Tag Archives: Restaurants

You look wastED…

wastED – Selfridges London

Back in early 2017 I had a FB message from a friend who just happens to be the Executive Chef for Selfridges.

He wanted to make me aware of the Pop Up Restaurant that was coming to the top floor of the Oxford Street store…

Dan Barber is a superstar chef and the brains behind the concept known as wastED. It took some 18 months of collaborative planning to bring this rather simple and very thought provoking concept to London. The attention to detail was mind boggling and the efforts they have gone to highlight how much good food we waste that can be recycled or up-cycled.

The simple decor with tables made from re-cycled artichokes, lampshades made from spent mushrooms compost and even down to the little boards used to present the diners bills made from re-cycled wool… cutlery in old earthenware pots was re-cycled from “Taste of London” events – it was totally fascinating.

The menu is what it is all about as the brigade of some 35+ chefs since late February have been serving up a menu lunch, tea and dinner to packed in crowds of appreciative diners.

The dishes on offer use produce either rejected for perhaps being slightly past their best, bruised or fundamentally just wasted… The Kale Tree is a classic example as the more succulent lower leaves are sold and the top leaves are thrown away with the stalk- not here they are roasted off in the Wood Fired grill and served with a pair of scissors along with a broth.

On my recent visit we kicked the meal off with a canape of Crispy Salmon Fins with a piece of skin that was then topped by a generous spoonful of “past its best” caviar from Caviar House (Located in the Selfridges Food Hall) that was about to be thrown – still edible and safe to eat but served here on a crispy fried carcass of salmon that certainly got our tasting menu off to a memorable start!

We consumed some 14 different dishes as part of this set tasting menu and the table of chefs and consummate foodies were all unanimous in agreement that this was an amazing experience and truly mind blowing that each dish we consumed was made from discarded produce or just not utilised.

Highlights for me were the “Fish & Chips” – Fish Bones, Fish Skin, Egg Wrack Seaweed, Pockmarked Potato Cream that used smoked salmon bones and skins infused in the milk to give another flavour dimension -all served on crumpled newspaper, it comprised of slivers of fresh Pollock, sardine heads and crispy skin and some little nuggets of potatoes. Stunning.

Then the Cod Head Kedgeree served with little dishes of curried broken rice, spelt bran & trial rye. The Cod Heads were brine cured and then roasted in the “Josper” grills. It was masterful combinations and amazing how much tender and tasty meat could be consumed from the head. It was a remarkably rich dish and we were pretty well stuffed by this stage but the dishes just kept coming.

It was a really great lunch and the whole experience was something to make you think about a) where our food comes from  and b) how much we waste… now there is food for thought for a future themed Hari event… it was certainly inspiring and I think the photos will give you a flavour.

It all finishes on the 2nd of April and I believe is totally sold out… so hard cheese!

 

Gastro Boast…

About two years ago I was involved with a very enjoyable charity fundraising dinner over in Essex with a group of other chefs… It was a hugely successful evening and we managed to raise some significant monies for two smaller charities close to the lead organisers heart.

One of the chefs involved (there were five) was a hunk of man in name and stature by the name of Jack Boast. He was at that time working for the Galvin brothers at one of their central London places.

Jack has now moved out of London to the depths of the Essex countryside. He is now based in Chelmsford and he is now heading up one of the Galvins latest ventures a Gastro Pub called The Green Man in the village of Howe Street Nr Chelmsford.

This former derelict pub believed to date back to the 1300’s in parts has undergone a major refurbishment and extension that is thought to have cost circa £1 million.  What has resulted is a bright and airy building that can serve in excess of 200 diners on a busy day before they even start to open the extensive gardens in the summer months.

Jack has put together a menu of some tried and tested classics such as Fish and Chips or Sausage and Mash. But equally there is much more on offer from this talented guy. Locally reared pork, wood fired oven dishes to grills. There is much on offer to tempt…

We visited on what we thought was a busy Saturday lunchtime… Jack assured us it was relatively quiet this day but can get very hectic. The place was buzzing when we arrived and as we sat down at our table our friendly waitress and young staff were working full pace to serve all.

