Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

Text

Fed up with celebrity chefs drizzling sauces over undercooked pieces of meat? I am!

I regularly dine out and am happy to share my restaurant experiences, and views on food, with you.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Restaurant

Die Ecke
Tegelbacken 6, Box 195
Stockholm S-101 23
Sweden

Phone (46) (8) 4123400

Website www.sheratonstockholm.com/en/restaurants/die_ecke/

Overview

Eva and I were in Stockholm last weekend, doing some pre Christmas partying, we decided to try out Die Ecke; a Bavarian bierstubbe, which serves traditional Bavarian food.

Ambience

Die Ecke was exceptionally cosy and inviting.

It was modelled on a typical Bavarian bierstubbe; with a wooden panelled dining room and a small bar, where you could enjoy the many German beers on offer.

The style of the restaurant was German rustic, of the “old school”. Wooden tables, chairs and panelling abounded.

It offered a very pleasant atmosphere for an intimate evening, or for a larger gathering with friends.

Menu

The menu offered a good selection of Bavarian food including; Weiner Schnitzel, sausages, ham hocks and Goulash soup.

In addition to German wines, there was an excellent choice of good quality German beers.

Service

The staff were exceptionally friendly, welcoming and efficient. They spoke German, Swedish and English; and I guess a few other languages as well.

Food

Eva made a pre meal “attack” on the salad bar, which was available to all diners at no extra cost; this provided a good selection of green salads and tomatoes.

We both started with the Goulash soup, Eva had a small bowl (which was quite large) and I had a large bowl (which was very large!).

The soup was excellent, spicy and flavoursome. It contained a good quantity of meat and peppers, and made a most excellent starter.

I chose the Bavarian platter for my main course. This consisted of a generous selection of various Bavarian sausages (fried and boiled), meatloaf and ham. This was served with a healthy dollop of creamy, rich mashed potato.

My meal was excellent, hearty and tasty; definitely to be recommended.

Eva chose the Wiener Schnitzel for her main course. This was a generous sized escalope of tender succulent veal, bread crumbed and fried. It was served plain with a lemon wedge, and boiled potatoes.

She was delighted with her choice.

The meal, which included several bottles of good quality German beer, came to 852SEK before service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid restaurant, we heartily recommend it.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Restaurant

Jardin de Provence
40-42 South End
Croydon
Surrey

Phone:- 0208 255 0045

Website www.lebienmanger.com

Overview

Eva and I decided to try out Jardin de Provence, which has been taken over by the owner of what was Le Bien Manger, on Friday.

Jardin de Provence serves their interpretation of French style cuisine.

Ambience

Jardin offers seating for around 250 people, in a modern and stylish setting. There is a bar running down and a main dining area, part of which is elevated; then there is also a private dining area.

We sat in the elevated section, which afforded us a view of the bar and the kitchen; which could be seen through a large glass window.

The tables were laid with linen cloths and a selection of glassware, for wine and water. The atmosphere was busy and lively, as there was a private dinner in the adjacent function room.

There were café prints and glass mirrors on the walls. The off white ceiling was subtly contrasted by the orange pillars.

Our welcome was warm, and the atmosphere comfortable.

Menu

The menu contained a reasonable selection of French style food including; onion soup, oysters, scallops, snails, duck breast and sole. Rather perversely Jardin serves pasta as well, which of course has nothing to do with French cuisine.

There were some specials on a blackboard, as well as the a la carte selection.

I would say, that for a restaurant to describe itself as French, it needs to offer a little more traditional French food than Jardin has on its menu; eg lamb cassoulet, beef bourguignon and chicken chasseur.

Additionally, I would suggest that plain grilled steaks and cutlets are also offered; aside from those on the menu which are covered in sauces.

Service

The staff were very friendly, efficient and prompt.

One member of staff bore a striking resemblance to Oliver Letwin (Tory party Shadow Chancellor), given the Tories ratings in the polls it is entirely possible that he was working there.

Food

I started with the leek soup. This was good, hot and creamy with a good taste of leeks.

I chose one of the specials for my main course, braised lamb shank. This came in a rich red wine sauce. Now whilst there was nothing wrong per se with it; it is fair to say it was not the best lamb shank that I have ever had. To my view it had been cooked at too high a temperature, rather than the low long braising that is required. The result was that it was a little dry, and the meat did not slip gently off the bone as it should do.

Eva started with the scallops, these were sautéed with mushrooms, herbs and cream; they were presented on a bed of mashed potatoes. These were excellent, and she was very pleased with this dish.

Eva chose the chicken breast stuffed with spinach, in a tomato sauce. Whilst it tasted alright, it was not exceptional; Eva felt, and I concur, that the chicken was bland and dry.

The meal came with sauté potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

The meal, which included a bottle of Pouilly Fume and several liqueurs, came to £76 including service.

Overall Opinion

In our opinion, whilst the atmosphere is good, the food needs a little more attention and imagination.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Restaurant

The George Inn
Borough High Street
Southwark
London

Phone:- 020 7407 2056

Overview

Eva and I were near London Bridge the other evening, and decided to try out the George Inn; a pub and restaurant.

The George is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn.

Ambience

The pub was rebuilt in 1676, and retains many of the original features. The ground floor is divided into several connecting bars. There's a wealth of lattice windows and oak beams.

The restaurant is on the top floor.

We had not booked. However, the restaurant was not busy; and the time was relatively early 9:15, the restaurant was not scheduled to close until 10:00.

I asked if we could get a table in ten minutes, allowing us time to have a drink downstairs.

I was told in rather a brusque manner that they were closing early that evening, as they would be opening early the next day. Given the “take it or leave it attitude” we decided to leave it, and went elsewhere.

Menu

I have no idea, as we did not get a chance to see it.

Service

Brusque and unwelcoming.

Food

N/A

Overall Opinion

Given the unwelcoming attitude, we do not recommend this establishment.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Restaurant

Luigi’s
15 Tavistock Street
London

Phone:- 020-7240 1795

Website www.luigisofcoventgarden.com

Overview

Eva and I were near Covent Garden, the other evening, and decided to try out Luigi’s. Luigi’s is a privately owned Italian restaurant, that was established over 37 years ago.

Luigi’s is nearby the main theatres and nightlife of London’s West End.

Ambience

We had not booked, and the restaurant was very busy. However, the staff managed to find us a good table in the main dining room.

Luigi’s has a main dining room, and 3 individual private dining rooms; it can therefore cater for larger groups, other then the normal 4-6 people.

The restaurant was cheerful, comfortable and pleasantly decorated. The ceiling was white with light oak beams, interspersed with a large number of fans to circulate the air.

The walls were painted green and decorated with photos of personalities from the world of cinema, opera and theatre both and present. The tables were laid with white linen cloths and napkins.

Our welcome was warm, and the atmosphere lively.

Menu

The menu contained a good selection of Italian dishes ranging from the familiar eg carbonara, smoked salmon, Bresaola, Gnocchi, Carpaccio and rack of lamb to the more exotic eg quails’ eggs in a pastry boat and pheasant ravioli in a wild mushroom sauce.

Pizza lovers need not bother coming here; no pizzas!

Service

The staff were friendly, efficient and prompt.

I would also like to thank them for seeking us out in the restaurant, and returning Eva’s wallet; she had left this in the rest room, and it had been handed over to the staff by another diner. We were grateful for their initiative and honesty.

Food

I started with the Spaghetti Carbonara, this was a good quality version of the classic dish. The spaghetti was cooked just right, not too soft not too hard; and the sauce was cheesy, flavoursome and rich but not thick and claggy. I was very impressed with their version of this dish.

I chose the Bistecca Barolo for my main course. This was a sirloin steak served with a Barolo and mushroom sauce.

Now I have to say, that I was not that impressed with their version of this dish. The steak was tender and cooked rare, as requested. However, the sauce, although it looked dark red and inviting, was incredibly bitter and overpowering. I would charitably suggest that too much, of a poor quality, Barolo had been used to the detriment of the other ingredients. Were I uncharitable, I might suggest that the Barolo used by the chef had gone sour.

