Category Archives: The restauRANT

Morito

Restaurant: Morito

Address: 32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE

Contact: 020 7278 7007

Opening times:     6 Days: Mon – Sat: 12pm – 11pm, closed Sun

Tubes: Angel, Farringdon, Old Street

A year or so ago I did a week-long Stage at Moro. An unusual place to do one you might think and you’d be right. See stages are one of those intensely serious, “Cheffy” things that only the dedicated and tediously ambitious professional does: go and work, for free, in a high pressure environment to prove you can be shouted out by the best of them all in the name of EXPERIENCE. Stages take place in restaurants with Michelin Stars and the faint smear of dairy on the wall following a Postal rant involving a Head Chef, a cheese trolley and a cowering Maitr’d; They don’t take place in convivial local Spanish-slash-North-African eateries but I liked the cut of Moro’s Jib – I liked the multi-coloured tiles that surround their wood burning oven, I liked the heavy set curtain that hangs just inside the door to keep the cold out and I loved the food. And so off I toddled. And what a happy little toddle it was too. See unlike those Cheese stained, Star driven, I’m-too-scared-to-breathe-so-will-just-quietly-pass-out -in-the-corner kitchens Moro saunters to the beat of its own drum. It was much like working in a foodie Commune, a place where there is no enforced hierachy, where everybody pitches in and helps one another and where the end product is so-much the better for it. Chefs would volunteer to do Front-of-house evening shifts following a capacity lunch service. The bar staff would help with staff lunch and occasionally the owner’s 10 year old daughter would pop in just to check that standards weren’t slipping. The store cupboards were laden with amazing Spanish produce from the likes of Brindisa and the shelves would sigh blissfully under the weight of Za’atar, Sumac and Paprika. In short it was a happy kitchen – a happy restaurant – creating some of the best food of its type in the country. And when I was there was on the verge of opening its sister restaurant, the Tapas focussed Morito, right next door. Up until this point Moro had served Tapas at the main restaurant bar but perhaps not to the extent that you would expect from a Spanish operation. Morito stood to correct this: to showcase exactly what small plates can deliver. It was eagerly anticipated by all-and-sundry and, I am thrilled but not at all surprised to say, has lived up to the calling.

As it is so with everything at Moro the attention to detail and the thought that goes into the flavours shine through at Morito. The beer glasses are kept in the freezer to enhance the refreshing, crisp hit you get from the Cruz Campo they have on Draught. Gilda, arguably the nicest thing I’ve ever eaten on a stick, is meticulously thought through: the sweetness of the silver-skin onion playing off the salt from the Anchovy, tempered by the heat from the Guindilla pepper.

Gilda: named after Rita Hayworth no less

The Salt Cod Croquetas couldn’t be executed any better: hot, crisp, perfectly gooey inside. The Chicharrones de Cadiz we ordered, a slow roast nugget of yielding Pork Belly encrusted with Cumin seed, was cut with just the right amount of lemon resulting in a full-on piggy meltdown on my part.

There followed “a new dish” of slow cooked beef with quince which had been spiked with wonderful orange and winter spice notes, the perfect plate for this time of year. Puntillitas – fried baby Squid with Sumac – was just as it should be and the Buttifarra was bang-on the money. Braised Spinach with Anchovies and Pine nuts was far more than the sum of its parts, in no small way down to the inclusion of wonderful, fat, juicy raisins that ran through the dish. In short this was superb Tapas: as interesting, well executed and down-right delicious as any I’ve had anywhere. Everything we eat tasted as though it had been made by people that love what they do. And that is rare. The meal was rounded off with an excellent Espresso, which isn’t Spanish but I don’t care. The whole thing – the food, the drink, the service and the bright orange bar at which we sat, made me very, very happy. And there is no greater accolade in cooking than that.

Conclusion: It simply doesn’t get any better than this.

Cost:  4 gilda, 1 salt cod croquetas, 1 butifarra, 1 chicharrones, 1 spinach, 1 beef & quince, 1 squid, 2 half beers, 1 glass of red & an espresso came to £48.83. You can’t put a price on an experience this good. Morito has and it’s a stone-cold bargain!

