Saturday, 9 August 2014

Grain Store

Back in the day, London's Kings Cross used to be synonymous with drug dealers and prostitutes. But that has all changed with the redevelopment of St Pancras (next door) and the new Eurostar terminal. The area is now a hub for creativity and the new Granary Square is an oasis in the very busy area with its water fountains, deck chairs and location right next to Regents Canal. This is where we headed for our monthly girls dinner club.

Grain Store is the second restaurant by chef Bruno Loubet, focussing on vegetables and according to their website "although many dishes have a meat or fish element, this menu gives vegetables equal billing, if not the starring role."
 
I don’t often talk of the bread on offer, but this one deserves special mention as it was so good. The Focaccia, dukkah & olive oil dip (£4.00) was simply delicious. The focaccia was gently seasoned with sea salt and rosemary and as soft as a pillow.  The olive oil and dukkah was a really tasty combination of herbs, spices and nuts that I have never tried before and a flavour combination I do hope I get to try again. We also tried the other bread on offer, onion bread with homemade crème fraîche butter (£3.00), but this was pretty plain in comparison.
 
To start, I chose the smoked aubergine salad, wood sorrel, seared sardines (£7.00). The aubergine was delicious and reminded me of a baba ganoush. There was a lot of it in comparison to the two small fillets of sardines on the plate - they looked a little lost on the sea of aubergine. It was tasty though and I enjoyed it.



Onto the main course and I chose millet, blue corn, tomato & pepper tamale, mole chicken (£15.00). I loved the tamale, the flavours were unlike anything I have tried before – a little bit of heat, a little bit of sweetness and the mole marinated chicken added a lovely smokiness to the dish. Although again, the amount of chicken to the vegetables seemed disproportionate. It could be intentional though because Grain Store does have a strong focus on vegetables – but who knows?

 
I ordered a dessert rather than cheese this time and went for the toasted oat & buttermilk pannacotta, caramel poached pear, hazelnut brittle (£6.00). This was a good dessert for me because it wasn’t too sweet and the pear added a nice bit of freshness to the creamy pannacotta.
 


 

On the whole, we enjoyed the evening but service let it down for us. Our waitress seemed disinterested and it took time to get our drinks orders taken. Plates were attempted to be cleared before we were finished and service just seemed a bit unorganised. We were told when we sat down that there was a 2 hour turn-around on the table, which is fine and it happens in a lot of restaurants but by the time our slot was nearly up, we hadn't yet ordered dessert. Potentially our fault, but we felt the situation could've been handled a bit better. In the end we were moved to another table outside and as it was a lovely evening it all worked out ok.
 
Our total bill for four people including service came to £246.60. The food was really good, but I do hope the service we received was a one-off.
 
 
 
Until we eat again!

 
Grain Store
http://www.grainstore.com/
1 - 3 Stable Street, N1C 4AB
 
Square Meal Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Foxlow

Billed as the baby sibling to the Hawksmoor group of restaurants and being my absolute favourite steak houses, I had high hopes for their latest venture, Foxlow. Located in Clerkenwell and luckily for me just a hop, skip and a jump away from my office.
 
My friends and I arrived early and took a seat at the bar to enjoy some fabulous cocktails. Feeling a little peckish, we ordered the pea guacamole with crackling (£3.50). The pea had just a hint of mint to it and it was a very fresh tasting snack on such a warm day like it was last Thursday. The crackling was divine, not too hard that you felt you were in danger of losing a tooth, but still with that nice crunch that makes crackling so extremely more'ish!
 

I ordered the crispy five pepper squid (£8.00) to start. I love calamari and in South Africa, where I am from, it is on almost every menu. It's not that easy to find here in London, so when I see it on a menu, I usually order it. This calamari was cooked perfectly - buttery soft, with the crumbs adding just enough crunch and the five pepper seasoning just that little bit of heat. It was delicious.
 
 
 
For my main, I ordered a rib fillet steak (£18.00), not the usual cut I go for as I prefer a little fat on my meat but the other option was a deckle, which is very similar to rib-eye and not a cut I particularly enjoy.  None-the-less the fillet was cooked exactly how I ordered it. The steak had a lovely char to it and had been seasoned well, I enjoyed it very much. To accompany my meat, I chose the three tomato salad (£4.00) and it was dressed with a little olive oil and vinegar. Extremely simple, but when you have such fantastic ingredients, you don't need anything else.