The dish came with vegetables and rosemary potatoes, the latter were excellent by the way.

Eva started with the avocado Gorgonzola, this was superb. The avocado creamy and smooth, topped with an incredibly rich Gorgonzola sauce. She was delighted with her choice.

Unfortunately Eva suffered the same disappointment as myself, with regard to her choice of main course. She chose the ravioli with pheasant.

This dish was presented in a very appealing manner on the plate. It consisted of five large bright yellow pillows of pasta, stuffed with pheasant, which were surrounded by a rich dark mushroom sauce. However, in our view, the sauce massively overpowered the taste of the pheasant and ravioli; and frankly, was not that pleasant.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chardonnay and liqueurs, came to £102 including service.

Overall Opinion

In our opinion, the quality of the main dishes that we ate let the restaurant down. We doubt that we will be returning.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Restaurant

La Barca
80-81 Lower Marsh
London

Phone:- 0207 928 2226

Website www.labarca.co.uk

Overview

Last Thursday Eva and I, having quaffed an ale in the nearby Firestation pub in Waterloo, wandered off to La Barca to have a meal.

La Barca is a traditional Italian restaurant, situated near to The Old Vic theatre.

Ambience

La Barca was very busy that evening, being crowded with theatregoers from The Old Vic. However, despite the fact that we had not booked, we were found a comfortable table without any delay.

La Barca was decorated in a cosy and welcoming manner; red tiles on the floor, linen tablecloths, wine bottles stacked on racks around the walls and a wooden beamed white ceiling.

Since the restaurant was located near to The Old Vic, there was an extensive array of photos of stars (past and present) who have dined in the restaurant.

The atmosphere was lively and stimulating.

Menu

The menu contained an extensive array of Italian meat, fish and pasta dishes including; Gamberoni Burro e Aglio, Insalata Tricolore, Gamberetti Cocktail, Pate della Casa, Bresaola Con Parmigiano, Pollo all’Agrodolce, Pollo Luciano, Pulcino Pasquale and Guelfi e Ghibellini Toscani.

There was also a very tempting cold buffet counter, which offered a good choice of starters; for those who wished to mix and match a taste of Italy for themselves.

Service

The staff were friendly and efficient. We were offered a bowl of excellent garlic olives and bread to munch on, whilst we perused the menu.

Food

I started with the Guelfi e Ghibellini, which was lasagne and cannelloni served together “half and half”. This was excellent. The two dishes complimented each other, without either one overpowering the other. The sauce was rich and creamy; whilst the pasta was succulent and moist, and was generously stuffed with meat seasoned with basil and garlic.

I chose the spring chicken in olive oil, flavoured with chillies, for my main course. This was decently cooked; the bird being succulent and tender. The oil and chilli did not overpower the delicate flavour of the poussin. The dish was accompanied by roast potatoes, green beans and carrots.

I was very happy with my choice.

Eva started with the crab, prawn, mango and avocado salad; which was well presented, and tasted superb.

Eva then chose the fillet of veal with truffles for her main course. This dish consisted of a tender, thinly cut fillet of veal, cooked with truffles in a white wine cream sauce. The dish was very rich and unctuous, but not overpowering; the ingredients, again, complimented rather than overpowered each other.

Eva also chose the roast potatoes, green beans and carrots.

We eschewed, as we were full, the dessert trolley. However, I would say that the variety of desserts on offer looked excellent; both well prepared and tempting.

The meal, which included a robust Barolo and liqueurs, came to £102 including service.

Overall Opinion

I am happy to recommend this restaurant. We will certainly be returning.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Restaurant

L’Alsace
39 Avenue Des Champs Elysees
75008 Paris
France

Phone: - 01 5393 9700

Website www.restaurantalsace.com

Overview

Eva and I were in Paris on the 60th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi occupation. We decided to try one of the many restaurants on the Champs Elysees, and opted for L’Alsace.

L’Alsace is a restaurant specialising in the cuisines of the Alsace region of France, and is open an impressive seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is described as the ambassador of Alsacian cuisine.

Ambience

L’Alsace was an enormous restaurant and bar, with dining areas on both the ground and basement levels; plus a lively alfresco dining area on the Champs Elysees.

We opted for an open window seat, on the very edge of the Champs Elysees. This afforded us an excellent view of the hustle and bustle of this most famous of Paris thoroughfares. Which, even though it was close to midnight, was packed with people.

The décor of L’Alsace was opulent and elegant. The ceiling was dark panelled veneer contrasting with the mirrored walls, the tables were laid with linen cloths.

Even though the restaurant was enormous, it was heaving with people; and had an excellent atmosphere.

Menu

The menu was a homage to Alsace cuisine, and contained a splendid array of sausages, pigs totters, pork, calf liver escalope with parsley and garlic, breast fillet of duck with peaches and tagliatelle, rib of beef grilled on the bone, Veal Paillard in breadcrumbs and seafood dishes. The menu was in English and in French.

Service

The staff were friendly, efficient and spoke English.

Food

We both chose the quiche for our starters. This was a splendid dish, a generous cut of home made quiche; prepared with cheese and local ham, served with a good quality salad.

An excellent way to start our gastronomic tour of Alsace.

I chose the Choucroute Maison, the house speciality, for my main course. This was partly cooked on a primus stove near our table, and consisted of boiled potatoes, a massive quantity of well flavoured sauerkraut, four different types of regional sausage, boiled smoked fatty bacon, a boiled ham hock, a slice of gammon and smoked ham.

The serving was so large, that half of the dish came on a separate silver platter resting on a hot plate.

I was impressed with this hearty feast, maybe my cardiologist would not have been so impressed at my eating this at 11:00pm; but life is for living!

The meal was excellent, the meat tender and flavoursome; complemented by the cabbage with mustard seeds and potatoes. I managed to finish it all, just!

Eva went for a boiled ham hock for her main course. This was well cooked, the tender ham falling off the bone when teased with the knife. As an added bonus, the hock had been shaved.

It came with a rich sweet honey sauce and mashed potatoes.

Absolutely superb!

We decided that we could not manage a dessert. No surprises there then.

The meal, which included a very good bottle of Gewurztraminer, came to 76 Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

A first class restaurant, make sure that you have a healthy appetite before you go though.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Restaurant

Bistro Mania
28 South End
Croydon

Phone:- 0208 688 3839

Website www.bistromaniacroydon.co.uk

Overview

It was an unseasonably wet August evening in Croydon. Eva and I were in the pub, and did not fancy wandering around too far to find a place to eat; so we dashed to the nearby Bistro Mania.

A continental café and restaurant, with live music.

Ambience

Bistro Mania was a small restaurant; cheerfully decorated with white walls, pine floors and a yellow ceiling with rotating fans.

The green clothed tables were decorated with fresh flowers, and the walls with paintings and a small alcove housing a large plant.

The live music on offer was a robust one-man act, harking back to the 1960’s and 70’s. I suspect that it appealed to a certain generation, who enjoy listening to songs such as “My way” being belted out.

Although the restaurant was not very busy, the atmosphere was jolly.

Menu

The menu was an eclectic mixture of Tapas, Italian and French.

Service

The staff were friendly and efficient. We were offered a bowl of excellent garlic olives to munch on, whilst we perused the menu.

Food

I chose the potato tortilla to start with. This was a good sized omelette, which had been freshly cooked, containing potato and onion. It was very pleasant, and a good start to the meal.

I then opted for the lamb cutlets in rich red wine and herb sauce for my main course. Although the three cutlets were tender, and properly cooked, I felt that they were a somewhat miniscule size. I could have eaten six of that size, easily; that being said, maybe I am just too greedy!

The sauce was full bodied and pleasant, not overpowering.

The dish came with sauté potatoes and vegetables, which were agreeable; but nothing special.

Eva started with tiger prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce. Both the prawns and the sauce had an excellent flavour.

However, the prawns were served in their shells in the hot sauce. This made them very difficult and messy to eat.

Eva then opted for the veal in a white wine and sage sauce for her main course. The veal was cut thin, and served with ham and a very fresh piquant white wine sauce with fresh sage. It was a well made and presented dish.

