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February, 2012

  1. Yauatcha Tea

    February 18, 2012 by Dini

    Dim Sum Tea-time

    15th February 2012

    Walking through Soho, hunger panged at tea-time, having had an ‘experience‘ earlier in the day, I wanted to resuscitate my birthday’s dining experiences. What better way than going to Yauatcha for some calming afternoon tea and at least there, I had a Michelin star reassurance and a wooing promise of cake…

    Arriving at 15.30, I was surprised that five tables were occupied, with late lunches and those like myself wanting tea. I didn’t have the time or the inclination for full-on afternoon tea as already had a dinner reservation elsewhere, so opted for tea, dim sum and cake. Service was spot on, slick, attentive and friendly – just what I wanted.

    Condiments arrived at the table (these were complimentary: chilli, seafood, soy sauces and a delicious sweet pickled cucumber).

    I recall a few years ago when I dined at Ping Pong these were chargeable, much to my horror, if this has changed now (I stand corrected). My dim sum arrived promptly, before my tea in fact. These were from the A la Carte menu’s steamed section, the Har gau (£5 for 3) were plump with a juicy prawn filling.

     The billowy Char sui buns (£3.80) had a delicious, sticky pork filling.

    The tea menu showcased a plethora of options: Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian and Sri Lankan teas. I opted for cleansing tea (Silver Needle from Fujian, China, at £7.40 per pot).

    I knew this would be gentle in flavour and calming, as I’d sampled similar at Teanamu’s tea-house.

    To finish my tea experience, I opted for a Coconut Charlotte. To be frank, I could have opted for any of the desserts as the descriptions all sounded tempting. Whilst waiting, I took a quick look at the Pattiserie counter (for dining display and takeaway), which was an absolute delight, so many beautiful colours and delicate combinations.

    I was told that these were made off-site in London, at a hub for the Hakkasan group and delivered daily (morning and afternoon for service).

    When I recieved my Chalotte, it still had the card placemat, as from the counter. I would have preffered this to have been removed, so diving into it on the plate was easier and nicer on the eye.

     The Charlotte was like a white-chocolate génoise, with a coconut cream exterior and a mango filling that oozed out, when sliced. It was so light and decadent to eat, if I didn’t have a  dinner reservation, I’d have easily have ordered more.

    All in all, my day was resurrected, with good service, well executed dishes and calm. I think my experience could have only have been improved, by changing the music selection. Yauatcha had the music on very loud and it was very bass-heavy. Hey-ho, one can’t have everything, if the quality of food supercedes the music (as it did) I’m fine with that. I’m definately returning for more…

     
    Yauatcha: 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1F 0DL
    Tel: 020 7494 8888
    Website: http://www.yauatcha.com/

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  2. Breakfast at Cecconi’s

    February 17, 2012 by Dini

     Self-Service Breakfast

    15th February 2012

    Cecconi’s in the heart of Mayfair, is all about old school glamour, the decor swathed in jade green, the place smells of money.

    Cecconi's dining room

    I’ve known it for years, as a modern Italian for ‘City Slickers’ and it seems the Men who make suits too, as I spotted Ozwald Boateng at the bar. I expected pure class on the delivery and I was slightly dejected, by what I received…

    I had no reservation, but at 10.30am with only a few tables occupied, I thought I’d be safe for a walk-in, table for two. On arrival, Front of House informed me that I’d need to free my table in a hour’s time, to allow them to prepare for the Lunch service. This request was overturned by our kinder Waiter, who informed us that we could retain the table until midday and that he’d work around us. This was more accomodating to hear, imagine how many may have just walked out at the door?

    When we had service it was slick, professional and courteous. However, there were long periods of nothing. In fact, my dining companion had to walk to the bar to both place our order and also request the bill. We were dining during a lull period, however there were plenty of Waiting staff on-site, busily prepping and attending their changeover of service briefing. I was reassured by my dining companion, that this was not at all usual, and it was usually the height of sophistication.

    Onto the food…

    We’d already had a Latte and Espresso to wet the appetite, so I ordered a duck egg, hash brown & black truffle (£11), whilst my guest had the classic, Eggs Benedict (£10). A tad extravagent on my part, but excused as it was  my birthday! The eggs were Burford brown, with a delicious, rich, orange yolk. When served to table, the fried egg was nestled on top of the hash brown, but there was no truffle to be seen. I was reassured it was on it’s way, the Maitre d’ appeared to shave the truffle onto my egg, a nice bit of ‘theatre’.

    Duck egg, hash, truffle

    This was accompanied by brown toast, but to my disdain, no butter arrived and we really couldn’t be asked, to get up to ask for that too. The complimentary juice (options of orange or grapefruit) didn’t appear, until we requested them either. When I requested an alternative (as I was allergic), I wasn’t offered another juice variety. So I myself asked for water, as we hadn’t even had our water glasses filled yet. Of course, I was given the option for chargeable ‘still or sparkling’ water, so I declined and opted for ‘tap’.