We were on our way to Colchester as we had tickets for the theatre that evening so this establishment fitted the bill perfectly as a stop off on the way up…

We tucked in to some really good grub… Mrs HC was in raptures with her bowl of Wild Mushroom Soup that was unctuous and full of flavour whilst I myself went with the roasted heritage beetroot that were served with mixed salad leaves and a creamy & generous garnish of crumbled local Goats Cheese. Tried and tested combination that got us both salivating for more!

Mrs HC on the set menu had chosen the smoked haddock fish cake topped with poached egg and some creamy leeks… perfectly balanced and well executed.

I myself went for Grilled Calves Liver and Bacon… this was a generous slab of liver that was perfectly grilled still pink and tender – some crispy rashers of streaky bacon and crispy fried fresh sage leaves all nestling on a compote of onions… just perfect with a little
bucket of triple cooked crispy coated fries with floury centres!!!

Dessert from Mrs HC’s set menu was shared with two spoons… a classic arctic roll of vanilla ice cream encased with a light sponge and gratinated Italian meringue and some segments of blood orange with candied peel.  A perfect finish…

We sat there thinking why had we not got something like this more local to us… Mr Boast stuck his head out and then showed me round quickly his domain… it was amazing to think they had just had a relatively quiet lunch service (it seemed busy to me) but were expecting to do in excess of 200 customers that night  – there was a real calm and focused intent from the kitchen and elsewhere around the place…

Something they can “Boast” about is they have got things pretty well right since opening and already have got a loyal following … we certainly are looking forward to going back… just wish they were this side of the Dartford crossing!!!

Galvin Green Man – Howe Street

 

All loved up…

hearts1Well that date is fast approaching when couples habitually inhabit those tables of two’s in a restaurant and look lovingly into each other’s eyes across the dinner table!

You can tell I am a fan of this night of romantic love big time – Not!

It is generally hype to fill perhaps a quiet week night (a Tuesday this year) and dreaded by restaurants when it falls on a weekend night as they fill up in under capacity!

I have such strong memories of a “Valentine Night” in a restaurant I was working in when a couple came in for dinner who had obviously had a row and I think the guy was there under duress.

They ordered two” well done” fillet steaks and requested they be served with peas (we were upmarket and served a medley of vegetables)

confusciusI sent the waitress back with the message “Old Chinese Philosopher Confucius says Man who eats “Meat and Peas” on same plate is very unhygienic”

The waitress thought for moment and then giggled and said I can’t tell them that… I said please try!

Some restaurants get all creative with overpriced pun induced menus using not in season produce – e.g. Asparagus, Strawberries etc or pink coloured foods! I even tried one year doing a Valentine themed dinner here for my Supperclub and found it a tortuous night so vowed never again!

cooking2I am much more in favour of seeing you all cooking something special at home and perhaps pushing the boat out with a meal lovingly prepared for a loved one. It makes much more a statement than splashing out on a substandard meal in a restaurant.

So this would be my suggestion on a good seasonal menu

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock with a Celeriac Remoulade

****

Chicken Bhuna (cooked in a Slow Cooker)

****

Tangy Lemon Posset

with homemade Shortbread Biscuits

cookingYou will note I have provided links for all the recipes so why not give it a go and impress a loved one and cook them up this special treat… it will not break the bank and I am sure it will impress the other half!

Failing that why not come along later in the month for our February dinner event that we are calling “Game On as we will be featuring assorted Game dishes from Venison to Guinea Fowl.  You can book the dinners here on our dedicated ticketing site!

Alternatively if you what to learn how to prepare these or any other dishes there is always the Covert Cook School where we can help you build your confidence and assist those untapped wooing skills…

Far better than going out with all those other sad ones!!!

What makes a good meal?

Well this is a bit of a deep question to kick the year off and it is some time since I have blogged a post so why not start this New Year with something deep and meaningful!

We were fortunate to have spent the Xmas period in warmer climes on the Canary island of Tenerife.  We have fond memories of previous holidays and even a honeymoon on the Island and we certainly were looking forward to revisiting some old haunts and eating some of our favourite foods on the island.

One dish famous throughout the islands is Canarian Chicken served with Salt Crusted new potatoes. The chicken (thighs & drumsticks) is fried in oil till crisp served with Green (Coriander) and Red (Red Pepper) Mojo Sauces and accompanied by new potatoes that are simply boiled in very salty water until they develop a really white salty crust… simple, honest, and inexpensive food.