The meal, which included a bottle of Pinot Grigio and liqueurs, came to £57 before service.

Overall Opinion

If you like live music, then pop along; it’s a laugh.




Monday, August 16, 2004

Restaurant

The Guinea Grill
30 Bruton Place
London

Phone:- 0207 409 1728

Website www.theguinea.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I took a trip to Mayfair the other evening, to try out The Guinea Grill; a restaurant, just off Berkley Square, famous for its steaks and award winning pies.

It is attached to a 19th century pub, The Guinea, and is open Monday to Saturday. The Guinea has a loyal customer base going back some years since it was established in 1952, and is very popular, I advise you book at least 24 hours in advance.

Ambience

The Guinea Grill is nestled in a small alleyway just off Berkley Square, near the Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms.

The tiny entrance, attended by a uniformed doorman, leads into the reception and grill area. This is where we got our first inkling of the style and quality of the restaurant. Just in front of the open grill was a chilled glass counter; which displayed a selection of 28 day aged steaks and fresh seafood.

The dining area was cosy, and decorated in the traditional manner of a pub/dining room from the 19th century.

The walls were half wood panelled and half painted sunset yellow, they were decorated with oil paintings. The carpet was tartan check, and the tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins.

The restaurant was busy, and tables were placed close to each other (but not uncomfortably close). Eva sat with her back to the wall on a bench, which provided seating for the tables on either side of us.

I would note that the one part of the décor that was definitely not 19th century, was the air conditioning unit in the ceiling. This, unfortunately, was situated directly above us; and we felt the full “benefit” of its output. We had to ask for it to be turned off, as we felt we were sitting in a refrigerator.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was very jolly, and not at all “stuffy”.

Menu

The Guinea is noted for its steaks, and its pies which have won national awards. Needless to say, the menu was dominated by steaks, lamb and pies. However, there was also a good selection of fish, chicken and seafood on offer; and an impressive wine list.

Service

The staff were very professional and courteous. We were even asked what types of gin we would like in our pre dinner cocktail. Old school service!

Food

I started with half a cold lobster (there were hot ones on the menu as well), served with a salad and mayonnaise.

The flesh of the lobster had been fully “de-shelled”, so I had no need to employ the shell cracker that had been laid on the table; I confess that I was rather disappointed at not having to “work for my lobster”!

The lobster was fresh and fleshy, it was a good choice for a starter.

I chose the 12oz sirloin for my main course, with chips and gratin tomatoes.

The meat was cooked medium (as requested), and was tender and flavoursome; as it should have been, given that it was hung for 28 days. The layer of fat around one side, which is essential for flavour and moisture, had a most excellent smoky flavour from the grill.

The chips were homemade, not frozen fries from a packet, and had a good flavour and texture. The tomatoes were topped with grated cheese, and provided an ideal accompaniment to my meat.

Eva started with the crayfish and prawn avocado salad. This was a generous helping of prawns in their shells and crayfish, served with chunks of ripe avocado in a good quality salad.

The dish was fresh and flavoursome. During this course Eva indulged herself in the bread basket; which contained an excellent selection of home baked breads, including a particularly flavoursome bread made with sultanas.

Eva chose one of the award winning steak and kidney pies for her main course. She was not disappointed. The pie came in its own dish, and was a good size. The pastry was flaky and light, the gravy rich, piquant and flavoursome; the meat and kidneys very tender, and generous in quantity.

As a side dish Eva chose the baked potato. This was a very good sized potato which had been baked, not micro waved; it was fluffy, and was served with a good dollop of sour cream.

Eva was delighted with her choice.

The meal, which included cocktails, a very good bottle of Chablis and liqueurs came to £158 including service.

Overall Opinion

A very enjoyable evening, and good quality restaurant. I can well understand why it has a loyal customer base, we would like to add ourselves to that list.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Restaurant

The Gaucho Grill
29 Westferry Circus
London

Phone:- 0207 987 9494

Website www.thegauchogrill.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I braved the terrorist threat and took a trip, via river taxi, to Canary Wharf. We went there to try out The Gaucho Grill, an Argentinean steak house situated on the banks of the Thames.

Ambience

The Gaucho Grill had both inside and outside seating. The inside was bright and glitzy, with a bar and dining area decorated with cowhides. The outside dining area, on the riverbank, afforded a splendid view of London.

It was a sunny, and warm, day and the outside dining area was packed with a lively and jolly mixture of tourists and local office workers. However, we managed to get a table outside; under the trees that marked the boundary between The Gaucho Grill and the riverbank boardwalk.

The chairs were moulded plastic, and reasonably comfortable. However, the tables had been set on a support in order to stop them wobbling on the gravel (which was used to surface the al fresco dining area); as such they were an inch or so too high for the chairs. It might be better, in my view, to dispense with the gravel and use paving slabs instead.

During the course of our meal, I did battle with a rather persistent wasp; which I eventually, and heroically, managed to despatch to the next world.

Menu

A meat lover’s paradise! The menu offered a very good range of steaks; sirloins, rump, fillet, rib eye that you could order to any size you wished.

There were also chicken and fish dishes, as well as oysters, black bean soup and prawns.

Service

The staff were very friendly and welcoming. Our waiter was very amiable and knowledgeable. He explained each of the cuts of meat, with the aid of a platter on which the different cuts of raw steaks were displayed.

Food

I started with the chicken and beef empanadas. These were 2 medium sized filo pastry parcels, one filled with beef and the other with chicken; served with salad of red and yellow cherry tomatoes.

The beef empanada was pleasant, if a little bland. However, the chicken was very well spiced and had a good smoky flavour; this was my favourite one out of the two.

I chose a 300g Chorizo sirloin for my main course (I resisted 400g). This melted in the mouth like butter, and had a good flavour and succulence.

I chose a good sized baked potato with butter to accompany it, together with Corn O’Brien as a side dish. This consisted of sweet corn which had been sautéed with butter spring onions, and a little red pepper; it made an ideal accompaniment to the steak.

Eva started with the exotically named Gambas Ceviche. This was a small dish of fleshy prawns and avocado, in a piquant tandoori flavour sauce. Rather perversely the dish came with a side dish of popcorn, apparently this was to cool the pallet. We found the dish to be very mild, and the popcorn’s alleged cooling effect unnecessary.

Eva chose a 225g rib eye, with béarnaise sauce, for her main course. This was good cut of meat, marbled with succulent fat. It was splendidly tender and flavoursome.

Eva chose pureed potatoes to accompany the meat. These were very special, as they were exceptionally rich and creamy, and had been pureed with a red pepper. This gave the dish an orange hue, and a piquant flavour.

Eva was delighted, who wouldn’t be having me as a dining companion?

The meal, which included cocktails, a good bottle of Merlot and liqueurs, came to £117 before service.

Overall Opinion

Our verdict?

Jump on a river taxi, and indulge your flesh eating fantasies. We will definitely visit The Gaucho Grill again.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Restaurant

La Novita
186 The Broadway
Wimbledon
London

Phone:- 0208 540 8887

Website www.lanovitawimbledon.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I were wandering around Wimbledon the other Saturday, and decided to take “pot luck” by trying out La Novita.

This is a family owned and run restaurant, that serves Italian food with a regional twist.

Ambience

La Novita was absolutely packed with people when we arrived. However, the staff were able to find us a decent table for two out of harms way.

The layout of and ambience La Novita, which was not that large, was more like an upmarket café rather than a traditional restaurant; it was cosy, inviting and lively. The walls were painted white, decorated with red pen and ink murals depicting scenes of eating and drinking. At the far end of the restaurant, in front of the kitchen, there was a chilled deli counter containing a selection of meats and salads. On top of the counter was a meat slicer, which was used to freshly prepare the cold cuts of meat for the diners.

Wine bottles were generously stacked on wire racks around the wall, and the floor was stripped pine. The tables were laid with linen cloths.

Menu

The menu offered a very good range of regional dishes including; brown wheat pasta, cuttlefish, meatballs with dumplings, duck, seabass, steaks, meat and fish dishes. All the recipes had been devised with a little more thought and imagination than the standard Italian fayre.

