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!

One +, Chinatown

A new place to try in Chinatown, with all sorts of wonderful-looking Sichuwan dishes like boiled fish in chilis… but you really need a group for those kinds of dishes, as you want to try several ones and each dish is quite large…

So we went for simple. Smacked cucumbers in a Sichuwan chili sauce… healthy but tangy!

And vermicelli noodles with egg, sprouts and scallions. The noodle are springy and the egg, quite tasty in the soy sauce mix… with the sprouts giving just enough crunch to counter the spring in the noodles and the squishy scrambled egg..

While it hit the spot, I don’t think that the noodle dish really demonstrated the best of One +’s cuisine… we’ll have to come back to try some of the more regional dishes!

Laxeiro, Columbia Road

A little staycation in London for the weekend, we checked into a hotel in Shoreditch to switch things up a bit… which ended up being perfect timing with the 32-35 average heat during the day…

For lunch, we headed over to Columbia Road and to a Spanish place that we had been to for my birthday a few years before…

This time, we had the lunch special, which is two tapas and a drink for £14. Andre ordered the grilled sardines and the beetroot salad, with a glass of cava (not included) on the side.

The sardines were big and juicy, with a nice relish on top of them…

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The beetroot salad with peppered with lots of red onion, a light goat’s cheese, and a sherry vinegar that made everything slightly sweet…. it was a nice combination, with the sweet beetroot, the earthy goat’s cheese, and the sharp onions. This was my favourite dish.

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I went for the Pisto Manchego, a mix of aubergines, courgettes, peppers, and tomato, all topped with a fried egg. This was quite good, as the vegetables had all simmered together for a while, and the softly fried egg on the top was delicious when broken and mixed in the with the veg.

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We also got a plain tortilla which was spot on, gooey in the middle and well-cooked outside… I polished this off with a glass of Riojan white (included in the lunch menu). A healthy, quick lunch on the terrace overlooking the pedestrian street, this place never fails to please!

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!

Chez Hortense, Cap Ferret, France

In Cap Ferret for a birthday weekend, and after some crazy traveling plans and rearranging of flights, rental cars and trains, we made it for the birthday on Saturday night! As we had missed Friday night, we missed the dinner at Chez Hortense, so decided to check it out for lunch on Sunday.

Situated on the bay, with a view of the Dune du Pilat across the bay, Chez Hortense is very low-key, all wooden tables and painted in dark green, but it’s the place to be for seafood on a Sunday at lunchtime!

We had plans to meet friends there for lunch, walked in… and saw everyone else that had been at the party on Saturday night! Great minds think alike!

So while people order all sorts of beautiful seafood and fish at Chez Hortense, the real specialty is the mussels. So, we ordered mussels and fries for three, and Jean had the turbot (which was also very good).

The mussels show up and look like they’re topped wtih shallots, garlic, and something a bit meaty tasting, but I couldn’t put my finger exactly on what. It turns out that they’re cooked with Bayonne ham, sausage meat, breadcrumbs, parsley and white wine, along with that garlic and shallots!

And oh, wow, what a taste. See that mound of mussels on the table? When it showed up, I didn’t think it would be enough for three people… turns out we ate about half of it, as it’s quite a generous portion.

We left Cap Ferret that evening with me dreaming of the mussels at Chez Hortense… I can’t wait to go back! A little aperitf at one of the mussel shacks, then biking over to Chez Hortense… the summer holiday dream!

Old Town 97, Chinatown

The weather’s been pretty crappy, rainy and cold the past few days, which is a real change from the 30 degree, sunny weather we’ve had for most of the summer. It almost feels good for a few days, until you’re sick of having wet feet…

One of these days, I headed down to Chinatown for a bowl of noodle soup to warm me up. Seeing the roast duck and char siu hanging in the window, I walked into Old Town 97 to have a bowl there.

The place is quite simple, not very decorated, and the staff is quite busy, so it took me a good ten minutes to order. Then much longer to get my food.

But when the soup came, it really hit the spot. The duck was good, large pieces with a good amount of fatty duck skin and not much bone (my pet peeve is ordering roast duck, and being given the scraggly pieces with lots of bone and not much meat, what’s the point!?!) – but the real winner of the soup was the noodles; soft, springy and almost fluffy, these were the lightest noodles I’ve had in a while, all while not being mushy or breaking apart. I usually notice bad noodles, but never good ones, and these ones were really that good.

At £7.50, this was a perfect lunch break that warmed me up, and the noodles brought that extra little bit more that will make me come back here for noodle soup again.