Review: Holborn Dining Room

Roast Rib Eye

Roast Rib Eye

The stretch of road from Holborn station towards Chancery Lane is a bit of a no man’s land. You’ll find the standard lunch time take-out shops, a stationers targeting students and… not a whole lot else. Once the sun goes down, sleepiness properly settles in. It seems strange given that the area is a stone’s throw from Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road. Of course, there has to be a divide somewhere… but perhaps it shouldn’t feel so much like a provincial town. Some people, somewhere, obviously agree as the area is currently part of a ‘Go To Midtown‘ campaign  – an effort to rebrand and invigorate the area.

Perhaps cottoning on this, or perhaps just trying their luck, Rosewood Hotel opened in October 2013. Naturally, this also entailed an restaurant – the somewhat functionally named Holborn Dining Room.

Holborn Dining Room appears every bit the well-furnished modern brasserie in its style – bare bulbs on metal frames throw shadows over the dark wood counters and tables that are surrounded by plush red leather seating. It’s tastefully done and consistent.

Swish interior and dim light aside, on entering the restaurant, we found the atmosphere to be relaxed – Holborn Dining Room could easily be a place to go for drinks and a catch-up with friends but it would equally work for a date. So far, so good.

The staff were on their best behaviour, probably because we were visiting for the soft launch; they attended to us with wide smiles, and created the illusion of automatic doors. Service was just below the overbearing mark, and they’ve probably all calmed down a bit by now.

Hello beef!

Hello beef!

My dining companion and I are FIENDISH meat eaters so there was only one thing on the menu that we were going to be ordering: the Roast Rib Eye ‘Club Cut’ with pepper sauce and crispy onions (£26.50). This is a giant chunk of tender roast beef served up like a steak, topped with thin onion rings. The flavour of the meat was beautiful, but it was a tad overcooked: I asked for mine medium-rare and it came medium, whereas my companion’s came medium-rare, despite asking for it rare. Nevertheless, we happily devoured our chunks of meat with some sell-executed chips (£4.25) and some delicious steamed spinach (£5.50).

Valhrona chocolate

Valhrona chocolate <– order this

For dessert, I tucked into an absolutely brilliant Valhrona chocolate pot with sweet cream (£6.50), which was essentially a very rich chocolate crème brûlée with a fantastically crisp top.

Bakewell tart - modern style?

Bakewell tart – modern style?

My companion was less lucky with her Bakewell tart and raspberry ice-cream (£6.50). In an attempt at a modern twist on the classic, the chef had produced a giant puff pastry version, which inadvertently created the game of ‘hunt the filling’ in the midst of a desert. Thank goodness for the ice-cream.

Holborn Dining Room 3/5 – Whilst the food is of decent quality, it is far from exceptional and, at those prices, it can’t really afford not to be. It made us very grateful for the soft opening offer!

Food 3/5
Value 1.5/5
Atmosphere 4/5
Service 4/5

Website: http://www.holborndiningroom.com/
Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
When: Mon – Fri 7am – 11.30pm; Saturday 8am – 11.30pm; Sunday 8am – 10.30pm

Review: Rodells, Watford

Feast

Feast

They say the best things in life are worth some effort. If you want some excellent food, popping to the food court at the shopping centre ain’t going to make your taste buds’ dreams come true. So when I say that you all better bloody travel to Watford, you better bloody travel to Watford. In fact, I’m probably going to be shouting about this for the rest of the year. Zone 3 just became so much trendier. Watford is the place to go. Watford is the new East London. (Just with fewer moustaches and fixies.)

All of this enthusing is due to one place: Rodells.

Rodells... usually found without monkey-girl on lamp post

Rodells… usually found without monkey-girl on lamp post

Rodells

Rodells

Rodells is more than a restaurant; it’s an institution. It’s a food haven, a theatre, a family home, an evening hang-out and a democracy.

Rodells is the kind of place where you can spend five hours enjoying a meal. Which is exactly what we did.

