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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Organic Con Trick

The Organic Con Trick

I have always been a tad skeptical about the organic food industry, the fact that so many products in supermarkets and restaurants are now labeled "organic" makes me wonder quite where these products are being farmed; given that the majority of farming in Britain relies on chemical fertilisers and pest control.

It should not be ignored that those organisations that sell "organic" produce claim a very hefty mark up for them.

Therefore I was none too surprised to read the following in The Telegraph:

"One of London's most fashionable restaurants, used by film stars and members of the Royal family, has become the first in the country to be fined for falsely claiming that meat used in a number of its dishes was organically farmed.

Julie's Restaurant and Bar was fined £7,500 after its managing director, Johnny Ekperigin, admitted three offences under the Food Safety Act 1990
."

Suffice to say, this story coupled with the recent Spanish egg scandal, has not changed my mind about "organic" produce. I continue to buy conventionally farmed produce.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Nigella Effect

The Nigella Effect

Fans of Nigella Lawson, celebrity cook, domestic godess and daughter of Nigel Lawson, will only be too aware of the effect that her recommendations can have on the availability of ingredients.

In the run up to Christmas, Nigella has been presenting a series of cooking programmes on BBC2 showing her favourite recipes. In one of them she mentioned that a "must have" staple in her kitchen was goose fat. The fat cooks at a higher temperature than other fats, and consequently produces the most succulent and crisp of roast potatoes.

The consequence of her remark has been a veritable panic buying of goose fat, there is now a nationwide shortage of the product.

I should warn you now, Nigella also tipped something else the other day, which is more than likely to disappear from the supermarket shelves just as quickly as the goose fat; disposable aluminium trays. Her view being that, even though it is not environmentally friendly, using a disposable tray for roasting the turkey and the potatoes saves you a hell of a lot of washing up.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Meaty Mince Pies

Meaty Mince Pies

'Tis the season to be merry etc. In keeping with the season, I would like to share with you my recipe for Meaty Mince Pies (a welcome alternative to the sweet variety)

Ingredients

-Puff pastry

-1kg of pork mince

-250g homemade breadcrumbs

-A good handful of fresh finely chopped parsley

-A good handful of fresh finely chopped sage

-A good handful of fresh finely chopped rosemary

-1 egg

-Salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste

Method

Combine all the ingredients (except for the pastry) in a large mixing bowl

Roll and cut circles of pastry to fill a greased mince pie baking tray (this should be enough for 24-30 pies).

Generously fill the pies with the mince mixture

Top off each with a pastry lid

Bake in a hot oven (180-200) for around 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Christmas Pick Me Up

The Christmas Pick Me Up

As we are now in the main run up to Christmas, with office parties and other drinking occasions in full swing, I thought that I would share with you my breakfast recipe which is good for the stomach and for protecting against colds.

Ingredients

-Fresh ginger, a one inch chunk

-1 fresh clove of garlic

-A good handful of fresh parsley

-1 medium tomato

Method

Place all the above into a high ball glass.

Half fill with still mineral water.

Blend with a hand blender.

Drink

It helps prevent colds, settles the stomach, eases bloating and rehydrates you.

Drink it everyday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gourmet Evenings

Gourmet Evenings

Those of you who are fond of gourmet food, may find the gourmet evenings offered by Bronzefield women's prison in Ashford to be of interest.

Seemingly house of horrors killer, Rose West, and the other inmates of Bronzefield have been treated to an evening of gourmet food and opera singing in prison.

West was jailed in 1995 over a series of murders she committed with her husband Fred.

West and 400 fellow prisoners were offered a menu comprising chicken supreme in tomato and garlic with olives and Parmesan or baked fish with asparagus, fennel and mushrooms.

The meal was rounded off with tiramisu and cups of coffee.

The inmates were then serenaded by two Italian singers, who performed operatic arias to backing tapes.

Last week's Italian Day was not a unique event, previous evenings have included Mexican and Jamaican themed events.

The food cost the same as any other day in the prison, this is a lesson for those people who claim that cooking good food is an expensive luxury.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sakura

Restaurant

Sakura
Luntmakargatan 59
113 58 Stockholm
Sweden

Phone (46) (8) 673 45 55

Website www.sakura.gastrogate.com

Overview

Eva and I, whilst we were in Stockholm the other week, decided to go Japanese and tried out Sakura.

Sakura is a Japanese restaurant and karaoke bar.

Ambience

Sakura occupies two floors; the ground floor contains the main restaurant and the basement contains the karaoke bar and a smaller function room for private karaoke parties.

It is laid out and decorated in a traditional Japanese manner, with cherry wood tables (each containing a small grill cut into the centre) and wooden fittings. However, chairs are provided so you don't have to sit in the more traditional Japanese manner on the floor.

The restaurant was quite busy, but given its size there was no problem with fitting two more guests in. Although both karaoke bars were in full swing, the noise from downstairs was not intrusive.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent selection of Japanese dishes including; sushi, small grill dishes, sukiyaki and a few Western style grills dishes. The menu was in English and Swedish.

Service

Our waitresses were very friendly, efficient and pleasant. They helped us understand what was what on the menu, and explained how to cook and enjoy our main dish.

Food

We started with two dishes from the small grill menu, scampi and ox tongue; together with salmon, beef and sweet shrimp sushi.

The grill was heated up and we placed our cut pieces of scampi and ox tongue on the grill to cook. These came with soy sauce and some salad. The meat and the scampi were tasty, tender and succulent; it was rather fun to cook them ourselves, and made the meal more enjoyable being able to share the dishes.

The sushi were absolutely first class, my own favourite being the shrimp.

We chose to share the sukiyaki for our main course. This consisted of thin slices of raw beef, fresh mushrooms, cabbage, glass noodles and other vegetables.

All of the ingredients were raw, and needed to be cooked in the sukiyaki sauce that was placed in a stew pot in the grill on the table.

When this had become hot enough we placed various ingredients into the pot, a few at a time, then (when cooked) dipped them into raw egg and ate them with the accompanying boiled rice.

There were ample portions of both meat and vegetables, all of which were fresh and tasty. The sukiyaki sauce was unctuous and did not overpower the flavours of the ingredients.

We thoroughly enjoyed our main course, and would most certainly chose it again.

The bill, which included a bottle of Mateus Rose and a bottle of sake, came to 827SEK before service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid evening in a splendid restaurant, well worth visiting again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

La Habana

Restaurant

La Habana
Sveavagen 108
113 50 Stockholm
Sweden

Phone (46) (8) 16 64 65

Website www.lahabana.se

Overview

Eva and I were in Stockholm last week, and decided to try out La Habana; Stockholm's first Cuban restaurant. La Habana is open Monday to Saturday 17:00-01:00, it contains a restaurant, bar, salsa club and cigar club.

Ambience

La Habana occupies two floors; one bar and the main restaurant being on the ground floor, with the other bar and salsa dancing area being in the basement.

It is charmingly rustic; wood being the material of choice for walls, bars, tables and chairs.

As we went there on a Friday night is was absolutely packed, and you are strongly advised to book in advance.

We were warmly welcomed and, as we had arrived early, partook of some cocktails in the downstairs bar. I should point out that rum is the drink of choice in La Habana, they have a variety of dark and light rums which make jolly agreeable cocktails.

I would make one observation about the door policy, there is a 20SEK charge per person for leaving your coats. This may be fine if you are just coming in for a drink. However, given that this is not the Savoy, I feel that to have to pay for leaving your coat, when you are paying for dinner as well is excessive.

I would also note that, because of the proximity of the main door to the restaurant, everytime someone entered or left there was a draft. I would recommend some form of curtain that shields the diners from this draft.

La Habana had a great atmosphere both downstairs and in the restaurant, lively and fun without being intrusive.

Menu

The menu offered a good selection of simple Cuban food including; ensaladas, fried chicken, tuna, swordfish and lamb.

I would note that the menu was not in English. However, the staff all spoke good English and would be more than happy to help explain the menu.

Service

The service was very good; efficient, friendly and prompt. I would also note that despite the fact that the place was full, we were shown to our table exactly at the time that we had reserved it.

Food

Eva started with the scampi sauteed in olive oil and garlic. These were fresh and tasty, neither too much oil or garlic had been used to overpower the taste.

I chose the chicken "Pio Pio" to start with. This was deep fried chicken breast with banana chips and a spicy side dip. The chicken was good, if a little dry (it needed the sauce to dip). However, I would say that the banana chips did nothing for me. I feel that fresh banana served with this dish would be better.

Eva, for her main course, chose the chicken "Pio Pio". Oddly, although the banana chips were again served with it, a fresh banana had also been added which did work well. The dish was accompanied by dark rice with black beans, this made an ideal compliment to the chicken and Eva was well pleased with her choice.

I chose the grilled breast of cockerel for my main course. This was a fine piece of meat, not overcooked but tender and unctuous. It was accompanied by green rice (cooked with basil), salad and a paprika sauce. Absolutely first class, and thoroughly enjoyable.

The meal, which included a bottle of Moet and liqueurs, came to 1545SEK including tip.