    Alas, the cumulative mishaps, left me a little weary. Ordinarily I’d have complained, but as it was my birthday, I didn’t fancy the fuss. Had I also not had the table-turning ‘threat’ at the outset, I may have been more inclined to splash out on Champagne to celebrate or further courses, but when one has such treatment, I’m not in favour of increasing my spend per head, for the restaurant’s benefit.

    This is supposedly a class-act, when paying Mayfair prices, I do hope they don’t treat others in this manner? Perhaps, I’m being pedantic, I am what I am. With such a reputation, the restaurant should stand up and deliver, especially under their Soho House helm.

     
    Cecconi’s: 5A Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, W1S 3EP
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7434 1500
    Website: http://www.cecconis.co.uk/
     
     

     

     

     

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  3. Dom Pérignon 2003

    February 8, 2012 by Dini

    Champagne with Luxe Food

     3rd February 2012

    Hosted by Chef de Cave, Richard Geoffroy at the Phillips de Pury Auction House, I serenaded the launch of Dom Pérignon 2003, with a  Champagne and food pairing of true elegance and uber sophistication.

    Richard Geoffroy

    Richard Geoffroy

    In 2003, with the harsh frost in April and then a scorching summer heat wave, Mr. Geoffroy nervously took the plunge in August to harvest and produced a beauty. He himself, proclaims that the vintage could match Dom Pérignon’s celebrated vintages from 1947, 1959 and 1976.

    Dom Perignon 2003

    Dom Perignon 2003

    Usually a fan of Dom Pérignon Rosé, last seen at the CriticalCouple’s supperclub (excess that would have made the Benedictine monk blush), I was ready to sample a flute or two…

    On to the Tasting:

    The nose was very light, with gentle hints of grassiness and a touch of aniseed. On the palate, it was layered, with a distinct mineralized quality, initially with iodine taste like a Islay whisky and then lingered with a sweeter floral finish.

    This was my first tipple, expertly guided by Mr Geoffroy, I was then led onto a Tasting room. My Guide & Sommelier for the evening, was no other than the charming, Douglas Blyde. Seated at an island tasting table, Douglas took the helm, with the click of a finger changing the colours of the room, indicating the arrival of each course. The food pairings were designed by Mr Geoffroy, inspired by his global travels and used the finest of ingredients, naturally to match the pedigree of the Champagne.

    First Course:

    Oeuf Passard

    Oeuf Passard

    Inspired by Alain Passard’s dish of L’ Arpege (Paris), the egg shells I’m told were sanded by hand, to get a perfect finish. The white shells were laiden on an abstractly contrasting Kala Namak black salt. A very soft set creamy liquid, when entered, erupted with a beautiful yolk. The mix was seasoned with quatre epices (ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger) and sweetened with maple syrup. The lasting taste of the Dom Pérignon, lengthened the sweetness of the dish. This was a ‘quelle surprise’ for the diners as this was a sweet dish, so we were starting with the dessert first!

     Second Course:

    Prunier St James Caviar with a Hibiscus Jelly

    Prunier St James Caviar with a Hibiscus Jelly

    A clever dish, designed to look like a dessert, but in fact savoury, to the end. A current trend of the moment, to present a savoury dish, but deconstructed with dessert elements. The jelly was tart, a stark contrast to the bursting fishy Prunier St James caviar. This combination was slick and defined the iodine notes in the Dom Pérignon.

    Third Course:

    Saffron Risotto

    Saffron Risotto

    A risotto like no other that I’ve tasted and probably the most luxurious. Created using seven year aged Acquerello Carnaroli rice, parmesan and flecks of saffron. As if that wasn’t enough to entice a girl,the rice was laced with delicate gold leaf, glistening in the sumptous rice. The parmesan and saffron were great umami partners that heightened the iodine effect in the Dom Pérignon.

    The Finale:

    Mole & Foie Gras

    Mole & Foie Gras

    A generous portion of foie gras, when sliced was silky smooth. It was draped with a piquantly spiced mole, with a velvet finish of rich cacao. This was hedonistic, the Dom Pérignon did a great job of cutting through the richness. It was a well deserved decadent end to the meal.

    What I loved, was that they let the Champagne speak for itself, for instance, the decor of the room (especially the Phillippe Starck chairs) simple and elegant.

    Yes, the dishes were luxurious, but with pairings that complemented the Champagne, instead of upstaging it.

    It was a superb evening and I must thank the Dom Pérignon (LVMH) Team for the invitation, beautiful photo’s (c/o Jon Bradley), Mr Geoffroy and Mr Blyde for their excellent hosting.

    Dom Perignon 2003 is now available in the UK from good wine merchants, at an average retail price of £120.
    Website: http://www.domperignon.com/


  4. El Pirata Detapas

    February 5, 2012 by Dini

    Foodspotting Tapas

    3rd February 2012

    Championed by Gordon Ramsay in his ‘Best Restaurants’ Channel 4 series (in 2010),  I was excited to dine at El Pirata De Tapas. Expectations were riding high and I was expecting modern twists on classic Spanish fayre.  On research, I discovered that Omar Allibhoy is no longer at the helm, as he’s off with his new venture, (Revolution in Westfield & BlueWater shopping centres), so I’m not sure we’d get the same vigour and flair. Hey ho, I hadn’t had Tapas in a while and was keen to try out their offering and it was an opportunity to socialise with food-lovers. I joined a table of ‘Foodspotters’ for the popular apps’ 2nd Birthday (who kindly donated £25 to our kitty and cute badges – so thanks to them and London organiser, Katherina!).

