Bentley’s, Mayfair

Lunch with a favourite client today, we’ve decided to go outside and have seafood and pretend we’re on holiday… we headed over to Bentley’s, which has some of the best seafood in Mayfair (along with Scott’s), and a terrace to die for.

Ivo went the simple route and ordered the fish and chips… big, lightly battered pieces of fish with a few fries and some mushy peas… it looked delicious, especially with all the lemon and tartar sauce he smothered on.

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We each had a bit of wine as well… and some greens on the side, which were steamed, then finished off in butter… the peas and runner beans were crunchy, and the courgette and squash was well seasoned.

On the side, you can also see my unfinished bread, which went very well with the seaweed butter that they served us…

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I went for the sushi bowl, which seemed a bit odd for a regular British seafood restaurant, but I’m so glad that I did… sashimi-grade salmon, tuna, lobster, scallops, yellow-fin tuna and oysters, all served with some pickled radish, ginnger and cucumber, and some wasabi and soy sauce on the side… with some sticky rice in the middle… this was a real treat.

The fish and shellfish was all very fresh and all very tasty (unlike some, where you can’t actually taste the fish!) and the sides made for a good balance with the raw fish… this was the perfect, light meal.

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Not to mention that the rest of the menu looks delicious, from the dressed crab to all sorts of seafood platters to the fresh fish… I’ll be back soon to take advantage of this terrace again!

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Gazele, Mayfair

Gazele is a new restaurant in Mayfair that I’ve been wanting to try since it opened up a few months ago. Armed with an adventurous friend visiting from New York, I headed over to give it a try.

And it’s an interesting place. The decoration is quite swish, with lots of bright pops of colour, fur, gold, and marble. When we got there, it was empty, but by the time we left, a few tables were occupied… maybe 20%.

The menu is divided into small bites, appetizers, main dishes and desserts, all meant to be shared, and all described by several ingredients (and nothing else), so it’s tough to get an idea of exactly what to expect on your plate. And they’re all quite small! So we picked the suggested 4-5 per person, and off we went!

I didn’t get to take pictures of all of the food, so let me go through my favourite dishes…

The three best dishes we had were a vegetarian dish, a seafood dish, and a meat dish… so there’s something for everyone!

My favourite dish was the Parmesan foam topped with leaves and anchovy bones. The Parmesan foam was light but tangy and flavourful, topped with delicate herbs of all kinds, including chervril that gave it an especially light taste… Then, the anchovy… tiny fish skeletons, which looked quite aggressive (though, also delicate, matching with the foam and herb vibe) but gave a light, subtle and briny taste that complemented the Parmesan quite well.

Secondly, I loved the squid… very lightly cooked and served in ribbons, it was mixed in with girolle mushrooms and “jowl,” which was essentially pieces of jamon Iberico… once again, this was a great combination, as the squid acted like a pasta, bound together with the meaty ham and sprinkled with the woodsy mushroom… I had to make an effort to share this with Omar, as I could have easily gobbled it down in a few bites! (see the squid with girolles below on the left – on the right is the turbot, wrapped in herbs, which was good, but just not as outstanding as the few others I mentioned)/

Finally, the presa, the Iberican pork, came out seared on the sides, perfectly medium rare inside and sprinkled with bits of salt… it was sitting on a bed of carrot sauce and carrots… I thought that they did a nice job of cutting the rich flavour of the pork, which might have otherwise been overwhelming, but together they were perfect. This pork reminds me of the one at Barrafina that is just as tender and well-cooked…

The desserts were also good, imaginative and tasty, but it was really these three dishes that stood out for me. I would come back to try them again, this time focusing on the best-tasting dishes!

Temper City, London City

I had a meeting in the City on a rainy Friday, and as I waited in the meeting room for my 11am to show up, I looked outside and saw Temper restaurant.. and thought that I might stop there for a quick lunch after my meeting!

I have been wanting to go to the original Temper in Soho since it opened, as the barbecue menu sounds delicious. As I walked in and sat at the bar, I had the whole kitchen in front of me, including lots of meat hanging over a fire… and a guy preparing a large chicken skewer….

The City version has a lunch special, a £15 thali platter of either mushroom, cod, beef, or chicken, accompanied with a paneer masala, a fluffy paratha, pickles, a black quinoa salad (with onion and juicy beetroot), a yogurt and tamarind sauce, a Temper mix (which I could have started off with, but ended up not eating at all… basically a spice and crunchies mix), and soms spiced, fried potato sticks, all accompanying my fried Szechuan chicken (that was sitting on a coarse green curry).

