karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Quite a few friends and foodies I follow on twitter have raved about José Pizarro's authentic Spanish cooking. Last year, he first opened a traditional tapas bar in Bermondsey St., London and a few months later Pizarro, a sit down restaurant with a starter/main/dessert style menu. This is the one I visited. I'd heard they were popular lunch spots so I arrived early at 12 o'clock and was the first customer but the place soon filled up nicely. As I wanted to take a few photos, I picked a window seat (regular chairs facing a bar parallel to the window, ideal when you're on your own to watch the world go by or when you want good daylight). Next time I'll most likely pick a seat with a view of the open kitchen.
For starter, I had a portion of croquetas and a small plate of Jamón Ibérico, the most flavoursome cured ham I've ever tasted. Such deep flavour, with the fat melting on your tongue. No wonder this stuff is so expensive. I forgot to mention that a full plate of Jamón is £20 but I only wanted a taste and they were happy to provide the small plate you see here (for £7.50) so excellent customer service.

Jamon Iberico


For main I had sea bass with roasted winter vegetables and salsa verde. Crispily fried skin, flaking flesh with excellent accompaniments.

Sea bass, root veg, salsa verde


For dessert, I didn't have to think about what to choose: Crema Catalan, the Spanish version of Crème Brûlée. Lovely soft custard cream, crunchy caramel on top (which was almost a bit too well done but I liked the contrast of the bitterness with the sweet cream).

Crema Catalana


Next time I'm in the area I hope to gather a few friends to José and share some tapas.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Mat Follas, head chef at The Wild Garlic in Dorset (and Masterchef 2009 champion) held a one-off "pop-up" restaurant at Ben's Canteen in London (part of the Canteen's guest chef nights).
As The Wild Garlic is a bit out of the way for me currently (there are no trains to Beaminster), this was the perfect opportunity to taste Mat's cooking so when I read about it, I signed up immediately.
I got there early to chat to Dave Ahern, head chef at Ben's Canteen and try one of his famous Breakfast Scotch Eggs (and it really is stunning, you can taste all the elements). Mat joined us and asked me if I would take some photos in the kitchen as well and of course I jumped at the opportunity. However, let's first look at the menu:

It started with a bowl of "Pesto Popcorn", which was nice and one of the few times I enjoyed a savoury popcorn:

Pesto Popcorn


The starter was Smoked Queenie Scallops, served in their shell. These were only morsels but the taste was superb, the smoky flavour enhancing the sweetness of the scallops. I could easily have had a dozen of those.

Starter: Smoked Queenie Scallops


Now the first meat course: Confit Duck Leg with orange and tarragon. The meat was perfectly cooked and so soft it fell apart. You could pull out the bones cleanly. Surprisingly, the orange sauce worked well for me and really loved the dish.

Confit Duck Leg


Another small course was next but by no means small in terms of flavour. A delightfully and strongly flavoured mushroom velouté that tasted like a pound of good mushrooms compressed into an espresso paper cup. Wow. When I was in the kitchen, I'd smelled this soup as it came out of the Thermomix and that already blew me away.

Mushroom Veloute


Then the main: 12 hour triple cooked pork belly, served in slices off the rolled piece with sweet potato and miso puree and pickled vegetables. Another slow cooked dish that let the simple but very flavoursome meat shine. The puree was an excellent substitute for gravy.

Main: Triple Cooked Pork Belly


The next course was a palate cleanser in the shape of a ball of beetroot (yes, you read that right) sorbet, served on a little china spoon. It sounds bizarre but it worked really well. This was hard to photograph on the table so here's a shot from the kitchen:

Palte cleanser: Beetroot Sorbet


Then, there was only dessert to go but what a stunner that was: Lavender panna cotta with berry compote, salt and pepper ice cream and crumbles of honeycomb. Each part was lovely on its own but a bit of everything on the spoon made my tastebuds dance, a perfect balance of flavours.

Dessert: Lavender Panacotta


This was a fantastic meal. Simple, rustic dishes which high quality ingredients were the stars of the meal. If this is the food Mat Follas and his team are cooking every day at The Wild Garlic, its customers are in for a treat and from what I hear that is indeed the case. Go there now! :)
More photos after the cut.

A few more on flickr.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I finally managed to go to Fitzbillies for dinner. This legendary cake shop and café was closed early last year but resurrected by Tim Hayward and his team later in the year. The Guardian has a good overview of the story. I'm almost ashamed to say that despite having lived in Cambridge for 16 years, I'd never been but I'm not a big fan of cakes and exceedingly sweet things (their house specialty is Chelsea Buns). However since they now also offer dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, I had to go. The menu changes weekly and offers a selection of rustic dishes at for its location very reasonable prices.
Something most people have mentioned when talking about the refurbishment is the decor: off-white wood panelling and light blue tiles which make the place look more like a swimming pool than a café or restaurant but while I found it a little odd, I didn't mind it. The low, indirect lighting probably helped there. The downside to the low lighting was that it was hard to take decent photos.

Interior Quince Fizz


I started the evening with a glass of "Quince Fizz", quince puree topped up with sparkling wine. Tart and refreshing. Next up was a cup of crab bisque which was fantastic. Creamy, full of crab flavour with a nice little kick of chilli at the end. Tim Hayward tweeted: Christ, @Rosiebluebell s crab bisque tastes like a suspension of Higgs Bosons in liquid diamond... With unicorn stock. and that wasn't far off. :)

Starter: Smoked pigeon

My starter was smoked pigeon with blood orange, chicory and almonds, basically a salad. The pigeon meat was soft, the chicory crunchy but the citrus dressing - for my taste - just a little overpowering. It still worked and I enjoyed it.

Main: Braised Rabbit

For main I had braised rabbit, winter lettuce and mustard potatoes. This was a perfect dish for a dreary winter evening. The meat was still juicy, very flavourful and went well with the accompaniments. The gravy was outstanding, too and I used the rest of the homemade soda bread to mop it all up. With the first two courses I had a glass of nice Bordeaux.
Despite feeling quite stuffed I couldn't possibly leave this temple of sweetness without having dessert so I picked the Eve's pudding with pear:

Dessert: Eve's Pudding with pear

Baked in a large coffee mug, the cake topping was crispy and the hot pear filling soft with a hint of spice. Delicious.
So yes, if freshly cooked, rustic food is your thing, Fitzbillies is for you and a welcome alternative to the endless sea of chain restaurants in the centre of Cambridge. The only downside is that they currently are only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. Booking a table in advance is also recommended as by the time I had arrived at dessert, the restaurant was fully seated and word that you can have a fab informal dinner with friendly service still needs to spread.
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
A new month means new dishes at Alimentum so I went yesterday to try some of them. I was told a menu had been created for me (things like this happen when you're friends with the chefs on twitter) so I didn't even know in advance what I would get (or choose from a menu) and that it would turn into a 8-course extravaganza.

The canapees came in a funky double bowl:
Canapees: Popcorn and Cheese&Onion Macarons

Alimentum popcorn and Cheese&Onion macarons. Both had an excellent flavour combination of savoury and sweet. I could happily devour a box of those macarons.

