Tag Archives: Lunch

Kym’s Restaurant, London – a review…

For those of you that know me well will already know I am a big fan of Chinese food and have long loved the diversity and subtleness of this style of cuisine.

We have done a few special dinners with my friend Kam Po But who for many years was the Executive Chef at Ken Lo’s Memories of China.  A couple of years I was introduced to Mr Andrew Wong the chef patron of A.Wong in Victoria (just down Wilton Road beside the station) It was a mind blowing lunch hosted by Ken Hom and I have tried many times to go back to sample what is now deemed to be Michelin star worthy.

I recently had a meeting planned in London with a group of chefs to discuss an upcoming Pop Up in aid of charity that is planned for May 2019 but due to assorted reasons there was only one chef available to make the meeting so we decided to go and try Mr Wong’s new place in the city.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kym’s Restaurant is located in the Bloomberg Arcade just across the road from Cannon Street station so for me still hobbling on crutches it was an easy journey.

I met with another chef who was also keen to sample what this place had to offer as there had been some magnificent reviews since opening just 4 weeks previously. I had heard good things from several sources and seen some stunning food pictures on my Instagram feed from assorted trusted diners so had high expectations for my visit.

We arrived just after 1:30 pm a little earlier than we had booked as we were hungry. Greeted at the door we were welcomed by a charming hostess who informed us the table was ready so off we set and sat down literally in front of an open plan kitchen area. Menu place mats got the old gastric juices flowing as we sat trying to decide what to sample. Andrew Wong’s statement centre and proud states they focus on the “Ancient craft of Chinese roasting and on the assorted regions of China”

Well choice was hard and my fellow chef colleague stated he could have eaten the whole menu “but that was just being greedy” Friendly service staff suggested we pick 3-4 dishes from the Small Plates section one from the “Share Section” and one from the “Classics” plus a “Side” and a “Fritter”… what was then fatal was another staff member walked past as we were giving our order with another table order- a “skewer” dish of Tiger Prawns that we decided we also had to try so added this last minute.

So as we sat back with a small carafe of white wine from Crete we soaked up the atmosphere and buzz of a busy bustling restaurant that seemed to have found its feet very quickly.

First dish to arrive was a side of Pickled Daikon… pale yellow in colour decoratively arranged on the plate with a dribble of what was a fiery chilli oil… perfect palate tantaliser! Then almost immediately followed by Pork & Shrimp Bao Bao… a dish reminiscent of “Spanish Eggs” as the light as a feather filled dumplings were surrounded by soft yolked fried eggs and Pat Chun sweetened black rice vinegar and chilli all served in a sizzling skillet pan. An amazing dish.

Next to arrive was what was described as Lemongrass Salad – some skewered little gem leaves of lettuce with thin crispy fried skins and a zingy lime chilly crispy shallot dressing that truly enlivened the taste buds – It not only looked stylish but tasted divine.

Then came our Tiger Prawn skewers that were encased in what seemed like crispy rice coating and a sweet chilli dipping sauce, good meaty and sweet tasting prawns. The small plate bowl of Lotus Root Chips were a revelation of crispy distinctive looking crisps that were coated in a sticky fermented chilli bean, honey sauce that seemed to conclude the first half of our order.

We then moved onto the much lauded French Beans Fritters encased in a light ethereal batter of such delicacy then with the addition of chilli, spring onion and black pepper a nod to Salt & Pepper spiced dishes nestling in its crumpled grease proof paper base.

We could not omit a classic roast pork Char Sui made with delicate and tender Iberico Pork as this came with a Honey and Soy dip for added flavour punch.  With this we then had the  Sichuanese Spiced Aubergine that was totally melt in the mouth.

We then felt we should then sample a dessert or two, or three… they have a choice of three and to be honest as luck would have it they had sold out of one of them… The Sunny Egg Tart!

We therefore just had to try the other two on offer The Hong Kong Bun with Custard and the Raspberry Sorbet with a White Chocolate Strong Cloud. Of the two we liked the raspberry sorbet best with the warm white chocolate and the cold sorbet married beautifully.

