Dinner at The Mall Tavern

I’m a bit late with this post as I ate dinner here for Halloween with my sister. We had walked past this place a million times when I used to live in the area, but had never really sat down to see what it was all about. I believe The Mall Tavern has been there for a while, but had changed owners.

The Mall Tavern Menu

One consistent comment about the gastropub was how good the food was. We were a bit hungry, and ordered a couple of appetisers including popcorn chicken and mini sausage rolls.

Popcorn Chicken and Sausage rolls

I don’t normally write this, but OMFG they were great. The chicken was reasonably sized, not just all batter. Well seasoned, full of flavour and you could actually taste the chicken as well. The sausage rolls were perfect replicas of the bigger items, and had the perfect balance between pastry and the meat.

My sister ordered the meat pie, a delicious and beautifully presented dish. It came accompanied unnecessarily with bone marrow as the pie was already pretty rich and meaty.

Meat Pie

I wanted something a little bit less rich, so I opted for the roast chicken. It arrived, glowing in its own juices and with a perfectly crisp skin that went well with the juicy meat. So tasty I probably could have eaten more but then we had dessert to go.

Roast Chicken

The Mall Tavern is known for its interesting combinations, and although I really wanted to try this artic roll, it was an apparently summer-only dish. Instead my sister tried the Carrot cake to decorate which came as a deconstructed plate with almost too many ingredients to know what to do with it.

Carrot Cake to Decorate

I wanted the figgy cheesecake, another deconstructed beauty but a lighter and more interesting dessert than normal.

Figgy Cheesecake

I’d recommend this place, perhaps not for dinner but for a quieter lunch. It was pretty dark and you can tell that the pictures didn’t turn out as great as they normally do and we were lucky enough to be sitting next to the window which had more light. Tables are a bit close together and we found it was one of those places were noise seemed to amplify, and you almost needed to shout across the table to have a conversation. Still, the food is interesting and generally worth it.

Name: : The Mall Tavern
Found at: : 71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace, Notting Hill, London, W8 4RU
Website: : http://www.themalltavern.com/

The Family Christmas “Dinner” by Heston

Each year I get invited to join “The Family” christmas dinner. Technically not being Italian, or being part of a founding group makes it difficult to be a member of the “The Family” but I get invited to the “extended Family” events and Christmas is such a time to celebrate. I suggested a number of places, but I really wanted to try Dinner by Heston as I had heard many good things about it. In 2013 it was announced number seven on the World’s Top 50 Restaurant list and was awarded two Michelin stars for 2014.

The restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, so I expected the restaurant to be reasonably pricy and a bit dressy. Fortunately the restaurant isn’t one that requires a jacket, and although some people dressed up for the occasion, it also seemed like quite a casual affair for a number of people.

We had a bit of a later booking for half past eight or eight, so we met a bit earlier to have a drink at the bar. The Mandarin bar certainly know how to mix cocktails, but you should expect to pay the higher end of London prices for these. Expect £16+ for each drink. We opted to try the fig martini, a well balanced, slightly sweet and relatively strong cocktail to start the tastebuds going.

Before we knew it, our table was ready and we sat down to peruse the menu. The bread wasn’t anything particularly fancy but was just a very well done sourdough served with some simple butter.

Having done the research about what to order, the most well popular and interesting dish served on the menu was the “Meatfruit“. In typical Heston style (although unusual for the rest of the dishes), the meat fruit was made to look like a clementine, but deceived the onlooker containing very savoury flavours instead of the sweet, juicy insides one would expect from a fruit. Accompanied by a well toasted piece of bread, you cut into the meatfruit to discover a soft meat spread composed of a liver parfait and foie gras. I’m not really one to order foie gras, but I have to say I was very impressed by the dish. The richness cut through with a slightly tart jelly that provided the outerskin to the fruit.

Meat fruit

Other’s ordered the marrow (reported as very good but rather rich)

And the snail porridge.

