eating out with abby

another year ends and once again i’ve been very lucky to eat some amazing meals, both in london and further afield.

 in recent months i’ve been particularly lucky – i finally tried and fell in love with zucca; maria elia’s joe’s (and made in camden for a cheaper option with a similar feel) charmed me with imaginative dishes and new ingredients (fig leaves are now part of my repertoire) while the goods shed in canterbury and iberico world tapas in nottingham were two out-of-london favourites.

we tried other places, some new and some just new to us, with less success – hedone has a spirit that i love but the food we ate was mixed while trullo wasn’t the zucca-likey i was hoping for. lots of places in between and a wonderful feeling of options, optimism and vibrancy within london’s restaurant scene, despite the gloomy economic outlook. read on for a fuller list of where i’ve been eating since september.

september

the kanteen, bushey - this kosher restaurant provided us with very enormous and very delicious brunches. the menu is varied and i think i could happily eat here every weekend for at least a year without trying everything – david had shakshouka while i had a kanteen breakfast (smoked salmon, eggs, toast, cream cheese and salad). the in-house bakery is wonderful too- in left laden with pastries and challah.

busaba, soho

bentley’s oyster bar and grill, west end – this was an oyster craving that needed satisfying. i love sitting at betley’s marble-topped oyster bar and it was a real treat to indulge myself, sharing a couple of sides and other starters with david to make it al a little more substantial than oysters alone.

vivat bacchus, london bridge – the food isn’t great but on a monday night when they are running a 50% off food deal its worth checking out vivat bacchus, so that you can try some of their more unusual south african wines.

joe’s, kensington – this is maria elia’s latest venture and i had a wonderful meal here. crab and fennel salad followed by rabbit baklava for me; fig and tomato soup followed by rib eye tagliata (that beef was so tender and so beautiful to look at!) for my friend. we shared fig leaf pannacotta for pudding. one to return to, but for a treat as a it’s not particularly cheap.

bistro bruno loubet, clerkenwell

wheelers oyster bar, whitstable  - we were on our way to canterbury and david diverted so i could have oysters. we ordered a dozen oysters “to go” and sat on whitstable beach eating them, listening to the seagulls screeching and the waves lapping at the beach - such a treat.

the granville, canterbury – this is the sportsman’s sister restaurant and has been on my list of places to try for ages. prices are similar to the sportsman but it is nothing more than a decent gastro pub - nice enough if you’re in the area but i wouldn’t travel specially.

the goods shed, canterbury – fabulous. this restaurant is set in the covered farmer’s market next to canterbury west station. we first went here back in 2007 and the meal this time was just as good – it remains the place that i have to eat at, if i’m in canterbury. squid with white beans and chorizo, followed by breaded lamb’s breast with peas and aioli (an old-fashioned disgh of trhe sort you can imagine jay rayner or nigel slater getting over-excited about) were my choices. david started with a very delicious burger (despite being a starter it was enormous - there were several pensioners eating near us who had this as their main course) and then pigeon with black pudding and apple. almond tart and a hazelnut meringue with berries finished us off (too much food). if you go make sure you explore the stalls – we left laden with all sorts of deli-style treats and some unusual wines.

zucca, bermondsey – wow. i’m sad it took me so long to make it to zucca but i am so pleased that we finally got there. the food was fabulous – the sort of food that makes me want to take the time to cook better, more thoughtful, dishes myself. the standout dish was my pudding  - pistachio cake with a wonderfully crunchy lemony nut topping (i tried to recreate this myself and failed but sam harris, zucca’s chef/owner, has since, very kindly, told me the secret)

hedone, chiswick – this has been much hyped and received some amazing reviews. sadly it has also attracted critical comments. for us it was hit and miss which saddened me as it's the kind of place you really want to succeed. the standout dish for me was the amuse - fresh figs, raw thinly sliced ceps and shavings of a hard cheese (could have been parmesan) plus a drizzle of dressing. absolutely incredible flavours, which varied with each mouthful, and a dish that i ate slowly so it wouldn't end.

whitmore arms, orsett – good value roast dinners, lots of flavour and enormous portions. it’s always packed so make sure you book.

busaba, west end – very mediocre, standards seem to have become very variable for this asian chain that i usually enjoy.

little sardegna, finsbury park – a neighbourhood restaurant with a sicilian focus. the food wasn’t as good as i’d hoped but if it was local to me i’d head back to try more.

