Archive | British RSS feed for this section

The Jam Tree – Chelsea

29 Apr

My affair with The Jam Tree started a few years ago now. Lost for a vibrant pub to go to that had a little something extra to offer and an eclectic list of cocktails, I thankfully stumbled upon this gem. I only lived about ten minutes away and now I live about 30 seconds away. Proud to call it my local, it has come up trumps every time. I’ve booked it for my birthday the last two years running and spent many a day and night there. Having noted that they were expanding their already well facilitated bar with a new loft space, I was pleased to attend the launch last week.

The Jam Tree not only now boasts the loft space, but also a ground floor area filled with tables for eating and/or drinking and a lounge area to one side. There is also a beautiful beer garden, complete with an outside bar and a huge barbecue. The decking is multi-layered and it’s a great sun trap on a lazy summer afternoon. The food is fantastic and really has excelled over the years. I wasn’t so sure the first time I ate there, but it seems they ironed out a few creases in their cooking and now its truly on a roll.
My favourite is the ribs, they’re featured on the bbq menu and without a doubt they are the best ribs I’ve had in London, if not the world. I don’t ever say things like that lightly. The meat literally falls off the bone and is marinated in a smokey and sweet, delectable barbecue sauce. It’s absolutely incredible. The pulled pork burger is undeniably the firm favourite with most guests and it doesn’t disappoint. The meat is of excellent quality and the sauce, bun and fillings have been finely tuned to perfection. Not to mention the presentation, this is not your average pub food, it’s thought through and doesn’t just look good, it tastes damn good too.
ribspulled pork burgerNot only do they have a brunch session, with a Bloody Mary list as long as your arm, a welcome shake up to the Sunday Roast, which they also do, but they have a huge list of cocktails to keep you going. Keeping with the theme, you’ll notice that jam is included in a lot of their cocktails. It brings a concentrated flavour and a fresh approach to some tired drinks. Just a few of the beauties I tried were:
Gin ’n Juice – Bombay Sapphire gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and Creme de Mure liqueur mixed with lime jam, lime juice and muddled with mint leaves and blueberries. This is a really refreshing and pretty cocktail. It’s elderflower and blueberry flavours are quite mild and so I feel it’s definitely a cocktail you could drink more and more of all evening.
download-3Coco Shake – Bacardi rum, Banana liqueur, lashings of double cream and a spoonful of apricot jam combined with a shot of espresso coffee and a generous helping of Nutella spread – Holy Moly is this incredible. If coffee shops caught onto this I would buy this all the time, not only would I be strongly caffeinated, but I’m pretty sure with the added splash of spirit I’d get through the working day a damn site better…it tastes like iced coffee with a hint of Nutella. I couldn’t taste the banana at all, but it didn’t matter, this one is definitely the winner.download-5
Confiture – Cariel Vanilla vodka shaken with raspberry jam, Chambord and pineapple juice. A sweet, jammy nectar of a drink, a little similar to a French Martini but a tad thicker. I think I could only manage one of these, as whilst it’s delicious, it’s a tad sickly, but if you’re going in for a treat then this is a really good one!
download-6Wham Bam – Cariel Vanilla vodka, Chambord and Passoa with raspberry jam and sour mix topped with popping candy. Passion Fruit tasting and the added surprise of popping candy. It really works. It’s a sharp taste with a hint of vanilla to smooth it and the popping candy is a bit of fun for good measure.
As you can determine by the nature of the drinks, there is a real energy about this place. The decor is fun and not too whacky, it exudes a bit of a vintage feel, with a fun throwback to the 80s with cassettes acting as wall paper in the bathrooms. Without bordering on the kitsch, it also appears professional and clean, which is something a lot of pubs with a vast turnover seem to neglect.
download-4The loft is really spacious with a gloriously high beamed peaked ceiling. It has a couple of nooks, including a long table that would be great for a Sunday lunch and it’s detailed with beautifully huge french windows. There are bathrooms upstairs as well as down, so thankfully no traipsing. You can see where a natural dance floor could appear on a more lively night and really it’s just a wonderful addition to an already thriving bar and restaurant.
download-7download-8download-9It seems I can’t rate this place enough, so I guess you’ll have to go and try it for yourself. You can always pop in on your way too, I’m certainly close enough.
Rate: 4.8
The Jam Tree – 541 Kings Road, London, SW6 2EB
020 3397 4422
Follow them on Twitter @The_Jam_Tree