The amuse bouche was a small bowl of frothy cauliflower veloute, with little bits of pickled cauli at the bottom.
Amuse Bouche: Cauliflower veloute

This style of soup is one of Alimentum's staples and there's a new flavour every month or so. A nice way to get the tastebuds going.

The next dish was smoked haddock with a fried egg and a fluffy potato veloute.
First starter: Haddock and potato veloute, fried egg

Definitely the first highlight in my menu, the different textures made this. Flaky haddock, frothy soup, rich egg and some crispy bits. Oh, and served by the head chef himself. :)

The first meat dish was a duck terrine (smoked leg and foie gras) with sorbe and fig, and liver parfait on toast.
Second starter: duck terrine, sorbe, fig, liver parfait on toast

The only thing that was a bit off for me here was the "BBQ sauce" that was a bit strong for me but that's a personal preference as I'm not a fan of BBQ sauce. Still, with only a little, it was a great addition.

Back to fish: mackerel with a teriyaki glaze with avocado puree, cucumber and radish.
Fish: mackerel, teryiaki glaze, cucumber, radish

Mackerel is one of my favourite fish, you don't need to much to it, only barely cook it and this is what I got here. The glaze wasn't overpowering and the salad was nicely refreshing. The second highlight.

The main act was a duo of beef. Roasted sirloin with carrots and onion ash and in a separate little copper pot a beef cheek ragu and a generous blob of horseradish mash with more onion ash.
Main: beef, carrot, onion ash

Needless to say, the sirloin was perfectly and evenly cooked, deeply flavoured and soft, perfectly matched by the carrot, the jus and the onion ash adding a bit of zing. The ragu had clearly been cooked for a very long time as the meat was reduced to tiny slithers with jus the right amount of sauce. Deep and rich, I was almost tempted to just dig in with the spoon but didn't in the end. While writing this, I remembered I had a rather similar dish at Pollen St. Social last year and thinking back, I prefer Alimentum's version.

By that time, I was thoroughly stuffed but there were two desserts to come:
Luckily, the pre-dessert was very light: a smooth pernod foam, with bits of pineapple at the bottom and fennel crisps stuck in top (yes, this works, very well).
Pre dessert: Pineapple Foam

The only criticism I could find was that it could be a bit more colourful, especially when served in a white bowl.

The final dessert was a slice of Battenburg cake with apricot icecream on one and a cylinder of amaretto foam on the other side.
Dessert: Battenburg cake, apricot ice cream and foam

The apricot things were light but I couldn't finish the cake after that generously poritioned main before. It was, however, very nice indeed and I'm not a big fan of this sort of cake. The natural light from behind me had faded by that point so this photo didn't come out quite as planned.

So yes, another great meal at Alimentum. The restaurant had a little facelift and a window to the kitchen has been added so you can watch the chefs at work. Immediately behind the window is the cold section where desserts and cold elements of other dishes are assembled but you can also see the stoves further in.

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karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
From a friend who had a bad experience last night:

So, if you have allergies *do not* go to the Wok'n'Grill/Coach and Horses in Cambridge, ditto if you are vegetarian. I asked *specifically* if they had a veggie wok, and they told me they did, put my food in a sieve then put meat in a sieve on top f it. When I pointed this out, they rolled their eyes and I told them I had a severe shellfish allergy, another eye roll, they then took the same wok they had just fried oysters in, put a spoonful of water in it and swirled it around, then threw my (newly collected plate of food not covered in meat from the sieve) food in. I asked *again* for a veggie wok and said I had allergies, and with more eyerolling they told me they had just thoroughly washed the wok - it still had pieces of food in it! They had one wok and two pots of what looked like water or soup that they just threw everything into without separating it in any way or making sure there was no cross contamination. Had I not been paying attention as much as I was, I could have ended tonight in hospital or worse.

Update: my friend has reported her experience to the relevant authority and they are going to investigate accordingly.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I met up with @milliepaw and @spodlife, two fellow twitter foodies who were kind enough to give me a lift to Tuddenham Mill, a small hotel in Suffolk near Newmarket with an excellent restaurant run by Paul Foster. I've been wanting to eat there for a while, especially since tasting some of Paul's food during the charity dinner at Alimentum last week.

When you arrive in the dark as we did, pretty much the only thing you see is this:
Chimney

Which is a shame, really, as they have beautiful grounds, too. Ever more reason to go back at some point, during daylight hours.

We were shown into the bar where we perused the menus and ordered a cocktail. Amusingly, they'd run out of ingredients for my first two choices (no fresh mint for Mojito, something else missing for The Forager) so I ended up encouraging the barman to come up with something else and he made a brilliant fruity and fresh cocktail incorporating Chase Marmalade vodka for me. :o)
Picking something from the menu was hard but I eventually settled for the mackerel as starter and the fallow deer as main, Sandi picked the pork carpaccio and the jerusalem artichokes and Tim went for the mackerel as well and the wood pigeon.

The dining room is upstairs, has a rather low ceiling with huge exposed beams and half-timber walls. The dark wooden tables are simply laid without cloth. The illumination is quite sparse with a few downlighters in the ceiling and a couple of tealights on the table so food bloggers who want to take photos should bring a camera with a fast lens and high ISO capabilities. Surprisingly, it was rather quiet, there was only one other occupied table. I'd imagine it's busier on weekends or more people need to know about it.

The first food item was an amuse bouche of "mushroom milk" with crunchy bits (I will find out what it was). A lovely start with a rather intense mushroom flavour.
Amuse Bouche


The bread, still hot from the oven:
Bread


The starter:
Mackerel

Mackerel, cooked at 52°C, served with alexander, salted cucumber and sea vegetables. A perfectly fresh, soft and beautifully presented fillet of fish, just warm enough to intensify its natural flavour. The other elements on the plate added nicely balanced sweet, sour and bitter notes, mellowing the richness of the oily fish.

The main:
Denham Estate fallow deer

Denham Estate fallow deer, red onion fondue, pearl barley, pear, Colston Bassett stilton. Game season is in full swing so I couldn't resist having my third piece of venison in only two weeks. Cooked perfectly dark pink throughout, the meat was soft with a lovely but not too strong gamey flavour which worked perfectly with the other elements on the plate. The addition of stilton might sound odd but worked well indeed but my favourite additional element was the slices dry cured meat with a slightly salty kick. I almost wanted to lick the plate afterwards but there was some bread left to make sure nothing went back to the kitchen.

Decision time again, for dessert: While the "bitter chocolate textures" looked alluring and the other choices were interesting, I - as you probably have guessed by now - went for the most intriguing and adventurous choice: Whipped sea buckthorn, beer ice cream, damson jam and crispy rice:
Sea buckthorn

It turned out to be the perfect choice as it was light and refreshing after the first two courses of rich fish and meat. The sea buckthorn tasted fresh and fruity but not sweet with a distinctive flavour, a bit reminiscent of rowan. The beer ice cream was a revelation. It sounds bizarre but it really works. It's not strong but rather leaves you with a real ale aftertaste. Remarkable.

