9 March 2014

Pied a Terre

We recently enjoyed a lunch at Pied a Terre in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia.  As my wifes birthday fell on a Monday this year, it required a little more research to find somewhere open on Mondays. Luckily Pied a Terre, somewhere we have passed numerous times and have been meaning to visit, was not only open on Monday lunch time, but also had a 6 course tasting menu available for £49 a head.

We started with a selection of canapes, with stand outs being a battered mussel, a salty crunchy delight of a bite, and a wonderful flavour rich celeriac panna cotta for my wife. We tried a few breads including an excellent brioche and ok baguette, but the star of the show was a treacle bread which was simply one of the best breads I've had in a long time, a perfect crisp crust with soft, chewy crumb with a definite hit of treacle.

We both started with a chestnut and juniper gnocchi, a golden fried pillow with a brown caramelised surface and a generous slice of truffle on top. Into the bowl was poured a chestnut and truffle veloute. This was a fine start to the meal, with a deep truffle flavour in the smooth veloute.

The next course was a carrot dish, the carrot coated with blackened spices and with accompanying vegetables, the spices were intense and well flavoured, a fine way to treat a humble carrot. I had a fantastic dish of cod with really lovely mussel sauce and some flavourful little new potatoes, the dish as delicious as it was pretty on the plate.

Our mains were both excellent, for me guinea fowl, morel mushrooms and shallot and liquorice puree. The guinea fowl had good flavour, a superior bird to chicken for me, but the morel mushrooms, my first of the year, were absolutely top class, some of the nicest I've ever had. My wife had a onion squash ravioli, topped with cavelo nero and a pine nut butter. She really liked this dish, especially the textures added by the pine nuts.

Pre-dessert was a glass with some lemon posset and orange mousse, a lovely little palate cleanser topped with some awesome white chocolate and freeze dried blood orange pieces on top, very nice indeed. Dessert proper show cased some very high end patisserie, a Valrhona chocolate creme, with dots of caramel sauce, cubes of chocolate jelly, some lovely peanut brittle pieces. The accompanying salted peanut ice cream was gorgeous, and the salty notes balanced against the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly.

We had some nice wine to match, 2 glasses of rose champagne to start, a couple of excellent whites with the food, the 2 dessert wines recommended were really good. My Spanish red, a Dolc Mataro was unlike anything I've had before, sweet with many fruity notes, and just my type of drink.

Petit four came with coffee, first up 3 on a dish, including a fantastic mandarin filled bowl, followed by some coconut ice cream truffles, and finally a bowl of hot doughnuts, each one as fluffy as a cloud, exceedingly fine examples of their kind.

I was really impressed with Pied a Terre, not only was every aspect of the meal absolutely first rate, a tasting menu with an especially generous selection of goodies to accompany the coffee for £49 felt very good value. The restaurant team, with Marcus Eaves and his crew providing the best London's fine dining has to offer, with a really charming front of house to back them up.

Canapés



Chestnut and Juniper Gnocchi with Chanterelles, Chestnut and Truffle Velouté

Cod with Poached Baby Potatoes, Fennel Puree and Cornish Mussels.

Carrots Cooked in Blackened Spices with Squash Purée, Cracked Wheat, Chilli, Coriander and Mint

Guinea Fowl with Morel Mushrooms, Braised Leek, Shallot and Liquorice Puree, Rosemary Jus.

Onion Squash and Sage Ravioli with Chanterelles, Cavelo Nero and Pine Nut Beurre Noisette

Lemon posset & blood orange

Valrhona Chocolate Crème with Caramel Sauce, Salted Peanut Ice Cream and Chocolate Jelly

Petits Fours



Dessert Wines.



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Square Meal

Return to The Ledbury

My brother was over for his annual trade expo in London, but as I had plenty of notice I managed to get a table at The Ledbury on a Friday night, no small feat. On Friday and Saturday you have a choice of 2 tasting menu's, and we opted for the  one with an extra course with a few substitutions.

We spent some time choosing a bottle of white, and the sommelier had it spot on with his selection,  a demi-sec perfectly sweet enough for my taste, a Vouvray Le Mont, Domaine Huët from 2009.