 

october

cornercopia, brixton – brixton is still buzzing with new and interesting food places. this was a return visit to the café cornercopia, where david and i shared a selection of delicious starters – yellow beet with goats curd, hams with hazelnuts and a pigeon breast terrine with figs and chicory. pudding was gelato courtesy of lab g.

magdalen, southwark – an old favourite that continues to deliver delicious food. a crab  starter and a hare with polenta main course were the two dishes that really stood out on this visit.

daquise, kensington -  one of london’s best known polish restaurants, apparently. it was recommended but i don’t think i can do the same – portions were large but the food was bland. we had pierogi, chicken with noodles and beef with boiled vegetables )yes, i know that should have been a clue!) followed by sachertorte.

iberico world tapas, nottingham – it’s typical, to find a place i love just as my parents move away from nottingham. the food served by this buzzy restaurant was really excellent – spanish tapas but with a contemporary twist, both in terms of presentation and additional flavours

november

made in camden, chalk farm – a return visit to the round house’s restaurant and again we ate food that was packed with imaginative and delicious combinations of flavour.

pizza express, holborn – having had a few less than good experiences it was nice to actually see a return to better quality food, which is good value if there is a discount promotion running.

café des amis, covent garden – very average

opera tavern, covent garden – delicious tapas in a vibrant setting.

trullo, islington – i had high hopes for trullo, hoping for a zucca-like epiphany, as it too has had some fabulous reviews. sadly it was not to be and while, if i lived locally i’d probably be happy it was in my ‘hood, i doubt we’ll go back – i’d rather head to zucca. i did discover a delicious new campari cocktail though – the sbagliato (basically a negroni with prosecco in place of the gin/soda water).

december

koffman’s, knightsbridge – this was a lunchtime visit to take advantage of the 3 courses for £25.50 prix fixe. delicious food and well worth a visit. i was sad to see that the blue bar, which i had previously thought looked very glamorous and was desperate to visit, was a bit shabby around the edges and didn’t serve cocktails at lunchtime!

zucca, bermondsey - a return visit that was just as good as previously. a wonderful starter of buffalo mozzarella with tomato and cauliflower showed just how good the cooking is. and pigeon agnoletti with white truffles.

moro, farringdon – this was a real treat. fabulous food, a vibrant festive atmosphere and a reminder that i need to keep on cooking their recipes (i love the fact that so many of the dishes on the menu are in their cookbooks and replicable at home) – the chorizo and chestnut soup that david had to start is tope of my list.

busaba, west end – a good meal after a few ropy ones – hopefully things are back on track

gingerline, rotherhithe – a pop-up with a difference. until an hour before you’re due to arrive, the venue is a secret and even then the text simply said “go to rotherhithe and follow the ginger ravens on the lampposts”. we ended up at the brunel museum for victorian-flavoured arty foodie festivities. most of the food was packed with flavour (potted rabbit with lavender jelly stood out and i loved the pigs cheek en croute main course) but not consistently good (very bland boozy figs for pudding were a disappointment).

pollen street social, mayfair – an xmas meal which was mostly very good. my starter was one of their signature dishes and i really loved it – squid and cauliflower risotto where the “risotto” was actually tiny pieces of flavour-packed, beautifully tender squid and the cauliflower had been dyed black with the squid ink and dehydrated to add a textural contrast. the puddings remain the weak link, for me, and i need to remember not to order them! the cocktails remain fabulous and i tried irouleguy white wine for the first time (similar to a jurancon sec), which was excellent and well worth learning about.

abby dysonComment