Enter the village of Murcott, Oxfordshire into your SatNav and you realise that you don't need to enter the street, for there are only two of them in Murcott, one a cul-de-sac and the other the main road on which the village sits. Accordingly, you can't get lost and you can't miss The Nut Tree Inn, and why would you want to? For those of you who, like us, celebrate the great British pub, The Nut Tree Inn is a great example and is housed in a 15th century thatched cottage. There's even a duck pond outside that, on the occasion of our visit, was frozen over, much to the consternation of the resident duck.
All of that is reason enough to go there, and this is a pub that where you can go for a pint, but few surprises, we find ourselves drawn there because it's a place that is serious about food, holding a Michelin star for the past three years.
We're greeted warmly on arrival and all the staff during our time there were friendly and attentive. There are two dining areas within the pub, one being in the original building itself and one being part of a modern extension. The former, while smaller than the newer dining room, has of course much more character and heated (as both rooms are) by a wood burning stove, it is one of those pubs where you could happily stay all day when it's white outside.
a cosy corner in the pub dining area
The menu here is reasonably straightforward, offering the likes of fillet of mackerel, wild mushrooms in puff pastry, onion soup and salad of roasted roots to start. Our choices were 'tartare of aged beef fillet' and 'pave of Nut Tree smoked salmon', with the pub doing its own smoking on site we understand. The dishes arrived at the table looking clean and fresh, the plate not overworked. Neither dish was of course rocket science, but both offered good quality ingredients and in the tartare for example, the Parmesan and the egg both made big contributions. Overall then, starters were good.
Pave of Nut Tree smoked salmon, whipped horse radish cream, Avruga caviar
Tartare of aged beef fillet, aged Parmesan, egg yolk
Main courses are a mix of traditional pub food and the slightly posher variety (sometimes in the same dish). There's sausages and potato purée, there's cod with triple cooked chips, and fresh salmon fish cakes also. Additionally, there is seabass, and our two orders: slow roasted belly of pork and grilled fillet of aged beef. The slow cooked pork belly was exactly how it should be, moist with good flavour and included a belt of crackling that offered great crunch without risking your jaw. There was also a lot of pork leaving you both full and satisfied. The beef was good enough to please but not enough to rave about.
Grilled fillet of aged beef, triple cooked chips, baked tomato, onion rings, tarragon butter
Slow roasted belly of pork, celeriac purée, savoy cabbage, apple gravy
Quite full, for dessert we shared a Hot prune and Armagnac soufflé with caramel ice cream, which arrived at the table around ten minutes after placing the order. It tasted good however, the Armagnac a heavy presence but the soufflé itself light enough; a nice end to the meal.
Armagnac soufflé with caramel ice cream
Thinking back on our meal here, good is the word that keeps recurring and we're aware that it has been used plenty in this post already. Given though how useful this workhorse word has already been, let's use it a few more times in our wrap up: this was good food from a country pub, honest and often hearty food, and despite the award of a star, (we're guessing) that little changed for them with them continuing to cook for their customers, and not for the Guide. There's nothing particularly 'jazzy' about the menu, but we're sure it goes down well with the customer base, and if we lived within a reasonable driving distance, I'm sure we'd visit often. Conclusion: good food in a great pub.Return to homepage
Butlers Wharf Chop House is located in Shad Thames and forms part of what was Terence Conran's redevelopment of the waterfront next to Tower Bridge; like Conran's other restaurants, it is now part of the D&D group. Every food blogger surely has a view on the D&D group but in our experience, each restaurant seems broadly able to develop its own style and food (driven by the head chef) and we've had great meals at Coq d'Argent
as well as less good meals elsewhere, though nothing ever truly terrible. D&D does seem to ensure a minimum standard and in that sense there's a reliability to eating in one of their group restaurants.
The restaurant itself is situated next door to Le Pont de la Tour
and, as it's name suggests, it's in the Chop House tradition and therefore seemed an ideal place to go and try a Sunday roast. So far, my Sunday outings have been reasonably unsuccessful and I'm hoping that BWCH will fare a little better.