Service

The service was very friendly and efficient, the staff were very welcoming and helpful. Even though the restaurant was packed, and there was a centre table of around 12 people, the staff managed to attend to all the diners needs with good humour and courtesy. They also managed to weave their way between the tightly packed tables without a single spillage.

We were given an appetiser of ciabatta, with olives, drenched in olive oil; it was fresh and pleasant.

Food

I chose the brown wheat spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage, in a cheese sauce, for my starter. This was absolutely excellent. The spaghetti had a very special flavour, definitely a cut above the ordinary white spaghetti served elsewhere. There was a generous quantity of chopped spicy sausage in the dish, which was very flavoursome but not overpowering. The cheese sauce was rich and creamy, but not oily or floury. This was an excellent start to the meal.

I chose the spring chicken with garlic for my main course. This was delightful. It was tender and succulent, the garlic was not overpowering, the chicken had been cooked moist and to perfection. It was served on a bed of aubergines, roasted carrots and mushrooms. This was accompanied by a large side dish of potatoes, these had been sautéed in olive oil with rosemary and garlic; superb!

Eva started with the cold cut selection. This was freshly prepared from the deli counter, and consisted of; cuts of ham, carpacio, and Italian sausage; all served on a bed of carrots, and aubergines doused in olive oil. It was very fresh and tasty.

Eva chose a pizza for her main course. This was a light dough based pizza topped with cheese and tomato; layered with artichokes, mushrooms, bacon and red peppers. It was flavoursome and of good quality. She was very pleased with her choice.

The meal, which included cocktails a bottle of Pinot Grigio and brandies came to £62 before service.

Overall Opinion

La Novita was a very good find, the food was definitely top quality; it was a venue that was clearly very popular with the local inhabitants of Wimbledon. The next time we are there, we will definitely visit it again.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Restaurant

Smiths of Smithfield
67 Charterhouse Street
London

Phone:- 0207 251 7950

Website www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I were in the Smithfield area of London the other day, and had reserved a table on the top floor of Smiths of Smithfield. Smiths of Smithfield is a Grade II listed four storey restaurant, next door to Smithfield Meat Market. This is a restaurant complex that specialises in serving organic meat, sourced from the Smithfield meat market.

We booked a table in the top floor restaurant, given the fact that it is very popular I advise you to book 48 hours in advance.

Ambience

The building was restored having been left unoccupied for 40 years. The ground floor open bar area has blasted brickwork, big windows, wrought iron columns and leather seats. The first floor is a cocktail bar, the next floor offers a casual dining room with woks and clay ovens. The top floor offers a more formal dining experience.

As noted we had booked a table on the top floor, we accessed this via the elevator in the main bar. The elevator was decorated in a red padded quilt, hanging from top to bottom of three sides of the elevator; it gave us the feeling we were going to a brothel rather than a restaurant.

The top floor restaurant was exceptionally busy, but not overcrowded. We were promptly greeted and shown to our table without delay.

I was very pleased to see that they had given us a good table by the window, in the far corner of the restaurant. This afforded us an excellent view of the London skyline, and a special view of the dome of the Old Bailey.

On fine summer days the floor to ceiling windows, which were on two sides of the room, can be opened and diners can eat on the wooden decked terrace. However, this night we were treated to a spectacular lightening storm, so nobody tried dining al fresco.

The restaurant was modern, bright and well laid out; a bar ran down one side of half of the room, padded benches down another side and freestanding tables took up the remaining space. The windows gave the place sense of space, and freshness. Tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins. The ceiling was dark slated wood, with spotlights.

Menu

The menu offered a good selection of meat a fish dishes including, crab, Dover sole, Longhorn sirloin and Welsh black fillet steaks, chicken and pork.

Service

The staff were very friendly and efficient, service was prompt and accurate. They were helpful and knowledgeable when explaining the sourcing of the meat. I was impressed to note that we were offered a choice of cooking methods for the steak, pan fried or grilled.

Food

I started with half a crab in its shell. This was a good sized half a crab, in its shell, served with a simple mayonnaise. The necessary shell crackers and flesh picking tool came with the dish; enabling me to have a very physical experience with my crab. The crab was first class, and very fresh. A good way to start to the meal.

Eva chose the smoked eel with bacon and beetroot for her appetisers. This came with mayonnaise and was served on a potato pancake with a salad. The taste was smoky but not overpowering, she was very pleased with her choice; a dish that she has not had since childhood.

We both chose the longhorn sirloin for our main courses, accompanied by béarnaise and horseradish sauce. This was a magnificent cut of sirloin, with a good layer of fat. It had been pan fried to seal in the juices. As it was a rare breed the taste and texture were very special, and totally different to the steaks served by other restaurants. The texture had more body than ordinary steaks owing to the denser flesh of the meat, and the flavour had a smoky sweet flavour. It was very special, and thoroughly enjoyable.

The steaks came with mashed potato, which was very rich and creamy, and chips that were 1 inch thick; these were absolutely gorgeous, some of the best that I have ever eaten in a restaurant.

I chose the 3 rhubarb dessert to finish with. This consisted of a slice of rhubarb pie, rhubarb jelly and rhubarb ice cream. Each had a good flavour, not to sweet or sour, this was a very pleasant way to finish the meal.

The meal, which included cocktails, a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs came to £152 including service.

Overall Opinion

A good quality restaurant, serving good quality food in a lively atmosphere. We are happy to recommend it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Restaurant

The Crazy H
50 South End
Croydon

Phone:- 0208 688 6132

Website www.crazyh.co.uk

Overview

It was the 4th of July, and so Eva and I decided to try out The Crazy H (formerly Rockwell’s) an American diner in Croydon.

Ambience

The Crazy H was a bright and cheerful bar and restaurant, themed to resemble an American diner from the era of Rockwell’s paintings.

The Crazy H had a cosy bar with sofas and chairs, a main dining area and a secluded dining area by the open grill/kitchen.

The main dining area, to the left of the bar, was dominated by a 1950’s style jukebox. This fine piece of equipment was on free play mode, and so I took a trip down memory lane and played some splendid hits from the late 70’s and 80’s. However, don’t be alarmed the volume was not set so high that it was intrusive.

The tables were covered in check cloths, and the walls decorated with American memorabilia. Most notably there was a fine selection of Norman Rockwell prints, harking back to an era that never really existed.

One missed opportunity; Crazy H had forgotten it was July the 4th. Maybe it would be worthwhile thinking ahead to Halloween and Thanksgiving, and coming up with a special theme for those evenings.

Menu

In addition to the main menu, there was also a children’s menu valid until 19:30.

However, moving on to the adults; the main menu offered a good selection of “diner type” dishes. These included; potato skins, ribs, nachos, fajitas, 14 types of homemade burgers, steaks and chicken.

Service

The staff were very friendly and welcoming. The service was quick and efficient.

Food

I chose the potato skins, with cheese and bacon, for my starter. They were very tasty, a good sized portion laden with cheese and bacon; hot and flavoursome.

I opted for the rib eye steak for my main course, served with fries and fried eggs. I was very pleased with my choice; the steak was a good quality piece of meat, and had been cooked medium as requested. The fries were tasty, and sufficient in quantity.

Rather rarely for me, I chose to have a dessert; and opted for the apple pie with cream. This was very good. The slice of pie had a generous amount of apples under the crust; these were not mushy, but chunky with a good texture and flavour. The pie had just the right amount of sweetness, and had a hint of cinnamon.

Eva started with the breaded mushrooms. These had a nice texture and flavour, and were not soggy or greasy. They came with a good quality spicy dip.

Eva chose the “Mexicano” for her main course. This was a home made burger served in a massive sour dough bap. It came with cheese and a jalapeno and salsa topping, together with a large baked potato.

The burger was of good quality, both in terms of texture and taste. It definitely put to shame those mass produced slurry burgers proffered by certain well known chains.

Eva finished off with an ice cream.

The meal, which included and exceptionally good bottle of Pinot Grigio and an Irish coffee, came to just under £54 including service.