Here you can see the little dishes (from the top, the quinoa salad, pickles, Temper mix, and yogurt/tamarind sauce). The paneer masala was to die for, rich and creamy with a little more spice than you would expect. Once I had the few pieces of paneer in it, I slurped the rest up with the paratha… and when I’d finished the paratha, I finished the rest with my fingers. It was that good. The quinoa salad was also surprisingly nice, especially topped with some yogurt, the sweet beetroot gave a nice contrast to the crunchy black quinoa.

I was a bit mixed about the fried chicken… the inside was super moist and tasty, but the outside… what I thought was the chicken skin (and kept expecting to taste some skin flavour) was actually just a batter… while it was crunchy, it didn’t have much taste, which I found disappointing… but was happy to dunk the whole thing in the yogurt/tamarind sauce to give it flavour instead.

Overall, a great thali meal… I would like to come back again and try a few more of their lunch options, but also get a few people together for dinner to try and share many different dishes… this is definitely a place that I need to go back and try again!

Kiln, Soho

I finally had some time to steal away and grab lunch at Kiln, which received an award for best restaurant in the UK this year! On a Monday in August, I came and sat at the bar with no wait… they even put me at the kitchen table to watch the prepping!

The restaurant is called Kiln, as most of the cooking is done on grills, either through a big industrial grill (left side), or in smaller pots filled with charcoal, that are topped with a wok. The food mostly has a nice grilled, blistered taste to it that adds a smokiness to the flavour!

As I was on my own, I didn’t get to order everything that I would have otherwise… so I started with a skewer, then got one curry with some rice and veggies on the side.

The skewer that the waitress suggested was the lamb skewer wtih cumin… it was juicy, with bits of fat still on the meat, and with a very cumin-like taste, but also something slightly spicier that reminded me of Sichuan pepper (it tingled in my mouth)… it was much more subtle than just a cumin taste. I finished this in about two seconds!

Then, the rest of the meal. The brill in sour turmeric curry was to die for… briny and, well, sour tasting, it had a good punch of tangyness. To the point that I wanted to keep drinking the sauce. The brill was lightly fried, which helped it to not get too sogy in the curry, and there was also a vegetable that I think might have been gourd inside too… whatever it was, it was light and crunchy.

Served with some Jasmine brown rice and greens on the side, this was the perfect amount of food.

A side note about the greens, that were special in themselves… they were stir-fried in a sweet sauce that caramelised the greens sligthly. Mixed in were some yellow beans, which I love, that gave a soft texture next to the almost crunchy greens… these would have been a good meal on their own with the rice!

So there we go. That’s all I had. I wanted to try everything on the menu, but it’ll have to wait until next time!

Zuaya, Kensington

A few weeks ago, I noticed that a restaurant near us had closed down (and old Italian place) and that in its place, they were building a place called Zuaya. I was guessing it was going to be Lebanese food, but when it opened, we realised it’s Latin American food!

Turns out the chef is Basque, but has spent years working in Argentina, Peru and Colombia… and this restaurant has influences from all of his stops!

We ordered some food, but then the chef came out and told us his favourites… so we ordered way too much… luckily, the soft opening is offering 50% off until July 18th, so it didn’t hurt our wallets too much!

One of the chef’s favourites was the ceviche a la brasa, which was pretty tasty… and Andre’s favourite. Sea bream with red onions, some large Peruvian corn, a sweet potato ice cream, and Rocoto pepepr Tiger Milk (coconut milk pepper ceviche “juice”).

The crunch of the corn (crunchy outside but soft inside, firm sea bream and tangy coconut milk, the sweet potato ice cream (which didn’t melt over the fifteen minutes we talked to the chef… hmm… )… it was all cut by the sharp red onion on top… perfect!

Then, the corn bread brulee… made with large corn and sweet corn, topped with burrata. The corn bread was slightly undercooked in the best way, that it still tasted a bit doughy, and with nice pieces of sweetcorn in the dough, and the burrata on top was slightly charred (making the brulee). Frankly, the corn cake was good enough on its own that it didn’t even need the burrata… but it certainly didn’t hurt!

And what a pretty presentation!

And the octopus, grilled to perfection, sitting on a bed of potato fume and topped with a chimichurri and mint, and an aji Amarillo chilli sauce, this was a really nice dish! It was no Mykonos octopus, but otherwise, as good as I’ve had in London!

