Le Escargot in London

On a very bustling Saturday in Soho (it was Gay Pride this year), I met with my sister who wanted to try a French restaurant called Le Escargot. Dressed in just a T-shirt and jeans, I felt immediately underdressed after stepping into the dining room. Fortunately, the ruckus outside and the casual nature that is London, the staff didn’t mention anything and they still provided a very friendly service.

I was sat immediately as I waited and perused the menu. Classic French dishes abound. I wouldn’t describe any of the dishes as adventurous, nor anything that jumped out as exclusively new, but I assumed they would be able to execute them well.

Although I have enjoyed snails in the past, they aren’t exactly a dish that I would order without good reason. They certainly have an interesting, slightly chewy texture if cooked well. My sister ordered a set for her appetiser that looked beautifully presented.

I opted for a wild garlic soup, that I didn’t realise would arrive in a deep, stunningly green colour. Delicious and perfectly paired with crispy croutons.

My sister continued the classic French ordering with a Steak and Frites. Once again presentation beautiful although the frites weren’t as crisp as they possibly could have been.

I wanted something a bit lighter, a bit fresher so I ordered a fish dish that came accompanied with some fresh vegetables. The vegetables still had a good amount of bite, definitely not overcooked and vibrant in the colours.

Service was friendly although sporadic throughout the evening. Our waiter, a young gent had good table manners but seemed a bit stretched when dealing with all of his tables. I found this strange as there were a few others around who seemed to watch rather than attend to any service, and this was testament when we wanted to get the bill. Our meal filled us up, and instead of wanting dessert, we wanted to pay. It probably took about ten minutes to even flag someone’s attention and many minutes later to actually get the bill and pay. The only bad mark on the evening.

Name: Le Escargot
Found at: 48 Greek St London, Greater London W1D 4EF
Website: http://www.lescargotrestaurant.co.uk

Spring Menu at Morgan M

During the Easter weekend, I managed to get a small part of the vegetarian crew back together again to enjoy the delights of the very reasonable Morgan M. This place is amazing value and I have no idea how they do tasting menus for so cheap.

We went for the spring “From the Garden” tasting menu. Five courses for only £48. Yes, you still have to pay service, and yes the drinks are extra on top of that. For the quality of the food though, it’s still great value.

Here’s our menu details but I won’t bother trying to write about each dish beacuse each was really great, and was focused on chatting and catching up with everyone that I didn’t really have a chance to take any notes.

Mojette Bean Soup, Carrot, Basil Leaf, Parsley Oil

Early spring salad of artichoke soubise, broad bean and confit tomato, pine nuts and lambs lettuce

Canneloni of “Paris” mushroom julienne, Parsley root Purêe and Broth

Beetroot Glazed with balsamic vinegar, goat’s cheese and pine nuts biscuit

Rhubarb Confit, Pain de Genoa, Rhubarb and Jurançon Ice-cream strawberry coulis

I’m glad to see that they were very busy on a Saturday evening. Much busier than when I went here last time on a Monday evening.

Michelin Starred Food at Morgan M

I have been wanting to eat at Morgan M for some time. The chef is well known for previously running a Michelin-starred restaurant and their clean, French approach was now available just down the road on the hidden side of Smithfields market. I met Luca here for a way to catch up – we both enjoy our food and always tempted to try something new.

Morgan M Menu

Unlike several other restaurants it the area, Morgan M was surprisingly open on a Monday evening. We totally won out by being able to enjoy the food, although the area is quiet on a Monday evening and we didn’t see the restaurant have any other guests the rest of the evening. It’s definitely not a reflection of the food, or the decore – both being very good and also reasonably priced.

Restaurant Interior

We both decided quickly – the seasonally changing menu six course tasting menu is a steal at £52 (obviously more with accompanying wine), and you even get to choose between two alternatives in some of the courses. The bread was fantastic – even that had a choice of two and was obviously fresh out of the oven, slightly warm and a superb crust.


Our first course, cream of turnip and white truffle, glazed button onions definitely set the tone for the entire menu. A warm appetiser, made from in-season ingredients helped to fight against the cold outside and ready our appetites. Though not a big bowl, it’s size did not reflect upon the massive flavours contained in each mouthful.