Admittedly, I was a little sceptical when I received an email inviting me to Watford, but as I read on, my interest was piqued. Most restaurants have a speciality, even if it’s broad and regional in scope. ‘Modern European’ or ‘Pan-Asian’ might sound familiar. My most eclectic experience was probably when I visited a restaurant in Brasov that specialised in Mexican, but also served Hungarian and Romanian (and incidentally was fantastic).

Rodells takes eclecticism to a new level. The theme: world tapas. The reason: one man called Mario Tavares.

Cooking is like taking a photograph, Mario tells us. There is that one second where everything aligns and you have a beautiful shot, and a second later, the moment’s gone.

We’re sitting in a cosy upstairs room with Monty Python projected on the back wall. Rodells is a rather characterful property on the corner of some crossroads. Downstairs is a bar and some wooden counter seating, and larger restaurant tables are dotted around the two upstairs rooms.

Silent entertainment

Silent entertainment

Spending his early years in Macau, Mario moved to London just before his teens. However, the capital couldn’t contain him: he travelled the world as musician and film producer, playing for Motorhead, Paul Young and Keith Allen when he was a stand-up. During his adventures, he did what any self-respecting foodie would do and ate his way through a variety of cuisines. Yet Mario took his love of food one step further: he tracked down recipes.

‘I do a Thai green curry that’s not a Thai green curry,’ he tells us, perched at our table. ‘I learned the recipe in Kerala.’ It’s the kind of story that makes you blink twice. Whilst on the beach, he had been approached by a guy who sold three items: coconut oil, green curry and sunglasses. Brave or reckless – take your pick – Mario tried the curry and was blown away to the point where he pestered the man for the recipe.

Mario is clearly as creative as his background and the surrounds suggest. Food for him is ‘performance’; it’s an art form. Before he creates anything, he visualises it clearly in his mind. The theatrics extend to visitors’ dining experiences. Originally, each table had a blackboard built into them, each with a different menu. People had to strategically choose their menu depending on what they wanted to eat. For a past Valentine’s Day event, Mario hired an actress to sit drinking wine alone at a table. Whenever anyone went to the toilet, she would follow them and have an angry conversation on her phone at her good-for-nothing boyfriend who’d stood her up. This idea is so cheeky and hilarious that I grin every time I think of it.

As for the menu, we weren’t quite prepared for the scope of it: Korean, English, Portuguese, Louisianan, Caribbean, Cuban, Mexican, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Spanish, Lebanese, Cantonese… the list goes on.

Arriving at Rodells, we had been greeted by a tall, good-looking young man, who thankfully insisted on talking us through the list of world cuisines.

‘I’m very into food,’ he said.

‘I’ve come to the right place,’ I thought.

Is our waiter a red hot model? Why yes. Am I posing shamelessly with him? Why yes?

Is our waiter a red hot model? Why yes. Am I posing shamelessly with him? Why yes.

Choosing what to order was agony. Today’s menu contained no less than 28 tapas dishes and three larger dishes. As an obsessive foodie, I got out my biro and began marking ‘definites’ and ‘potentials’, whilst grilling our waiter, Louis, on his preferences. The menu changes daily; Mario’s repertoire consists of 130 dishes that he has collected over the years. He has two assistant chefs, Louis informed us, but they can only cook four dishes to the right standard. We all try them and vote whether they’re good enough, he explained. What a lovely gastronomic democracy.

Pretty pretty food

Pretty pretty food

Flat iron steak

Flat iron steak

In the end, we ordered one of the ‘mains’ that Louis raved about – flat iron steak (£14.50). This was served beautifully rare with a delicate pepper cream sauce and some of the best frites that we’ve had in a while – frites that actually tastes of potatoes rather than crispy air. The steak was clearly fantastic quality but had been a little over-enthusiastically peppered, which detracted from the flavour of the beef itself. Fortunately, the cream sauce did much to alleviate any mouth-burning and was also delicious in its own right.

Mac 'n cheese sushi style

Mac ‘n cheese sushi style

Next up, we had ‘mac n cheese sushi style’ (£8). Before you wrinkle your nose with revulsion, let me state now that no raw fish was mixed with cheese or pasta! The macaroni cheese is cooked, then rolled in breadcrumbs into a cylindrical shape and sliced like sushi. Each delicate ‘sushi’ piece is then topped with a blob of sweet mustard sauce. Not being the biggest macaroni cheese fan in the world and highly wary of ordering pasta out in this country, we only chose this based on rave reviews from previous bloggers and being assured it was a ‘favourite’.

