Thursday 19 June 2014

Alyn Williams at The Westbury, London

Alyn Williams at The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair has been on my list for a while, despite the occasional appearance on TV, Chef Alyn seems to go about his business quietly. Reports of this one Michelin starred restaurant are consistently positive; however it has always slipped the mind under the bombardment of new openings and more media centric Chefs in the capital. Searching for a tasting menu for a recent dinner the restaurant popped up and at a cost of £65 per head, it seemed a good deal for what was being offered.

The hotel itself is a classical five star affair, and the dining room reminded me of Simon Radley at The Grosvenor in Chester. One difference being floor to ceiling wine cupboards dominated the centre of the room at Alyn Williams.  As we were presented with the menus a barrage of nibbles were sent from the kitchen, the pick of which being oyster leaf and lemon gels.

The first course of langoustine, lemongrass, chilli, coconut and cucumber was obviously Thai inspired and was a light refreshing start to the meal. The langoustines were plump and sweet and the broth was well judged and did not overpower the dish.

A fish course followed with hake, nasturtium, asparagus and sea urchin foam. Flaking fish with rich sea urchin, what’s not to like?

French fine dining wouldn’t be complete without foie gras, and the next course delivered this in the disguise of a semi fredo with prune, celeriac, bacon and espresso. I’ve never been too fussed over foie gras and this didn’t change my mind, although it was well presented but felt like it was getting the ingredient on the menu for the sake of it. I guess some connoisseurs would be in uproar if foie gras was omitted.

The next course was Iberico pork with spices, spring salad and tarragon emulsion. The dish was presented with the pork hidden underneath the salad which I soon swept out of the way to get to the main event. This was my favourite course of the night so far with the Iberico pork being sensational, full of flavour, perfectly pink and tender.

Attempting to keep the cost down we restricted ourselves to a glass of white followed by a glass of red wine. We opted for an unusual white Rioja which proved to be a great choice for the first few courses. A short while passed before the next course and the sommelier kindly topped up our red wine for the overdue last savoury course.

We chose one of each of the main courses of Lomeswood Farm duck, wild garlic and barigoule and new season Welsh lamb, jersey royals, seawood and black truffle. By now food fatigue was beginning to settle in due to the delights of the previous courses, but the pick of the mains was the duck for being more interesting.

The first dessert acted as a palate cleanser of mango, avocado, meringue and sherbet. This was followed by a sweeter medley of chocolate, melilot, date and salt.

For quality it lives up to its one Michelin star billing with nicely executed dishes. For pricing the tasting menu is pitched at the lower end of comparable menus at other starred restaurants, which is a nice surprise as it easily outshines most.

Click to add a blog post for Alyn Williams - The Westbury Hotel on Zomato
Square Meal

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Everyman Bistro, Liverpool

I was a little sad when the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street temporarily shut a couple of years back as I never got round to trying the highly rated bistro. However it reopened earlier this year after undergoing major refurbishment bringing it into the 21st century and it was time to make amends. The d├ęcor inside and out has been modernised with the exterior logo in simple letters huge letters in striking red. The spacious bistro is in the basement and is welcoming with a bar area and plenty of tables.

The menu is full of British classics with harissa and pomegranate yoghurt the only components of one dish which were inspired from elsewhere that we could see. Being a party of five this give us a chance to try as many dishes as possible. Most of the dishes came in a choice of small or big plates but we were advised the small plates would be adequate. Along with the normal menu there is a daily specials board which details the fish of the day.  The lemon sole with broccoli and fat chips and butter sauce sounded tempting at £10.50. The fish was deboned and well prepared, ideal with the butter sauce. The thick chips were certainly proper chips and fluffy in the middle, this wasn’t just the catch of the day but the steal of the day; I’ve not had fish this good at this price point anywhere else in Liverpool.

We had to try the Scouse with beetroot, cabbage and crusty bread. This seems to be a perennial on the specials and so it should be, it certainly hit the spot. Butternut squash, sage and walnut risotto was a really light vegetarian dish. 

A spin on an English classic; sausages and cheesy mash in red onion gravy. This dish went down a treat and the buttery mash was ideal foil to soak up the gravy.  It wouldn’t be complete without a Yorkshire pudding on top.  Beef shin chilli with chocolate was very flavourful and moreish, the quickest of the dishes to get mopped up with the crusty bread.

To complete the feast we ordered a fisherman’s board to share amongst us, smoked salmon, mussels with a spicy herb crust, fish fingers, potted shrimp and ciabatta and mussels & chorizo in a white wine sauce. Whilst the board did not hit the heights of the other dishes the mussels were big and plump.

