3 Weeks in London

May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

21 days and nights in London.


I suppose I should start with an apology. I have been rather quiet of late, for an array of reasons I won’t go into. But all that has changed. In fact a lot has changed. I am now an expat, living in Hong Kong. I’ve just arrived, on a one way ticket to the Far East.

But fear not, I have so many places that I need to tell you about and I will spend the next few weeks catching up on the back log. First though, I thought I might do a little round up of what I have filled my last 3 weeks in London with. These are my favourite haunts (with several first-time experiences thrown in for good measure) and the places I couldn’t leave London without one last visit. These are the places I would recommend to you in a heartbeat and the places I am seriously going to miss.
Iberico Pork Ribs Roast Pumpkin, Ricotta and Sour Dough
It was the evening I visited Hawksmoors’ little sister, Foxlow, that my countdown really begins. I would make the decision to move to HK the very next morning. (which does NOT reflect on the quality of the restaurant!) Neither Amanda nor I were particularly hungry, so we opted for a selection of starters including decadently smoky and sticky ‘Iberico Pork Ribs‘ (£8.5) and a sweet and creamy concoction of ‘Roast Pumpkin, Ricotta and Sour Dough‘ (£8.5). Both highly recommended.(Just two weeks later, we tucked into the best burgers in town, at HonestBurger, before saying our good byes.)
Cheese Tasting at La Compagnie Delicatessen Cheese Tasting at La Compagnie Delicatessen
I was thrilled to be invited to the opening of the new delicatessen from my favourite wine bar, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials (Read Full Review). I was treated to a wine and cheese tasting, with a fabulous after party showcasing oysters and champagne, cheese and champagne, charcuterie and champagne…… If you are looking for something special to take home or add to a picnic basket, La Compagnie Delicatessen has you covered and won’t disappoint.
Lobster with hedgerow garlic butter IMG_2815
Next, a surprise meeting with some charming gents at a event at Mark’s Bar, led to a stunning meal at Hixter. Starting with a dozen ‘Bronwsea Island rock oysters’ (£33.90) and a whole ‘Lobster with hedgerow garlic butter’(£35), we shared an enormous rib cut (£65), with an array of sides. My evening spiralled into a ridiculous late night stop at a local bar, before heading home in the early hours. Work on Wednesday morning was a struggle to say the least. #firstworldproblems.
Lamb Kebab Tandoor Prawns
The tasting menu at Gymkhana was worth the 8 month wait that had passed since it first came onto my radar. And I am so please that I got to go. Saturday lunch with Claire and Torrens flew by in an array of dishes including a glorious dish of‘Gilafi Quail Seekh Kebab, Pickled Green Chili Chutney’ and succulent ‘Lasooni Wild Tiger Prawns, Red Pepper Chutney’ (Full review coming soon).
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The weird and wonderful tasting menu at Restaurant Story started with too many “snacks” to count.  I haven’t a clue what these were, but they were good. Really good. And although this isn’t a restaurant that I am going to be rushing back to as I feel like I have kinda of done it – it is certainly an experience worth having. (Full review coming soon).
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The ‘Surprise Tasting Menu‘ at The Greenhouse promised to delight and entertain and it did just that. Divine without being overly decadent, and full of surprises without venturing towards the absurd. The Greenhouse is one of the only 2 Michelin star restaurants in London and I think it is completely worthy of the status. Save this one for a really special occasion.
