Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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 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 31 Goods Office, Stroud Green

September 14, 2018

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A welcome addition to the local restaurant scene is Goods Office which nicely fills in the gap between Stroud Green and Crouch End. It replaces, after many years, a previous eatery called the Triangle and as you might guess occupies a triangle-shaped room. This doesn’t make it the easiest space to wrangle table-wise and to be honest I’m not sure the present set up of rows of tables quite works. But it looks to me that they’re still in the teething stage and no doubt a few furnishings will appear too to dampen the rather rattly accoustic.

But what about the food? It’s tapas so we went for a few options each from veg, fish, meat and sides. The stars of the show were a cured mackerel (top quality fish) and beef croquettes. The calamari were also excellent but could have done with a bit of aïoli or similar alongside. Padrone peppers were decent but too few. The rash splurge on a second bottle of wine for the party took the spend above 20 quid a head which is about standard for this side of the tracks of north London.

The service was excellent, really friendly and I hope this place goes from strength to strength – if only because it’ll save me walking that bit further when I want to go somewhere other than Harringay High Street.

7/10

#food #London

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


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