The main dishes at Dinner didn’t particularly scream as being particularly different, nor unique. Of course, the steak is an obvious choice but when we are spoilt with places like Hawksmoor, it felt a bit wrong to order one in a restaurant such as this. I opted for the pork belly, that came accompanied with some white truffles, beans.

Pork Belly

Naturally it was very well done – the meat, soft tender and falling apart but remaining totally moist. I was worried the truffles would be overpowered by the the other flavours in the dish, but the generous fresh shavings declared themselves present amongst the other salty flavours.

Pork Belly

Other people ordered the pigeon, beautifully presented but reported back as “just okay”.

After the mains came the desserts, and an optional course on offer was the freshly made ice cream. Made on demand tableside, is a spectacular show involving liquid nitrogen and your choice of ice cream toppings. It’s a lavish addition for £8 per scoop but is quite the show to have whilst having dinner. We enjoyed watching other people’s as we had already pre-ordered our desserts.

Ice Cream

And definitely a dessert to preorder was the tipsy cake. Demanding 25 minutes preparation, it is a fresh brioche made in its own cast iron skillet, soaked in a beautiful sauce (slightly alcoholic) and served alongside a roasted pineapple. It’s a beautiful presentation, matches pretty much what others have written about it and I would definitely order it again.

Tipsy Cake

A round of coffees and a whisky finished off the evening.

I would definitely return to Dinner by Heston, but next time I would avoid ordering alcohol. Although I didn’t do the wine order, I was told there was a great selection of wine. The only problem was that the price jumped very quickly into a “significantly higher” bracket very quickly. A common theme with the cheapest whisky being £20 per dram and the next one being £40.

I think we agreed that the food was very good, the ambiance reasonable, but we had a better experience with last year’s dinner at Galvin.

Name: Dinner by Heston
Found at: Located in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Website: http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/

Medcalf, Exmouth Market

I had read a lot of good things about Medcalf, a restaurant serving British foods on Exmouth Market, so when I was going to catch up with a couple of friends, I suggested we book a table there for dinner.

We met for a reasonably early dinner at 19:00 and the restaurant seemed reasonably busy for the rest of the night as people were shown to the bar whilst waiting for a table to come free. Service seemed pretty prompt all night without feeling rushed. Questions were answered, and our waiters the the point but still polite.

I felt like indulging in bit of Welsh rarebit or fancy cheese on toast. A generous portion accompanied by a bit of lambs lettuce, a nice touch to add a bit of green to an otherwise very brown dish.

One of my friends went for the steak and frites, apparently very nicely cooked and arriving presliced demonstrating their still-pink interior.

I opted for the artichoke and bean stew. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to arrive, but was pleasantly surprised by a filled, warming stew where the beans still held their shape and was full of flavour right the end.

Marc went for the classic fish and chips that looked pretty decent too.

I couldn’t resist the lure of an apple crumble with ice cream and although very good, would have preferred the apple to have a bit more texture in the dish – the apple seemingly overcooked where it was a bit too mushy for my taste, and the crumble a little bit too fine. The addition of some oats, or larger chunks would be better recommended. Still, it’s hard to beat a nice hot-cold combo.

Name: Medcalf Bar & Restaurant
Location: 40 Exmouth Market, London, Greater London EC1R 4QE
Website: http://www.medcalfbar.co.uk/

Pollen Street Social

Jason Atherton commands respect from people in the food industry. A former Ramsey protege, he used to run the highly acclaimed Maze before opening his open restaurant, Pollen Street Social to much fanfare. Since then, his restaurant has won several awards including a Michelin star in the first year and reaching 84 in San Pelligrino’s Best 50 restaurants in the world (that ironically lists the top 100).


On special request, I took my sister there for her birthday as we like to treat each other to experiences instead of buying something for each other we will never use.


You can find his restaurant tucked around a quiet street around Mayfair. Despite being hidden, his restaurant is definitely popular with pretty much every table taken on a Monday Bank holiday.