One mouthful and its popularity suddenly made sense. It was not the rubbery, chewy lump I had expected but was soft with perfect consistency. The cheese, in our opinion, was a little too strong for the dish, but we fully enjoyed the concept: it’s rare that a single dish becomes an experience in itself.

Nonya chicken curry

Nonya chicken curry

Next up, we tucked into another customer favourite – ‘nonya chicken curry’ (£6), described as the ‘sexiest curry in the world’. Nonya – or nyonya – is a Malaysian curry that’s prepared by women for women. Women feeding women? How could that not be sexy?! Seriously, and with all mildly crass jokes aside, this curry had a very sexy flavour. It was mild but rich, with faint hints of lemongrass. The chicken was a little dry, but the sauce was so amazing that I would happily eat this every day. I would drink it for breakfast.

Jambalaya with some mac n cheese sushi style to the left

Jambalaya with some mac n cheese sushi style to the left

Along came a jambalaya with prawns and chorizo (£6). The rice was cooked to perfection and pepped well with fresh oregano. Sadly, the chorizo was bland and so there was little smoky, garlicky, paprika flavour to permeate the rice. This was the only disappointment for me.

Portuguese stifado

Portuguese stifado

For the savoury dishes, we finished off with a Portuguese stifado (£6), which Mario sometimes also calls Greek stifado as the dish is also found there. This is a beef stew that’s wonderfully flavoured with cassia bark – like a warmer, less sweet and earthier variation of cinnamon. It’s a dish that is truly comforting and is popular across the ages.

The dessert menu was profoundly traumatic. There was far too many delicious things begging to be sampled. In the end, we ordered three desserts – purely for quality control purposes. Obviously. Ahem.

Marry me.

Marry me.

The brownies (£4.50) were pleasant yet unremarkable, but the lemon and ginger cheesecake (£4.50) was marriage material. The base was crisp and thin and the flavours were so expertly balanced that the lemon and ginger pulled off a perfect duet in my mouth, scoring a 10.

The best carrot cake in the world

The best carrot cake in the world

Concluding the munchathon, we delved into possibly one the tastiest carrot cakes in the world (£4.50). It was again harmonious with warm spice cut by beautiful sweet icing. This is the kind of cake that would audition other cakes to get into cake heaven.

If food is performance, then Mario has mastered his ingredients well – they sing and dance to the taste buds. Occasionally, they might miss the odd beat but the show remains a stunning success.

Rodells 4.5/5 – Brilliant tapas-style dishes from around the world in a homey setting. Bring your friends and dig in!

Food 4/5
Value 4/5
Service 5/5
Atmosphere 5/5

Web: www.itsrodells.com / @itsrodells
Where:
1a St Johns Road, Watford WD17 1PU
When:
Lunch 11 – 3pm; Dinner 5 – 11pm; Breakfast – delivery to some local post codes.

Review: Urban Food Festival, Shoreditch

Tasty pastry from Porteña

Tasty pastry from Porteña

Yes, ladies and gentleman, London has finally got its act together so good quality street food is no longer found at the fringes of one’s dreams but has become an easily accessible actuality. Following this trend is the Urban Food Festival just off Shoreditch High Street. (You’ll have to be quick to catch it though – the last one of these gastronomic gauntlets is TONIGHT- Saturday October 12th.)

The crowd

The crowd

In the crowded space that is Euro Car Parks, street food trucks and stalls present a vast array of global cuisines from Korean to Mexican, from Argentinian to Indian, with a bar, some music and dash of street art thrown in for good measure. What’s brilliant about these kind of events is that they shift the rather heavy emphasis on alcohol in British culture to a more well-rounded evening where alcohol is somewhat secondary to the shift on food. Social points are earned by how many different dishes you manage to cram in, or whether you’re brave enough to sample the ‘gator balls’ from Geaux Cajun (not testicles as we’ve been assured). All in all, Urban Food Fest makes for a fun, foodie evening.

