Posts Tagged: London


18
Jul 13

Les Deux Salons

Les Deux Salons

Les Deux Salons

Les Deux Salons has been running in London’s West end since 2010 and is the third London restaurant set up my Michelin-starred chefs Anthony Demetre and Will Smith.
Styled on a Parisien brasserie, it aims to offer good value quality robust French cooking from the centre of Paris to the centre of London.

I recently popped along with a friend for lunch to try it out for myself. Les Deux Salons is a large and busy restaurant which seems to attract a mix of tourist and business clientele over lunch. Service was loud and bustling when we arrived just after 1pm, but the tables are very nicely spaced apart, meaning my friend and I could have a proper catch up, without being distracted by the conversation on the next table.

We each started with a glass of the superb Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne which was recommended by our waiter. And what a lovely choice it was, too. As we met for lunch, my friend and I decided to opt for two courses each; a starter and a main. To start, I chose the Grilled Cornish sardines which were served simply with capers, lemon, chilli and olive oil. Priced at £5.50, it was a superb starter – really fresh, and light. I loved the fact that the sardines were still really hot when they arrived on the table. My guest opted for the Beetroot and goats cheese salad for £4.50 which was really tasty and a light start to our meal.

Moving on to the main course, my guest tried the spring vegetable risotto (£11.50) as, being a vegetarian, there wasn’t too much choice for her. She really enjoyed it and pronounced it to be perfectly cooked and included lots of lovely vegetables. My choice was the whole lemon sole cooked with a caper and parsley butter (£18) and was really excellent.

We finished with a quick coffee and dashed back to reality. Les Deux Salons is a lovely restaurant for lunch and dinner. The food is fairly simple but delicious brasserie fare cooked extremely well and priced sensibly. The dining room is also beautiful – you feel as though you have just stepped into France for lunch, which for me, really appealed. I’m really looking forward to returning.


5
Jul 13

Tozi

ToziTozi is a newly opened Italian restaurant situated on Gillingham Street near London’s Victoria railway station. It’s a busy and bustling part of town and a very convenient place to meet people being so close to the station, which is not just a coincidence as the name of the restaurant, “tozi” is apparently Venetian slang for a bunch of friends.

The dining room itself is really large and open plan, with glass windows running down the entire length of the dining room. The kitchen is open, and there is a large open oven at the back of the restaurant for baking the breads and pizzetta on offer. There are also number of artfully decorated tables towards the back of the room draped with breads, herbs and hams which all look very attractive.

The concept behind Tozi is that it offers cicchetti: small sharing dishes, rather than large dishes, which is, apparently, a popular way of eating in Venice. Think of it as Italian tapas. There is a huge amount of choice on the menu and much of it is allergy friendly – or can be adapted to be. Dishes are priced at around £5-8 each, with some larger sharing platters of hams and cheeses at around £12-17.

The service is very friendly and Italian, and our waiter recommended 3-4 dishes per person. I’d say 3 is about right and you’d have to be really hungry four four.
We particularly enjoyed the Grand selection of cured meats and cheeses, which contained proscuitto, mortadella and some fantastic cheeses. We especially loved the Testun al Barolo – a cow’s milk cheese which barrel aged with Barolo grapes and the Grana di Pecora, a hard, aged ewe’s milk cheese.

Next, we enjoyed the gnocchi with duck ragu, which was very richly flavoured and tender. The only thing we’d change was to have more ragu and less gnocchi. The buffalo ricotta ravioli with shaved black truffle was seriously good and with three ravioli for each portion, we could have ordered two.

In terms of desserts, we were feeling pretty full by this point so we opted for some very tasty sorbets. Tozi is a great new restaurant and seems to be very popular. We even heard the people on the next table raving about how they’ve made several visits already. Highly recommended


23
Jun 13

Mozzarella and More

Mozzarella and More

Mozzarella and More

Mozzarella and More, located on the King’s Road in London is a great place to stop for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Owned by a group of Sicilian foodies and run by Antonio from Naples, it offers authentic, homemade Italian food served in a cosy and welcoming environment.

As I walked in on a wet lunchtime, it felt warm and inviting with the delicious smells of cooking lingering in the air.

The menu offers a wide range of choice, with small nibbles, sharing plates, and a daily seasonal choice of fish and meat on offer.

So much of the food here is homemade; the focaccia and ciabatta, burrata, mozzarella and ricotta, the sausages and all desserts and cakes, made by Valentina, one of the owners.

I started with the homemade burrata, which was served with warm caponata filled with carrot, pine nuts and raisins. It was a very tasty, generously portioned and priced at £9.80. To drink, the Sicilian Leone d’Almerita 2011 was a very light, floral and refreshing.

Next on offer were Mozzarella and More’s homemade pork, pistachio and fennel sausages, which were beautifully flavoured and chunky in texture. I finished with a delicious fillet steak served with parmesan and shaved black truffle at £28 which was excellent. The aged parmesan and slivers of truffle complimented the steak very nicely indeed.

Not only is Mozzarella and More a great place to visit for a meal, it offers a trattoria style service with takeaway dishes offered and catering available for events.

Mozzarella and More is highly recommended and dining there is a generous, welcoming and authentic experience.


27
Mar 13

The art of coffee making

Speakeasy

Speakeasy

I do love a good cup of coffee. And I’m certainly not alone in that respect, with coffee becoming firmly entrenched in British culture. As a nation, we spent £730 million on coffee in the British Isles last year alone.