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The Red Dog Saloon

Restaurant: Red Dog Saloon

Address: 37 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NN

Contact: 020 3551 8014 * Red Dog Saloon

Opening times:     7 Days: 12pm – 12am (nice & easy)

Tubes: Old Street

The Red Dog Saloon had a pretty torrid time of it when it first opened back in June. Jay Rayner gave it a proper ribbing, TimeOut savaged it and it fared little better at the hands of London Eating. All and sundry bulked at the limited availability of key menu items, a perceived lack of authenticity and then the kitchen’s smokers went and caught on fire….oh dear God the irony! The one glimmering point of light at the end of what appeared to be a very long, very dark tunnel, was the concession that this was early days for The Red Dog and that signs of promise were visible. The problem with “promise” is that it is entirely speculative and with so much competition and choice in London the chances of giving a restaurant another go after suffering a bad experience are slim. I went early doors and wasn’t particularly impressed: small menu, no-one really seemed to know what they were doing, etc. etc. Luckily for me I live REALLY close (that and the fact that my girlfriend is on holiday and so I have nothing to do….), so I went back. And I’m really glad I did. It looks like the operation is starting to fire up and it appears that we have Buffalo Wings to thank. I ordered 8 wings for £8.50 but had I known how good they were would gladly have paid more. These were the best Buffalo Wings I’ve ever had. In fact these were one of the nicest chicken-related things I’ve ever had – I shit you not: Sweet, salty, tangy, hot, tender, satisfyingly  messy – just totally, incredibly delicious. I also ordered a very good BBQ Burger piled high with onion rings, really crisp bacon and a slathering of tangy sauce. Fries are good and the mostly American beer selection is great too. Service is very sweet – which is not an adjective I thought I would use given the restaurant’s location – and the aesthetic is appealing. The menu has got longer, become more interesting and now represents a coherent operation which seems to have found a direction.  The bill came to a fraction over 30 quid, which for 2 beers, a burger, fries, service and those wings, is OK. I should point out that I was totally stuffed.

Conclusion: Everybody that wrote The Red Dog Saloon off should go back. Go back and have the wings. Have a beer too. It will change your life.

Price: £30 odd per head – the going rate for commensurate places. The beer prices put the bill up but since it seems that nowadays we should regard Craft Beer as we would a glass of wine that seems fair.

 


Potato & Parmesan Gnocchi with Chorizo, Chilli and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • Some olive oil
  • An onion
  • Some garlic
  • Some cooking chorizo (Picante is good)
  • Some chilli – seeds out if you don’t like it hot. Some do…
  • A bunch of coriander
  • Passata (about 250ml should do enough for two)
  • Chicken stock cube
  • A block of parmesan
  • Some good Gnocchi (you can make this yourself – dead easy – or buy a good one from a shop)

Method:

  1. Finely dice your onion, slice up your garlic (use however suits your needs) and chop your Chorizo into nice sized cubes.
  2. Get a pan of salted water boiling – you’ll need this for your Gnocchi
  3. Splash a little olive oil (not too much because of what the Chorizo is going to do) into your pan and get the vegetables softening.
  4. Throw your Chorizo in next and allow all the gorgeous oil and spices to bleed out and colour everything in the pan
  5. Finely slice the chilli and add that, cook for a bit
  6. When it’s all soft and sizzling away break a chicken stock cube in, stir around to help it dissolve and then add the Passata
  7. Cook for 10 or so minutes until the liquid is reduced and everything is lovely and thick and ace
  8. Throw the Gnocchi into the boiling water, cook until it floats, drain it and then introduce it to the lovely tomato-ey thing going on in the pan
  9. Season all of this, sprinkle liberally with chopped coriander, spoon it into a bowl, shave a heap of parmesan on top and eat the bastard

Here’s a photo of what it might look like, you lucky things:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Launceston Place

Restaurant: Launceston Place

Address: 1A Launceston Place, London, W8 5RL

Contact: 020 7937 6912 * http://www.launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk

Opening times:     Lunch – Tuesday – Saturday 12:00 – 14.30

Sunday 12:00 – 15:00

Dinner – Monday – Saturday 18:00 – 22:30

Sunday – 18.30 – 22.00

Tubes: High Street Kensington, Gloucester Road

You don’t hear much hype about Launceston Place these days. Maybe it’s because the current Head Chef, Tristan Welch, has been there for 3 years now and so isn’t considered news worthy. Maybe it’s because the restaurant has embedded itself into the fabric of the London scene so snuggly that it is quietly accepted. Or maybe it’s because it’s hidden away in West London. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is brilliant. Everything about it is brilliant: the ambience, the staff, the food, the wine list, the price, everything. The feel of the place is at once intimate, welcoming, relaxed, chic and inviting. The staff are clued-up, very approachable and seemingly happy. The food is incredibly good, interesting without being faddy, packed with flavour and presented beautifully. The wine list is well-priced, offers good options by the glass and half-bottle and consists of trusted, good producers at every turn. The restaurant also gets involved with all kinds of special promotions such as 3 courses for £30 (which was actually more like 5 courses – amuse-bouches here, homemade bread and butter there) and by doing so presents very, very good value for money.