Overall Opinion

Great fun, worth a visit if you want a change from more formal dining.




Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Restaurant

Abyssinia
Vanadisvagen 20
11346 Stockholm
Sweden

Phone:- 08 330840

Overview

Eva and I were in Stockholm for a mid-summer party last weekend. The night before the party, in order to “ring the changes”, we decided to try out an Abyssinian restaurant. This was located within 20 minutes walking distance of the centre of Stockholm.

Ambience

Abyssinia was a small, cheerful cosy African styled café. The walls were painted a cheery sun yellow, and were decorated with African artefacts and animal skins.

There was not that much space available for covers in the restaurant, therefore the tables were packed quite closely together to maximise yield to the owners.

That being said, it was the night before mid-summer and so was very quiet. On busy nights you may have to “hunker down” with your neighbours.

Menu

The menu (in Swedish and Abyssinian) offered a variety of Abyssinian dishes including lamb, beef, chicken and vegetables. There appeared to be no specific appetisers, I dare say the chef would accommodate you if you asked.

Service

The service was friendly and polite. Although the menu wasn’t in English, the waiter did speak English; and so communication was not an issue.

Food

Given the fact that neither of us had ever eaten Abyssinian food before, we opted for the most sensible dish to have under these circumstances; the house special.

This was an excellent way to sample a variety of the cuisine on offer.

The dish was served on a humungous plate, which was presented in a covered basket (to keep the heat in). Our meal included; chick peas, lentils, chicken in a spicy sauce, spiced minced lamb, spiced minced beef, hard boiled eggs, cabbage and carrots (rather similar to sauerkraut), spinach and cottage cheese.

These were served on a large piece of flat bread (with a consistency and taste similar to blini), which covered the plate.

Additional bread, folded like napkins, was provided to accompany the meal.

Incidentally, I should point out that you don’t use cutlery; but instead eat with your fingers. All good fun!

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal; each of the dishes had a special flavour which complemented the others.

As the meal was very filling, we had no need of starters or deserts.

Our meal, which included a robust bottle of Ethiopian wine, came to 510SEK before service.

Overall Opinion

A pleasant, unpretentious meal and restaurant; worth a visit if you want to try something different.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Restaurant

Christi
32 James Street
London
W1M 5HS

Phone:- 0207 935 0416

Overview

Eva and I were strolling around Oxford Street on Friday, and decided to take “pot luck” and try one of the numerous continental restaurants that have flourished in the back streets around that area.

We dropped in on Christi, an Italian restaurant.

Ambience

Christi is a jolly, lively Italian restaurant with ample seating inside and outside.

When we were there on Friday evening, since the weather was fine, the outside tables were packed with customers. However, the inside was a little more sedate and so we took a table inside.

The décor is “bistroesque”, the ceiling painted green and the numerous mirrors (painted with classic urns) that adorned the walls were back lit by green lights.

The tables were laid with linen cloths, white on top of red, together with red napkins.

Menu

The menu offered a good range of pasta, meat and fish dishes; the usual ones associated with Italian cuisine.

I would note that they do not serve smaller portions of pasta for starters, so order pasta as a starter only if you have a hearty appetite.

Service

The service was friendly and efficient, the staff were very welcoming and helpful.

Food

I chose the lasagne for my starter. This, refreshingly, had been baked not microwaved as in some establishments; it came bubbling hot in its earthenware serving dish.

The lasagne consisted of a generous quantity of spinach pasta interlayered with meat, and it was covered in a robust tomato based béchamel sauce. It was a good size for a starter; but perversely, as it was meant to be a main course, I would say a little small for its intended purpose.

I chose calves liver in a white wine and sage sauce for my main course.

This was excellent, the liver was cut thin, but was tender flavoursome and very succulent. The sauce complemented the liver without overwhelming it. I was pleased to note that fresh sage was used in the sauce, not dried.

I chose sauté potatoes and broccoli to accompany the dish. These were freshly prepared, and well cooked. A good choice in my view.

Eva chose the deep fried mozzarella to start with. This consisted of two large pieces of mozzarella covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. They were served with a small side salad, and a tomato based sauce.

The mozzarella was nicely cooked, not at all greasy, and was complimented by the piquancy of the tomato sauce.

Eva chose ravioli in an asparagus and cream sauce for her main course.

This dish consisted of a generous portion of home-made meat filled pillows of pasta, covered in a rich (but not claggy) tasty asparagus and cheese sauce.

She was very pleased with her choice.

The meal, which included a robust Chianti and several Irish coffees, came to £90 including service.

Overall Opinion

A very pleasant restaurant, worth a visit if you are in the area; burdened down with purchases from Selfridges and the other stores on Oxford Street.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Restaurant

Ozer
5 Langham Place
London

Phone:- 0207 323 0505

Website www.sofra.co.uk

Overview

Eva has spent time working with Turkish immigrants in Sweden, and has picked up a taste for Turkish cuisine.

We therefore decided to check out Ozer, one of London’s top Turkish restaurants, on Friday.

Ozer is a lively, bright and stimulating Turkish restaurant near Oxford Circus. It is open 7 days a week, 10:00am to midnight.

Ambience

Ozer consists of a large bar where you can sit and just have a drink, or have a bite to eat as well from an extensive menu of bar snacks (akin to having tapas).

Ozer was absolutely packed with people; the buzz and atmosphere rather resembling some of the New York restaurants we have dined in.

We were warmly greeted, and although we had not booked and it was busy, we were asked to have a drink at the bar and told that a table would be ready for us in 10 minutes. They were as good as their word!

The décor was chic and modern, there were no “Hubble bubble” pipes or rugs anywhere. The walls of Ozer on one side were white marble, whilst on the other side they were red marble. The lighting was a combination of discrete lights, and an ornate central spiral light fitting; recessed into the ceiling.

The tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins, decorated with a bowl containing a red rose floating in water. Additionally, placed on each table, was a small sign that promised starters would be served in 5 minutes; if this did not happen you were invited to phone the owner, David Ozer, who helpfully displayed his phone number on the sign. There’s a brave man!

The table also had bowls of freshly prepared humus, olives and warmed flat bread. All of which were alarmingly tempting and tasty.

Menu

The menu was extensive, offering an effusion of hot and cold meze, steaks, chicken, lamb and fish dishes.

Service

There was an army of black shirted waiting staff on duty to cater to everyone’s whim. Despite the fact that Ozer was full, the service was very efficient, prompt and friendly.

Even though they had worked a long day, there was no attempt by the staff to rush us out despite the fact that we stayed long past the midnight closing time.

Food

Everyone in the restaurant seemed to be having the mixed meze as a starter. Following the principle “when in Rome” we followed suit.

We were not disappointed. We were each served nine “tastes” of Turkey on a glass plate. These included cheese, bulgur, meatballs, squid and chicken.

With the exception of the cheese, which in consistency resembled a pencil rubber, these were delightful; and afforded us an excellent way to sample a range of the cuisine on offer.

I chose the mixed grill (known as Vincent’s Style) for my main course. This was not the usual burnt, tough offerings so readily served by other establishments. Rather this was a medley of gently cooked, flavoursome 3 inch cuts of meat including; chicken, lamb, steak and meatballs.

The meat, and I make no exaggeration, was as tender and as tasty as I have ever eaten in a restaurant; or indeed cooked myself at home. Absolutely superb.

The dish was accompanied by a bowl of rice, which pleasantly complimented it. Those preferring more traditional accompaniments could opt for French fries.

Eva chose purely kebab, stewed lamb in a tomato based sauce, for her main course. This was served on a bed of mashed potatoes, and tasted (in our view) unctuous.

I chose the baklava for my desert. This was a perfect combination of sweetness and pistachio nuts, complimented by a scoop of ice cream. Fantastic!

The meal, which included a good bottle of Chablis, cocktails and numerous liqueurs, came to £118 including service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid establishment, make sure you go there; we will definitely be back again.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Restaurant

Garbo’s
42 Crawford Street
London

Phone:- 0207 262 6582

Overview

As you know from my Self Introduction, I have spent five years in Sweden, and my partner is Swedish. Therefore I have picked up a few of the customs and habits from the Nordic area.

