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fitzrovia

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

October 29, 2016
Clipstone, Fitzrovia

Before going to restaurants I always love checking out the menu (mainly to prepare myself for the bill).  Clipstone’s menu reads like it was ‘written by Chaucer’, as my friend Harry so aptly put it.  We didn’t understand half of it.  What’s ‘ventricina’ and ‘hispi’ cabbage, why put ‘mallard’ instead of just plain ‘duck’ (apparently because mallard is a wild duck), what’s a ‘torched gurnard’ and a ‘Paris-Brest’?  I’m clearly not really ‘with it’ anymore.  But it didn’t put me off at all.  It actually made me more curious.

While it’s high on my list of go to places, I am yet to try the much-praised restaurant Portland which opened in January last year.  Then its sister restaurant Clipstone opened this summer and the reviews were as good, if not better.  And for some reason I was even more drawn to it than Portland.  So I went last night.  And it was excellent.

It started very well with their homemade warm sour dough bread.  Thick and soft and filling and just what you need when starving and downing your first cocktail of the weekend.  The Halloween appropriate pumpkin with apricot, crispy herbs and creme fraiche was incredible.  The hispi cabbage (a diamond shaped sweet cabbage, apparently) was perhaps one of my favourite dishes, as were the leaks with gibriche sauce (effectively leak tempura – so so good).  The ravioli of celeriac & ricotta was unbelievably moorish and I could easily have had another plate of it.  Our meat options, the pork with quince (the sweet quince made this dish) and the pheasant (beautifully cooked) were good too, but it’s the vegetable dishes that receive the standing ovation.  There’s a clear love here for fermenting, smoking and pickling food and it allows for the perfect autumnal dinner.  It’s very hard to fault this place.

Clipstone, FitzroviaClipstone, Fitzrovia

The service was excellent and friendly and they put up with us asking what every other word on the menu was.

Pudding was a hard choice between the Paris Brest and the Buttermilk pudding, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect from either.  But I’m so glad we went for the Paris-Brest (effectively a lot of cream and choux pastry).  It was to die for and apparently very much the pudding du jour in London at the moment.

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

But one word of warning.  If you want a post-dinner aperitif, don’t, whatever happens, order the pear liqueur.  If you opt for it you can expect poison in a glass and a consequential blurry evening.  But everything else on the menu: order, order, order away.  You won’t be disappointed.

Clipstone

5 Clipstone Street

Fitzrovia

 

Blog, Eat, Healthy, London

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

September 26, 2016
Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

Word of advice.  When a restaurant says it’s fully booked when trying to book a table online, don’t let this put you off going.  I’ve been wanting to go to the much praised Fitzrovian restaurant Honey & Co for ages now, but every time I try and book, it says ‘nothing available’ or offers me the 9:30pm slot.  So last week, having read that they do allow some walk ins, I decided I was just going to risk it.

I arrived at 6:30pm and it was full.  This was to be expected, and I was not put off.  Things looked positive when I spoke to a very friendly waitress, who said she’d take my name and number, and call me when a table was available.  Seemed reasonable.  My friend Emily and I grabbed a glass of wine at the pub next door and eyed up Honey & Co’s small outside terrace.  It was a beautiful, warm September evening, but we could sense that people were leaning towards eating inside.  After about 30 minutes I got a call, ‘We’ve got a table free, but it’s outside I’m afraid.  When can you be here?’   Bingo.  We were there in seconds.

There is one disappointing thing to mention first, then we’ll focus on the positives.  Emily is a vegetarian and, despite the Middle East being so good at vegetarian food, she was disappointed to have only one choice of main course.  Which was, incidentally, a very delicious baked aubergine dish.  But still, I had five other options to choose from.  Funny also that all the starters were vegetarian.  It just doesn’t quite make sense.  Perhaps they should offer the starters also in larger portions as mains?

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

However, moving on swiftly.  The starters were delicious – we shared a basket of fresh bread (how do they make pitta quite so good?) and a labaneh and a spicy pumpkin and pepper dish.  The ideal first course, filling but not overly so.  I could have licked the plate.  As Emily devoured her aubergine, I opted for the roasted lamb salad with plums, tarragon, greengages and fennel seeds as my main course.  While lamb is my big go to, the rest of the accompaniments were not very ‘me’ (I don’t really like fruit in my food, unless it’s pudding).  But the combination worked beautifully and it felt both healthy and delicious.