Turnip soup

We diverged at the next dish, Luca opting for the ravioli of snails in Chablis, garlic froth, red wine jus

Snail Ravioli

I wanted to order the crayfish and lobster cannelloni with tarragon, Jerusalem Artichoke Soubise, Shellfish Cappuccino . Although dangerously looking like something you wouldn’t normally see at the dinner table, the cannelloni was divine. Each mouthful burst with the taste of the sea and the last bite wanting for me. Generous with the amount of crayfish and lobster, I have no idea how they make their money with this dish on the menu (I hope they do make money so I can go back and try some others)


Our next dish was a Seared fillet of John Dory, carrot and ginger risotto, lemon and saffron broth. The piece of fish was large – much more than what I expected to have from a tasting menu and cooked well with its skin crisp but still full of moist flesh. The clever ginger and carrot dish helped lighten up the risotto, and my worries for an excessive, overpowering taste were fortunately not met.

John Dory

We both ordered the same dish out of the next selection. Slow cooked boar, celeriac purée, braised root vegetables, sauce civet. It wasn’t the strongest tasting boar that I’ve had (a good thing) but the meat was tender and fell apart easily and was exactly what I wanted to eat as a main dish on a cold winter day. The braised root vegetables, though cooked still had some bite and the celeriac purée really brought the whole dish together.

Wild boar

A short intercourse of dessert was a light vanilla rice pudding, orange tuille and was strangely the star of the evening. The flavours really burst out of this simple dish and the rice pudding cleverly made light by turning it into a type of ice-cream (it’s going to win my heart over). Combined with the crunch of the well executed tuille it had a contrast of textures that made consuming it a pleasure.

Vanilla rice pudding

We split at the other dessert course as well. Luca ordering the orange segment salad marinated with Campari, pain de gêne, grand manier ice-cream. It looked really good though I didn’t taste it.

Orange segment salad

Even though I am not the biggest souffle fan, I still ordered the blueberry and pistachio souffle, blueberry sorbet and pistachio creme anglaise. An impressive, light souffle arrived and a little bit of table-side dining when the waiter struck the souffle lightly (it remained fluffy) before pouring in the pistachio creme anglaise. Though skeptical, the flavours worked wonderfully. I should really have had no doubt.


A really wonderful evening with hospital service, amazing food and good surrounds. Go now, support it’s business and enjoy the great valued-meal there.

Name: Morgan M
Found at: 50 Long Lane, London, EC1A 9EJ
Website: http://www.morganm.com/

Le Clin D’Oeil in Morzine

During our ski trip, we had some of the most sumptuous three course meals as well as a cheese platter that we didn’t really eat out except for the one night that our wonderful chalet hosts had off. Negin did some reading on Tripadvisor to find one that had good reviews, so we got a table of 12 booking for the restaurant on the Wednesday of our trip for Le Clin D’Oeil

Le Clin D'Oeil

The restaurant, I think owned by a French lady, is cosy and not too far from the town centre. Although offering food well suited for the slopes, their real speciality is the southern French food such as duck confit, cassoulet and duck breast. The serves are extremely generous, and we didn’t realise this until after they arrived.


Several of us decided to see if we could order a raclette to share as an appetiser, and that, itself was plenty already, let alone the main meals we ordered for later. The raclette arrived at the table and since I sat at the join of our L-shaped table (12 is a bit of weird number for them), I was in in prime raclette scraping (and eating!) position.


The usual accompaniments arrived such as a charcuterie platter of various hams, onions and pickles, potatoes and some bread. I particularly enjoyed the grilled cheese on bread item.

Remains of the Raclette

As you can see above, Negin was pretty good at dishing out the cheese.


Other people ordered the venison rack (show above), apparently very tasty and a very generous serve. I, on the other hand, braved the cassoulet after a recommendation from the owner about eating something very hearty. I really didn’t need it though.


Fortunately this rich, complex dish of sausage, duck meat, pork, and beans was absolutely divine. Topped with a little crisp crumb, the stew-like sauce had so much flavour and even though I was full, I wanted to keep on eating more. The duck leg on top somehow managed to get a crisp skin on top amongst all that stew, and everything in it was just so rich and tasty. My advice to you if you ever go – if you plan on dessert or an appetiser, get the smaller version.


Others shared a fondue, whilst others shared the hot stone grill which also came with a ridiculous amount of meat where a lot of it went uneaten.

Hot stone grill

The service was great, the food absolutely top notch and one that I would definitely return to, if in the area.

