Monday, 21 April 2014

#STFFBitesize - Ember Yard

#STFFBitesize will be shorter reviews of places that I have really enjoyed and would like to mention on the blog. These reviews will be bitesize and focus mainly on the pictures. Hope you enjoy...

Ember Yard is part of the Salt Yard Group (Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern) and their USP is cooking Spanish inspired dishes on their custom-built charcoal grill. I've wanted to try it for a while and when I saw on Twitter that they were offering 50% off the total food bill over the Easter weekend, I couldn't let such a great deal pass me by.  Here are the best bites:
Food: Fantastic quality of ingredients that speak for themselves. Everything we ate we really enjoyed.

Ambience: Small and perfectly formed. Tables to while away a few hours or grab a quick bite at the bar overlooking the kitchen.

Service: Extremely warm and friendly service from our lovely Swedish waitress, Emma.

Price: £33.63 including 5 tapas, a glass of wine, a beer and service -which included the 50% off special.

And finally: Even without the discount it's a really good all-rounder! Perfect for catch-ups with friends and a great place to take a date.

Grilled flat bread with honey, thyme and smoked butter (£3.50)

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Aged 5 years, Castro y González, Castilla - Leon (£16.00)

Ibérico Pork Fat Chips with Chorizo Ketchup (£4.50)

Courgette Flower Stuffed with Goats’ Cheese and Drizzled with Honey (£4.50)

Smoked Chorizo Skewer with Saffron Alioli (£3.00)

Until we eat again!

Ember Yard  
60 - 61 Berwick Street, Soho W1F 8SU

Square Meal Ember Yard on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Morston Hall - #STFFonTour in Norfolk

Good friends of ours moved to North Norfolk last year and when we planned a weekend visit, the first thing I asked our host was "How close are you to Morston Hall?"  I know of Morston Hall from seeing chef/patron Galton Blackiston on various TV shows and I just love his approach to cooking. He is extremely big on seasonality and using the fantastic produce of his home county, Norfolk. And he just seems like a really lovely guy!

Morston Hall has been owned by Blackiston and his wife for 22 years and for 15 of those they have held a Michelin star. It is a boutique hotel and they regularly run cookery classes too. Looking at the pictures on the website, I was expecting a huge country house in the middle of nowhere, so was quite surprised to find that even though the location is rural, it's not quite out in the sticks as I expected.  It is still a grand old pile though!

There is only 1 dinner sitting and we were asked to arrive at 19:30 with dinner being served at 20:00. When we arrived, we were seated in the lovely conservatory for a pre-dinner drink and a couple of snacks. Unfortunately I can't remember exactly what these were, but one was fish based and the other Parmesan. Both tasty little morsels. With our drinks, came a bowl of caper berries. I had never eaten them on their own like this and I have to say I really enjoyed it. They were extremely sharp, but really buttery in texture. I think this is a great alternative to a bowl of olives and definitely something I will serve to any guests I have over to my house in the future.

At 8pm we moved over to the main dining room and were seated at a round table with a view over the whole room. (I just love round tables when you're dining in a group). It is a daily changing 7 course tasting menu, which included a pre-dessert. We kicked off with Parsley root soup, parsley leaf & nutmeg foam. The soup was rich and the parsley leaf foam on top adding a nice bit of freshness, it was totally more'ish - a starter that was enjoyed by all. I really liked the crockery that this was served with. In fact, all the crockery was really unusual and really beautifully designed.

Next we had roasted quail, Scotch egg and sauce Bois Boudran. The bird was cooked exactly how I like it, tender and seasoned well. I love eggs in any form so was thrilled to see a Scotch egg on the menu and a true test of a well cooked Scotch egg is that the yolk is still runny - and this one was. I thought I could taste tarragon in the casing, which I am not a fan of at all, but I just used the meat to mop up the yolk and Bois Boudran sauce none the less.

Camomile roasted carrot, Tunworth cheese, lemon purée, camomile broth followed. The carrot was tender and I really enjoyed the saltiness the Tunworth cheese added. Galton came out of the kitchen himself to add the camomile broth to the dish. (I thought this was a really nice touch and I got a little star struck, so I can't really recall the description he provided. Sorry Galton!)

This next dish was just stunning and it's a strong tussle between this and the next course for my favourite of the evening. Grandmaster Lobster, samphire, lobster bisque. Another dish that was executed to absolute perfection. The lobster just melted in my mouth, the samphire adding a nice flavour of the sea and the bisque adding a real depth of flavour, bringing the whole dish together. 

Our friend is allergic to shellfish, so they kindly offered an alternative of sea bass, which he had never had before. He really enjoyed it and would order it again in the future.

Onto our last savoury course and what a blinder it was! Feather blade of wagyu beef, bashed Jersey royal potato, shallot purée, beef jus. With every mouthful, there was a 'wow' from all of us at the table. The beef was the most tender piece of meat I think I've ever had. The shallot purée had a wonderfully strong onion flavour as you would expect. The whole dish was just gorgeous from the first bite to the last.

