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Posts Tagged ‘Brasserie’

  1. Riding House Cafe – Christmas 2011

    December 21, 2011 by Dini

    Missing a Sugar Plum Fairy…

    20th December 2011

    Having been won over by my first visit to Riding House Cafe, back in July 2011, I was really looking forward to my work’s Xmas dinner there. I’ll hold my hand up here, this was a treat of ‘the Boss’, but just for your info, this Xmas Feast was £38 per head + drinks. Lots of fun and frivolity was had, with the Company and on the ‘Secret Santa’ front.  The restaurant was decked out in lots of festive touches, tastefully done and I didn’t expect anything less.

    On arrival, (we were a little late and two diners down, guiltily we had only notified them of one of the cancellations). Riding House like other busy Brasseries have a two-hour table turnaround, we were on the later 9pm slot. Our table had not been laid and so we waited at the buzzing bar. It was pretty much a full-house, which is expected for a slick central London operation such as the Cafe, the week before Christmas.

    I did expect there to be some Christmas frivolities to be on the table, crackers, hats, something to take home. Afterall this was a Christmas booking, perhaps we should have brought our own? as this may have been too classy a joint to provide such things… Anyhow, our Team bought fun and merriment to the table, perhaps aided by the assistance of wine. Dining in Riding House style, we had sharing platters laiden with beautifully presented food. I’m sure the table groaned, from the spread it was carrying and possibly our bad jokes!

    ***

    Starters:

    Beetroot carpaccio, sheeps ricotta & basil cress

    One of the stand out stars from my last visit, I was exceptionally happy to re-visit the taste combination. Creamy rich ricotta, such a bold colour contrast against the slivers of beetroot carpaccio. With the textural addition of pumpkin seeds and basil cress, this dish truly sings.

    Rare venison, Salsa cruda & celeriac salad

    The vensison held it’s own against the boldly dresses salad. I found the dressing quite acrid, perhaps a little too much balsamic? The presentation was dainty and the reds of the meat and tomatoes quite festive.

    Smoked mackerel with baby beetroot salad and horseradish

    I hasten to add, I completely neglected this dish. Horseradish is not my favourite, but as a classic combination, I’m sure the others enjoyed it.

    ***

    Mains:

    Slow roasted pork shoulder

    Great crackling, the pork was tender and falling easily enough to serve. There were some juices on the pork platter, but I always like a good gravy. There was an apple chutney, which went half way to add moisture and flavour, but a gravy would have been lovely with the mash and veg.

    Hake fillet with Salsa verde

    Beautifully filleted and prepared, the fish flaked so easily with a fork. The Salsa verde zingy and a fresh contrast as a mains dish against the fatty and rich pork.

    Macaroni & Gorgonzola gratin

    This was a lovely combination. Usually I’m not a fan of Gorgonzola (probably beacuse in it’s uncooked state it has the scent of smelly socks). This gratin with oodles of creamy sauce and a crunchy crust enticed me into a second portion.

    Roasted Chantenay carrots & parsnips

    Glistening with butter, being roasted, it really brought out the sweetness of the veg. We had a meagre portion of parnips though, which is shame, as it’s my favourite.

    Curly kale

    These still had a bite, gladly not limp or bland thanks to the chilli and garlic it was stir-fried with.

    Mashed Potatoes

    Heavenly and smooth. I’m sure copious amounts of butter and cream were the culprits, probably in equal measure to poatoes, totally sinful.

    ***

    Desserts:

    Spiced Gingerbread with ice-cream, butterscotch sauce and poached pears

    This was dry, not even the vanilla ice-cream drizzled in butterscotch with pears poached in ginger syrup could resuscitate it. If only there had been a Sugar Plum Fairy in the house, (a girl after my own dolce-heart), she could have sprinkled some fairy dust and revived some of the dishes.

    Yule Log

    This was probably the best of the desserts, which doesn’t say much as I’d never ordinarily pick it. I really do see it as a Christmas tea-time treat, not a serious dessert. I’d be as bold as to say, it’s a glorified swiss roll…  To it’s merit Riding House’s version had a silky chocolate ganache with a kirsch laced filling.

    Christmas Trifle

    This was pretty woeful, not even the Grand Marnier could save this. Pre-pared some time earlier, all the layers had set quite stiffly. There was no oozing custard or sponge fingers. The mandarin layer was dreadful, the fruit were sour as limes, soa fright with every bursting biteful. Call me a traditionalist but I like my layers, sherried fruit, I am however happy to lose the 100’s & 1000’s (too garish for me). This version was garnished with blackberries and chocolate sprinkles, more tasteful in decoration, just a shame on the actual ‘taste’.