On a Sunday, it's £25 for two courses, £32.50 for three. Perusing the menu, I hatch a cunning plan: seeing that one of the starter options is chicken liver pate, Yorkshire pudding and grape chutney, I can sample one of their Yorkies and choose lamb for my main to make a change from beef which has been perhaps too prominent a feature of the new year already.
The Yorkshire pudding is actually very good, the best yet that I've had on my Sunday outing s and much better than the one at The Tramshed
where it's also part of the starters. Here it is crisp outside, fluffy inside, has a lightness to it but also full flavours with a hint of fat. My only issue, and this was a problem on the main too, was the temperature, where it was a warm rather than hot, and given how fast my order arrived at the table, it was clearly cooked well before I ordered it. Back to the plate, the chicken liver pate was nice enough and the grape chutney working well to bring it together. Overall, I was fairly pleased with the starter, mostly only the basis of the Yorkshire pud.
A full choice of main roasts are offered: beef, lamb, chicken and pork, and as noted, I went for the lamb. Two generously thick slices of lamb arrived, and it was a reasonably good cut of meat, but it mostly lacked impact as lamb seems to do these days. By the end, it just seemed like an exercise in chewing. And the roast potatoes hit one of my Sunday bugbears, being just two excessively large roast potatoes on the plate. They strike me as lazy roast potatoes, left that large to cut down on work, these potatoes weren't made with a love for the Sunday roast, they've simply been made in the most convenient way, and while they weren't the worst potatoes I've had out on a Sunday (Les Deux Salons
take a bow), they are so inferior to what you'd make yourself at home, I do wonder why I am paying money for this.
Things pick up again for dessert. I think Bread & Butter pudding must be a friend of the D&D group and I have previously enjoyed a Panettone Bread & Butter pudding at Quaglino's
and here it is again at BWCH; twice lucky? Indeed, it was an excellent bread and butter pudding, soft where it should be, a crunch on top, sugary, and so moist the custard was hardly needed.
Something of a mixed bag, and certainly not a destination, but as a local restaurant, I might return in due course, though by no means rushing to do so.
Yorkshire pudding and chicken liver pate
Bread & Butter pudding with custard
Marylebone is developing something of a 'burger cluster', and exiting Welbeck Street car park for our visit to Patty & Bun saw us pass by both MEATliquor
and Tommi's Burger Joint
on the short walk to James Street. Having come across town for a burger, we wondered, as we turned away from MEATliquor, if we weren't making a mistake, for we are huge fans of the place, but Patty and Bun has received such high praise, that as a food blogger, a visit there is almost mandatory. We were not disappointed.
Like other serious about burger joints that have opened during the year, the menu at Patty & Bun is a non nonsense straight to the burger affair, with a choice of three beef burgers, a chicken burger, a lamb burger and, to be said quietly, a mushroom burger for veggies. There's some side dishes too including 'winger winger chicken dinner' (wings), and of course, fries.
As lovers of the TV series Entourage, we're tickled that the 'basic' cheeseburger is named after Ari Gold, the politically incorrect, loud mouthed, short tempered Hollywood agent supremo. Toppings are listed as cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, ketchup, Smokey P&B mayo (bacon optional), already making it sound just a little busier than a regular cheeseburger. The other two burger options, Smokey Robinson and Jose Jose Chilli take things even further. When the burger arrives, the grease-proof paper is already soaked and looks like it might give up at any time (though it doesn't), and when you open it, the wrapping is already smothered with melted cheese. This will be messy eating for sure but already there's a thrill of excitement.
In some ways it's more than a burger, not necessarily in the 'greater' sense, but that the toppings are all so well done and in generous but appropriate portions, the lettuce crisp, the cheese meltingly present, that it combines to give a mouthful of flavour that is greater than the sum of the parts, it works together. It becomes hard to compare it with other burgers because (ironically perhaps) you're less aware of the patty and bun in their own right simply because of how cleverly unified all the ingredients have become. It is undoubtedly an Oscar winning performance.