My dining companions were equally oohing and aahing about their choices for all the courses (for dessert, Sandi had the chocolate textures with "rosemary tea" and Tim had the tonka bean ice cream).

With cocktails, wines and tip (no automatic service charge!) our bill came to £60 per person, a perfectly reasonable price for the quality and amount of food consumed. Cosy surroundings and pleasant service rounded off the experience. Tuddenham Mill is a bit out of the way but it's well worth the trip.
Paul Foster and his team produce inspiring dishes with the freshest ingredients, many of which are foraged, using modern techniques to extract the maximum of flavour. It's exciting and feels new despite going back to the roots. I love this development and hope that it will spread.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Last night I met up with a friend and took her to Alimentum in Cambridge to introduce her to the wonders of their kitchen. I had mentioned I was going on twitter and as both chefs follow me, they asked me if we wanted them "to cook for us" (which usually involves a tasting menu with some extra treats and new dishes) and of course I said yes. We were also treated to a different glass of wine with each course which, considering we ended up having ten (11 counting coffee/petit fours), made us rather jolly indeed and Ed poured rather generously, too. :D

And here's what we had:

Butternut squash foam

The amuse bouche was a butternut squash foam with mustard cress. An almost fluffy soup, perfect for the season but very light. With that we had a sweet Sauvignon Blanc.

Beetroot and goat's cheese

The first course was various colours of pickled beetroot with goat's cheese and micro herbs. There were sweet and sour flavours, soft and crunchy textures, all balanced perfectly. The wine was Sauvignon Blanc, Torea Oystercatcher, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010

Then came a course with two dishes (and a matched wine each) which we shared/swapped:
Wood pigeon

Wood pigeon breast, creamed liver, cep marmalade, seeds. Game and wild mushrooms are a favourite combination so this obviously worked well. The wine with this, a was stunningly oaky and smoky, perfect.
Pork Terrine

Pork terrine, black pudding, bacon and pineapple. The tangy pineapple replacing the usual apple made this for me as it's not as sweet. Needless to say, the flavours and textures harmonised perfectly again. As did the wine, a Old Blocks Reserve Pinotoge, Darling Cellars, Western Cape, South Africa, 2008. (I hope I didn't mix up those two).

We're moving on to seafood and fish:
Salmon, oyster, caviar

Oyster, smoked salmon, caviar, radish, apple. Raw oysters usually leave me cold and I don't get the attraction but in combination with the other elements in this dish I loved it as it, like the caviar added to the flavour. With it, we had an English white wine, a Solera, Fleurfields, Northampton, 2010.

Seabass, chickpeas, red pepper and anchovy

While all the food at Alimentum is excellent, I think they have a particular skill with fish. Always cooked perfectly, with crispy skin and soft flesh. This piece of sea bass was no exception, sitting on a savoury mix of chickpeas, red pepper, tomato and anchovy, a bit like a ratatouille. With it we had a red wine, Pinot Noir, Torea Oystercatcher, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010, which might sound a bit unusual with fish but it went really well with the mediterranean flavours.

Halibut

Roasted halibut, butternut squash, cabbage and pumpkin seeds. I find it hard to describe this without repeating myself in terms of flavour and texture combinations. So good. As was the wine, a rather hefty Trumpeter Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007.

Venison

One of only three meat dishes on our menu was venison loin, potato terrine, sprout leaves, girolles, juniper. Lovely soft meat, a bit more subtle in flavour than the one on Monday, wonderfully warming. There was definitely a hint of Christmas about this but that could just be because that's when my family traditionally cooks venison. The wine was a Malbec ‘Reserve’ Felipe Rutini, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007.

To finish, two desserts, served at the same time as we were running out of time:
Chocolate

Chocolate brownie and mousse (stacked) and blood orange. This brownie would put up a good fight against the ones from Gower Cottage and the added tart blood orange flavours just made my dark choc tastebuds jump.
Blackcurrant

Blackcurrant, apple, vanilla and crumble. (By that time I'd had far too much wine so the focus was completely off. Oops.) More dark fruity delights and textures.
The wines were Elysium Black Muscat, Andrew Quady, California, USA 2009 (what I like to call "alcoholic Ribena") and another surprise, Akashi-Tai Siraume Umeshu, plum Infused sake, Japan
We finished with coffee/mint tea and petit fours (bay leaf ganache and lime marshmellow) and then it was time to set off for the station so my friend could catch her train back to London.
What a treat, I will never get tired of this place.
I'm on a foodie roll at the moment because next week I'm going to Tuddenham Mill with two twitter friends I haven't actually met in real life yet.

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karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
After a few stressful weeks, I felt the need to indulge and reward myself so booked a table at Roganic for lunch. I'd been there during opening week but wanted to try out the new menu which is now all head chef Ben Spalding's.
Knowing that eating the full 10 course meal would take several hours, I'd booked a table for 12 and was indeed the only guest for a while. This meant I had a free choice of tables so naturally I picked the one by the window which provided excellent light for photography. I've written about the restaurant in my previous post so straight on to the food:

Squid ink paper amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was crunchy "squid ink paper" with a light and fresh cucumber mouse and various seeds. A lovely bite to tickle the tastebuds.

Bread and butter

The bread and butter. The bread (the new chestnut flatbread, pumpernickel, Irish soda and buttermilk) was just as good as during my first visit and the whipped butter was served on Jellybean, the pebble.

Heirloom tomato

The first course was "Heirloom tomato, poached lamb tongue, dill custard", layered in a bowl. Sandia Chang, the maitre d' who usually served me during this stay, described it as a savoury trifle which was a rather apt description with its various layers of different flavours and textures. The chopped, chewy tongue was at the bottom, then a layer of the soft dill custard and finally a sort of salsa. All very fresh flavours that expanded and chased each other as you chewed/moved the spoonful around in your mouth.

Braddock White duck egg

Braddock White duck egg, puff ball mushroom, barley flakes, samphire and marjoram oil. As with most dishes at Roganic, this was a delightul combination of textures: the warm soft egg, the crunchy mushroom and samphire and the crispy barley.

Then, an early highlight, not only culinary but also theatrically: Cured and smoked River Tweed trout, sweet and sour peppers, and crab apple:
Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout

This was the most remarkable piece of fish I'd ever had. It was so soft it literally melted in my mouth, sweet and beautifully flavoured. The accompaniments suited it perfectly. What a delight.

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes, black mustard, sea purslane and fresh corn was another taste revelation. The combination of pork belly and eel, both usually rather fatty, was rich but surpisingly not greasy at all. The sweetcorn was lovely (I really seem to be warming to it)

Stone baked prawn

Stone baked prawn, purple sprouting broccoli, pickled elderberries and loganberry oil. Charmingly, the prawn was at first presented to me raw on a large pepple before it was taken to the kitchen to be cooked (I sadly didn't take the chance to take a photo). Excellent combination with the tart fruit.