    ***

    Tea

    Oh dear, to end the night, I decided upon a clensing pot of Early Grey. It simply wasn’t to be. Yes their delightful crockery and sweet milk bottle put a smile on my face, but was swiftly wiped off by the stewed tea presented to me. My neighbouring Director, had the same with her Green tea, nothing worse than a strong, over-stewed cuppa. On that note, I had had enough, but a waiter decided to literally topple a whole pot of cream down my colleagues back and coat. The waiter mumbled an apology, attempted to wipe some of the cream and then scampered off into the kitchen. My Director wasn’t having any of this and called a Manager over. The Manager then spent another five minutes trying to clean the now cream-caked cardigan and jacket, the cream puddle remained on the chair and floor. We left paying our bill and with the Manager offering to reimburse for cleaning of the items. Had we not complained, this would not have been offered… this was wrong, perhaps the waiter was sheepish, but he should have recognised his mistake and offered good customer service.

    ***

    Alas, I fear that they may have suffered from the commonal problem of mass-catering for group bookings. In my opinion, standards slipped, dishes may have  been pre-prepared and perhaps there is complacency in thinking that standards can be comprised as Xmas diners may be ‘under the influence’? I’m being a ‘Scrooge’, I usually forgive most things, but when my desserts are lack-lustre and trifled with (excuse the pun), I’m always disappointed. Ba Humbug, I’ll need to forgive Riding House because in my heart I know what they’re capable of, so I’ll blank out this occassion and keep my fingers crossed for my next visit in 2012.

    What was my ‘Secret Santa’ gift you ask?… I was a ‘good’ girl and I happily recieved a Liberty printed notepad and a Clarins hand cream.

    Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield St, London, W1W 7PQ 
    Website: http://www.ridinghousecafe.co.uk/

  2. Riding House Cafe

    June 15, 2011 by Dini

    Brasserie Eating in Style

    13th June 2011

     The decor, reminded me a little of a Russell Sage influence, with the odd taxidermy speckled in interiors (squirrel lamps and birds in cases). It is vibrantly colourful in decor and clientele and I have to say packed to the rafters everytime I walk past. The Cafe, is a great mix of new and old, in decor as well as classic dishes with modern flourishes. One example on the decor front is the stark contrast of the ceiling detailing, between exposed tiles and a smooth white skimmed surface.

    Riding House Cafe ceiling

    Riding House Cafe ceiling

    In the nature of sharing plates, my dinner guest and I decided to share a few small plates for starters, one main course and naturally (for me) a couple of desserts. The menu full of fresh and seasonally enticing small plates as well as old fashioned brasserie main plate favourites, that quenched my nostalgic yearning (sundaes).

    The starters were light, delicious and colourful in design. The cutlery had a great knack of being substantial in functionality but retained daintiness. For our main, The Titchfield (named after the cafe’s street location) had a wedge of foie gras, moistening the burger and riding on the popular crest of the ingredient at the moment. I wasn’t too keen on the bun (too doughy, for my liking) and only too happy to leave it to make space for two desserts…

    Onto my favourite subject – ‘Desserts‘… the Summer Pudding oozed with fruits and laced with rum. On asking our waitress what sort of rum? I’m assuming she was a young newbie, as she replied “oh, a cheap white one, just for cooking”, not exactly the response I was looking for. The Sundae was a heady mix of macaron, honeycomb, ice-cream, hot fudge sauce and fruit. Each treasure-troving spoonful, was a treat to eat.

    Surveying the menu, it has a great breakfast menu too. I started with the ABC Ginger pre-dinner and the vibrancy of the colour (with beetroot) was enough to perk  and set me up for the night to come.

    All in all, a good find that’s handy for it’s central London (Noho) positioning. They satisfy and tick comfort eating boxes in a big way. The service if a little naive, was pleasant and speedy.

     
    Be aware of: Making your booked dining time, it’s so busy, you’ll miss out otherwise!
    Take time to: Try lots of the sharing plates, there is something for everyone and if they don’t press on turning the table in 2 hours, you can take your time and enjoy
     
    Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield St, London, W1W 7PQ  
    Website: www.ridinghousecafe.co.uk

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  3. Marcus Wareing’s The Gilbert Scott

    May 5, 2011 by Dini

     

     Brasserie Lunch Preview

    1st May 2011

     Amongst recent launches in London, The Gilbert Scott (TGS) nestled by the newly opened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and eponymous of the architect is one restaurant, definitely on my list. I was delighted to be invited by TGS Team to preview the restaurant (for a significantly reduced price). My only down point is that I had to rush through the lunch with my family to then attend a birthday party, there-in I still managed a three-course meal and noticed I took longer than the ‘allocated’ two hour slot. I do hope they’re not too heavy handed with table turning; it’s so easy to wile away time there.

    The decor is stunning, lovingly restored, with respect to the original architecture. On arrival the bar welcomes you, where you’re welcome to sit and have cocktails and bar snacks. I actually spotted Marcus on arrival at the bar, so it was nice to see he’s there within at least the first few weeks before getting back to The Berkeley (his 2* Michelin restaurant). ‘Love’ him or ‘Hate’ him, I’ll allow Giles Coren to give you a guided tour of the restaurant (thanks lovefood.com).