The restaurant had food presentation spot on, although I don’t think everything worked. For example, they had recently renovated the dining room and the air conditioning was broken. On a surprisingly warm August Bank holiday I certainly noticed it when I sat down. I noticed it even more whenever I would lean back on the leather sofa back and find myself sticking to it. Hmmm. They did admittedly apologise for it post-dinner, and I can only imagine how crazy sauna like the kitchen would have been. Nevertheless, most of the food was pretty good.

Food miles

They have a strong food ethic about locally sourced produce and even list the number of miles each of the major components come from. On to the food itself.

We had bread brought by a waiter accompanied by a creamy butter (easily spreadable because of the heat) and an additional cream made out of fish roe. The butter was tasty but I didn’t really enjoy the fish cream because it was a bit too fishy for me. The next “snacks” arrived in a book that opened to reveal three small bites – perfectly crisp pork crackling, a shortbread biscuit with a concentrated tomato topping and another crisp bread with some smoked cream. A great selection of textures, flavours to kick start the appetite.


The next dish was a clever mushroom cappuccino that smelled so earthy and full of rich flavours. Downed in one go but the flavour lasting a long time after.

The next dish was a clever take on a breakfast dish (bacon and eggs) and the presentation here was absolutely extraordinary. We first had the tiny little egg holder placed in front of us with a tiny teaspoon before being presented egg shells nested in hay. The tops were trimmed perfectly, not a crack in sight and each filled with a light eggy custard that reminded me of silken scrambled eggs but much creamier and rich. It had infused a smokiness bacon flavour and the tiny bits on top certainly added that dimension. I could have eaten a few of these ones if they offered.


The first dish on the tasting menu was also one of the weakest. Listed as Orkney sea scallop carpaccio, kohlrabi, frozen pink grapefruit, lemon skin puree, block olive and samphire I think the heat of the restaurant didn’t do anything good for the scallop. Delicate slices of scallops tasted a little bit too fishy and not really in a good way and I was worried I would end up with food poisoning (which I didn’t!)


Fortunately the next dish made up for the first, roasted Dorset monkfish, cauliflower, dehydrated grapes, apple & curry and spiced caramel. Soft moist fleshy fish complemented by an array of sweet, spiced flavours that disappeared very quickly.


We both opted for the lamb which was a strange choice because my sister doesn’t like but only because the other alternative was a pheasant which we both didn’t want. She was very surprised when it turned out to be a very tasty dish. Lake District rack of lamb, braised shoulder, fregula in basil, olive powder, artichoke and smoked tomato chutney. Strong flavours but not overpoweringly so, and perfectly pink lamb that melted away in your mouth.


A cute interlude with a tiny coronet filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate. A great palette cleanser and an introduction to our dessert course.


It was served with sweet corn cream covered in chocolate and some caramel popcorn


Our dessert was called “Nuances in Red” made up of yoghurt ice cream, pear in hibiscus, picked roses and hibiscus granite. Being an ice based dessert, this dish suffered a lot in the heat. The granite pretty much turned into liquid by the time we took our first spoonful despite being served from a liquid-nitrogen based bowl at the table. At the same time, the yoghurt ice cream was quickly turning back into its liquid form. Nice elements that I think I would have enjoyed more if I didn’t feel like I had to eat it so fast.


We ordered some tea and was offered some madelines as well as unnecessary but still delicious macaroons.


A wonderful evening and the quality of the food was definitely up to standard and the service impeccable. My sister even caught Jason Atherton on our way out and he was kind enough to pose for a photo. Seemed like a nice guy and deserves his reputation as a cool headed chef and restauranteur.


Name: Pollen Street Social
Found at: 8-10 Pollen St, London, W1S 1NQ
Website: http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/

Afternoon tea with a view at Paramount, London

I was recently reading about different afternoon teas around London and with the recent summer “heatwave” our beautiful city experienced, one that caught my attention was the “iced afternoon tea” at the Paramount located high above the Centrepoint tower in the middle of the city.