Royal Kidney potatoes

Royal Kidney potatoes cooked in chicken fat, snow peas, goat's curd and clam juice. The successor to the most stunning potatoes I've ever had, this was equally wonderful but completely different because it was served with liquid accompaniments.

Skate belly and king scallop

The stunners just kept on coming with this Skate belly and king scallop dish, served with young leek and caramelised cauliflower. The seafood wonderfully caramelised while cooked to perfection, this was another hearty dish.

Cumrian rose veal

Closely followed by the main, Cumbrian rose veal cooked in buttermilk then roasted, cobnuts, cabbage and mead sauce. Superb meat with excellent accompaniments. Another winner.

Bilberries

The first dessert: Bilberries (stewed and whole), dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme. Lovely tart fruit with the powdery caramel not being sweet at all. This was a perfect palate cleanser after the earlier rich dishes.

White chocolate sorbet

The second dessert was a White chocolate sorbet with rapeseed, Herman plum and meadowsweet granita. Sweet granita, crunchy seeds (up until then I hadn't known you could actually eat rapeseed rather than just use them for oil) and tart plum. Perfect.

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread. This was another surprise as the bay worked really well.

Skipping the cheese this time, I finished with a cup of hot chocolate, accompanied by the tiniest cupcake ever:
Mini cupcake, hot chocolate


The stunning food and the friendly, relaxed and chatty service made the three hours and 20 minutes I spent at the restaurant fly by in no time. Having eaten so well, I didn't actually need another meal that day and only brunch the next.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
In a sleepy little village called Little Wilbraham, just outside Cambridge off the road towards Newmarket is the Hole in the Wall, the restaurant run by last year's Masterchef runner-up Alex Rushmer.
I've been wanting to go since it opened in July but not having access to a car at the moment prevented me from doing so this far. Wednesday evening I finally had the opportunity as I wanted to treat [livejournal.com profile] robinbloke to a hearty meal as a leaving present and he agreed to drive.

The Hole in the Wall has been an alehouse/pub for a long time and has been tastefully redecorated and converted into a restaurant (it's still a Free House, too). It's quite a rambling building with low ceilings and exposed beams everywhere creating a rather comfortable and homely atmosphere. The scrubbed wooden tables and chairs seem to have been sourced from all over the place as none are alike which only adds to the character.

As we were hungry, we declined having a drink first and were shown to our table, the waiter brought a pitcher of water and the menus. We were also offered a selection of breads of which I had the sourdough which was nice. The menu offered and interesting selection but my mind was made up very quickly for the starter when I saw wood pigeon. For main I wavered between the duck and the veal shin but decided on the latter as it's still quite rare to get veal.



Service was friendly, efficient and unobtrusive, perfectly adequate for the setting but they possibly could be a bit more prepared to talk about the food, both when serving it and after. They almost seemed a bit shy.

All in all, an excellent meal, and good value for the quality of food, too. 75 pounds for two, three courses each, a large glass of red, a shot of Belvedere, a dram of Highland Park and a glass of orange juice. Highly recommended if you're in the area and have a car (or don't mind the taxi fare).
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
In a sleepy little village called Little Wilbraham, just outside Cambridge off the road towards Newmarket is the Hole in the Wall, the restaurant run by last year's Masterchef runner-up Alex Rushmer.
I've been wanting to go since it opened in July but not having access to a car at the moment prevented me from doing so this far. Wednesday evening I finally had the opportunity as I wanted to treat a good friend to a hearty meal as a leaving present and he agreed to drive.

The Hole in the Wall has been an alehouse/pub for a long time and has been tastefully redecorated and converted into a restaurant (it's still a Free House, too). It's quite a rambling building with low ceilings and exposed beams everywhere creating a rather comfortable and homely atmosphere. The scrubbed wooden tables and chairs seem to have been sourced from all over the place as none are alike which only adds to the character.

As we were hungry, we declined having a drink first and were shown to our table, the waiter brought a pitcher of water and the menus. We were also offered a selection of breads of which I had the sourdough which was nice. The menu offered and interesting selection but my mind was made up very quickly for the starter when I saw wood pigeon. For main I wavered between the duck and the veal shin but decided on the latter as it's still quite rare to get veal.

Wood Pigeon, Barley, Beetroot
Wood pigeon, beetroot barley risotto

The pigeon was seared, nice and soft and the beetroot barley risotto was perfectly cooked with an excellent bite. A few slices and puree of differently coloured beetroot rounded off the dish, an excellent starter

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, apple
Slow cooked pork shoulder

My companion's starter which he was very happy with. You can just see the chopped seasoned apple behind the meat.

The main event, we both had one:
Braised Veal Shin, Saffron Risotto, Romanesco
Braised shin of rose veal, saffron risotto, romanesco

This was absolutely stunning. The rich meat fell apart, there was crunchy marrow inside the bone and a lovely sauce. A minor weak point, the risotto was tasty but a touch overcooked for my liking, more like a rice pudding than a risotto with hardly any distinct grains. However, this did little to distract from the greatness of the meat. True food porn. It was a huge hunk of meat, though, almost a bit too big as part of a three course meal. I struggled towards the end but made it. Still, there are always people who complain about portion sizes so those will love the substance.

After that hunk of meat we were rather full but didn't want to leave without dessert so let the food settle for a while, helped along in my case by a dram of Highland Park. Then we eventually chose desserts:

Chocolate Pot
Chocolate Pot

My companion's dessert. The pot contained a dense mousse (almost a bit like Nutella) with a layer of salted caramel, and there was more caramel in the little truffle. He said the brownie and vanilla ice cream were excellent, too.

Duchess of Cambridge Tart
Duchess of Cambridge Tart

This is the HITW's signature dessert, with a buttery biscuitcrispy, crumbly pastry base, a creme brulee filling and a lovely Cointreau and raisin ice cream on top. Reasonably light so a perfect end to this meal.

Service was friendly, efficient and unobtrusive, perfectly adequate for the setting but they possibly could be a bit more prepared to talk about the food, both when serving it and after. They almost seemed a bit shy.

All in all, an excellent meal, and good value for the quality of food, too. 75 pounds for two, three courses each, a large glass of red, a shot of Belvedere, a dram of Highland Park and a glass of orange juice. Highly recommended if you're in the area and have a car (or don't mind the taxi fare).

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Wednesday, I attended a food photography workshop run by Paul Winch-Furness (details on that to come next week, when I've had time to write it up and process all the photos) at The Ship, a nice and big pub and restaurant in Wandsworth. Included in the workshop fee was a three-course lunch, we even had our own set menu (three choices for each course and this is what I had:

Lunch - Seared Wood Pigeon
Seared Wood Pigeon, Braised Puy Lentils, Dried Pancetta and Baby Roquette

The meat was nicely seared and cooked on the rare side of medium rare (nicely rested and warm throughout) and the earthy lentils and pancetta matched perfectly.

Lunch - Lamb Shank
Lamb Shank, Black Olive and Chorizo Mash, Rosemary Gravy.