    Service: Friendly, with the right amount of interaction. We were seated right at the back of the room, which was great for people watching. Alas, we weren’t honoured with some of the celeb-tastic preview diners that have recently been in Mr Fry, Mr Gervais and even Mr Law!  Service was sharp, staff knowledgeable in all areas and we even had a welcome from the very friendly Chantelle (GM).

    Bread: I tried the Dyet bread, which was made with fennel seeds and sage, quite a nice combination. My only bug bear was not having a resting bread plate, if only to be a saving grace from my major crumbs spillage.

    As there were three of us for lunch, we decided to order one course each and share, to see what all the dishes tasted like. This worked quite well, as dishes were easy to portion out.

    Starters: Dish 1 : Yorkshire Fish cake (Nicely flaky, nice contrast with the cucumber). Dish 2:  Brown & Forrest Salmon (which was beautifully cut salmon with a piquant caper butter. Dish 3:  The Dorset crab (which was beautiful and a lovely combination of textures with delicate crash meat).

    The Main Event: Dish 4:  The Queens Potage (visually stunning, the texture was good with pistachio crunch and pomegranate freshness). Dish 5: Soles in Coffins (I especially approved of use of potato skin for the crispy potato garnish, it made chuckle too). Dish 6: The Sea Bass Cullenskink, beautiful execution of both fish dishes, loved the crispy skin on fish. Our fish dishes were complimented by our sides of asparagus, spinach and colcannon. The colcannon was absolutely heavenly, I’m sure due to the amount of copious amounts of butter laced through it. Also on order was the Pease Pudding, (not my favourite), but I’m not generally a fan of split peas. I did also notice a couple of diners around us had opted for roast chicken to share (not for us as we wanted to try different dishes), however I was quite envious of the look of their crispy roast potatoes.

    Pudding: Usually the main event for my family, as we all have extremely sweet teeth, also knowing that Marcus Wareing’s stellar reputation for Patisserie.  Unlike Pollen Street Social, the Patisserie Kitchen isn’t really a seated dining offering. Instead, diners seated on tables close by can view the assembly of desserts and the gentle sound of the bell at the pass for dessert collection. We greedily ordered four desserts (knowing that the ‘specials’ – option of Custard Tart was a must, with the Great British Menu history in mind). Dish 7: Mrs Beeton’s Snow eggs (curiosity prevailed on this one); I guess the original inspiration from MrsB for in modern day, what we’d call as floating islands? Great texture, execution, especially the Everton Toffee inside the meringue – superb! Dish 8: The Orange Marmalade Jaffa cake was a deconstructed affair with bitter chocolate ganache in the centre and a delicious accompanying Earl Grey ice cream. Dish 9: The Lord Mayor’s Trifle was lovely; I liked the unusual combination (almost like a pina cola trifle, although obviously a whole lot classier).  Dish 10: The Custard Tart was our much anticipated finale. I liked the side of apple and rhubarb compote, slightly tart against the soft set of the custard. I prefer a bit more of a wobble to my tart, but I guess that’s subjective. Next time I think I’ll try the Manchester Tart, it sounds a bit like a banana trifle with pastry (yum!).

    Final Thoughts: I can really see TGS working well as a destination Brasserie for those who relish this sort of ‘British’ dining experience, as they have stalked to The Ivy, The Wolsley and even ‘Dinner’ to some extent. With the draw of Marcus Wareing and let’s face it, Kings Cross is crying out for great dining venues. The pricing is accommodating as you have some rich ingredients; actually very pleased you don’t appear to have any POA’s (as I keep seeing on other menus – so no surprises). It’s nice to see an English cheese board, and also inclusions of Polgoon and Camel Valley to the drinks list. By TGS offering all day and evening dining, I can see straight off, lots of different occasions that I’d pop in for. There’s no set lunch menu and budgeting may be tricky with so many delights to select from. However, there is an Early Supper menu (offered between 5.30-6.30pm, at £19 for 2 or £24 for 3 courses). I’m already looking forward to breakfast, likely to going live late in the Summer, hope they’ll be some interesting dishes harking back from the past and not just a traditional fry up.

    On leaving, I got to meet and thank Marcus for his hospitality, as he was by the Pastry Kitchen, which was a very nice touch to our dining experience. I liked experience of dining at TGS; the dishes are simple but well executed without ANY superfluous gimmickry.

    Be aware of: There is a £2 cover charge, 2 hour booking slot (standard as it would seem with Brasserie dining), Vegetarians have a few options at the moment, however the restaurant is flexible to work to your needs (more dishes will be included in time).

    Take time to: Explore TGS in its entirety; it’s such a beautiful venue, especially with an aperitif or digestif at the bar.

    The Gilbert Scott
    St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
    Euston Road
    London, NW1 2AR

    +44 207 278 3888
    http://www.thegilbertscott.co.uk/

     

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