There was a good selection of bread, with a small seeded loaf placed on the table and a choice of breads from a basket, including their excellent bacon and onion brioche.

Our first course was an artichoke and grape salad, with desiccated foie gras, a nice fresh start to the meal, with particulary nice Sauternes grapes.  Next up, a really fine dish of baked crapaudine beetroot, beetroot crisp, black olives with a slither of smoked eel. Crapaudine are particularly fragrant beetroots with a delicate flavour, and were fantastic combined with the smokey rich eel.

Following this was one of The Ledbury classics, flame torched mackerel with shiso, celtic mustard and cucumber. I love this dish, and was just as good as previously. We followed this with another classic, the buffalo curd and onion broth with the awesome bechamel and truffle cheese on toast. This is so good I really wanted my brother to try it and they were more than willing to substitute a quail egg and truffle dish for this so we could. The cheese on toast was fabulous, i could eat a whole plate of it alone, it's as perfect as anything could be.

We followed this with a fantastic scallop dish, the scallop served with seaweed slices, cauliflower and a beautiful buttery foam. Soon after we were presented with the whole pork jowl, slow cooked for hour and finished with a selection of spices. When plated, the crackling was turned into a crumb and sprinkled on top of the pork and served with slices of apple and hazelnuts. The crackling and pork were a fabulous combination, soft, rich and unctuous.

The best was saved until last, a fillet of beef, served with smoked bone marrow, crispy potato and salt baked ash covered celeriac. This was seriously good, every element in harmony and packed with flavour. My brother finished his off in seconds, and spent the rest of the time jealously eyeing up my plate, drooling and trying to persuade me to share the rest. Not a chance.

Pre-dessert was a blood orange granita and clove yoghurt, with the balance of clove just right as its an ingredient that can overpower so easily. Dessert itself was a replacement for the chocolate and banana tart, as my brother is avoiding gluten (yeah, yeah, yeah I know). A citrus brulee was topped with a quenelle of apple and a lovage puree, a deceptively simple dish that worked really well, especially the citrus flavours in the brulee, which managed to be flavourful without being acidic. I'm a big fan of lovage too, an aromatic kick that blended with the sugary crisp and brulee so well.

We finished with coffees and petit fours and left with the knowledge that this time, we certainly made the right choice on choosing the some of best food London has to offer. A perfect meal.

Salad of Violet and Chinese Artichokes with Hazelnuts, Grapes and Grated Foie Gras.

Crapaudine Beetroot Baked in Clay with Smoked Eel and Dried Olives.

Flame Grilled Mackerel with Pickled Cucumber, Celtic Mustard and Shiso.

Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Aged Comte, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions.

Scallop with Seaweed and Cauliflower.

Jowl of Pork with Apple, Hazelnuts.

Fillet of Belted Galloway Beef with Celeriac Baked in Juniper, Bone Marrow and Crisp Potato

Clove Yoghurt with Blood Orange Granita.

Citrus Brulee with Apple and Lovage.


The Ledbury

6 March 2014

Two closures and visits to The Ledbury, Kitchen Table and Pied a Terre

Unfortunately two of my favourite restaurants have closed recently. Nuno Mendes at Viajante left to start up Chiltern Firehouse, which is getting some good reviews and soon due a visit. The restaurant itself closed on 28th February, with Jason Athertons group looking to put in Lee Westcott from 22 Ships Ham & Sherry in Viajantes space. The second is Tom Aikens Restaurant, which closed last month. Tom is apparently looking to relocate to somewhere busier, either the West End or East End. I hope they hurry up, I really enjoyed our visits to his eponymous Chelsea restaurant.

Also closed is Bo London, which looking back now, received a better write up than it should have done. These days, post HKK, I might have forgone the several hours of writing, formatting and photo editing and not bothered to write it up, much like disappointing meals at other places which never make it on to my blog. Whilst the food was excellent, the portions were tiny and the bill massive, and that's my main memory of it these days.

Edit: Reports of Bo London's demise have been greatly exaggerated, apparently it's a refit not a closure.

Edit 2: Actually, no, despite the statements that it was a water leak and refit, Bo London Ltd is in administration. Watch this space though, they might do the phoenix company thing and rise from the dead.

Since my previous post I had two more excellent meals with my wife, a fourth visit to Kitchen Table for their fabulous New Years Eve meal and a long lunch at Pied a Terre, who had an excellent 6 course tasting menu for £49 offer going that coincided with my wifes birthday. I've been meaning to go to Pied a Terre for a while, and enjoyed some fantastic dishes, a lovely gnocchi and chestnut truffle veloute starter, an excellent cod dish and guinea fowl main with some top rate patisserie on show with a chocolate dessert. On top of this was one of the best breads we've had in the form of  a treacle loaf, and a very generous selection of petit four to finish, with some awesome cloud like doughnuts.

I also went to The Ledbury with my brother, in London on his annual trade show visit, and we indulged in the long tasting menu with a bottle of very good white and had a nigh on perfect meal. I'll write it up in detail soon.

Lobster ready for plating at Kitchen Table.


28 December 2013

Sketch, Upstairs At The Ten Bells, Kitchen Table 3

Sketch

My wife and I enjoyed the tasting menus at Pierre Gagnaires London outpost, Sketch. The venue is a large building just off Regent Street, with tea room, bistro, bars and the 2 starred restaurant, The Lecture Room and Library. The building features some serious decor and design throughout and some stunning areas including a toilet with egg shaped pods like none other I've seen. Upon arriving were lead up a roped off stairway, and double doors were theatrically opened to show the restaurant in all its glory, the best looking dining space I've been in so far.

The meal itself was fabulous, with each course featuring multiple elements, sometimes presented on multiple dishes. My first course of a warm dish of lobster, broccoli and sauternes gel, a small bowl of cold lobster jelly, and Asian salad of claw was a good example of this.  Every course was of the highest quality, as good as anywhere else I've eaten since starting the blog. Stand out dish was probably one of my wives vegetarian courses, a smoked potato, beetroot veloute and blackcurrant ice cream, an unlikely combination that worked incredibly well,  smoky, earthy and sweet yet balanced and in harmony, truly outstanding. I also loved Pierre Gagnaires Grand Dessert, 6 different dishes my favourite of which was a lemon veloute, thai herbs, fruits and sorbet, with one of the herbs being coriander, the first time I've had it in a dessert yet worked perfectly with the citrus flavours. All six dishes were an absolute treat.

Although I've not written in as much detail as I have with other meals due to time constraints, I can't praise Sketch enough, the venue, food and service were of extremely high standard, and The Lecture Room and Library at Sketch is easily one of the best restaurants in London.

Upstairs At The Ten Bells.

We had an excellent Sunday lunch at Upstairs At The Ten Bells, the Spitalfields restaurant from the Clove Club guys. As it was December only a set menu was offered, but this was a selection of starters including the excellent buttermilk fried chicken dish on pine I had at the Clove Club, although this time it was pheasant. My wife and I both a had a chestnut veloute starter of excellent quality, and I had an absolutely brilliant main course, a featherblade of beef generously covered in a bone marrow butter, swede puree and cavelo nero. The bone marrow butter was awesome, a slight cheesy note from what might of been unpasteurised butter with the richness of bone marrow, a perfect accompaniment for a blade of beef so soft I used a fork to cut.

I like this venue, the pub being steeped in history, indeed the rickety stairs up to the restaurant featured bare plaster, gas lamps and an old sash window that looked as it probably did when Jack The Rippers victims plied their trade there.

Return to Kitchen Table 

Our third visit to Kitchen Table showed the same commitment to consistency, high quality food and service we've had in all our meals there. An excellent evening as always, with some stand out dishes including a pigeon, a beef and burnt cream combination, which sounded unusual but worked incredibly well, a corned beef sandwich amuse bouche that still has my mouth watering to think about it, a beefsteak mushroom dish, a butternut squash pasta dish laden with truffle, and a fantastic brie, white Alba truffle, honey and brioche cheese course that would be hard to top anywhere.

Sketch

Upstairs At The Ten Bells

Kitchen Table

Lobster three ways at Sketch

Smoked potato puree, beetroot and blackcurrant at Sketch

Lemon veloute, thai herbs, fruit and sorbet at Sketch.

Featherblade of beef, bone marrow butter, swede puree, cavolo nero at Upstairs At The Ten Bells.

Brie, white Alba truffle, honey and brioche at Kitchen Table.



14 September 2013

Grain Store

Grain Store is the all day restaurant from Bruno Loubet, part of the regeneration area behind Kings Cross. I'm more than familiar with the area, being a regular visitor to the now defunct Cross and Bagleys clubs that were there in the Nineties but now the area has changed beyond all recognition, the walk from Kings Cross taking you through a collection of building sites and over the Regents Canal to the finished Granary Square area, home to Grain Store, Caravan, Kerb and St Martins College of Art and Design.

The restaurant retains its original warehouse dimensions, a large industrial space with bar and open kitchen, and was already busy when we arrived at midday. The menu is interesting, with a focus on vegetables, and the meat or fish element being mentioned last on the dish description and a large selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. There's also a cocktail menu with savoury and sweet cocktails, and some unusual herb infused and smoked wines.

I started with lobster "Bloody Mary", with an accompanying plate of potato and rye bread, a fantastic slice spread with a umami rich seaweed butter and dense leafy covering of borage, oyster leaf, flowers and some hairy plant I didn't recognise. Hats off to Grainstore here, even though it had no noticeable fish or meat ingredients it was not labelled as vegetarian on the menu due to the parmesan in the seaweed butter. The lobster dish was a timbale of lobster and green, yellow, cherry and red tomatoes around which was poured a consomme of tomato and vodka. The consomme was excellent, intense with flavour and the tomatoes a nice mix of crunchy, soft and sweet. The lobster itself was cooked to perfection, soft as a pillow. My wife had a lovely looking plate of baked beetroots; orange, candy and red, goats labneh, pink pickled onions and a dill dressing. 

The mains kept to the same high standards, for my wife a dish with a poached egg, a type of cheese, a spiced crushed nut mix called dukkah and a white bean hummus and had some very good feedback, a really delicious dish. I had a cast iron pan containing gratin dauphinois and topped with rabbits leg and salsa. The dauphinois was heavenly, creamy, garlicky potatoes and topped off with a beautiful piece of rabbit cooked under a Josper, soft and juicy, timed perfectly and with the pleasing smoky barbeque flavours from the Josper. The salsa verde was more guacamole than anything, lots of avocado mixed with the herbs and pickled jalapenos. You wouldn't have thought it would go with dauphinois and rabbit but it provided a pleasing creamy topping to the rabbit amd worked perfectly. The dish was utterly wonderful, supreme comfort food and just right for a damp September morning.

The dessert menu featured some unusual vegetable ingredients, horseradish ice cream and strawberries in one dish, and the the one I choose featuring spiced candied tomatoes and goats milk panna cotta. The tomatoes were actually whole cherry tomatoes, and whilst retaining a hint of tomato the sweetness from the candying process and spices provided a taste unlike anything Ive had before. The panna cotta was of excellent quality. My wife had white chocolate rice crispy cake chocolate mousse and almond ice cream. This was an excellent plate, in particular the lovely crispy cake and ice cream.

Grain Store is a popular place, when we left it was full and for good reason too, a whole menu of highly original and innovative dishes can be found and some really good food. I look forward to returning. Kings Cross and Saint Pancras, once desolate wastelands as far as food is concerned, now have a number of good places to eat and Grain Store is certainly one of the better choices. The bill came to 85 quid and included a £1 covercharge for water, two cocktails and service, not bad considering I had the most expensive starter and main and the quality of the meal.

Potato and rye bread, borage, oyster leaf.

Lobster 'Bloody Mary'

Beetroots, goat labneh.

Flat bread, poached egg, white bean hummus.

Gratin dauphinois, salsa verde, rabbit leg.

Spiced candied tomatoes, panna cotta.

White chocolate rice crispy cake, chocolate mousse, almond ice cream.


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Square Meal

7 September 2013

Opera Tavern

A trip to the El Bulli exhibition at Somerset House saw us stopping for lunch in Covent Garden at the Opera Tavern, a Spanish restaurant in the Salt Yard Group. Opera Tavern differs from the other restaurants in the group, Dehesa and Salt Yard, in having a charcoal grill and specialising in Ibérico pork dishes as well as tapas.

We started with 2 glasses of a pleasant Manzanilla Pasada, as my sum experience of sherry to date has been a sip of my nana's Bristol Cream and I wanted to try something proper as it was all the rage a while back.

The first plate, some butternut squash and sage croquettes with a quince alioli was a perfect start to a meal, smoky, buttery and sweet, topped off with a great alioli and utterly delicious.  Following this a hunk of roasted salt cod on a base of compressed and crispy black rice, with a tomato sauce and basil sauce around it.  This was a lovely piece of fish, and the rice beneath gorgeous, crisp, sticky and unctuous perfectly matched with the tomato and basil. My wife's plate of courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese was fabulous, the courgette flowers in a tempura batter and generously covered in honey, top class stuff. I tried the mini Ibérico burger with foie gras, done on the charcoal, feted as one of the better burgers in London, and well, wow, a triumph of a burger and well worth at the top of any list. The burger was gorgeous, smoky and so juicy I left a pool on the plate as I bit into it, with fantastic onion rings and jam and brioche bun.

The last dishes to appear were a plate of roasted cauliflower with cumin, pickled romanescu, raisins and pinenuts for my wife, a pleasant combination, with a nice mix of spice and sweet. I had a plate of Ibérico presa, cooked medium rare on the grill, smoky and rich in flavour, and with a drop dead gorgeous sauce of shallots, capers and lemon, thick, sticky, sweet and tart. I have to say this was one of the best meat dishes I have ever had, astonishingly good, not just for the presa as the sauce was amazing.

We then tried a plate of 3 Manchegos, with some melba toast and quince and walnut jam. I'm a big fan of Manchego and really enjoyed the one with rosemary. Pudding saw us indulge in a few puddings, the cold chocolate fondant with salt caramel, espresso ice cream and coffee crumb and a parfait of Turron, a Spanish nougat, with yoghurt ice cream and apricot sorbet. The chocolate dessert was lovely, rich and filled with an excellent salt and PX caramel, but the Turron parfait was the better of the two, a gorgeous combination with the sweet parfait, tart sorbet and an almost cheesy yoghurt accompanied by a crunchy bed of praline.

The meal served as a reminder that I focus too much on certain types of restaurants, with the majority of my write ups being longer tasting menus and more formal dining, and that I need to spend some time trying some tapas and less formal places. The two Ibérico pork dishes, the burger and presa, were as good as anything I've had before, stand out dishes that will see me return next time we're in the West End for certain. The bill came to £117 and included 2 sherries, 2 peach bellini's.

Butternut squash and sage croquettes.

Roasted salt cod.

Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese.

Mini Ibérico pork and foie gras burger.

Cauliflower.

Grilled Ibérico presa.

Cold chocolate fondant.

Turron parfait.

Opera Tavern

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Square Meal

Midsummer House

Midsummer House, set on the picturesque Midsummer Green on the edge of the River Cam in Cambridge, is the 2 star restaurant of the very talented Daniel Clifford. We had to park on the other side of the river and cross a footbridge to get to the restaurant and ended up parking just near the house my mother was brought up in. The main room is the conservatory of Midsummer House, with a walled garden surrounding it, a light and airy environment. There is a choice of lunch, a 7 course Taste of Market menu and an 8 course Taste of Summer House menu, we went for the vegetarian and standard version of the Taste of Summer menu.

Canapes were brought out whilst deciding on the menu's, a puree of tomato and vodka, essentially a slightly thicker bloody mary, fresh and flavourful, some fabulous cheese gougeres and an incredible pomme souffle filled with sour cream. I immediately knew we were in for a good meal, these were canapes of the highest order.

The amuse bouche was a light mousse of peas, with tomato underneath, and for me, prawns too. The mousse was incredibly light, more or less a foam, with an exceptionally deep pea flavour, with a some nice tomato and some really excellent prawns.

The next course started table side, with the waiter spooning dried mushrooms and herbs into a cafetiere and adding mushroom stock, this was left to infuse on the table. The dishes arrived a few minutes later, for my wife some plump mushroom tortellini accompanied by some girolles and herbs, the consomme from the cafetiere was then poured on. The tortellini and consomme were really good, with a huge depth of flavour, about as good a pasta as to be found anywhere. For me, a bowl with Cornish crab, mayonnaise and a sweet corn ice cream.  The crab was really nice, fresh and flavoursome and I absolutely adored the sweet corn ice cream, a flavour I'm used to from my days in the Far East, but here refined and perfected like no other I'd had before.