As for the food, one must expect THE trendiest dishes in town, given that the market is in Shoreditch. It was with little surprise, then, that we encountered croughnuts (croissant-doughnut hybrids) and ramen burgers that have recently spread across the pond from New York.

Here’s just a few of the amazing traders my (very hungry) dining partner and I got to try!

Galbi Brothers

The Galbi Brothers

The Galbi Brothers

Ramen, the popular Japanese noodle dish, is very trendy in the West. Burgers are also a big food fad of the moment. So what should we do? COMBINE THEM.

Ramen burger

Ramen burger

Rice Burger

Rice Burger

The Galbi Brothers – who met whilst producing Gangnam Style parody, London Style –  serve up ramen burgers (£6) with Korean BBQ maintated beef and, of course, kimchi. However, they’ve gone one step further and created a rice burger. Both are worth trying, as they offer very different textures and allow different flavours of the ingredients to come through. Personally, I felt the rice burger went best with the beef, but I think the ramen burger would go really well with a pork burger as food writer MiMi cooked up here.

Check out their super-funny video here:

Streetzza 

Hubertus cooking some pizza

Hubertus cooking some pizza

Everyone likes pizza, but Streetzza takes it to a whole new level of total awesomeness. How about pizza fresh from a wood fire oven in the back of a converted horse box… covered in street art? Yes, that’s right! The Streetzza van is actually a green and pink monster truck featuring art from SweetToof and Ronzo. A feat of engineering, it took owner Hubertus a couple of months to build. Temperatures reach 500°C inside but the outside remains completely cool.

Hubertus has been making pizza for 10 years, inspired by his Corsican family. This means very thin, crispy pizza crust and a lot of deliciousness. After he finishes making pizza, he often throws a joint of pork into the oven and slow cooks it for an extra – and very tender – topping. There are plans for some amazing Christmas dinners at the end of this year, so keep your eyes peeled.

Into the oven

Into the oven

In the oven

In the oven

TADAH! Chorizo and jalapeno pizza. Om nom nom.

TADAH! Chorizo and jalapeno pizza. Om nom nom.

Luardos

Inspired by helping Petra, founder of street market Kerb, with a chocolate van, Simon Luard saved up £10K to open his very own Mexican street van. Things didn’t quite go as expected on his first day of trading – he’d installed a chargrill that led to smoke so thick that people tried to call the fire brigade! Fortunately, he didn’t ruin the van or his lungs as, six years on, Luardos is a bit of a Mexican street food legend on the London scene. Expect dangerously lush burritos. Muy rico indeed.

Batch Bakery

I’m having a love affair with their brownies. The salted caramel brownies are so gooey and rich that I practically drank them out of the paper bag and I am shuddering with pleasure just from the memory. For something really unusual, try their Lemon Meringue Blondies.

Salted caramel brownies - let me drink you!!!!!

Salted caramel brownies – let me drink you!!!!!

The Crumbery

The Crumbery team!

The Crumbery team, Vincent and Callie, with some crumbnuts (croughnuts) in the foreground

The sweet treats from The Crumbery will also change your life. Vincent Josse is a French trained pastry chef and thrives on the creativity that The Crumbery provides. There macaroons are otherworldly. How exciting can macaroons be, you might ask. The answer is very, very exciting. How about Lychee, Raspberry and Rose? Or Peanut Butter and Jelly? Or Cream Cheese and Rosewater? I hear a Wasabi and Grapefruit is in the pipeline too! The flavours are beautifully executed as is the presentation; they are truly works of art.

So pretty

So pretty

The Crumbery began with making artisan chocolates before expanding. Currently based in Kent, they’re hoping to open a store in London very soon. They’re super-hip too as they have their version of cronuts – Crumbnuts. The pastry/dough is, as would be expected, amazingly light.

They look like burgers!!

They look like burgers!!

Burger Bear

Tom himself

Tom himself

Tom likes disco and burgers, so you’re guaranteed two things when you visit Burger Bear Tom: music and some really good burgers. What’s more, he has concocted a sweet, morerish bacon jam that is really worth ordering and that you can also take home for £5 a jar. Not only are the burgers juicy and the condiments well-balanced, but ordering can be a lot of fun. Ask for Grizzly Bear. Or an Angry Bear. Or ask for a Greedy Bear (double patty) and make it Angry with the Ribman’s famous Holy Fuck sauce.

