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.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Spring Restaurant, London

Ever since chef Skye Gyngell gained her Michelin star at Petersham Nurseries, I have wanted to eat her food. Sadly, she moved on before I managed to get there.

The good news, Spring, her new venture, is in the capital’s Somerset House, which means diners no longer have to schlep to Richmond.

Having recently enjoyed the ace value 'Pre Theatre Menu', I have three memories of Spring:
1) the room is a grand, luxurious space that is impossible not to like,
2) the food is all about quality ingredients and clarity of flavour that is impossible not to like,
3) the staff came dressed like members of a secret faction in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, which is odd but thankfully not important.

The prices at Spring may be a little higher than many people’s budgets allow – fortunately, for tightwads like myself, the set lunch and pre theatre menus allows diners to experience 3 courses for around the same price as a typical main dish from the a la carte.

What Michelin say, “Spring occupies the 'new wing' of Somerset House that for many years was inhabited by the Inland Revenue. It's a bright, feminine space under the aegis of chef Skye Gyngell. Her cooking is Italian influenced and ingredient-led.

Burrata with celery, anchovy & mint salad

Smoked cod’s roe with crème fraiche & bruschetta

Aubergine & cauliflower curry with flatbread & yoghurt

Grilled mackerel with roasted beetroots & horseradish crème fraiche

Plum & raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream

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