The chicken burger too is smarter than average, interestingly, no breast meat here, rather, the more flavoursome leg meat that has been brined, confited and finished on the griddle. The difference is notable, and interesting, though our primal instinct is to prefer the deep fry of the Dirty Chicken Burger at you know where. That's just personal though and the 'Hot Chic' chicken burger here is again hard to fault.
Possibly perfect however are the chicken wings, which have also been brined and then confited for in excess of 24 hours. The wings are plumped up like mini rugby balls, nothing skinny about these, and coated in an opaque BBQ sauce, the darkness broken only by a scattering of green onion. The long cooking process sees the meat fall off the bone like it might with slow cooked ribs and the crispy crunch of the outside, the complex smokiness of the BBQ and juicy tender inside left us thinking these might be the best wings we've ever had.
As we came to the end of the meal, we inevitably asked the question: if we are in Marylebone and want a burger, would we now choose here over MEATliquor? P&B wins with the wings, ML wins on the chicken burger. But on the beef burger? It seems impossible to say. Who would have thought that two great cheeseburgers could be so different, but they are. I think we would decide on the fly, moments before, and fortunately, right now it's simply not necessary to have to say that this is better than that.
Patty & Bun is brilliant, we will certainly return, and we loved all of their offering including the food, the service and the environment which is right for what it is. It's hard to believe that burgers can really get much better than this, and London, and Londoners, are lucky that the quality threshold for new openings that want to cause a splash has been set so high, and Patty & Bun must surely be amongst the best of new openings.
Ari Gold burger
Before La Figa even opened its doors in Limehouse, it caused a bit of a stir due to the crude association of its name, though in what must be a decade on from that, the restaurant has demonstrated staying power, while local residents have not, it seems, been overly corrupted by their new found familiarity with Italian slang. That the restaurant has endured might partially be due to the fact that it is, quite possibly, the only dedicated restaurant in Limehouse, but also because it is actually rather good.
The restaurant itself occupies a large space on the ground floor of a modern block of residential flats and is (we understand) the sister restaurant of Wapping's better known Italian Il Bordello. The staff (in both) are all Italian and there seems an air of authenticity about the place so that you really do feel you're getting a proper Italian meal, and certainly our dinner at La Figa was better than the tourist traps of Venice we experienced last year, and even the quality restaurants that came recommended to us also give or take. It's not quite up there with London's leading Italians like Locanda Locatelli
, but doesn't try to be. despite that, it's not so far off, and for our money, it was as satisfying a meal as the one we ate at well regarded L'Anima
but most agreeably at half the price.
The menu at La Figa is substantial, a page turner in fact, and unless you really despise Italian food (which would be odd on many levels), it would be hard not to find something you liked; if you love Italian food, you can easily find yourself paralysed with indecision. But not only is the menu big, the portion sizes are huge: we ordered a starter each, a pasta dish to share, a main each and a dessert to share and we still found ourselves taking home a doggy bag. We have been to La Figa several times before and we know that plates piled high is the norm, influencing our decision to opt for sharing the pasta course.
When the starters come, mussels, and bruschetta san daniele (bruschetta topped with Parma ham), we're still taken aback, for both look to be a meal in their own right. The big bowl of mussels comes in a lovely tomato, garlic and white wine sauce topped with toasted bread so that nothing need be left, and if this were your only meal of the day, you'd be happy. The bruschetta offers three thick cut slices that threatens to fill you up there and then, and a tactical 'leave some on the side of the plate' seems necessary even though it is so good that I just wanted to keep eating against my better judgement.
Bruschetta San Daniele
For the pasta, we chose the tagliatelle speciali, which is langoustine, monk fish, sea scallops in tomato and white wine sauce. Two whole langoustine sit on top of the pasta which, covered in the tomato sauce, does make for a messy extraction while making you wonder if the work is worth the effort, but additionally with two scallops and four monkfish medallions the size of scallops, this offers a huge amount of food and seems a great dish for sharing. It does mean at La Figa you never feel cheated compared with some Italians where it's all pasta and virtually no seafood which happens all too often (and is something of a pet hate of mine).