This was a very accomplished meal for a restaurant so fresh on the scene and the staff were really friendly and engaging. I would love to try the Sunday Brunch as this is a way to sample a good proportion of the menu along with limitless wine (for 2 hours) – what better way to spend a Sunday.  Go try it I urge you…

Advertisements

The Small Holding… a review

I was recently treated to a meal at this restaurant by a friend which was very generous of them, especially as they also had to be my taxi service as well.

The Small Holding had been on my radar for some time as its chef patron Will Devlin had for a period before hand been running a series of pop ups in the area as “No Fixed Abode” and I had heard good things and been impressed by their Instagram feed with some imaginative and stylish modern British food.

Well as the rain tipped down on our way to the place located out in the countryside just south of  Tunbridge Wells in the village of Kilndown with lovely views (on a less inclement day) across the Weald this former pub (the Globe & Rainbow) offers some serious cooking with a great deal of produce grown on site or foraged locally and the rest resourced from local farms nearby.

The menus are divided between what they term ½ Acre or Full Acre the former is five courses and the latter nine courses of tasting plates. Both menus can be paired with wines or craft beers at an extra cost.

The menus offered are a no choice affair that highlights what is in season and at their best from the poly tunnels and working small holding in their back yard and what the hedgerows have to offer. It is imaginative and in places quirky where they use a range of techniques or flavour combinations to test and excite your palate.

We settled at our table in a cosy dining area with wood burning stove for those chilly winter days, wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen that is open to view all adding to the charm of the place. We opted for the ½ Acre Menu as it was lunch time. Some nibbles delivered to us highlighted courgettes, a bhaji style fritter, a batter encrusted flower, and a little filo tartlette filled with a creamy pungent puree certainly whetted the appetite.

Our first course was home cured Bresola that was served with assorted textures of beetroot and some creamy soft burrata cheese, great simple presentation with a balance of flavours and textures.

Next came some bread along with the next course, the bread – sour dough with some local rapeseed oil and basalmic vinegar and a big dollop of local butter. The course it accompanied was a home grown courgette stuffed with some Kentish Blue cheese topped with some puffed bulgar wheat – a really unctuous and full flavoured dish.

We then had a fish course that was a little morsel of freshly salt cured mackerel served on top of shredded mackerel mixed with a horseradish cream sandwiched between two discs of home-grown pickled kohlrabi dusted with some Lovage salt. It looked and tasted very good – just wish it had been twice the size as it was exceedingly moreish.

For the main course we then had some roasted old spot pork literally from the neighbour (the other side of the hedge from them) a couple of slices of a perfectly roasted loin and a crispy morsel of soft pork belly it was garnished with a tasty home- grown carrot topped with a nutty sesame crumb – very accomplished and balanced with their flavour combinations.

For the dessert course we had locally foraged wild blackberries that were with a lovely tart coulis of said same fruit topped with a “rocher” of fennel ice cream topped with foraged wood sorrel – some biscuit crumb added a textural compliment. It certainly hardly touched the sides!

We completed the meal with the cheese a Burwash Rose an unpasteurized cows milk cheese from nearby Stonegate in East Sussex – served with some oat biscuits and thin homemade crackers and a courgette pickle the cheese is washed in rose water so it has a distinctive flavoured rind a perfect finish to the meal.

I was impressed and so glad I had finally made it to try Will’s food – I am now looking forward to quizzing him on the September 4th Scoff Quaff show on Channel Radio and digging deeper into how the venture came about and what the plan is for the future. I will be back and I hope you will tune in at 11-12 on the 4th to hear more about it all. If nothing else try the place out as it is certainly one to watch for the future…

The Small Holding – Kilndown Tel: 01892 890105

https://thesmallholding.restaurant/

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

The Butchers Block, Burham – a review…

Well it has been many a year since I have visited this establishment in its previous incarnation as the Toastmasters Inn.