Name: Le Clin D’Oeil
Found at: 63 Route du Plan, Morzine, France
Website: http://www.restaurant-leclin.com/

Christmas Meal at Galvin at Windows

Another year, and another Christmas meal with my Italian friends. This year, I offered a choice but the group consensus was to try Galvin at Windows Restaurant and Bar. We first met at the Bar, located on the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane.


The bar itself was heaving from people visiting for the Christmas spirit. It’s very comfortable, and if you are happy to wait, there are quite a few places to seat with table service with minimal standing space at the bar. The drink selection, impressive and although quite pricy are very well made by their mixologists. I turned up slightly early, waited at the bar for about ten minutes and then was offered a table when everyone else arrived.


As you can see, you get a pretty good view standing.


The bar itself is also just a decadent. The lighting is dim without being dark, and a golden circle highlights the busy bar area where waiters and waitresses alight their table’s empties and collect a few more orders to drink.


Enough about the bar. As we were here to celebrate Christmas. We had a look at the a la carte menu, but finally agreed to settle on the tasting menu. It’s expensive but I think it was a good special occasion to spend it on.


Here’s Luca enjoying the atmosphere.


The bread basket arrived – a classic white plait, small baguette and some brown bread served with a creamy mound of butter. A simple selection, but well executed.


A small amuse bouche arrived, a small mouthful that was part mousse, part sweet and some other ingredients that I’ve sort of forgotten now. I do remember it being very good though. Rich, but just enough to get the palette going.


Our first dish from the tasting arrived, a scallop ceviche, kohlrabi, cucumber, ruby grapefruit and soy. We had the wine pairing, and a relatively sweet wine came alongside this one as it helped bring out the natural sweetness from the scallops. A light dish, well seasoned and tart on the palette but that really all came together.


Here’s the wine that came with this dish.


Our next course was a ballotine of foie gras, kumquat puree, spiced salt and a vanilla brioche. I’m not a huge fan of foie gras – it’s just a little bit rich for me, and the taste doesn’t really do justice to the intense farming process necessary for me. I’ll eat it, but not be one to order it. A brioche pairing works well – although I think having a slightly more toasted brioche provides a nicer texture contrast against the softer flesh.


Our fish course was a poached fillet of Cornish brill, a herb potato crust, Enoki, shellfish and dashi broth. It’s a strangely Asian inspired combination that came from this French kitchen, but one that worked really well. I particularly liked the crust – a soft potato breaking out from a toasted topping then made way for a soft, white flesh. Each bite covered with a salty, earth broth that I just wanted to drink every drop.


Here’s a photo of Marco enjoying his dish.


Our next course was going to be a meat round, so they wheeled out the fancy knifes.


Toni appreciating the weight in the cutlery.


In the end, we didn’t really need the knife since the venison was so soft. Slow cooked saddle of Scottish venison wrapped in Alsace bacon, braised shoulder beignet, red cabbage, watercress and sauce grand veneur. As you can see in the photo, our beignet ended up being more like a croquette, but one that was burstig with flavour from the softly cooked, shoulder. The venison literally melted apart, and the bacon a good addition to season the meat. This was definitely agreed upon as one of the best dishes of the night.


Of course the venison goes with a glass of red.


After the venison, they brought the menu back to ask us whether or not we wanted the cheese course.


Naturally, we said yes. It was our first Christmas meal of the season after all.


An impressive selection of cheeses accompanied with all the usual fruit, chutneys and cracker selection. Very nice.


Our first round of dessert arrives, a lemon posset, strawberry juice and Breton shortbread. This was one of the best posset’s I’ve ever eaten. Super creamy, full of citrusy notes and perfectly paired with a strawberry juice with a tart sweetness that complimented it all. The shortbread was a nice contrast to the posset as well.


The final dessert arrives, after we are getting really full. It’s a white chocolate mousse, blueberry compote and green tea ice cream. Both of the components were relatively light – green tea has a light flavour and white chocolate mousse much better than a heavier plain or dark chocolate mousse would have. A nice course to finish the tasting.


Of course we have espressos to help us digest, and they come accompanied with petite fours.


Finally, our bill arrives with an impressive jar of marshmallows. We try one.


Service impeccable, food very well executed and a great dining venue for special occasions.


