25 May 2016

Off to Mykonos

I'm off to soak up the sun on these very loungers for a week. Normal activity will resume in a week. Ish.

23 May 2016

Le Bab, Soho

Before heading to Le Bab, I'd never eaten a kebab in my life. Post-night out foraging often resulted in stealing friends' chips or raiding the fridge and eating all the cheese, but I'd always managed to stay clear of the places serving questionable-looking meat on rotating skewers.

So perhaps I'm not best placed to judge somewhere whose menu is solely compromised of kebabs. But when a new spot in Kingly Court opens up and the guys behind it have trained in some of the top restaurants in London, this girl just has to check it out.

Climb to the top floor and check in for your reservation (yep!) and take a seat at one of the oh-so-Instagram tightly packed marble tables. Or totter on the stools at the pass and watch the magic happen. Then, order a drink (preferably with whisky in) and one of the posh kebabs. 

In the spirit of solidarity, we all went for the same one: the 15 hour free range pork shawarma. It arrives at the table flat, ready to roll yourself and devour or to tuck into with knife and fork. The grilled spring onions were at once smokey and sweet, the roasted broccoli puree smooth, the fennel pickle tangy and with a vinegary bite that cut through the meat, and the crackling a party in the mouth of salty, crisp skin. We also had to order the fondue fries which were essentially cheesy chips and gravy (but oh! that gravy, you could bathe in it) and the endive and pomegranate salad for a semblance of healthiness.

Bright, breezy, friendly and flavoursome, Le Bab definitely ticks all the boxes. Posh kebabs may sound an oxymoron but boy, do they go together. Lashings of ketchup and mayo not necessary. 

(photo via)

5 May 2016

Obica, St Paul's

Do you have a favourite cheese? I have several. I’m a big fan. I will always look to the cheeseboard when eating out and we habitually have an average of five different kinds in our fridge at any one time. I’m not quite sure where it ranks but burrata, a soft cheese made from mozzarella and cream, figures quite highly on the list and so it made perfect sense to check out the new flagship restaurant from Obica, an Italian mozzarella bar. 

Read all about the six course feast over on Try This For.

3 May 2016

St John Bar & Restaurant, Smithfields

St John Bar & Restaurant is a bit of a holy grail. A 'whitewashed ex-smokehouse where Fergus Henderson pioneered the resurgent interest in offal dishes', you'll find it on the edges of Smithfields Market. The ideal place to source the ingredients for the nose-to-tail cooking you'll find on the ever-changing menu. They release the menu an hour or so before each service so you'll never be sure what you'll be offered but I think this is all part of the charm. No prior planning permitted.

Our table was for 9.15 on a Saturday night and, as you can imagine from a Michelin starred restaurant, it was super bustling with diners in for the long haul. That's not to say the service isn't efficient, the all-in-white wait staff are attentive for the most part but ours was definitely having a bad day - no smiles, no explanations and a lot of stalking around the room.

The no frills restaurant looks stark and functional on Google images but at night, it's almost cosy with the lights down low and tables tucked around the walls. The couple across from us barely exchanged two words all evening, keeping their noses in that day's paper and its crossword - well-seasoned St John goers, for sure.

But enough about that, onto the food. For some inexplicable reason (which may or may not be down to the cheese and champagne we'd consumed a few hours earlier), we decided to stick to the smaller plates rather than dive into the larger dishes. The diners around us who did order them were served vast plates of food, so definitely a place to come to sate your appetite. Instead, we started off with the roasted bone marrow and toast with parsley salad. Four enormous bones arrived and we bent to the task, eking out the rich and gooey marrow which was perfectly offset by the piquancy of the herbs.

Next to arrive was the brown crabmeat on toast. Forget pretty plates here, this place is all about the hearty and letting nothing go to waste. The sweet meat was slathered thickly onto sourdough, seasoned and squeezed with lemon and brought to the table. Another rich and flavoursome dish.

The other two dishes we chose divided opinion. Or mostly my opinion because I backed out of my promise to try the snails. Already shelled and nestled in the salad, I couldn't bring myself to try them this time so P got the spoils and devoured them all greedily. I instead focused on the octopus salad with a citrus dressing, and meaty chunks of tentacle. More my kind of thing.

The buzz was infectious, the flavours good and proper but I was a little disappointed by our waitress. But, with just a few small plates, we definitely didn't do St John complete justice and I think we'll have to give sister restaurant Bread & Wine a try.

(photo via)

28 April 2016

& other places: Opium, Vagabond Wines & Champagne + Fromage

Three bars to whet your appetite.

This late night drinking den is found (where else?) in Chinatown. Like the Experimental Cocktail Club, Opium is tucked behind a nondescript door, marked only by the bouncer waiting outside. A quick nod and a climb up two or three flights of stairs and we found our place at the bar for post The Book of Mormon drinks, a couple of Wednesdays ago. The drinks menu sounds delicious - the Opium #6 with tequila, ginger, oolong tea for example, or the Golden Lotus with its Remy Martin, rye whisky and banana - but we continued our love affair with Kummel and ordered first a Silver Bullet, and then the much tastier and smoother (and papa-patented) Silver Streak with gin. We couldn't resist the excellent dim sum, so much so that we had to order more to sate our craving for the delicious dumplings. My favourites? The classic pork and prawn, the crab and samphire and the lobster, naturally.

Vagabond Wines
Vagabond Wines are making the art of drinking the grape a more casual affair. No lengthy list to wade through, just a few machines to hover in front of, deciding which to try first. They profess to having over 100 bottles by the glass - just load up your wine card with money, slide it into the slot, press for a sample (25ml) or a glass (125ml) and bottoms up. It's a great way of discovering new wines without committing to a bottle (although you can buy any you like) and with the prices ranging from 'impressively cheap' to 'impressively not so cheap', there's something for everyone. We headed to the Spitalfields one and while I think it's a little smaller than the others, it makes for a cosy post-work stop off. Bucket of wine optional.

Champagne + Fromage
Lovely. A place that does what it says on the tin. A tiny little space across two floors a stone's throw from Covent Garden, Champagne + Fromage is a great place to dip into mid-afternoon for a pick me up. We went for a flight of champagne each - three glasses of different grapes (who doesn't love a selection?) - and shared a cheeseboard - choose three from a range (something old, something new, something fruity and something blue...)  - and would have declared ourselves done, considering we had dinner at St John booked for later that evening. But, of course, we couldn't resist and had stayed for another bottle of bubbly. Sitting downstairs, the atmosphere's a bit lacking but nothing that the fizz couldn't combat.
© thenotsosecretdiary . All rights reserved.