Courgette and corn fritters, feta, roast tomato Poached eggs, aubergine puree, yoghurt, sumac, parsley, toast
A farewell to London would not be complete without brunch at my beloved Caravan, King’s Cross (see Sunday Brunch). Papa B, Paul, Tom and I waited for ages at the bar before getting a table. But with bitter coffees, fresh juices and a couple of ‘Spiced Bloody Mary’s‘ (£7.5) to boot, we were quite happy to while away the time. When we were finally seated and served, we tucked into generous portions of ‘Poached eggs, aubergine puree, yoghurt, sumac, parsley, toast’ (£8.5),  ‘Courgette and corn fritters, feta, roast tomato‘ (£8.5) and ‘Prawn and chorizo omelette, chipotle sauce‘ (£8.5). The perfect brunch.
Sharing Board Calamari
My local, Harrison’s (see Sunday Brunch), always guarantees a decent meal with even more decent cocktails – the ‘Pomegranate Caipirinha‘ (£8) has always been my favourite. Orla and I snuck in late on a Friday evening, ordered the mysterious sounding “Sharing Board” and  hoped for the best. We left rather happy.
Pomegranate Caipirinha Be my Clementine, Punch Punch Cocktail
Early evening cocktails with Papa B at The Punch RoomThe Edition Hotel, got a Monday evening off to a good start. And was the perfect precursor to a dinner at Chiltern Fire House.
Crab-stuffed donuts, coral dusting Chargrilled Iberico Pork, roasted garlic & collared greens
Hats off to Claire for making the reservation and thanks must go to Pippa for squeezing dinner with us into her hectic work schedule! We ordered well, although it would have been difficult to order badly, and enjoyed a stunning meal of inventive dishes. ‘Crab-stuffed donuts, coral dusting‘ (£9.5) were sweeter than expected but endlessly moreish, whilst Pippa’s ‘Chargrilled Iberico Pork, roasted garlic & collared greens’ (£24) really stole the show. Again, this is a special occasion kinda place. And good luck getting a reservation before September! (Full review coming soon).
Prarie Oyster | Tomato yolk, Horseradish Vodka, Oloroso Sherry, Shallots, Pepper Sauce, Celery Salt, Micro Herbs  IMG_3030
A long overdue catch up and goodbye to Matt and Charlotte started with some cocktails at 69 Colebrook Row, including a bizarre “Prarie Oyster” (Tomato yolk, Horseradish Vodka, Oloroso Sherry, Shallots, Pepper Sauce, Celery Salt, Micro Herbs) (£5.5) before enjoying a selection of “Vagetarian Dishes” at nearby Mem&Laz. Although I enjoyed my meal, this is not exactly a recommendation of the restaurant, I just wanted to share “Vagetarian Dishes” with you.
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Then there was a housemates goodbye at Elliot’s in Borough Market. Along with an array of English small plates, including some superb sourdough bread, we scoffed skewers of ‘Chicken Hearts‘ (£8) cooked in a sticky teriyaki sauce, and a salad of bitter leaves and pork crackling. We finished the meal with a special of  ‘Salted Caramel Tart with Blood Orange and Lemon Sorbet’ (£6). This is one of Paddy’s favourite restaurants and and I can see why – when you go make sure you ask the Restaurant Manager about his aperitifs, if you fancy something special after dinner.
Ape & Bird Stuffed Olives
I think it’s fair to say that I have done pretty well the last few weeks, managing to visit or re-visit a fantastic array of super bars and restaurants. Of course there was also lunch at Damson & Co (Read Full Review); supper at The Fish & Chip Shop; drinks at Scarfe Bar, Rosewood Hotel; and a final dinner at Mele e Pere with presecco on tap and those gorgeous stuffed olives I love so much. Then there was a first date on my second last evening in London (!), which started with drinks at Dean Street Townhouse, led to cocktails at The Experimental Cocktail Club and finished with a very late night snack at The Ape & Bird (suitably punctuated throughout with calls and texts from friends wanting to say good bye). 