Name: Galvin at Windows
Found at: London Hilton Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London, Greater London W1K 1BE, United Kingdom
Website: http://www.galvinatwindows.com

Bistrot Bruno Loubet

I’m definitely spoilt for choice of restaurants in my area. Italian. French. American. Vietnamese even. I’m only lacking a really good Chinese place but I can still walk to Chinatown in half an hour and I have my favourites there even though it changes a lot. Walking to Chinatown still takes effort, but that’s a different matter. As I said, I’m spoilt for choice and one of the restaurants that made the most commotion (and had the most praise) on the Internet was the return of Bruno Loubet, who settled in at the restaurant in the boutique hotel, The Zetter.


I had a lot of praise for restaurant in the Zetter when I wrote about it last and I’m pleased to say that the Bistrot Bruno Loubet takes that even further. The bread, served with some deliciously tasty butter was beautiful – slightly chewy crust and soft and wonderful. A short focused menu made it hard to choose as they all sounded wonderful. I settled for the beetroot ravioli, rocket salad, fried breadcrumbs and Parmesan was absolutely define. Strong flavours, beautiful textures and really well balanced.


My sister ordered the corn fed chicken ballotine, Nicoise salad, and soft poached quail egg, a very decadent but just as perfectly executed and presented dish.

For the main, I had a special of the day, it was a slow braised ox cheek with a tangy mango salad. Fusing a small number of Asian ingredients, this dish literally melted in the mouth only requiring a small prod for the flesh to melt away. The mango was sharp, slightly acidic and did well to cut through the heaviness of the meat. Best of all, the sauce, like all French sauces was heavily reduced and packed full of flavour. I snuck in a bit of bread to wipe up a lot of it. It was that good.

My sister opted for the duck dish mainly because she enjoys duck and it came with some interesting potato croquettes. Served with asparagus it was pretty darn tasty.


We ordered a side of seasonal vegetables as well and it really surprised me about how well peas and carrots can taste when cooked well, and of course, drizzled with a bit of butter.


Service here was really good and with a menu that changes often, I would love to make this a regular haunt.

Name: Bistrot Bruno Loubet
Found at: 86-88 Clerkenwell Road City of London, Greater London EC1M 5RJ
Website: http://www.bistrotbrunoloubet.com/

Tartine San Francisco

Tartine is a well known institution in San Francisco where you need to queue and you need to come early. It’s well known for being a great bakery and with only a number of tables inside, you need to queue and watch like a hawk to get one on a first come first serve basis.

Just like the good citizens of the city, we queued just like everyone else. Things seemed to be move pretty fast although I’d recommend they had pictures of what they sold as well as their names so you got an idea about what you wanted before you got to ordering. Once at the counter where you can see into their case of decadent cakes and baked goods, the pressure is on for you to hurry up and order by the big number of people behind you.

I tried one of their morning buns in the hope for trying to get some cinnamon roll goodness before leaving. Although not filled with cinnamon sugar delights, their bun lightly coated with caster sugar also came with pleasant hints of orange infusions. The bun instead made of reasonably good bread and not pastry.

On the other hand, I looked at all the croissants. The one below is an almond croissant and the pattern seemed to be the same across the entire range. Impressively large, but way over cooked. Almost no croissant appeared unharmed by their overzealous baking and the result, bitter aftertaste in the pastry. The pastry was indeed very flaky and buttery, but devastated that a “good” bakery can’t quite perfect the honest croissant.

Here’s one before the eating.

Tartine definitely has its fans. Is it worth lining up for? Maybe if you were buying quite a lot. And then again, be prepared to pay a premium for all their goods. I’m sure you cold probably find better elsewhere in the city but for a whole bunch of people this is probably an easy option.

Name: Tartine Bakery and Cafe
Found at: 600 Guerrero Street San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
Website: http://www.tartinebakery.com/

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

My sister and I have this agreement when it comes to any event where presents are involved: Don’t buy me anything I don’t really need. The consequences of this mean that often we spend time buying each other experiences, rather than material goods that will often go unused. When it came to my birthday this year, she suggested that we dine at the 3-starred, Alain Ducasse in the Dorchester.

I’ve been past here, plenty of times before although normally it’s on the the top floor of the double decker buses that zoom around Hyde Park as you admire the fancy cars that sit in their driveway. Not tonight! This time, all suited up to go (apparently a “highly” recommended dress code of at least a jacket) and enter the hotel we are.

Being the first time in this hotel, I notice how the doormen manually revolve the revolving doors as you enter the building, and arriving for our 6:30pm (early I know!) booking, are greeting by no more than four or five different people in the lobby all decadently dressed up, as one would expect for such a well known British hotel.

