restaurant to round off a gruelling program of shoving things in my face to be in peak condition for the big day.

The Golden Eagle provided liquid refreshment while we decided that Fah Thai would provide the necessary pre-run carbo-loading. A brief wait for a table on a busy Saturday night saw us ensconced in a cheerful room hung with oriental knick knacks. Fellow diners munched and conversationed hummed pleasantly. I didn’t want to stray too far from the mainstream so shared a crispy fried seafood and spring roll starter with a Thai Green Curry to follow.

The food was good and there was plenty of it, thus satisfying both of my requirements for the evening. Cheerful, prompt service dispelled the slightly condescending chaos of Koh Thai from the memory. Fah easily outclasses Koh in all areas of the game in this neck of the woods.

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Pompey never looked so good.

The weather was glorious for the following day and thanks to the power of Thai food I completed the course in a creditable time. Future runners could do worse than follow in my footsteps.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 33 Kayal, Leamington Spa

September 26, 2018

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Back in Lem dropping off the old boy we were in the mood for a proper Midlands curry. The siren call of King Baba was difficult to resist but a 4.9 rating on Google told me that Kayal might be worth a shufty.

We hadn’t booked so had a brief wait in their bar area before being given a table in the window next to a jolly office party. The room is sociable without being cramped, ideal for this kind of dining.

Kayal’s speciality is South Indian food, so plenty of fish on the menu and dhosas a speciality too. Perversely we had neither, it was chicken for me and lamb for him as mains while we had chicken puffs and chili paneer up front. The starters were good – accompanied by three chutneys they each delivered the required heat but also plenty of flavour. Similarly my chicken curry was excellent, a level up from your standard high street Indian cuisine. Nutty chapatis and coconut rice provided the stodge (as did a slice of draught Kingfisher).

The service thorughout was excellent – a packed restaurant was run to perfection, something that is deceptively difficult to do. The friendliness of the staff was judged perfectly though I did miss Baba’s gonzo repartee. And his incredibly low prices. Though at around 25 quid a head a visit to Kayal will hardly break the bank for those in regular employment.

8/10

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p.s. The morning after I treated myself to coffee on the terrace of Procaffeinate. Coffee, staff and view add up to

9/10

#Food #Leamington

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


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