Saturday, 3 October 2015

Paradise Garage, London

Set back from Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green, you’ll find some ace graffiti and Paradise Row – a row of railway arches now living up to their name thanks to the likes of Mission, Mother Kelly’s, Resident and, of course, Paradise Garage – the latest restaurant from the team behind The Dairy and The Manor.

One of a new raft of new, exciting, accessible places to eat in London, the Tasting Menu is available for just £45. Diners may also opt for a sharing ‘Picnic’ or from a concise menu of small plates and snacks, which range in price from £6.50 to just over a tenner. In vogue, showcasing seasonal ingredients, the menu is divided into sections including ‘Garden’ ‘Sea’ and ‘Land’.

With bursts of pure flavours, wonderful textures and artful presentations, every dish was a treat but my favourites included the Venison tartare, beautiful enriched by the preserved egg yolk and Cornish crab, enlivened by pickled kohlrabi and the sharp tang of charred lemon pieces.

Other winning dishes included the bold Salt cod brandade and the stimulating combination of velvety Lamb heart with the taste of a subtle ferment from young “fennel kimchi” and warming black pepper.

Cornish Crab, kohlrabi, apple & grilled lemon

Salt Cod Brandade, squid ink, olives & shellfish crisp

Venison Tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress

Lamb Heart, fennel kimchi & black pepper

Isle of Wight tomatoes, eel jelly, nasturtium

Globe artichokes, Padrón peppers, fresh curd, herb & chilli salsa

Ibérico Presa pig head, coco beans, anchovy & lettuce

Black Figs, Macadamia nuts, buttermilk & fig leaf ice cream

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Dabbous, London #MichelinStar

Since it opened back in 2012, Dabbous has remained one of London’s “hottest tickets”. On every visit I’ve made to the capital in the last couple of years I’ve tried and failed to get a reservation. Our booking cancelled at the ill fated Le Chabanais (it closed just a few days before our planned trip), I logged onto Dabbous’s website with feint hope of securing a last minute table...  my luck was finally in!

Making fine use of quality ingredients, the Tomato Bread was a delightfully simple and delicious dish, so much so we ordered two extra servings.

We decided to order from the a la carte over the Set Lunch and Tasting menus. As you’d expect the Spring Onion and Pea & Mint dishes were light and fresh with subtle flavours. The Smoked Eel and Langoustine impressed too for their sophistication and clarity - the Langoustine especially being a bold, confident yet unshowy dish.

In terms of impact and flavour, the dish that really wowed was the Quail – the flavours of fenugreek and sweet clover coming defty balanced and enlivened through smart textural interactions of crunchy lettuce, smooth puree, earthy quinoa and almonds.

What Michelin say, “One of the hottest tickets in town - the kitchen adopts the 'less is more' approach; the food comes with elegantly restrained finesse and a bewitching purity. Most have the 7-course menu with its stimulating and sublime combinations of ingredients. The ersatz industrial room has a simple elegance.

Toasted Mixed Nuts with Honey & Espelette

Tomato on Toast

Peas & Mint

Spring Onions with Marigold Leaves, Lime, Pistachio & Fresh Sheep Milk Curds

Smoked Eel in a Light Broth

Grilled Langoustines, Fennel Pollen & Virgin Rapeseed Oil Mayonnaise

Grilled Quail with Fenugreek, Quinoa, Lettuce & Clover

Roast Veal Fillet with Summer Vegetables, Basil & Spenwood

Raspberries with Barley & Strained Yoghurt

Strawberry Tart

Friday, 25 September 2015

Barrafina, London – #MichelinStar

There are currently three Barrafina tapas bars in London. The original, on Frith Street in SoHo has just retained its Michelin Star – as the only starred restaurant in the country with a ‘no reservations’ policy, if you turn up and manage to bag a table without having to queue, buy a lottery ticket because it’s your lucky day!

What Michelin say, “For proof that great food is about great sourcing, come to this terrific, warmly run tapas bar from the Hart brothers - but be prepared to queue for gaps at the counter. Wonderful, fresh ingredients and expert cooking allow natural flavours to shine - the seafood is particularly stunning.

Banderilla – taking their name from the barbed spears used in bullfighting, these Barrafina banderillas are a cut above the little fellas you typically find in jars.

Salchichón de Vic – having studied at the Universitat de Vic part of my degree, I always order this salami type sausage when I see it on a menu.

Ham Croquetas – you can’t go wrong with a good ham croquette and thanks to a piping hot béchamel and quality ham, Barrafina’s are a GOOD ham croquette!

Classic Tortilla – with its oozing centre, this is another joy of a dish. A must order when dining at Barrafina.

Morcilla Ibérica, Quail Eggs – fried quail’s eggs have to be one of the cutest things in cookery, their cute factor tempered but flavour boosted by meaty chunks of black pudding (morcilla). Another delight.

Tuna Tartar – alongside a smooth quenelle of guacamole, the tuna tartare comes delicately flavoured with a hint of sesame oil and seeds.  Perfectly balanced.

Carabinero – taking their name from “police” because their bright red colour resembled the uniform of “customs officers”, these prawns are one of the most prized (and expensive) in the world – this beauty cost £16.80.

Rabbit Shoulder, Black Olive Alioli – from the specials board, in a delightful herb crust, the meat was moist and tender; to perfect the dish, I’d have liked a little more pep to the alioli.

Octopus with Capers – my favourite of the dishes (anything with capers always is!), the octopus had the most delicious sweet, subtle flavour and fatty texture and came served on a heart-warmingly beautiful wooden board (the people @WeWantPlates can do one!).

Channelling my inner diva, I don’t normally “do queues” but Barrafina is worth it.

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