Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

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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.

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.