Overall Opinion

A great place for a good night out, we will definitely return.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Start The Day Well

Start The Day Well

Why not start the day as you mean to go on, with devilled kidneys?

Ingredients

This will serve two:
  • 8 fresh lambs' kidneys, halved (some prefer to remove the cores as well)


  • 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped


  • 1 teaspoon of English mustard powder


  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce


  • 1 tablespoon of tabasco sauce


  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree


  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper


  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic chopped


  • Coarse ground black pepper to taste


  • Olive oil
Method
  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and gently saute the onion and garlic


  • When soft, add all the other ingredients (except for the kidneys)


  • Mix thoroughly, then add the kidneys and saute for a few minutes on a medium heat until cooked
Serve on hot buttered toast.

Alternatively this makes an ideal lunch or dinner with saute potatoes or rice.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Compliments To Sir Terence

My Compliments To Sir Terence

Lady Conran, the wife of Sir Terence Conran (design guru, restauranteur and gourmet), has given an interview in the November edition of Waitrose Food Illustrated.

In the interview she notes that her husband does not like food that has been "dicked around with"; his preference is for simple things such as, boiled bacon, gammon and stews.

Quite right, I have been pushing the "simple food" message on this site for several years now, I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Partridge Off The Menu

Partridge Off The Menu

Those of you with a penchant for partridge may be a little disappointed this season. Partridge will be off the menu in many of London's top restaurants, because of an outbreak of fowl disease at Fenton Barns farm in East Lothian Scotland.

A government spokeswoman said that the farm was being monitored after the outbreak of Newcastle disease last week. Around 14,000 grey partridges being reared for the table have been culled.

Keith Chalmers Watson, owner of the Fenton Barns farm, said that demand was usually around 18,000 birds for this time of year.

Quote:

"There will be some disappointment for diners looking for partridge in restaurants between now and Christmas."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Scary Salads

Scary Salads

Seemingly you can take a fast food addict to salad, but you cannot make him eat it.

That at least is the conclusion of McDonald's, which have lost its core UK customers by putting a new range of healthy salads on its menu

The McDonald's UK chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, said that the chain intends to go back to basics by concentrating on burgers.

Mr Easterbrook said:

"In the past we have seemed somewhat apologetic about who and what we are, but you have to believe in the brand.

Our menu has evolved, and we now have a much broader range of salads and sandwiches. But we were alienating customers by pushing our salads
."

People find salads boring, that's the trouble.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Truffles

Truffles

Those of you who have a fondness for truffles may have been able to pick up a "bargain" the other day at a charity auction.

Five Italian white winter truffles, which weighed in total 1kg and included one which weighed 350g, were bought for a mere £11500. The original price estimate had been much in excess of that.

The money raised will go to the Seven Springs Foundation, a charity that supports children with special needs and their families.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Burger Off!

Burger Off!

Proving yet again that the Olympics is about money and sponsorship, not about sport, the British Olympic Organising Committee have landed themselves in an embarrassing situation with regard to one of the sponsors (McDonald's) for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Green Party is demanding to know how McDonald's, the burger chain, fits in with promises to promote locally grown food. It should also be noted that the British government is currently conducting a very assertive healthy eating/anti obesity campaign in the UK, as such some people could argue that to associate itself with a promoter of fast food is a tad hypocritical.

The London organising committee, needless to say, are insisting that McDonald's would not have any exclusive control over catering and would be just one of a range of outlets supplying food.

Rather laughably McDonald's is the "official restaurant" (how on earth can anyone describe McDonald's as a restaurant?) of the Games, as a result of a long-term deal with the International Olympic Committee.

Money first, health and sport second!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Roast Beef of Olde England

The Roast Beef of Olde England

I dined at Simpson's in The Strand last Friday, and was moved to publish the following article in Nanny Knows Best.

Read it here The Roast Beef of Olde England.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

London Wins By Landslide

London Wins By Landslide

The Which? Good Food Guide 2007 ranks London as the out and out winner of the UK dining scene.

London restaurants account for over 25% of the entries in the guide.

London has 333 entries compared to the next best, Manchester, which trails in with just 26 entries.

The Good Food Guide names Gordon Ramsay in London, The Fat Duck in Berkshire and Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire as the three venues with the best standards of cooking in the UK.

Its editor Andrew Turvil said:

"London has run away with the title, unsurprisingly, given the size of the population and the number of tourists it attracts. No other UK city can compete, just as Chelsea have dominated the Premiership these last few years."

The Which? Good Food Guide 2007 is based on recommendations from thousands of diners. Anonymous, independent inspectors then visited more than 1,200 venues which feature in the book.

The top places for dining out in the UK are as follows, as judged by the number of entries in the Which? Good Food Guide 2007.

London - 333

Manchester - 26

Edinburgh - 22

Leeds - 14

Glasgow - 13

Birmingham - 11

Brighton - 11

Oxford - 11

Bath - 9

Belfast - 9

Bristol - 9.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Good Laugh

A Good Laugh

My compliments to the excellent waitress of Tennstopet (Stockholm), who gave Eva and I a good laugh the other day when we were having lunch there.

I attempted to use my limited Swedish and asked if there was Falukorv on the menu (a Swedish sausage), the waitress looked puzzled and I repeated myself; she then apologised profusely, and said that they had no Novalucol.

Clearly my pronunciation really is appalling. I will stick to English in future.

I wondered why Eva was laughing, and she explained that Novalucol is in fact a stomach medicine.

Clearly I did not look my best that lunchtime!

Anyway, all was finally explained and good laugh was had by all. Unfortunately there was no Falukorv either, so instead I opted for a whole Irish crab; which was excellent!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Curry Mushroom

The Curry Mushroom

Those of you with a penchant for curry may find the so called "curry mushroom" a must have in your storecupboards.

Thee small brown curry scented milkcap, Lactarius camphoratus, is to be collected and sold commercially by Wildfoods a Scottish company specialising in foods gathered from the wild.

Liz Walsh, director Wildfoods, said:

"We believe we are the first company to sell the curry-scented milk-cap commercially. It is a fascinating natural food that really does smell and taste of curry and grows alongside many other mushrooms in the wonderful forests we have here in Scotland.

We strongly believe there could be an excellent market for it out there among food lovers
."

Wildfoods believes that the curry mushroom has many potential uses eg; vegetable curries, a spicy condiment or to add heat to risotto.

Wildfoods will sell the curry mushrooms at £10 for 250 grams.

The curry mushroom has a strong smell and has a taste that brings to mind coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger and chilli. I would suggest that it may be cheaper to use those ingredients directly, rather than buy the mushroom.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Advice To Finnair Re The Finnair Lounge Stockholm

Advice To Finnair Re The Finnair Lounge Stockholm

For heaven's sake put some vodka in your drinks bar, and improve on the dismal selection of nibbles curently on offer (nothing usually more than nuts).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beanz Meanz Money

Beanz Meanz Money

It seems that childrens' healthy eating champion and front man for Sainsburys, Jamie Oliver, is serving baked beans on toast at his famous restaurant £15.

The trouble is, he is charging £7 for this dish.

Who on earth is stupid enough to pay £7 for baked beans on toast?

I also understand that aside from making one hell of a profit on this dish, from the customers stupid enough to buy it, Jamie is also being paid by Heinz £15K to put it on his menu.

Easy money!

In case you don't know how to create this Oliver classic", here is the recipe:

-Open one can of beans

-Heat the contents in a saucepan

-Toast some bread

-Butter the toast

-Pour the beans over the toast

-Eat

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tasty Takeaway

A Tasty Takeaway

Those of you who enjoy an Indian takeaway may balk at the price being paid by Steve Francis, a New York dance music producer for Stush Music.

He is paying over £8K for a takeaway meal consisting of; 1 fish bhuna (using 2 extra large Bangladeshi tiger fish), 12 vegetable birianis and various other side dishes.

The reason that this meal is so expensive, is that it is being flown from the Indie Spice restaurant in Belfast to New York.

Seemingly Mr Francis once sampled the food of the Indie Spice, when he was at a music festival in England.

Well, they do say that curries are addictive!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Risky Profession

A Risky Profession

Those of you thinking about starting your own restaurant, may wish to step back and take some time over your decision.

In Britain around 5000 new restaurants are opened each year, less than 25% of these still remain open 12 months on.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cockroaches and Curry

Cockroaches and Curry

Cockroaches and curry do not mix; these resilient beasts tend to put off the most hardy diner, especially when they are found still alive in the poppadums.

Unfortunately even well know brands, such as Shere Khan, can be affected by these infestations; as per the recent report in the Times, which noted that the Shere Khan in Manchester was fined £40K for the above.

To read the full story please visit this link Cockroaches.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chicago Bans Foie Gras

Chicago Bans Foie Gras

Those of you with a penchant for foie gras may care to avoid traveling to Chicago, as the authorities there have banned it.

Chicago has made history as the first American city to outlaw foie gras. The only other place in America to ban foie gras is California, but the ban won't come into effect until 2012.