Our favourite for this dish was a place called Otello either in the village of Adeje or their more accessible place called imaginatively Otello 2 at the beach area of Playa Fanabe.  Well, we felt on this occasion the beach place failed to live up to expectations and lacked something… the chicken was a little dry and overcooked. The Mojo Sauces were good but lacked freshness, bread was stale and overall when compared to Pago Pago in St Margarida Nr Rosas on main land Spain (See review here) was positively substandard by comparison for roughly the same price!

Another favourite in the past had been an Argentinian Steak House called Rodeo in the area known as Torviscas.

This place is mammoth in every aspect,  a room of gargantuan proportions with a central buffet area laden with assorted salads. Waiting staff dressed in baggy Gaucho style trouser costumes circulated the room with assorted skewered meats or trolleys laden with roasted meats.  The concept is you can eat as much as you want for a one off price!

We have seen locals and tourists tucking in till they are so green with over indulgence they have literally passed out! This time we felt the place had lost its charm and again also lacked the quality of previous visits.  Meat a main constituent of the experience was often chewy and lacking in flavour. In fact overall the place ended up being the most expensive of our visit to the island and failed to deliver value or memories to cherish that it once had.

So what does make a good meal, for me first of all the food has to be memorable, the setting and ambience matched to this as well as service that is both professional and slick all help to add to the experience.

Our last meal on the island was in the village of Los Abrigos just south of the airport in a specialist fish restaurant.(One of many in the village) Grilled Prawns from the griddle plate and some Razor Clams with sunny views across the harbour with a waiter providing attentive, friendly and slick service at a fair price was the perfect finish.

Eating out relies on many factors to make it memorable… the food, the service and the setting are all contributing factors to the memory and I certainly hope we manage to deliver on all fronts with our pop up events. We put a great deal of effort into delivering good tasty food, friendly service and a relaxing ambience for a fair price.

I myself have experienced many a meal that lacked each of these factors and felt very frustrated that they often get the basics wrong.

So with this in mind we kick our 2017 events off with a “January Sale” where we are asking diners to pay a minimum of just £10 per person for three courses of freshly cooked food.  The twist to this is we are asking guests to contribute more if they feel it has been worth it…

We filled out these meals within thirty six hours of opening bookings and have even added an extra session (also sold out)…  Delivering the expectation is a challenge and one we cherish.

We do hope you will come and see what we have to offer during 2017, our raison d’etre has always been good food, good service and good value – simple you may think… come and see for yourself…

Booking for February Events – Game On – opens 9:00am Friday 20th January

Now Booking for Covert on the Mountain – Crowborough Community Centre – Saturday March 25th

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

Parental Control…

I was with Mrs HC in my local cinema the other night and we were eating in a Pizza restaurant before going to see the latest Bond picture.

kids2Now it was our first visit to the said restaurant part of a small independent chain and we did not know what to expect. It was fairly early evening and on arrival there were quite a few children eating with their parents.

We sat down on our allotted table with a mother and two young hyperactive  girls located on an adjacent table. In fact when we inspected the room there were possibly 90% of the tables with one or more adults and a plethora of children (well it was the half term holiday)

The menu was a classic pizzeria style menu in the Pizza Express mould. There was also a  fairly hefty children’s section that was well thought out and exciting for our little ones and all reasonably priced.

However it was the lack of parental control by certain Yummy Mummy’s that galled me most. Children misbehaving and running round the place is dangerous as drinks are carried to the tables along with hot food, one group of boys played up and down the staircase and lift to this first floor restaurant. All this time the parents just sat there and ignored them. One mother just seemed to be bored and playing on her phone!

kids1One more elderly lady (a granny perhaps) was sitting with two young children who were impeccably behaved through out, and a young girl on the next table to us with a school friend when they left the table to go to the toilet did rather boisterously run down the stairs and their Mother turned to us and remarked “when will they learn”!

Perhaps you might think me a grumpy old fart  for making such comments but if you delve deeper into the restaurant scene and what the public expect and how they behave in our eating establishments then you would understand my dismay.

There was recently a very well crafted article in the Guardian when critic Jay Rayner commented about children’s menus. I could not agree more with him… we are culturally backward when it comes to eating out with children. What is more children should be taught how to behave in a restaurant what ever its style or purpose from a very early age.

