It took me over 35 hours to reach Madrid from Tokyo and three flights. The plus side was I got to hunt down noodles and night markets in China en route. But despite these indulgences I was starving by the time I arrived.
To make matters worse, little sister who kindly came to meet me at the airport was brain addled due her “sleep is for the weak” campaign. It took her nearly 25 minutes and several wrong transfer buses and escalators later to meet me at arrivals.
Sorry for the break everyone! It’s taken me a little while to get settled with daily classes, tests and homework, and moving to an apartment WITH NO REFRIGERATOR (can you feel my pain?!). I am, however, proud to report that I have not been lax on the eating front and have loads of delicious food to share with you all! 🙂 So without further ado, let me introduce…
ONE OF THE BEST STEAKS EVER
You may well know that I am very fussy about my steak. I often order it despite the fact that I am invariably disappointed. So when I’m raving about a steak, this is your cue to stop slumping and perk up and listen (provided you’re not vegetarian, of course). I should warn you that there are a lot of meaty pictures to follow like this… Continue reading “Review: Ikinari Steak, Plena Makuhari, Chiba”
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.
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).
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.
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!
Oh, what’s this? A review of a Michelin-recommended restaurant? How is Pheebz affording this, then? Well…
1) I had a Groupon voucher that gave me £40 of food for just £20.
2) The food is really not that outrageously priced, especially for the quality and portion sizes.
We were sat in a chic, modern and airy restaurant and presented with a tantalising menu. A very friendly and genuine waiter came to take our order.
As this is an upmarket place, little complimentary items arrived. Not only did we get some fresh bread, but we got miniature… plant pots.
Yes, once we’d done the obligatory squealing at its cuteness (I have spent too much time in Japan where anything small is automatically cute), we investigated this beautiful presentation. The pot was filled with a mayonnaise-like sauce, and covered in “earth” – soya pieces. Little veggies were then artfully arranged. My co-diner found the dip a little tangy and peculiar, especially as the veggies weren’t enough to eat all of it, but I’m a sauce-fiend so I ploughed through it in seconds.
For starters, we tucked into artichoke soup (~£6?). It had a very mild and slightly earthy flavour, but we really appreciated its subtlety. Plus, the portion size was very generous.
The main course meant I ended up like this:
You may already know that I am OBSESSED with beef. Obsessed. My mother craved it when she was pregnant with me and I therefore blame her for my carnivorous addiction. The smell of roast beef in the oven results in me half-stumbling and drooling towards the kitchen and hanging around vacantly until the beef is served on the table.
Therefore, when I saw Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak and Chips (£27) and I remembered my lovely Groupon offer, my excitement was extreme. Behold this glorious piece of meat and admire its 300g of beauty:
The steak was succulent, flavoursome, tender – and perfectly cooked. In short, it was everything I could have wanted from a steak. Not even the rather strange Café de Paris butter could detract from its majesty – although a garlic butter accompaniment might have elevated it even further. It was still, however, the finest steak I’ve eaten in a while.
Top this off with expertly crisp chips and perfect vegetables, and this was heaven. Quite often restaurants let themselves down on the vegetables – poor quality, bland and/or overcooked. Not One Blenheim Terrace – the asparagus and spinach (£4.50 each) really were mouthwatering.
For dessert, I took deep-fried Oreos with vanilla ice-cream (£6), which, despite sounding gloriously gluttonous, I actually found a little bit unexciting.
My co-diner took freshly-made Madeleines – simple little sponge cakes – with a rich, chocolatey hot sauce (£4). This was by far the better choice for the quality chocolate hit and for the price.
Just when we thought the delights were over, we were presented with complimentary chocolate brownies to take home.
All this was accompanied by really warm service. One minor gripe – we paid with cash, including tip, and a waiter who hadn’t served us ‘forgot’ to bring us out £4 of change. A little bit of a disappointing ending to what was a fantastic meal.
One Blenheim Terrace 4/5 – Great portions and great quality. Beef-lovers – go and eat their steak. And take me, please.
Food 4.5/5 – Delicious. Value 4/5 – For the quality and portion-size, I won’t complain. Atmosphere 4/5 – Laid back. Service 4/5 – A really lovely team, save for the one waiter at the end of the meal.
A couple of year’s back I was on a Japanese language study programme in Tokyo. Towards the end of our three month course, we were given a pretty piece of paper and asked to use our basic skills to write a piece entitled “My favourite….” (私の好きな。。。 / Watashi no sukina…）
I took this as an opportunity to write about all of my favourite things. I began my essay like so:
“My favourite food is beef.” (私の好きな食べものは牛肉です。/ Watashi no sukina tabemono ha gyuniku desu).
“No, no, Phoebe!” The teacher interrupted me. “We’re only writing about one favourite thing.”
I looked at my paper. This now had to be an entire essay about beef. Gyuniku. I was Gyuniku Girl. There was nothing to be done but to write the best eulogy to beef I could muster in simple Japanese.B
Being Gyuniku Girl greatly influences my eating choices. So when I discovered that Flat Iron Steak served up a rather tender-looking offering for £10, there was no doubt that I was going there.