The decision to ban foie gras arose when Charlie Trotter, the celebrity chef, said that he would no longer serve foie gras on grounds of cruelty. This caused Rick Tramonto, another chef, to call him a hypocrite. The row was reported in the papers, and the local council led by city alderman, Joe Moore, went on to draw up the ban.

Fines of up to $500 will be imposed on those caught selling foie gras. However, chefs have devised a cunning plan to avoid the fine; they intend to give away foie gras with a $16 serving of roast potatoes.

Needless to say, the city that was renowned for its organised crime in the 1920's, which itself stemmed from a ban on alcohol, has not taken this ban lying down. Chefs in Chicago have staged a protest by loading their menus with dishes featuring foie gras, even the humble hot dog has a foie gras connection.

The 676 Restaurant served a seven course Outlaw Dinner, which included foie gras wrapped in prosciutto and covered with hot chocolate; together with a selection of foods that were once illegal, from absinthe to unpasteurised cheese.

Needless to say, the ban is ridiculous and makes a mockery of the local council.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dining Out

Dining Out

British eating habits are changing, according to official figures more money is now being spent on eating out than eating at home in Britain.

Dining out has rocketed in popularity in the UK in the last decade, as British people have higher disposable income and seek to avoid cooking.

UK government figures show spending on food and drink consumed outside the home has doubled between 1992 and 2004 to £87.5BN, nearly £2BN more than spending on food and drink for the home.

That being said, spending on food and drink at home still rose by over 50% between 1992 and 2004.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vindaloos Cure Headaches

Vindaloos Cure Headaches

It seems that a strong curry, such as a Vindaloo, may in fact be a cure for headaches.

Research, carried out by the Rowett Institute, has found that Vindaloos are better than aspirin at getting rid of headaches.

The key ingredient is salicylic acid, which is found in aspirin, and it occurs naturally in Indian food.

Spices found in curry such as cumin, turmeric and paprika are all rich in the ingredient.

Whilst aspirin can cause internal bleeding and ulcers, curry does not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Odin's

Restaurant

Odin's
27 Devonshire Street
London
W1

Phone:- 0207 935 7296

Website www.langansrestaurants.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I went up to London the other day to try out one of the Langan's chain of restaurants, Odin's. It was founded by the late bon viveur Peter Langan, who partied hard, as per the New York Times:

"Langan was burned in a fire at his home in October 1988 and died on the 8th of December 1988 at the age of 47.

Mr. Langan, whose Langan's Brasserie in Mayfair was a favorite with entertainers, was co-owner with the actor Michael Caine
."

Odin's tries to stay true to his memory by serving indulgent food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Odin's serves hearty 2 and 3 course set meals that are English and French in inspiration. It is rumoured to be well liked by celebrities, keen to avoid the unwanted attention of the public and paparazzi.

You should note that it is not open at the weekends.

Ambience

The restaurant is a joy in itself to visit, as it houses a remarkable collection of artwork copiously hung throughout the walls of the restaurant. The walls are adorned with pieces by Hockney and Patrick Proctor, in fact the walls are positively groaning under the weight of the artwork hanging there.

The restaurant is luxurious, yet cosy and intimate, the tables are laid with linen cloths and napkins, and the seats soft and comfortable. Indeed our table was furnished with two rather fine low back armchairs, which definitely encouraged one to linger.

We had booked for 8:30PM, the restaurant was not that busy and indeed seemed a little "hushed". However, as the evening progressed a few more people entered and the mood livened up.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent range of French/English cuisine which can be taken in the form of two or three set courses. The dishes are changed regularly. However, on the evening that were were there the menu included; roast duck, stuffed guinea fowl, grilled seabream, veal, smoked eel and sausage and mash.

Service

The staff were highly professional and efficient. However, they were at first a little stiff not smiling as naturally/genuinely as they could have done. They did "loosen" up as the evening progressed, and managed to smile more warmly towards the end.

Food

I started with the tortellini with prosciutto ham in a tomato and garlic sauce. This was a highly enjoyable dish, small parcels of tortellini wrapped around delicately flavoured ham accompanied by an exquisite tomato and garlic sauce. A perfect combination of taste and texture, not overpowered by the sauce. I was more than pleased with this as a starter.

I chose the roast duck for my main course. This was undoubtedly, and I do not exaggerate here, one of the best ducks that I have had in a long time. The duck had been well cooked so that no blood oozed forth when I cut into it, yet it was still moist and flavoursome, the skin crispy and moreish.

I would also emphasise that the duck portion was a very good size indeed, consisting of; leg, thigh and a very large breast. A far cry for some of the dry disappointments that have been served to me in other establishments. It was accompanied by a very generous portion of home made sage and onion stuffing and apple sauce; these were ideal accompaniments for this noble bird.

Eva started with the seared scallops in saffron sauce. She was absolutely delighted with her choice, as the scallops were tender and beautifully complimented by the delicate sauce.

She chose the breast of guinea fowl, stuffed with bacon and tarragon in a Madeira sauce for her main course. A true delight, the breast had been cooked to perfection and the taste when combined with the stuffing was unctuous.

Our main courses were accompanied by paprika potatoes and carrots.

Rather unusually I decided also to have a dessert, and went for the date and ginger pudding. This was superb, a strong ginger flavour matched by an unbelievable sweetness.

Eva had the creme brulee which was a real treat, a crispy caramlelised top contrasting against the moist decadent underside.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to £131 including service.

Opinion

A first class restaurant which is well worth a visit. We are more than happy to recommend it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fabada

Fabada

Continuing the temporary Spanish theme of this site, here is a simple fabada recipe that I have made a few times since we returned from holiday in Spain. It serves 4.

Ingredients

2 large tins (400g each) of cannellini beans, drained

4 medium sized chorizo, sliced thickly

2 Spanish blood puddings, sliced thickly

1 head of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely

Olive oil

4 thick slices of belly of pork, cut into thick cubes

Saffron

4 bayleaves

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Lightly saute the garlic, add the pork and chorizo.

Gently saute for a few minutes, then add the blood pudding and the beans.

Cover with water, adding the remaining ingredients

Simmer gently with the lid on for around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Transfer into earthenware dishes, place these in a preheated oven (180 degrees) and bake for around 15-20 minutes.

Serve immediately with bread.

Ideal for a late supper or as a hearty starter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

el Yantar de la ribera

Restaurant

el Yantar de la ribera
Roger de Flor
08013 Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93 265 63 09

Website www.elyantardelaribera.com This contains a video of the chef cooking.

Overview

As noted previously, Eva and I went to Barcelona a few weeks ago for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of my personal favourites was this restaurant, situated near the Victory Arch some 30 minutes walk from the harbour.

el Yantar de la ribera is a traditional rustic restaurant, that specialises in Castilian cuisine cooked in open wooden fired ovens.

Ambience

el Yantar de la ribera is tucked away on rather quiet and unassuming road, unless you knew where you were going you would miss it. The entrance is modest, a thick old wooden door, behind which is a rather pleasant small entrance vestibule.

The entrance vestibule leads into the main dining rooms, one for smokers the other for non smokers. Now here is a tip, if you like to smoke you will need to book; as they reserve that part for their regulars, who come in at around 10:00pm, and stay to the small hours smoking and drinking after their meal.

The dining room resembles a rustic wine cellar, the tables were neatly laid with white linen cloths and towards the far end of the dining room the chefs laboured in the open plan kitchen (the wood fired oven clearly visible).

The restaurant is clearly very popular with local families, many of the tables were occupied by family groups of varying ages, Eva and I were the only non Spaniards there that evening.

Menu

The menu offered a most wonderful selection of hearty Castilian dishes; black pudding, roast lamb and suckling (spelt sucking) pig were on the menu. I saw no evidence of any form of vegetarian offerings.

Service

The service was of a high quality, although the staff had only a modest command of English. That being said we had no trouble ordering, as the menu was in English and we had a phrase book. I would also point out that of course I speak no more than a few words of Spanish, so it is not my place to criticise.

We were though made to feel very welcome.

Food

We both started with the selection of regional specialties these being ; black pudding and two types of chorizo (one spicy the other mild).

This dish was presented in one large dish in the centre of the table, from which we helped ourselves. The black pudding was rather like haggis, and the chorizos both spicy and mild provided a juicy and flavoursome contrast to the pudding.

The freshly baked bread that accompanied it was an unnecessary, but very pleasant, indulgence.

We selected another dish to share for our main course, this time the house specialtiy; a whole quarter joint of lamb (leg, ribs and shoulder) roasted in the oven.

The cooked joint was proudly borne to our table on a large earthenware dish by one of the staff, who asked us to approve it before he took it away for carving.

Given the size of the portions, the restaurant does not offer vegetables or potatoes as an accompaniment. Instead they provide a rather good quality green salad which, together with the bread, provides a more than adequate accompianmnt to this most noble of dishes.

The lamb itself was absolutely unctuous. The meat tender yet full of flavour, juicy and oozing with goodness; culinary heaven.

I make no apology in stating that we pigged out on this, and enjoyed sucking the bones dry at the end.

Quite unecessarily I opted to try the egg custard to round off my meal. This was rather an interesting dish, as it resembled in taste and texture a traditional school egg custard and a creme brulee all in one. Rather jolly I thought.

