Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sketch - Afternoon Tea, London

I remember seeing the beautiful photos of the afternoon tea at Sketch and begged Mr Nom to take me. On the morning of the reservation I was super excited! I did not eat any breakfast and was ready for my treat at Sketch. Full of smiles stepping into Sketch I was led into the Glade room and I could not believe how pretty it was. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, the walls were painted like a forest with mirrors around the corners of the room and red lasers flashing.




There was an array of beverages to choose from and we both decided to select teas, Mr Nom and I both had our eye on the Vanilla tea but he chose the Chai tea instead so we could both try more of the wonderful teas on offer. The Vanilla tea was lovely! I don’t normally drink a lot of tea apart from my green tea at home but I think I would be drinking vanilla tea from now on.



The afternoon tea set was utterly beautiful, the wonderful colours and the impressive selection of cakes and sandwiches, combined with the surroundings made the experience magical. The scones were brought up to us separately, lovingly wrapped up to keep them warm. We smothered them in lashings of cream and tried both the blackberry and strawberry jam. I think I prefer the strawberry jam out of the both.



The assortment of lovely sandwiches included smoked salmon and jacob’s cream. A rapped up warm croque monsieur, this was delicious with the mozzarella and pesto filling. It was a lovely touch to get a warm sandwich which I haven’t experienced before with afternoon teas in the past. Cucumber, ricotta and asparagus sandwich was lovely, I like a bit of crunch in sandwiches. I was expecting the asparagus to be bland was I was pleasantly surprised when it was seasoned well. The egg sandwich was certainly not your average egg mayonnaise sandwich as this one had the added extras with the quail’s egg and caviar.


The last of the afternoon tea were the gorgeous array of cakes, pistachio macaroons were a treat, I love macaroons and pistachio is a one of my favourites. Almond and berry tartlets. Coffee eclair, creamy and indulgent. The strawberry cheesecake was presented in the mini pots. Raspberry meringue was rather sickly for me. Last but not least, the bubblegum marshmallows were a treat, I felt like a kid nibbling on them all since Mr Nom was super full by then.






Sketch is a wonderful place for afternoon tea; the food was stunning in its creation and matches beautifully with the d├ęcor. The toilets were a talking point as well, the unusual pods for each cubicle was certainly an eye opener, like something out of a futuristic film!



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Monday, 30 December 2013

Almost Famous Great Northern, Manchester

Our first ever blog post was on the original Northern Quarter Almost Famous.  Infact it even provided the inspiration for the blog title as I watched Mrs Nom destroying her Triple Nom burger. Since the original site burnt down the franchise has expanded into Liverpool and are back with a much larger site in the Great Northern by All Star Lanes and Lucha Libre.

With queues the norm at the old smaller site, we didn't have to wait at the new larger restaurant. However first impressions were that the cult vibe had been somewhat diluted with the glitzy neon lights, large posters and just general modern chicness completely the opposite of its more humble beginnings. However we would let the food make up our minds.

After an lengthy wait of around half an hour our food arrived. We opted for burgers we had never seen before, the butter blood and bleu burger - a double Cheeseburger, rare flatiron steak, chorizo, chillies, peppercorn sauce, mustard mayo and bleu cheese sauce and a 
Baddaboom - a double cheeseburger, garlic butter brioche, bacon, chorizo, onions, marinara, famous sauce, parmesan and chilli. Both certainly looked the part, downright messy burgers, an Almost Famous trademark.



The burgers hit the spot and if anything the flat iron meat pieces were too chewy to bite through when trying to eat the butter blood & bleu burger. We ordered the classic bacon bacon fries and the new pig n waffle fries as sides. The waffle fries were interesting and topped with pulled pork different to the usual fries.



To help wash down the filling food we had the boozy milkshake which was the Ron Burgundy for that week, filled to the brim with scotch and a bitch juice cocktail. With a large bar area it is a good place for after work drinks and a quick feed. A welcome return to the Manchester dining scene.