We move into the stretched hallway, lined with gilded statues, overly ornate furnishings that shine in constrast to the dark streets we just stepped out of. Families celebrating birthdays, and obviously special events sit in comfy lounges entertained by a talented pianist and celebrate with a late afternoon tea. We walk amongst them as we move towards the entrance to Alain Ducasse.

Slightly early for our booking, we perch at the bar for a drink. The prices are sharp contrast to the cheap berlin bars I’m used to frequenting. Even when we went to Tausend to “splash out” on ‚Ǩ10 cocktails in Berlin, the ¬£20 equivalents here I’m sure are to be good. I opt for a simple classic Martini Bianco with a lemon slice as it seems to be my current apertif of choice.

The restaurant opens and slowly but surely we’re seen into the cavernous dining room. We are shown into one of the comfy corners. There’s plenty of space, and the drapes around make it feel a lot more intimate than waht the space realistically is. I note three two-person dining tables in our area, a couple already present against one side, we are seated against the opposite. Already able to overhear the furtherest table, I’m thankful the middle table remains unoccupied for the rest of the evening.

As we peruse the menu, a mountain of gruyere profiteroles arrives, freshly made, warm salty and ever so light. It’s tempting to continue snacking on them as we consider the two menus but I’m conscious we’ll be trying the tasting menu up ahead of us.

There are actually two different menus to choose from. A reasonable seven course menu that is listed on the website, and another using more in-season ingredients that comes in at almost double. We opt for the first and the menus are whisked away.

It’s not long until the bread basket lies. We have a choice from many breads. Not quite the same selection that Tom Aikens offers that requires a push-cart for just the bread itself, but good nevertheless. An interesting range from bread with bacon, an olive bread, sourdough, plain white roll and a baguette. Not super warm, but the winner for me is the small baguette, crispy on the outside and definitely freshly made.

It comes served with creamed cheese, and a pat of salted french butter shaped into what looks like a giant Chinese dumpling, or maybe more approrpiately, a bulb of garlic.

It’s not long before the first course arrives, a Spicy crab and broccoletti dish. The streak of red is some sort of spicy salt that definitely gives the dish zing. The foam on top suspending luscious amounts of crab, and a warmed jelly like seafood concoction that is as velvety as a very smooth foie gras. It’s a good start to the meal, a generous heaping of seafood and packed full of flavour.

In what seems like a trend to come, it seems almost as soon as we’ve finished one course, our plates are whisked away and another soon replaces them. I’m still uncertain as to whether or not they were rushing us (they weren’t really doing another sitting) or this was some aspect to the service that gets them that second or third star.

Anyway, the second dish arrives, Crispy raw and cooked vegetable tart served with a fresh herb condiment. This dish was not only spectacular to look at, but also an wonderful confusing mix of flavours and textures. Raw vegetables give the dish a fresh crunch that contrasts against the stewed vegetables that sit in a circle at the bottom of the dish. I break the flaky pastry dish, destroying the beautiful masterpiece, but eagerly using it to soak up all the amazing flavours that make up this dish. I almost think that my vegetarian friends would be amazed at finding this dish in a french restaurant, but a part of me suspects some of the strength of flavour from the sauces must come from a basis of animal stock. Not that I care as I scrape the last bits from the dish.

Our waiter presents, the next dish, apparently a very signature dish of Mr Ducasse, a “Saute gourmand”of lobtser, and truffled chicken quenelles. Exquisite, luciscious and no wonder Ducasse’s customers demanded for this dish to be brought back on the menu. Huge chunks of lobster sit amongst freshly made, perfectly Italian al-dente pasta, made even more divine by the chicken dumplings flavoured generiously with truffle. Strongly aromatic and a sauce so gorgeous that I cannot help but soak up some of the left over sauce with the remnants of my baguette. Probably breaking lots of ettiquette, but hey, I’m appreciating the food right?

Visually bland, at least in contrast to the previous dish, we start on the Simmered halibut, celeriac, shellfish and squid. I can only imagine how much butter (it’s French cooking, mmm-kay) went into the velvety sauce that surrounds the fish. A good meaty fish that flakes easily with a fork, with “tears” of celeriac dotting the plate. Shellfish came in the form of tiny cockels that provided pepper-like contrast to the dish.