When we had finished our meal, we were rather impressed to see that the liqueurs consisted of a large wicker basket of quarter bottles of various spirits (such as vodka) that was deposited on our table together with two ice chilled shot glasses.

The basic idea being that we could have as much as we wanted, at no extra cost.

Now there's something that you don't encounter every day!

We managed a couple, then reluctantly decided that it was time to call it a night.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Cava and the basket of spirits, came to 80Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

An outstanding restaurant, you would be very foolish not to visit it if you have the opportunity.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Los Caracoles

Restaurant

Los Caracoles
Calle Escudellers 14
08002 Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93 302 31 85

Overview

As noted earlier, Eva and I went to Barcelona the other week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Los Caracoles (The Snails), a marvellous grill restaurant (famed for its spit roast chickens which can be seen roasting, against a large vertical barbecue, through the front window) situated near La Rambla.

Ambience

Los Caracoles is a family (Bofarull) run restaurant established in 1835.

The restaurant was a hive of activity, the cooking being done "open plan" so you can see as you enter the restaurant the chefs labouring over the wood fired barbecues.

There are several rooms in the restaurant, we were taken to one away from the barbecue area. The restaurant is decorated in light colours, with numerous photos of Spanish celebrities who have dined there adorning the walls. Cured hams hung from the ceiling.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent selection of steaks, chicken, seafood dishes and roast suckling pig.

Service

The service was very friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and the staff spoke English.

We were made to feel welcome.

Food

I started with the selection of cold meats, which was a mouthwatering array of chorizos and hams. The bread rolls that came with it were rather amusing,as they were shaped like snails

Eva decided to save herself for her main course which was a paella. This was a very fine dish indeed, containing a variety of seafood; clams, mussels and squid served in a bed of rice which had been cooked in a fish stock.

The taste was well balanced and not overpowering, and the fish were fresh and not overcooked. Eva was well pleased with her choice.

I had a sirloin steak for my main course. This was a very fine cut of meat, rich, thick and with just the right amount of fat to add flavour. The steak was succulent and tender, just right. It was served with French fries, grilled pepper and a grilled tomato.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Albario Pazo De Barrantes and a very good measure of cointreau, came to 88Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

A fine restaurant, which we will visit again when we return to Barcelona.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Ultimate Hangover Cure

The Ultimate Hangover Cure

Lightly toast one slice of white bread, butter it and spread a good layer of marmalade on top.

Then place a poached egg on top of that.

An ideal way to improve your blood sugar levels, and banish the hangover.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Paco Alcalde

Restaurant

Paco Alcalde
Almirall Aixada 12
Barcelona
Spain

Phone 221 50 26

Overview

As noted earlier, Eva and I went to Barcelona last week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Paco Alcalde, a charming fish restaurant (famed for its fresh seafood) situated near the seafront in the old fishing port.

Ambience

Paco Alcalde was established in 1921, and is still owned and run by the founding family.

It was located just off the seafront in one of the narrow streets of the old fishing village of Barcelona. In case you are worried about walking past it by mistake, don't be! Standing outside, day and night, is one on the staff who greeted us warmly when we arrived and ensured that we had a nice table.

The restaurant is bright, cheerful and charming; it is decorated with cool tiled walls, and numerous ornaments related to fishing and the sea.

It is famed for its seafood, which is selected and prepared fresh every day.

The restaurant has a smoking and non smoking section, as well as a private function room for larger parties.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent selection of freshly caught local seafood, as well as steak and chicken.

Service

The service was very friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and the staff spoke English to varying degrees. They also offered to help us with our three or four words of Spanish.

We were made to feel very welcome. Indeed when it came time for the cointreaus, at the end of meal, we were poured two rather magnificent measures (enough to swim a goldfish in!).

When we left we were offered warm and hearty handshakes by the staff and a friendly adios!.

Food

I have to confess that I am not that fond of fish, so I stuck to the meat dishes; and started with a cannelloni.

This was rather good, unlike the Italian version it contained no tomatoes but instead was very meaty and was smothered in an unctuous bechamel sauce. I was more than happy with this as a starter.

Eva decided to save herself for her main course which was a paella. This was a simple (by British Spanish restaurant standards) dish, containing langoustines, clams and squid served in a bed of rice which had been cooked in a dark fish stock (squid I would say). Note were you order this dish in the UK, it would be stuffed with all manner of seafood, peas and peppers.

That being said, less is more; the dish was well balanced and not overpowering, and the fish were very fresh. Eva was happy with the "simple" version.

I had an entrecote steak for my main course. This was a good thick cut of meat, rich, thick and with just the right amount of fat to add flavour. The steak was cooked just right, and was very tender. It was served with french fries and a grilled tomato.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Torres Vina Sol and two very large cointreaus, came to 52Euro before service.

Overall Opinion

A superb restaurant, which we most certainly will visit again when we return to Barcelona.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Advice To "Professional" Chefs

Check your egos and temperaments in at the front door, before you enter the kitchen.

When a customer asks you to fry an egg, do it; don't argue that you are too busy. The customer comes first, not your egos, vanity and arrogance.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mi Burrito y Yo

Restaurant

Mi Burrito y Yo (My Donkey and I)

Paso de la Ensenanza, 2
Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93-318-2742

Overview

Eva and I went to Barcelona last week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Mi Burrito y Yo (My Donkey and I), a charming steak house near La Rambla.

Ambience

The surroundings were very quaint and rustic, the specialties on the menu were roast meats cooked on an open fire at the entrance level. Downstairs was a small dining room and bar area (with a most sucullent smoked ham sitting atop the bar) upstairs was a larger dining room with a piano for entertainment.

Menu

The menu offered a good selection of steaks, pork, fish and other Spanish dishes.

Service

The service was friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and although our waitress did not speak that much English we had no trouble making ourselves understood.

Food

We were given a large basket of freshly baked bread, two fresh tomatoes, two large fresh garlic cloves and a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the outset.

The idea being to cut the tomatoes and garlic up, place them on the bread and drizzle the combination with oil and vinegar (DIY brushetta).

What may seem to be rather simple idea was in fact absolutely glorious on the taste buds, and is something that we are inclined to institute at home for our own meals.

Having munched our way through our "Spanish canape", we then proceeded with the serious business of eating our meal.

Eva started with a hearty bowl of vegetable soup with fried croutons. This was a splendid dish, not too thick but neither was it too watery. The balance of vegetables and potatoes were just right, with the croutons added a crunchy texture to the dish.

I started with the tortilla, a homemade omelette filled with cheese and mushrooms. This was unctuous, the omelette (as it should be) was still a little runny and combined perfectly with the mushrooms and cheese. An ideal starter.

Eva chose a light dish of carpaccio for her main course. This being Spain it was not that "light", and consisted of a good sized dish of thinly sliced beef interspersed with cheese shavings and drizzled with olive oil. She was very happy with this dish, the more so because the soup had been very filling.

I chose the pork fillet for my main course. This consisted of two very generous cuts of pork, seasoned with herbs, which had been cooked on the open barbecue. The taste was superb, and the meat very tender and succulent. In my view it had been cooked to perfection. The dish was accompanied by a baked potato and grilled tomatoes.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Spanish wine, came to 70Euro before service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid restaurant, we heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pret A Manger Heathrow Terminal 1

Pret A Manger Heathrow Terminal 1

I recently passed through Pret A Manger at Heathrow Terminal 1, and tried the smoked salmon sandwich on brown buttered bread. I have a few observations and some advice for Pret.
  • The butter was barely noticeable on one slice of the bread, and non existent on the other. Given that the sandwich was described as buttered, there should at least be some evidence of butter.


  • The sandwiches are cut in half, and are presented in their boxes with the filling side visible. In the box the sandwich looked well stuffed with salmon. On close examination this effect had been achieved by the old catering trick of piling up the filling in the centre, and leaving the edges bare; ie never judge a sandwich by its presentation box.


  • The counter tops, where the customers can eat their sandwiches, needed to be wiped down; and the floor need to be swept.
In catering, attention to detail is everything.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Restaurang Moldau

Restaurant

Moldau
Bergsunds Strand 33-35
117 38 Stockholm
Sweden

Phone (46) (8) 84 75 48

Overview

Eva and I are in Stockholm this week, and the other night tried out Restaurang Moldau; an Austrian restaurant and bar, which serves traditional Austrian food.

Ambience

Moldau is quite large, and is fashioned in the manner of a rustic Austrian country bar and eatery. Heavy craved wooded tables and chairs, with soft cushions scattered around, set off by traditional decorations hanging on the walls. It is an exceptionally cosy and inviting environment.

Unfortunately for us, it was the day before Mid Summer, and as such there were only two other people in it.

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 Austrian food including; Weiner Schnitzel, sausages, ham hocks and Goulash soup.

Service

The owner was pleasant and efficient, offering me three different types of potatoes to go with my schnitzel.

Food

Eva started with a salted pretzel and green pepper, as she did not want to spoil her appetite.

I started with the Goulash soup, which was excellent. It was well flavoured, but not too spicy, and contained a generous portion of meat and potatoes.