This was big enough to be a course on its own, not as part of three courses but it was great. The bone came out without resistance as I grabbed it and the meat fell apart, just as it should be. Excellent gravy and lovely mash, enriched by chorizo. Not exactly a light dish but great flavours. I recommend this before an evening of heavy drinking.

Lunch - Vanilla Pannacotta
Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackberry and Blueberry Compote

Made with real vanilla, the pannacotta was soft and flavourful, the tart stewed berries offering an excellent contrast and the crunchy biscuit was great, too.

Everything was cooked perfectly and presented well, definitely on a good restaurant level of food rather than pub grub.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/KaroShip
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
I'd heard good things about Jason Atherton's first restaurant so decided to book a table for lunch there. Both bar and restaurant are elegant with a rather posh feel. The main restaurant room is bright and airy with a high ceiling, generously spaced tables, with the "dessert bar" on the opposite short side from where you can watch the chefs do their thing at pass and the kitchen through a huge glass window with an automatic sliding door for the serving staff.
Service was good, friendly and informative but almost in complete contrast to the lively staff at Roganic, it felt a bit stiff and impersonal. The food, however, was excellent. The choices on the set lunch menu didn't really excite me (one disadvantage of having had a rather unusual and extraordinary dinner the night before) so I went for a la carte.
I have to apologise for the quality of the photos, I only had my phone on me as I was going to a concert later in the evening where I couldn't have taken my big camera.

Pollen Street Social - Quail
The starter was pieces of quail, roasted pink with crispy skin on an intense "mushroom ketchup". An excellent way to start.

Pollen Street Social - Braised ox cheek and sirloin
For main, I had braised ox cheek and sirloin, with carrots and one the smoothest mashed potatoes I ever had (with a hint of horseradish that could have been a bit stronger for me). The generous lump of cheek fell apart when touched and was very flavourful, aided by the strong sauce. Another excellent, solid dish. With it I had a glass of a lovely Italian red.

As I was finishing my wine, Jason Atherton wandered past, stopped at my table, introduced himself and asked me what I thought of the food and we had a brief chat about food and cooking.

I then moved on to the dessert bar, where you sit on stools and can watch the pastry chefs as they prepare your dishes. I was sitting on the far end so had a good view of the kitchen:

Pollen Street Social - The Pass
While I was perusing the menu, I was served a scoop of fantastically light and fresh lime sorbet which wiped away the lingering richness of my main. Everything on the menu looked exciting but I went for "PBJ" in the end and I didn't regret it.
Pollen Street Social - PBJ
The dish consisted of various peanut (parfait, powder) and cherry elements (rich sorbet, coulis and "linguini") with a drizzle of vanilla syrup. This was a lot of fun and a great contrast of crunch, softness, tartness and sweetness. A perfect end to a nice meal.

On the way to the toilets, I walked past the caged wine stores and there's even a window with hanging meat next to what I assumed was the prep kitchen.

As I left, the purpose of the little key I'd been given became apparent. Behind the reception counter is a wall of small post boxes which contained a branded bag with two teacakes and a bag of tea to take home. I nibbled the cakes later on but I still have the bag as I don't really drink tea.

Overall, the food was excellent but the atmosphere was a bit too stiff for my liking. The prices of the food are acceptable for central London but I thought they took the mickey a bit with the wine. A 175ml glass of Malbec for £14 sounds a bit steep to me. I would definitely recommend it for the food as the standard of cooking is excellent.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
When I heard of Roganic opening I canceled my original dinner booking on Friday and booked a table there instead. I had heard and read very exciting things about Simon Rogan's food at L'Enclume so when I learned he was opening a (temporary but relatively long-term of two years) restaurant in London I saw my chance to sample his food without having to trek to the Lake District and phoned to book a table and managed to get one of the last ones.
The restaurant on Blandford St. (about 150 yards up the road from L'Autre Pied so in excellent company) has an unassuming, green front, so much so that I walked right past it the first time. The restaurant itself is rather small (only 25 covers) with a front room and a small extension in the back with skylights. There are only placemats on the dark brown tables, which gives the place a nicely casual atmosphere. If there is one thing I can't stand in fine dining restaurants it's stiff white tablecloths with equally stiff waiting staff. At Roganic, the first are absent and the latter are anything but stiff. I received a very friendly welcome was shown to my table in the back overlooking the rest of the restaurant (which is great, some places put lone diners in a corner somewhere) and given the menu and wine list.
Now, here's the thing about Roganic: There is only one choice for dinner, the ten(!) course tasting menu (at least currently, I believe some other options are planned and lunch is either five or the full ten courses and there are vegetarian options for each). Helpfully, they left the menu on the table which was handy when trying to remember what exactly it was I was currently eating.
The equally friendly and helpful sommelier recommended a glass of nice white wine for me (which I can't remember now, must remember to take photos of bottle labels but the second glass was a Roter Veltliner) and then the first treat appeared, a "chickpea and rosemary waver":
A taster shot:

karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
When I heard of Roganic opening I canceled my original dinner booking on Friday and booked a table there instead. I had heard and read very exciting things about Simon Rogan's food at L'Enclume so when I learned he was opening a (temporary but relatively long-term of two years) restaurant in London I saw my chance to sample his food without having to trek to the Lake District and phoned to book a table and managed to get one of the last ones.
The restaurant on Blandford St. (about 150 yards up the road from L'Autre Pied so in excellent company) has an unassuming, green front, so much so that I walked right past it the first time. The restaurant itself is rather small (only 25 covers) with a front room and a small extension in the back with skylights. There are only placemats on the dark brown tables, which gives the place a nicely casual atmosphere. If there is one thing I can't stand in fine dining restaurants it's stiff white tablecloths with equally stiff waiting staff. At Roganic, the first are absent and the latter are anything but stiff. I received a very friendly welcome was shown to my table in the back overlooking the rest of the restaurant (which is great, some places put lone diners in a corner somewhere) and given the menu and wine list.
Now, here's the thing about Roganic: There is only one choice for dinner, the ten(!) course tasting menu (at least currently, I believe some other options are planned and lunch is either five or the full ten courses and there are vegetarian options for each). Helpfully, they left the menu on the table which was handy when trying to remember what exactly it was I was currently eating.
The equally friendly and helpful sommelier recommended a glass of nice white wine for me (which I can't remember now, must remember to take photos of bottle labels but the second glass was a Roter Veltliner) and then the first treat appeared, a "chickpea and rosemary wafer":

Amuse bouche: Chickpea and Rosemary Wafer

This was a fun, light and crunchy bite that already hinted at what was to come.
Then, the bread and butter arrived, both made fresh and in-house, and the purpose of the large pebble on the table became clear: It's not for decoration but serves as plate for the scrumptious, fluffy unsalted butter. Genius, just like the bread: the pumpernickel is so unlike in texture to any other I've eaten. While the dark, malty flavour is typical, the textre is light and almost fluffy with a crisp crust. The other two (potato and sage?) are equally excellent. I think I could happily eat just bread and butter and call it a meal.

