4 October 2014

Return to Midsummer House

During July we treated my mum and my stepdad to a lunch at Midsummer House, and I feel I've neglected my duty to report back on such a memorable meal.

We went for the  seven course menu, with a vegetarian version for my wife, and gluten free for my mum. We started with a fabulous range of canapes out in the garden, and on an absolute scorcher of a day. In particular I remember a truffle eclair which just has to grace my list of favourite things ever, simply awesome.

The barbecued beetroot this time included nitrogen frozen goats cheese, hard, angular looking bricks that melted in your mouth, a wonderful technical element that didn't take anything away from the excellent cheese. A stunning quail dish included hay smoked crispy quails eggs and a finger of toast, puree and grapes, with special gluten free bread for my mum. I was also delighted to try a scallop and apple dish I've seen in other reviews, and it was beyond my expectations, a perfect dish.

My wifes vegetarian menu included some memorable dishes, a crispy coated poached egg on a bed of brilliant green pea puree, peas, and girolles, and a dish of smoked roscoff onion filled with a grain risotto that arrived under a dome of smoke.

The meal ended with similar desserts to our previous visit, with the strawberry dish being accompanied by a strawberry soup concentrated by running it through a centrifuge. We finished with a generous range of chocolates, as well as maraschino cherries for my mum, and those gorgeous bottereaux for the rest of us, hollow diamond shaped pastries dipped in calvados cream and apple puree the thought of which still puts a smile on my face today. Oh, and I mustn't forget the visit from Clifford the English Bulldog, a fine chap indeed.

This was a very special day, indeed my mum saying was the best she has ever had. From the first to last bite, everything was nearly perfect.

The house.

Tomato sorbet.

Liver parfait cigar, tartare of fish on fish skin crisp.

See that eclair in the middle? One of the nicest things you'll ever eat.

Crab amuse. My wife had a tomato gazpacho instead.

Beetroot, goats cheese.

Quail, grapes, shallot puree

Hay smoked crispy quails eggs.


Crispy hens egg, peas, girolles. Vegetarian food doesn't come much better than this.

These came first.

And were grated on the scallop and apple dish.

The smoked roscoff onion arrived under a dome filled with smoke.

Lamb, tomato, old Yorke cheese.

On a hot day, the nitrogen frozen shards of blueberry in this lemon posset were just what I needed.

Strawberry dessert.

The ladies also received a box of chocolates to take home. The chocolate on the far right was filled with pistachio puree and the best of them all. Easily the match of any of the famous chocolatiers.

I could murder a plate of these right now.

Midsummer House

24 August 2014

Return to Royal China Canary Wharf

Today we enjoyed a dim sum lunch at Royal China Canary Wharf. I've been meaning to take my wife for dim sum for a long time now, and a trip to Greenwich saw an excellent excuse to take a short detour to Royal China.

We chose a range of dim sum dishes, a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian, all were excellent. My wife had steamed vegetarian dumplings and a fabulous vegetable cheung fun, and we shared some vegetable crispy noodles and the best spicy salt crispy tofu I've ever had, each one fried to perfection.  I tried some roast pork puffs, pastry up there with the best I've had in Michelin starred restaurants, some awesome crispy yam and meat paste nest like things, scallop dumplings, lush with scallop and crunchy water chestnuts, and a selection of their superb cheung fun.

The Royal China chain count as some of the best Chinese restaurants in London, queues were evident at 3pm on a Sunday at our one, and I know the rest are incredibly popular. You certainly couldn't go wrong with a visit.

Roast pork puffs, fried yam paste dumplings.

Vegetable cheung fun.

Vegetables and crispy noodles.

Royal China cheung fun.

The last two dumplings.

Royal China

Return to Grain Store

My wife and I had to go to St Pancras, so we had a good excuse to return to Grain Store, where we were lucky enough to get a walk-in.