We can see for ourselves that coffee shops are a growing fixture in our landscape, and, in fact, on a recent trip to Oxford, I was stopped by a tourist, asking where the nearest tea room was. And I actually couldn’t think of one. If the lady had asked for a coffee shop, I could have reeled off half a dozen nearby.

Whilst there are no shortage of coffee shops in every town and city in the country, I have been interested to discover some of the really excellent independents that take coffee much more seriously than the larger chains, and dedicate themselves to producing the very best coffee they can.

I recently visited Speakeasy Espresso and Brew Bar, located just off of Carnaby Street in London.  I spent the morning with John Kyle learning how to make the perfect cup of coffee using a Rocket Evoluzione Machine, which is quite a serious piece of kit at £1400.

Making coffee with John at Speakeasy

Making coffee with John at Speakeasy

Like John, my coffee of choice is always a flat white, so this is what we learnt to make. Of course, every coffee shop has its own way of doing things, so what I learnt was very much their way of doing things, but it certainly produced an excellent cup of coffee.

First up, I learnt that one of the secrets to a perfect brew is that everything must be measured. The coffee beans, and the time taken to prepare a shot of coffee are all controlled precisely to ensure the perfect result. This will depend on your machine, but my homemade technique of pouring ground coffee aimlessly out of the bag has to go. The coffee beans need to be accurately ground too, for the right result. Again, my home coffee grinder seemed woefully inadequate compared to the Mahlkonig Vario grinder we used which has tens of grind settings to get your beans just right – but it is £400 new.

John showing me what to do

John showing me what to do

John expertly guided me through the process of making a shot of coffee, showing me how to tamp the coffee perfectly, which is where the ground coffee is flattened into the basket before being attached to the coffee machine. This simple stage is really crucial to get right, as the flow of water through the ground coffee affects the flavour and consistency of the output.

Next, we had a go at the milk. John described the milk on a flat white as “as close to drinking velvet as you can get” which I think is a pretty accurate description. Getting your milk just so is harder than it may appear. We used the arm of the Rocket machine and a small metal jug to heat our milk. This was the hardest part for me, as I felt I could have done with more hands as there are several processes to carry out at once, from controlling the steam levels of the machine, to holding and swirling the milk jug and feeling how warm it’s getting against your hand. Although it doesn’t sound like much, it all happens really quickly, and there are lots of things to do and think about when you’re at this stage.

My turn to froth the milk

My turn to froth the milk

After a couple of attempts, I did manage to get it just right, although my pouring techniques leave a little to be desired – I was trying to attempt a heart shape in the milk. Still, it tasted pretty darn good, so I was happy.

My flat white

My flat white

This is a brilliant opportunity to for coffee enthusiasts to learn how to improve their coffee making skills at home with fun, likeminded people. Courses take place in the evenings and are around £35-45 for a couple of hours. You can even bring your own equipment and learn how to get the best out of it. There are many alternatives to an expensive coffee machine, such as cafetières and filters too, so you don’t need to buy a particularly expensive machine.

Visit Speakeasy Coffee and Brew Bar and find out more about their Coffee School here


7
Mar 13

As Greek As it Gets

As Greek As It Gets

As Greek As It Gets

Conveniently situated on Earl’s Court Road, just a short walk from Earls Court, West Brompton and the exhibition halls, As Greek As It Gets is a warm, friendly and vibrant restaurant – a real find in West London. Established by Dimitri Karonis, As Greek As It Gets is a smart, modern restaurant with a huge glass front, but feels warm, cosy and family like inside, with the walls adorned with a map of Greece and family photos. It is a firm favourite with locals, including Ian Hislop, Lloyd Grossman and Boris Becker.

I arrived early on a weeknight and the restaurant although not full yet, felt lively and inviting. The kitchen is open at the back of the restaurant and you could smell the food cooking, and hear a family chatting in Greek, giving the restaurant a genuine and authentic feel.

The menu offers plenty of choice, including a large selection of meze to start and a wide range of mains, all very reasonably priced. Dimitri looked after us for the evening, and we tried his recommendations from the menu. You see, there is so much more to Greek food than meze, and Dimitri clearly runs his restaurant with a mixture of pride towards his heritage, and a fundamental love of feeding people.

We started with a selection of starters, including Greek sausage and Kefalotyri cheese, which is a tangy hard cheese made using sheep and goat’s milk and some sweet Kalamata olives, paired with a Greek wine, Nemea Reserve 2008.

Next, we moved on to some meze. We tried the more unusual and traditional Greek offerings on the menu. First, we had Garides Saganaki –  king prawns, cooked in a tomato, feta and ouzo sauce. Having never tried feta cheese in a sauce before, we adored this dish, which was finished with fresh dill, which gave it a delicious subtle aniseed flavour. This was followed by Moshari me meli –  deliciously tender beef, baked with honey and ouzo, calamari and Feta Tylixti – feta cheese cooked in a filo parcel with honey and ouzo, which had a very subtle sweetness and a satisfying crunch when you cut into it. Meze are priced at around £5-6 per dish.

For our mains, we tried the Xifias Souvlaki –  swordfish kebabs, served with peppers and a deliciously subtle rice, and Arnaki lemonato – lamb, cooked in a lemon and dill sauce served with mushrooms mashed potato. Mains are around £10-15 per dish.

The attention Greek food is gleaning feels long overdue, As Greek as it gets is a warm, generous restaurant, where the food is great, you are very well looked after by the delightful staff,  but the food it serves is the kind you want to eat every day. It’s not overly fancy, just great authentic well-priced cooking and it is exactly the kind of local, neighbourhood restaurant everyone wishes they had on their doorstep.

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