I asked for eggs with my Wiener Schnitzel, which initially caused a "sorry we can't do that reaction" until I said Holstein Schnitzel (the official Austrian name for the dish) then there was no problem.

The dish consisted of a very generous cut of veal breaded and fried, it literally could not fit on the plate. It came with two fried eggs, two different types of potato salad and saute potatoes.

The meal was absolutely first class, the meat was tender and flavoursome and the potatoes excellent.

It is fair to say that I was well sated.

Eva's schnitzel, sans eggs, was equally large and delicious. It came with rosti potatoes.

The meal, which included a bottle of good Austrian wine and a schnapps, came to 884SEK before service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid restaurant, we heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stomach Aid

Stomach Aid

After a stomach upset, it is essential to start eating again but important not to overload the stomach.

Here is a simple recipe that I have found to be good, when recovering from a stomach upset.

Lightly stew some chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh garlic and a large chunk of grated fresh ginger in olive oil.

When they are soft, pour over a bowl of plain cooked rice.

Squeeze a good measure of fresh lemon juice over this.

Ideal for settling a delicate stomach.

Note, as with all illnesses, if your sypmtoms persist consult a doctor.

Friday, June 16, 2006

KFC Trans Fat Issue

KFC Trans Fat Issue

It is reported in the US that The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is suing KFC, on the basis that the fried chicken and fries that KFC serves are cooked in oil containing trans fats. These trans fats are deemed to to more unhealthy than other forms of fat.

In the lawsuit, CSPI asked a Kentucky judge to order KFC to use other types of cooking oils and to make sure that the customers know how much trans fats KFC's food contains. CSPI allege that trans fats, vegetable oils that have been altered to be firm at room temperature, increase the risk of heart disease.

KFC have stated that they will fight the lawsuit, and that they are committed to maintaining "KFC's unique taste and flavour."

I would say that like any other food, if you eat too much it is bound to be unhealthy. However, I enjoy the occasional box of chicken and fries and doubt that once in a while it will kill you.

Common sense should be applied.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Summer Vegetable Recipe

Summer Vegetable Recipe

Now that summer is finally upon us, I thought that you may like to try this very simple summer vegetable recipe that is both colourful and tasty. I made a pot of it myself yesterday.

Ingredients

- 10 courgettes, washed and cut into thick slices

- 6 large tomatoes, cut coarsely

- 1 head of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely

- 4 medium onions, peeled and chopped coarsely

- olive oil, salt and black pepper

Method

- Lightly saute the onions and garlic witht he oil, until soft, in a large stew pot

- Add the remaining ingredients

- Season

- Simmer with the lid on for around 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the courgettes are soft

Serve with pork or chicken, or just enjoy a bowl of it as it is.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Scary Stats

Scary Stats

The British public's demand demand for ready meals grew by 70% between 1994 and 2004, we now eat more than £900M of ready meals each year.

Pathetic!

It is hardly surprising that we are morphing into obese lumps of fat.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ethical Cod

Those of you with a yearning for a good quality piece of cod, but who have found it difficult to obtain owing to overfishing, may soon take heart; it seems that a new supply of ethical cod has been made available.

The first organic cod will be appearing in Britain's supermarkets and restaurants this week.

Tesco will be selling organic cod fillets at a staggering £19.99 per kilo.

"No Catch . . . Just Cod" is aimed at the "ethical eater", it is the world's first organically farmed 100% sustainable cod.

It is produced by Johnson Seafarms in the Shetlands, who say that the cod are raised in spacious circular cages and are fed wild herring and mackerel and given toys, including ropes to chew on and tunnels to swim through.

The cod will also be served at restaurants in Harvey Nichols stores, the Oxo Tower restaurant and on the South Bank in London.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oscars - The Croydon Park Hotel

Oscars - The Croydon Park Hotel

The issues raised in the earlier post that I made, have now been fully addressed by the Croydon Park Hotel.

My compliments to them for acting promptly on this.

I have therefore removed my original post.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Taj Mahal Wins Tiffin Cup

Taj Mahal Wins Tiffin Cup

Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant established in Pembrokeshire nearly three decades ago, has won the inaugural Tiffin Cup.

Over 40 South Asian restaurants in the UK had been nominated for the contest by their local MPs, before being whittled down to a shortlist of 14 for the final showdown at the House of Commons last night.

The Tiffin Cup was launched by British MPs Keith Vaz, Michael Fabricant and John Barrett in recognition of the contribution of South Asian restaurants to British cuisine and to raise money for charity.

Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, was Chief Guest.

Birmingham's 'Royal Al Faisal', specialising in Kashmiri cuisine, came second while 'B Raj Tandoori' Fraserburgh in Scotland finished third.

The entries were judged by celebrity chefs and presenters; Lloyd Grossman and Ainsley Harriott, event management expert Teji Singh, Bollywood actor Saeed Jaffrey and Nina Wadia from the television show 'Goodness Gracious Me'.

A raffle organised on the occasion raised over 1,500 for two charities, the Roko Cancer Appeal and TB Alert.

I wonder if they had read that the Taj Mahl was shut for 5 days in 2004, as a result of a rat infestation?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tiffin Cup 2006

Tiffin Cup 2006

Britain's top curry chefs will compete in the House of Commons kitchens today, in the Tiffin Cup 2006 the contest to find the nation's best curry restaurant.

Fourteen south Asian restaurants from the UK have been shortlisted from a total of more than 40, nominated by their local MPs for the final of the first Tiffin Cup.

The judging panel includes; Lloyd Grossman, Ainsley Harriott and Nina Wadia from Goodness Gracious Me.

The Tiffin Cup has been organised by MPs Michael Fabricant, John Barrett and Keith Vaz.

Mr Vaz said:

"The UK's love affair with curry has come a long way.

I am delighted to host the first Tiffin Cup grand final, which will feature 14 of the best South Asian restaurants Britain has to offer.

I am sure this will be a fun-packed evening that will highlight how far South Asian cuisine has developed in this country, while also supporting two very worthy causes
."

The competition is helping to raise money for the Roko Cancer Appeal, which aims to create India's first mobile breast cancer unit, and TB Alert, the only charity which fights tuberculosis in both the UK and India.

Monday, May 15, 2006

No Salary For Waiters

No Salary For Waiters

Anthony Worrall Thompson, the TV celebrity chef, has reportedly lambasted the poor standards of service offered by many restaurants in the UK.

He directs much of his rage at the influx of foreign staff who have not been trained in the fine art of service, and who cannot speak the language.

He has a point, many a fine meal is ruined by poor quality service.

Worrall Thompson's solution is to zeroise waiters salaries, and make them only work for tips.

An interesting solution to the service problems the beset so many restaurants. However, I doubt that it would be allowed under the current minimum wage rules.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Tiffin Cup

The Tiffin Cup

Chefs from 14 curry houses in the UK will travel to Parliament on the 16th of May to compete in a "cook off" for the inaugural Tiffin Cup, which celebrates south Asian cuisine.

MPs Michael Fabricant, John Barrett and Keith Vaz launched the Tiffin Cup because of the "colourful contribution" south Asian restaurants make to the British food industry.

40 south Asian restaurants throughout the UK were nominated for the award by their local MPs. These were cut down to a shortlist of 14, and they will compete in a cook-in at the Commons on 16 May.

The judges include presenters Loyd Grossman, Ainsley Harriott and Nina Wadia from TV's Goodness Gracious Me.

The winning restaurant will get a year's supply of Cobra Beer, and the 2006 Tiffin Cup.

The competition will raise money for the Roko Cancer Appeal, which also fights tuberculosis in the UK and India.

Mr Vaz said:

"The UK's love affair with curry has come a long way. I am delighted to host the first Tiffin Cup grand final, which will feature 14 of the best south Asian restaurants Britain has to offer.

These restaurants raise a greater awareness and understanding of Britain's Asian communities.

I am sure this will be a fun-packed evening that will highlight how far south Asian cuisine has developed in this country, while also supporting two very worthy causes
."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The World Is Your Lobster

The World Is Your Lobster

Those of you who love the taste of lobster, but are a little squeamish about seeing it being boiled alive, may find the latest food invention to be of interest.

Simon Buckhaven, a barrister, has designed a gadget that stuns a lobster with electrodes and kills it within five seconds. The CrustaStun ensures that the lobster dies a less violent death, than the current variations of; being drowned in freshwater, knifed in the head or boiled alive.

The CrustaStun is being used by the Blue Seafood Company, in Paignton, Devon, and Cromer Crab, of Norfolk.

Mr Buckhaven will soon offer a smaller version that can be used in restaurants, at a cost of about £1,500 to £2,000.

He is even working on one for the home.

It is expected that the CrustaStun will receive a sales boost soon, as the EU may well make the humane killing of crustaceans compulsory; as a scientific report has said that they are "sentient beings" and feel pain.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cold Cure

Cold Cure

If you are suffering from a cold, and are in need of a little comfort food that may help you expel the bugs, try this simple recipe.
  • Take one medium onion, and peel it.


  • Place it whole into a pan, and cover with cold water.


  • Bring the water to the boil, and simmer with the lid on for around ten minutes until the onion is soft.