The food and drink was outstanding, with many new dishes and drinks on the menu. Special mention has to go to the excellent range of soft and alcoholic drinks, with some really unusual cocktails and top quality juices on offer. My wife started with a Fellini, an apple, fennel and prosecco cocktail that was absolutely delicious. I love the style of the food at Grain Store with a focus on vegetables, a menu inspired from cultures around the world. This is one place I would love to live near enough to visit regularly, definitely one of the best of the newer restaurants in London.

Salted watermelon, borage flowers, pink grapefruit, curry oil, crab mayonnaise.

Sweet potato waffle, raw and cooked vegetables.

Grilled Lebanese cucumbers, pickled tomatoes, duck pastilla.

Grilled aubergine, rice, cucumber raitha.

Coconut, kaffir lime, green tapioca, sweet potato, banana leather.

Jurancon Moelleux 2007, Domaine de Souch.

Grain Store

C&R Cafe

C&R Cafe is a Malaysian cafe, located in a small alleyway in Chinatown.  It has a good reputation with the Malay expat community, and a number were present, drinking Milo gives it away.

I had Nasi Lemak, a dish of coconut rice, chicken curry with accompaniments of sambal belacan, cucumber, ikan bilis (dried anchovies), peanuts and acar. Sambal belecan is a kind of paste with chillis and belacan, (pronounced bla-chan) the famous fermented shrimp paste of Malaysia and is a fiery, blow your head off type taste explosion that is best considered an acquired taste. Even though I'm half Malay, I'm not that good with chillis and could only handle this in pinprick amounts mixed with the rest of the food. The acar pickle was lovely, with large chunks of pineapple helping to wash away some of the fiery heat of the meal.

My wife had a beancurd and rice dish, with another chili hot sauce. We both had satay on the side,  chicken satay for me and a fried beancurd satay for my wife. These were pretty good, the chicken crisp and sweet on the outside, but soft and juicy inside. The beancurd satay were excellent, crisp throughout and to quote my wife; "like air", perfect with the robust peanut sauce. We also had some roti canai, the fried bread that is dipped in curry sauce. This was ok, albeit quite greasy compared with others I've had.

Nasi Lemak

Beancurd and rice

Chicken Satay

Beancurd Satay

Roti Canai

C&R Cafe

C & R Cafe on Urbanspoon

Galvin La Chapelle III

We returned to Galvin La Chapelle for Sunday lunch, which rolls in at a rather tasty £29.99 for 3 courses, excellent value considering it has a star, top end service and a gorgeous dining room.

The meal was as good as ever, with a fantastic summer truffle bouillon to go with my guinea fowl and vegetables being the highlight of my meal. Another dish of note was my wifes cucumber soup with horseradish cream, a perfect summer starter.

The bread has really improved too, the crust on my white sourdough kept me returning for more.

Mackerel, pink grapefruit, fennel

Cucumber soup, horseradish cream

Guinea fowl, vegetables, gnocchi, summer truffle bouillon

Risotto, girolles, sage

Tarte tatin

2 June 2014

Fera At Claridges

We had a wonderful meal at Simon Rogan's Roganic last year, and when it closed without any confirmation of a follow up London venture I was disappointed that we would not be able to sample his cooking again without a long journey up to Cumbria. So, to my delight, when Claridges announced he would be taking over the restaurant from Gordon Ramsay, I knew we would be heading for lunch as soon as we could.

You can't help but feel a bit special when heading into Claridges, and as we arrived a little early we soaked up the ambiance in the lobby before heading in. The room is impressive, with Claridges stunning art deco architecture, but a natural, organic feel, with pebble stones on wooden tables with a comfortable ambiance.

We were sat and Jack, joining Fera from our Fitzrovia haunt Kitchen Table, came over for a chat and took our drinks orders. Nice to see a familiar face. Throughout the meal the service from all was top class, just the type of consummate professionals I would expect at venue like Claridges, and not a hint of stuffiness.

Starting with some cocktails, pea shoot, apple marigold and vermouth for my wife, and a lovage and herb rye whiskey for me.  Both were unusual, and quite different to anything I've had before, and as I'm a fan of lovage it was great to taste it in such a different way. However, note to self: Don't have whiskey cocktail instead of breakfast.