The Jam Tree on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Advertisements

Dead Dolls House – Sunday Dinners

25 Mar
After a bit of a hiatus, call it research, I’m back and have lots to say!
Recently I went to Dead Doll’s House, don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t paying homage to a deathly childhood, or any such matter. It’s a very cleverly designed building, with lots of levels and separate rooms, littered with marker pen drawings all over the walls, an example being an entire fireplace complete with mantel piece and all the accessories artistically interpreted. Most of the tables are communal, with mismatching chairs and there’s a wonderful faux-grass roof terrace too, complete in the sense that it’s a perfect sun trap.-1What really inspired me after chatting with the creator, is that it isn’t a set restaurant, it has pop-ups and innovative ideas, like ‘Picnic In The Conservatory’. The offer is to prepay for your meal and then come to a sitting, so there’s no fuss on the day.

The ideas are great, the decor and the lighting are exceptional. A kitsch affair with secret rooms and a vintage cocktail feel. It’s in prime position on Hoxton Square and what they have accomplished in terms of innovation and ideas is formidable.

I therefore had high hopes when I signed up for their ‘Sunday Dinners’. I prepaid £25 for a four course set menu. They use a rotation system, so each Sunday a different meat is used. For the Sunday I attended, it was the beef menu. This particular pop-up is run by Checkon. A company managed by Terry Edwards & George Craig.

sunday dinners menuWe started off with The Cheesy Fingers, described above. It arrived in a small paper box, three large fingers and a little pot of sweet chilli to dip. The bread-crumbed outer layer was well executed, it was light, crispy and not too oily. All in all, very well maintained. The inside was a welcome comfort, and tasted very cheesy. Unfortunately I couldn’t really taste the jalapeno, pale ale or beef dripping, although you could sense there was something more than just cheese inside. It was enjoyable, however there was nothing not to like. It was a simple dish, like cheese sticks, but a little fancier. Comfort food, done well, but not out of this world.

cheesy fingersOnto the next course. This was the ‘Beef Leaves.’ Herefordshire beef, baby gem, chilli, ginger, coriander, cashew, spring onions and horseradish. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing. Filled with bright colours and a promise of an exotic taste, this was the bonus course, so my palate was expecting something of note. Unfortunately, a disappointment. The first thing was that the use of coriander was overbearing and all consuming, just too much to cope with, so much so that the diner to my left had to start picking it out, as it felt like a whole mouthful of coriander with each bite. The consistency of the beef wasn’t pleasant. It was chewy, slimy and if the other flavours were there, they were lost by the Goliath of coriander. My tongue was buzzing after this dish from the herb infusion. With expectations down, we were praying the third course could show signs of improvement.corainder beefThis was supposed to be the pièce de résistance, the main course, the big attraction. Roast sirloin of Herefordshire beef, yorkies, truffled roasties, greens, roast parsnips and gravy. I think I’m most disappointed by this dish as the beauty should have been in its simplicity. A roast is a wonder of comfort and simplicity, but done badly and it can be a mess of overcooked and under seasoned food. Here’s where I felt it went wrong. The beef was too thick, chewy, lacked taste and was presented badly. It felt precooked and reheated as it had a greyish hue to it, not evident with freshly roasted, browned beef. The parsnip (yes only one) was good, but not crispy on the outside. The Yorkshire pudding was a sorry attempt. It was flooded with oil at the bottom and as I took a bite I was essentially having a gulp of cooking oil. An oversight and a poor attempt. The greens, were chopped cabbage, ok but plain and a little bitter. The insult of the whole plate had to be the ‘truffled roasties’. This was worse than a school dinner. The potatoes tasted nothing short of stale. Overcooked, chewy, and for want of a better description, old. The gravy added to the school dinner effect and hammered home that little effort or thought had been put int the recipe, or cooking session and far more into the PR, as the description was far more appetising. A really awful attempt at a roast dinner. When you’re competing with every Tom, Dick and Harry of pubs, you need to pull off something better than that, or at least pull off something. The diners sharing our table had the same view as us, they were the ones that branded this as a haunting reminder of a bad school dinner.

