Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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

Resto 3 Prezzo, Trafalgar Square

January 23, 2018

Prezzo

Looking for somewhere near the Playhouse Theatre prior to Glengarry Glen Ross we chose to walk towards Trafalgar Square rather then the cluster of places by Embankment. Prezzo was the first resto we came to and it being January we ducked in for fear of worse weather ahead.

First impressions were not good. The room is cavernous like a provincial airport lounge. And peopled like one too – the air rang with an estuary twang and I realised that we were in the heart of a specific locus of Tourist London.

The menu is standard Italian – pizza, pasta, risotto and a few meaty/fishy things. We like to share a calamari up front but as I was quite ravenous we opted for breaded mozzarella too. The calamari was average, the flaw was in the batter not being crispy enough. The cheese on the other hand was pure evil. Like deep fried Dairylea. It was a struggle to eat it but being a completer/finisher I stuck it out to the end.

Mains were better – pork belly across the way met with a thumbs up while my Vesuvio pizza, if not quite Vesuvian in heat, was at least a recognisable pizza with plenty of pepperoni.

I couldn’t resist getting a bottle of Andrea Bocelli’s Pinot Grigio, as I suspected it might not be worth the 10 quid premium over the house white and wanted to be sure. Were Prezzo scooping the profit or was it Bocelli himself, spurning his public image as the Stevie Wonder of opera (actually, that’s a disservice to Stevie, who is/was a bona fide genius rather than a bland populist) to chisel mid-table restaurant grazers? Well, whoever it was they’re robbing folk, it was on the level of a Tesco BOGOF.

Service was the star of the visit – friendly and efficient for a place this size – and we left with plenty of time to take a digestif in the excellent Ship and Shovell. As to the play, Christian Slater may nowadays resemble a hamster in a toupée but he’s got star power for sure. And a convincing American accent. The rest of the cast lacked the ferocity that I was expecting from a Mamet show – those boys wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes on the IPE.

#food #London

4/10

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

Resto 70 Dom im Stapelhaus, Köln

November 27, 2017

This post contains justifiable swearing.

Difficult in retrospect to believe but after the Moisssonnier lunch I still had room for a substantial meal in the evening and this time I wanted sauasage. The Dom was selected principally because it was the first place where we found a free table. This may have been due to the fact that our waiter was the rudest individual we encountered during our three day stay in Cologne. 

We ordered a round of Kölsch and looked at the menu. At our inability to select our meal within a nanosecond the waiter stomped off to get our beer. This didn’t bode well. I wanted sausage and I wanted chips; it seemed almost criminal that I’d had neither yet on a trip through Northern Europe. When our tantrummed friend reappeared that is what I ordered. Oh, and more Kölsch. He had a sour look that I couldn’t exactly read but knew wasn’t good. 

The food arrived: sausage, salad and potato salad. I glanced up at the waiter. His shit-eating grin reinforced my suspicion that he’d got the order wrong on purpose (mine wasn’t the only mistake at our table) but I declined to make a fuss and ate my plate clean like a good boy. Perhaps they’d had a rough night of football fans the night before, it’s the only excuse I can make for such outright wankstainery to a customer.

The food was par for a Brauhaus, i.e. simple and filling. We left immediately on finishing to seek friendlier climes.

4/10

#food #cologne #germany

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 67 La Table du Midi, Brussels

November 25, 2017

En route to Cologne we had a pause for lunch in Brussels. We didn’t want to wander too far so La T du M was ideal. While Bazza the Gooner made friends with the locals we took a look at the menu.

A cheese sandwich at 3 euros seemed unfeasibly cheap but I ordered it nevertheless. It wasn’t a gourmet experience but it was good in a nostalgic, take me to my childhood kind of way. Aerated crispy white bread, a lather of mayo, minuscule cheese and iceberg lettuce. It was so 70s I half expected Boney M to come on the jukebox.

A couple of fresh Jupilers washed it down nicely and with prompt service we were done in plenty of time to make the Thalys. Thank god I’d laid in a bap as the food on the train was mystifyingly tiny.

7/10

#food #Brussels

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Resto 52 Pizza Nellie, Paris

September 7, 2017

I wasn’t hungry but the boy was so pizza seemed a good compromise. The one across the road was shut and I think Nellie hadn’t yet opened either but they had the door open and didn’t throw us out when we went through it. Hence we dined alone initially but were soon joined by a smattering of locals and not locals.

The menu is your regular pizza/pasta. I went for a La Reine as James had already snaffled the Napoli. We had a salad alongside. The pizza was good, plenty of topping and crispy enough. Despite my lack of hunger I devoured it in its entirety. The salad was a good helping with thankfully not too much dressing. Alongside we had a pichet of cheap red after being presented with a complimentary aperitif of what tasted like Ribena but probably wasn’t.

By this time pizzas were flying out of the door and it felt a shame to leave but one of us had an appointment with friends and I had an appointment with a good walk. The staff were very friendly and persuaded us to take a parting coffee. For around 20€ a head this was pretty good value for Paris. It’s worth going to Nellie’s if you’re in the area and in the mood for simple pleasures.