Urban Food Festival – TONIGHT 

175 Shoreditch High St, E1 6HU
5pm – midnight

And a final shout out to Porteña for some great empanadas!

Spinach and ricotta

Spinach and ricotta

Beef (traditional)

Beef (traditional)

Review: Bordeaux Wines at Zoo Lates

Jardin du Vin

The Bordeaux Jardin du Vin

Zoo Lates. An adults-only party at London Zoo. I must admit I was a little sceptical. Was this really going to be appealing? And surely allowing alcohol-fuelled revellers to run about in close proximity to wild animals is a recipe for disaster?

Well, I’ve yet to hear of any humans being munched or of any alcohol-poisoned animals, but I’ll say that on my first point, I was entirely wrong: Zoo Lates is deliriously good.

ANIMALS

ANIMALS

It’s a carnvalesque party that borders on the surreal. Imagine crowds of people dressed as animals, drinks and street food in hands, strolling around and admiring animals. I wouldn’t want to tackle what this scenario says about human nature. Instead, let’s take it for what it is: crazily good fun.

Twister

Twister

This meerkat just rocketed off the cuteness scale

This meerkat just rocketed off the cuteness scale

I papped the king yawning

I papped the king yawning

Duck drowning in ball pond

Duck drowning in ball pond

He loved his raw chicken

He loved his raw chicken

Women dressed in feathers, giant twister, a ball park and lots of costumes brought out the kids in everyone. Plus there were lots of awe-inspiring animals, and feeding demonstrations and talks, including an introduction to the Zoo’s newest residents, Sumatran tigers Jae Jae and Melati, who live in a swanky £3.6m Tiger Territory.

Oh, there was also a drag queen swallowing balloons.

Now you see it...

Now you see it…

....Now you don't!

….Now you don’t!

I, of course, tucked straight into the street food and got this fabulous Girzzly Bear burger (£7 – smoked bacon and bacon jam) from Burger Bear Tom. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of sauce and the patty was succulent and flavourful. It was a good start to the evening.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Bordeaux Wines are supporting the event and have deployed some smartly-dressed usherettes with trays of free samples.

Would you like some wine?

Would you like some wine?

A lucky few of us were invited to Bordeaux Jardin du Vin for some more in-depth wine-tasting… in the name of quality control purposes, of course!

We were given a little background information…

Bordeaux is a very large wine-producing area in France, with around 100,000 hectares of land producing 700 million bottle a year. Bordeaux Wines’ motto is “good food would choose Bordeaux” and, having been brought up by foodie parents who drink a lot of Bordeaux wine, I would have to agree.

The wines of the evening

The wines of the evening

We sampled the following:

Château du Puy Bonnet 2010 – This is a very approachable red from the Montagne Saint-Emilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne. It was smooth and full-bodied, with a warm fruitiness.

Château La Freynelle 2012 – Combining Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle grap varieties, this is a light and fresh wine, with floral undertones.

Dourthe No. 1 2012 – A dry, classy and elegant accompaniment to seafood or summery puddings, it has a deep and complex flavour with perhaps a whisper of raspberries?

Château Simon 2009 – A juicy dessert wine from the Sauternes region of France. It is made from Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle grapes that have been infected by noble rot, causing them to be partially raisined. This wine steered away from extreme sweetness and had delightful hints of grapefruit and barley sugar.

For more information on Bordeaux wines, click here, or check out this video (there is a familiar face at 1.19…):

Sadly, Zoo Lates is sold out for the rest of the summer, but I advise you to sign up to the mailing list to be first in line for tickets next year.

Review: The Modern Pantry

Chilli and curry leaf waffles with smoked bacon and maple syrup

Chilli and curry leaf waffles with smoked bacon and maple syrup

Stop! Alert! Some seriously good brunch has been discovered.

I visited The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell back in March but somehow missed reporting just what a charming place it is.