roast beefWith an unsatisfied belly and the promise of a delicious sounding dessert, I felt a little hesitant to say the least. Mousse, hazelnuts, cake, milkshake, raspberry, mint and biscuits. I had wondered how that much would be incorporated into one plate. The presentation was faultless. Well thought out and looked minimalistic, modern and appetising. Once again, it didn’t even come close to the mark, I’m very sorry to say. The best part of it was a quenelle of chocolate mousse, it was adequate, nothing mouth-watering, but just ok. The (dried) raspberry and biscuits, perhaps the hazelnuts too, but I can’t be sure as I couldn’t taste any hazelnut, were crushed in a line and other than a twinge of flavour from the raspberry, it was pretty tasteless. The milkshake, was at room temperature, not chilled, which straight away made it quite off-putting, and it wasn’t sweet enough. It likened to just cocoa powder and milk. The cake seemed like a muted, factory sealed slice, that you can by from any Lidl with a lacklustre gloop on top. The freeze dried mint on top when eaten with anything else was nondescript and so I sampled some on it’s own and it was as if I had squeezed toothpaste into my mouth. An unwelcome end to a disappointing meal.
dessertAccompanying our meal and the best part of the whole experience had to be the cocktails. We chose Amaretto Sours, they were well made and tasted truly wonderful. If this had been a liquid lunch, this review would have been very different and I’m sure the photos a little blurry.
cocktailsI’m a huge fan of the space, the drinks and the ideas, I really am, but when you have the right lingo, the execution on promotion down to a tee, don’t for one second take your eyes off the prize, that being the food. It isn’t good enough, it wasn’t thought through and it didn’t taste good. And what an absolute shame, as in theory it is brilliant. I’ll be back to The Doll’s House, but not for Sunday Dinners.
Rate: 1.5
Dead Doll’s House
35 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NN
Follow them on Twitter @DeadDollsHouse @DeadDollsClub

The Dead Dolls Club on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Glazed & Confused

31 Jan

You hear a bit of buzz, you like doughnuts; that sugary, doughy treat that brings a warm fuzzy feeling…add the word ‘gourmet’ and right there they’ve got a following. Is that all it takes? Hold up a minute and let’s just focus. Whilst promotion and publicity are important, sure, the product itself needs to be perfected, from consistency, to presentation, to taste. It is paramount to receiving repeat customers and generating good publicity, because it was enjoyed.

I tried Glazed & Confused doughnuts willingly, by buying a big box and sharing them with my colleagues. The next day I got a call from Glazed & Confused and they offered me a selection box, so I could try some more. I also shared these with my office. It’s interesting, as when I normally do my reviews, it’s just from my perspective and it was enlightening to treat this more as a taste test/focus group on what people’s expectations were and what their reaction was to each and every one of these doughnuts.

Let me begin…

Mint Chocolate – This should not have been allowed past anyone’s lips. This is an atrocity to the doughnut family and should be avoided at all costs. The dough (for all of the doughnuts) is too thick. It resonates cheap, supermarket doughnuts, but has an off-putting consistency that makes going in for a reluctant second bite more of an arduous task, but with the hope that it couldn’t really have been that bad the first time round. The consistency of the glaze is like a solid crust, therefore when you bite into it, it inevitably falls to the ground, with this particular doughnut you won’t mind this in the slightest, because the taste of the glaze is quite positively foul. There was one person in the office that managed to swallow it, everyone else spat it out. It was not a sweet mint, peppermint or a sugary glaze à la After Eight, it can only be likened to neat mint sauce that is only appropriate with a lamb roast. The reaction of most when I asked if they would buy this doughnut was ‘Maybe to play a joke on someone.’ Enough said.

doughnut 3Sticky Toffee Pudding – This was the best of all 15 I tried. The consistency of the glaze on top was correct, it was gooey and moulded itself to the doughnut. The filling was the same consistency as the inside of a fig roll. It was definitely the most appealing in terms of flavour and texture, but I still had to largely ignore the actual base of it which was the doughnut itself.

doughnutBlackberry Eton Mess – On paper this sounds fantastic, in reality it was an epic fail. The cream was over whipped, so was very stodgy. There were very large, whole blackberries inside, which didn’t compliment the doughnut, as it became too bulky. The meringue was nowhere to be seen, as if you crumble meringue over whipped cream, unless eaten almost straight away, the meringue will disintegrate into the cream, because that’s what happens when it comes into contact with something wet. Therefore, when you put all this together and fill a doughnut with it (actually just cut in half and present like a sandwich, pictured in the above photo, bottom right), it just becomes an over mulchy, sickening mess. It should be filled with sweet vanilla cream, glazed with blackberry and sprinkled with hardened meringue pieces on top. That would have a) looked more appealing and b) tasted way better.

