Thursday, 8 January 2015

Blanchette, London

We planned a last minute New Years trip to the capital and after a frantic search for somewhere  to dine that wasn’t charging an arm and a leg for a ‘special’ menu, we finally settled on Blanchette in Soho. A cosy bistro serving French small plates and not a set menu in sight which was welcome, at short notice we managed to bag ourselves a table for four for an early dinner before heading off to find a good location to see the fireworks. 

Typical of most Soho restaurants where space is at a premium, the dining room is long and narrow with bar seats offered along the bar area. Blanchette was established by three brothers, Maxime, Yannis and Malik Alary and also draw on consultancy from another small plate London favourite, the Salt Yard Group who run Opera Tavern and Ember Yard amongst others.

The small plate concept encourages dishes to be shared, which in our opinion is more interactive along with the added benefit of being able to try more dishes! The menu is split between snacks, starters, charcuterie, fish, meat and veg. Dishes range from £5 - £10 and are worth it for the quality. We ordered a whole host of dishes to share including:
Crispy frog legs with bois boudran sauce
From the charcuterie section we tried truffle saucisson from Rhone
Octopus with burnt clementine, fennel and pistachio
Hot smoked salmon with beetroot, quail eggs, potato crêpe and truffle butter
Daube of pig cheeks with dauphinoise croquette
Braised lamb shoulder with anchovy, rosemary and soubise sauce
Confit duck leg with butternut squash purée, hazelnuts, chilli and star anise
Tournedo Rossini with foie gras en croute, shaved truffle and madeira sauce (a NYE special)
Roasted beetroot with pickled girolles, fleur de marquis and tarragon dressing
Brillat-Savarin salad with pear, red endive, honey and poppyseed
Hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream
Passion fruit vacherin

The favourite dishes of the night were the frogs legs, pigs cheek, salmon and salad dish, the desserts also hit the spot as well with the passion fruit vacherin being perfect foil for the sweet gooey chocolate fondant. 

Blanchette on Urbanspoon

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Pudding Bar, London

The Pudding Bar was a dessert pop up bar serving afternoon tea and desserts in the evening. It was located on Greek Street and was a great idea and hopefully the guys behind it will pop up again or find a permanent fixture soon.
We visited for dessert after dinner one night and our eyes were bigger than our bellies again as we opted for three desserts to share and one glass of each of the four available dessert wines. Each of the desserts were quite large and priced very reasonably at £6-7.
Blackberry panna cotta with honeycomb, blackberries and spiced rum & nutmeg ice cream.
Apple and maple syrup baked Alaska, cinnamon spiced apple cake with maple syrup ice cream, wrapped in Italian meringue with maple glaze.
S’more cheesecake, milk chocolate cheesecake on a ginger nut biscuit base with peanut butter ice cream.
Dessert wines from right to left, Maury Grenat, Finca Le Estacada Secua Chardonnay Dulce, Royal Tokaiji Lake harvest and Chateau du Levant Sauternes.

Each of the desserts was made with skill and the baked Alaska was the unanimous favourite with the apple and maple combination edging out the peanut butter ice cream and chocolate cheesecake.

Pudding Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, 2 January 2015

Rex & Mariano, London

Rex & Mariano is the latest venture from the Goodman restaurant group who are also behind the Burger & Lobster mini chain. A seafood restaurant where orders are placed using Ipads sees it only charging 5% for service, a rarity in London where 12.5% and even 13% in places have become standard.

The restaurant is spacious with an open kitchen where diners can observe the dishes being prepared and leaving the pass. The menu contains a selection of raw and cooked seafood with a few vegetable sides also available. Service is rapid with dishes reaching the table within minutes of ordering with the Ipad, therefore ordered a few dishes at a time to enjoy a more leisurely paced meal.
Rock and native oysters with lemon and vinaigrette
Tuna tartare, avocado, chilli, chive, sesame. Nice big diced chunks of tuna livened up by the chilli.
Salmon tartare, parsley, shallot, smoked tomato.
Lobster ceviche, coriander, fennel, yuzu, orange.
Gambero rosso prawns, lemon, olive oil, salt. Red prawns served raw with a cooked version also available. Very enjoyable due to the freshness of the prawns.
Fritto Misto, mixed fried seafood including squid, prawns, whitebait, whitefish with alioli.
Fish of the day, whole grilled lemon sole with a light dusting of flour. Reminds me of how my mum cooks sole.
We enjoyed Rex & Mariano very much with the star dishes being the raw prawns and tartare dishes. A good choice for seafood lovers with reasonable prices and friendly service.

Rex & Mariano on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 22 December 2014

The Pony & Trap, Chew Magna

The Pony & Trap is a Michelin starred country pub run by Josh and Holly Eggleton in Chew Magna, around 7 miles south of Bristol. The pub places emphasise on a field to fork ethos and source food as locally as possible from suppliers around the Chew Valley and the South West.