Quantity however is not at the expense of quality and I guess you don't survive 10 years as an Italian restaurant if you can't do good pasta. At £18.95, we're very happy.
Lamb chops in rosemary sauce (don't they mean gravy?) is a slightly tactical order to manage food quantity and it comes with a choice of vegetables or salad. I opt for the salad which is another mountain of a plate, and while in the picture the greens aren't dressed, olive oil and balsamic is freely available on the table. The lamb is lovely and the rosemary gravy is something to mop up with anything available. The veal slice is dauntingly large and most of this made the journey home with us (too good to waste) as we already crumble under the volume of food.
Costelette di Agnello al Rosmarino
Cotoletta alla Milanese
Desserts are all Italian classics and each one not only sounds tempting, but on display in a glass cabinet, you're feasting with your eyes from the moment you set foot inside the restaurant. Profitteroles here are quite something, and no surprise, only slightly smaller than tennis balls. The plate arrives with something like five of these monsters on, wow. By now of course it is quite unnecessary and fortunately, sharing the plate provides some semblance of portion control, though they are so good that had we not been sharing, resistance, as they say, would have been utterly futile. It is a very satisfying end to the meal.
There are two things we like about the bill. First, they do not include service which is left to the discretion of the diner. The almost ubiquitous automatic inclusion of service 'for your convenience' hardly provides front of house an incentive to strive on your behalf and has in our view become a bit of a mockery of what tipping should be about. Leave it off and it's truly a discretionary charge.
Second, we like the size of the bill. The food above, bottled water, a glass of wine, before service came to £90.25 for two people, so £51 a head with service included. For a meal that we really enjoyed eating, four courses, and with enough food to take home also, this is great value.
It is of course a local Italian, not a destination restaurant for West Londoners, but it's walking distance from Canary Wharf and is at least as good as anything you'll find there, so if you live or work East, why not give it a try. And make sure you arrive there hungry.Return to homepageLa Figa website
If you like a pub to reflect the heritage of its setting, you'll find the Town of Ramsgate a treasure chest, and surely a most appropriate metaphor for a pub located on Wapping Old Stairs, historically a venue that drew in so many smugglers that 'Execution Dock' was erected almost next door: a scaffold for hanging 'pirates, smugglers and mutineers' that had been sentenced to death by the Admiralty Courts.
Dating back possibly as far as 1460 and later finding itself at the heart of the docks of a seafaring empire, the pub has witnessed centuries of the highs and lows of naval life. Drunks would be press-ganged into naval service here (fortunately no longer), the pub cellars acted as a holding prison for convicts before deportation to Australia, and Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian are said to have both drank here before the most famous mutiny of all time: mutiny on the Bounty
. It is also the pub where Judge Jeffreys, loyal to James II, was captured trying to escape England, dressed as a sailor fleeing the Glorious Revolution
in 1688. Known as the The Hanging Judge for his preference for justice to be at the end of a rope, following the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 he issued 144 death sentences in just two days, so becoming a national figure of hate and securing his place in British history.
With the stretch of docks between Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf now little more than a residential district, The Town of Ramsgate has become a family friendly pub for locals, offering real ales and pub food, and is somewhere we've returned to again and again during our years living in the neighbourhood.
Foodwise, there is a large selection of unmistakable 'pub grub', with pies, burgers, grills and sandwiches aplenty. Meeting friends there, the large table allowed us to see lots of the menu, though over the years, we've already sampled much of what they offer.
Starters included whitebait, which was perhaps the star dish of the day for it really was a great tasting plate, let down modestly only by needing to be a little hotter. A prawn cocktail gave crisp fresh prawns with old style brown bread and butter and without drowning the prawns in Marie Rose sauce, while the nachos came appropriately slathered in melted cheese and salsa etc. The only issue with the nachos were that they were of the flavoured variety, not plain tortilla chips, as if trying to compensate for some perceived absence. The Buck Rarebit with a poached egg could have been a contender for dish of the day if the bread had been toasted just a little more.