Think of light, airy rooms with high ceilings and large windows. Think of a simple yet stylish interior in grey and white.

Think of a brunch menu that includes BEEF RENDANG and CURRY LEAF WAFFLES and almost no traditional British fare that the aesthetics imply, and that one would expect on a brunch menu.

For lovers of bacon and eggs, fear not – these may be obtained. However, there are some adventurous items on this menu that are bound to please.

Rendang on toast with crispy quail's egg

Rendang on toast with crispy quail’s egg

I took the Rendang Mince on Toast with a Crispy Quail’s Egg (~£9?).  Rendang is a beef curry that originate from Indonesia but is popular across other parts of Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillippines. It uses coconut milk and a mix of spices such as ginger, turmeric and lemongrass.

And this beef rendang was delicious. It had a confident amount of spice and flavours that thoroughly warmed the palate. It vanished from my plate all too quickly, and sadly seems to have vanished off their brunch menu.

When I visit next time – for there will be a next time – I plan to tuck into Grilled Cornbread with Chorizo, a Fried Egg, Sweetcorn, Avocado & Red Pepper Salsa (£8.80), which one of my co-diners was very pleased with.

Chorizo and cornbread

Chorizo and cornbread

There are also Sweetcorn, Feta, Green Chilli & Curry Leaf Waffles with Smoked Streaky Bacon and Maple Syrup (£8.80). From what I sampled, the waffles seemed a little mild but I definitely need to order the whole dish to confirm this properly.

If you happen to be  around Clerkenwell at lunch or dinner time, The Modern Pantry also offer a mouthwatering All Day Menu.

… So please expect further investigation upcoming on the blog.

The Modern Pantry 4/5 – Welcoming atmosphere and an interesting brunch menu. 

Website: http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk/
Where: 47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JJ
When: 

Café
Monday: 8am – 11am & 12pm – 10pm
Tuesday to Friday: 8am – 11am & 12pm – 10.30pm
Saturday: 9am – 4pm & 6pm – 10.30pm
Sunday: 10am – 4pm & 6pm – 10pm
Restaurant
Monday: 12pm – 3pm
Tuesday to Friday: 12pm-3pm & 6pm-10:30pm
Saturday: 11am – 4pm & 6pm – 10:30pm
Sunday: 11am – 4pm

Review: L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon, Covent Garden

Inside

The stage…

I’ve not done Michelin dining before but it was London Restaurant Week so I thought I’d splash out on a three-course for £35 deal at L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon. As it turns out, they run the same deal anyway as a pre-theatre menu. But never mind. I was off to eat at an award-winning two Michelin star restaurant in Covent Garden. The website boasts that Joël Robuchon’s restaurants have gathered a total of 25 Michelin stars, more than any other chef.

This was serious business; this was the pinnacle of gastronomy.

This was also a trip to the circus.

Why the circus, you ask? Because L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon takes pretension to the level of blatant performance, leaving the entire experience hollow at best and discomfiting at worse.

Let me explain. The inside is dark. Very dark. Green leaves line one wall. There are a few tables and a sleek counter with high, red stools, focused around a central bar and kitchen. This is the stage for the evening’s entertainment – the waiters.

Peeking at part of the stage...

Peeking at part of the stage…

Highly aware of the pretensions and expectations of their wealthy customers, the waiters camp things up to the extreme. Their accents thicken, they glance knowingly at each other before executing some flamboyant gesture, and they call out “OOH LA LA” at every opportunity. Getting louder and louder in some form of competition.

I wanted to shout “BOOBIES” very loudly because I’m pretty sure that was closer to the original version of the game. You know, the game where you start saying something random/rude and get louder and louder to see which one of you will dare to shout it the loudest. Somehow though, I think “BOOBIES” would have been frowned upon in L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon, but maybe if I adopted French swear words it would have been acceptable. In fact, I think I might return just to see how loudly I can shout “Casse-toi, con!” and get away with it.

Sustenance

Sustenance

We perched onto the counter seats and awaited some food. They provided us with a basket of bread. This is a necessity in Michelin-star restaurants: it is to ensure that you don’t faint with hunger from the small portions and can at least make it out the door without collapsing.