Paramount has obvious advantages of beautiful views of the surrounding area and has a bar and a restaurant combination that makes it a popular destination at nighttime. Paramount serve afternoon tea only from 3pm-5pm and it is worth making a booking in advance as they only a small number of tables that are located right next to those gorgeous views.

The “iced afternoon tea” turned out to be a pretty decent afternoon tea, although I think the “iced” part of it disappointed slightly with only two of the small items being desserts (a tiny coronet cone filled with melting gelato and a cold mango mousse slice) The food was actually pretty well executed with a good selection of sandwiches, cakes and, of course, scones with clotted cream and jam. A good, hearty selection that is not bottomless although you can ask for refills of the tea.

The deal is pretty reasonable although note that you’ll obviously pay a premium for the drinks given the location of the bar/restaurant.

Name: Paramount
Found at: Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1DD
Website: http://www.paramount.uk.net/

Eating on Hayling Island and around Havant

I had a short project in the town very close to Portsmouth. We were a little far to be travelling to Portsmouth for dinner as we stayed at the very nice hotel, The Langstone Hotel. This area is best navigated by a car, but we ended up catching taxis around as it was pretty much to and from work, and then to and from dinner. We ate pretty well out there, but only after doing a bit of research. Here’s a list of places we ate at:

The Brasserie Restaurant

Located within the Langstone Hotel, this restaurant did surprisingly good food both in terms of interesting ingredients, combinations and presentations.

They had a decent vegetarian selection and the only strange point was the insistence of having different, over-sized plates for the food where the waiters/waitresses were unable to put cutlery in the right spot. Still pretty nice. Fare is probably best described at Modern European.

The Moghul Brasserie

A nice Indian restaurant where I had a really hot curry (tasty though) with some great naan bread. They had a jazz band playing Thursday night and I would have liked to give the curry with naga chilli a go but was a little timid about it.

36 on the Quay

A seafood focused restaurant to have held a Michelin star for the last fifteen years.

Beautifully presented, strongly influenced by French food using local fresh ingredients. Beautiful experience.

Piranha Bar and Restaurant

Literally at the other end of Hayling Island, this remote restaurants sits amongst a marina where you can watch all the people enjoying food on their boat and the surrounding atmosphere. Nice fresh seafood and a bit more of the pub than restaurant feel.

Rodney Roast

My former flatmate Tom received an unusual present for his 30th birthday. A whole pig. Yup. The entire animal that probably weighed in at about 90kg at slaughter. He arranged a weekend ages back when “Rodney” arrived at his parents place but even with all of his family and friends in attendance, a lot of “Rodney” went to his neighbours and his parent’s freezer.

Tom arranged for a weekend roast to continue eating a part of Rodney and he had a lot of us around, on a beautifully sunny day that involved drinking some tasty home made cider, plenty of Pimms and lots of other delicious food.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves because the food was so beautiful.

Hawksmoor Air Street

Out of the great steak places in London, Hawksmoor is one of those that are consistently good and although, not cheap, is great value for the quality of the food and the service you get. We had a dinner booking at Hawksmoor Air Street, one of the latest expansions of the steak restaurant located near the bottom of Piccadilly. It’s outfitted with a larger number of booths, polished floors and significantly more suited customers to go along with it all. I can only imagine their city outlet would compete with them on this. Nevertheless the food did not disappoint as you can see in the photos below.

Name: Hawksmoor Air Street
Website: http://thehawksmoor.com/airstreet
Found at: 5a Air St London W1J 0AD

Breakfasting at The Delaunay

One of the very well praised restaurants to have popped up in central London is The Delaunay. It’s a European cafe/restaurant located just off the side of the strand. The cafe portion is unmissable with large windows viewing into a very grand reception, whilst the entrance to the restaurant is slightly inset from some formidable gates.