The first dish was brought out by Simon himself, a rather impressive start. A crisp barley wafer with smoked eel, lovely, light and flavoursome. The canapes were all equally lovely, a mouthful of the sea in the form of a mackerel wafer, a fabulous bite of rabbit, crisp, warm and rich, and an absolute peach of a dish, a bowl with potato mousse and winslade cheese dish, including duck heart for myself, being particularly memorable. The last amuse bouche was clever, an almost ice cold salad of crab with rhubarb acting as a perfect palate cleanser before the bread course, a hunk of bread with butter and unusually a cup of sweet onion broth.

The main dishes were all very much what I would expect from Simon, very light, bags of flavour, highly technical, unusual herbs and foraged ingredients. The cabbage/beef course had an amazing smoked broccoli cream I will remember for a long time but the star was a dish brought out by Simon himself, a grilled salad. This was amazing, a barrage of crunchy and crispy textures from the grilled leaves, underneath a gorgeous truffle custard redolent with strong truffle flavours served in a wooden bowl and with a large wooden spoon, which i used to scrape the bowl clean of every last trace of that custard. I've seen some of the opening reviews where some found they weren't so keen on some courses, but I couldn't fault a single dish, and every element from the shellfish butter with the prawn to some delightful discs of pickled tongue with the hogget an absolute treat.

Desserts were similar, light, fresh with perfect balance. I loved the cherries that came with the yoghurt, and the celery pieces at the bottom of the ice cream dish were a touch of unexpected genius, I now know that if you do it right, celery can go in a dessert.  This was finished with a blackcurrant wafer and a fizzy blackberry concoction, which was excellent, and I think a much better choice than the chamomile milkshake I've seen described elsewhere.

The petit fours were again something out of the ordinary, especially the sweet cicely cake, a ghost of a sponge so light it barely seemed real. We ended the meal with a fancy filter coffee poured at the table, in a rather cool Japanese filter kit, the coffee a fabulous Kenyan blend that we took without milk and clearly a cut above most coffees I've had.

Our wine, recommended by the sommelier on my vague instructions for something sweet, fruity and fragrant was a bottle of Patrimonio ‘Grotte di Sole’, Antoine Arena 2010 (£75) and was perfect with the food, lasting us right to the petit fours.

The bill came to around £420, our most expensive London meal, but with the surroundings, food, service, booze and a 15 quid (!) coffee it wasn't too much of a shocker. We enjoyed a memorable lunch, Simons food is exciting, unique and every bite a joy. Vegetarians are equally catered for, with Simons food naturally being more vegetarian friendly, especially with so much being sourced from the farm in Cartmel.

Puffed barley, onion, watercress. Puffed barley, smoked eel, watercress.

Berkswell cheese, pickled plum. Mackerel, seawater cream, caviar.

Stewed rabbit and lovage.

Chicken skin, thyme, roasted garlic.

Scallops in buttermilk.

Peas in buttermilk.

Winslade and potato.

Crab, rhubarb, goats cheese.

Kohlrabi, rhubarb, goats cheese.

Malt bread, onion broth.

Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe, acidic apple juice.

Sweetheart cabbage, smoked broccoli cream, fresh curd, acidic apple juice.

Oxalis, smoked yolk, carrot, juniper.

Prawns from Gairloch, picked alexander, asparagus, shellfish butter.

Asparagus, picked alexander and sunflower.

Grilled Salad, Isle of Mull, truffle custard and sunflower seeds.

Cods cheeks poached in dulse stock, artichoke, beetroot and sea orache.

Artichokes with dulse, beetroot and sea campion.

Herdwick hogget, pickled tongue, mushroms, turnips.

Celeriac baked in hay, crispy skin, hen of the woods, turnips and hazelnut.

Chamomile, butterscotch, celery.

Sheep's yoghurt, cherries, Douglas fir.

Hampshire Strawberries,woodruff and elder flower.

Blackberry and lemon verbena.

Sweet cicely cake.

Banana mint drops.

Smoked meringue.

Fera At Claridges

Fera At Claridge's on Urbanspoon

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