And yet, despite my efforts, there is still so many restaurants that I haven’t quite got round to visiting. But that’s just one more good reason to come back, so watch this space…..

Now I know what you are going to ask me, it’s what everyone asks. Which was the best? What is the best restaurant in London? Where must I go? And I shall tell you what I tell everyone. That there isn’t one. That it all depends what you like, what you’re looking for and who you are with.

But I know you won’t accept that. So if I had to choose a favourite London restaurant, if I had to pick just one, out of the hundreds and hundreds that I have had the honour and privilege of dining at these last 4 years, I would choose The Dairy (Read Full Review). I have only been once, and I am now not sure I will ever go again. But my evening there, was the closest thing to perfect.

Restaurants & Bars in ‘3 weeks in London’

Foxlow – EC1M

Honest Burger

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials & La Compagnie Delicatessen – WC2H

Mark’s Bar & Hixter – EC2M

Gymkhana – W1S

Restaurant Story – SE1

Harrison’s – SW12

The Greenhouse – W1J

Caravan, King’s Cross – N1C

The Punch Room, The Edition Hotel – W1T

Chiltern Firehouse – W1U

69 Colebrook Row – N1

Elliot’s -SE1

Damson & Co – WIF

The Fish & Chip Shop – N1

Scarfes Bar, Rosewood Hotel – WC1V

Mele e Pere – W1F

Dean Street Townhouse – W1D

The Experimental Cocktail Club – W1D

Ape & Bird – WC2H


Kurobuta – London SW3

March 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

A pop-up that plans to move permanently to Marylebone soon. But I would head to Chelsea asap, just in case.

I promise, one of these days I will tell you about a restaurant that does your usual a la carte. I realise small plates isn’t everyone’s thing, but if you’re tempted to venture into small plates territory, do it in style, Kurobuta style.

It’s a Japanese pop up, that looks nothing like a Japanese restaurant. Currently found on the King’s Road, though soon relocating to Marylebone, it’s bare and shabby chic setting is not exactly what you’d expect from an ex Nobu chef. But the charm, intimacy and bustle doesn’t feel awkward or temporary. It simply serves to enhance the entire evening.

A two sided menu of small plates will leave you wishing you had come with more people so you could order the lot. Starting with ‘Salmon Gravadlax and Avocado Tartare with Dill Mayo, Rice Crunchies and Fresh Yuzu Zest’ (£11) and ‘Yellowtail Sashimi with Kizami Wasabi Salsa and Yuzu-Soy’ (£13), we knew we were going to have to order more. Not because the portions were small, but because the dishes were both nothing short of incredible.

A meaty looking ‘Nasu Dengaku; Sticky Miso Grilled Aubergine with Sesame Seeds‘ (£8) was firm and sweet, with a candied crunch from what I presume were peanuts. ‘Flamed Edamame with Sake, Lemon, Butter and Maldon Salt’ (£4) were a unique twist on edamame beans, usually just steamed and salted. These were so good, I almost ate the pods as well.
I was worried the hefty looking ‘BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy (2 Pc Per Order)’ (£13) might fill us up – the generous chunk of pork belly, smothered and dipped (repeatedly) into that sticky sauce, encased in a flame grilled steamed bun, was just too good. Obviously not too good to devour though. A much more light and elegant dish of 
‘Beef Fillet Tataki with Onion Ponzu and Garlic Crisps’ (£10) was succulent, incredibly flavoursome and meltingly soft.
At the end of our meal we ordered a couple more dishes, including the ‘Baby Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Mayo and Warm Ponzu Dipping Sauces’ (£9.75) which I am so sad to say was, despite looking stunning, a bit of a let down, but in truth that is only in comparison to what we had had before. Everything else, I would recommend again and again and again. And again.

The finishing dish of ‘Pistacio Cake’ (£7.5) was a deconstructed, mountainous arrangement of fruits and home made candies, fluffy, bright green cake and sprinkles of  goodness knows what but it was good!

Kurobuta is a treat. And one you should treat yourself to. It’s superb that it has already found a permanent home in Marylebone cause I’m looking forward to trying everything on the menu all over again, and every other dish we didn’t get round to. I’ve got it planned already cause I know exactly who I want to take with me and I just know he’ll love it.

Dinner for two: £90
Drinks: Bottle of wine from £25, Bottle of sake from £18

Nearby bars: The Cadogan Arms – London SW3
You might also like: Kirazu – London W1D (Read Full Review)

Agent Restauranteur
Square Meal

Ember Yard – London W1F

February 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Little sister to Salt Yard, this Charcuterie Bar & Grill outshines all its siblings.

Last Wednesday was not my first visit to Ember Yard. I went in December after it had just opened, with a couple of giggling girls and a poor lad en-tow, who suffered through several hours of female-centric chatter as we worked our way through the super cocktail list. Luckily (for everyone), both the food and drink is so good, the evening could’t possibly have been ruined for him. Just one of the reasons why I had no reservations about going again.