Chilli Chocolate – A direct quote from my colleague ‘It’s not so much that it’s spicy, it’s like someone’s thrown up in my mouth.’ This is a chocolate doughnut that tastes like a bland, bready cake with a chilli topping using one of my favourite retailer’s sauces; ‘Christ On A Bike’ by The Rib Man. Rib Man, you are the God of pulled pork and ribs and I love your food, but this is not a good partnership. A hint of chilli was all it needed, but when you have a sauce that is used primarily to be accompanied by meat, you can’t be pouring it all over. Mix only a third of a teaspoon to make a glaze and make this into an interesting, different doughnut and make the chocolate taste richer. To be so bold as to smother it in the sauce with nothing to offset it with is just plain wrong. It was pure comedy watching people bite into this, as it was beyond the realms of rancidness. Do not buy this.

doughnut 2Double Chocolate – This was a little bit better than most of the others as the chocolate filling was in the correct quantity and also tasted somewhat pleasing. Unfortunately the doughnut itself prevented this from becoming anything better than just mediocre.

doughnut 4I’m all for a winning idea and a formula that works, but attention to detail is key here. The quantities of fillings in most of the doughnuts are not right for starters. No one wants a mouthful of cream with no doughnut, it’s like having a burger with your ketchup, as opposed to the other way round. Equally you don’t want too little, like with the Peanut Butter and Jam Doughnut. The glaze has to not only look appealing, but equally be the correct consistency. The essence of the whole shebang is the dough itself. It needs to be light, air-filled, with a fluffy, freshly fried feel to it, take note from You Doughnut whose doughnuts are exquisite. For elegance and a ‘gourmet’ feel I would have gone for powdered sugar as opposed to a granulated/caster as it looks more appealing and creates a better texture.

At £2 a pop these are just not on a par with the sweet elite of London. Go back to the drawing board, rethink and execute this with an acute attention to detail, making sure that at the end of the day this tastes good, as right now it’s got a long way to go.

Rateless

Glazed & Confused

Various stockists in London, to find out more follow them @GlazedLondon

Hoi Polloi

27 Nov

An exciting new venture from the team behind Bistroteque and Shrimpy’s comes The Ace Hotel‘s restaurant – Hoi Polloi. This was my second time over to 100 Shoreditch High Street. The first time I worked my way down the list of cocktails, I managed six. That’s half the list! They’re really good, different, but not too weird. One of my favourites has to be the Meshigener Palone – Absolut, almond & vanilla jam, pomegranate (pictured). It initiates itself with a smooth valour but then as you swallow, the tight spark of the lemon gives a slight burn. It’s sharp, but really good.

cocktailThe feel of the place is quite unique. It’s a low-lit, Art-Deco, late 50’s, spacious floor. Booths are the feature for tables and high ceilings exude a feeling of wealth. It feels like a flashback to a real Mad-Men haunt. The newspapers as the menus, therefore, really add a wonderful touch, making it feel more of an experience, rather than just dinner.
menuWhilst the decor is from a different time, the waiters are in a uniform that boasts a skater jumper and casual trousers, I presume to remind you that whilst you feel like you’ve been transported to yesteryear, you are still in East London. It’s a lovely twist bringing in the modern and intertwining it with the old. The hosts however are in keeping with the decor. Exceptionally smart and prim.

As we were being seated we were immediately asked if we would like water; still, sparkling or tap. Ah, well that’s refreshing, to be offered tap as opposed to the pushy up sell. Delightful. And no glimmer of dissatisfaction on my choice of tap either. When choosing drinks we put in an order of Chickpea fritters with tarragon yoghurt. I had tried them before on my cocktail tasting adventure and they were fabulous. Disguised as a fat chip, they are fluffy inside, with a thin crisp coating. The taste is mild and surprisingly unlike hummus. The dip is a smooth and irresistible treat. A must try!