  • Remove the onion from the pan, shake off excess water and place on a plate.


  • Put a good sized knob of butter on the top, and season with salt and black pepper.


  • Eat whilst hot.
This dish helps to warm you, fight off the bugs and make your cough more productive.

Get well soon!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Dangers of Seaweed

The Dangers of Seaweed

Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) is reportedly considering measures to cut back on the consumption of a type of seaweed called hijiki, which allegedly contains high levels of inorganic arsenic.

Hijiki is used primarily in Japanese food.

On July 28 2004, the FSA issued a warning that advised people not to eat the seaweed.

"A survey carried out by the Agency found that hijiki contains inorganic arsenic, a form that occurs naturally in some food and can increase people's risk of developing cancer if eaten regularly".

Hijiki is a distinctive, almost black, shredded seaweed, that is used mainly as an appetiser or starter in some Japanese restaurants.

Following the warning, the FSA has recently urged the food and wholesale industries to discuss effective measures to restrain consumption of hijiki.

The day will come when we will not be allowed to eat anyhting!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Krogen Soldaten Svejk

Krogen Soldaten Svejk

Those of you who are residing in, or travelling to, Stockholm and who are in search of a good pub atmosphere and hearty food should check out the Krogen Soldaten Svejk (the Czech Soldier Pub).

It was established in 1974 by the Vada family from Czechoslovakia.

This is a splendid establishment that serves good beer, and hearty East European food in a pub setting.

I particularly recommend the Holstein Schnitzel (fried veal with fried eggs).

Eva and I went there a while ago, and most certainly will revisit it when we are next in Stockholm.

Contact details

Krogen Soldaten Svejk
Ostgotagatan 35
116 25 Stockholm
Sweden

+46 8 641 33 66

Website www.svejk.se/index_en.html

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Rarest of Rarebits

The Rarest of Rarebits

Those of you who are fond of Welsh Rarebit (in effect cheese on toast), may find Master chef Tom Bridge's creation a little hard to digest.

He is in the process of creating a £345 a slice Welsh Rarebit using; £600 per lb white Umbrian truffles and £250 per lb matsutake Chinese mushrooms.

The dish is to be created for National Cheese on Toast Day on April 27.

Those of you who can't quite manage £345 per slice may prefer to try this simple recipe:

-Grated mature English cheddar
-Worcestershire sauce
-Tabasco sauce
-Salt/black pepper
-Egg yolk
-Tablespoon of milk
-Teaspoon of flour
-Tablespoon of ale or Guinness
-Teaspoon of English mustard powder

Mix the above together and spread on a slice of toast. Grill until the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Marvellous!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

World's Most Expensive Sandwich

World's Most Expensive Sandwich

Those of you who wince at paying £3 or more for a soggy sandwich may care to turn away now.

Selfridge's in London are now selling the world's most expensive sandwich, the McDonald (named after its creator Scott McDonald).

The cost of the McDonald comes it at a whopping £85.

What do you get for your £85?

-fermented sourdough bread
-red pepper confit
-foie gras
-Japanese beef flown in fresh, the cattle that produce it are fed on beer and sake as well as grain and massaged to make their meat tender

The McDonald also packs a calorific punch..2,000 to be precise!

Quite ridiculous, but I am sure there will be people with more money than sense who will buy this unnecessary product.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Dangers of Sushi

The Dangers of Sushi

Those of you who think that eating sushi is good for you, may wish to think again. That is certainly the conclusion of the Mail, which notes:

"Sushi contains a cocktail of chemicals, heavy metals and pesticides which can potentially lower intelligence, reduce fertility and even lead to cancer. They are also, despite their healthy image, laden with calories."

Nonetheless, as with anything, if eaten in moderation I am sure that it won't kill you; it certainly tastes good.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tripe

Tripe

According to a recent survey carried out by Olive magazine, of British food preferences, the most hated food in Britain is Tripe (the lining of a cow's stomach).

The worst 5 were:

1 Tripe
2 Jellied eels
3 Deep fried Mars bar
4 Brawn
5 Black pudding

Yet ask another group of people and you will find that they love some, or all, of the above.

Taste is a very personal thing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kitchen Banter

Kitchen Banter

Beware a restaurant where the kitchen has no banter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vaz Urges Immigration Relaxation

Vaz Urges Immigration Relaxation

Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester, has urged the government to relax the immigration system, so that cooks from India can obtain work permits to work in Indian restaurants in Britain.

Vaz told the House of Commons that Indian and Chinese restaurants in Leicester were facing a crisis due to shortage of cooks.

Vaz stated that the demand for cooks from India and China was increasing, since many of the founders of Indian and Chinese restaurants who opened their establishments in the 1960s were approaching retirement and their children had no interest in running them.

Vaz claims that Britain has the largest number of Indian restaurants outside of India, approximately 10,000. They serve some two million meals a week and the sector is worth over £3BN to the British economy.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said that he did not agree but promised to monitor the system.

There is no reason to assume that chefs, of non Asian origin, cannot be trained to cook Asian meals.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Glasgow Goes For Curry Title

Glasgow City Council is supporting its restaurants' goal to become the Curry Capital of Britain 2006.

Four restaurants have been chosen to represent Glasgow; the Panjea, Ashoka Flame, Shish Mahal and the Dhabba will take part.

The competition is now in its sixth year, and will see sixteen cities facing off for the titles of Curry Capital of Britain 2006 and EthniCity 2006.

Glasgow won Curry Capital in 2002 & 2003, Bradford in 2004 and Birmingham in 2005.

The multiethnic 'EthniCity' title went to Edinburgh in 2003, Birmingham in 2004 and Glasgow in 2005.

The winning city will be announced this May.

Lord Provost Liz Cameron is quoted as saying:

"Glasgow is the home of a good curry. For years our fantastic Indian restaurants have served up inventive and fiery dishes to warm the culinary heart. And we are proud to say that curry is up there as our adoptive national dish."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Somerset Food Fayre

Somerset Food Fayre

Those of you with some spare time on your hands this Thursday, may care to take a trip to Brean in Somerset; where Lesley Waters, Ed Baines and Martin Blunos (TV celebrity chefs) will perform cookery demonstrations and workshops at the food fayre in Brean.

Some 3000 people are expected to attend the cookery demonstrations and workshops, which will be held between 10.30am and 4pm.

There is also be a local produce market, trade stands and free food tasters.

There is no entry charge to members of the public.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Momma Cherri's Moves Home

Momma Cherri's Moves Home

Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack, as featured on this site and on Grondon Ramsay's TV programme, is moving home to a new premises; just a few steps away from its current location, to what used to be Choys.

Charita Jones, the owner, is holding a special celebration for the move on the 23rd of March and is even flying in her mother, brother, cousins and great aunts for the event.

I wish her every success.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

British Beef Back in Europe

British Beef Back in Europe

British beef can finally return to Europe's shops and restaurants, after the 10 year ban imposed on it as a result of BSE.

EU food safety experts agreed yesterday to lift the export ban, that was imposed during the mad cow crisis.

British beef exports to the European Union were halted in 1996, as brain-wasting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) spread across the country.

I regularly ate beef on the bone at that time, which I purchased "illegally" from a trusted butcher.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hotel Ulaanbaatar

Hotel Ulaanbaatar

Those of you travelling to the Mongolain capital of Ulaanbaatar should check out the restaurant in the Hotel Ulaanbaatar.

Ulaanbaatar Hotel
Sukhbaatar Square 14
Ulaanbaatar 210645
Mongolia

E-mail: info@ubhotel.mn
Tel: 976-11-320320, 320237
Fax: 976-11-324485, 323330

One of my colleagues, who is currently staying there on business, tells me that the steaks, meat dishes, salami and vodka served by the hotel are all first class.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Motorway Service?

Motorway Service?

The consumer magazine, Which?, has taken to the roads and reviewed the food at many of Britain's much lambasted motorway "service" stations.

It is fair to say that many do not come out with flying colours. The Cullompton service station on the M5 near Exeter, was named as the worst in Britain.

It was described as "little more than a McDonald's next to a petrol station".

Quote:

"It provides the bare minimum required but we reckon these days people have the right to expect more when they see a great big sign directing them off the motorway."

Other service stations to be lambasted include; Bothwell on the M74 east of Glasgow ("dreary and cluttered"), Trowell on the M1 near Nottingham ("dull, uninspiring, noisy and gloomy") and Magor on the M4 near Newport ("a truly miserable experience").

However, one station did meet with the approval of Which? Tebay is named the best in Britain.

Which? awarded it five stars.

Quote:

"An attractive wooden building with terrific far-reaching Cumbrian views and a duck pond make a great first impact.

A decent restaurant, well-stocked shop with quality kids' toys and free phone calls to a good local hotel all impressed. But it was the local produce shop that sealed the deal
."

Fridges were stocked with local lamb and beef, stuffed pheasants and Cumbrian organic chicken. The deli sold regional chutney and jams, the cakes and sandwiches were freshly made in the kitchens.