About three months ago it reopened its doors following a major refurbishment and renamed the Butchers Block… a reference to its provenance of being owned by a butchers family.

I have to declare at this point I have a big affection for this place as I spent some of my earlier culinary years at this place and worked alongside the proprietor who was something of a mentor to me and instilled a real passion for cheese if nothing else.

The place has been beautified and decorated in a pleasing way but it is the menu that for me speaks volumes about their aspirations and aims. It is obviously and rightly very meat centric (considering their connections) and features a meat cabinet in the dining areas entrance that displays some really good looking hunks of ageing beef.

The menu highlights for both lunch and dinner are steaks and prime cuts from a T Bone to a Cote de Bouef or Fillet with the classic accompaniments. These all come with a price tag that whilst not eye watering expensive they are not such good value as perhaps lesser known cuts would be. Why not feature a Jacobs Ladder or a bavette. Especially on a lunch menu where a diner wants to eat more quickly as they are time constrained and also price sensitive.

It is a continual debate even in high end restaurants in the big metropolis that you can eat a highly accoladed meal for far better value for lunch than dinner.

The Butchers Block is really missing a trick here and need to rethink the offer. It should be a shop window for what to expect for the more formal dinner service and in particular special occasion diner.

So what did we eat – well we did not fancy a paddle (wooden board) Ploughmans, charcuterie board or fish platter but craved something a little more substantial and the burger whilst tempting had been our menu choice the day before on a visit to Windsor.

So we opted for Fish & Chips a pub classic and then a Steak and Ale Pie – both priced at £12.90 seemed to be the choice of the majority of all the other diners as the Steaks were all prices at double this amount.

A wait of just on one hour from when we had entered the place was our experience before our food arrived. It was not busy and I felt the kitchen was struggling to cope to produce what was pretty basic fare.

Fish & Chips arrived on a wooden board (a modern trend that needs to be discouraged) and was duly sent straight back to be put onto a plate as Mrs HC wanted to eat it off a hot plate!

My Steak & Ale Pie came served in a bowl shaped plate – better than a board but again not my favourite receptacle shape as the cutlery has a tendency to fall into the centre if ever you rest it on the rim! Much was made of the fact the pastry case was short crust and the top was puff pastry and whilst tasty with a well cooked inside filling the gravy boat with extra sauce was much need as it required some extra lubrication, the accompanying  mash and vegetables with it were not so pleasing.

Gritty baby carrots and then sugar snaps were nestled alongside a mash potato that had a stale flavour that was close  to turning.  The pie was I suspect not made in house which for £12.90 was not really good value. I was hungry so ate it and did not fancy an hours wait for a replacement.

Overall I had and expectation that this place would deliver something far better than it did. It could be described as very average and the fact they have access to high quality produce they could execute it all with more flair and imagination.

Service was also lacklustre and in need of polish. There seemed no urgency and classic example of lack of communication between the husband and wife team resulted in us being overcharged for our two small glasses of wine. Quickly rectified when pointed out however the landlord did not seem to posses the social skills to back it all up.  Not a natural front of house so left us feeling it was all a bit amateurish.

It had been many years since I had been in the place and I guess it will now be many more years before I will want to make a return visit… says it all really.

Slope Off Friday…at Hari’s

Jules Serkin

We are excited to be hosting a special networking luncheon for Kent Businesses – this is the brainchild of Jules Serkin and Andrew Knott who arrange a monthly “Slope Off Friday” at a new venue each month.

Hari’s “Pop Up” is the November venue on Friday November 4th from 2pm (prompt) onward.  We have put together a simple three course lunch menu that will be served to just 14 guests who wish to do a bit of networking in a relaxed and fun way and kick their weekend off with a bang!

Beer Bread

The menu we have devised is as follows and it is competitively priced at £16.50 per person – Water will be provided but you will need to bring your own alcoholic drinks. (Glasses Provided)

Booking can only be made through our dedicated booking page with its “Covert Link”  and if you wish to attend this lunch you will need to request the link via the form below.