Bread and butter

The first actual menu course was Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot. Here was where the list of of the many things I'd never eaten before that evening started: hyssop (the thin stalks with yellow leaves). It's light and sllightly bitter, almost reminding me of chicory, and provided the crunch needed as contrast to the soft beetroot foam and curds. Light and fresh, this dish woke up your tastebuds.

Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot

The first stunner of the evening arrived next: Scarlet ball turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard. The star of this dish wasn't the crunchy turnip but the smoked yolk. This was cooked in the waterbath so set at the same consistency all the way through, soft but not runny, with a wonderful flavour. With the added crunch from the turnip, the green sea veg and slight kick from the mustard sauce, every bite filled your mouth with flavour that kept kicking in. Truly remarkable.

Scarlet ball turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard

The first non-vegetarian dish was next: Seawater cured mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey. What can I say? A perfectly cooked piece of fish with crackling skin, complimented by all things around it, not least the elderflower honey (collected in Regent's Park or so I was told). I'm not a big fan of honey and definitely not in savoury dishes but this was great, almost tart and provided the balance needed. Orache was another sea veg I hadn't eaten before, putting the count at four, as I'm sure there were at least two in the previous dish (more if you count the specific variety of turnip). Another stunner, definitely.

Seawater cured mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey

On to the meat: Shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper. The warm, deeply meaty flavoured tongue was not really shredded but ground into a very fine paté, the crunchy "paper" was like exceedingly thin toast and the pickled veg were in light and crunchy contrast to the soft tongue. Genius.

Shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper

Back to seafood with Flaky crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber. With its freshness and subtle flavours, this was the perfect palate cleanser after the rich ox tongue. Wonderful. New things count: 5 (mallow, another sea veg).

Flaky crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber

Another vegetarian dish next and this one was a killer: Heritage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel. Despite sounding relatively simple, this was full of flavour, warm, strong potatoes, smoky oniony powder and crunchy herbs. So so good. Best potaotoes ever. No doubt.

Heritage potatoes, in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel

Back to fish, described as "the first main": Roasted brill, chicken salt, surf clams and rainbow chard. The stunner here was the emulsion which wrapped the fish in a meaty film while leaving the flavour of the fish and clams intact. I have no idea how this works but it does and it was another favourite.

Roasted brill, chicken salt, surf clams and rainbow chard

Meat again for the last main: Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums, putting the new things count to 7 (hogget - from a sheep older than lamb but younger than mutton - and chenopodiums. The meat is slow braised for over 20 hours and comes apart touched. Lovely, strong flavour, with the accompaniments providing balance in texture and lightness. Very yummy.

Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums

When the plate was cleared away I was offered an extra cheese course which I accepted but asked to be served at the very end as early cheese isn't my thing and my request was happily accepted.
So, the desserts, starting with Sweet cicely with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena which was sweet indeed but also tart and "green" so wonderfully balanced. Lovely. New things count at 9 (cicely and verbena).

Sweet cicely with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena

The last dish on the menu was Warmed spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream. Crunchy, crumbly and warm bread, fruity buckthorn and soft cream. In a word, scrumptious. New things count: 10 (buckthorn, at least something I'd heard about when Nathan Outlaw cooked with it on Great British Menu a couple of years ago).

Warmed spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream

It wasn't over yet, though because something else came along: Cherry Soda and Marshmallow. Very tart blitzed up cherries and a soft, sweet marshmallow. On their own they would have been too strong but combining a bite of marshmallow and a sip of the soda was perfect. This put another huge smile on my face and I asked for a spoon as I didn't want to leave anything behind, just as I often used a bit of bread to mop up the juices on the plate.

Cherry Soda and Marshmallow

Finally, the cheese. There was a great choice on offer, all British and most types represented, including the mighty Stinking Bishop. A generous helping, too, it's rare you get that much to choose. Another star here was the gooseberry chutney which was just awesome. I suggested they should put it in jars and sell it, I would certainly buy one.

So, this was it, almost three and a half hours after taking my seat I had had 13 courses and a truly remarkable experience, both in terms of food and service. All the people serving me were friendly, gracious, very knowledgable about the food they were serving and happy to answer any questions. They were also clearly delighted seeing me enjoying myself so much. I wasn't the only one to enjoy it, either. There was a rather lively table of four in my room who chatted away between courses but when the food arrived they were just as stunned as I was and ate in complete silence after a few excited initial remarks like "This is the best broad bean I've ever eaten!" which underlines exactly what the food at Roganic is about. The dishes aren't just one main, expensive ingredient with a few accompaniments but all the elements shine equally.

None of my descriptions can do it justice and you have to try it for yourself. It's not just me who thinks that, all the reviews I've read so far contain similar remarks. Steve Groves, Masterchef Professional winner last year and sous chef at Roux Parliament Square said on twitter "Food this good hurts my head.", Daniel Clifford, two-star chef at Midsummer House said "what a real gem in London" (he was there when I left, with Kenny Atkinson who were in London because they appeard on Saturday Kitchen the morning after). High praise from high class chefs indeed and they are probably the most difficult people to please.
If you want to visit, be quick because this is going to be a very busy place indeed. Even more so than now that not that many people know about it. Also, I was lucky to get a table during the "soft opening" with a nice discount deducted from the final bill. When it is running at full pace, the 10 course menu will set you back for £80 and the five course lunch menu for £40. With two glasses of wine, the extra cheese course and 12.5% service, my bill ran to £90 which I was very happy to pay.

On my way back from the gents' (two glasses of wine and a bottle of water had taken their toll) I walked past the open kitchen door and had a brief chat with Simon Rogan, thanking him for the wonderful food.

I left with a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step, despite being rather full. The individual portions are small but 13 courses do add up and the bread is just too yummy not to constantly nibble on (and will be replenished throughout the evening). I didn't even need breakfast the next day.

So, Roganic offers food that is out of this world (while being locally sourced) and impeccable service, too. I felt very welcome from the moment I walked in until I was shown out afterwards, without being overwhelmed. It is really hard to believe they had only been open for a week when I was there.