As a meeting breakfast place, I find this to be a good option because it opens at 7am. Most other places in central London open at 8am, and if you happen to be working in the area that is fine, but hard if you need to further your journey. It’s easy to meet for an hour meeting and then be on your way for a normal day.

Everything engraved with a D

Operated by the same people behind The Wolseley and Brasserie Zedel one expects the service and the food to be up to high standards. And it is.


Although we weren’t asked for our coats to be taken, the restaurant has plenty of space and numerous coat stands near most of the tables. We were seated promptly and then asked if wanted some drinks. Juices are reasonable, although I found the £4.50 they charge slightly excessive. Stick with the Americano for the same price, but greater quantities.

Pancakes with Blueberries

Whilst we talk about price. Many of dishes are extremely reasonable. Porridge for £4.75 (yes, it is a restaurant), plain pancakes £6.75, or with bacon £9.50 or blueberries (pictured above) for £9.75. Perhaps you just want some muesli for £4.25. All amazingly great value considering the atmosphere and the execution (three pancakes is plenty!).

Single Benedict

At the other extreme, you do pay dearly if you want any of the benedict/florentine/arlington eggs. £7.25 for the cheapest (single), or up to £17 for two. Yes, it’s quality, but it’s terrible dear. Having said that, service was very prompt, the atmosphere extremely grand and a wonderful place to have an early breakfast during the week. Note that the place fills up with suits by about 8am, so it’s definitely the in-place to have some business meetings. I prefer just the leisurely breakfast there.

Name: The Delaunay
Website: www.thedelaunay.com
Found at: 55 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB

Christmas Pig at St Johns

For the past two years, I’ve missed a Christmas time tradition run by the former Burger Tuesday crowd but this year I was free to join in on the annual Christmas pig tradition. As I mentioned, the group has got together to order the whole sucking pig at the Michelin starred St John Restaurant (although Chris ended up reserving the original St John restaurant because the Spitalfields one ended up all booked out. )


We had a pretty large table to share the pig – somewhere between 12-14 people and reports from previous years implied that we wouldn’t really have any problem devouring the whole pig. I started with a Gin and Tonic as others downed some beers, and we tucked into the generous sourdough bread slices and yummy British pats of butter (not enough for the table that we ended up asking for more).


The pig comes with a set menu, or at least it did around this time. Trying to order a set of starters and desserts for such a large group is hard, let alone plan in things appropriately for the main event. Our starter was an interesting salad combining fairly raw cauliflower, broad beans, parsley and a very strong vinaigrette. Although a number found it strange, the vegetables were probably a great way to start the appetite without filling it with meat.


We consumed bottles of this nice red wine.


The pig arrived at a table just off in the near corner where we were allowed to take photos before they carved the pigs into smaller pieces for distribution. The pig flesh was soft, moist and amazingly tender. The only strange thing was that the crackling wasn’t very… crackling. It turned out to be a lot more chewy and moist than what I had hoped for.


The pig came served with a generous heaping of potatoes and cabbages. Both perfectly cooked and full of natural flavour. I’m happy to report unlike stereotypical cooking, the vegetables were not overcooked or anything like that.


Some of the people who came along in the evening, including Chris who organised the entire night. Well done!


The remains of one of the pig legs.


And some more of the Burger Tuesday crowd celebrating the annual Christmas pig.


And yes, it was quite a big table… with more people.


For dessert, they ended up serving one of the largest pies I have ever seen served.


Naturally served with custard, although they should have served more with it. They only had two small jugs of custard with it and it disappeared very quickly.


We could see the kitchen from our table. Even the use of the white board, indicating some of the changes to the dishes or the different wines on offer for the evening. Early on we could even see the suckling pig hanging around in the kitchen, just waiting to be served.


Remnants of our wine.


And finally the outside of the hotel.


A marvellous meal with some great company.

Name: St John, Restaurant
Found at: 26 St. John Street, London, EC1M 4AY
Website: https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/