Mains saw a good mix of pub classics. Fish and chips, and scampi and chips, both suffered from a moment too long in the fryer, but we are pleased to see that the pie (as always) here is home made and while the crust looked a little pale, it was simply not brushed with egg wash, but was greatly enjoyed. A baby back rack of BBQ ribs gives a good plate of food as long as you're happy with a generous covering of BBQ sauce on your ribs (I am). Having had the ribs a few times now, it has been consistent over the years and a choice I've never regretted. Great news too for the pocket, on a week day lunch, when you buy one main course, the second is just £1, an additional bonus.
A quick view of the puddings leaves everyone saying the same thing at the same time: school dinners. The format is a sponge of some variety and custard, we opt for treacle, jam and chocolate. They are what you expect them to be and welcomed on a grey winter's day.
We love The Town of Ramsgate as a pub and a Wapping landmark, and in the neighbourhood, if you are meeting friends, it's as good a place as anywhere to get together. If you're enjoying a riverside walk, it's a convivial staging post, while as a local, it's simply a great place to visit even if only for a pint. Food here is traditional pub food that is good enough, and as a local, The Town of Ramsgate is always a candidate for those days when you neither want to cook yourself nor make the journey into town to eat at a 'fancy' restaurant. At a time when too many pubs are closing, we very much hope that the Town of Ramsgate at least will be around for another 500 years.
old fashioned interior
outside seating, perfect in summer
Baby back ribs
fish 'n' chips
Steak, ale and mushroom pie and chips
Scampi and chips
Our experiences at Hix's restaurants during our blogging years have not always been good, so as well as being a former tram shed, today's venue takes on the role of last chance saloon also. We already know the concept, basically steak and chicken, so we're fine with the format, and we know about the room and its imposing Damien Hirst centrepiece, but is there substance behind it? And, given our previous experiences, would service let them down even if the food is good enough?
Front of house was personable and while it felt like they could have been sharper in servicing the table, as we've said endless times on this blog, a smile goes a long way and so the overall friendliness of their approach left us happy with our time in their hands. One small negative with the environment however is just how close the tables are together, such that the back of your chair is often touching the one behind and personal space too often feels encroached upon.
Starters were the weak link of the meal. There's no choice here (which we knew) but instead, a trio of starters is brought out that is scaled to the size of the order. There is Hix's 'famous' fish fingers, which should have come out of the pan a little earlier, a beetroot salad, which was exactly as it says, but most disappointingly, a Yorkshire Pudding that despite having risen nicely from the pot, was still so dense, chewing was difficult and so dry, even the cauliflower purée it came with barely made it edible.
fish fingers (one each)
Yorkshire pudding and cauliflower purée
Things picked up with the main course. With three at the table, we ordered one large chicken (for 2 - 3 people, smaller chickens for one are also available, and a mid size steak to share. The chicken arrives at the table looking as if it is trying to do a headstand in a bowl of chips and the full leg to foot is left on for theatre. They subsequently offer to carve it for you at the table to make life easier. If this was the sole main course divided between three people you would in our view feel somewhat hungry after as it's not a big chicken, but pleasingly, it is a quality chicken and offered real flavour in the meat as well as a good crispy skin so making it as good a roast chicken as we've yet found in a restaurant. Chips (fries) were decent and the dish came with a pot of gravy so in total leaving us very happy with the chicken part.
Large chicken main with chips
Providing a little less theatre, they offer to slice up the steak too when it arrives at the table, and it too comes with chips with the addition of a bearnaise sauce. We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by how good the steak was and with a moreish bearnaise, overall, we're delighted with the mains. The Tramshed website talks about the steak being dry aged in a Himalayan Salt Chamber for five weeks where 'negative ions from the salt counteract positive ions from the meat' and is sufficiently aware that this sounds a little too close to feng shui to add 'there is a lot of science and technique behind this totally natural process'. Regardless, we really enjoyed the mains and had just a small amount of food left over for which a take home bag was provided allowing us to remember again the next day how good the steak was.