Parmesan cappuccino

Parmesan cappuccino

We were served an amuse-bouche  – a Parmesan cappuccino with foie gras and a port reduction. The Parmesan flavour was strong but expertly balanced by the sweetness of the port and the richness of the foie gras. It definitely amused my bouche, although my dining partner was less amused. However, our evenings clowns were not going to be forgiving.

“Is something wrong with your amuse-bouche, monsieur?” A waiter inquired, a little too loudly and a little too directly.

My friend hastily ate up. “I got told!” he muttered.

Green asparagus velouté served with goat cheese ravioli

Green asparagus velouté served with goat cheese ravioli

For starters, we took “Green asparagus velouté served with goat cheese ravioli”. The velouté (a creamy sauce) was very mild and delicately flavoured and the goat’s cheese provided a stronger contrast of flavour. Definitely tasty, but three pieces of ravioli somewhat limited the enjoyment. Literally.

Veal

Veal roulade

Veal

Veal roulade

Beef

Beef with red miso

Then the mains. I wish – I wish – I could remember them well enough to describe them properly…but the fact I can’t probably is a good enough review in itself. I ordered beef in red miso, which was unspectacular. My dining partner took some kind of rolled veal,which was a lot tastier than my beef but a little chewy. I really can’t remember because, to be honest, the unfolding self-mocking cultural parody somewhat detracted from the food. At first, I found the scenario highly amusing, but it grew tiring.

Chocolate - hooray!

Chocolate – hooray!

The evening was saved by the fact that L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon was not too posh for straight up chocolate and a big portion of it. It may not have been the richest, most chocolatey dessert I’ve ever consumed, but it seriously elevated my happiness levels.

By the end of the meal, I concluded that maybe Michelin-star dining just isn’t for me. I can cope with that, and so can my wallet.

Petit fours

Petit fours

L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon 2/5 – Yawn. Unmemorable food in a ridiculous environment. 

Food 3/5 – It was pleasant but not tantalising to the taste-buds.
Value 2/5 – It was good quality. That’s what saves it from getting 1/5.
Atmosphere 2/5 – Counter seating and smart-casual dress code means it’s not  super-posh, but the weird performance by the staff awkwardly co-opts diners into the role of part-audience, part-participants. Not the most relaxing.
Service 2/5 – Stop the ooh-la-las. Please. And don’t try to embarrass your customers. That is not a clever strategy.

Website: http://www.joelrobuchon.co.uk/
Where:  13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NE
When: Every day 12pm-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm

Review: The Port House, Strand

Cheese

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch party of the fab new tapas bar The Port House on the Strand back in February. It’s a little shocking that I haven’t got round to blogging this already, but if you haven’t been, I recommend you give it a try.

Don’t let its unassuming entrance put you off: the inside is lined with bricks and atmospherically lit with candles like an underground cellar for storing alcohol. Take a seat to one side and line-up the tapas on your table. And the port. Don’t forget the port.

Vegetable tart

The tapas were very enjoyable – nearly everything I tried was a pleasure to eat. Vegetable tart topped with a poached quail’s egg. Amazing Iberian ham  with a deep, nuanced flavour that makes me salivate at the memory of it. Succulent chicken skewers. And some kind of thicker, sweeter version of gazpacho topped with whipped cream (yes really). I actually have no idea what it is – a bit of Internet searching suggests it might have been salmorejo but I’m not entirely convinced. Can anyone help me out here?

Mysterious item... knowledgeable people - what is this?

Mysterious item… knowledgeable people – what is this?

Not everything was perfect – the aubergine tempura was bland and oily and too many of the tapas were served up on giant chunks of bread that made the dishes unnecessarily heavy and tarnished the subtleties of the other flavours. I ended up picking the toppings off!

Aubergine fail

However, overall I was impressed and would definitely head back for a second round of nibbling.

It’s pretty dimly lit inside but I hope that the dark photos below can at least suggest the tasty things that await you there…

The Port House

Website: http://porthouse.ie/london/
Where: 417 Strand, London WC2R 0PT (not far from Covern Garden)

When: Mon to Sat 12pm–11pm

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