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

The place has a very local, neighbourhood feel to it.  Everyone is friendly, the staff lovely, and there is a pleasant buzz about the place.  It’s one of those places which makes you want to return.  It’s as far from a chain restaurant as you can get.

Too full for pudding, I decided I would return here for brunch, as this seems to be most legendary here.  Since drinking wine at the pub at 11am at the pub next door may not be quite so appropriate, I might have to surrender and actually book that (well) in advance.

Honey & Co

25 Warren St

London W1T 5LZ

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

September 5, 2016
The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It might seem like a bit of a cheat writing a blog about a restaurant where I’ve only had pudding*.  But this pudding is so good it deserves its own blog.  Even though I had it 3 weeks ago I cannot stop thinking about it.  I’m plotting when to return.

Let’s rewind.  Having had a delicious dinner at Bao Fitzrovia, which fully lived up to expectations, I decided I wanted proper dessert and a proper (large) glass of wine.  Being right by Charlotte street we were in no better area to find both items, and so we strolled along until we got to the Ninth.  I’d read good things about this place, no less regarding its attractive Japanese celeb chef Jun Tanaka, but mainly about the food.  It also, like most Charlotte Street restaurants (another reason why I love it so) has a little terrace outside, with, in our case, empty tables.

The staff were ever so charming and more than happy for us to enjoy dessert and wine outside.  The dessert menu had some very appealing options and I was almost tempted to go for the Tarte Tatin.   But the (lovely) waiter insisted I try their famous ‘Pain Perdu’, which sounded like my sort of thing.  Best decision ever.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It’s really rather pleasant sitting on their terrace with the heaters on, watching Charlotte Street go by, sipping a good glass of French (obvi) wine.  But life got just that little bit better when a loaf of beautifully caramelised French toast was placed in front of me.  With wonderful vanilla ice cream.  The loaf was soft and warm on the inside, but with a slight caramel crunch on the outside.  It’s quite a lot of pudding, but scary how quickly and easily that vanished (my Instagram photo below).  Don’t get one to share, it’s too good for that.  And while a portion that size might leave you feeling sick, it wasn’t overly sweet so I felt just fine afterwards (if slightly on a sugar high).

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The great thing is that since I didn’t actually have dinner there, I have an excuse to go back (the menu looks good, and prices reasonable).  Inside was also appealing, dimly lit, buzzing without being noisy, the ideal date place perhaps.

If the rest of the menu is anything like the Pain Perdu, then it will certainly be a dinner to remember.

**Since writing this blog I actually went back for lunch in the sun with my father.  We enjoyed two of their delicious salads/ceviche and their oxtail croquettes which were delicious.  To finish, we had the Pain Perdu, of course!  Couldn’t recommend this place highly enough.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The Ninth

22 Charlotte Street

Fitzrovia

Photo credit: The Ninth

Blog, Drink, Eat, London

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

August 31, 2016
Samarkand, Fitzrovia

An Uzbek restaurant might not be your first choice on Charlotte Street, where you have a vast array of excellent international – and British – restaurants to choose from.  But I was curious, no less because of the promise of craft vodka and a dish called Jizbiz (I know…).

I rarely write bad reviews, mainly because I don’t want to waste my time writing about places I would simply not recommend.  The only negative one I wrote was about Restaurant Ours, because there was a hype for no reason, the prices were inflated and the service was appalling.  The problem with Samarkand is that I genuinely quite liked the restaurant (and bar), I thought the interiors were appealing and – most importantly – the service was really good.  So I feel for them a little, writing this review.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

But there is one big problem with Samarkand, and that is, very unfortunately, the food.  Arguably we enjoyed the 50% soft launch offer, which made for a very affordable and fun dinner.  However, the prices of the food cannot be justified without it.