I have very fond memories of eating in a Michelin starred restaurant in France when a primary school class of 4 & 5 year olds were bought into the restaurant and sat down to try some foie gras, snails, caviar, Steak tartare and high quality chocolate to educate their taste buds and palates.

Our meal was good and the film was very impressive it was however the lack of parental control of their young ones that had a  great deal to answer for. One can live in hope…

Five Guys vs Byron Hamburgers…

Me and the DD were at Bluewater with Mrs HC the other week and we decided to give the burger joint of Five Guys a try out. Me and little miss HC rather like a good burger and are big fans of Byron Burgers… So we thought this one would be worth a trial.

IMG_8122 (1)The main difference is they are best described as a self serve establishment but their burgers are somewhat more high class than your McDonalds or Burger King.

The concept is very simple… Small or Large Burgers (two meat patties) and then any combination of 15 assorted fillings!

They claim there are over 250,00 possible ways to order a Five Guys Burger, they only use fresh ground beef and there are no freezers in any of their locations… They even listed in the Bluewater place where the farm was that provided their potatoes (A farm in Sufflok) plus they only fry in peanut oil.

Menu
Menu

You make your choice and pay at a till and then move along the open to view kitchen area to a pick up point and watch the burger being assembled and then pick it up when your order is called. The place was packed and our wait was really no more than six to seven minutes. Plenty of theatre as they assembled the orders and you helped yourself to your ordered drink and could go back for a free refill if required.

Byron
Byron Burgers

Overall the burger was a good juicy one and the chosen garnish was generous… for me the Fries were really good, very crispy and well seasoned. In fact overall we were impressed and the meal cost circa £20 so certainly more than the McDonalds genre… Better than Gourmet Burger Kitchen but for us we still like Byron Burgers… they are all very individual in style but with their friendly table service they win for hands down for me and little Miss HC.

Worth a visit to both if you enjoy a burger!

Five Guys

Byron Hamburgers

All about the service…

Well during the past few months I have had quite a few eating out experiences of both a good and bad nature.  Having made a living out of restaurant reviewing in the past as both an “Egon Ronay Guides” inspector and also an “AA Guides” patch inspector my tastes have developed to appreciate firstly much simpler food where the ingredients provenance takes centre stage.

I have however begun to appreciate far more the service proffered by an establishment as also being an integral part of the whole experience.

I recently found myself for a few days in the West Country and we had a rather posh afternoon tea at a newly opened 5 star hotel – the Afternoon Tea served was £30 a head and whilst generous in proportion was not so memorable for the quality of the offer. Firstly sandwiches when delivered did not match the menu description and the chefs predilection for tomato in them was rather overzealous.

Scones whilst home-made were stodgy and stale, jam and cream was however generous. Cakes and pastries were pretty unimaginative and amateurish – a tartlette case filled with meringue needed the citric base to compensate for the sweetness. A chocolate cake and a caramel mille feuille were also nothing special and the only saving grace was the fresh fruit tartlette.

An apfel strudel with vanilla sauce was also out of place as a tea time treat – more in keeping as a restaurant dessert was also soggy and not in the least bit dainty!

The only saving was friendly and concerned service from a young but professional team of staff who held it all together and helped redeem the food quality misgivings.

A couple of days later we then had a meal in the depths of Cornwall at an establishment in a very busy and bustling coastal town that is dominated by a certain celebrity chef.

We went to his “Bistro” operation for a dinner. It was a return visit since we had had a memorable lunch some nine years earlier. Whilst the food was spot on and highlighted well the great produce on offer from fresh local scallops served with a truffle butter to an amazing combination of John Dory, Grilled Baby Leeks, Soft Boiled Egg and shaved Parmesan  cheese that was an enlightening combination. It was however the service we had that was more memorable. Young staff were engaging, sociable and efficient throughout so much so it was refreshing to watch and made the evening all the more memorable!

The day afterwards at a seaside Cafe we visited for a traditional Cornish clotted cream tea there was a slightly annoying pre-order system at a bar counter and then your order was delivered to your chosen table. Not ideal, but acceptable except what annoys me more is waiting staff who walk past a laden table of a previous occupants detritus that is not cleared by them… somewhat all to apparent at this canal side eatery that whilst popular lacked the slickness of the previous nights dinner.