chickpeaBread and butter was brought over as we were perusing the paper; a mixture of types, but all in all it was only ok, not incredible. breadFor starters we chose to share the Crab salad with radish & toast. A great beginner. The toast was thin and crisp, like Melba. The crab was especially fresh, ever so lightly seasoned. Alongside it was a whipped fish cream that pumped up the flavour well and could be easily used as the base for the little open sandwich. What was described as just ‘radish’ in the description, was actually a small salad including cucumber, with a delightful sweet pickle dressing that gave the boost of flavour to the dish that it needed.crab saladFor the main course we chose the Skirt Steak with onion fritter & dripping chips and the Hoi Polloi hamburger that was also accompanied by dripping chips. The former was my least favourite dish of the night. The steak was cooked medium, and whilst it did have a strong smokey barbecue taste, which I think was a little too strong, the meat was a little chewy and not that full of flavour. A little disappointing. The onion fritter was a welcome delight. Sweet onion jam encased in a crispy breadcrumb batter.
skirt steakThe burger really was the winner of the night. The bread was how you would imagine a Big Mac if it had been made with high quality flour, egg and sesame. It was soft, a little sweet but not glistening with grease, it was magnificent. The meat was a good blend, not overly seasoned or lined with onion and crumbs but a good solid hunk of meat, equally not that greasy, but juicy of course. The salad inside the burger was effortlessly dressed and because all the ingredients were such thin slivers they molded themselves into the burger discreetly giving a deliciously refreshing balance to the dish. The mayonnaise, which at first I thought was garlicky, was actually truffle. It was incredible, I mean really amazing. It totally sealed the burger and made it complete. Easily the best choice of main. burgerburger 2The chips were fluffy, decadent and had a meaty twist, they were after all dripping chips. Honestly I barely managed half of them, not for lack of desire, more for the lining of my waist! And I needed to keep room for dessert…chips 2chipsWe were recommended the Chocolate Cambridgeshire cream for dessert by our waiter. I’m always a fan of a light nod in the right direction by the staff. Not only does it show that the staff know the menu well, but it also helps when there are a few choices. We followed his suggestion and it definitely did not disappoint. The cream was a rich, thick mousse that sliced like a cool butter. It has to be a sharing dish, as to polish this off would not only be a feat, but also very greedy! It was accompanied by some hazelnut ice-cream that tasted very home-made. A little crumbly and grainy, but despite texture, a nice taste. There was also some crushed hazelnut and what looked like green olive oil, but didn’t taste of anything. I’m not sure what that was. It seemed that if you were to pile these ingredients together you would result in a very exclusive cousin of a Ferrero Rocher. Needless to say it was pretty damn good. chocolate creamDespite the elite look of the place, the service and the atmosphere is relaxed and effortless. There isn’t any pretence or elitist attitude at all. It was kind and ever so professional. One of the hosts came to check on us near the end to get feedback, she took things on board and gracefully accepted the praise. It seemed like she genuinely cared too. Go and experience it for yourself and you’ll feel anything but Hoi Polloi.

Rate 4.5

Hoi Polloi

100 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JQ

020 8880 6100

Follow them on Twitter @WeAreHoiPolloi

http://hoi-polloi.co.uk/

Hoi Polloi at The Ace Hotel on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

The Imperial

25 Nov

I live a stone’s throw from the newly refurbished and re-branded The Imperial and have been watching the transformation over the last few months on my daily commute. It has gone from a pub/bar that had food residencies and an affiliation with The Little Black Gallery, often packed on Chelsea match days, to a sleek overhaul with an über out of reach menu, citing sustainability as its main focus.

The outside looks spectacular. It’s all been painted a minimalistic white, the lighting is dim and cosy and beautiful plants adorn the entrance, giving it an illusion of grandeur. We arrived a little earlier than our reservation and so decided to get a drink at the bar. This was something that proved almost impossible. There are stools all around the curved bar, people eating there already. To the left you are very close to a table, having to apologise for overshadowing someone’s conversation and equally it’s too near the store cupboard and the easiest exit for the barmen. Annoying. To the right it drifts into coffee-making facilities and the main host’s station for the restaurant, so no luck on that front. We ended up having to shout over two people dining at the bar and reach through his empty mussel shell bowl to grab my vodka-soda. A little tiresome and not a good design.

Onto the restaurant. The front was laden with beautiful big wooden tables that were well-lit and garnered a feeling of expense. The tables in the back seemed a little cheap and the walls quite bare – it felt a bit cold. Around the window sills were incredible bouquets of white roses, something that made you feel that people who shop at The White Company dine here, but it baffled me in terms of its focus on sustainability.