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karohemd: (Photo)
On Thursday I had the opportunity to shoot the action in the kitchen at The English Pig, Johnnie Mountain's restaurant in Barbican, London. I've been a fan of the place since I was there last month and tried their signature pork belly dish.
Since Tom Kneale started as head chef, they revised their menu to feature only pork based dishes (no other meat, no fish, no vegetarian option) to pay justice to the restaurant's name. Yes, there's even a chocolate and bacon creme brulee as dessert.
When head chef Tom posted some phone photos of the new dishes on twitter I made an off-handed comment of offering to come down and take some nicer ones and he took me up on the offer so on Thursday after work, I made my way down to London.
The restaurant is on the ground floor of a large office building just down the road from Barbican tube station on Aldersgate St. and if it wasn't for the signature blackboard on the street you might even miss it as you walk past. The blackboard is one of Johnnie's trademarks and always has something entertaining on it. See for yourself:
One side of the trademark board The other side of the trademark board

This post was getting rather long and picture-heavy so here's one taster shot and the rest are under the cut:



A few more photos on flickr

Many thanks to head chef Tom Kneale for this opportunity and to the whole team for feeding me afterwards.
karohemd: (Photo)
On Thursday I had the opportunity to shoot the action in the kitchen at The English Pig, Johnnie Mountain's restaurant in Barbican, London. I've been a fan of the place since I was there last month and tried their signature pork belly dish.
Since Tom Kneale started as head chef, they revised their menu to feature only pork based dishes (no other meat, no fish, no vegetarian option) to pay justice to the restaurant's name. Yes, there's even a chocolate and bacon creme brulee as dessert.
When head chef Tom posted some phone photos of the new dishes on twitter I made an off-handed comment offering to come down and take some nicer ones and he took me up on the offer so on Thursday after work, I made my way down to London.
The restaurant is on the ground floor of a large office building just down the road from Barbican tube station on Aldersgate St. and if it wasn't for the signature blackboard on the street you might even miss it as you walk past. The blackboard is one of Johnnie's trademarks and always has something entertaining on it. See for yourself:
One side of the trademark board The other side of the trademark board

The restaurant itself is rather dark, all dark woods, indirect lighting and lots of candles everwhere, simple, yet elegant.
Considering the size of the place, the kitchen is small but efficiently laid out. As the evening wasn't very busy, I managed to stay mostly out of the way, taking photos from the service side of the pass and occasionally peering around the corner. Sadly, this also meant I didn't get a chance to see all the dishes.
Starters: On the left, crispy pig's ears salad, on the right, braised cheeks (my choice)
Crispy Pig's Ears Salad Braised Cheeks

Mains: The Pig's signature dish is the 21 hour roasted pork belly with mustard mash and savoy cabbage:
Plating the Belly 21 hour Pork Belly

Chargrilled chop, prepared by head chef Tom Kneale:
Head Chef Tom Kneale Pork Chop

Smoked Hock:
Smoked Hock

Coriander Fillet:
Coriander Fillet

Iberico Pork Rice Pudding:
Iberico Pork Rice Pudding

Shoulder Steak, braised in cider with vegetables and strawberries. The latter might sound odd but they really worked because the other ingredients and seasoning balanced the flavours. I had this as my main and really enjoyed it.
Shoulder steak braised in cider Shoulder steak braised in cider

Desserts: Chocolate fondant with white chocolate sauce (between the layers) and dark chocolate "soil" in a plant pot. This was fun, rich and very yummy indeed and my choice of dessert.
Chocolate Fondant

A "deconstructed" Lemon Pie:
Deconstructed Lemon Pie

Chocolate and Bacon(!) Creme Brulee:
Chocolate & Bacon Creme Brulee

The brigade: Sous Damian, Head Chef Tom, Pastry Chef Wyman (plus Tom from Stokey Secret Supper who wasn't available for the group photo):
The Brigade

A few more shots from the kitchen action )

Many thanks to head chef Tom Kneale for this insight into a pro kitchen and to the whole team for feeding me afterwards.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Another one, I hear you cry? Well, yes, thanks for asking but I had to because I was recommended a dessert I didn't want to miss before it came off the menu.
This time I had a tasting menu:

Alimentum - Mushroom veloute with Coffee

The amuse bouche, a mushroom velouté with, wait for it, coffee. We had this when we were there for my birthday and I remember something interesting flavour wise but couldn't put my finger on it, now I know. This is one of those combinations that, when you read it, shouldn't really work but it does.

Alimentum - Asparagus, Goat's Cheese Ice Cream

The first dish was a combination of raw and cooked white and green asparagus with goats' cheese ice cream (savoury). All very fresh in flavour and there were great contrasts of warm and cold, crunchy and soft. I really like white asparagus now. :)

Alimentum - Quail

Then, a ballotine and terrine of quail with savoy cabbage and truffle. The flavours in this were rather subtle (not a bad thing!) and the textures varied. There were soft bits, chewy bits and crunchy bits.

Alimentum - Langoustine, Pork Belly, Cauliflower

Moving along, a seafood/pork combination in the shape of a slice of pork belly so soft you could separate with a spoon, topped with langoustine, topped with avruga, sitting in a cauliflower veloute, garnished with thin slices of cauliflower. One could think that the strong meaty flavour of the pork would overpower the subtleness of the langoustine but that wasn't the case at all, they complimented each other nicely. The avruga provided little pops of salt and the smooth cauliflower veloute a warm coating for everything. Dancing tastebuds.

Alimentum - Lamb Three Ways

The main: lamb three ways (rump, breast and sweetbreads) with courgette and sundried tomato couscous. Each part was cooked differently, providing different textures. The rolled breast was crispy, the rump slow cooked and the sweetbreads seared. My tastebuds were dancing propably even more here.

Alimentum - Strawberry, Elderflower, Lime

The Grand Finale: A dessert of strawberries, elderflower curd and lime. This dessert was the main reason I had gone back so quickly after last month's visit because I didn't want to miss it and it came highly recommended by a number of people whose tastebuds I trust and they weren't lying. Again, it was the combination of flavours and textures that made it: the fresh fruitiness of the strawberries (fresh and icecream), the sweetness of the elderflower curd and the zingy and crunchy lime.

Another part of the experience was the "flight" of wines, one glass with every course and this is where I fail as I can't remember them all but each one of them was a perfect match with the dish. What I do remember was the '98(!) Chardonnay with the langoustine course, a Chianti Classico with the lamb and a Coteaux du Layon with the dessert. This (and a glass of champagne to start) had been quite an amount of alcohol so I politely declined the kind offer of spirits as another measure would have sent me straight to sleep at the cinema.

Huge thanks for the invitation go to head chef Mark and brigade for the food and sommelier Kyle for the wines as well as the rest of the Front of House team for looking after me. Good service (polite and attentive without being overbearing) is just as important as good food at a restaurant and Alimentum has all of that.
Every time I go there I think they won't be able to top my experience the following time but they always do.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
After a hard and rubbish week, this was the perfect way to wind down. I'd had a voucher for two for one main courses from Alimentum I had to use up in May and asked [livejournal.com profile] puddingcat to join me and booked a table for last night (as last Friday had already been fully booked).

I was a bit early so I ordered a nice cocktail while I was waiting for [livejournal.com profile] puddingcat to arrive:

Apple Martini
Apple Martini (not too sweet, fruity, lovely)


Then, the food:
The pre-starter was an off-the-menu asparagus velouté served with a spoon of beurre noisette powder. Wonderful asparagus flavour that really got the tastebuds going (which is the whole point of a dish like that).

Amouse Bouche: Asparagus Veloute

For starter I had the skate, which was served with morel mushrooms and crispy white asparagus. I've had a lifelong dislike of white asparagus as I only remember it as the tasteless, slimy floppy things from a jar that were served at extended family dinner parties and supposed to be this awesome treat, so I'm glad I loved these crispy bits. The skate was perfectly cooked (as was to be expected) and the earthy, strongly flavoured mushrooms worked really with it.