So you see, if the service stations bothered to try they could improve. The problem is they don't give a stuff about the customer.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Leicester Is Britain's Curry Capital

Leicester Is Britain's Curry Capital

Manchester has lost its self awarded title of Britain's curry capital.

Manchester's "curry mile", in Rusholme, has been usurped by Leicester. The Frequency of Overseas Dishes (FOOD) study has found that Leicester has the highest density of curry houses of all British cities, with at least two every square mile.

However, it is not the quantity but the quality that matters surely?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

McDonald's Closes

McDonald's Closes

Scourge of the healthy food lobby, McDonald's is closing around 25 of its "restaurants" across Britain after five years of falling sales.

Britain is the worst performing country in the McDonald's chain.

I doubt, given the number of other fast food establishments in Britain, that anyone will starve as a result of these closures.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Glasgow's Italian Roots

Glasgow's Italian Roots

Glasgow has more Italian restaurants per square mile than anywhere else in the whole of Britain, according to a new survey by MSN of the UK's eating habits.

The study revealed that over 25% of the restaurants in Glasgow have an Italian theme.

That does not of course mean that they are all good.

The number of Italian eateries in Glasgow is as a result of the waves of immigration from Italy, in the early part of the 20th Century.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Feast of Contemporary Indian Art

One of London's most fashionable Indian restaurants, the Quilon Restaurant and Bar, recently held an exhibition of contemporary Indian art (8th-19th February).

The exhibition, called a "Feast of Contemporary Indian Art", had items taken from a collection at the Gallery Sumukha in Bangalore.

Gallery Sumukha was set up in 1996, and its mission is to promote awareness of Indian contemporary art both within and without India.

The works of 27 Indian artists were represented at Quilon, and included; acrylic and oil paintings, copper relief and watercolours, by artists such as Manish Pushkale, Laxma Goud and Rayis Komu.

An auction was then held to provide an art degree for an overseas student.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

BA Catering

BA Catering

BA's Customer Relations department emailed me yesterday, in reference to my "All Day Deli" article.

They say that they will pass my comments onto their "catering team".

We shall see what comes of this!

Monday, February 20, 2006

BA's Shameful All Day Deli

BA's Shameful All Day Deli

I had the misfortune to fly by BA to Stockholm last week, and suffer the unpalatable and tasteless excuse for food that they insult their customers palates with.

BA is the national airline of Britain, yet in respect of its catering (performed by a third party company "Gate Gourmet", a title that most surely is a contradiction in terms) it more resembles British Rail's catering efforts of the seventies and eighties.

The in flight catering on the route consists of a boxed sandwich and some fruit in sugared water, this abomination in a box labours under the misnomer "all day deli".

Unlike many companies who have woken up to the idea that customers who are after all paying for the product deserve a choice, BA offered no choice on either the outward or inward bound flights that I took.

My outward bound "meal" was an egg mayonnaise sandwich.

This consisted of a small portion of chopped egg, a sad piece of lettuce and a hint of mayonnaise placed between two unbuttered pieces of brown bread.

The combination was bland, unpalatable and unsatisfying.

I fared no better on my return trip, again being offered no choice. This time my "meal" was a cheese and coleslaw soft roll.

I saw, nor tasted, any evidence of cheese.

Neither "meal" pack contained any salt or pepper to add life or luster to these culinary abominations.

I raised the issue as to lack of choice and poor quality with the very kind and service minded stewardess, she was very apologetic and said that the staff were embarrassed to serve them

She noted that they don't eat these "meals" themselves, and wished that someone would complain loudly enough to improve the situation. Indeed, she said that some of the food that they have served was in fact worse.

Let us hope that BA take note of this complaint this time. It is not the first time that I have had to chide them for their lamentable lack of culinary imagination or skill. They won the coveted "Worse Than Worthless Award" for their Ham and Cheese Bloomer in 2003.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gordon Ramsay Gets a Slap

Gordon Ramsay Gets a Slap

Gordon Ramsay normally tells other restaurant owners off for the state of their kitchens.

Now it seems that he has been a given a taste of his own medicine.

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that food inspectors found minor hygiene problems at two of Ramsay's London restaurants.

At one of the three Michelin starred Gordon Ramsay restaurants, a food inspector found the freezer needed to be cleaned "thoroughly."

At another restaurant, based in Claridge's, inspectors noted a washing sink was too close to where food was prepared; also chefs were seen wiping their hands on dirty cloths. The ladies' restrooms also were reported to be missing soap.

Ramsay has now addressed these issues.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Anthony Worrall Thompson's Forbidden Pie

Anthony Worrall Thompson's Forbidden Pie

To read the recipe for Anthony Worrall Thompson's forbidden Snickers Pie, please click here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Miracle Beer?

Miracle Beer?

Those of you who enjoy a few pints of beer, but dislike the fact that it is fattening and can give you headaches, may find a new beer coming from India to be just what you are looking for.

The beer, called Ladybird Bio Beer, claims to cut cholesterol and eases conditions such as asthma and arthritis. However, it will be as alcoholic as the average beer available in Britain.

The beer was invented by Srinivasa Amarnath, and contains ingredients to stop drinkers getting a hangover.

Ladybird Bio Beer is 5% proof, and contains extracts of aloe vera and the herbs phyllanthus niruri and ashwagandha; these allegedly have medicinal qualities.
It was launched in India last year, and is proving to be enormously popular over there.

Amarnath claims that a regular intake of the beer will help to prevent ulcers, gastric problems and "other harmful effects of drinking".

Bio beer will initially be sold in bars and restaurants from this week, priced at £1.89 for a 650-millilitre bottle.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Smollensky's Metro

Restaurant

Smollensky's Metro
48 South End
Croydon

Phone:- 0208 688 6132

Website www.smollenskys.com/metro/

Overview

In the gloomy first week of the new year, Eva and I decided to go out for simple burger, and decided to try the new Smollensky's Metro which has been opened on the site of the Crazy H which we have reveiwed on this site earlier.

Smollensky's Metro is part of the well known, and reputable, Smollensky's chain. The Metro concept, according to the publicity, specialises in quality burgers (eat in, take out). They claim that they use the same "high quality products and perfected techniques" in the preparation of the food.

With such promises, we entered the premises with a sense of anticipation.

Ambience

The restaurant blurb describes the ambience as contemporary, with a naturally warm style.

Quote:

"With wooden surfaces, glowing brick work and the leather seating, attention was paid to deliver and atmosphere as comfortable and welcoming as our staff."

Well, the layout was reasonably bright and cheerful; brown brick walls complemented by red painted canvas. However, this being January rather disappointingly the concept of warmth was very much lacking; the restaurant was cold, and Eva told me that the Ladies were freezing.

Additionally, the background music being pumped out was to our view too loud; so as regards ambience, we were not that impressed.

Menu

The menu offers a good range of burgers, and chicken dishes, together with some grills. However, rather surprisingly they do not offer baked potatoes.

Service

Our waiter was rather an oddball, I would almost say he looked a bit spaced out. No sooner as he had offered us the menus, and I mean within 10 seconds, he asked us if we were ready to order.

Oddly enough, we weren't!

We read the menus, at OUR leisure, then placed our orders. I was surprised that, given the fact that Smollensky's claim to offer "quality burgers" of 170g (which therefore should require some decent cooking), we were not asked how we wanted them cooked.

After our meal I mentioned our disappointment with the food to the waiter, and asked why he did not ask us how we wanted them cooked; I was greeted with a blank uncomprehending stare, he muttered something and then went away.

We were then ignored, no offer of coffee or anything else, until we made a move to leave; then, as if by magic, a bill appeared.

Food

I chose the egg burger. This was a rather sad looking specimen, dry and over cooked. I suspect it had been sitting on the hot plate for most of the day. The egg gave the poor old thing some much needed moisture.

Eva chose the cheese bacon burger; this was the same in quality, except that she had no egg.

The meal, which included a screw top bottle of Pinot Grigio, came to just under £31; we paid no service, as none was given.

Recommendations
  • Offer baked potatoes and potato skins on the menu


  • Turn the heating on, especially in the Ladies


  • Turn the music down


  • Train the waiters to serve in a responsive and customer orientated fashion


  • Train the chef to cook burgers to the customer's requirements


  • Do not reheat the burgers
Overall Opinion

We lament the demise of the Crazy H.

Smollensky's staff and chef have a lot to learn, and we most certainly do not recommend that you waste your money in this place until they have addressed our recommendations.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Food Fit For a Queen

Food Fit For a Queen

The Queen is reportedly looking for a new chef, to improve the meals prepared in the royal kitchens.

The Queen is reviewing the work of Britain's best chefs, in the country's top restaurants, to lead her team of 20 chefs.

Buckingham Palace said:

"We are stressing it's an important role. The food has to be perfect.

We cannot have foreign heads of state turning up to a banquet and finding the food is not up to standard
."

In additon to changing chef, the Queen will also be trying a dish selected by her loyal subjects for her 80th birthday this year.

The British public will choose what she eats for lunch on her 80th birthday.

The special BBC TV programme, starring 14 of the UK's top chefs, will begin in April and viewers will vote for the 'perfect' four course dinner for the queen.