We finish with the seafood course and then arrives our main meat course, Saddle of venison, grand-veneur, pumpkin, beetroot and quince. It’s a good thing too because it’s a sizable chunk. I take a sip of the Rioja wine that I enjoy even more having actually went against the sommerlier’s recommendation for a merlot, it’s strength of flavour matching well and not outpowered by the venison hung for only two weeks. He seemed to want to recommend all the most expensive glasses of wine which I’m sure were good, but my wine pallette’s not that refined. I take a slice of the venison, swoosh it around in the rich dark sauce, perfectly balanced with background notes of dark chocolate and enjoy the dish very slowly as the amount of food consumed starts to kick in.

Fortunately that was our last main course, with the cheese platter to arrive next. It’s spectuculalrly laid out with four different cheeses. A goat’s cheese accompanied by a red-pepper paste (very good!), a camembert with apple chutney, a hard cheese (can’t remember which) with a mushroom and macadamia paste (didn’t really do it for me) and my favourite of the evening, a roquefort blue cheese with quince chutney with a slight kick provided by mustard.

I found it a bit strange but they served it with a side salad topped with blanched almonds.

And more appropriately a walnut and sultana bread. Of course there were crackers as well.

Amazing the petite fours arrive without even being asked for tea and coffe and we’re both struggling to put away more of the food. There were six(!) macaroons. Flavours we think included strawberry, lemon and coconut.

The truffles were also very good – a hazelnut with crispy rice crackers remindining me of my favourite Finish chocolate brand, Geisha, and a more classic chocolate truffle.

My sister wans’t particularly thrilled by the sound of our last dish on the menu, and they substituted for her, the raspberry almond dish that looked delightful and appropriately red for my birthday (Chinese tradition says it’s good luck to be wearing red on your birthday).

Still not excited by the prospect, what arrived was definitely a good surprise in my book for the exoctic fruits dessert containing two different sorbets (vanilla and lime, mango and passion fruit), light puffs in the form of coconut meringue chunks of fruit and finished off by a warm mango passionfruit sauce. My only complaint was that it was a bit sweet for me (but I think that’s just me more than anything).

Thinking that we were completly finished, we were then shocked to have a whole dessert trolley roll up to us including many sweets, biscuits adn extra pastry cakes for us to choose from. We could have any and all although at this time, only opted for a small caramel and a pistachio pastry to split between the two of us.

They even gave my sister a nice “breakfast” take-away dish to go.

Everything about the evening was pretty good, as one would expect from a 3-starred Michelin place. I found the dishes coming a little bit too fast for my liking, but maybe that’s part of the service that is required for a place like this. Food was amazing, and some of the flavours really refined and divine.

Name: Alian Ducasse at the Dorchester
Found at: The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London W1K 1QA
Website: http://www.alainducasse-dorchester.com/

Assortment of four french cheeses (goat’s cheese, blue, camembert)
Exotic fruits – coconut meringue, vanilla lime sorbet, mango passionfruit.

Almont raspberry

Chez Bruce

For my sister’s birthday, we joined her friends, Nate and Caro for dinner at the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce. I took this as a bit of a surprise, particularly considering that French’s isn’t exactly my sister’s favourite and Chez Bruce is quite far from where we both live, but I guess a special occasion to dine at this well accomplished restaurant is still a good reason.

We’d booked ourselves in for a 7pm dinner, and due to unpredictable baby arrangements, our other fellow diners ended up slightly late. This was the first test of the restaurant, to see whether or not they would push us to hurry (which they didn’t) and if they took care of us in the meantime (which they did).

Chez Bruce isn’t a very large restaurant. On first guesses, it would hold about forty of fifty covers excluding the private dining room upstairs. It reminded me much more of Cambridge’s Restaurant 22 that appeared more like a family home that a restaurant, and I mean this in a good way. This could be changing soon since they’re undergoing some sort of refurbishment as I write this.

Whilst we waited, we were served a deliciously light and crumbly parmesan cracker dotted around the edges with black and white sesame seeds. I think we also had some bread served with butter although I don’t remember the selection being particularly snazzy. I guess my lack of pictures is one indicator of it.

I started with the brandade fritters with vegetable escabeche, chorizo and aioli. Although tempted by a number of the other appetisers, I’m really glad I ordered this dish. The batter was light and crisp and the brandade (effectively a salt cod mix) worked perfectly without needing any additional seasoning on top. Perfectly formed aioli brought a richness to the dish with the escabeche brining that slight heat.