It's the first time we've left a Hix restaurant thinking that a return there is almost inevitable, though our plan of attack on our next visit would be to ignore the so-so starters and go straight to the excellent main courses, again ordering both chicken and the beef. And with the room too quite something, especially the Hirst centrepiece (regardless of whether you like it or not), if you're entertaining friends from out of town, the experience has a sufficient wow factor to leave the restaurant a talking point for some time after. Third time lucky then for a Hix restaurant on this blog.Return to homepage
PreviouslyHix Oyster & Chop House
Those who follow @Hulstone on Twitter will know that his wit is as sharp as his knife, but those who have also made the journey to eat at his Michelin starred restaurant, The Elephant in Torquay, know too that his food is sharper yet. We first tried Simon's food back in 2011 and it was one of that year's revelations, food that was precise, imaginative and often brilliant. We don't make it to Torquay as often as we'd like, so we jumped at the opportunity to eat Simon's food again this week at The Cube by Electrolux.
And while we all know that chefs are incredibly hard working, on this day, Simon was on lunch duty at The Cube (on Christmas Eve no less), before heading back to Torquay for dinner service at The Elephant: a killer day. But despite that, Simon laid on an exemplary meal at The Cube, putting a smile on everyone's face, sharing great banter with the guests and making this Xmas Eve one to remember rather than one to forget.
The menu was introduced as one of classic Elephant dishes, with many ingredients from his own dedicated farm. Canapes of Brixham crab toast (not pictured) transport you straight to Devon, as does the first table dish of Bay lobster custard with lemongrass and green curry. This lobster dish sets a template for the day, and Simon's food generally, with attractive visual appeal, great tastes and textures, and refinement. Whatever you might have imagined with the words lobster and curry on the menu, you'd almost certainly be wrong, with reality offering fleshy lobster tail sitting on top of smooth custard with the curry providing additional finesse for a surprisingly classy result.
No Hulstone meal would be complete without a bit of beetroot and here the beetroot 'samosas' filled with vulscombe cheese are sublime (coming with a little truffle also for good measure). Every plate in fact was a winner, smoked eel with pork belly was hit with everyone as was halibut with a lardo Iberico, a combination we have long adored. The main course, a 28 day aged fallow deer fillet with a ravioli of the haunch and offal provided something very beautiful indeed with the real essence of venison coming through.
An ever popular combination of chocolate, sea salt and milk ice cream was an undoubtedly satisfying finish as the final plated course but when the petit fours came round, there was an unexpected show stealer in the form of apple pie jelly. Looking indistinguishable from your common place fruit jelly, this warm demi-sphere was nevertheless a taste sensation of apple and buttery pastry all within the jelly itself.
It reminded me that for all the fun, the high and low humour that Simon Hulstone brings to the table, both verbally and on the plate, there's a keen intelligence at work here and one comes away from a Hulstone meal impressed not only by the food, but also by the man behind the food. For those who remember the glimpse of his trophy room when it aired on GBM, it becomes clear why he's so successful at doing what he does.
The pop up Cube is finally popping down again in a week's time, but alas, Simon Hulstone's stint there is now over, so if you want to try Simon's food, you'll need to head Torquay way. It is however well worth the trip and a long overdue return to The Elephant is certainly on our list for 2013; we suggest it be on yours also.
Disclosure: we were invited guests at the lunch
Xmas market outside Festival Hall
Bay lobster custard with lemongrass and green curry
Pickled boltardy and golden beetroot 'samosas', vulscombe and truffle
Pork belly and smoked eel, scallop, granny smith and lovage
Halibut with fennel pollen, lardo Iberico, parsnip purée, verjus and golden sultanas
Fallow deer, caramelized turnip, gnocchi ravioli, wild garlic capers
Elderflower crème, strawberry and curd
Chocolate, olive oil, hibiscus, sea salt, milk ice cream
We've been lucky enough to eat at The Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs a few times now, seeing menu changes with both the season and the chef's developing style, but we've never been less than thrilled with the entire meal. And despite so many dishes tried, we can recall nothing that could be described as a dud, with many more than its fair share being dishes to dream about, small plates of food excellence that leave you wanting more at the end of each one. It is a profoundly clever meal every time.