 
A couple of us decided to share desserts. We ordered the "Ferrero Rocher" pot (£6.00) and the Passionfruit Eton mess (£5,50 with 25p being donated to Kids Company). I thought the Ferrero Rocher would be sickly sweet, but it was a great combination of flavours and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. The Passionfruit Eton mess was just as lovely and we liked the sharpness of the Passionfruit against the creaminess of the soft serve. 

 
 
 
Our waiter, Tomasz, was brilliant! Extremely knowledgeable and charming, he answered all our questions confidently and made us feel very at ease. Our total bill  for three people came to £219 including service. I really enjoyed our evening at Foxlow. The atmosphere was relaxed, we were well looked after and the food was fantastic! What more can you ask for?
 
There are a couple of great meals coming up. Look out for my review of Grain Store next...
 
 
Until we eat again!


Foxlow
http://www.foxlow.co.uk/
69 - 73 St John Street, London EC1M 4AN
 
Square Meal Foxlow on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 July 2014

#STFFbitesize - Arabica Bar & Kitchen

 
Arabica Bar & Kitchen has come full circle. Starting out as a man with a cooler box setting up a stall in London's Borough Market to sell mezze, with a few stops in between and now ending up with a restaurant specialising in Levantine cuisine in that very market he started out at. I first came across Arabica at the Real Food Festival Market and it quickly became a favourite stop of mine, so when I heard that they were opening a restaurant, I just had to try it.

Food: The menu is split into several different sections including dips and dishes from the clay oven. I tried to order from each section, but I had a tough time choosing because it all sounded so good. Particular favourites were the falafels and the sautéed chicken livers with pomegranate molasses.

Ambience: We had seats near the windows and it was great for people watching. The restaurant was busy but didn't feel cramped and it had a really nice buzz to it.

Service: A little slow to start, but when we engaged with the waiting staff they were friendly and happy to help. TBH was disappointed to hear that their beer shipment got held up in customs, so were not able to offer any beer on the day of our visit.

Price: We ordered 2 cocktails, a glass of house wine and 7 dishes and the total came to £75.94 including service. TBH and I both thought the price of the cocktails (£9.00 each) in comparison to the wine (£3.50) was high.

And finally....A great little restaurant if you're looking for a pit stop from the throng of people in Borough Market or if you want to try some really delicious and interesting Levantine cooking.
 
 
Rania's Spritz (left) and Zarif Zegir (right)
 
Falafels

King Prawns with urfu chilli and garlic
 
Hummus with Herdwick lamb fillet, toasted pine nuts and ghee
 
Feta salad with tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and kalamata

Batata Harra - Triple cooked potatoes with sauteed peppers, onions, toasted garlic, chilli and coriander
 
Sauteed chicken livers with pomegranate molasses
 
Sujuk Pide - Turkish pizza with smoked red pepper sauce, spicy sausage, haloumi cheese

Sujuk Pide - Turkish pizza with smoked red pepper sauce, spicy sausage, haloumi cheese
 
 
Until we eat again!
 
 
Arabica Bar and Kitchen
3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market SE1 9AF
 
 
Square Meal

Saturday, 5 July 2014

City Social


Very dear friends were visiting from Dublin last weekend and I wanted to take them somewhere special for dinner. Somewhere with a good view and where you're guaranteed good food - a perfect opportunity to try City Social. The seventh London restaurant by Jason Atherton, this one is an absolute stunner. Located on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the City of London and having been to the previous restaurant that was in the same location, I was keen to see how different the space would be. City Social takes up the entire 24th floor and the 360 degree views of London are just incredible.  I have also just loved every single one of Jason's restaurants. Surely I couldn't go wrong. 
 
Inside, the restaurant is dark and sexy. A complete contrast to the bland dining room that was there before. We were seated immediately and while looking over the menus, we were absolutely thrilled to see chef Michel Roux Junior and his family stroll past and be seated at the table one over from us. I get so star struck it's ridiculous! But if someone like him was dining here then it had to be good, right? And boy, was it good! 