To begin with we were given hummus with raw vegetables. A nice touch and a good taste, simple and quite refreshing.

dipFor starters we chose the Salmon Sashimi Salad (salmon sashimi, mouli, avocado, watermelon, soy & ginger) and the Smoked Duck with broccoli, blueberries, chilli & soy. The former looked beautiful; sprinkled with pansy petals the colours were dramatic and bold. There were two pieces of salmon sashimi and two thin slivers of avocado – when this is what had got top billing on the description and considering the size of the dish, one might expect a little more. The flavour was mild, not enough of a kick – sensing they wanted to go for a little Asian fusion, I felt it could have been applied with a little more rigour. The salmon was ok, but didn’t have that buttery melt you get when the fish is just exquisite. The dish’s downfall was the mooli. Whilst I love the taste, it was shaved into long (very long) flat noodle-like pieces. There was way too much of it and it dominated the plate, not in a favourable way. Perhaps shavings, like with parmesan might have been better suited. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the mooli, but I had finished the rest of the dish and the manager showed a great deal of concern at this. She asked, when clearing the dishes, if there was a problem and why I hadn’t finished my dish. As much as I am as bold to say my in-depth reasons in a medium I feel comfortable sharing, perhaps cowardly, it is hard to be put on the spot by the person whose project this is. Feedback during a soft launch could perhaps be obtained in a way that gives them constructive criticism and not in a way that feels like you’re being told off by your teacher at school.

sashimi saladThe smoked duck was the best dish of the night. The thin slivers, artistically arranged, were smoky and had an aromatic sweetness to them. The broccoli was crunchy and seasoned lightly but with a twist of the Orient. The real complement was the blueberries. They seemed as though they had been stewed and turned into a compote of sorts. It added the best flavour to the smoke-filled, soft duck. Definitely the firm favourite.

smoked duckThe main courses arrived. We chose the Trout Fillet with Tomato & Chorizo Haricot Beans & Samphire and 8oz Onglette, Tempura Oyster, Banana Shallot, Hand Cut Chips. The trout was a beautiful, pastel coloured dish. It looked well thought out and was presented accordingly. The trout itself was excellent, it had a good taste to it, quite mild but not overdone. Overall it was appealing enough, but still missed flair. The chorizo and beans was a nice thought but the tomato flavour was at the forefront and I couldn’t taste any chorizo which would have been a good kick to the dish, as the rest was all such mild flavours. The samphire was delicious and buttery and gave a good dose of green to the dish. For a plate with such a mix of ingredients and high-end ones at that, I think, although good, it wasn’t out of this world.

troutThe onglette was slightly dreaded. After our mild telling off we had been asked what we’d ordered for the mains and the manager said that the onglette was too strong for her and it wasn’t her favourite. Uh-oh, that doesn’t bode well…it arrived. A huge portion of a very unattractive looking cut of steak, chopped into several logs accompanied by a deep-fried oyster on top was placed down. The steak was exceedingly strong and considering the look, it gave you a nauseous feeling after a while. The oyster’s batter tasted as though it had been sitting, sweating at the bottom of a pint filled with beer. This was beer battered like something else. In a word…foul. The banana shallot is an acquired taste, that’s for sure, not one I think I will try again, with a beyond mushy consistency it doesn’t add anything to an already unappealing dish. The hand cut chips were of course good, come on, if they’d been bad I think there would be a much bigger problem.

ongletteAfter a wait of just over twenty minutes for our mains to be cleared they finally were, slightly relieved that the quietest waitress had taken them away, so we didn’t have to endure another telling off, the manager then walked over saying that the waitress had just informed her that the onglette hadn’t been finished and again asked if there was some kind of problem. I felt like I was on trial. I was polite, I’m English after all, but being cornered in a place that I can’t escape from, knowing they are the ones serving my food really is not the best forum to highlight the downfalls of the place.