My other pet hate is the “Nandos” concept of sitting at a table and then being made to go to a till to order and pre pay – My disabled wife has been discriminated before with this concept  and forced to send our young daughter to order and pay. A visit to chain of burger restaurants using such a format was underwhelming and confirmed my favourite style of this eatery is the “poetically named group” found all over London who has continually delivered great service and a very consistent product in each of their places. My daughter is now hooked on them as are all of her school friends.

Whilst eating with friends at one of Mr Raymond White’s bustling restaurants a mistake to our dessert order was handled with great aplomb and apologetic efficiency that left us impressed with the establishment and happy to return at a future date as opposed to a negative and disgruntled attitude!

Our visit to a wonderful restaurant with rooms in deepest north Devon owned and operated by friends admittedly was made more special by the service proffered that was concerned, measured and efficient throughout our visit. From the welcome cup of tea on arrival to a coffee served in the lounge whilst writing up a report to a sumptuous dinner and well cooked breakfast reminded us how committed you need to be to be hospitable and successful. This couple have now done some 15 plus years in their own business and just one look at the positive and glowing feed back on their trip advisor rating speaks volumes for their dedicated professionalism. I am not surprised they are trying to now sell up and take things a little bit easier as they work long hours and very hard to maintain their loyal and appreciative guests! I wish I had the energy and money to invest in their truly lovely place. I thoroughly recommend a visit to see how it should be done.

Whilst the food is important the service can make or break the experience and the rise in popularity of TripAdvisor hated by many a chef in my mind when you read between the lines is a useful tool to ensure you do not waste your money!

I can thoroughly recommend the following as they provided some truly memorable meals and service over the past few months… I will not bore you with the not so good!

St Petrocs Bistro

Blagdon Manor

Byron Burgers

Restaurant Aquar’aile

Honey & Co…a review…

It has been a while since I had seen a long-standing client @ufoodie but we had spoken on numerous occasions and this meet up was a sort of catch up and payback time. Well it was to be a very enjoyable payback and good to catch up and hear all the latest gossips from her’s and my businesses.

We are also plotting to bring a unique mass cooking experience to a venue near you where we perhaps do the ultimate “pop up” dinner where you will hopefully also cook your own! Will keep you all posted as to how plans for this progress but in the meantime @ufoodie had chosen the venue (well as she was paying) and a great venue choice it was too.

Located at what one could describe as the wrong end of Warren Street just off Tottenham Court Road this little, and I mean little establishment is causing a bit of a stir in foodie circles.

A shoe box of a room with cramped tables was pretty empty when we arrived but it was soon very packed, very noisy with a group congregated outside waiting for a vacant table and regular new arrivals being turned away. Such is the popularity of this place booking a slot is advisable, in fact very necessary.

So what’s all the fuss about – well the food is very much the star, as is the friendly and informal service so overall a great mix.

As we perused the menu the limited choice was so enticing it was making choices so difficult so we plumped for the Mezze platter and as an extra “Roasted Octopus” with chilli, coriander and meshwiya sauce as our starters.

Both dishes were stunning – a generous platter of little dishes that included Labaneh (strained Yoghurt) topped with Zaatar (a middle eastern herb mix). Carrots coated in harissa and fennel seeds, gorgeous creamy hummus and a light delicate heritage radish and paprika salt salad. “Boikos” were little feta cheese like scones and then some plump Kalamata olives completed the platter. The octopus on recommendation of the cheerful waitress was equally stunning. Beautifully tender octopus was coated in a sauce made of tomatoes and peppers and then little slivers of grilled lemon and chilli and coriander gave it an interesting kick with a good balance of flavours. Outstanding and accomplished cooking  was very evident here.

Our main course choices  were a “Chicken Pastia” fundamentally a middle eastern inspired pasty! Slow cooked melt in the mouth chicken cooked with dates, almonds and some subtle spicing – just a hint of cinnamon that was then encased by crispy filo pastry. This was a beautifully simple piece of cooking and again a very well executed dish that pleased on all fronts.

A light green leaf salad with slices of orange worked perfectly against the richness of the meat. Our other main course choice was “Lamb Shawarma,” yoghurt marinated lamb served on a charred pitta bread, a mango chutney (amba) and some fresh salad (shredded cabbage and pomegranate seeds) Again a lovely fresh and vibrant dish.