Friday was Walpurgis, the day when Sweden celebrates the coming of spring by lighting bonfires and drinking heavily. In the absence of any suitable bonfires, Eva and I went to the Swedish section of London for a drink and a meal.

We started off with a drink in the Harcourt Arms in Harcourt Street; this is near to the Swedish Embassy, the Swedish church, various other Swedish organisations and Garbo’s. The pub is a very cosy and jolly establishment frequented by Swedes; many of the bar staff are Swedish, and it even has “Swedish Salong” (a small room painted yellow).

However, I digress, the real object of our trip was to try out Garbo’s which is London’s only Swedish restaurant. This has been owned and run by Ake Lindholm for a number of years.

Ambience

Garbo’s is very cosy inviting Swedish restaurant close to Baker Street.

It had a “bistro like” atmosphere, but the quality and attention to detail of a quality restaurant. It was cosy, cheerful and intimate. The floors were polished wood, the walls were painted white and decorated with a large amount of memorabilia including; pictures of the Swedish royal family, copious prints of Great Garbo and a very large moose’s head (the eyes of which seemed to follow me around the room).

The tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins, with a touch of the IKEA in the condiment display. There was a fresh carnation on every table.

Crisp breads and rolls were placed on the table in a basket, with a good-sized portion of butter on a side plate.

Downstairs the restaurant had a private function room which, at the time of our visit, was hosting the Anglo-Finnish Society.

Menu

The menu offers an excellent selection of Swedish and Nordic cuisine including; pea soup, Gravad-lax (cured salmon), Jansson’s Temptation (potatoes and anchovies in a cream and onion sauce), herrings, sole, seabass, meatballs, veal, Kaldolmar (stuffed cabbage and lingonberry sauce) and Pytt I Panna (diced meat, potatoes and onions with a fried egg).

The restaurant also caters for parties, both in the function room and outside.

The menu, explains the contents of each dish; so there is no need to worry about the strange names of some of the dishes.

Service

Our Swedish waitress was very friendly and efficient. I even tried out my rusty and basic Swedish, and was told that I had good pronunciation

Food

I started with the crepe stuffed with chicken and mushrooms. This was very agreeable, it was a good size for a starter; and tasted rich and creamy, without being stodgy and “claggy”. A good way to start the evening.

I chose the Wiener schnitzel with two fried eggs for my main course. This was a good sized piece of meat, tender and succulent. It had been breaded and fried golden brown in butter. The eggs added a richness, and oomph, to the dish. I chose sauté potatoes and mushrooms to accompany it. My compliments to the chef, a good piece of meat well cooked and presented.

Eva started with Skagen Toast; this is a dish of prawns and roe served in a dill mayonnaise sauce on top of butter fried bread. I commend this dish to you, it was presented exquisitely on the plate; the prawns neatly piled on top of the toast, and the roe neatly on top of the prawns. It tasted absolutely perfect.

Eva chose Kalvrullader med Lingon for her main course, this was veal filled with onions and gherkins served in a mustard cream sauce. This dish was very rich and definitely unctuous, superb! She chose rich butter mashed potatoes and broccoli to accompany it. She was absolutely delighted with her choice.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis and some Irish coffees, came to £68 before service.

Overall Opinion

In my view this restaurant is better in terms of food and atmosphere than many in Stockholm. We will most definitely be returning, and commend others to dine there as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Restaurant

Beulah Spa
41 Beulah Hill
London

Phone:- 0208 6532051

Overview

Eva and I went to the Beulah Spa, part of the Harvester chain, on Sunday evening.

The Beulah Spa is a family restaurant which serves steaks, chicken and burgers. The Beulah Spa does not accept bookings, so you have to take a chance and hope that they can fit you in.

Ambience

The Beulah Spa is a converted pub, and houses a restaurant and adjoining bar. The Harvester chain is themed rural.

We started off with a drink in the bar area, which was very busy, more resembling an airport departure lounge than a cosy bar.

I would like to make a number of observations concerning the housekeeping, and general ambience:

  • The bar was awash with spilt drinks, and needed to be wiped down.


  • The same was true for some of the tables in the bar, including ours.


  • The Beulah Spa allows children, and therefore has a collection of crayons and puzzles for children to doodle on at each table. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to tidy up at our table. The crayons, and half completed puzzles, were scattered over the table and floor.


  • The background music, which invaded both the bar and restaurant, was targeted at the under 20’s; despite the fact that the customers were from all age groups. The music was loud and intrusive.


  • On two separate occasions, each lasting five minutes, an alarm went off behind the bar. The extremely irritating high-pitched beeps were finally stopped when several people went to the bar to complain.


  • Eva tells me that the floor of the ladies was awash with paper.


We finished our drinks and went to our table, which provided a nice view of an overflowing waste bucket (this of course should have been emptied, or moved from our line of sight).

Menu

A reasonable selection of steaks and chicken dishes were on offer. However, I would point out that at other steak houses you are given the choice of 8oz, 12oz and 16oz cuts, the Beulah Spa only offered 8oz.

My menu card still had the remains of the previous diner’s meal splattered across it, it should have been wiped clean first.

Service

Our waitress was polite and efficient.

There was an excessive delay between the starter and main course. I assume that this was due to a backlog in the kitchen.

Food

I started with the potato skins, these were not too bad. They were covered in a very large dollop of sour cream, cheese and a tangy barbecue type sauce (the latter was in my view excessive for the size of the portion).

I chose the sirloin, medium, with fried eggs for my main course. The steak was overcooked, and although not impossible to cut was not as tender as it should have been. I would not give it high marks for flavour either.

The fries, peas and onion rings that accompanied the meal were ok.

As part of the Harvester experience you are invited to help yourself to the salad cart. This provided a good choice of tomatoes, cucumber, potato salad and other items that were fresh and of good quality.

Eva started with the deep fried prawns in breadcrumbs. These were fine, cooked golden brown and not greasy.

She chose the chicken stack for her main course. This consisted of two grilled breasts of chicken sandwiching a gammon steak. The dish was garnished with melted Emental cheese and barbecue sauce. This was accompanied by a large baked potato with sour cream and peas.

Eva felt that the dish was quite nice, although the cheese was bland and the potato only luke warm.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chardonnay, came to £43 before service.

Overall Opinion

In my view you can find better value bistros with better quality food, and a far more attractive atmosphere, in central Croydon and the suburbs.

I recommend that the Harvester chain revamp their menu, and improve the selection and quality of the meat.

The Beulah Spa needs to pay close attention to their housekeeping. This is, in my opinion, not worth visiting unless the points raised are addressed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Restaurant

The Bleeding Heart Tavern
19 Greville Street
Hatton Garden
London
EC1N 8SQ

Phone:- 0207 242 2056

Website www.bleedingheart.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I found ourselves out and about in the Smithfield area of London, on Friday evening. This afforded us an ideal opportunity to try The Bleeding Heart Tavern. This offers a selection of spit roasts and other British meat served with a French twist.

It is open Monday to Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ambience

The Bleeding Heart Tavern restaurant is in the basement of the Bleeding Heart Tavern. Although it had no windows, it was modern, light, bright and cheerful.

The floors were stripped wood, the walls were painted a light yellow and decorated with large pen and ink drawings of chickens, cows and pigs. Lighting was provided by spotlights recessed in the ceiling. The tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins.

The restaurant was not very busy that evening, and even though we had not booked, we were given a nice large round table in a booth in the corner.

The staff, all French, were very friendly welcoming and efficient.

Menu

The menu offered a very good selection of British dishes including; onion and ale soup with cheese croutons, tartar of Scottish salmon and mustard on toast, poached free range egg on a crunchy vegetable salad, slow-cooked pork belly with an organic white bean stew, poached haddock topped with a poached egg on mash with hollandaise sauce and rabbit and ratte potato casserole with whole grain mustard sauce.

The meat is sourced from Smithfield, so it should be of good quality.

There were two wine lists available, one more detailed and extensive than the other.