Dishes are quite recognisably James Knappett and while he clearly draws inspiration from the rich heritage of one of the most impressive CVs of the industry, there's a style and philosophy that has clarity on the plate and a consistency through the individual menu as well as menus over time.
Some dishes are familiar, and what is simply described as 'Pig' means an enticing bowl of pork crackling to scoop up scallop roe, though even this has changed up from previous visits, in both plating and design, a function of natural evolution. Others we haven't seen before: 'Sole' sees more roe, whipped and served with a cake of bread in brown butter, mixing beautifully the crumbly textures and richness of the latter with the airy sea fresh delicacy of the former.
There's more of an old favourite in the chicken skin with bacon jam, with everyone asking if you can buy pots of the jam it's so good. And if Jim's Jam weren't enough (sorry James), his pasta is sublime, shaming many a 'genuine' Italian restaurant. Add a shave of truffle and it's a little bowl of heaven, definitely leaving you wanting more. A beautiful piece of beef with celeriac and smoked bone marrow with horseradish is the final hot savoury, then the much lauded Burrata follows before no less than four desserts.
A yoghurt ice cream with mandarin freshens the palate before a rhubarb compote with fromage frais ice cream arrives in a beautiful red textured bowl, and it's worth noting how exquisite all the plates are, giving a visual treat, stimulating the desire to eat before you've even picked up your cutlery. But on desserts, it's a ginger and roasted apple cake with crispy ginger that again delivers another perfect taste experience.
Most agree how special the food is at The Kitchen Table. Even the professional critics have had a tough time finding fault with it, instead reserving their scorn for the public at large, appalled that they should be forced to sit next to their readership. On our visit, everyone around the table seemed appreciative, respectful and well behaved.
What James & Sandia have created with Bubbledogs/The Kitchen Table is special and unique. For a restaurant that is hardly out of the maternity ward, it's surprisingly mature yet maintains a freshness and sparkle throughout the meal. You leave thinking this is what good food is about, already wanting to return. Finally you marvel at how calm the kitchen is, so perfectly orchestrated that even talk between chefs is at a minimum, and if you're expecting to hear profanities, you're certainly in the wrong place, for James, Sandia and the whole team are a world class act.
All of this means that in our view, Bubbledogs Kitchen Table is the best new restaurant opening of 2012 and already competing in the category for the best restaurant in London period, it really is that good.
Chicken, ready to be served
Yoghurt or Yogurt
There were no focus groups or brainstorming sessions needed for the folk behind MEATliquor to come up with the name of their new burger venture in Hoxton, previously a Christian mission, the name was simply gifted to them: MEATmission. Inside and intact are many of the original mission features including a stained glass window and multiple dedication plaques to the god fearing folk of the mission's history. But given this is MEATmission, they're always going to be a little off the wall and if they can't paint murals on the wall, well that leaves the ceiling which is a psychedelic bombardment of glass art, not only taking a cue from the original stained glass window, but featuring as the centrepiece the Eye of Providence, also known as 'the all seeing eye of God'. They certainly have a sense of humour.
What's the same with MEATmission? First off, the format: cocktails we love, burgers we love, food on trays, sauces on the table, kitchen roll, loud music, a boisterous atmosphere.