Up next, we had what I would say is the perfect palate cleanser of blood orange sorbet with rhubarb. Light and refreshing and all the flavours were well balanced. 

Everyone at the table chose the Bramley Apple soufflé, ginger and lime butterscotch sauce for their dessert, except me. The soufflé had risen majestically, it was as light as a feather and the taste that I had was scrummy. The butterscotch sauce adding just the right amount of sweetness to it. 

Unsurprisingly I went for British cheeses with homemade biscuits, sultana and walnut bread. The choice of cheeses was good and I particularly enjoyed the Lincolnshire poacher which was made from unpasteurised milk and matured for 18 months.

We've misplaced the bill, but we paid approximately £330 for 4 people which included 1 bottle of wine, a few beers and service. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and felt that even though it was fine dining in a beautiful setting,  service was relaxed yet professional. It was just a great all round experience made even more special for me by getting to meet the chef in his kitchen.  If you're ever in that part of the country then make sure you add Morston Hall to the top of your list of restaurants to eat at! I highly recommend it.

The lovely Galton Blackiston and I (with added photo bomber!)

It's Easter this coming weekend and I am sure there will be lots of great food and drink involved. Here's hoping the weather plays along.

Until we eat again!

Morston Hall
Morston, Holt
Norfolk, NR25 7AA 

Square Meal

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Espelette at The Connaught - an afternoon tea

In our house, I usually have control of the TV remote and because of that there is normally some cooking show or other on the box. While watching one such show (I forget which one) the contestants had to prepare the cakes and pastries for an afternoon tea. The Better Half's interest was piqued....he loves anything sweet and since he has never experienced afternoon tea before, I thought it high time he did. Afternoon tea has become really popular here in London and there are lots of places offering some very quirky teas, but for his first I wanted TBH to experience the traditional type. The one that I chose was Espelette at The Connaught Hotel.

English grandeur at its best, the hotel is over 100 years old. You can read more about the history here. Espelette restaurant where the afternoon tea is held, is a relatively new addition to the hotel. It's a beautiful room with light streaming in and we were seated by a window with plenty of people watching opportunity of the very affluent Mount Street.

We chose the champagne afternoon tea (£50.00) which included 1 glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, but there is also the traditional afternoon tea without champagne (£41.00). For our teas, TBH chose the Bangkok - blended green tea, lemongrass, coconut and ginger. I went for the Paris - heady and fruity a blended black tea with a hint of lemon, bergamot, caramel and vanilla. I don't usually drink tea, but both teas were really lovely.

And then the cake stand came out and what a thing of beauty! Every little pastry - which included Battenberg cake à la rose, b3 éclair, peanut temptation, mac blanc, vanilla meringue tart, exotic baba - looked absolutely perfect.

The sandwiches were of the traditional kind - there was coronation chicken, ploughman’s pickle with Montgomery cheddar, Scottish smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche and cucumber and mint cream cheese. They were so good that when we were asked if we wanted any more, we didn't hesitate. I particularly liked the cucumber sandwiches. 

The scones came out still warm and with the jams and clotted cream, were absolutely delicious. The only items we didn't really enjoy were the cakes (chocolate and spicy hazelnut and matcha green tea and chestnut with passion compote) They were just a little bit 'solid' for our liking and by then we'd had enough sweet stuff.

Service, as you would expect in this kind of establishment was first class. The waiting staff were all very friendly and attentive. The background music provided by a harpist, made the atmosphere feel even more opulent. Our total bill for 2 afternoon champagne teas was £112.50 which included service. It is safe to say that The Better Half thoroughly enjoyed his afternoon and we'll definitely be having more of them in the future.

I would recommend The Connaught Afternoon tea if you are looking for something traditional with exceptional service, it is equally as impressive as somewhere to take a date or your parents.

STFF will be on tour next week. We'll be visiting friends in Norfolk and will be eating at Galton Blackiston's Morston Hall. Look out for the review coming soon.

Until we eat again!

The Connaught Hotel
Carlos Place, Mayfair W1K 2AL

Square Meal Espelette at The Connaught on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Angler Restaurant

Located on the 7th floor of the South Place Hotel in the heart of the City of London, Angler restaurant was for most, the surprise winner of a Michelin star last year. I say surprise winner because it came onto the scene quietly and not many people had heard of it when the stars were being handed out. My office is quite near by and after I had been to view the hotel (gorgeous), event space (double gorgeous) and restaurant (super gorgeous!) I quickly added Angler to my bucket list and booked a table for my monthly catch up with the lovely M.

We decided on the set menu which is really good value at £25 for 2 courses or £30 for 3 courses. The a la carte looks a little pricey, but there were a few dishes on there that I would love to try. I started with Risotto Milanese, chilli & garlic prawns, baby squid. The risotto was a vibrant yellow from the saffron, incredibly creamy and well cooked. The prawns and squid had been grilled to perfection, I would've liked a bit more of a kick from the chilli though, but I thoroughly enjoyed my starter.