7/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 51, Vallée du Kashmir, Paris

September 6, 2017

We wanted something cheap and cheerful before seeing Dunkirk (or Dunkerque as they have it round here) in the Gaumont up the road. I was drawn into the Valley by remembrance of curries past, specifically of eating in an Indian by the Jardin des Plants after a freezing day’s walking with my then small children and the manager bringing us our own table-side calor gas stove. I was so cold and grateful I nearly cried. That is what I call customer service; the food wasn’t bad either.

We didn’t need a heater in the V du K but I would advise sunglasses. They have enough lights inside to land a jumbo jet. Flashing lights that would have Huw Stephens giving a stern avertissement for those with epilepsy. Lights in the ceiling. A TV churning out cheesy Indian pop videos. Lighted walls. Hell, I suspect they have lights on their lights.

I can just imagine their discussions with their accountant when they’re asking him why they’re not turning a profit:

‘But guys, in a businesses of your size you really shouldn’t be spending €20,000 a month on electricity. Are you sure someone hasn’t hooked up your supply to an industrial turbine?’

‘It’s the lights. We like lights.’

‘The lights? Yeah, I noticed those … And I’m blind. You need to do something about that.

‘We worship the lights.’

‘Bof, it’s your money.’

They like lights. They worship lights.

There was only one other guy in there but it was early by French standards. I remembered that things come in a curious order in French Indians but I couldn’t remember exactly how. We went for standards (as usual when testing a new place) with samosas and onion bhajia up front then a chicken jalfrezi for me for main and a Himalayan lamb for him. One popadom was placed on a side plate so we ate it while waiting for the beer (I didn’t know they did kingfisher in bottles so small but it was good and cold). We wondered why there were no chutneys but the mystery was solved as they arrived with the starters. As did the nan. Hmm.

The samosas were excellent, plenty of veg inside, and spicy. Onion bhaji in France is an onion ring, which is not to the British taste is it? I wanted sweatyoily balls of gut destroying deliciousness. These seemed insipid and trop civilisés. We were waiting for him to bring the mains but eventually realised that we were expected to eat our nan first. We chutnied the nan, the chutneys were good if nothing special while the bread lacked the crispness and ghee enriched luxury of its British cousin.

Then for the curries. My jalfrezi was curry but it wasn’t as ferocious as I wanted it to be. Oh my Standard, oh how I missed you. I’ll never betray you again. I couldn’t even see evidence of chili. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I took a swig of Kingfisher and mopped up the last of the juices with RICE. Not nan because we’d eaten that. Everything was out of whack. Though the service was exemplary it didn’t make up for the wrongness of the food.

Perhaps my Valley of Kashmir induced hankering for Britain was responsible for my weeping through Dunkirk. Or it might have been Hans Zimmer’s astute, just this side of cichéd use of Elgar on the soundtrack. Or it might have been a not particularly good actor reading Churchill’s speech on a steam train (you can’t ruin rhetoric like that, it’s inobliterable). Or Nolan’s direction. Anyway I did that and I don’t mind, it’s good to have a good cry every now and then isn’t it?

Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can. Sorry Jay, you can’t; and I’ll never go for a curry in Paris again.

5/10

#Food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 48 Salt and Pepper, Ostkreuze

September 4, 2017


Having played one football match and watched another (the first finishing 2-6, the second 9-9) our team was looking for something other than pig to eat for a change. We found it in the shape of Salt and Pepper, an Indian restaurant which rather curiously allows you to order from the menu of the Mexican down the road. I have to say that alarm bells were ringing at that prospect but while the food was unspectacular it wasn’t awful.

The highlight came from a pungently spicy green dip among the three on offer with the popadoms. The other two were suffering from blandular fever. My main of mutton curry had good flaky bits of meat in an unspectacular sauce and a generous helping of rice. Naan wasn’t as luxurious as you’d normally encounter in the U.K. but maybe that was to fit in with the local taste.

Given that we were about 10 at table the service was straightforward and friendly with good beer (well, it’s Germany isn’t it?). Not being listed on the menu an enquiry was made as to whether Irish coffee was available. They didn’t know what it was but they said they’d endeavour to satisfy the demand. Presumably after a quick scan of Google a nausea-inducing glass of whipped cream, coffee and whiskey (what a waste) was provided which though not to my taste appeared to meet with the approval of my fellow diners.

S’n’P may not be the greatest Indian restaurant in the world (or even Ostkreuze) but it did the job for a hungry football team on a Saturday night.

6/10

P.s Cheers to Gavin for the picture, I forgot to take one.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 25 Searcy’s St Pancras Grand Restaurant

May 9, 2017

I’d often wondered, as I hurried along to get a Midlands train, who dined in Searcy’s trackside at St Pancras. It seemed a halfway house between the luxury of the Gilbert Scott and the midbrow convenience of Carluccio’s et al elsewhere in the station that couldn’t really work. The door is narrow and you can’t really see inside to get a handle on who your company might be once you’re in. So we gave it a go at the weekend.

The room is tardis-like, much bigger than you expect, and pleasingly appointed. There are big tables, proper nappery and good, brasserie-style décor. The food is standard bistrot fare too. However, there’s nothing to mark out the restaurant as worthy of note, from food to service. It’s all competent without making you think you must go back so it’s noticeable that most of the customers (on our visit at least) appear to be out of towners who are indeed less than likely to need to go back again. And alas the prices reflect the location rather than the value of the experience. It’s all a bit soulless.

#Food #London

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


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