To start with we ordered the beef and lamb ‘Manti’, Uzbek dumplings.  I’m always a bit of a fan of dumplings, but not of these.  Soggy, falling apart and bland, even the sauce which accompanied it resembled a Dolmio tomato sauce.  Maybe that’s the Uzbek way, but if it is, I wouldn’t put it on the menu.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Next came the Shashlik (grilled skewered meat).  We ordered the Wagyu Beef with Truffle and a Buttermilk Lamb one.  Bearing in mind that the beef shashlik (one skewer – albeit 100g) costs £24, you’d expect some seriously good meat.  But it just didn’t do it for us (though the lamb was better than the beef).  The biggest mystery of all was the truffle clearly resembled truffle shavings but tasted of, well, nothing.  Nor did it smell of truffle.  It just looked like it.  When questioned if it was perhaps Uzbek truffle (if that exists) our very charming waiter said he’d check with the kitchen, and returned adamant it was Tuscan.

For the main course we decided to order the JizBiz, since a dish with a name like that surely can’t be ignored.  This was a rack of lamb with a potato cake.  It was fine, but not more than this – and just could have been so much better if they had properly grilled the lamb so the fat was crispy rather than soft.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

We moved to the bar area (which I really liked) after dinner to try some of their vodka.  They recommended two kinds: a sugar beet and a malt vodka – both completely new to us.  We couldn’t dine at an Uzbek restaurant and not have a vodka.  But then to our complete surprise we were served British vodka, two types of craft vodka made in London in fact.  I just couldn’t understand why a restaurant from an area famed for its vodka would serve British vodka.  Totally bizarre (I did like the Uzbek tea cups the vodka was served in).

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Samarkand’s not all bad, as I said above.  I really liked the staff, who were attentive, enthusiastic and clearly proud to be working at there.  The head barman could talk for hours about the vodka we were drinking.  Some of the cocktails we had afterwards were good too (though the Whisky Sour could do with more whiskey).

This is not a place for a summer’s day (it’s underground), and should be better in the winter, where the British vodka can warm you, though the truffle with still mystify.  So in conclusion, I’d grab a pre or post-dinner cocktail here, but choose one of the plethora of other excellent restaurants on Charlotte Street (Roka, the Ninth, Barn Yard) or Bao around the corner for actual dinner.  If Uzbek cuisine wants to make its mark in London, it’s going to have to improve dramatically at Samarkand.

Samarkand

33 Charlotte St,

London W1T 1RR

Photo credit: Samarkand

Blog, Eat, London

Bao, Fitzrovia & Soho

August 19, 2016
Bao, Fitzrovia

Funny how little pillowy white buns can be talked about (and Instagrammed) so much.  But these ‘bao’ (Taiwanese steamed buns) are no ordinary buns.  Perhaps you only understand the hype once you’ve been, which means fully dedicating yourself to ‘the queue’.  Which is always substantial, and always a guaranteed long wait, because the Lexington Street Bao is tiny.  Except now, with Bao’s second opening in Fitzrovia, which offers a much larger space (this is all relative of course), the queues are also much more manageable.  Or maybe I got lucky, as I only queued about 15 mins (on a Wednesday evening at 7pm).

The flagship Bao opened last year to rave reviews (though they still have a permanent stall at Netil Market), and while desperate to go, my few attempts were immediately aborted having seen a row of people snake around the corner with no end in sight.  I’m impatient, and while I’m always willing to wait for food which is clearly off the charts delicious, there are limits.  The 15 minute Fitzrovia wait was more than manageable, and I was very surprised as we were ushered in so quickly (yes, I felt quite smug).  My speedy entrance made the food taste even better.

Bao, FitzroviaBao, Fitzrovia

The three of us ordered a good section of the menu, and only left things like duck hearts which pushes the boat out a little too far for me.  But we did dare try the crispy prawn heads (which were indeed crispy, and tasty), and the raw langoustines (which were very slippery, but also delicious).  We opted for two bao each, the classic of course (pulled pork, heaven in a mouthful) and then the black cod for Steph and the lamb for Emily and I. They were both delightful – but I can totally see how the Black Cod has become one of their most popular dishes (it’s photogenic too).  Apart from that the sweet corn dish with surprisingly good, I loved their aubergine and rice (too moorish for words) and their octopus was succulent and fiery.  It was all really really good.