Starter: Skate

[livejournal.com profile] puddingcat had the goat's cheese with beetroot which she loved:

Starter: Goat's Cheese

We had the same main: Stone Bass, potato pressé, peas, salsa verde, lemon. A perfectly cooked, flaky fillet of fish with excellent accompaniments and yes, I even liked the peas, so another big success for Alimentum's kitchen brigade headed by Mark Poynton.

Main: Stone Bass

For dessert I had a passion fruit parfait (soft, very fruity, no pips) with coffee sorbet and tiny saffron meringues. Again one of those dishes in which the main elements would have been too strong individually but together they were perfectly balanced.

Dessert: Passion Fruit Parfait

[livejournal.com profile] puddingcat's dessert were the variations of strawberry:
Dessert: Strawberry

With that she had the most amazing vodka: Chase Marmalade which tasted just like it sounds. Wonderful.
We obviously couldn't stop there and ended the evening with a selection of cheeses, of which the most unusual and interesting was a soft, washed rind cheese called Soumaintrain which was served on a spoon. Delightful.
The petits fours served with coffee were a dark chocolate one with lime and a white chocolate one coated in very tart apricot crumbs which completely counteracted the sickly sweetness (on my palate) of the white chocolate.

After that, we walked up the road to the Q Club for [livejournal.com profile] gothchip's ROQ night, which was a bit slow at first but then really picked up and the club was still heaving when we decided to call it a night around 1:30. Good fun, good people ([livejournal.com profile] pinkapplejam and cohorts turned up as well), good music.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
After their wonderful wedding day [livejournal.com profile] pinkapplejam and [livejournal.com profile] raggedyman invited many friends to an afternoon and evening of exploring Cambridge.
We started off at The Pickerel in Magdalene St. where drinks were drunk and tales from the day before recounted.

At the Pickerel


Our next stop was the Cambridge Folk Museum (where many of us had never been despite having lived in Cambridge for years) and it was quite interesting. It concentrates on everyday life in the region and displays everything from farming, household and artisan equipment to reconstructed kitchens and children's toys and (disturbing) dolls.

Cambridge Folk Museum


Outside, we put the happy couple in a modern version of the stocks:

Cambridge Folk Museum


After a snack at Subway (dinner was planned at 9), two guided punts took us along The Backs and back. The weather was still good (if a bit chilly) so this was a lovely way to spend a late afternoon. Our chaffeurs/guides punted us alongside in two punts and were really cool, friendly, chatty and funny and didn't talk as much bollocks as expected but actually talked to us rather than at us.

On a guided punt tour along the Backs


Then a hike across town where [livejournal.com profile] raggedy_man checked with Loch Fyne they had received our order (this would become important later). We carried on to The Snug where we had to sit outside as there was no space inside. Cocktails and other drinks were had while chatting - and chattering as it was getting rather cold - so cold in fact we decided to go on walk back to the river, across Silver St. bridge and to the weir on the other side where Mike showed us what the rollers were for (getting punts from one level of the river to the other).

Back at Loch Fyne, we were seated in the back and then found out they had screwed up our order or rather, didn't know what to do with it. While at the Snug we had emailed an additional order of three (IIRC) so they had two orders, one for 18 and one for 3 people. Rather than assuming as they had been told that this was a combined order, they didn't know which one was the right one and didn't do any of it so we first had to order from scratch. (As we'd pre-ordered what should have happened was that we got there and were served pretty much immediately. One hour later, the starters finally arrived. Various people were happy with theirs (for example the squid) but my Norfolk crab soup was boring (there was no meat in the watery soup and the chilli on the bread that was served with it killed any crab flavour the soup might have had). My main was a whole grilled Lemon Sole and it was quite nice, although the fish was a touch over and the beans a touch under but the flavours were good. On the downside, at least two people's mains were actually cold. The general consenus was that nobody would go back (it was rather good about four years ago) but that probably won't make a difference to the place as it was crammed full, even when we got there at 9.

Many more photos on flickr.

After many good-byes I shared a taxi back with [livejournal.com profile] hardcore_genki and left them to get some well-deserved rest while I downloaded photos and watched Doctor Who.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Friday I took [personal profile] ginasketch out to Johnnie Mountain's (you might have seen him on The Great British Menu) The English Pig as a belated birthday treat.
I'd booked in advance but I don't think it would have been necessary because when we got there at 6:30, we were the first guests (it filled up later, though). The room is quite big but divided into several sections. As it's held in dark wood throughout and there was only indirect lighting and a short fat candle on each table, it was quite dark. That was probably the only slightly negative aspect of the place as I'd like to see clearly what I'm eating and, if I have a camera, take photos. The latter was impossible without flash.
Our friendly waiter brought us the menu (five choices for each course) and some nice fresh bread with a small bowl of oil and balsamico. Everything looked great but I'd set my mind on trying the slow-roast pork belly, the chef's signature dish so I chose something light as starter, the garlic and chilli prawns.

The English Pig - Chilli & Garlic Prawns

Three large prawns cooked to perfection in aromatic oil. They were shelled but with the tails left on and the heads included for sucking. Full of flavour, slightly sticky with an afterkick of heat, mellowed by the salad leaves. I could easily have eaten a plate of those as a main. It was obviously meant to be eaten by hand as a fingerbowl was provided.

The English Pig - Puy Lentils with Chorizo

[personal profile] ginasketch had the puy lentils with chorizo as starter and she loved the dish.

Then, the main event:
The English Pig - Pork Belly

The pork belly was staggeringly good. The fat was completely rendered, creating a soft, sort of sponge/pumice texture with crispy but not tooth threatingly hard crackling on top. The meat was rich and flavourful and the accompanying mash and red cabbage rounded everything off beautifully. I actually salivated when the first forkful hit my palate. Two minor bits of criticism: For the size of portion a little more sauce would have been good and the crackling could have done with a few more lines of scoring as it was quite hard work to carve off slices. Still, those were miniscule negatives. The dish was definitely among the best pieces of pork I've ever tasted at a restaurant.

My companion's main was the seabass which she didn't stop ooohing and aahing about. :)
The English Pig - Sea Bass


After two generous portions we were quite sated already but decided we would have some pudding after all:

The English Pig - Chocolate Fondant

I went for the chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. As you can see, the fondant was cooked perfectly, crumbly on the outside with a gooey, molten centre. The ice cream was lovely, too and real (you can see the tiny vanilla seeds).

The English Pig - Chocolate & Amaretti Mousse

This was Gina's chocolate and amaretti mousse which she loved but couldn't finish so I took one for the team. I was glad I had opted for the fondant because it was a touch sweet for me and a bit too firm in texture. I prefer egg-white only mousse with really dark chocolate but that's a personal preference.

All in all, a fantastic meal at - for central London - very reasonable prices. Under 80 pounds for two at three courses and a glass of wine each is, for the quality of food provided, extremely good value for money and you certainly won't leave hungry.

Unreservedly and highly recommended.

September 2017

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