Service

As noted the staff were friendly and efficient. The restaurant was not that busy, and so we received 100% attention; even down to the refolding and sculpting of my napkin between courses.

Food

I chose the black pudding on brioche for my starter. This dish consisted of chunks of black pudding interspersed with chunks of apple resting on a slice of warmed brioche. The dish was accompanied by a rocket salad, drizzled with grain mustard.

I was very pleased with my choice; the taste of the black pudding was well complimented by the apple, and the brioche provided an excellent base to soak up the juices.

I had half a spit-roasted chicken for my main course. This was a very generously proportioned corn fed bird, its flavour was tender and succulent. It was served with roasted potatoes in their skins and caramelised carrots and parsnips together with French beans. The chicken was served with a light jus, and tasted absolutely superb. An excellent choice, even if I say so myself!

Eva started with the tartar salmon. This was rather similar to the gravad lax served in Sweden. It was quite pleasant, but lacked the smokiness of smoked salmon (self evident, as it was not smoked) which I prefer.

Eva chose the roast pork for her main course. This was rather splendid, as it was stuffed with black pudding. Served with jus, it was accompanied by the same vegetables as my main course. I tried some of it, and was very impressed; the taste and flavour were well complimented by the black pudding.

I finished off with a dessert, a rarity for me. I chose the sherry trifle. Absolutely unctuous! Thick double cream, cherries and sponge soaked in an ocean of sherry. Top marks!

The meal which included pre dinner cocktails, Chablis and liqueurs came to £92 before service.

Overall Opinion

A very enjoyable evening, the Bleeding Heart is definitely worth visiting.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Restaurant

The Harbour Room
Pomme d’Or Hotel
Liberation Square
St Helier
Jersey
The Channel Islands

Phone:- 01534 880110

Website www.pommedorhotel.com

Overview

Whilst we were on holiday in Jersey we tried the Harbour Room, the restaurant of our hotel the Pomme d’Or, for breakfast and dinner. The Harbour Room serves traditional English food. The breakfast is the full English buffet, and the dinner is a buffet carvery.

Ambience

The Harbour Room was spacious and comfortable. As the name implies it overlooks St Helier harbour.

The restaurant was pleasantly decorated; tables laid with linen cloths and napkins, the cutlery good quality silverware.

In the centre of the Harbour Room were two large buffet serving stations, where diners serve themselves their breakfast and dinner.

Despite this being a buffet style restaurant, there were a good number of staff on hand at both breakfast and dinner to serve wine, coffee and indeed to help serve you the buffet.

Menu

The breakfast menu was very substantial, and included; sausages, eggs (fried, boiled and scrambled), bacon, beans, fried bread, mushrooms, kippers, porridge, hams, hash browns, black pudding and tomatoes.

The carvery dinner menu also offered a good selection including; roast joints of beef and lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables and a fair selection of cold cuts and salads for starters.

Service

There was a good number of friendly efficient staff, who were on hand to serve wine, coffee and generally help make the breakfast/dinner as enjoyable and relaxed as possible.

Food

At breakfast we tried a little of everything. I am happy to pronounce the food as first class, hot, properly cooked but neither greasy nor dry.

An excellent way to start to the day!

At the carvery for dinner we tried many of the starters. They were reasonably good, as far as they went. However, we were a little disappointed that there was not such a good selection of seafood (eg lobster or crab) on offer as one might have expected in Jersey. That being said I understand that every Friday evening they serve a special seafood buffet in the Harbour Room.

We tried both the beef and lamb for our main course, which were craved by the chef. The joints were cooked medium rare, and were succulent, tender and of good quality.

The potato and vegetable selection were decently cooked, and complimented the meal.

The cost of the breakfast was included in the price of our room. Our dinner, which included a good bottle of Medoc, came to £55.

Overall Opinion

Good food, and good value for money, served in very pleasant surroundings. Even if you are not staying in the hotel; the Harbour Room is worth popping in to one evening, or indeed one morning.



Thursday, April 15, 2004

Restaurant

La Capannina
65 Halkett Place
St Helier
Jersey
The Channel Islands

Phone:- 01534 734602

Overview

Eva and I spent a few days over Easter on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. We were walking around St Helier (the capital) on Friday evening, looking for a place to eat, and came across La Capannina an Italian restaurant.

Ambience

La Capannina is a traditional Italian restaurant in the heart of St Helier. It is quite large, but cosy and welcoming.

Despite the fact that we had not made a reservation, and that it was 10PM, the maitre d’ welcomed us and readily agreed to find us a table.

We were first ushered to a table near the bar, where we had a pre dinner cocktail and a mini slice of delicious pizza whilst perusing the menu.

The restaurant was very pleasantly decorated. The bottom half of the walls were knotty pine and top half painted blue. Photos, paintings and memorabilia were liberally displayed throughout the restaurant.

The tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins. In one part of La Capannina was a display table, on which proudly sat two magnificent smoked hams. Adjacent to the table was a large silver domed serving trolley, which housed the roast of the day.

Once we had placed our orders we were ushered to our table which overlooked the hams, a splendid view!

Menu

The menu was very extensive. In addition to the usual pasta and meat dishes, that you would expect in an Italian restaurant, the menu had a variety of local fish dishes and specials such as; roast spring lamb carved from the trolley and foie gras.

Service

There was a good number of friendly efficient staff, dressed in white jackets and bow ties, on duty. The food was served professionally and promptly.

The matire d’ was very accommodating when seeing my deliberation over whether to have the poussin or the roast lamb. He suggested that he could cut me a few slices of lamb as well, and serve it as a side dish, so that I could have best of both worlds.

Food

We both chose the scallops to start with. These were mouth-watering. Each of our starters consisted of two large scallops served in their shells, covered in a rich creamy cheese sauce surrounded by piped mashed potato. This was absolutely first class.

I chose the poussin for my main course, with the side serving of lamb (I was “pigging out” that evening!).

The poussin was a very generously proportioned bird, with plump succulent breasts. It had been stuffed with rosemary and bay leaves and roasted to perfection. It was served from a silver platter with a garnish of tomatoes, bacon and mushroom. There was a rich flavoursome gravy, and a smooth bread sauce to accompany it. The poussin was excellent, cooked to perfection; moist, tender and succulent.

I had sauté potatoes, carrots, beans and broccoli to accompany it. These too were cooked just right.

My lamb side dish was also exceptional, the lamb was flavoursome and tender. To my view, if I had died then and there my life would have been complete.

Eva chose the local scampi for her main course. These were far superior to the processed mush served by other establishments. The scampi were plump, juicy and had texture. They were deep fried in a light crispy batter that was not at all greasy.

The meal, which included cocktails a good bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to £101 including service.

Overall Opinion

I have no hesitation at all in recommending this restaurant. Indeed it is almost worthwhile visiting Jersey just to take the opportunity to dine here. We most certainly will be visiting again.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Restaurant

Darios Ristorante
248 Brighton Road
South Croydon
CR2 6AH

Phone:- 0208 686 2680

Overview

Eva had some root canal work done on her teeth last week. When we were coming back from her dentist in South Croydon we spotted Darios, an inviting looking Italian restaurant, and decided to book a table there for Friday night.

Ambience

Darios is a cosy, inviting Italian restaurant (run by Dario and Susan); conveniently situated opposite the Red Deer pub.

Although it was Friday night the restaurant was completely empty when we arrived, only one other couple turned up during the evening. This, I think, is not a reflection on the quality of the food or restaurant; but rather a result of the competition and variety of choice offered to people dining out in Croydon. Our waiter was keen to assure us that Saturday night was fully booked.

The walls of the restaurant are part wood and part chalk effect. There are also bright murals depicting Venice painted on one side of the room. The bright blue ceiling is decorated with fishing nets, and the tables laid with linen cloths and napkins.

Menu

The menu offers a good selection of Italian dishes; the usual varieties of pasta, fish, chicken and meat are available.

Service

Our waiter was very friendly and attentive. Even though we stayed late, beyond closing time, he did not attempt to rush us out the door.

Food

I started with the lasagne. This was rich and creamy, the taste mellow and not overpowering.