The creamy, mushy potato worked well with the spicy Amarillo sauce and chimichurri (which was much more herby and less oily than most), and the garlic chips on top gave a nice crunch and differing texture.

The turbot was a real winner… the waiter told us about all fo the different things topping the turbot (coriander, mint, Thai basil, ginger and lime keffir), and we couldn’t taste the nuances of any of them, except for the big pieces of basil… but it didn’t matter, because this (large) piece of turbot was perfectly cooked, super moist and nicely seasoned, which made us gobble it down. I would go as far as to say that the best turbot I’ve had was at the River Cafe, and that this is a close contender…

The tuna tartare with avocado was quite good, marinated in a sesame oil and Asian sauce (but, lightly, not overly sauced), the bits of guacamole and the crunchy leaves on top (I’m not sure what these were, but they had a slightly smoky taste, maybe they were some sort of seaweed?) made for a good combination.

We had a few margaritas…

My favourite dish of the meal was the purple tacos… they were lamb neck cooked for 18 hours, mixe dwith ras el hanout, coriander, and smoked cinnamon… and a little pineapple. The meat was SO tender and you could really taste the flavour… Andre was not as wow’ed as I was, but it’s been a while since I’ve had meat where the flavour came out so much!

And finally, the Amazonian prawns, that were grilled and put over a passion fruit coulis… the prawns were fine, though they tasted more soggy than crisp, and the little bits of cunch (grilled shallot, perhaps?) on top was also a bit soggy because of the coulis. The combination of flavours was nice, but the dish just wasn’t spot on.

So, we’ll be back. Apart from being a stone’s throw from our flat, the food was good, and varied. Nex time, I’ll pass on the prawns and order extras of the purple tacos and turbot… and try some of the other dishes on the menu!

Hostal Empuries, L’Escala, Spain

A girl’s weekend in Catalunya… after our big night out in Barcelona, we headed up the Catalunyan coast for some R&R by the beach. We stayed at the Hostal Empuries, a lovely four-star eco-resort on the water that has a gourmet restaurant. Starving, we sat down at this restaurant right after arriving.

We started the meal with an amuse bouche, a mussel in seawater foam, served with small vegetables. It was a spoonfull of briny goodness, but nothing amazing.

Then, the appetisers. Sara went for the white asparagus, served in a white bechamel with salmon eggs.

Michelle went for the grilled prawns, which had a nice, grilled taste and looked lovely on their blue plate…

I had the baby squid in their ink, served with broadbeans and mint. The squid was cooked so delicately that they were barely cooked, but light in taste, and really nice, with the more substantial beans and squid ink puree in the middle.

Then, the mains, and remember, we are in paella country…

I went for the fresh snapper with peas and cream. The fish was also very delicately cooked, so it fell apart in your mouth, and tasted really nice with the fresh peas. The sauce itself was nice with a bit of parlsey, but nothing to write home about.

The girls went for one of two rice dishes… either the risotto with broadbeans and jamon Iberico (what a nice combo! the salty ham with the fresh, green broadbeans)

Or the lobster rice, which was cooked in a lovely broth and gave a light seafood  flavour to the whole dish and leaving a gravy on the dish that brought the rice together… again with rice that was cooked al dente, giving the inside of the rice a nice bite while the outside was still soft.

And for dessert? After all fo that food, there wasn’t a need for a heavy dessert, so I got the thyme sorbet. I wish it had had a little more flavour, it had a slight hint of the herb, but not more. But it was a light, refreshing end to my meal.

Overall, some very good dishes at the restaurant, and worth coming back to try some of the other ones out! You can’t go wrong, whether you come to the high end or bistro restaurants at this hotel!

108 Brasserie, Marylebone

A Thursday evening in the sun and catching up with a friend who’s been out of town for too long… along with a bottle of rose, we get a few bites to nibble on.

The Brasserie has a special for cocktail hour nibbles, three for £18.

We went for:

– the Dorset crab in lettuce cups, served with watermelon, avocado, and radish. These were delicate in the lettuce cups, and you could taste the crab quite well

– the fried calamari was good… it was small rings, which are typical over-fried and dry, but these were lightly fried and crispy – with the spicy aioli sauce served on the side, they were very nice

and finally, the heirloom tomatoes and torn burrata (which was not torn as far as I can see). The green tomatoes had a bit of tang to them, but really, it was their freshness that made the dish… you could really taste and smell how fresh they were… and there’s nothing better than a fresh tomato with a little olive oil and cheese!

And did I mention that the rose was pale and dry?

A lovely Thursday evening catch-up on a terrace!