A sucker for punishment we ordered dessert. This was an orange and rosemary bread and butter pudding. It looked appetising enough but consistency wise it was stodgy and had the texture of something undercooked. I couldn’t taste the rosemary, thankfully, but the tart of the orange was not complemented in any way by the creme fraiche, as that was also a little sour. The cream needed to smooth out the tartness and it should have been a light vanilla cream or a cinnamon mascarpone. The dish just wasn’t good in terms of taste and texture.

bread & butterWe asked for the bill from the main waitress who had a very lacklustre attitude and around fifteen minutes later she came over and said ‘Have you got your bill yet?’ I simply said ‘No,’ when in my mind I was saying ‘Well, think about it, we asked you for the bill and you haven’t brought it over, so unless a carrier pigeon has flown over, no, it has not magically appeared here.’ A further five minutes passed and finally it arrived. Needless to say I did not leave a tip as the service left a lot to be desired on all fronts. Training hasn’t evidently been a strong part of the opening.

Overall I felt it was food that sounded all decadent and eloquent but actually it was just a disappointment. It felt like a place for an older generation with slightly dated food and the more modern food not being carried off well enough. They continue with their soft launch providing 50% off all food at lunch and dinner until December 1st if you want to try it for yourself.

Rate: 2

The Imperial

577 Kings Road, London, SW6 2EH

+44 20 7736 6081

http://theimperialarms.com/

Burrito Mama

12 Nov

Hot off the press is the new offshoot from the Wahaca team and it’s called Burrito Mama. Co-founder and previous Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers has created this as it appeals to the people who want a quick meal and who don’t necessarily want to take a seat. With the influx of chains like Chipotle and Benito’s Hat, to name a couple, there’s definitely been a stronger demand for the Americanised version of this Mexican favourite in recent years. That isn’t to say that Mama’s is rehashing something we’ve seen before. On the contrary. It’s opened in One New Change and so will definitely be one that the city workers frequent.

front mamaI love burritos. They’re an indulgence, a comfort and will fill you with sleepy hollow before you know it. I’ve limited myself to half of one at lunchtime, otherwise it’s as though someone has slipped a tranquiliser into my guacamole and no one wants to see that!

Burrito Mama is wonderful. There’s something quite wholesome about the experience. It’s fully decked out with  a corrugated walled, 1950s style shack and a sleek twist of self-service computers in the foreground. It’s colourful, upbeat, bright and fresh.

mama signBehind the counters I saw the open plan kitchen, where the all female preparers were making up the burritos. They were adorned in deep, red bandanas tied like a 1950s pin-up. They looked fabulous.

bandanaI chose a baby burrito (nothing small about it) with grilled chicken. Their chicken is chargrilled and described as ‘higher welfare’. A plus point for me. I ventured to ask for guacamole and was told that it comes as standard. Refreshing. There’s a choice of mild, medium or hot when it comes to picking your salsa too. Along with that I decided to try their Mexican beer – Pacifico.

downloadIt was explained to me that the difference with their burritos is they toast the tortilla first and then sprinkle the cheese in, a nice alternate as it means the cheese is melted and more of a base to the burrito, locking in the other ingredients. One thing that is definitely note worthy is everything is evenly distributed. So often you wind up with rice, rice, rice and then a big dollop of sour cream. This was well made and thoughtfully constructed. The chicken was soft and smokey; a nice, gentle taste to it. The rice was good, but the black beans were a touch undercooked. The blend of the sauces was fantastic, enough of the creamy avocado and tang of the salsa to suffice, but the real twist and the best element of all is the slaw. An unorthodox twist, but right there, in my burrito was a lightly dressed, crunchy, fresh, spicy slaw. It was the essence of this whole experience and what sets it apart. This gives it a wholesome feeling, one that doesn’t make you feel so dirty afterwards.

burrito biteThe beer was good, not as light as a Corona, but certainly not as pungent as a Peroni, it was refreshing and something different, but feel as though I’ve tried better.

beerOnto the very cheap, sweet, Mama’s Treats. I tried the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake – ‘a little pot of dense chocolate cake soaked in a mixture of three milks and topped with crunchy peanut candy’. I couldn’t have described it better myself! For only £1 this is a bite size chaser, all you should be able to handle after a burrito, and it’s the perfect amount. It’s exactly what is needed, not too rich and the milks blend with the sponge of the cake so well, with the peanut adding a little je ne sais quoi.

dessertdessert labelI also sampled the Chilli Chocolate Crunchy Cake. The base is a cross between a crunchy digestive and an oaty flapjack. The thick, hard layer of chocolate on top is fragrant and decadent. The chilli only hits you when you’ve swallowed. It’s actually not as spicy as you would think, it’s a welcome difference that’s for sure.

download-2So, all in all, a welcome treat filled with spice, warmth and good, hearty ingredients. I think it’s definitely one to keep an eye on and I bet there will be more of them opening soon and my hope…that they will branch into the street food scene next summer. Fingers crossed. Mama definitely knows best.

download-1Rate: 4.3

Burrito Mama

http://www.burritomama.co.uk/

One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF

020 3375 2374

Dinner

9 Sep

dinner sign
What a special day this was. My incredible boyfriend surprised me on my birthday by taking me to Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. It was truly incredible and I was in food heaven.

