We ate very well in Washington DC, and wanted to go to more places but we didn’t have the time (or the appetite) to eat at all of the places that we wanted to. Here is a flavour of the some of the places that we managed to get.
Birch and Barley on 14th Street
A popular place with locals known for its huge selection of beers. Like it’s Belgian cousins, they have more than a hundred varieties and they even offer a beer tasting menu to go along with their food tasting if you want. We just ordered a ala carte and everything was amazingly tasty. I highly recommend you book and try a few of the places.
Modern american cuisine, served in a fairly formal environment. When we went, The Oval Room definitely attracted people who were significantly older than your usual crowd; very well dressed and up for an evening out. It’s not really surprising when it is located almost right next to the white house. Some excellently well prepared food although prices are on the higher side.
Masa 14 is well known for its weekend bottomless brunch. It’s a steal too when all alcoholic drinks are included and you get to order their interesting dishes off the menu a la carte. They fuse latin flavours with asian and American fare turning out interesting and delicious bites that are definitely great sharing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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/
Last year I remember reading about the Crawfish Boil that Bea’s of Bloomsbury fame held with an endless feast of Crawfish and other goodies in the arches of their Malby Street location.
This year I was fortunate to find the time to attend one of their feasts with a number of people where we had a lot of crawfish. How much crawfish? Several trays of crawfish like this:
I had no idea what a crawfish was, or how big they were but they do take a bit of work. It’s like tiny little lobster tails and most of the space is inedible either being shells, or the internals you just don’t really want to go near. I don’t know where they source them from, but we commented about how crazy many there must be in the farms that supply them since the event probably catered for hundreds over several weeks. That’s a lot of crawfish.
The crawfish are not just boiled in ordinary water. They are instead cooked in some delicious sauce that has both potatoes, chorizo and sweetcorn. The sweetcorn was probably the thing that absorbed the most flavour and was in hot competition at our table. In addition to the other sides, they served giant garlic bread that was particularly good when you dipped it in to soak up some of the juices.
To finish off the event, they handed out some super sweet raspberry frozen ices (all home made I’m guessing) and small chunks of their brownies.
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.
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.
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.
On one of my most recent flights I came across a short article about food trends in London. I certainly found myself agreeing with with the author who wanted London to get over its apparently never-ending openings of “American dirty food” Think of burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs (sometimes with champagne) and you get a gist of what the author was going on about.
With the opening of Five Guys and Shake Shack, most recently, I was impressed to hear of Navajo Joe’s undergoing a transformation, opening as “Joe’s Southern Food”
Although joining in with part of the “American dirty food” trend including what looked like good fried chicken, I was excited to hear about their “Beer-can BBQ chicken”, or a chicken roasted and BBQed whilst perched on top of a beer can. The idea is that the chicken remains moist whilst still acquiring the lovely smoked flavour around the coals.
As you can see, it looks pretty impressive when it arrives on its own carving trolley.
Along with the chicken you can order a number of sides, and I was quite impressed by the mac and cheese. Slightly saucy and tasty, it worked amazingly with their home made hot sauce.
The verdict? Impressive. Tasty, smoky skin that doesn’t feel greasy and super moist and flavoursome chicken meat that had a lot of taste even without the aid of all the sauces they had on offer.
I found service really friendly and quite attentive with our tap water frequently being refilled since it was a super hot day and we sat alongside their large glass windows by the entrance.
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.
One of my favourite places for a decent chicken satay and a consistenly good Malaysian food expeirence is Rasa Sayang found in London’s chinatown. Constantly busy and often with queues lining outside, they offer affordable and good quality Malaysian-Chinese foods that are difficult to find around town.
Other than the chicken satay which is top notch with a good quality peanut sauce, one of my favourite dishes is the Char Kway Teow.
This noodle dish is best when it has that “wok char” or a slightly smoky flavour that comes from the intense heat the dish should be prepared with. Combine it with a selection of meat and seafood and the salty, dark coloured rice noodles turn into a comforting dish that is sure to fill you up. Consistenly done well here.
I’m surprised to learn I haven’t written up about this place before. It has been open a long time and I have eaten here a number of times before. Other dishes worth having are the Singapore Chilli Crab if they it on the menu, the Mee Goreng (a spicier, more tomato based version of the Char Kway Teow) and the Hainun Chicken dish.
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:
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.
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.
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.