Conclusion: I urge everyone to go. Take a date. Eat great food, get a bit drunk and go home together very happy.

Price: Special offer or no you could spend £100 for three courses, with a glass of wine each, and for this standard of restaurant, in London, that is a bargain.


Hawksmoor – Commercial Street

Restaurant: Hawksmoor

Address: 157 Commercial St., London, E1 6BJ

Contact: 020 7247 7392 * http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk

Opening times:     Brunch – Saturday 11:00 – 16:00

Sunday 11:00 – 17:00

Lunch – Monday – Friday 12:00 – 15:00

Dinner – Monday – Saturday 18:00 – 22:30

Tubes: Old Street, Aldgate & Liverpool Street

The original of the Hawksmoor Steakhouses (a second has sprung up in Seven Dials and word on the street is there is a third in the offing) is a powerhouse of a meat emporium. It’s a moodily lit, leather bound Speakeasy kind of a place that makes a man feel like a man. The bar specialises in old-fashioned cocktails: light on garnish, heavy on flavour. Juleps are a focus all at £7.50. These are seriously good. So is the steak. Much has been written about just how good the meat at Hawksmoor is. You might say the steaks are high……Every expectation is met. This is the best steak I’ve had anywhere outside Chicago. Both restaurants are supplied by The Ginger Pig, which is a brilliant butchers. Steaks are seared over charcoal giving them a fantastic smokey flavoured crust which yields succulent, juicy pink flesh. The wine list is home to some real behemoths as is befitting of this kind of food. The restaurant also runs personalised Steak and Wine Clubs which does away with the need to set up those stupid Facebook groups. Nice touch. If there is a downside it is pretty expensive (although that in no way means it isn’t worth it) which means you can’t go everyday: sad smiley face.

Conclusion: Fantastic. Go. Soon.


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One of the first things I set out to do online was publish a host of restaurant reviews. I’ve eaten in some truly brilliant restaurants and subscribe whole-heartedly to the idea of sharing information about places that deserve to be busy. Of all the things people publish on the web information about restaurants is some of the most useful and potentially rewarding. And yet, to date, I have not documented a single one. The primary reason for this gastronomic silence is that I am conflicted about the whole process of amateur reviews: I at once see the benefit in doing it and yet am left cold by the whole process. I think the problem lies in the sheer amount of stuff out there and the form in which it takes.   Reviewing restaurants is the zeitgeist of the Twenty-first century. The web is chock-a-block with articles, blogs and websites dedicated to documenting every aspect of the “eating out experience”. Thousands upon thousands of words are given over to describing the atmosphere, service, textures and flavours of the food. There are endless pictures of the dishes; photos taken from ever conceivable angle, at seemingly never-ending stages of whatever tasting menu the blogger happens to be enduring. And that is the overall impression that I, as a reader, am left with: that the whole process – both the meal and the subsequent cataloguing of it – was and is an endurance. To plough through these incredibly detailed and, no doubt, authoritative reviews is such an arduous process that it becomes something of a chore. And that just shouldn’t be the lasting effect that food leaves one with. Food is an all-encompassing sensory experience but it seems that it is very much of the present, experienced personally and the wonder and joy of the whole thing is totally lost in the recounting of it. Once removed from, or indeed never included in, the initial experience it becomes a two-dimensional thing which alienates the reader. It articulates itself as an indulgence, devoid of any real pleasure. This is something of a paradox because clearly for anybody to have gone to such lengths to record a meal in such detail singles it out as an experience worthy of such efforts. The meal must have been sublime, dramatic, incredible to inspire such ardour in the author. And yet the finished article so often conveys none of that, even with its beautiful digital photography. And that is a problem. It makes you question the point of going to such lengths, a frustrating thing in itself because I totally see a use for restaurant reviews. I want to hear about new openings. I want to hear about others’ experience of such and such a place. I want to know my £100 will be wisely spent. I don’t want to get food poisoning and I absolutely see a point to sharing information…..It’s just I really don’t want to read 3,000 words about Koffman On The Roof. I’d rather just go.

Upshot of all this is I have decided to document the really good places I have eaten in, but I’m going to do it in brief. I’ll include important information such as price and location and why it’s good but I’m not going to bleat on about every single dish in perpetuity. I’m going to be succinct. That way people can scan the blog, get the gist and then go and experience the place for themselves. The way it’s meant to happen.


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