Homemade Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash Soup served with Hari’s Own Beer Bread

or

Mushrooms on Toast

****

Slow Cooked Pork Goulash served with Rice & Vegetables

or

Oven Baked Sea Bass Fillet served with crushed New Potatoes & Vegetables with a herb beurre blanc

****

Homemade Apple Crumble with Taywell Ice Cream

or

Winterdale Shaw Cheddar with Homemade Porridge Oat Crackers & Banana Jam

Coffee or Tea Included

Space is limited so please make sure you book early.

Menu Subject to market purchases and ingredient availability.

Please complete the following details and we will then send you a link to book your place.

N.B. DO NOT REQUEST THE LINK IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BOOK AS SPACES ARE VERY LIMITED

Tapas, Meze, Light Bites… little morsels of loveliness

I have always enjoyed the idea of small plates of food that you can share so that you can sample what a kitchen has to offer and also a great way to share a meal. I have recently sampled a few meals like this in the last month or so. Firstly on a recent hook up with world renowned chocolatier Damian Allsop in Girona Spain we sampled some beautiful tapas in a back street establishment called Restaurant Curcuma. It was right in the city centre and had a modern simple decor but some great tasty and innovative tapas.

IMG_8883
Cod with Sobrassada Sausage
IMG_8882
Turmeric scented Croquetas

Highlight for me were the turmeric (the name of the restaurant) scented croquetas, crispy cased and soft unctuous centres and some steamed cod topped with roasted onions, honey and Sobrassada sausage. Innovative flavours simply presented and reasonably priced.

Then more recently we found ourselves back in the town of Whitstable at one our favourites – the infamous and highly popular Jo Jo’s Restaurant where they specialise in Mediterranean meze, – large sharing boards of assorted well sourced cold meats, cheese and small bowls of Hummus, Tzatziki etc as well as small plates of other ever changing specials and regular favourites. The cod or haddock goujons in a beer batter highlight the fresh fish that are ever so popular.

Crispy Pigs Ears...
Crispy Pigs Ears…

I also quietly ordered one of the blackboard specials of  the day… Crispy Pigs Ears with a Remoulade sauce. This was a very generous portion of crispy crumb coated slivers of porcine goodness that were to put it mildly rapidly devoured by even the youngest of our party ( a 4 year old) with gusto.

All that sharing ensured a very respectable and celebratory lunch was had by all.

Then most recently I was invited to a restaurant in the centre of Canterbury that was not on my radar or I had any idea of its existence. I was joining a friend who had been invited for a lunch at Deesons Restaurant where head chef Ross Barden was keen for us to try their newly launched “British Tapas” dishes in this quintessentially modern British restaurant.

The tapas idea here was both innovative and at time quite unexpected and as a whole worked well with some good skilful thought out dishes but then some not so well executed ones.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We actually sampled the entire menu and were generally impressed but did feel the kitchen was trying just a shade too hard. Dishes that worked really well and were outstanding were a twice baked “Old Winchester” cheese soufflé with a carrot pureé that needed a little more seasoning and sweetness to cut against the savoury nature of the cheese. The Confit hen’s yolk with buttered leeks and crispy chicken skin soldiers was inspired. The Crispy Haggis with a poached egg and parsnip crisps was also flavoursome but technically the haggis was a tad dry from over frying/baking so needed the soft egg to add liquid!

Cider Braised Beef Shin with apple juice and ginger with mash and cabbage was a wonderful unctuous dish but again lacked in seasoning. The Spring Greens with wholegrain mustard worked beautifully as did the charred broccoli with cheese sauce and flaked almonds whilst  smoked mash potato was less popular than the the plain one – it did need more butter, cream and salt.

In fact the seasoning overall throughout the meal did raise the question did “Chef” smoke as a lot of the dishes seemed under seasoned. This is a common situation in many a kitchen and for me something that was drummed into me in my formative years how important it is to season the food correctly and also taste it.