M decided on the Salad of crab and pink grapefruit, samphire, avocado, crab bon-bons. It looked gorgeous and perfect for the sunny evening that it was. The little taste I had was delicious.

For my main I ordered Cornish cod, garlic mousseline, winkles, brown butter. I love cod, but it can often be quite boring. This was not the case with this dish. To be honest, when it arrived I thought it looked a little greasy with the melted brown butter, but mixed with the mashed potato - (oooh, that mash was to die for!) - the butter sauce just brought the whole dish alive. The fish was perfectly flaky and the crispy kale and little croutons on top added a wonderful crunchy texture. Another enjoyable course for me.

For her main, M asked the waiter to recommend a dish and he didn't hesitate in recommending the roast guinea fowl, mushroom ketchup, asparagus & spring vegetable casserole, tarragon velouté. He said that even though they specialised in fish, this was a stand out dish. And it was. The mushroom ketchup tasted just like ketchup, but with a mushroom after taste. Clever. The guinea fowl was moist and really well cooked. The spring vegetable casserole was simply delicious.

Usually I would choose a cheese course for dessert but I decided on the chocolate ganache, salted caramel, puffed barley, goats milk ice cream. Anything with salted caramel is sure to be a winner in my book. The chocolate ganache was so rich, but the ice cream really cut through it so that it wasn't too sickly sweet. I enjoyed it, but once the ice cream was finished I was defeated by what was left of the ganache. 

M chose the sticky prune pudding, bergamot marmalade, brown butter ice cream. This dessert was more to my liking because it wasn't overly sweet. The bergamot marmalade was interesting (in a good way) and again the ice cream was really enjoyable.

Service was exemplary. Friendly without being overbearing. Our total bill for a 3 course  set menu, 2 glasses of champagne, a bottle of wine and a bottle of water came to £147.66 including service. If you like fish, if you like a gorgeous setting and if you want a great all round experience - then I highly recommend you book a table at Angler.

Next up, I'll be taking The Better Half to The Connaught Hotel to experience his very first afternoon tea. I'm really looking forward to that!

Until we eat again! 

Angler Restaurant
South Place Hotel, 3 South Place EC2M 2AF

Square Meal Angler on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Camberwell Kitchen Supper Club

I've never been to a supper club before. I have seen loads that I would be interested in attending, but for one reason or another I've just never managed to get to one. Bestie is into clean eating (see her Facebook page here) and she has been to The Camberwell Kitchen supper club before and invited me as her date for the event held in February.

Run by Rosie and her boyfriend Ant from their cosy flat in Camberwell, this is a gluten free supper club, but anyone is welcome. (On the night we went, there were only two around the table of twelve that had any special dietary needs!) The supper club has been voted one of the top five supper clubs by the Guardian and tickets are pretty scarce.

We were welcomed with a rhubarb and ginger cocktail very reminiscent of a Moscow Mule. A gorgeous pink colour and the ginger very warming on such a cold winter’s night. We settled in and got to know the rest of the diners. I have to admit that I was a little nervous of sitting around a dinner table with a bunch of strangers - for me sharing a meal is something very intimate - but we were quickly put at ease by the lovely Rosie.  Along with the cocktail we were served with a delicious little bite - chicken with taman, avocado, pickled ginger and sesame.

To start we had steamed mussels in Thai green coconut milk and gluten free soda bread. I couldn't detect any spice, but the broth was really tasty. The bowls they were presented in were absolutely beautiful and Rosie mentioned that they brought them back from Istanbul after one of their holidays.

Our main course was slow cooked organic pork belly with roasted sweet potato quinoa and crispy kale crisps. The pork belly was absolutely stunning and the crackling could not have been more perfect! In last week's episode of 'My Kitchen Rules' Lorraine Pascal said that she wanted to hear a distinct crunch all around the table from the crackling that was served and that is exactly how it went around this dinner table. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I actually asked for another helping it was that good! The quinoa was made even better with a little drizzle from the cooking juices of the pork and all in all, it was a really enjoyable dish.

For our dessert we had a chocolate pot with ginger biscuit. I'm not usually one for desserts, but this was so decadent that I couldn't stop and before I knew it, I had eaten the lot!

I admit I had my reservations about attending a gluten free supper club. I thought the food would be boring 'health food', but in actual fact it was incredible and probably what I would order in a restaurant anyway.  I was totally inspired by Rosie & Ant and I absolutely love what they have going on! Who knows, maybe there will even be a "Sam the food fan" supper club soon?! 
The Camberwell Kitchen runs once a month and tickets cost £25 per head and include a welcome cocktail and three courses. BYOB. 

Tickets available here:

Until we eat again! 

Read more about The Camberwell Kitchen (gluten-free supper club) on Edible Experiences