As far as French dishes go, the blanquette of pig’s cheek with boudin blac, roast fillet, choucroute and crackling looked a bit of a mess on a plate. However as far as taste and variety went, this dish went in all sorts of directions with the boudin blanc (white pudding) a soft, slightly oily texture contrasting with perfectly crisp pork crackling. The meaty pork fillet providing heart to the dish only to be compared to the softest part and tenderest part of the pig – the pork cheek. Each of the spring vegetables brought even more flavours and complexity to the dish and did well to stick to classic French ingredients.

Strangely enough they brought out our truffles before our dessert although perhaps that might be because we ask for our tea and coffees at the same time. Verging on the point of being full, I skipped tasting any of them, despite there being enough for almost two each.

My dessert, hot chocolate pudding with praline parfait was abnormally large, for what I’d consider a French style dessert. Wickedly deep in flavour and excessively rich, I savoured every mouthful with the warm contrast of the pudding against the icy coolness of the parfait and then surprised by the crunch provided by the praline scattered about.

I’ve got some great pictures of the other dishes as well, but can’t really comment on the flavours. Here they are for completeness sake:

Appetiser: Roast calf’s sweetbreads with truffle velouté, mushrooms, spätzle and peas (+£5.00)

Appetiser: Gazpacho Andaluz with buffalo mozzarella and basil oil

Appetiser: Foie gras and chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche

Main: Sea bream with provençale vegetable relish, grilled baby squid, sauce nero, gnocchi and almonds

Main: Duck magret with borlotti beans, raviolo, foie gras, tarragon and sherry vinegar

Main: Lamb rump with Sicilian stuffed courgette, meatballs, artichokes and cherry tomatoes

Dessert: Dark chocolate delice with salted caramel sauce and clotted cream

Dessert: Pimm’s jelly with strawberries, cucumber and mint

Dessert: Crème brûlée

As far as service goes, I wasn’t as pleased with them as a number of other Michelin starred restaurants. We had to ask twice for our tap water jug to be filled and although they brought dishes and whisked them away in a timely manner, the attendants didn’t seem to be around, even for catching they eye when we needed to (like getting the bill).

Still, I really enjoyed the food there and given it’s a great value £42.50 for three courses (excluding service and drinks), I would definitely head all the way out there for another great evening meal.

Name: Chez Bruce
Found at: 2 Bellevue Road, London SW17 7EG, United Kingdom
Website: http://www.chezbruce.co.uk/

The Giaconda Dining Room

Before heading away on holidays I managed to get a couple of days in the office without being on a project. On the way to lunch, I saw that The Giaconda Dining Room were open. I’ve always walked past here on a weekend, when it’s shut. I also remember reading about them shutting down when their owner/chef broke his arm rather than continuing with less than optimal service. Of course, it’d been a while since then yet I’d still assumed they were shut.


I headed over for a lunch late, probably around 2pm by the time that I sat down. It was still bustling from the lunchtime service with lots of people obviously doing a business lunch, a couple of one diners and some people visiting the area. Their tables are situated pretty closely together, so much so that I could hear the conversation at the table next to me. To be fair, their rent must be expensive given its location so they’ve done a pretty good job of what little space they did have.


I had a look through the menu and after hearing what the soup of the day was, a White Onion Soup with Gruyère Crouton I definitely had to try it. As you can see from the picture above, the bowl was quite large and the the crouton was an amazingly crisp bit of cheese grilled around the croutons. Even by the time that I finished the soup, the croutons, encased in the deliciously salty cheese still remained crunchy. A very nice compliment to the sweetness left in the soup.


For my main, I ordered the seabass, arriving on a bed of parsley and lentil salad. Perfectly seasoned and perfectly grilled where the outside skin was perfectly crisp but the flesh remained flaky and juicy. This was definitely a well cooked piece of fish.

Another thing to note about The Giaconda Dining Room is that they do have a cover charge and it’s pretty good value when you look at what gets presented to you (see below). You get some reasonable bread and butter, a carafe of sparkling water and a small dish of mixed olives to nibble on as you peruse the rest of the menu.


I really enjoyed my lunch here and I’d be intrigued to see how busy they get around dinner or peak lunchtime service. With fantastic friendly service, and delicious food, it’s no wonder they are always busy and win lots of praise.

Name: The Giaconda Dining Room
Found at: 9 Denmark Street, WC2 H8LS, London, UK
Website: http://www.giacondadining.com/
Cost for lunch: Soup of the day, seabass, cover charge, a glass of white wine and service £23.50.