We also sampled a couple of croquette style dishes that when compared to a “Spanish croquetas” sadly missed the mark. The Smoked Cod Kedgeree was a good idea but the large cake like croquette was just to big and clumsy, a good livid coloured curry mayonnaise was much needed to moisten it.

The Pork and Potato Croquette served with an an apple butter was also oversized and would have been better smaller and perhaps served as a threesome. The apple butter on the tapas version did not pack the same punch that it did when served with the a la carte main course of Pork Tenderloin along with Black Pudding crumb and candied walnuts and a cider jus (to die for)

So overall this was a highly enjoyable delve into how we can equally compete with our continental partners and it can well showcase our own culinary heritage.

Deeson’s is a a little gem and I look forward to a return visit as I think if Chef Ross can sort out the issues we encountered he will be a place to watch in amongst the plethora of those  uninspiring tourist eating establishments of Canterbury.

Deeson’s British Restaurant
25-26 Sun Street
Canterbury
Kent
CT1 2HX

A Wong with Hom…

Now that heading sounds a bit weird I know but all will be revealed…

I am for my sins a graduate from what is now Oxford Brookes School of Hospitality Management (Was Oxford Polytechnic in my days!) at Oxford Brookes University.

I am also actively involved with their Alumni Association and get to go to assorted functions and events their Oxford Gastronomica organise throughout the year.

Well recently one of their esteemed ambassadors was in the UK for Chinese New Year and he was hosting a luncheon at A Wong a much lauded and on trend Chinese eaterie in Wilton Street Nr Victoria Station London. Ken Hom was in town and well I needed little persuasion to book my place at a lunch he was hosting at Andrew Wong’s gaffe!

It was quite an intimate affair with some two dozen diners ensconced in the basement bar of this restaurant. An introduction to the proceedings by head of School Donald Sloan was followed by a few words from Chef Patron Andrew Wong who informed us we were lucky to have him there as he wife was scheduled to have her baby that very day but in fact ended up having their baby on Christmas Day!

Any way we settled down to a real feast with firstly some Dim Sum style starters appeared –  Sui Mai and Har Gau as steamed dumplings. Then a plate of crispy prawn filled Wan Tuns and a Mushroom spring roll coated in Vermicelli… very delicate but also very tasty. The steamed dim sum had some great embellishment The Sui Mai with crispy Pork crackling and the Har Gao with some delicate citrus foam.

Then came a whole steamed Dover Sole – zingy fresh and expertly removed from the bone and garnished with the trinity (garlic, ginger & spring onion) Some lusciously pink prawns with a crispy fried garlic and spring onion topping were beautifully sweet tasting – shame it was only one prawn each!

Next came a Crispy Duck course that had some wonderfully novel twists on the standard restaurant serving. A paint brush came standing up in a shot glass ready to paint the steamed pancake with the Hoisin sauce. The normal cucumber and spring onion garnish was added to by small slivers of smoked duck and then some crispy fried pieces of dried bean curd. It was a clever and well thought out addition that gave the whole dish a new flavour dimension and texture.

Once the duck was cleared away we then had a slight pause before rice bowls arrived and then a plethora of main dishes. First a seared beef dish described as Yunnan Seared 40 day aged beef with mint chilli and lemon grass. (It got demolished before I could take a picture!) A masterful combination that had a real zing and freshness to it with quite an after kick to it.

A bowl of Singapore Noodles then arrived along with stir fried market Chinese greens. Then a really unctuous slow braised pork belly with lotus root and then another bowl arrived with Gang Bao Chicken with roasted Peanuts and a good chilli kick and then apparently a classic new years dish of a rice noodle cake with a bean sprouts. This was a real classic of flavour combinations and textures that was soft and chewy – in fact it was a bit of a “Marmite” dish amongst the other diners but I have to say I loved it.

To complete the meal once all was cleared away wooden boards arrived laden with what looked like little white peaches. These were in fact what could be described as one of Mr Wong’s signature dishes.  The recent Jay Rayner review on the establishment describes the dessert as possibly the best current dessert in London at the moment! It was I have to say quite honestly an amazing dessert. A crispy base to the dumpling that had a gorgeous duck egg based custard  hidden inside a soft delicate casing that beautifully oozed out of the bun as you bit into it!