The final menu will be chosen in a public poll and served at a City of London lunch, being held on June 15 to mark the queen's big day.

Each of the chefs will be given one of seven regions in the UK, and asked to make four "innovative" dishes from the best local ingredients.

The Lord Mayor of London, Lord Brewer, who will host the lunch, said:

"The City of London is proud to honour Her Majesty on behalf of the nation on this very special occasion.

Food brings us all together and through this event the whole country can take part
."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standing Up For My Rights as a Consumer

Standing Up For My Rights as a Consumer

Those of you who hesitate to complain about poor quality food and substandard service, should take note of this lesson.

Back in October 2005 I wrote about the poor quality service and food that I received from Ixxy's Bagel Shop at Victoria station.

I emailed the company about the article, and heard nothing until now.

Today, out of the blue, I received a letter of apology; together with a full refund, and a voucher for £5 which can be used at many of the food outlets (eg Burger King, Ixxy's etc )at the major railway stations.

The lesson?

If you are on the receiving end of bad service or poor quality food, no matter how modest your purchase; complain like hell!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Torquay Loses Fawlty Towers Image

Torquay Loses Fawlty Towers Image

Torquay has finally shaken off its Fawlty Towers image of poor service and dreadful food, after the Michelin Guide has awarded stars to two of its restaurants.

The Elephant and Orestone Manor have both received Michelin stars.

The Elephant's head chef, Simon Hulstone, said:

"When I heard I was extremely excited and now I'm full of anticipation for the year ahead."

Friday, January 20, 2006

East is East?

East is East?

Owners of Indian and Chinese restaurants in the UK are now being asked to hire East European nationals to work in their kitchens and front of house, rather than source their labour supply from the Indian subcontinent.

Officials say that East Europeans would now need to be given preference in the labour market, after their countries joined the EU.

Ministers have reportedly told owners of Indian and Chinese restaurants that English should be spoken in kitchens, so that vacancies can be filled by East Europeans.

This move is causing discontent amongst the owners of the restaurants.

Representatives of Chinese restaurants have already lobbied with MPs to save the industry.

Ashraf Uddin, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Caterers' Association, said:

"Unless they know our culture, our language, our way of working, it's a complete mess."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The New Maharajah's

Restaurant

The New Maharajah's
17 Forrest Road
Edinburgh

Phone:- 0131 220 2273

Website www.thenewmaharajahs.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I spent a few days over Christmas in Edinburgh this year. We arrived on Christmas Eve and, with absolutely no plans, decided to pop out for a drink then something to eat.

Having imbibed of a few welcome drinks, we found that rather disconcertingly many of the restaurants we looked in on were in fact closed. The night was getting cold and we had almost resigned ourselves to returning to our hotel, and eating in, when we came across The New Maharajah's; an Indian restaurant serving Tandoori, Mughlai and Bengali cuisine.

The restaurant, situated near the famous Greyfriars Bobby pub, is under new management and claims to have been recommended by Egon Ronay and the Good Curry Guide.

Ambience

The restaurant was bright and cheerful, not one centimetre of flock wallpaper was in sight! Most especially welcome, on that rather cold damp night, it was warm and comfortable.

The walls are painted a light cream colour, the floors wooden parquet. The chairs are red velvet backed, comfortable to sit on and the tables laid with linen clothes and napkins.

Unlike many Indian restaurants, the background music was not a the usual selection of "Asian style" mood music, but an eclectic mixture of disco and Motown from the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's. In fact we rather enjoyed naming the tunes, but would note that the music was not intrusive.

Menu

The menu offered a good range of Tandoori, Biryani and Mughlai dishes; additionally there were a number of house specials and standard curries.

As with many Asian restaurants the New Maharajah offers a take away service as well.

Service

The staff were friendly and welcoming, even though it was 9:00pm on Christmas Eve they showed no sign of trying to rush us through our meal.

The service was attentive and efficient, and the staff were happy to explain the dishes when asked.

Food

I chose the lamb baja for my starter. This consisted of a most excellent and succulent chapatti, stuffed with minced lamb and spices. I was very impressed both with the taste and texture of this dish. It was, to my view, an ideal starter.

I chose the Jhallfrezie chicken for my main course, this is a marinated Tandoori chicken with fresh green chilli, coriander and garnished with ginger. It was spicy and flavoursome.

I had plain boiled rice and allo jeera (potato with cumin) to accompany it.

Eva started with the lamb kebab; this was a dish of succulent and tender Tandoori cooked lamb chunks in yoghurt and medium spices, served with a salad. The meat was good quality, and the spices not overpowering

Rather bravely, for her main course, Eva chose the chicken Balti Rooflifter. This dish, not surprisingly was very hot, I guess it had been created especially for the Scottish palate. It consisted of pieces of chicken in Balti spices, chopped onion, green pepper, mint, yoghurt coriander and Kashmiri massalla.

She chose pilao rice to accompany it.

She was delighted with this dish, even though it was by far the hottest that she has ever had.

It is fair to say that it opened the pores!

The meal, which included a good bottle of Pouilly Fuisse and liqueurs, came to £48 including service.

Overall Opinion

We had a splendid meal, and are more than happy to recommend the New Maharajah's as a place worth visiting when in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bellini

Restaurant

Bellini Restaurant
8a Abercromby Place
Edinburgh

Phone:- 0131 476 2602

Website www.bellinirestaurant.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I spent a few days over Christmas in Edinburgh this year. On Boxing Day, with no set plans for dinner, we took the advice of our hotel (The Balmoral) and visited Bellini Restaurant.

Bellini is an Italian restaurant and cookery school that aims to bring "a taste of Venice" to the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town.

Bellini is run by Angelo Cimini who, like his family, comes from a long established catering background. His hometown of Villa Santa Maria, has taught chefs since 1290 and exported them internationally through the centuries to all corners of the world. Angelo has cooked for Sophia Loren, Charlie Chaplin and Clint Eastwood; now he has also cooked for us!

Angelo spent several years in Venice cooking at many famous deluxe international hotels and restaurants, learning the "secret-kitchen" which has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

In addition to running the restaurant, Angelo also runs a cookery school from the same premises.

Ambience

The restaurant is set in an elegant Edinburgh town house. Our welcome was warm and friendly. We were shown to a private bar on the left of the entrance hall, where we perused our menus whilst sipping some champagne.

The decor is cosy and romantic and the dining room is intimate, not over crowded with too many tables too close together.

Blue is the colour of choice in the dining room, the walls are painted blue complemented by a blue carpet contrasted by the tables which are laid with white linen cloths and napkins.

As an additional festive touch, since it was still Christmas, we each had a Christmas cracker. We wore our paper hats with enthusiasm!

Menu

The menu, rather surprisingly for an Italian restaurant, contains little pasta. In fact, Angelo cooks what is in season and what he feels is appropriate. Hence a large part of the menu is not printed, but conveyed to the customers by word of mouth by the hostess.

The dishes offer a "fusion" of local Scottish produce with Italian culinary expertise.

One amusing touch during the menu "performance" was the presentation of the mushroom basket, which Angelo would use in some of his specials.

Service

The staff were very friendly and welcoming. The service was relaxed but attentive, I would not recommend the restaurant if you only have 30 minutes for a quick business lunch. However, to my view, you should not go to a good restaurant if you are in a hurry.

Angelo came out at the end of the meal and personally introduced himself to all of his customers. Which was a nice touch, and meant that he was able to hear first hand if there were any issues regarding the quality of food or service.

Food

I chose the chicken ravioli for my starter. This consisted of freshly made pasta stuffed with chicken, in a white wine and tarragon sauce.

It was thoroughly enjoyable, and was an ideal way to start the meal.

I opted for the 16oz veal T-bone for my main course. This was cooked medium, as requested, with a rosemary white wine and lemon sauce.

The veal was succulent and gorgeously tender. It was accompanied by sauté potatoes and French beans. I was very happy with my choice.

Eva started with scallops with mash. These were first class; the scallops were tender and flavoursome and were complemented by the creamy rich mashed potato.

Eva chose the chicken ravioli for her main course. She was as happy with this as I had been when I had it for my starter. I would note that of course, the main serving was larger than the starter portion.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to just under £117 including service.

Overall Opinion

Bellini Restaurant is definitely worth visiting, and we shall certainly revisit when we are next in Edinburgh.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Balmoral Christmas Day Brunch

The Balmoral Christmas Day Brunch

Eva and I stayed at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh over Christmas, and partook of their special Christmas Day Brunch on the 25th.

It was superb!

We dined in one of the function rooms that had been specially set aside for the brunch, and were warmly and cheerfully greeted by all the staff.

A glass of welcoming champagne whetted our appetites for the buffet feast to follow. This included:
  • Cereals, juices and yoghurts


  • Hams, smoked salmon and prawns


  • Scrambled eggs, Ayreshire back bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, Musk sausages (the Queen eats these when she stays in Holyrood), saute potatoes and mushrooms


  • Strawberries, chocolates and bread
We tucked in with gusto, I was even offered a plate of sausages to take back to the room for snacking on later.

At £37 per head, the brunch doesn't come cheap. However, Christmas is but once a year!