We were seated by the window overlooking the most glorious view of Hyde Park, with the sun beaming in the early evening.

To drink, I chose the limited edition ‘Kiss’ cocktail created by make-up extraordinaire Laura Mercier. Like sweet nectar, I savoured each and every sip because it was so heavenly. Baileys, strawberry and pomegranate blended together and served in a martini glass.

kissFor the starters I chose the Meat Fruit – mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread. This truly is a brilliantly innovative creation. The pâté is shaped and sealed with an orange gel like substance (but surprisingly ungelatinous) and made to look like a mandarin. I imagine this is an ode to The Mandarin Oriental where Dinner resides. Served with warm toast, this is one of those dishes that you have to try before you die. I practically wept after tasting the first mouthful as it was so delicious. I secretly licked my knife too. I clearly couldn’t let a single morsel go to waste. It is smooth and light and the taste is less iron-y than most pâté. It has to be eaten to truly experience the delight. In a word – heavenly.

pateAky chose the lobster & cucumber soup to start with. The salad was fresh as can be and flavored beautifully. The only thing I wasn’t quite as keen on with this dish was the cucumber soup that was poured over the salad, when they placed it down. I felt it affected the lobster taste too much, as opposed to simply complementing it. But come on…who am I to criticize Heston?

lobsterAky totally came up trumps on the main course. He ordered the winner, aka The Fillet Steak. Served with fries and mushroom ketchup. The steak was deliciously cooked. The knife slid through it like butter. Exceptionally seasoned and it cannot be faulted.

steak 1

steak 2The mushroom ketchup was amazing. It’s not often you experience a new taste altogether. It had the tang of normal ketchup, you could sense there was vinegar of some sort, but the mushroom emitted a softer taste, that married well with the sharpness of the vinegar.

mushroom ketchupI ordered the roasted sea bass and a side of mashed potatoes. The sea bass was rich and flaked easily. A beautifully cooked fish and the cockle ketchup was great, a sharp taste and interestingly tobiko style texture. The mashed potatoes were heavenly. They must have been blended for hours, as lumps were a distant memory to this bowl of goodness. I can only imagine how much butter was used.

mashBy this stage I was overwhelmingly full and had to ask the waiter for a short break before dessert. We had preordered this at the start of the meal. The one and only Tipsy Cake. Our waiter expressed that he always felt he must mention the tipsy cake to customers, as if they didn’t order it, in his opinion, their experience was incomplete. He was right. It was incredible.

tipsy cake

A buttery brioche cake with a crisp crust, baked in a thick metal pot, bursting to come out and alongside it, spit roasted pineapple. I’m not sure of exactly what had been incorporated into the brioche. I’m pretty sure there was cream, butter and a dash of alcohol, maybe rum or brandy. It was gooey, warm and tasted like magic. The pineapple was soft and light with an ever so slight smokey taste and had been doused in some kind of delicious marinade.

brioche

pineappleI was in awe of the flavours used throughout the meal. It really is exceptional to encounter new tastes and textures and be so appreciative of them. I am inspired by Heston’s creations and the delicate way he takes something ages old and turns it into something new. Truly a master of his craft.

Just when I thought my culinary affair with Heston was drawing to a close, the light singing of Happy Birthday started to grow in volume as the waiters placed down yet another creation. Birthday cake. Adorned with my name on the plate wishing me a Happy Birthday, I knew that this experience was unforgettably perfect.

A chocolate cake filled with popping candy and a lemon gel with a crispy base. Rich, indulgent and incredibly clever.

cake close up

birthday cakeThank you to my one and only Aky for understanding my love of food, for letting me eat whatever I want and for being so thoughtful and generous.

I can definitely tick this off my bucket list.

Winner Winner Heston’s Dinner.

Rate: 5

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

020 7201 3833

http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

%d bloggers like this: