2 Veneti

(Visited: January 2014)

It’s not that we were particularly burning with a desire to eat here, a place that has always looked more of a neighbourhood restaurant than a destination one. But it has been in that corner, near the Wigmore hall, ever since, we have strolled in front of it so many times when going to concerts that we thought it may have been doing something good after all.

The verdict? An almost, almost correct, if basic, italian cuisine, but a little erratic in execution – too much salt in the garnishes of a lamb dish, two liver slices (in a Venetian style calf liver) one lovely but the other one tough and rubbery and not trimmed properly, cod quenelles that were OK but not too flavoursome. On the other hand, overall the quality of our meal was just OK (notably a lobster linguine with good sauce and good cooking, at £5 supplement).

The prices are high-ish but in line for the area. The room is very pleasant (white tablecloths, mirrors, nice lighting), the toilet less so. Service was extremely kind and smile-rich.

The impression is that of a basically sound traditional cuisine that needs to be a little sharper, with more attention to details. If we lived right in the neighbourhood, we might identify their strong dishes and pop in every now and then. Though, at the other end of Fitzrovia, Latium at similar prices offers an altogether different level of experience, and it’s hard to avoid the comparison.

Note: in the pictures below, the pasta is half of a portion (they kindly divided it for us to share one course).

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Marcus: Soulless and greedy hotel restaurant. But the food is good.

(Visited: December 2014)

We’ve been so many times at Koffmann’s, for once let’s walk round the building and try its 2* neighbour…

The entrance is unsigned, within the hotel, through the hotel bar. It is, undoubtedly, a hotel restaurant.

From the a la carte menu (£85 for 3 courses at the time of writing), Sweetbreads were supernaturally well cooked (panfried), very soft inside and beautifully caramelised outside, and the almond and pear accompaniment was inspired.

The a la carte main was a venison. The advertised accompanying chestnuts were in thin slivers, and did not make an impression: this was somewhat of a let-down. There was a black pudding ‘paste’, a sure-fire crowd pleaser, but the most satisfying bit was ultimately the venison itself, of top quality and again cooked perfectly.

Wood pigeon with black truffle and buckwheat was simply a stunner, the jus packing amazing flavour and the components working really well together (and this was from the cheaper lunch menu, £45 for 3 courses). From the same menu, a Halibut with salsify and cockles was pleasant, though the fish portion here was minimalistic almost to excess.

Desserts were OK. In a Pineapple, pain perdu and coconut, don’t expect the moistness you picture in your mind when you think ‘pain perdu’. Apart from that, it was a rather good dessert, with the various elements (including lovely meringues) working as a team. And the chocolate from the lunch menu (dark, milk, white) was at least as good, the sweet equivalent of the previous black pudding crowd pleaser.

From a quick read, the wine list is overpriced and unimaginative. The champagne section begins with the low end offering of a famous high end House (never a good choice, why not seek out one the nice smaller and less famous producers?), a bottle of which could be bought in Sainsbury’s for £25. Here it cost £88.

So we skipped wine, bought the Sainsbury’s bottle, plus a £50 Barolo, and felt smug. Boycott high price wine in restaurants!

The dining rooms form a large area, in which there are more customers than they are comfortable with serving at a decent pace at peak times. The result? Long delays and an unpleasant, uneven pacing of the meal, which at the 2* level we find unacceptable. Less greed would lead to better service. The staff however are good and well drilled.

In sum, the food was overall excellent, at the level one expects from 2*, with some high peaks and no serious let-down. The dining experience overall was, however, not equally pleasant due to the long waits, with no apologies whatsoever, and to the atmosphere (we were tempted to cancel the optional 12.5% charge but didn’t because our server could’t have been nicer). So while we would like to return to try more, we probably won’t.

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Lovely Summer lunch at Latium (London)

(Visited: July 2013)

Back again…

For us, Latium is a fixed feature when we are in London. Its immaculate produce and the great,  balanced flavours draw us here again and again. (A previous review is here).

In this latest lunch the games were opened by a mild-flavoured pigeon with Summer truffle that was cooked just right and tender and light and I-want-more-of-this.

pigeon and truffle salad

pigeon and truffle salad

Beside the classic tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, a dish of swordfish ravioli came with the most ravishing of tomato sauces to accompany the (excellent) fish. Amazing to to find tomatoes of this quality in London. This is a new dish and we think it’s a winner.

Porcini (ceps) tagliatelle

Porcini (ceps) tagliatelle

Swordfish ravioli

Swordfish ravioli

Veal liver was buttery and melting, and the high heat of the cooking extracted the potent offaly flavour beautifully, the peas and broad beans giving that lighter Summery touch in an otherwise pretty strong ensemble.

calf liver with Tropea onions

calf liver with Tropea onions

The duck had made us curious because of a dodgy sounding broad bean and cherry accompaniment with Amarone sauce. But it worked a treat, it really did. The duck cut in the way you see in the photo instead of the more usual slices emphasises the succulence of the animal.

Duck breast with cherries and Amarone sauce


Duck breast with cherries and Amarone sauce

We tried their new pine-nut ice cream (good!) together with the usual favourites chocolate and hazelnut. And the millefeuille dish was lightness itself imbued with Summer fruit flavour – the pastry deserves a special mention.

Pinenuts, hazelnuts and chocolate

Pinenuts, hazelnuts and chocolate

Millefoglie with strawberry sorbet

Millefoglie with strawberry sorbet

At £35.50 for three courses the  quality for money at Latium is completely unmatched by any other Italian restaurant in London. When can we go back?

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Mazi (London): modern Greek, returnable

(Visited February 2013)

We cross London to Notting Hill on a sunny Sunday lunchtime. We are the first to enter the bright and airy dining room:

interior

interior

We had done our research, and were really looking forward to trying a few dishes but oh, disappointment strikes when we realise that there is only a ‘brunch’ menu, meaning there’s only what they call the ‘jar’ starters (unsurprisingly, these are starters served in a jar) and some other starter-sized dishes, with no proper mains. It would have been nice to be told at the time of booking.

Normally this is exactly the kind of thing that propels us into a rage, but for us is by now age more than rage, and we’re mellowing down. Plus they begin by bringing us a very nice, refreshing basil drink. Ok, we are here now, let’s enjoy this.

To pick us up, it seems the only alternative is to start ordering almost the whole menu, carefully avoiding anything with the remotest of connections with breakfast, which we had had already. So, a raid of the jar section is in order:

A few jars

A few jars

Those above are only a subset of what we got, with a gorgeous Beetroot, goat cheese and grape reduction hidden from view. After the excellent jars the mood definitely turns up, and although the meat pie is somewhat rough and on the wrong side of light

totally rustic!

totally rustic!

the crostini with onion jam are packed full with flavours:

crostini
Portion sizes are substantial, so in the end we were far from starving.

The sun is now smiling on our table, too, so surely we won’t let the desserts pass us unchallenged: the rice pudding with fresh vanilla and lemon is pretty close to what you expect

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

while the Sweet Bougatza with custard, cinnamon and milk chocolate is more of a (definitely pleasant) surprise:

Sweet cinnamon bougatza

Sweet cinnamon bougatza

though admittedley the milk chocolate could have accepted substantially more chocolate.

When we visited the place had been open for only a few weeks, and we were told the brunch idea was an ‘experiment’, and that they will soon offer also the regular menu alongside the brunch one: please check if they’ve kept their word.

Closing an eye on the temperature of the (pre-prepared) cold dishes being too low, the quality was very good, a modern take on many Greek classic, with for example an authentic, not coloured and not oversalted tarama, vibrant aubergine and courgette and broad bean puree’ dishes, and general care in seasoning, as well as an eye for presentation.

Service was good and very kind if not too informative (except by the enthusiastic French co-owner), and the room even if full wasn’t all that noisy (the night before we’d been at Tapas Brindisa and THAT is noisy!). Prices are quite good for London and for the quality.

One feels like going back for the mains, but also fears the jars and starters are in fact the best to be had at Mazi.

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Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester (London): finesse

(Visited January 2013)

Here, finesse is as abundant as the stars,  finesse in conception and execution, though if one observed that these dishes are sometimes unspectacular, one would be capturing another truth. Nobody can accuse Ducasse of ever taking you by storm. At least in the savoury department, sweets tell a different story.

The nibbles (excellent gougeres), the amuse bouche and the starters were the savories that made an impression.

In the amuse, a royale of foie gras went very well with raisins and cauliflower, all exactly balanced. A starter of crab in two ways (cold/warm) was complex and refined, while a purely vegetarian, maybe even vegan, dish of vegetables in various cookings was pretty to see, meticulously prepared and delightful to eat, only held down by the quality of vegetables that was good, for sure, let’s say even very good, but not as spectacular as one would probably find at Ducasse’s places on the Continent.

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The mains, a wild sea bass and a halibut, consisted of small pieces of the fish fillet with one vegetable and excellent jus (chicken for the seabass, meaty for the halibut), simply and precisely presented.

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Fundamentally, there weren’t great motives of interest in these dishes, textural or otherwise except a pang of pepper, nor great complexity. In this type of relatively plain dish excellence depends on standout produce but this, while good, wasn’t near the best fish we’ve tried and it didn’t sing. For our taste, it was also a little overcooked.

What was truly spectacular was the patisserie. In the petit fours, the macaroons and pralines were masterful and the baba’ au rum was perhaps the best we’ve ever tried, also in virtue of the theatre of letting you choose among six rums, but especially because of its unreal lightness.

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And a pear with chestnuts repeated the theme of extreme lightness married to great concentration of flavour. Structurally, it was a bit like a deconstructed Mont Blanc. Quite phenomenal.

Shock news: espresso was also very good: what a rarity.

The front room can be ugly or beautiful for the beholder. For us it is pleasant, tables are amply spaced, light is abundant, at least in the sector we were in. Service is incredibly unstuffy for a classical French place and extremely attentive, a real asset of this restaurant.

Prices are high of course but very much in line considering where you are, the three stars, the brand name, and what you eat (£5 for coffee seems too much though).

We put three pics just to show that it wasn’t a dream. We’re too lazy right now to put them all up, yet unwilling to delay this post any further.

Stay tuned…

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Helene Darroze (London): Haute cuisine with a few lows

(Visited December 2012)

The feel of the room is so elegant, luxurious that service seems to go out of its way, very out of its way, maybe too out of its way, to be friendly and chummy, lest some customers are intimidated. Man is very disappointed to have changed for once, in order to comply with the dress code, the jeans he always wears for a more or less civilised pair of trousers, when in the room there are not only jeans but even hoods…

We had been at Darroze always for the great value lunch menu (two of them reported here and here). This time we try a la carte (£80 for three courses at the time of writing), where we’ve spotted some interesting ways to burn money on expensive extra treats. As we shall see, some money will be better burnt than other, but some will also magically re-emerge from the ashes…

Bread is a pleasure to eat and the selection is varied:

breads

breads

A rustic amuse of top notch Bayonne (that would be South West) ham, the only potential French competitor for Italian hams :), with well made, light focaccia like bread

Ham and focaccia

Ham and focaccia

is followed by a stunner of ‘foie gras creme brulee ‘ topped by peanut foam

Foie gras creme brulee with peanut foam

Foie gras creme brulee with peanut foam

What a great combination, the peanut foam dense and substantial, a contrast of temperatures, a contrast of textures, if only the caramel disk had been lighter and less hard to break this would have been a perfect dish.

What can go wrong with Alba truffle? Well, we are not sure as we’re always going to be ecstatic with their perfume (costing a £30 supplement) in this dish of Jerusalem artichokes with Lardo di Colonnata, Parmigiano Reggiano cappuccino, and confit egg yolk:

Jerusalem artichokes, confit egg yolk , lardo di colonnata and Alba truffle

Jerusalem artichokes, confit egg yolk , lardo di colonnata and Alba truffle

However, amidst the vapors of olfactory delight we spot a rather too low temperature of service, a dominance of sweetness, and a presence of the Lardo di Colonnata which is just perfunctory (one wonders how intensively Colonnata pigs must be raised to fill with their Lardo all of Italy and most of the world).

As a dish, aside from the truffle, we liked better the other starter, a delightful and delightfully cooked (rare) pigeon, accompanied by the finest of fine ravioli filled with all the explosive power of offal, and all in a Puy lentil soup that attained a no-holds-barred depth of flavour.

Offal ravioli and wood pigeon

Offal ravioli and wood pigeon

This was close to perfection. A pity then that the Dover sole (£8 supplement) and especially the accompanying calamari were overcooked in this dish

Dover sole

Dover sole

We don’t expect to eat rubbery calamari in a 2* restaurant. Well, actually we do, as we’ve encountered this problem before at Darroze. The bright side is that we’ll appreciate even more the superfresh grilled calamari we’ll find in some humble trattorias and tavernas on the Mediterranean coast (e.g. here or here). Aside from the execution, this is a cute, original dish full of finesse, but that for us personally fails to stir much emotion, the sole hidden visually and flavourwise, pushed aside instead of being helped centrestage: the mariniere of spinach and shiso leaves, the seaweed butter, the lemongrass cappuccino, the clams (in meaningless quantity), the pieds de mouton, felt a little confused and made the sole moan: what am I doing here? We should say, a Dover sole Grenoblaise style had at Koffmann’s a couple of days later provided an unfortunate (for Darroze) benchmark for the delight Dover sole can be.

In the other main, this admittedly giant, but definitely lonely, Scottish scallop

Tandoori scallop

Tandoori scallop

had been roasted with Tandoori spices to nice and very controlled effect, the prettily turned vegetables dancing joyously around it, the velvety carrot and citrous mousseline providing that sweet-acidic dimension, and the jus adding yet further complexity. A very accomplished dish of subtle rather than in -yer-face flavours. But we deserved a couple of scallops in a main, no?

After a pleasant and suitably acidic pre-dessert of vanilla cream with passion fruit granite and praline, we enter the marvellous world of desserts at Darroze. Silence please:

Steamed pistachio sponge with grapefruit

Steamed pistachio sponge with grapefruit

Pistachio cream

Pistachio cream

Carupano chocolate ganache, Gianduia biscuit and galangal creamCarupano chocolate ganache, Gianduia biscuit and galangal cream

The pistachio dessert had it all, an array of textures, intensity and balance of flavours concentrated in a disarming apparent simplicity, precision of execution.

The chocolate ganache… ah, the chocolate ganache: just beautiful. Sad it could not go on forever, with the intense hazelnuts of the gianduia separated from the ganache on top by a crunchy tiny sliver of chocolate “crust”, and a different textured bottom layer: we could  live on the thing (well, Woman could).

The generous and excellent petit fours are still there, as are the complimentary caneles. They might improve on the coffee.

Service today was not good, not good at all, for reasons that it would be just tedious to dwell on. We don’t know if it was because of our stony faces in certain moments or for other reasons, but the bill arrived with a significant discount (no Dover sole supplement, no truffle supplement). Normally, unless this kind of treat was a ‘reward’ for very regular custom, we’d protest, but you know what? This time we just took it. Man had suffered too much both having to wear his only pair of proper trousers AND ALSO having to waive his arms to get some water while risking dehydration… (Dramatise? Us? Naaah).

Here at Darroze we seem to always have the same type of experience, suitably scaled in quality according to the price of the menu: some unevenness, some absolute pinnacles, a sense that the meat dishes and the desserts tend to be the way for the kitchen to really come into its own, the love for ‘Les Landes’ mixed with Mediterranean and exotic influences and ingredients, a sense of generosity and comfort, absurdly variable service. You can feel very well indeed here, you may return on a whim at some point, you may not ache to return immediately.

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Bocca di Lupo (London): a bit of a letdown

(Visited December 2012)

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It had been a long time since we’d come, in the early weeks of opening when it was all the rage, and we were really looking forward to our lunch at Bocca di Lupo. We love the concept of a grand tour of regional, often lesser known abroad, Italian dishes. It is not that all that common to find agnolotti del Plin in London!

Sadly, this time the best thing was the promising menu, and unfulfilled promises have a sour taste. The bread started out reasonably well:

Bread basket

Bread basket

In the savoury dishes, the overwhelming note was the heavy hand: too much salt, but most importantly too much oil, and when we say too much we really mean it. Ok, let’s explain.

We go with a number of dishes to share – starting with the said ravioli del plin:

Ravioli del plin in a slimmed down version

Ravioli del plin in a slimmed down version

While not disastrous, these ravioli begin a sense of letdown. The filling is nowhere enough, the dough dominates, and therefore the crucial meat flavour is sadly lacking (imagine that the very traditional way of eating them is in a napkin with NO condiment at all: all flavour must really come from the filling, not from immensely copious butter and cheese as here – the link at the beginning provides a pretty good idea of the real thing). Better to have half of the ravioli with double the filling.

The rest of the meal was a “Carciofo alla Giudia”. As proof of our enthusiasm, we jumped on it before remembering to take a picture – here are the remains of the artichoke:

The remains of the artichoke

The remains of the artichoke

a veal tartare:

Veal tartare

Veal tartare

a couple of pieces of Bollito (a slice of veal tongue and one of cotechino)

Bollito

Bollito

a puntarelle salad:

Puntarelle salaad

Puntarelle salad

and a chargrilled red radicchio.

Red Radicchio

Red Radicchio

The artichoke was good, but dripping oil profusely- sure, it is deep fried, but especially in view of the fact that this specimen was very trimmed, you don’t have the usual motive of a lot of leaves trapping the oil. It was just poor frying. The puntarelle salad, though the puntarelle were of good quality, again swam in oil. Not to mention the excess of salt that coupled with the salty anchovies was near murderous. Even the veal tartare (with many stringy bits left in, what a dishearteningly sloppy preparation) was soaked in oil, the meat of acceptable quality but a far cry from e.g. this one:

Trio Consorzio, Turin, NOT Bocca di Lupo!

since we are talking regional cuisine. Why don’t they just put the olive oil bottle on the table and let the customer take care of the dressing?

The red radicchio escaped the oil onslaught, but the “balsamic vinegar” dressing was rather sharp, in other words it was that not-th-real-thing balsamic that should be banned from existence – and with the radicchio being bitter (and, if that wasn’t enough, chargrilled!) this dish sang markedly out of tune.

The bollito was the best savoury dish, fine and simple and accompanied by good sauces.

At this point, we weren’t quite sure we should proceed with desserts – but we saw a Bunet (of which we eat tons when in Turin), and decided to share. And then Man saw the sabayon with poached pears, and Woman said no let’s leave it we make a perfect one at home, and Man said but come on on a dreary day like this it’s nice to have homely comfort food, and in the end red wine poached pears with sabayon were also ordered…

Well… the Bunet

Bunet/Bonet

Bunet/Bonet

was ok – though really different from any other Bunet we’ve ever tried – it is supposed to be a variation on the creme caramel, where coffee, amaretto biscuits and chocolate are added to the mixture. This one felt very different in texture, with the interior gooey and closer to a fondant – but no complaints here, as it tasted very good. But the pear:

not-so-enticing untrimmed pears in red wine

not-so-enticing untrimmed pears in red wine

Sabayon on the pears

Sabayon on the pears

oh dear, the pear and sabayon: just wrong. First of all, the pears were stone cold, and so was the plate they were on, as well as the pool of red wine syrup that bathed them. Ok, we could live with that, had it not been for the fact that upon contact the sabayon struggled to retain any warmth. Add to this that:

1. the glacial red wine syrup, diluted the poor sabayon into a cold, sorry, soggy, watery mess;

2. the pears were not peeled;

3. the pears had been cut in half but not stoned (stoning a pear isn’t beyond the wit of anyone while keeping the pear whole, but leaving it like that once you’ve opened is just like shouting ‘I don’t care’);

and we couldn’t avoid feeling shortchanged – mind you, we’d be fine with this in Aunt Mary’s greasy spoon, but once you are being charged £7.o0,  yes seven pounds ladies and gentlemen for a conference pear with egg yolk  whisked with a tablespoon of sugar and one of booze, you start bloody well demanding more attention to detail.

There are places in London nowadays offering well made, truly regional Italian fare at knock down prices (the way it should be, by the way, with this type of traditional cuisine where you do not bother with jus and turning of vegetables)  and our experience at Briciole just a couple of days earlier couldn’t be a more dramatic contrast with this one. They have the good ingredients, they have the skill, why do they not seem to care at Bocca di Lupo? Was it an off day, just before x-mas?  Or have Kennedy and Hugo (the minds behind BdL) taken their eyes off the ball terminally? Who knows, but it’ll take us a long while to be tempted to check again.

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Cinnamon club

(Visited December 2012)

We still cannot believe it took us ten years to get to visit the Cinnamon Club, but finally here we are. A wet pre x-Mas Saturday noon, the place is half full, but a continuous stream of punters will keep flowing in until we leave.

The room is magnificent, having stolen the premises of the former Westminster library – pity the place is not busier, so that what looks like a reading room in a former life, now turned into a first floor dining room, is inactive.

Reminding the dinaer this was Westminster Library

Reminding the diner this was Westminster Library

Service is laid back though attentive, if we close an eye on the error in the bill at the end (guess in whose favour: it’s a mystery why such casual mistakes are not 50% in our favour).

Well, the food then: many tempting choices, we began with “Tandoori breast of red leg partridge with chickpea and tamarind“, and a “Char-grilled Welsh lamb fillet with nutmeg, sweetbread bhaji and caper kachumber“.

Char-grilled Welsh lamb fillet with nutmeg, sweetbread bhaji and caper kachumber

Char-grilled Welsh lamb fillet with nutmeg, sweetbread bhaji and caper kachumber

Tandoori breast of red leg partridge with chickpea and tamarind

Tandoori breast of red leg partridge with chickpea and tamarind

Let’s face it, although we’ve eaten tons of it, we can’t say we know much about Indian food, so any allusion these dishes are making to flavour combination in more traditional dishes, if any, fly over us uncomprehended: but these starters definitely do taste good! The spices hit you with clarity one after the other, each new layer displacing the previous one, lingering on and enhancing the taste of each mouthful. For us, both lamb and partridge breast were a bit overdone, and while the lamb was still succulent, the partridge had turned dry. But the spices in the wonderful chickpeas again did the trick and saved the dish.

Now for mains – the “Pan fried bitter gourd filled with spiced Jerusalem couscous, yellow lentil sauce” is indeed uncompromisingly bitter: it is stuffed with what reminds us more of Sardinian fregola than cous cous, but it is good. Brave choice to go for something so at the far end of the bitterness scale. We suspect it won’t find too many takers, though any fan of wild dandelion leaves or wild chicory will love it, and they include us! The yellow lentil sauce sweetens the proceedings, and overall this is a very pleasing if not too classily presented dish (onion cutting all over the place).

