Monday, 22 April 2013

Brasserie Chavot, Mayfair

The only reason to foolishly undertake a marathon is surely to enjoy nice food in its aftermath completely guilt free. Having ‘won’ the ballot to ‘run’ the London marathon, I planned a manageable training programme which of course I didn’t follow. So, at mile 16.5 when the going got very tough, the only thing that kept me going (along with the support), was the celebratory dinner I had planned at Brasserie Chavot.

Brasserie Chavot has received substantial praise since it opened. The plaudits have been merited; and having dined there on a recent Saturday night, I considered it to be an excellent option for dining post-marathon primarily because of the food, but also because the red leather seats would be comfortable enough to soothe my weary body.

At first sight the Brasserie is a little piece of France plonked into Conduit Street. Tables for couples’ or parties of four line one wall divided by cream lamps; whilst in the centre are larger round tables for bigger groups. The red leather is contrasted with a cream hue on the walls; grand chandeliers hang from the ceiling permeating a low lighting. There is a lovely symmetry to the venue and aesthetically the venue is pleasing as are the herbs found dotted at the front window – a nice touch. The aesthetics of the building are matched by the friendliness of the staff.

But I suppose at some stage I should refer to the food. Starters comprised of ceviche of scallops, sardines escabeche, and home-cured salmon with a gravlax dressing. Baked sourdough was required to mop up the vinaigrette that accompanied the scallops and the gravlax dressing that accompanied the salmon. Each excelled.

For our mains, we had venison, duck, and tiger prawns, with sides of pommes frites and creamy mashed potato. The venison, medium rare was served with honey glazed root vegetables on a bed of cabbage coated in butter. The rump of venison excelled; a fine piece of meat indeed. The tiger prawn was presented on a bed of chickpeas and chorizo and was very tasty indeed. The duck looked the part, however my friend had it demolished before I could taste. This was sad for me. The fries were liberally salted, as any good fries are. I would go so far as to say they may be the best fries I’ve enjoyed in London and the portion is big so plenty to go round.

There was of course time for dessert. I had the crème brulee, same as my last visit; whilst the others had some chocolate concoction covered in cream. I was too focused on the crème brulee and the pain emanating from my legs to pay any attention to the other dessert but I was duly informed that it was very nice.   
The bill, all in for 3 people and 12.5% service amounted to £202. This included a bottle of champagne, 3 course and coffees. The food, service, and décor all made it very much worthwhile. I shall return, this time without my medal.   

Brasserie Chavot on Urbanspoon

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Friday, 11 January 2013

Review of the Year – Top 10 Restaurants 2012

My now annual review of the top 10 restaurants that I enjoyed over the past year comes to you a little later than last year due to galavanting off to Madagascar and Kenya for Christmas and the New Year. I think it’s fair to say that for many, myself included, 2012 was a momentous year, one that will go down in the annals of history as a very fine vintage in the life of London. It was no different in the culinary sphere. I got to enjoy some very fine food and have an ever expanding list of restaurants I really want to try. This list reflects the places that I dined in between January and December 2012. With the exception of first place, where there was a clear winner, the margins were narrow between the remainder of the very fine members of the top 10.

10. Morito. This is a great tapas restaurant on Exmouth market. The restaurant is bright and airy and my assumption is that this is a reflection of the bright and airy disposition of the owners who present seasonal and sublime fare in delightful surroundings. Great for lunch, equally enjoyable for after work catch-ups.

9. 10 Greek Street. Grab a seat at the counter to watch the chefs prepare delightful plates for your consumption in this small venue in Soho. The daily changing menu reflects a fresh and innovative approach to food.

8. Polpo Farringdon. Great food in a lovely venue. It’s a lot easier to get a table in Farringdon than in the sister venues (also excellent). What’s not to like. Both food and service excel.

7. Burger and Lobster Mayfair. Since B&L opened, a host of others have sprung up around London. The Mayfair venue is the original and the only one I have thus far visited. The menu is simple – burger or lobster. Both are awesome, as are the staff.  

6.  The Modern Pantry. For me, this is an established favourite that serves up great food no matter what time of the day you visit. I’m still not sure myself if I prefer their breakfast menu or lunch menu as both are favourites and offer good options throughout the menu. The design is clean and functional and the menu consistently serves up some of the best grub in London.  

5. Vinoteca Soho. This could have been a risky venture. An already much loved Farringdon institution decides to open in Soho to much fanfare. The fanfare was warranted. Vinoteca continues to serves up simple and affordable fare in atmospheric surroundings, with an extensive and ingenious wine list to match. Anyone who has visited upon my recommendation has come back with rave reviews.

4. Hawksmoor Air St. I could just write steak and leave it at that. But it’s the type of steak that is so succulent that it seems to melt on the tongue as the flavour oozes throughout the body. That, and the caramel rolos are just a winner for me, as are the art deco venue and the friendly staff. 