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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Bob's & Co, London

Bob's & Co is a pop up based upstairs the Rising Sun pub on Carter Lane near St Paul's Cathedral. The pub stands at the very site that Guy Fawkes was said to have met his co-conspirators. We first met the owner Bob during his residency at Borough Market with the Bob's Lobster van which has been very well received this year serving up delicious lobster rolls and lobster mac n cheese. Being big fans of the delightful lobster treats we have followed the van in its travels across the London street food scene at Feast and more recently Street Feast at Hawker House. When we found out about the pop up serving up a wider range of seafood and other treats I was eager to visit.

I started with a mix of grilled and fried oysters. The grilled version with Parmesan cheese were the winners here with the shiso wrapped fried oysters losing some of the fresh oyster sea taste. 


Next up were scallops with caramelised onion, chanterelle mushrooms and lardons. The scallops were beautifully cooked and soft in the middle. The onions added some sweetness which brought the dish together.


Craving lobster mac n cheese I requested a half portion but Bob insisted that I have a full portion. This was packed full of lobster pieces which was nearly a whole lobsters worth! As good as I remember it being.


I was dreading the last dish of shrimp and grits after the mac n cheese but I finished it all eventually. Served with pork belly and polenta puree it was my least favourite dish of the night but it may have been due to me nearing bursting already! The shrimps and pork belly were pleasant but the polenta I wasn't too fond of.


Other dishes I would like to return and try from the menu include confit rabbit and pig cheek tacos. During this service I found out from the front of house team that Bob was running the show in the kitchen single handedly as all the chefs were down. However Bob still found time to make an appearance and talk to everyone to make sure things were ok and generally get to know his customers. The lobster van is one of our favourite street food vendors and Bob's & Co is serving up an interesting menu different in the London dining scene. 


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Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Quarter, Liverpool

We visited for a light meal on Christmas Eve nearly giving up trying to find a parking space with it beginning to rain heavily. At the last try a space had become available right outside. We were quickly seated and told we had the table for 40 minutes. Mr Nom noted that since the last time he had visited some four years ago it had doubled in size.

The service was swift and efficient and dishes arrived quicker than I expected. The vongole pasta dish was lovely, fresh fettuccine with clams, tomatoes, chilli and parsley. There was a generous amount of clams and the dish had a kick from the chilli. I was surprised there wasn’t much sauce with the dish but it didn’t need it.


The pizza base was light but the tomato sauce lacked depth. Topped with small amounts of ham, mushroom, parmesan and pine nuts.


Time was ticking but we figured we could still fit some of the home made cakes. We chose red velvet and a gluten free cake.  The red velvet was delicious however towards the end it got a bit sickly.


The gluten free sponge cake came with cream and fresh berries and was quite good although Mr Nom was not particularly fond of the texture.


It was starting to get very busy which was surprising with it being Christmas Eve and we overheard other customers being told tables were needed back in 30mins. The service however was good and we hope to return when it is less quiet so we do not feel pressured to gulp down our food and drinks.

The Quarter on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 23 December 2013

Pizza Pilgrims, London

A quick post to keep the blog ticking during the busy Xmas season. Pizza Pilgrims was the ideal place for a quick dinner whilst working in London. Originally operating out of the back of a green van with a wood fired oven, Pizza Pilgrims set up a permanent site on Dean Street in Soho. With a sizable buzzing seating area downstairs I settled down to a Birra Moretti and ordered the Margherita with N'duja, a spicy Calabrian pork sausage.



The Margherita was topped with sweet tomato, parmesan, basil, olive oil and numerous piles of the spicy N'duja. Whilst the flavour was good with the tomato and N'duja being my favourite the pizza needed a little extra time cooking as one half of it was a bit doughy. However it was still an enjoyable pizza overall and I noticed that quite a few customers were opting for the Calzone with Napoli salami, ricotta & mushroom which looked tempting. For a quick bite Pizza Pilgrims is recommended for pizza lovers.