To start I had the Cumbrian beef tartare, sourdough crouton, goat’s curd, truffle dressing, dried vinegar (£14.00)  I’ve never had beef tartare before, even though I am a major carnivore and don’t mind the sight of an underdone steak, the thought of raw meat just makes me slightly nervous. But when I saw the dish going to another table, it really piqued my interest.  That and the fact the other dish I was interested in was ordered by my friend. Damn her and damn my self-imposed rule for not ordering the same thing as anyone else! Anyway, the beef tartare was not in the traditional style. No egg yolk on top, no onions, capers or cornichons; but what you did get was a gorgeous goat’s curd that added a lovely creaminess to the iron-rich raw beef. The truffle dressing and shavings added a woodiness and I loved the crunch of the sourdough crouton. I enjoyed my first foray into raw meat territory and I will definitely try it again.


The Better Half (TBH)  and 'our man John' ordered the Pig’s trotter and ham hock with crispy Mrs Brown’s black pudding, apple, and Madeira (£12.00). Whoever Mrs Brown is, she makes a mighty fine black pudding. A very tasty dish with lots of different textures and flavours. Both men thoroughly enjoyed their starters. 


My friend Kendra ordered the Heritage and heirloom tomato salad, burrata, chilled tomato consommé, frozen basil (£13.00). This dish looked like summer on a plate. The various colours of the tomatoes, the bright vibrant green of the basil and the milky white burrata all looked so pretty and the taste that I had was very good. 
 

For my main course,  I wanted something light considering the relative richness of my starter. So I chose the Dorset John Dory, mussels, grilled leeks, marinated tomatoes and bacon powder (£28.00) It was delicious and I really couldn’t fault any of the cooking. It was everything I thought I felt like eating at the time and would thoroughly enjoy under normal circumstances.

 

But then....The Côte de bœuf for two served with duck fat chips, salad, béarnaise and peppercorn sauce (£77.00) ordered by Kendra and 'our man John' arrived. I had plate envy on a major scale. Don't you hate it when that happens? A glorious hunk of well cooked beef was delivered on a wooden plank, with two sets of perfectly crunchy duck fat chips, salad and two sauces. The tastes of béarnaise and peppercorn sauces I had were rich and creamy and fiery in the case of the peppercorn sauce. Totally sublime.
 

TBH ordered the Creedy Carver duck, boulangère potatoes, English berry chutney and shallots (£28.00). The duck breast was cooked pink and was succulent. The boulangère potatoes were extremely buttery and the English berry chutney brought a lovely sharpness to the dish.  He enjoyed his dish, but between you and I, I think he also had a bit of plate envy for the Côte de bœuf!


I forwent dessert, but TBH ordered the Bourbon vanilla custard tart, nutmeg and milk sorbet (£8.00). Of course I had to have a taste. It wasn't overly sweet and the bourbon added a lovely spiciness to the custard tart. 


Kendra ordered the white chocolate mousse, caramel hazelnuts, salted caramel ice cream (£8.50). The taste that I had was lovely, but far too sweet for a non-sweet eater like me. She absolutely loved it though and made particular mention of the salted caramel ice cream. 


Service was pleasant and professional and our total bill came to  £344.25 including service. If you're looking for a restaurant that is sure to impress on every level, then I highly recommend City Social. 

Until we eat again! 

 
City Social
http://citysociallondon.com/
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ


Square Meal City Social on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 June 2014

#STFFBitesize - Dindin Kitchen

Fast-casual Persian cuisine is going to be the next big trend and leading that charge is Dindin Kitchen - or that's my opinion anyway! Founded by Iranian, Vida Tayebi, a former investment banker, the first of what I hope to be many Dindin Kitchens is located near Chancery Lane tube station. There is a lot of competition around with all the usual chains like Eat and Pret within spitting distance - but this Middle Eastern slant is a new and totally exciting concept.

Food: My friend and I tried a selection of dishes from each section of the all day menu. Everything we tried was freshly prepared onsite and particular favourites were the savoury chicken soufflés and the stuffed meatballs. The spices were perfectly balanced and no flavour overpowered another. We were told that at the moment Vida spends every day in the kitchen taste testing everything that goes out to make sure the flavours are 100% right. (Vida, I'd be happy to be a taste-tester if you ever get bored of it!)

Ambience: It's bright and the colours are welcoming but I would say it is best suited for lunch.