We were hungry, so unusually for me, ordered the bread – but not just any bread – ‘Grilled Flatbread with Honey, Thyme and Smoked Butter‘ (£3.25); sweet and savoury and warm from the oven. The bar snacks of ‘Whipped Lardo Crostini with Guindilla‘ (£4) were creamy and crunchy with a punchy kick from the side of chopped green peppers (guindilla).
I absolutely loved the ‘Chargrilled Cuttlefish with Roast Pumpkin, N’duja and Wild Oregano’ (£7.5) and ‘Quince Glazed Ibérico Pork Ribs and Celeriac Purée’ (£7.25). Both brilliant for completely different reasons but both delicious, both deeply flavoursome and both demolished. Just the thought of the smokey squid and succulent BBQ ribs is making me quite hungry.
The ‘Grilled Salt Marsh Lamb, Smokey Aubergine, Salsa Verde’ (£6.5) was, to our surprise, served as a large chop, making it tricky to share and was unfortunately a little overshadowed by the pork ribs, but still a nice dish.  A light and tangy salad of ‘Roasted Beetroot with Blood Orange, Rainbow Kale and Hazelnut‘ (£5.25) was refreshingly different to the predominantly smokey flavours of the other dishes, and all the better for it. A side of ‘Parsnip-Buttermilk Chips with Manchego’  (£5.5) was smothered in honey – I literally couldn’t help but keep picking at them – a very good addition to the meal.
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The little expensive cheese board (‘Spanish Selection‘ £12) might have ended our evening on a slight low were it not for the half filled glasses of prosecco we had left to enjoy. I have never even considered ordering a bottle of prosecco to go with a meal but it was an inspired choice by Claire. And one I shall repeat. That said, you must try some of the specialist cocktails when you go as they are really quite something.

Ember Yard certainly isn’t one of the cheapest options if you are looking for a dinner of small plates and sharing dishes – but I dare say it is one of the best. The food is really rather good, the cocktail list is inventive and fun, and the staff are attentive, friendly and easy to chat to. I would definitely recommend heading there one evening, ordering a few cocktails and dipping into the menu which is brimming with an array of delights.

Dinner for two: £60
Drinks: Cocktails from £10, Glass of wine from £4.75

Nearby bars: B Soho – W1F, The Blind Pig – W1F
You might also like: Polpetto – W1F (just opened – there’s no website yet but you can find it at 11 Berwick St, Soho)

Agent Restauranteur
Square Meal

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials – London WC2H

February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

A wine bar from the guys behind the Experimental Cocktail Club. Go figure.

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials

The team behind the ECC (Experimental Cocktail Club) have opened up a wine bar, tucked away in Neal’s Yard, that offers a super wine list, a short, succinct and well-crafted menu of small plates and service that won’t fail to charm and impress.

Wine is undoubtedly the main feature. And with those comfy armchairs it is all too easy to sit back, relax and while away the hours, whilst you sip on a superb bottle of wine, most probably recommended to you by the fabulously knowledgeable Marco or the charming Wissam. Two of which I tried (I only have their part-names from my receipt I’m afraid) the ‘Vecchie Olivlugana‘ (£44) and ‘Larue St Aubin‘ (£60)  are both dry, crisp and refined. The former had a slight honeyed noise, which I tend to associate with a Riesling, and had a quick finish making it very easy drinking. The latter, was more complex with some citrus and perfumes developing on the palette. At the risk of getting too la-de-da about it, they were both utterly enjoyable and rather pleasing.
Yet, the food shouldn’t be overlooked. A bowl of ‘Mountain Chicken‘ (£12), more commonly known as frog legs, are covered in a light, crisp batter, heavily seasoned with paprika. A perfect introduction to those who have never tried them, and addictively moreish to one and all. A plate of ‘Burratta with pumpkin seeds and pomegranate’ (£12.00), was delectably creamy, complimented by the a sweet and sticky dressing.
A ‘Seafood Risotto‘ (£13.00) wasn’t quite in keeping with the style of nibbling sharing plates, but was rich and full of flavour and we certainly weren’t complaining. The short menu also offers a range of different cheeses and cuts of meat – the cured leg on display at the moment is ‘Joselito Pata Negra‘ (£28) and quite an extraordinary cut. This photo, simply doesn’t do it any justice.