This was a truly magnificent meal to celebrate Chinese New Year and the company of Mr Hom was equally welcome.  I am in awe of Mr Wong and now am keen to go back… I am celebrating a significant birthday this year and am already trying to plan as many return visits as I can.

My long time friend Chef Kam Po But who has guest cooked a couple of times with me is one I want to eat here with as I know he appreciates Andrew Wong’s talents and knows him well. If anyone wants to join me and But as this is very much a must visit establishment! Please just let me know and I will add you to the list! (You will have to pay your own way though!)

You can tell I enjoyed myself and when I finally left at nearly 5;30pm you just now when it has been a great lunch as much as great company!

Gong Hay Fat Choy

Vive la France, Brasserie Zedel…

A little bit of France can be found in the heart of London’s West End… it was a Saturday and I was in town with Mrs HC, her sister and my fussy eater BIL for the VE Day celebrations on Horse Guards Parade – we needed a place to eat before the evening’s festivities.

I had been a few times to Brasserie Zedel, a mammoth basement restaurant at the back of the Café Royal a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus right in the heart of the West End. We had booked a table for 2:30pm as we wanted to leisurely kill a few hours before we had to sit outside for the musical and retrospective extravaganza being filmed for airing later that evening.

You enter the establishment via the café with its street tables and bustling atmosphere within. There is a staircase that delivers you down or a pair of efficient lifts (for the less energetic or in-firmed) that bring you to a lobby area with cloakroom.

Zedel-Brasserie-highres (8)Leading off from this there is a dimly lit “American Bar” with white jacketed bar staff,  of an evening “The Crazy Coqs” a night club/live cabaret venue and then a vast open door way leads you into the brasserie, resplendent with gilt and ornate columns with a real bright and airy buzz to it. In fact both Mrs HC and SIL immediately cooed appreciatively for the look and clever lighting making you think it was all naturally lit.

We were efficiently shown to our table to the right of the entrance deposited with true Gallic charm and flourish. Menus on large printed A3 sheets were proffered and we relaxed with our swiftly ordered and delivered pre luncheon drinks. As we all perused the menu the fussy BIL was relieved to find a good choice of classics he could partake of… for some strange reason they had even given him the English version of the menu whilst the rest of us drooled over everything from the classic set menu of the day to fresh oysters or classic Alsacienne Choucroute!

It seems an enormous choice but is very cleverly constructed of some classic combinations and real comfort food. Our choices made we settled down to soak up the atmosphere… It was buzzing with virtually every table full of guests eating at various stages and the waiting staff in white starched aprons bustling with laden trays to their waiting stations… pure poetry.

IMG_7367We had opted for a mix of dishes from the smooth chicken liver parfait to a French Onion soup with gratinated cheese crust and a coarse terrine “en croute”.  All were swiftly delivered and consumed with much passion! The main courses chosen ranged from a crispy Duck Confit leg on a bed of cabbage and bacon, to classic Bœuf Bourguignon, a truly unctuous beef in red wine stew with a creamy mashed potato. I myself stuck to a perfectly cooked (medium rare) Onglet Beef Steak served with a little bucket of fries and a rich shallot & red wine jus. Fantastic.

Wine flowed, beers for the BIL slipped down with ease and we continued to soak up the atmosphere. It was made even more authentic by the arrival at about 3:30pm of a large group of diners all dressed up to the nines in their best 1940’s garb… one even looked the spitting image of the “Queen Mother” Queen Mumin her sky blue tailored suit and perfectly set hair do. The Gents in their Oxford Bags or Military uniforms, the ladies with their well groomed hair, pencil lined stockings and sensible shoes and pheasant feathered hats all added to the VE Day look… we felt totally transported to a bygone time and were amazed at the efforts made! They really did turn heads!