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Friday, 20 December 2013

Arbutus, London

Arbutus is a one michelin starred modern French restaurant based on Frith Street in buzzing Soho, London. It appealed to me since I found out that the restaurant offered counter seats which is always preferably for me when dining alone. I guess I still feel a little awkward when sat at a table alone, with the feeling of not knowing where to look and just making myself look uncomfortable.

A value pre theater menu is available at £21 for 3 courses, but the a la carte seemed much more enticing. One dish in particular that caught my interest was the famed squid and mackerel burger with cornish razor clams. This was a plate of beauty, much more refined than earlier versions of the dish which are on the internet. What it delivered in looks also delivered in taste, mackerel and squid are quite delicate and they both shone without any ingredients dominating the dish. Along with razor clams it was a very enjoyable starter.


My main course of saddle of rabbit, beetroot, pear and bee pollen came with a separate small pot of slow cooked shoulder cottage pie. The rabbit was wrapped in ham and was well cooked, the rabbit was the best I have had in a while. I found that the pear and bee pollen was different and fresh, however a little sweet towards the end of the dish. The cottage pie bulked up the dish but lacked flavour and seasoning.



I also wanted to try pieds et paquests - lambs tripe, shoulder, trotters but didn't want to brave using my hands and making a mess in front of the counter staff. For dessert I had what was billed as warm English treacle tart with creme fraiche. It was sweet and sticky as expected for a treacle tart but lacked the warm element.


A pleasant dinner for one, with the starter being the standout.  Safe and steady but that's what one craves at times.

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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Hinds Head, Bray

The Hinds Head is a 1 Michelin star picturesque gastropub set in the heart of the Village of Bray near Maidenhead.  Owned by Heston Blumenthal whose flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck is only a hundred yards away.  We parked in the village car park and walked past at half seven to see lots of empty tables, we were tempted to pop in to chance our luck.  However we decided against it and went on towards The Hinds Head where we had a booking. On our return to the car we noted that every table was occupied so we stopped ourselves looking foolish!

The decor of the pub retains its traditional interior and has a 'ye olde' feel with a mixture of timbers and whitewash walls. Having decided on the Hereford Prime ribeye for main I knew it would be filling so we settled on sharing a selection of starters. We couldn't look past the famous scotch egg made with soft boiled quail egg wrapped in sausage meat and fried in panko breadcrumbs. The egg oozed magnificently when cut in half. This was without doubt the best scotch egg I have ever tasted.




Together with the scotch egg we also had devils on horseback, prune and chutney wrapped in smokey bacon. These would make for some seriously good party food. Hash of snails completed the starters.  The quantity of plump snails was generous, cooked beautifully in garlic butter and topped with fennel and parsley cress. The hash consisted of a grilled slice of sour dough bread which I am glad was not too crispy and was easily eaten with cutlery.





The main event was the Hereford Prime ribeye with bone marrow sauce and triple cooked chips. The choice was decided by the inclusion of the chips which I heard were unmissable. It's very rare that the sides dictate what I choose. We shared everything but the chips and ordered another portion, a bit greedy of us but the right decision when we sunk our teeth into them. A crispy dream on the outside with a fluffy centre, they were the ideal accompaniment for the steak. Cooked to medium as suggested by the team to allow the fat to render down was simply quality. Just above pink in the middle yet being perfectly moist with the marbled fat bringing the whole thing together and adding flavour. The chips needed the rich bone marrow sauce than the steak which I would of eating by itself no problem.





As we were sharing we also ordered the roast turkey dish as it was December after all. Served with chestnut and prune stuffing, roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables it was not a patch on the ribeye and chips. Although it would of been fine as a main course by itself if we were not sharing. The quality of the turkey was undeniable as you would expect but the dish just lacked the wow factor.



We were stuffed after the mains due to having a portion of chips each but found room to share treacle tart with milk ice cream. The star of which for me was the ice cream, although the tart was surprisingly light which is what we needed but not sweet enough. Petit fours included a red wine jelly in chocolate cups which sent us on our way very happy indeed. Next stop in 2014 when returning to Bray has to be The Fat Duck with fellow 3 starred Bray restaurant, The Waterside Inn close behind. 




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