Pan fried bitter gourd filled with spiced Jerusalem couscous, yellow lentil sauce

Pan fried bitter gourd filled with spiced Jerusalem couscous, yellow lentil sauce

The “Roast loin of Cumbrian wild red deer with corn and millet kedgeree, pickled vegetables” was high quality and this time a perfectly cooked piece of meat, though slightly on the cold side by the time we got it. Served with a lovely take on corn and millet kedgeree, with unadvertised white rice and greens, it was a pleasure to eat and representative of the fusion style this cuisine promotes.

Roast loin of Cumbrian wild red deer with corn and millet kedgeree, pickled vegetables

Roast loin of Cumbrian wild red deer with corn and millet kedgeree, pickled vegetables

We had to behave to skip dessert, as the Ras Malai is almost irresistible for Woman&Man. But this means we’ll be back! For, the vibrancy and subtlety of that spicing will certainly linger in our memory longer than the errors and imperfections.

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Two courses at Arbutus

Interior

Interior

(Visited December 2012)

Squid and mackerel ‘burger’, Cornish razor clams. £11.95

Saddle of rabbit, slow cooked shoulder cottage pie, red endive, pancetta. £18.50

Squid and mackerel ‘burger’, Cornish razor clams

Squid and mackerel ‘burger’, Cornish razor clams

Saddle of rabbit, slow cooked shoulder cottage pie, red endive, pancetta

Saddle of rabbit, slow cooked shoulder cottage pie, red endive, pancetta

Who can complain about gutsy, easy flowing Michelin starred cuisine like this, at these prices? Well, perhaps only a morose saddo who noticed the slight excess of salt in the otherwise delicious,moist, flavour packed burger. But even he will admit that it’s not so common to eat so well in London, even aside of pricing.

spuds

spuds

We never had a poor dish here, no matter how low-cost the menu from which it was taken. If Michelin stars reward consistency in quality, Arbutus is exemplary as a deserving establishment.
Maybe Arbutus lacks the environment to be the place for a great relaxed meal in the complete sense. Everything feels a bit rushed and cramped and noisy and the waiters always appear a little inexperienced and we would not take a friend there unless she was a terminal foodie like us.  But certainly it’s one the best places we know of where to have a great lunch, especially solo (or a duo or a small bunch of foodies), straight to the point. A longer description of a (very) old meal is here.

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Kai of Mayfair

(Visited: December 2012)

Kai is as soulless as they come. You are not unlikely to be sitting near members of the money elite from this or that part of the world. Not a crime being filthy rich, of course, more annoying though is being loud and boorish. But the draw to this place (see our previous visit here) are the lightness and clarity of flavours that are the hallmark of their cuisine. And that the lunchtime deal, unlike the a la carte, is oh so light also on the pocket.

Beautiful this steamed sea bass (farmed for sure, but of good quality) in an aromatic  broth that left breathing space for the fish to express its delicate flavour (how many chefs kill steamed fish with too heavy accompaniments!)

Sea bass

Sea bass

But this time it wasn’t always perfect.

The fried dumpling was indeed a gooey, undercooked mess with in addition another meaningless mess of eight (the point being?) vegetables inside:

Fried dumpling

Fried dumpling

This is the only duff dish we’ve had at Kai so far and so they are forgiven. Pretty though.

Instead the dessert, a pannacotta with all kinds of exotic fruits, was perfect -the texture that wobbly creaminess that is the whole point of mild-tasting pannacotta, and again so light- to finish.

Dessert

Dessert

Oh no: THIS is perfect to finish:

Petit fours

Petit fours

very well made: thank you very much!

All this for £27. In the midst of the most expensive real estate in the world, it’s amazing: you can gladly cope with a service that does go through the motions more than correctly but all too obviously doesn’t give a damn. Nor do we, till prices and flavours continue to impress.

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