What's different? Not only is MEATmission bigger, seating up to 170 people, they will also take bookings come the new year so queuing for your burger might be a thing of the past, albeit in the main seating area will continue to be for walk in business. What's more, the venue by the way it's designed is less red than MEATliquor, which, if you've been there, you know exactly what we're talking about. The low red light of MEATliquor caused a serious amount of squinting when trying to read the menu and with the music pumping, it perpetually feels like a cross between a nightclub and a student union. On our visit to MEATmission, the music volume was a little less aggressive and with the back-light behind a ceiling of yellow, red, blue and even white glass, a full spectrum of light allows you to actually see the place giving it a stylish and energetic vibe without being too scary for us old people.
With the venue open less than a week, the menu will develop further (we're reliably told), but for now is a blend of classics, so there's a Dead Hippie Burger and a Dirty Chicken Burger, and some new fare including Pastrami & Swiss and the Garbage Plate, either Beef or Chili. So what's on the 'Garbage' plate? Simply everything: burger patty, fries, cheddar cheese, smothered in gravy and garnished with onions, crispy onions, sweet pickles, pickled beetroot, horseradish. We tried it. It's huge and even eating half the plate leaves you no room for dessert, a good job because for now at least, desserts don't feature on the menu.
The cheeseburger is its usual brilliant self, done the MEAT way and for our money, it is the best burger in London, though admittedly we are a little behind on sampling all of the recent burger openings (there are simply too many to stay current it seems), but how can they improve on this? Not being the Borough of Westminster, there's no problem getting it done medium rare, I don't remember asking, I think it just arrived that way, and keep your sliders too, the MEATmission burger is perfectly proportioned to pick up, bite in to and satisfy. A shared Dirty Chicken Burger was equally irresistible and struck us, like the burger, as the best of its kind out there. And the fries, they're damned good also; a full house then.
For the type of food they do and love doing, our view is that it can't be bettered. Despite opening week, it all felt pretty slick, with both the food and service down pat. If you like MEATliquor's food, well, here it is repeated in all its glory. If you love MEATliquor but would like it even more if it were a little less like a nightclub, you'll adore MEATmission. With bookings taken, a larger restaurant and its Hoxton location, this will undoubtedly be huge. Our only concern is that we might spend too much time there, for in the mission's new guise, we're already converts.
yes, that's really inside the mission
you know the drill
The Eye of Providence - in the ceiling
Beef Garbage Plate
Dirty Chicken Burger
We have not been particular fans of Gordon Ramsay restaurants on this blog, they seem too often formulaic with little from the heart (presumably because empires don't have hearts). But with Christmas being a time of goodwill to all men (including Gordon), we have found something within the empire that we do like - Sundays at Bread Street Kitchen.
We have previously eaten from the regular menu at Bread Street and it didn't go well, with the food being returned to the kitchen, but one Sunday we decided to give Bread Street another try. On Sundays, a brunch/roast menu is offered throughout the day, together with a live band providing some easy listening music during the early afternoon. Enjoying several of the brunch options on our first visit, we liked it enough to return. On our next visit we opted for a Sunday roast and we were impressed with that too. Termed the Lazy Loaf Sunday menu, Bread Street Kitchen is it seems one of the better Sunday offerings out there, a day of the week where we have, alas, consistently struggled to get a good meal from the industry.
The brunch menu section is relatively brief at four items with Eggs Benedict, and a ham hock hash with fried duck egg it has a couple of perfect brunch dishes on, and with ricotta hot cakes, banana and honeycomb butter, it's perfect if you want something to fill that Sunday gap.
More substantial are the roasts where the roast rib of beef is piled high and comes with two Yorkshire puddings. All in all, a pretty decent roast comparing favourably on quality, quantity and value with other recent Sunday endeavours. The only thing I wanted a little more of was the gravy where they could have been a little more generous. The veal chop was equally impressive and cooked well, which is never a given for a single person veal chop.
As well as the beef and veal, there's mutton, Dingley Dell pork and of course a burger available. Roasts are priced at £16, up to £25 for the veal chop. A chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream and honeycomb made for a good finish and we left happy with our meal and likely to return.
Ham hock has and fried ducks egg
Ricotta hot cakes, banana and honeycomb butter
English rose veal chop
Chocolate tart, salted caramel ice cream, honeycomb