Flat Iron Steak is crammed into Soho. Inside you have to squeeze onto a table next to other customers and sit uncomfortably trying not to elbow the other. But if steak’s the name of the game, we’re willing to play right?
On arrival, we were served a pot of peppered popcorn, which was far too peppery but somehow strangely addictive in a masochistic way that only the very hungry resort to.
Then we ordered – surprise surprise – the flatiron steak for a tenner, which came with a salad. (I did a bit of geeky research – a flatiron steak is meat taken from the shoulder of the cow, cut in two to remove a touch connective tissues that runs through it. Read more about it here.)
The first thing I noticed was…. that is not a salad, that’s some leaves in a glass. The dressing was pretty tasty though.
The second thing I noticed was….a 200g steak isn’t actually that big. Thirdly, it wasn’t as pink as the pictures I’d seen.
I tucked in and found it fairly tender. However, it was poorly seasoned – sprinkled only with a bit of salt. And as much as I’d like to say the flavour of the beef was such that it didn’t need seasoning, that wouldn’t be true. So it was an average if pleasing steak – perfectly inoffensive, but it didn’t stand out in any way. I enjoyed it because it was beef.
Flat Iron do a range of sauces you can add to your steak for £1. But suddenly that concept of steak for a tenner has gone out the window.
Of course, we also needed some sides. My friend took Sophie’s Salad (£2.50) – a pear and blue cheese salad, which he enjoyed although the blue cheese was very mild.
We shared some dripping cooked chips (£2.50) which were perfectly crispy.
We also had a lot of fun with mini-meat cleavers, which brought out the inner-psychopath in me. One thing was true though – we certainly didn’t need them for cutting our steaks.
Flat Iron Steak 3/5 – I wasn’t wowed, but it’s tender, cheap steak. And if you’re not such a steak-obsessive as I am, you’ll probably love it.
(Yes, some rather non-committal scoring here…I’m undecided as to whether I’d go back.)
Pop-ups are all the rage at the moment and are definitely expanding their definition. Forget a temporary shop for two-weeks – Rotary Bar & Diner are open for a full 10 months. And when I found out that they would be offering meaty things with 25% off for their soft opening, I couldn’t resist a trip.
Capitalising on the notion of “pop-up” and the general dilapidated-cum-trendy feel of Shoreditch, Rotary Bar & Diner is contains a variety of styles and patterns, high and low diner-style tables and pots of mismatched cutlery.
Our waitress was incredibly friendly and relaxed, and was evidently learning on the job as she explained the menu to us.
The menu offers buns and barbecued meat, as well as a range of choices form the grill. We both took ribeyes (£20 for 300g) with the ‘house sauce’ – a green peppercorn sauce. The food arrived incredibly promptly and, although it served on an ugly plate and in a manner that made me think of dodgy school canteens, the giant ribeye steak boldly sitting in the middle dispelled this notion. After all, no canteen serves steak.
My main concern when presented with this was not “How am I going to eat it all?” but “How am I going to eat tonight when I’m going to a potluck party tonight and it’s already past 3pm?!” Steak always comes first, however.
I have very high steak expectations but I was very pleased with the beast before me. First of all – and always a good sign – my steak was cooked medium-rare, just as I asked. It was also fairly tender – probably 7 on a scale from 1 (not tender) to 10 (very tender) – and it tasted properly steaky and flavourful, like a good quality piece of meat should. The sauce was slightly sweet and really quite delicious. A minor point – I think the steak could have done with some more seasoning because when I had a mouthful without sauce, I wanted to add some salt and pepper.
However, my tastebuds might have been biased – or rather, obliterated – by the dripping cooked chips, which were so over-salted that my companion and I ended up trying to scrape the salt off them!
The chips themselves were tasty and crispy but our mouths were burning by the end of the meal. However, our waitress was wonderfully receptive to my comments, explaining that they were keen for lots of feedback. I hope they’ve fixed this problem by now.
We couldn’t say no to salted milk chocolate ‘pudding cup’ (£5) – a kind of rich and dense chocolate mousse. I had the salted caramel peanuts for a topping, which again overdid the salt! I’m also more of a dark chocolate fan.
My friend got crushed Oreos which provided a bit of relief from the salt. Yum.
Rotary Bar & Diner 4/5 – A few creases to iron out, but go for real comfort food – delicious, good quality meat.
Food 4/5 – Stop with the salt! But otherwise, very good.
Service 5/5 – Had a laugh with our waitress. She was very attentive.
Value 4/5 – For the size and quality, I have no complaints.
Atmosphere 3/5 – Um, dining at 3.30pm on a Thursday during a soft opening wasn’t the best time to determine this. But it felt very chilled out.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hawksmoor brand, let me enlighten you.
Hawksmoor is famous for STEAK. This makes me very excited. Anyone who knows me well will understand that I will do (almost) anything for steak, good quality steak that is. In fact, my beef obsession began before I’d even made it out of my mother’s womb. She craved beef whilst pregnant, and I often tell her now, “If you hadn’t had given in, I wouldn’t have this addiction.”
