Wednesday, 17 December 2014

St JOHN Restaurant

Opened in 1994, Fergus Henderson’s St. JOHN has held a Michelin star since 2009 and has been on the S.Pellegrino list of the World’s Best Restaurant list since its inception, peaking in the Top 10. In line with their minimal style there really isn’t much left to write, is there? I assume you already know they specialise in ‘nose to tail’?


The late Jennifer Patterson of the Two Fat Ladies once said, “I could couldn’t possibly be friends with someone who didn’t enjoy capers and anchovies.” I feel the same about Fergus’ food.


Cauliflower Soup


Welsh Rarebit


Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad


Ox Liver, Radishes & Rocket


Braised Tripe, Butterbeans & Bacon


Mussels, Leeks & Cider


Crispy Goose, Green Beans & Shallots



1 doz. Madeleines



St John on Urbanspoon



Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Typing Room, Town Hall Hotel – Bethnal Green

A colleague recently asked me, “Doesn’t it make it less special if you eat in all these fancy restaurants all the time?”

Corny though it may sound, to me whether it be at the cafe in my local Thai supermarket (here) or a Michelin starred restaurant, every good meal is special.

That said, when my wife wanted to know what I’d like from Father Christmas, I asked if he’d get me a reservation at The Typing Room “and to make it into an extra treat, why doesn’t he also book a suite in the adjoining Town Hall Hotel for us?”

Helmed by the talented Chef Lee Westcott, The Typing Room is one of Jason Atherton's ever expanding and ever impressive portfolio of restaurants. 


He’s a good egg is Father Christmas and he came through again this year (with an early present.)

At dinner, Typing Room offer a 5 course tasting menu (£60) and a seven course (£75); both come with the option of a supplementary smoked eel dish (£10) – as this was a special meal, we chose the seven course + the eel.


Snacks – four of these: an Onion Bhaji Cannelloni with spiced mango chutney; Smoked Cod Mousse with oyster emulsion, dill and paprika on a fish skin wafer; Crispy Pigs Trotter with bacon jam and sorrel and a Chestnut Foam with apple compote and nutmeg. Each one was great but the trotter and cod were our favourites.


The breads came next – a Rosemary Brioche with an accompanying butter studded with crispy chicken skin and an IPA Sourdough with marvellously moreish marmite butter and crispy pearl barley… forget County Life, this marmite butter is the stuff Johnny Rotten should be advertising! #PunkRockButter


The first proper dish was Raw venison, smoked beetroot, turnip & horseradish – this was delightful. The tartare had been topped with a panko style crumb. As well as citrusy bursts from sorrel leaves, more acidity came from lightly pickled turnip. The horseradish was suitably subtle and the smokiness of the beetroot, well judged.


Lobster, cucumber, dashi & lardo – a little lardo with lobster or langoustine is always a good thing; dashi is always a great thing – together, they were an absolute joy. Cucumber cut into udon like strands, shimeji mushrooms and sea herbs made up some of the myriad of flavours and textures of an all round impressive dish.


Yeasted cauliflower, raisins, capers & mint – cauliflower and capers are two of my favourite ingredients but I am not a fan of ‘raisins’ in savoury dishes; fortunately, these turned out to be semi-dried grapes, which worked well. To elevate the dish further, I’d have welcomed greater intensity from the confettied mint leaves and oil.


Smoked eel, mushroom dumplings, Madeira & watercress – with a little heat from spiced chickpeas, this was another corker of a dish. Once again, the smoked element had been shrewdly balanced; well worth the supplement paid.


Halibut, brassicas, mussel & spice – with the previous dishes being so good, this dish was always going to be up against it; both my wife and I felt the fish had been a little overcooked which didn’t help. I loved the lime gellé but my wife did not.


Cumbrian shorthorn beef, watercress & hazelnut – a delightful piece of beef and we were back in the game! A little nodule of bone marrow added an extra touch of naughtiness.


It’s a regular bugbear of mine when things are billed as ‘lemon’ but lack sharpness, the tangy pre-dessert of Lemons & Almonds did its palate cleansing job admirably with a tangy sorbet, citrusy oil and soothing almond espuma.


A dish I would not have chosen from the description alone, the final course proved to be another thing of beauty – Smoked apple, Jack Daniel’s & dill. The Jack element deftly handled to create a subtly rarely found when such an ingredient is used in a dessert.


The whole Typing Room / Town Hall Hotel experience was certainly a special one!



Typing Room on Urbanspoon



Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lyle’s, London

I hate having to cancel a restaurant reservation, as I know that for small independent restaurants especially, frequent no shows and cancellations can be ruinous.

We had booked an overnight trip to London to meet up with my stepson who was visiting briefly from Singapore. For this night we booked the Town Hall Hotel and Apartment and a meal at The Typing Room (post to follow).

With a last minute change of plans, an extra night in London meant we had to find another night’s accommodation and somewhere to eat… my first thought was Lyle’s and their online reservation system had one time slot left, 9:45pm. This seemed a little late to eat but I loved Lyle’s when we visited last time (see here).

I won’t bore you with all the details but after my lunch in Leeds (at The Man Behind The Curtain) I had expected to be back in Manchester by 3 and in London by seven. When at 4pm I was at a standstill on the Motorway leaving Leeds, I called Lyle’s and explained to the lady who answered the phone that I was stuck un traffic “oop North” and would need a minor miracle to make it down in time, so it was best if I cancelled … “Booo!”

Instead of ‘accepting’ the cancellation, they were really cool about it and said that if I managed to get down before they closed to call in for a drink and they’d sort at least something to eat… a minor miracle and an unusually clear run for a Friday evening, we finally made it to Shoreditch after ten.


Parking up, I arrived at Lyle’s a little flustered but was greeted with the news that not only would I be able to get ‘something’ to eat, the full menu was still an option!

At just £39 for five creative courses of conscientiously sourced ingredients, Lyle’s offers exceptional value for the capital. Chef James Lowe has an almost unparalleled ability to extract so much flavour from every morsel that leaves his kitchen.


When I last visited to Lyle’s they were buying bread in but James is now happy with his Sourdough recipe… I was too!


I was even happier when the canapé of Game Liver Parfait with Crab Apple Jelly arrived… crab apples are a readily available yet woefully underused British ingredient; they pair especially well with game. Simon Rogan often makes good use of crab apples.


The next dish, Eel & Beetroot, featured one of my favourite ingredients in smoked eel. This was served with a horseradish cream and thin slivers of beetroot; a classic flavour combination.


No messing, the Mackerel & Leeks dish that came next is a contender for my dish of the year. The intensity of flavours and sensory overload ramped up further with the heady scent of wild garlic… nothing short of sublime.


Whatever dish had the job of following the mackerel was going to have to be a blinder too… it was! Flavoured with anise the Pheasant & Celeriac featured braised pheasant leg with dehydrated (& rehydrated) celeriac.


Hung for a week, the duck, squash and brassica combination of Mallard, Pumpkin & Brussels Tops was a delightfully simple wintery dish… you can’t mess with produce this good.


Described by the affable front of house supremo John Ogier as ‘chestnut custard,’ the Quince & Chestnuts dish was topped with what was more like a chestnut yoghurt to me; whatever it was, tasted great along with a dice of poached quince and crisp shards of candied chestnut.


To finish, the fantastic combination of a festive poached pear sorbet with a rich chocolate crumble, Pear, Chocolate & Soured Cream.

I love Lyle’s… next time I’m going to plan better… I don’t want to risk *almost* having to cancel!


Apologies for the pants photos, I’m going to go at lunchtime next when the light is good and get some decent ones.



Lyle's on Urbanspoon



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