Service: As a fast-casual restaurant, you're not going to get waiting service. You're served at the counter when you've made your choices and need to pay. However, Johanna, who looked after us when we were there, was extremely passionate and excited to be part of this new venture. 

Price: We were invited to try Dindin Kitchen, so on this occasion didn't pay for our meal. But the prices are extremely reasonable and the most expensive item was £6.95, which is what you could expect to pay for a lunch in London.

And finally....A brilliant concept that is reasonably priced and absolutely delicious.  I cannot wait for more to open. If you're in the area, make sure you stop by.

Vegetarian soufflé

Stuffed meatballs with split peas and barberries

Minced lamb skewer with sumac

Beef falafel wrap with saffron mayo
Chicken skewers marinated in yoghurt, lime and saffron; served with rice of the day

Chicken and lemon saffron soufflé
Selection of cold mezze 

Endive, pomegranate and walnut salad

Until we eat again!

Dindin Kitchen
52 - 54 Gray's Inn Road, WC1X 8LT
www.dindinkitchen.com


Square Meal Dindin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Trinity

I've been to Trinity before with some friends and really loved it. It's in the 'burbs of South London, so not the most convenient of locations to make a return visit that feasible for The Better and Half (TBH) and I. But seeing chef/patron Adam Byatt appear on the Great British Menu on TV recently reminded me what a fabulous meal I'd had at Trinity before and I promptly booked a table. It was good as I remembered!

We decided on the set lunch menu, which at £32 for 3 courses is incredible value. But first we were to start with warm bread rolls and a whipped goat’s milk butter – I love the fact that both are made in-house. Along with the bread, we were served the thinnest of buttery puff pastry straws with black olive tapenade, radishes and a delicious smoked salmon dip.


It took us some time to decide what to order because every dish appealed, but in the end I chose the asparagus vichyssoise, crisp fried bantam egg, asparagus soldier. (It was the bantam egg that swung it for me!) The cold soup was perfect for a sunny spring day as it was on Sunday. The bantam egg adding a lovely bit of texture and the runny yolk a gorgeous richness to the soup.



The Better Half had Bayonne ham, celeriac remoulade and sourdough to start. He really wanted the soup, but has a weird thing about us not ordering the same thing! He enjoyed his starter, it was light and the celeriac remoulade brought a nice freshness to the dish. The sourdough was a little on the crunchy side, so he was unsure how best to eat it and in the end ate each element separately.



Braised lamb and sweetbread, Jersey royals in seaweed butter, samphire is what I chose for my main dish. The braised lamb was melt-in-your mouth tender and the loin cooked to a perfect pink. The addition of seaweed butter and samphire added lovely saltiness to the dish. I enjoyed it immensely.


Ever the traditionalist, TBH chose the 40 Day Aged Dexter beef, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish, cauliflower cheese. It was Sunday and how could you not have a roast on a Sunday? But let me tell you, this was no ordinary roast! For one thing, the size of the Yorkshire pudding was quite something else - eating it all nearly defeated him. The roast beef was not fatty in the least (nothing worse than fatty meat for TBH) and packed full of flavour. The cauliflower cheese was creamy and rich and the addition of freshly grated horseradish added a nice bit of heat. TBH rated it as his number 1 Sunday roast ever! High praise indeed.



I very nearly skipped dessert as I was well satisfied by this point, but the summer berry gazpacho, grape sorbet and mint sounded so refreshing that I thought I would try it. It was a perfect ending to our meal, light and palate cleansing just as I expected it to be.


TBH went for another classic dish for his dessert - rhubarb and custard. It sounds so simple, but it's a combination that works perfectly together. There was a poached rhubarb, rhubarb pearls, a rhubarb shard and rhubarb sorbet. The custard was packed full of vanilla and extremely more'ish. Another dish that TBH thoroughly enjoyed.


We received a warm welcome from the front of house team and the friendly, yet relaxed service continued throughout our lunch. The total bill for our lunch was £114.37 which included a 3 course meal, 3 beers, 3 glasses of wine and service.

Trinity is a fantastic neighbourhood restaurant and Clapham really is lucky to have such a gem in its midst.


Until we eat again!


Trinity
http://www.trinityrestaurant.co.uk/
4 The Polygon, SW4 0JG


Trinity on Urbanspoon Square Meal