Bao, Fitzrovia

The service was excellent, friendly, quick, helpful.  The (Austrian) house wine surprisingly fine (though the tiny glasses do add up price wise).  And the décor, simple with clean lines, is given the food you’re eating.

I’m going back, though unfortunately I know I won’t be the only one.

Bao Fitzrovia

31 Windmill St,

London W1T 2JN

Photo credit: Bao

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Foley’s, Fitzrovia

August 13, 2016
Foleys, FItzrovia

Palomar is still up there with one of my all-time favourite London restaurants (and I also really loved its new sister restaurant the Barbary).  It’s not surprising therefore that Palomar’s Sous Chef Mitz Vora has opened a restaurant which blew me away, rivalling Palomar in standard and flavours.

I might be a little biased as I rocked up to the restaurant on a high (and a little merry) from a long afternoon at the wonderful Pergola on the Roof, in a very good mood. This was definitely helped by cocktails from the ‘outside’ bar at Foley’s, which I loved!  A further 50% off the food because of the soft launch meant that we all got very over-excited and ordered everything on the menu.  I think the only thing we missed off was a random salad.

Foleys, FItzrovia

Everything else we devoured completely.  Our favourites?  The ceviche endive tacos with tuna and octopus (heaven), the aubergine with pomegranate, quinoa and feta, the lamb and the beef.  But to be honest, I’d happily have all of it again.

Foleys, FItzroviaFoleys, FItzrovia

We finished it off with a few Espresso Martini cocktails (and again, moved outside for that – one has to take advantage of a warm summer’s evening).  These are not cheap, but are most definitely a way to emerge from any food coma.

A special mention should also go to the décor and the feel of the place.  It’s one of those restaurants with such a fun, upbeat vibe.  Unpretentious, down to earth, cool but not achingly (painfully) trendy.  The open plan kitchen is always welcome (next time I’ll sit at the kitchen counter, but a table is better for groups).   And it’s in Fitzrovia, which is just ideal in terms of location, not heaving with tourists, and a short walk into Soho if you’re looking for more after dinner party time.

Foleys, FItzrovia

Foley’s

23 Foley St,

London W1W 6DU

Photo credit: Foley’s

 

Blog, Drink, London

Love Die Late, Fitzrovia

August 5, 2015
Love Die Late, Fitzrovia

I like places which serve excellent coffee by day, and then delicious cocktails by night.  A smart thing to do, especially in bustling Fitzrovia, when there are heaps of people around all day long.  Who need feeding and watering.

I suppose the concept isn’t dissimilar to the very lovely Bar Termini, though at Love Die Late they go through even greater efforts to transform the interiors of the place from ‘day’ to ‘night’.   As they say, they ‘physically’ transform themselves.  And they really do.

Love Die Late, Fitzrovia

I came here one Thursday evening, and clearly the ‘night’ theme was very much in swing.  Subdued lighting, coffee machine gone, cocktail shakers out.  Lots of overexcited girls shouting over their drinks.  Needless to say, despite the charming New York 1950s style interiors, we sat outside (there are a few tables on the pavement).  I love people watching in Fitzrovia anyway.

Love Die Late, Fitzrovia

Love Die Late, FitzroviaThe cocktail list isn’t too long but offers some interesting options.  Lucy went for the Epicolada with almond washed pineapple juice (a bit like a fancier Pina colada I suppose?), and I went for the Steeped in Blush (Raspberry infused gin, with honey cordial, lime and Angostura Bitter).  Both were refreshing and not too sweet.  Later we ordered some of their house wine and some rabbit food to nibble on.  All in all I liked the place, the service was very friendly and I still think the area around Oxford Street can do with more cocktails bars (though I do love the Cocktail Trading Co), so I’m happy about its location.

Love Die Late, FitzroviaLove Die Late, FitzroviaNow I need to go a Take 2 and head here for a day time coffee and a cake (they have some good gluten free options too), to check out the transformation into a ‘flirty and fun’ cafe.  And perhaps I’ll sit inside this time too.