Chef Josh Eggleton was recently on the Great British Menu and has an impressive pedigree, having worked at the likes of The French Laundry and Chanterelle. During our visit last month we ordered the tasting menu at £60 per head along with the very competitively priced wine flight at £25.

A selection of canapes were delivered including pork crackling quavers with apple purée, scallipops, pan fried scallops wrapped with pancetta and a celeriac soup with cheddar foam. The latter came with a delightful Parmeasan mustard palmier.
The first course was squash, Stilton and chicory with pumpkin seeds. Nice and fresh with different textures including deep fried squash.
HEC – Chefs take on ham, egg and chips with home cured bresaola, hens egg and watercress.
Brill, artichoke and girolles with burnt onion purée. The brill was cooked on the bone and was an extremely generous portion for a taster dish, it could have passed for a main course!
Rabbit, smoked pear and cabbage. Rabbit loin stuffed with offal served with a hodgepodge of black pudding. Again a main sized dish with three huge slabs of rabbit which were moist and well seasoned. The cooking was superb as the offal remained pink yet cooked through.
Spiced posset, a tea smoked prune lemon granite
Stout cake, walnut and caramel, paired with a glass of Triana Pedro Ximenez which was like Christmas in a glass.
The Pony & Trap is well worth a visit if around the Bistrol area. Good hearty well cooked food befitting of a country pub.

Pony and Trap on Urbanspoon

Friday, 19 December 2014

Midsummer House, Cambridge

We visited Cambridge on a bitterly cold day a couple of weeks ago and had a few hours to wander around the numerous Colleges and attractive buildings. The main reason for the long journey from the North West was for the first leg of Mrs Nom’s birthday weekend, beginning with a visit to the critically acclaimed Midsummer House, a 2 Michelin starred restaurant run by Chef Daniel Clifford, a regular on TV food shows such as Great British Menu. Midsummer House is located in a standalone building next to the River Cam on Midsummer Common.
My mood was nearly ruined as I discovered a parking ticket had been issued when I returned to the car to top up before the meal. However the residents parking only sign was obscured by bushes and a subsequent appeal was successful, which was a first for me. As a word of warning for anyone visiting and parking on Aylestone Road in the future, beware as the same stretch of road has pay and display on one side but residents permit only on the other and it’s not very clear for visitors!

A choice of 5, 7 and 10 course menus are offered during lunch service and as if reading our minds when we ordered the 10 course the charming maitre’d asked Mrs Nom if she was sure. We had been pondering but out of the earshot of staff whether we could choose different menus but most places tend to be pretty adamant that the same menu is to be served to all guests at the same table. Without hesitation the full 10 course was offered for me and 7 for Mrs Nom and the maitre’d said it was not a problem and would even tell Chef we were two tables of one otherwise!

All of the courses from the 7 were on the 10 course menu and Mrs Nom welcomed the break in between as I had the additional courses. The meal began with a medley of amuse bouches and canapés, beginning with a bloody mary and celery sorbet followed by chicken liver parfait and red apple roll, mackerel wafers, sour cream with chives & lime gel and a decadent truffle cheese éclair.
The first course was an attractive ring of smoked haddock and pickled onion with the centre filled with a grilled cheese foam at the table.
The next course of beetroot baked on open coals, quinoa, frozen goat’s cheese & mizuna was theatrical and prepared at the table. Interesting textures from the frozen but light goat’s cheese with the hot soft beetroot.
Suckling pig, turnip, buttermilk, Iberico ham, one of the highlights of the meal for me.
Roasted sea scallop, tartare, Jerusalem artichoke, black truffle. A selection of impressive truffles were paraded at the table before being shaved onto the dish.
Roast quail, shallot purée, grapes, celery and sour dough. Served in three parts with a quail’s egg, quail breast and on toast.
Roast monkfish, salsify, bacon, cabbage and mustard.
Slow roast venison, Swiss chard, sloe berry and blue cheese. The sloe berry and blue cheese worked well with the venison deep in flavour from the slow roasting.
Pousse café – Jack Daniels cream, chives, pasteurised egg yolk and maple syrup. An unusual but interestingly layered shot.
Lemon posset, blueberries, lemon espuma.
Passion fruit, yoghurt & dark chocolate, very rich but balanced up by the tart passion fruit.
Butter pastries with apple brandy crème anglais and caramel sauce. As if we needed more after the desserts the pastries were surprisingly light.
The consistency of the dishes was incredible, judged by the fact that our 10 and 7 course menus had different running orders and as I had dishes Mrs Nom had enjoyed prior to me were exactly the same despite the multiple components, the quail dish being the prime example. Although expected of course from a 2 star restaurant. Each of the courses was enjoyable and the journey through them all was very memorable. At £105 for the full 10 course menu it is not excessively priced for the quality.
Daniel Clifford is a very hands on chef and we noticed when he walked past a couple of times to another kitchen or storage area in the garden separate from the main kitchen. Midsummer House is a special restaurant delivering top class food in a beautiful city.

Midsummer House on Urbanspoon

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