All of the dishes bar the sharing board and lemon sole were small plates so I dread to think how big the large portions were. At an average of £5 for each small plate it certainly was value and quality for money. You will not leave the Everyman feeling hungry that’s for sure.

Everyman Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Monday 16 June 2014

Maray, Liverpool

Maray is the latest opening at the top end of Bold Street, serving falafels, cocktails and small plates. The interior is dim and bare with a long communal table dominating the thin room creating a lively atmosphere. We headed to Maray for an early evening drink and snack, the prices are quite competitive with most of the menu ranging around £5 for a dish.

We had to try the signature falafel bites, this was served with three dips including green chilli, hummus and baba ganoush along with a stack of flatbreads and a token salad. The pick of the dips for me being the chilli. The falafels themselves were small bites which were deep fried, the chickpea filling was nice but they needed to be bigger to avoid being too crispy.

We also tried a few other dishes including slow cooked lamb with spinach and turmeric potatoes and an unusual risotto & Parmesan stuffed aubergine. The lamb didn't disappoint on the tender front and broke away under the lightest pressure and was complemented with a deep intense gravy. A good simple meat and two veg type of dish. The stuffed aubergine sounded exciting but only the aubergine skin remained after cooking which was a shame. The flavours of the Parmesan with the risotto worked well but the amount of tomato on the dish overpowered it all.

With our visit coinciding with World Gin Day we had to try a few gins and chose a Hendricks and Aviation with tonic. For a bar come eatery type of place, Maray is ideal for a quick bite and drink, adding yet another string to the bow of Bold Street.

Maray on Urbanspoon

Friday 13 June 2014

San Carlo Cicchetti, Manchester

San Carlo Cicchetti has always been a place on our agenda and surprisingly Mr Nom chose it as the nights venue as we walked past House of Fraser on Deansgate. Italian small plates as opposed to the usual starter and main format however the portion sizes were bigger than expected but we just about polished off all of the dishes. 

The first dish to arrive was duck salad, it was flavourful with pancetta and the apple balanced the dish really well with the sweetness coming through the saltiness. We had to order a pasta dish from an Italian restaurant, especially as I couldn’t remember the last time I had pasta of any description. I was looking forward to the pappardelle. There was just enough sauce to coat the fresh pasta and the fragrant truffle running through the dish. 

The suckling pig was enjoyable although I regret leaving it too late to eat. As it cooled the meat became a little tough but the meat was well flavoured with a hint of rosemary, simple yet tasty. 

The halibut was slightly bland for me but I liked the crunch from the samphire although Mr Nom thought the seasoning was about right. The lamb cutlets with a tomato sauce were cooked well although there wasn’t much to it. We also ordered a side portion of roast sweet potato which came topped with heaps of pancetta.

Dessert was not needed although we did share a pannacotta. A powerful scent of vanilla was running through the pannacotta although I wasn’t complaining because I love vanilla with berries. We finished the meal with a latte for me and a cappuccino for Mr Nom, and by end I didn't want to move because I was full to the brim.

It was simple cooking at Cicchetti with subtle flavours and enthusiastic service to match. The decor inside was bright and airy which is what I like in restaurants as dim lights sends me to sleep. 

San Carlo Cicchetti on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Sake No Hana, London

Mrs Nom loves flowers and cherry blossoms in particular.  When I showed her a preview of the Sakura cherry blossom inspired bar at Sake No Hana it was on the priority list in front of anything else. To coincide with the cherry blossom theme at the Mayfair based bar and restaurant a special Sakura menu was introduced which is no longer available.

Along a range of cherry based cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks and desserts was a crystal double layer bento box which caught our eye. This was perfect for an alternative to afternoon tea for a light snack in between the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street which I was being forced to endure given Mrs Nom’s love of shopping.

The bento box consisted of two layers. The first being a beautiful sushi and sashimi assortment including salmon avocado, spicy tuna and California rolls, salmon sashimi and my favourite chu-toro tuna sashimi. The second layer contained seven spice chicken kuwayaki and a spring salad with sesame dressing. The pick of the lot being the chu-toro and chicken.

We washed this down with cocktails for Mrs Nom and a cherry iced tea for me with marasca cherries, jasmine tea and lime. Sadly they had run out of the cherry macarons. As quick as the cherry blossom season arrived it is now gone again. The small taste of Sake No Hana has us interested in trying the full restaurant.

Sake No Hana on Urbanspoon

Square Meal