The next course involved a little bit of theatre, a table inset with one of those Green Big Egg, a fancy ceramic barbecue, was wheeled over, and 2 plates set, one of the chefs then came out and removed a whole roasted beetroot, and explained a little of the concept of the dish and how it was roasted for over 2 hours that morning in one of the Green Eggs. The beetroot were sliced in half and a semi-sphere scooped out and added to the plate, which also included sheeps curd, horseradish, beetroot puree and hazelnuts. The beetroot was superb, wonderfully flavoured, the curd, horseradish and other accompaniments partnered it perfectly.

The fish course was roasted stone bass, with razor clams, cucumber, wasabi and sorrel, with a  grating of lime zest at the table.  The cooking of the fish was spot on, with a gorgeous crisp skin, and I also loved the razor clams, cucumber and wasabi an excellent match for this fish. What stood out was the scents and flavour added by the grating of the lime at the table, elevating the entire dish to stratospheric heights. My wife's dish was a confit stuffed tomato. with courgettes and subtly spiced vegetables in a crispy sandwich.

Our main courses were again of very high quality, for me duck, cherries, sweet potato puree, hazelnuts and a tamarind gravy, with 2 crispy green leaves and a side dish of croustillant of confit duck on a bed of hazelnuts. The duck was superb and the gravy a shiny, unctuous, lip-smacking delight of a sauce, absolutely world class. I never found out what the leaves, were, but can confirm they were delicious. The croustillant contained a hidden surprise, a whole cherry! The juicy cherry and rich confit duck was a match made in heaven, top stuff.  My wife's main was a pithivier of vegetables, with a side of vegetables, puree and sauce soubise. This was excellent pastry work, and essentially as perfect a pasty as you will get.

Pre-dessert was a lemon posset, with blueberries and lemon espuma. Lovely flavours here, and the blueberries were really something, I believe they had been frozen in liquid nitrogen then smashed, and were a lovely delight hidden within the excellently flavoured posset and foam, both sweet and tart. Dessert itself was a wonderful dish of strawberries, creme fraiche ice cream, an elderflower mousse in a cannelloni of strawberry, little cubes of shortbread, jellies and strawberry juices poured at the table.  Every element was executed perfectly, and as good as summer treat as can be. A lovely finish to the meal.

We took coffee upstairs in a small lounge area with an external balcony, although a tad warm, I'm not sure why the radiators were on in the middle of a long August heatwave. The petit fours were different, warm sweet pastries laid out on a tray with 2 dips, one caramel and one of Calvados cream.  The pastries were again top quality, incredibly light and crisp, and perfect for the dips, my favourite being the Calvados cream, awesome flavours there. Finally, a large wooden box loaded with chocolates was brought up and we chose 5 each. As with the rest of the meal, these were delicious, especially the lovage and bay leaf chocolates, 2 flavours I've not had the pleasure of trying before.

The bill came to about 230, and included 2 glasses of champagne, soft drinks for me and 2 glasses of white for my wife.

We loved Midsummer House, with its gorgeous riverside setting, world class service and as good as food as we've had anywhere. Every aspect, from the ingredients to the execution was of the highest order, and there were some real stand out dishes. I can't wait to return.

Canapes.


English peas, tomato and prawns.

Mushroom Tortellini.

Cornish crab, brown crab mayonnaise, sweet corn.

Beetroot cooked on open coals, sheep's curd and horseradish.


Roast wild stone bass, razor clams, cucumber, wasabi, sorrel.

Stuffed confit tomato, courgette and basil.

Slow roast duck, English cherries, sweet potato and tamarind, hazelnuts.


Pithivier, seasonal vegetables, sauce soubise.

Lemon posset, blueberries, lemon espuma.

Cambridgeshire strawberries, elderflower, creme fraiche, Scottish shortbread.

Pastries, dips.

Chocolates.

You can spot that from the strawberries onwards I realised the filters on camera were wrong.

Midsummer House

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Square Meal