3. Jose Pizzaro’s. I can only say so many times that I love this place – the food, the staff, the location. It’s a winner. I’m tempted to buy Jose’s cookbook, but frightened that if I do, I should actually attempt his tapas myself rather than just popping in for lunch or dinner. I find it difficult to separate the ventures and decide which one I prefer – Jose’s or Pizarro’s. On my most recent trip, I had dinner at Jose’s followed by dessert and a sherry at Pizarro’s. If I say so myself it was an idea that was nothing short of brilliance.

2. Pitt Cue Co. I had the chance to visit on several occasions in 2012 and each time the food, music, drinks and staff excelled. The highlights for me are the pulled pork, the slaw, and the mash, topped off with oft too many whiskey sours. It’s a young, innovative venture and the manager (at least I think she’s the manager) is an impressive woman who keeps the operation in tip top shape. More power to her. 

1. By a country mile, the winner goes to Dabbous; the finest creation by Ollie Dabbous on Whitfield St. Superlatives would not do this establishment justice. The lengthy waiting list of customers wishing to dine at this establishment is an accurate reflection of enthusiasm people have for the venture. It presents simple, elegant and delicious creations in a casual yet professional surroundings with excellent staff. It also offers great value for money. A special mention goes to Oskar’s cocktail bar downstairs which also serves some food in addition to some of the best cocktails in London. Splendid. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hawksmoor, Air Street

Having subsisted the past few days predominantly on rice krispies during a trip to northern Uganda and South Sudan, I have harped back to a lunch at the new Hawksmoor on Air Street which I had the day before I departed for East Africa.

Many people are aware of the Hawksmoor phenomenon. To aficionados, they do the best steak in London. I happen to share this sentiment. The fan base is extensive, evidence provided when the 50% soft opening launch booked out within 8 minutes of the email being circulated to those signed up to the Hawksmoor mailing list. Considering that this was an extensive soft opening and that the Air Street venue can host 300 patrons, it’s no small feat. I sent my confirmation within 10 minutes of receipt of the email for the soft opening but was too late.

Hawksmoor being the kings of good service did however send a further option for lunch at 50% off on four alternative dates. So, on a Tuesday lunchtime, it was off to Piccadilly with a friend to check out Air Street. I was further excited by the fact that my friend with whom I was dining, was having steak for the first time, having recently converted from pescatarianism to the deity of carnivorism. In beef we worship.

The venue is big, replete with low ceilings, green leather upholstered seating and lots of very helpful staff. It’s got a nice art deco texture to it. I ordered (a very large) chatauebriand and the former pescatarian the fillet. For sides we selected the baked sweet potato (always a must at Hawksmoor), the triple cooked chips and the creamed spinach. I would have liked to have seen some sort of tomato salad on the menu as I had an excellent one previously at Spitalfields but none were on offer. We also ordered a pepper and béarnaise sauce though really, the quality of the steak means that there is no need to do so.
I ordered my chatueabriand rare. It was full or enormous flavour with the juices eeking from the fibres as I cut into it. It really was an excellent piece of meat. The fillet also was delicious and an excellent introduction to beef for my friend.
There are many things to like about Hawksmoor. For me the foremost is the attention to details. Little things, like upon our arrival and being guided upstairs, the staff knew our name. I assume the online system indicated that we had checked in downstairs so they were expecting us. Either that or the fact that we were 2 of the few females in the establishment made it easy to determine who we were. Whichever, I liked it.

Secondly, the drinks menu…we weren’t drinking alcohol with lunch and Hawksmoor possesses a non-alcoholic drinks menu with a great selection of soft cocktail alternatives. This just shows that, for those who do not drink alcohol, the non-alcoholic options are not just an afterthought at Hawksmoor. The ginger ‘n’ juice for me excelled…all that was missing was a shot of Jameson (ahem). The spiced tomato juice tempted me also (it would be great with a drop of vodka) and the cornflake milkshake had an allure to it, so teetotallers will not feel like an oft-forgot entity (presupposing that teetotallers are an entity).

Third, following my last review of Hawksmoor Seven Dials, I tweeted Will at Hawksmoor my review. I noticed on his twitter page, his response to customers’ comments on his twitter feed. Now, I don’t know if it’s him directly tweeting or whether staff undertake this task on his behalf, but regardless, this is a nice customer service touch.

The focus on customer service, emphasis on delivering a high quality product in fabulous surroundings means that the Hawksmoor brand continues to go from strength to strength. Long may it continue.

Oh, and before I forget, I should emphasise that Hawksmoor Air Street is different to its other offerings in that it has fish on the menu in addition to steak. Truth be told, I didn’t even read the fish options, so I suggest taking a look online if you’re interested.

Though full after the steak, we of course had to order the salted caramel rolos which are quickly assuming cult status at the new Hawksmoor. They’re like the rolos we grew up eating, only an adult version. They hit the nail on the head.
The bill all in (and bearing in mind this was 50% off) came to £80. Granted it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Hawksmoor  on Urbanspoon
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