I chose the sirloin steak in red wine for my main course. This was cooked, as I had ordered, rare; it was succulent and tender. The sauce, a dark red cream and wine sauce with mushrooms and shallots, complemented the meat without dominating it. The dish came with sauté potatoes broccoli and green beans. I was not disappointed with my choice.

Eva started with tiger prawns in a lemon and orange sauce. These were excellent, the prawns were split down the middle to create a butterfly effect. The sauce, piquant and refreshing, was delicious and enhanced the flavour of the prawns.

Eva chose veal with ham and cheese in a wine, mushroom and sage sauce for her main course. This came with sauté potatoes, broccoli and green beans. The sauce was excellent and the veal tender. She was delighted with her choice of main course.

Our meal, which included a good bottle of Barolo, pre dinner cocktails and post dinner liqueurs, came to £80 before service.

Overall Opinion

We had an excellent evening and meal, and would be happy to return on another evening.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Restaurant

La Bersagliera
372 King’s Road
London
SW3 5UZ

Phone:- 0207 352 5993

Overview

Eva and I were wandering around Sloane Square on Friday; and so we decided to pop into La Bersagliera, an Italian restaurant on the King’s Road.

Ambience

La Bersagliera was very lively and busy. However, the staff managed to find us a table without any delay.

La Bersagliera is compact, but the tables are not too close together; privacy is enhanced by the large potted shrubs that are placed between the tables. The cool white marble floor is offset by the warm red walls, which in turn are complemented by the bright ceiling with large fans. The tables, instead of having flowers, were decorated with sprigs of fresh rosemary in small vases of water.

The background music was quite loud, but not intrusive.

Menu

The menu offers a good selection of Italian dishes such as; pasta, pizza, calves kidneys and lamb. Specials are written on blackboards.

Service

The service was courteous, prompt and efficient. I was pleased to see that the waiters were offering freshly grated Parmesan.

Food

I started with lasagne. This was a little disappointing as it came swimming in a tomato sauce, which to some extent overpowered the dish. There was little taste of meat or béchamel sauce, and the cheese that had been used in the dish had a rubber like quality. Although the dish was filling, it was bland; and not of the quality or taste that I would expect in a good Italian restaurant.

I chose the poussin for my main course. This was better; the poussin had been spatchcocked, flattened, and cooked with herbs. It was succulent and quite tasty. The sauté potatoes that accompanied it were tasty, although a little greasy.

Eva started with mango and crab. This was very fresh and tasted good; the crab was served in a pleasant tasting mayonnaise based sauce, and was accompanied with fresh mango slices.

Eva chose the calzone, a folded pizza, for her main course. This was absurdly large, some three feet long I would venture. The calzone itself was stuffed with cheese, chorizo and salami. Again the same industrial rubber cheese had been used, I tried a mouthful and must confess found it was hard work to chew. Notwithstanding the texture, the flavour was reasonable.

The meal, which included a good bottle of Chianti, and post dinner liqueurs came to £55 before service.

Overall Opinion

Food wise it is a bit of a hit or miss affair. However, I cannot fault it for atmosphere. If you want cheap and cheerful, and avoid any dish with cheese, then it is not too bad a place to go.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Restaurant

The Royal Garden
Shirley Hills Road
Shirley Hills
Croydon
CR0 5HQ

Phone:- 0208 654 6491
Website www.law-lin.com

Overview

Eva and I went to The Royal Garden Chinese restaurant, set in the beautiful wooded area of Shirley Hills, last Friday.

Ambience

This is a welcoming restaurant; tucked away in a secluded drive on the edge of the wooded area of Shirley Hills. The restaurant was very busy and pleasantly lively.

The restaurant consists of a bar, with a good sized seating area, and a main dining area that can accommodate a large number of people. I would recommend that you make a reservation, as the place was packed.

The décor, in some respects, is reminiscent of the less garish aspects of the eighties TV series Miami Vice. The bar area, is functional and bright; and is a good place to peruse the variety of dishes offered on the menu.

The restaurant is light, bright and warm; the floor is white marble and there are a few gigantic Chinese vases placed at various corners of the room. The tables are laid with yellow linen cloths and napkins.

The restaurant, as it has very large windows, affords exceptional views of the surrounding woodland.

Menu

The menu offers an excellent selection of Peking, Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine; in my view there is something for everyone.

Service

There was a large number of staff, all of whom were friendly and courteous. They were very accommodating when I asked if we could buy the teapot and cups at the end of the meal, and kindly wrapped them up for us.

Food

Since this was a Chinese restaurant, we decided to share; and selected an array of dishes to sample and enjoy. Our feast included:

● Peking duck, which was crisp and succulent served with piping hot steamed pancakes and a rich sweet plum sauce. This came with a large carved carrot decoration, more phallic than carrot!

● Spring rolls, which were not greasy; but light, crispy and held a well proportioned balance of meat and vegetables.

● Pork dumplings, these were delicate and succulent; not at all stodgy.

● Deep fried scallops, a generous portion of scallops coated in a light crispy batter and deep fried. Salty and tasty!

● Deep fried chicken with water chestnuts, a delicate flavoursome dish.

● Chicken in a black bean sauce. This was fried chicken in black beans, with chilli and green peppers; a piquant and tender dish, that complimented the other chicken dish.

● Egg fried rice and plain boiled rice accompanied our meal.

We finished with tea and liqueurs. The toothpicks, that we used for contemplative chewing, had decorative carvings at one end; a nice touch.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis, pre dinner cocktails and post dinner liqueurs, came to £108 before service. The teapot and cups were an extra £12.

Overall Opinion

We had an excellent evening and meal, we will definitely be returning.


Sunday, February 01, 2004

Restaurant

Mamma Angela
90 High Street
Croydon
CR0 1ND

Phone:- 0208 781 0540

Overview

Mama Angela is a cosy family friendly Italian restaurant owned, and run, by Nicky and his wife.

Eva and I braved the bad weather, and visited it last Saturday; here is a précis of our evening.

Ambience

The restaurant is cosy, intimate and welcoming. All guests are warmly welcomed by Nicky, who also makes sure he says goodbye to them at the end of the evening.

The main part of the restaurant is situated on the ground floor. However, there is also a function suite and bar downstairs which is suitable for parties and larger private gatherings.

Placed in the front window of the restaurant is a large refrigerated display; where you can select your desserts from the tempting array of cream cakes, chocolate and fruit soaked in liqueur. At the other end of the restaurant is a small bar.

The tables are decently spaced, and are laid with pink linen tablecloths and white linen napkins.

Menu

The menu offers a very good selection of Tuscan food including; meatballs, pizza, veal, fish, poultry and a wide selection of pasta dishes. In addition to the a la carte menu there is a specials menu posted on the wall, which is changed daily.

Service

The service is very friendly, fast and efficient. As soon as we were seated we were offered our menus, and a couple of bruschetta.

Food

I started with meatballs in a tomato and basil sauce. The meatballs were veal based and were firm and tasty. The sauce was rich and well flavoured with basil.

I chose the braised lamb shank for my main course. This was an excellent choice. The shank had been braised to perfection, and the meat literally fell off the bone. The lamb was served in a dark, rich wine and mint sauce which added an excellent flavour. The lamb shank comes with boiled potatoes; feeling hungry I also ordered some sauté potatoes as well. Both the boiled and sauté potatoes were well cooked and flavoursome.

Eva started with smoked salmon served with a side salad. This was generous in portion and of a decent quality.

She chose Veal Milanese as a main course. This consisted of a flattened escalope of veal coated in bread crumbs and fried in butter; served with spaghetti in a tomato sauce. The veal was tender and moist; it was well complemented by the generous portion of spaghetti which was served in a rich, but not overpowering, tomato sauce.

We finished with liqueurs, and I indulged in a nibble of the Stilton. However, the Stilton was too cold and had not as much flavour as I would have wished for; Nicky did not charge me for this.

The total bill, which included a good bottle of Chianti Reserva and several liqueurs, came to £80 before service.

Overall Opinion

Good quality food, served in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I am happy to recommend Mama Angela, we will go again.