CVS is officially my new favourite hang out and should shoot straight to the top of your to do list. I’ve now been thrice in 10 days (with a non-date, an old friend and a group of girls) and I couldn’t recommend it more, for any occasion really. A night spent here will not the cheapest of evenings, but you are paying for a quality of produce that I have not seen elsewhere in London, presented in such a relaxed, welcoming and perfectly wonderful way.

Dinner for two: £58
Drinks: Glass of wine from £8

Nearby bars: Don’t need one.
You might also like: Terroir Wine Bar & Restaurant – Wc2N (See Dinner for Two)

Agent Restauranteur
Square Meal

Hong Kong Special

January 30, 2014 § 1 Comment

Over New Year I spent a couple of weeks in HK and although I know most of you live and eat-out in and around London, I thought I could do just one little blog to give you a taste of what I’ve been up to.
But only a taste – I know you haven’t got all day….

Hutong – 1 Peking Road

Hutong, the original sister restaurant to Hutong at The Shard in London, is my favourite restaurant in the world. It’s located on Kowloon and faces the harbour, getting the most glorious view of the Hong Kong Island skyline. But the food is also spectacular.
As with most Asian cuisines, Sichuan is best designed for sharing, so as it was only me and Harry, we ordered especially carefully and particularly well!

We started with ‘Bamboo clams with chilli & garlic’ and ‘Cuttlefish carpaccio with Sichuan chilli sauce‘. Mounds of garlic were piled atop the delicate bamboo clams which we greedily devoured. The cuttlefish was an oddly cheese-like texture but utterly delicious and certainly one to try.
You may have noticed my slight obsession with cucumber these last few months (see The Clove Club & Honey & Co) and so shouldn’t be surprised that we ordered ‘Cucumber with Chinese rice wine vinegar & chilli‘: crunchy with spice and a tartness that is refreshingly addictive.  The soft, meaty chunks of ‘Grouper in black bean sauce‘ were heavenly flavoursome and decadently rich.

The real show-stopper is ‘The Red Lantern – soft shell crab with Sichuan chills’. Usually my favourite dish here, it was, on this occasion, simply too spicy for us. We were both defeated by the fiery chilli and desperately ordered more steamed rice to soothe our burning tongues. It is still a fabulous dish but perhaps best shared with a larger group.

In my opinion it is hard to match what the Hong Kong Hutong offers and if you are ever out that way, I would certainly recommend it. Make sure you get an 7:30pm reservation so you can enjoy the light show that starts at 8pm and enjoy a stunning (albeit spicy) meal. As a London alternative, Hutong at The Shard does give the original a fair run for its money.

22 Ships – Wan Chai

Jason Atherton has been busy these last 12 months, opening restaurants literally all over the world. But as Berners Tavern is his only other restaurant I have had the pleasure of dining at, I couldn’t resist trying out his HK offering.
22 Ships Specials Board Roasted Padron Peppers, Green Chilli, Garlic, Sea Salt
22 Ships is a no-reservations joint, so we arrived at 8pm, ordered drinks and sipped on sangria whilst we queued in the warm night air. The 30 minute wait turned out to be just 10 minutes long and so we were seated in no time at all, at the back of this bustling little tapas bar.

A hefty bowl of ‘Roasted Padron Peppers, Green Chilli, Garlic, Sea Salt‘ ($68 /£5.3) were smokey and bitter with crunchy sea salt scattered on top: a favourite dish of mine usually served in much more modest portions.
Salt Baked Beetroot, Goat's Cheese, Pear Hamachi, Watermelon, Wasabi, Puffed Rice
The ‘Salt Baked Beetroot, Goat’s Cheese, Pear‘ ($88 / £7) reminded me of the cuisine at The Dairy; an inventive mix of flavours and textures that worked together to create an entertainingly good dish. The Hamachi, Watermelon, Wasabi, Puffed Rice’ ($138/ £10.9) was striking to look at and a pleasure to eat albeit a bizarre combination.
Roasted Cauliflower, Capers, Raisins, Mint Special: Red Snapper, White Asparagus, Black Olive, Tomatoes
The dish of the evening was the ‘Roasted Cauliflower, Capers, Raisins, Mint‘ ($78 /£6.1) – cauliflower is another vegetable I usually do’t think much of, but when roasted and singed and served with sweet, full bodied raisins, it undergoes a marvellous transformation.  A special of ‘Red Snapper, White Asparagus, Black Olive, Tomato’ ($108 / £8.5) ended our meal and not a scrap was left.