Hawksmoor takes steak seriously, offering all kinds of cuts, from Chateaurbriand to T-Bone, from Bone-in-prime Rib to Porterhouse. Of course, places like this are going to cost money – serious money. Being a student, it’s places like this that I casually suggest to my parents.
In this case, my mother, sister and I were dining early before heading to the theatre. Which meant, happily for us, we got to take advantage of the Hawksmoor express menu: three courses for £25.
I can’t speak for the other branches, but Hawksmoor Air Street has an entrance like a hotel. A polished lobby with a desk. The receptionist – or is that front of house? – asked us for our reservation name. We hadn’t made one, and were left in a disconcerting silence. After a bit of prompting, the woman quickly told us it would be fine.
Which, at 5pm on Thursday, it was. In fact, it was practically deserted, emphasised all the more by the fact it is the LARGEST restaurant I have ever seen. I originally thought it had a mirrored end but I found myself just keeping walking and walking.
Apparently, it can seat 250 covers.
We took our seats and began giggling at the wine prices. A bottle for £6500, anyone? Who needs to drink stuff like that when just the prices can make us laugh?
Ordering was simple, given the limited choice on the express menu.
For starters, my sister and I ordered Potted Beef and Bacon with Yorkshire Puddings.
I guess the name should have told me that it came in a pot, but somehow my brain just didn’t make the connection and I was really surprised to find a glass pot on my plate! Inside was tender meat, not quite paté but softer than terrine. With caramelised onions and Yorkshire puds, it was a stunning combination and a lot of fun to eat. If I had to criticise it, I think the batter needed a tad more salt and I prefer Yorkshires to be slightly less crispy and little more doughy. Also, as you can see from the pic, it’s unreasonably large for a starter, so it’s not for those with small appetites! (Of course, I managed just fine.)
My mother took the shrimps on toast, but these were disappointing. Actually, they tasted so fishy that we thought they might be slightly off and decided not to finish them. So disappointing in comparison to the potted beef and bacon.
Whilst waiting for the mains, the fire alarm went off. And, wow, did it go on and on and on and on and on. The restaurant started to smell and look a bit smoky. We saw people rushing about and fiddling with a box in the corner. Our very friendly waiter came and apologised and said that some cream had fallen onto the griddle in the kitchen and had caused a lot of smoke. Eventually, after over five minutes of wailing, they managed to shut the alarm up.
For mains, we all took 250g Ribeyes. Our waiter recommended that we should have the steaks cooked medium. We were surprised as we’re fans of medium-rare, but he assured us that cooking it slightly more would lead to a better release of flavour.
We should have gone with our instincts. The steaks were overcooked and slightly dry, with charred burnt bits on the outside. As we progressed through our steaks, adding plenty of horseradish sauce to moisten the mouthfuls, we found that some parts had survived: these were more succulent, tasty and highlighted that this was good quality beef. But overall, the chef just didn’t know how to pull it off, which is worrying given Hawksmoor is a famous steak restaurant! As my mother said, “If I were paying full price for this, I would send it back.”
As for the sides, the salad was beautifully presented and had a light, slightly nutty and very fresh dressing. It was simple yet it was salad at its best.
The triple-cooked chips were over-salted but edible. A waiter dropped them en route to our table, so we got a half-portion and then received a full portion for free.
However, the field mushrooms were completely inedible. It was like they had been soaking in seawater for the past few centuries. I couldn’t eat more than one before my tongue curled up in protest and I gulped down some (fresh)water. We were offered a new side for free but we declined as we had more than enough food.
For dessert, we took the peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel icecream. The shortbread was filled with chunks of peanuts and the centre had a hot, chocolate sauce which spilled out over the biscuit and provided a delightful contrast with the cold ice-cream. Eating this was an experience. Full marks for a creative, tantalising and exciting dessert.
As a result of the hiccups, Hawksmoor were very keen to please. Without us asking, they deducted my mother’s red wine at £11 per glass and only charged us for two two-course menus at £22 – that’s the equivalent of getting two free desserts. We weren’t expecting anything but we were appreciative of the gesture.
This is probably standard procedure, but we received three delicious dark chocolate salted caramels. Mmm.
The bill came to £95.06 for one glass of white wine, two soft drinks, one three-course set menu, two two-course set menus, a double espresso, and a 12.5% service charge.
Would we go back to Hawksmoor? Eyeing up some of the full-size steaks, I would have to say yes…but not to Air Street. I’ve had a sniff around on the Internet and it seems that Air Street doesn’t quite cut, but the other branches are highly recommended. Watch this space for an updated review. Anyone want to treat me? 😉
Food 2.5/5 – So hit-and-miss! The food that was fantastic was fantastic, but other items were inedible. Value 3/5 – Express menu is reasonable, but beware the full-priced menu. Service 4.5/5 – Very keen to please. They lose half a point because the lady at the front of house could do with a bit of customer service training. Ambiance 3/5 – Not exactly bustling, but it did start to fill up. Relaxed and friendly.