Now feeling pretty replete we opted for a few of the desserts, Mrs HC loves a Lemon Tart so plumped for that and duly announced it was totally awesome and ranked as one of the best… SIL went for IMG_7371the Crème Brûlée which she also declared as near as perfect… I went for the “chocolate” Gateau Praline that had Mrs HC in true to form  continually diving into as well as her own. The BIL abstained and continued to sip yet another French beer.

Lunch had been a resounding success and some two and half hours later we surfaced to daylight and a stroll back down to Horse Guards parade to take up our positions to watch that evenings entertainment…

On a day of oft raw emotions we had managed for a few hours to transport ourselves to the centre of Paris and a genuine brasserie culture but also back in time to the mid 1940’s – what more could you wish for!

Brasserie Zedel 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED

Over Sexed, Overpaid and Over Here…

Well I certainly cannot vouch for the first two of this infamous statement –  but the third one is pretty accurate when it comes to describing Jeff Kipp the chef patron of a cute little eaterie in Saltwood Green near Hythe. The Saltwood is his baby.

Jeff hails from the “Windy City” across the pond and spent time working with Charlie Trotter a much respected and alas now departed cook. He arrived in Saltwood Green having worked in some pucker establishments in London town and London’s loss is now this sleepy village’s gain on the outskirts of Hythe.

I came across Jeff slightly by accident having been introduced by a chef acquaintance and a few weeks ago I met him when I was helping Jules Serkin on her weekly radio show called Scoff Quaff that is broadcast from just down the road towards Dymchurch! It was a lively programme… you can listen again here

Why I waited so long for an excuse I do not know but I found myself there for a luncheon with my good lady and an old friend (he is definitely older than me – he he sorry Mario!)  We had drooled over the menu on line and were looking forward to sampling the small but well balanced menu. Lunch is a simpler affair whilst dinner has a little bit more involved and complex dishes.

We settled into our luncheon with a celebratory welcome drink – a chilled glass of Prosecco that also contained some Kentish hop syrup – it went down rather well and certainly got the party started!

To get us going we chose a couple of their homemade breads – a soft American style pretzel served with a little ramekin of rarebit and then a Corn Bread with a dollop of tomato relish and goats curd… both were very good.

Having perused the menu my wife decided to go for one of the little plates for her main course… namely a smoked fish cake. Me and my considerably older friend decided to share a plate of Jeff’s Home-made gnocchi flavoured with wild garlic that was on the menu… I had taken Jeff a big bag of freshly foraged wild garlic and a large bunch of wild garlic flowers. These then duly appeared on the resultant starter and very pretty they looked too!

The little pillows of gnocchi had also been lightly fried to give them a slightly crunchy texture… it was an accomplished dish.

Mario chose as his main course a pan seared fillet of sea trout with petit pois, pea shoots, samphire and Jersey royals with a punchy tartare sauce… spring time personified on the plate with beautiful succulent sea trout perfectly cooked.  I went for roasted shoulder of Romney Marsh lamb served with a romesco (red pepper, almond and olive oil) infused mashed potato plus grilled Mediterranean vegetables and a Salsa Verde/Gremolata sauce. The meat was lovely, cooked slightly pink it had a lovely sweet flavour that married well with the earthy mash and the vibrant herby green sauce. Overall another well accomplished dish.

We then decided to partake in a few of the puddings on offer… Mario went savoury with what was described as Stilton crumble with apple & rhubarb… it was a de-constructed affair of apple slices, rhubarb with apple foam little pieces of crumbled Stilton of great provenance and taste… garnished with assorted young shoots it looked a pretty picture on the plate.

My better half chose the home-made Cheesecake with orange and cardamom – it had good oaty biscuit base topped with a vanilla cheesecake glazed with an orange jelly. It was however my dessert that garnered the most compliments. A chocolate tart with a malted milk ice cream and a malted caramel. This was pure luxury and the simple de-constructed presentation made it even more enjoyable (the pastry biscuit base was perfectly buttery and crisp)

Well Jeff has won us over and we are now planning a return visit (hopefully a dinner) it was worthy of the seventy mile plus round trip for us and a perfect way to complete my birthday celebrations.