I thoroughly enjoyed 22 Ships – it offers and an inventive and playful menu full super dishes, in a lively, open air atmosphere. Thankfully we are spoilt with similar options in London that we can visit, though I daresay the al fresco wait for a table is never going to be as enjoyable.

As a London alternative to 22 Ships, I can recommend Pied Nus – London W1U (Read Full Review) and The Dairy – London SW4 (Read Full Review).

Agent Restauranteur

Pied Nus – London W1U

January 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s calling itself a “pop-up” but thankfully there’s plenty time to pop by

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Happy New Year! Hopefully you all enjoyed the festive period and are thrilled to have me back, blogging away. This is a little gem from 2013, but far too good to skip over, so let’s reminisce.

After a couple of entertainingly inventive cocktails at near-by Purl, I sauntered into Pied Nus with my favourite couple, Alex & Claire. The table was set for a brilliant evening. Literally. With breadsticks and everything.
We started with some ‘Bacon and Onion Brioche, Black Onion Seed Flat Bread, Milk Loaf, Humus’ (£4.5) to whet our appetites, and then ordered almost everything on the menu. Dishes started arriving so quickly we had to ask for a pause to allow us to catch up. But that’s as far as it goes in terms of a negative. The meal was superb.

A dainty plate of ‘Seared Yellow Fin Tuna, Pepper, Black Olive’ (£12) was light yet rich – the lightly seared tuna soft as butter, accented with fragments of ripe black olives. The ‘Baby Artichoke, Wild Mushrooms, Pine Nuts‘ (£7.5) was autumnal and earthy – the burnt shallot adding a caramelised sweetness.

Pickled, Raw and Charred Vegetables, Celeriac Oil with Truffle‘ (£9.5) sounds like something I would rather not eat but I would certainly order again. The fresh, clean flavours of the pickled vegetables clensed the palate and tickled the tasetbuds. An odd looking dish of ‘Slow Cooked Duck Egg, Potato, Belper Knolle‘ (£6.5) was not a winner in my eyes – once we had mixed the runny yolk into the sawdust-like potato it all tasted a bit mushy. But perhaps it was just outshone by what followed.

The ‘Scallop Ceviche, Fennel, Cucumber‘ (£12.5) was fragrant and light and succulent all at once – possibly my favourite dish of the lot – whilst the ‘42 Degree Confit Salmon, Cauliflower, Pink Grapefruit‘ (£8.5) was a beatutiful piece of fish, cooked just-so, so as to appear raw, and decorated with crisp cauliflower.

The strong flavours of mackeral in the ‘Charred and Tartare of Cornish Mackerel, Beetroot, Apple‘ (£8.95) were not to my liking but both Alex and Claire protested at my criticism, so I stand corrected. The dish was lovely. The 82.2 Degree Spiced Lamb Neck, Aubergine, Cous Cous‘ (£11.95) was our final dish. The small cut of lamb was soft to the touch, beautifully matched with the tomato studded couscous, soaked in meaty gravy.

After such an incredibly array of dishes, I felt we needed to try the desserts, despite the fact that nothing on the menu really took our fancy, so we ordered two – an incredibly chocolatey ‘Chocolate, Chestnut Frangipane, Caramel Ice Cream’ (£8.95) and the ‘Sorbets‘ (£4.95). After consulting with our waiter, our best guess at the flavours of sorbet was raspberry, white peach and pear although nobody was quite sure!?! Regardless, we enjoyed them all.

Thought it’s calling itself a pop-up, Pied Nus is here til the  summer and hopefully will seek out a permanent venue soon after. But just in case, make sure you pay it a visit – it’s well worth it.

