Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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

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


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