I do hope Jeff remains over here and well the first two statements in the title will not be an issue either.(Just kidding Jeff)

Go and try it, it’s well worth it!

Saltwood on the Green, The Green, Saltwood, Hythe, Kent CT21 4PS

Little Social…. a review

It was with a great deal of excitement that I was to meet up with an old friend for lunch at Jason Atherton’s latest central London venture.“Little Social” especially as I had what I would class as my best meal of the year in 2012 at his Michelin starred eatery “Pollen Street Social.”

Well it was a bitingly cold (April) day as I sauntered up Regent Street past the “Hollister Store” with it’s giggling teens and scantily clad, blond haired and blue eyed doormen cheerily welcoming the shoppers. I arrived outside what was an unassuming front door to this new restaurant (it only opened in mid March) just across the road from Pollen Street Social to be warmly greeted by the Polish hostess with impeccable English ubiquitously we discussed the weather!

Seated in what can be best described as a narrow room with a French brasserie feel with red leather banquette booths, black and white photos and old facsimiles of French posters. My first request for a warming coffee was promptly dealt with as I awaited the arrival of my friend. The menu is in two parts – starting with a great value set price prix fixe menu with 2 or 3 courses and then an A la Carte menu of French inspired classics including some specials displayed on blackboards.

What was so appealing to me was how good the waiting staff were. They are like their counterparts across the road professional in their approach but also like the name indicates really social with their guests. They show skills in this area that in my mind should be studied by every budding member of front of house teams on how to do it properly!

My friend duly arrived and as we settled down and made our choices off the very reasonably priced prix fixe menu we were deep in conversation as the restaurant began to fill up. I went with what was termed “Country Pate” served with baby cornichons, salad and a great big stone jar with a stunning Pommery grain mustard. The friend chose the marinated salmon that was served with leaves of little gem lettuce and a garnish of cucumber and radish. It was a real picture on the plate and she cooed satisfyingly all through its consumption!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Main course choices could have been Lincolnshire Sausages, Mash, Greens with an Onion Gravy or Dorade (Fish) but we both, as it was so chilling and cold out on the streets went for the comfort dish of Lamb Shank with a Haricot ragout and Basil Dressing.

As we tucked into this dish our conversation then was abruptly halted as all of sudden the fire alarm went off. Nobody moves,  nobody flinched all were too engrossed in enjoying their food. Staff rushed about, the ringing continued and my friend then let it be known she had been awoken that very morning by her own home fire alarm at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and had struggled to switch it off! Staff kept popping back to check we were all OK.

Some fifteen minutes later with ringing in our ears we were invited to decamp from our table across the road to PSS and to partake in our puddings there. Staff were so apologetic and could not have been better. We were settled into our new table in a busy restaurant, so we then partook of our dessert and coffee here.

My friend was relieved somewhat not to have that continued ringing in her ears as she wears aids in both and had had to remove them so then duly popped them back in and our conversation resumed.  This was something of a first for the friend of having two separate restaurant venues for a lunch whilst for me it was bit like being back on my inspection routine as we tucked into firstly a little pre dessert nibble brought to the table an apple espuma topped with a crumble crumb.

Dessert just for me was a Lemon & White Chocolate Ganache served with a carrot cake crumb and Basil Ash Meringue that was just the perfect light finish after the richness of the lamb shank.

Then with our coffees we were treated to a rather gorgeous selection of petit fours that ranged from little macaroons of delight to a selection of our local food hero Damian Allsop chocolates.

When it came to pay we had to settle one bill at PSS then walk across the road to settle the other bill in LS. My friend who settled the bills then texted me later “Does today mean you owe me not one but two lunches, I paid 2 bills after all!” – I did offer but I guess all that ringing noise in her ears must have addled her brain… !

I’m certainly not complaining and now trying to work out when I can go back and I would have to say it is well worth it with all the bells and whistles as well!

Little Social – 5 Pollen Street London – 020 7870 3730