    On entry, the restaurant was quiet, but true to the Spanish way, the room came alive and was bustling, post 9pm, with later night crowd. Our communal table decided on sharing the two different tasting menu’s:

    Tasting Menu at £21 (TM) and the Chef’s Menu at £25 (CM).

    The best combination, was picking and choosing from each of the menu’s, as there were some interesting dishes on both. However, the Chef’s menu was definately one that caught the foodspotter crowd’s attention, as there were some beautiful dishes. I’m afraid that I didn’t have good light on all of them, so I haven’t done justice to some of them…

    Noteworthy: Brozen Eggs, deliciously moreishly scrambled eggs with Serrano ham and potatoes and the oozing croquettes. My first introduction to Little Creatures, I opted for the divine Pale Ale.

    Not so good: The Crema Catalana was a cold citrusy custard with a sprinkle of cinnamon. For some reason, I had expected a creme brulee style dessert… I was reliably informed by my Spanish fellow diners, that this was the true presentation of the dessert. The Tasting menu was not as interesting as the Chef’s one, next to each other there was a stark difference in execution for a £4 difference, so I’d suggest paying more.

    I am absolutely, no expert on Spanish/Catalan dishes, so I’m not going to draw judgement on the execution. I will say though, that 4 of my fellow diners were Spanish and thought the food was a little lack lustre. I hope this was a one-off as it’s a bustling restaurant that obviously cares about creating new dishes and using great Spanish produce, so here’s to the next time…

    El Pirata Detapas: 115 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UP
    Tel No: 020 7727 5000
    Website: http://www.elpiratadetapas.co.uk/

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  5. Feng Sushi on the SouthBank

    February 4, 2012 by Dini

    Sustainable Japanese

    30th January 2012

    Monday lunchtime, on the Southbank I joined the GoogleLondon Team for a Sushi meet-up.  I was looking forward to it, as Feng Sushi’s menu offers a mix of Japanese classics with some modern European twists. In exchange for some reviews for GoogleLondon, I was treated to: Seafood Miso and Loch Duart Salmon Donburi, not a bad deal at all!

    Loch Duart Salmon Donburi

    Loch Duart Salmon Donburi

    The Donburi was a visual and tasty treat, with salmon four ways: tea smoked, sashimi, crispy skin and Ikura (bright red roe). The different textures were so good, that I scoffed them greedily. I was left with surplus white rice, so I probably did a ‘no-no’ and added some of my Miso to it, to slurp the rest.

    Shellfish Miso

    Shellfish Miso

    Feng Sushi boasts 7 outlets in London, with even a delivery/takeaway outlet,  in the heart of Billingsgate Fishmarket. Owned by Silla Bjerrum, from Denmark, she has carried the Scandi sensibility of sourcing of the very best of ingredients and heralding sustainability. Credit to her, as she’s made great strides to operate in a socially responsible manner.

    The decor is simple with a mix of wooden communal dining tables as well as individual tables. Vibrant with floral paintwork and a beautiful fish aquarium, naturally showcasing harmonious feng shui elements.

    Feng Sushi Aquarium

    Feng Sushi Aquarium

    I additionally ordered, a couple of dishes to share, to see out of curiosity, the execution. Some Rock Shrimp Tempura with a spicy sauce. I loved the shrimp, juicy morsels with a light tempura batter.

    Rock Shrimp Tempura

    Rock Shrimp Tempura

    I also ordered Miso Dengaku (which I recently tried @thelondonfoodie’s Japanese supperclub). For the Dengaku, unlike the last type I had, Feng Sushi had used the larger variety of aubergine. This meant it had absorbed more oil and was a little bit on the greasy side, but the miso dressing made it moreish all the same.

    Miso Dengaku

    Miso Dengaku

    To end the lunch I curiously perused the Desserts menu. Alas, Macarons and Rice Pudding were not available at the time, so I opted for a Chocolate Mochi (a glutinous rice cake, filled with oozing chocolate). For the £2.75, I had expected maybe two Mochi’s, the individual serve, the size of a £2 coin, seemed a little mean for the price, however it was delicious.

    Chocolate Moshi

    Chocolate Moshi

    On the note of price, Feng Sushi is more on the premium side of your ‘high street’ Sushi providers, but the rationale of quality and sustainability, more than qualifies it. Thanks to my GoogleLondon hosts (Sarah & Alex) for hosting a lovely lunch and introducing me to the Restaurant. I’ll definately choose Feng Sushi now as a place to stop off to try more dishes and at least I’ll be reassured that I’m doing my bit for the environment too.

    Feng Sushi: Unit 9 Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
    Tel No: 020 7261 0001
    Website: http://www.fengsushi.co.uk/ – for details of other branches

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