Dinner for two: £85
Drinks: Bottle of wine from £19, Cocktails from £9

Nearby bars: Purl – London W1U
You might also like: The Dairy – London SW4 (Read Full Review)

Agent Restauranteur
Square Meal

Xmas Lunch – London SW12

December 20, 2013 § 3 Comments

A Christmas Special.

Apologies for the double blog this week – I don’t usually blog about my own dinner parties, but as it’s Christmas, I thought I might share this one with you as well. Any grinches out there – you can skip this post.
The day started early with a big shop and a quick stop at the The Ginger Pig to pick up some quail legs, chipolatas and of course the main event – an enormous ham.

I raced back home and began to peel and slice, chop and wrap, baste and glaze, saute and grill. Just seven hours later, my little helpers and I had transformed this intimidating pile of ingredients into a very special Xmas lunch.

We served canapes to start: ‘Stuffed Dates; blue cheese, parma ham‘ (recipe) – these are incredibly time consuming but such a treat to enjoy – ‘Panfried Quail Legs; red onion chutney’ and ‘Smoked Cobbler Blinis; chunky homemade tartar sauce’.

I dreamt most of these up, of course taking inspiration from my many dining experiences, but I think they turned out pretty well! We panfried the quail legs and steamed/boiled the smoked cobbler in just half a centimetre of water. Sounds a bit bland but the flavour in this fish is incredible and so much better then Cod or Haddock in my opinion. Cheaper too, so give it try.

Next we served a little “breakfast” – ‘Poached Quail Eggs; crisped parma ham’. These were a complete experiment but an utter success! A lot easier then you might think. If you want to know how to poach quail eggs, let Martha Stewart show you the way (click here).
After a momentary pause and a manic service operation, shuffling numerous dishes from oven to table, lunch was served.

The mandatory ‘Roast Vegetables; whole garlic cloves‘ sat alongside crisp ‘Goose Fat Roast Potatoes’, Christmasy ‘Spiced Red Cabbage; apples‘ (recipe), fresh and fragrant ‘Peas and Mint’ and a gloriously gooey and naughtily cheesy ‘Truffled Mac n Cheese; pancetta’ (click here for a recipe – I only followed it loosely and used truffle oil instead of black truffle).

Pride of place was given to the enormous ‘Leg of Ham’ – glazed with honey and mustard, sugars and spice. I must thank The Ginger Pig for providing such a superb piece of meat, and to the staff for giving me plenty of hints and tips on how best to glaze the beauty.

After we had each managed to grab a little bit of everything – we got stuck in. But not before the efforts of the chefs were applauded! (We can forgive James for digging straight in as he had been integral to the success!)

After several rounds which cleared the entire table of all but a few measley scraps, we moved on to dessert – ‘Salted Caramel Chocolate Pots; homemade shortbread’.
Again, these were a bit of an experiment. I used half of two different recipes as I wanted to make something truly rich and decadent and neither seemed quite right – the mixture of both was pretty darn great if I do say so myself and the tiny portion size was perfect. I used this recipe for the caramel, and this recipe, minus the raspberries, for the chocolate. The shortbread was simply a BBC Food special.
Of course no Christmas is complete without an impressive ‘Cheese Board’ and a few fruits and nuts thrown in for good measure. We did the board justice. And were well and truly stuffed.

Eating gave way to party games (which went on well into the early hours of Sunday morning) before finally sending everyone home and heading to bed, but not before I had knocked up a few crepes for the boys, served with leftover ham and cheese (recipe). All in all, a very merry little Christmas.

A big thank you has to go to James for slaving away with me for hours; stuffing and wrapping every single date, along with everything else! Alex was key to the boozey success of the luncheon and everybody else who helped out – THANK YOU!

I also want to take the chance to say thanks to all of you who read Agent Restauranteur and are so supportive of my little blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it. As it’s now almost Christmas, I am going to take a little break from my weekly post but I’ll see you all in 2014!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Christmas Lunch for Thirteen: £25 per person.
Nearby Bars: Lyndsay’s Wine Rack and Booze Cupboard
You might also like: Lyndsay’s Next Dinner Party Extravaganza (Coming Soon, 2014)

Agent Restauranteur

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