To round our lunch off we then had a couple of desserts. Claudia Roden’s inspired whole orange flourless cake with a dark hot chocolate sauce. The star dish though was a cold cheese cake, a mix of creamy cheese (we were told it was feta!!!) was nestling atop a bed of crispy Kadaif pastry (crispy vermicelli) and then some nuts and drizzle of Greek pine and fir honey completed what was a stunningly simple but effective dessert.

The service we experienced was informative, friendly and attentive, overall it was a jolly good lunch… the only downside was the room was cramped and noisy once it filled up with guests – so making a quiet lunch harder. The likes of “Tripadvisor” and other review sites sing the praises of the cooking but do criticise cramped room as well as the prices as being a shade high… what price though for quality?

We both enjoyed it but I’m sure it is very easy to rack up a higher bill as everything was just so tempting. On reflection I have to say it was well worth that extra walk to the wrong end of Warren Street!

A Taste of Spain in deepest Kent…

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Well now it is not often I sit down and review a restaurant via my blog/web site but I think this place is worthy of a mention to those of you who follow my ramblings!

It was a very chilly Saturday morning a few weeks ago with the threat of heavy snowfalls that made me think we must be mad making a hundred mile round trip to meet for lunch with some long term friends.

Well we set off to the East of Kent to the farthest point one can travel to… namely the sleepy town of Broadstairs. Famed as the birthplace of a former UK PM – Sir Edward Heath, literary connections with Charles Dickens and Oliver Postgate of Clangers fame!

The place we were to frequent is the recently launched little Tapas Bar & Restaurant called Albariño … This is also a rather stunning Spanish wine that is a favourite of the husband and wife team that set the place up.

Steve Dray is a local lad having grown up down the road in Westgate-on-Sea before going off on his travels around the UK and then also to foreign climbs. He met his French born wife Stephanie in Manchester. Before they settled back in the Isle of Thanet they had spent a year out on the Caribbean island of the Turks & Caicos with their young son Stanley! We thought them mad to come back to chilly old “Blighty” but Steve had spent the previous six – nine months looking for various business opportunities before he stumbled upon the site he has now opened as Albariño.

The restaurant is located in the old part of the town in the narrow Albion Street with a little garden area opposite and then some lovely sea views for those summery days! Not so inviting on a cold winters day! However, we had what could best be described as a real flavour of Spain on this visit. The place is small, a big long bar dominates the room… Steve had it specially made from old snooker table slate! You can even spot some errant grooves in it made by the less professional “pot blacker’s”. An open plan kitchen enables you to watch Steve beaver away with your order and front of house service is attentive and friendly!

The warm welcome with a glass of Cava kicked our meal off as we tucked in to some big fat green olives and a dish of some homemade chickpea & fennel seeded chips that were light textured and crusty to whet the appetite!

We then chose to partake of the Chef’s selection of tapas whereby we were served a selection of that day’s tapas to share. Well what can I say but they were spot on, an imaginative array of dishes that really got the taste buds tingling! We kicked off with a some braised wild rabbit with artichokes, then came a delightful light tortilla with potatoes and onions, followed closely by a spicy Sobrasada Sausage, Garbanzo Beans and Spinach. We also had an amazing slow cooked Ox Cheek in a liquorice sauce with a garnish of butternut squash and fried sage leaves. Flavours were intense and cooking was top notch. We also shared a meat platter and also had some very good Ham & Cheese Croquettes as well that were to die for!

To round it all off we tried the Chocolate Almond Torta with Honeycomb Ice Cream and the Olive Oil & Polenta Cake with Goat’s Curd that were both to die for!

This was all in all a very good meal that showed some real signs of brilliance! Good solid culinary execution, an overall understanding of ingredients, combinations and balanced flavours. If you look at their web site they also list their suppliers which I feel shows just how serious they are about what they do, they support local suppliers and Steve’s passion to buy as local as possible even though his food is pretty authentically Spanish shows just how small the world is. It also illustrates well how creative the guy is as well!

If you are in the area or fancy a day out then make the trip…Book a table or just turn up – you will not be disappointed and do tell them Hari sent you!

I have used the photos from his web site as well but must credit Matthew Walters with them… they make me feel hungry again!