Love Die Late, Fitzrovia

Love Die Late

114 Great Portland Street

London W1W 6PH

Blog, Eat, London

Barnyard, Fitzrovia

June 3, 2014
Barnyard

When I told my colleagues I was going to Barnyard for dinner, they laughed and scrunched up their noses. One of them even put on a Farmer Giles accent. They clearly had never heard if it. But when I explained this was Ollie Dabbous’ new(ish) restaurant – A.K.A famous owner and chef of Dabbous – they suddenly I had a bit more respect for my dinner choice. Especially when I told them the prices were no where near those of Dabbous.

Barnyard

Yes the name makes you think of a farm. Of hay bales. And of chicken.  No, it doesn’t make you think of trendy, bustling Charlotte Street (which has become one of my favourite London streets) just North of Oxford Street, where this fine little restaurant is located.  That makes it all the more cool; to have effectively made the inside of a terraced Charlotte street house into a corrugated iron barn, complete with wooden planks as tables and tin jugs with wheat bouquets.

Barnyard

Barnyard
I spotted Barnyard from afar – a scuffed white picket fence surrounding the entrance and their small terrace.  Huge wide open windows, revealing a very busy restaurant.  I was convinced, since it was Monday, that the no-booking policy wouldn’t affect us. I was wrong.  There was a waiting list for the next table.  Luckily my friend Halael had got there before me and bagged us two seats at the bar where, since the bar men/waiters were so charming, we decided to have dinner too.

Barnyard

Barnyard

Barnyard

DELIGHTFUL HARVEY – BLINDED BY THE LIGHT


The menu is divided into your different farm animals – Pig, Cow, Lamb & Chicken (and Egg, but that’s boring). With your classic American sides: Cornbread, Corn on the cob, Fries, Cauliflower cheese.  The idea, our friendly waiter Harvey explained, was to order about 3 dishes each.  Seemed like a lot to us, so we ordered 5 between us.

Barnyard

We were recommended (and thus dutifully ordered) the following:

Chicken wings.  Our number one favourite. Loved the smoked paprika, lemon & garlic paste, which set it apart from your usual greasy chicken wings.  That said, it’s hardly fat free!

Barnyard

NOT YOUR STANDARD FRIED CHICKEN

Barnyard

 

Roast Beef on toast wth horseradish buttermilk.  The beef cooked rare but not bloody, the warm horseradish buttermilk giving that extra wow factor. Loved the presentation, and the original way horseradish was used.

Barnyard

Barnyard

 

Sausage roll. Perhaps my least favourite. We were told it was good, but also warned it was pretty much just a sausage roll (a big one!).  Nothing compared to the rest but at £6 not going to break the bank.

Barnyard

 

Cauliflower Cheese. I never usually order this and found it creamy and delicious without being too much.  Real comfort food but full of flavour.

Barnyard

 

Corn on the Cob. Which they kindly cut in half for us and gave us each a mug (see photo).  Sautéed in salted butter and meadowsweet and then whacked on the grill.  The meadowsweet made it taste almost caramel-like and resulted in bringing the classic corn on the cob to a whole new level.

Barnyard

Drinks-wise, I’m on a detox for a few days.  Halael had the house white, which was good, apparently.  I opted for a simply fizzy elderflower drink, as I fancied something fresh and light.  But next time I will try one of their Shandies, the best drinks on the menu according to Harvey.  And I do like how they come in milk bottles.

Barnyard
Barnyard
By the time the menu was placed on the table once more – this time for pudding – Halael and I felt like two stuffed chickens.  

Barnyard

A BARN FEAST

Despite seriously persuasion from the boys to go for the Popcorn Ice cream, we decided against it.  But then – thanks to Matt the manager – they gave us a taster. And a shot of toffee sauce too.  Might actually have been the best ‘taster’ of the night.  The toffee had a smokes taste (because of the smoked butter used) which gave it a savoury touch.  Simply delicious and a fantastic end to a delightful evening of excellent service & a surprising, flavoursome version of your classic fast-food menu.

When I get richer I intend to go to Dabbous, where an 8-course tasting menu is £59.  Because if Ollie Dabbous can give fast food a hint of sophistication, I wonder what he can do to fine dining.

Barnyard

Barnyard

18 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia,

London W1T 2LY

 

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