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The Oak Private Room

10 Jun

Last week-end, I went to London to meet some friends and enjoy the spring in the parcs…. The first task was fully completed…. the second…..

Anyway, on Friday evening, JC, my friend Pauline’s husband had organized a great dinner for her. He had booked the Private Table at the Oak and had her best friends in France coming over for the week-end. She was very surprised and we were happy to be part of the fun!

The Oak is one of my favorite pub in Westbourne, I used to go there almost every week-end to order the Zucchini pizza. With kids, with friends, in the Winter or Summer…. all the occasions are worth going there. Even if you want to share a drink with friends, you can go upstairs at the bar they have at the 1st floor. They have nice boards of cheese, mezze and patés served with amazing bread. The cocktails as well as the wines are just what you are looking for when you come during the week for a casual drink. And the atmosphere is just slightly more sophisticated than downstairs.

It’s also a good alternative when the restaurant downstairs is full and the waiting list too long….!

The Bar at the 1st floor:

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The Private Table:

The Private Table at the Oak is also upstairs and you have to walk through the bar to reach it.

You can have a drink at the bar while waiting for all the guests to arrive or seat around the large wooden table straight away to enjoy the privacy of the room.

You just need to close the white doors to get separated from the bar.

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A tasty Italian wine: Valpolicella 2011 Allegrini Veneto

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For the menu, the person organizing the party has to make a pre-selection of dishes in order to make it easier to deal with for the kitchen. Still, you have 3 choices of starters, mains and desserts!

We were pretty lucky as JC really made a great choice and we had a taste of the whole list…. Here is what we had:

Starters:

Burrata di Puglia, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Bruschetta

The Burrata was very creamy and fresh, the olive oil tasty and the prosciutto very thinly sliced. A perfect starter!

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Dorset Crab Salad, Fennel, Black Olives, Dill, Radish, New Season Felsina Olive Oil

That was my starter as I love Dorset crab and Fennel! As you may guess, I loved it! Fresh and light, really what I expect for a starter.

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Sautéed Scallops, Broad Bean Puree, Crisp Pancetta, Truffle Oil

A great starter that can also be a great dish served in a larger proportion. The scallop is sautéed in butter and almost caramelized. Soft as butter, it really gets well with the crispy Pancetta served with it. The broad bean puree and truffle oil bring some more complexity to the whole dish and brings it one step further in comparison with many other places serving the same dish.

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Mains:

Fillet of Sea Bass, Globe Artichoke Puree, Lemon Oil, Parsley Salad

The fish was fresh and cooked to perfection, the Artichoke puree creamy and light and well enhanced by the lemon oil and fresh parsley salad.

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Grilled Corn Fed Chicken Breast, Asparagus, Jersey Royals, White Wine & Tarragon Sauce

That one was a very earthy dish, served with tasty potatoes, soft asparagus and light but powerful tarragon sauce.

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Seared Tuna, Insalata Primavera, Basil Mayonnaise

Not a huge fan of raw fish, this was not one of my choice obviously but the salad was fresh and crispy and the mayonnaise was very tasty too. And for those who like raw fish, it was cooked just the way they wanted it.

IMG_1303Desserts:

We were a bit disappointed indeed. By the presentation but also the taste….

Semifreddo Zabaglione, Confit Lemon, Baci Di Dama Biscuits

The Zabaglione was too sweet and not creamy enough, the confit lemon did not really sparkle and the biscuits were just adding some more sweetness to a dish that we expected to be more on the citrus feeling.

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A Selection of Ice Cream & Sorbets

The ice cream was OK but nothing to crave for in the future.

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Cheesecake, Hazelnut Base, Banana, Rum & Caramel Sauce

The cheesecake was actually the good surprise among the desserts. The hazelnut base brought some crispiness and flavor and the cream cheese batter was very airy and fresh. Not too sweet in order to enjoy the sweetness of the caramel sauce.

The portion was just the right size also…. Neither too big nor too small. A perfect ending!

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Basically, we were just delighted to have a great room to chat and to enjoy a wonderful dinner that we did not have to prepare. The privacy of the room makes it even more special as you are not disturbed by the noise of the other tables or the constant flow of the waiters.

Just keep in mind that you have to be at least 10 to book it and also that the waiting list can be very long in the week-end and the months before Christmas!

Oak London

137 Westbourne Park Road

Westbourne Grove

London W2 5QL

tel. 020 7221 3355

e-mail.sean@theoaklondon.com

http://www.theoaklondon.com/

Dragoncello… one of the thing I miss the most in London beside my friends

20 May

Dragoncello is one of these restaurants that you really hesitate to share even with your best friends. You just want it to keeps on being a well-kept secret but that would not be fair for the owner Tobia Speranza and the chef Monserrato Marini who really deserve a great success.
For those of you who know the Westbourne area, Dragoncello is just walking distance from the trendy and crowded Westbourne, Bonaparte and The Oak pubs.
If for once you want to reward yourself with a treat but without the fuss of Michelin Star restaurant such as The Ledbury nearby, I think you have the right address!

dragoncello  Aurelio Cicalese-44

Dragoncello is a small but stylish restaurant. You immediately feel comfortable when you push the front door for lunch or dinner.
Most of the time, the owner is here to welcome you in person and drive you through the menu, wine list, specials and if needed, the chef will just pay a look over the window of his kitchen and add a comment!
As you have guessed already, the 2 of them are really good friends and that’s what makes that place so special. You just feel like invited at some friends place for a delicious Italian experience.
When it comes to food and wine, you won’t be disappointed. Just slow down with the chef’s Foccacia, that one is a real killer and once you start dipping it in the tasty olive oil, you just can’t stop….

Foccacia-Breads Basket and other treats
When asking to the chef how he gets it so moist and airy, the answer seems so obvious….. he lets it rise slowly in the oven at low temperature for a few hours to make it grow and start cooking at the same time. The result is simply terrific!
I will not comment the wine list as I -for the first time- let the owner choose for us. It was such a perfect match that we even had slightly too much!
And last but not least, food-wise, you just want to order the whole menu. I tried the Chef’s specialties: Linguine with Lobster. Only because Linguine is my favorite pasta! The sauce was delicate and brought together perfectly the Lobster with the linguine.
The salads are well balanced, fish and shellfish always fresh, cheese and ham well selected. I did not try the Burrata from Andria yet but I am sure you will and let me know that it was worth it!

Goat's Cheese Salad-Scampi-Lobster Linguine
Indeed, Dragoncello is one of those restaurants that knows how to create the perfect alchemy that will get you to come back on a regular basis. You are not only coming for the food but for the whole atmosphere, the chat with the owner by the till at the end of the service, the tips of the chef for the tomato sauce, the feeling that whatever happened earlier today or later tomorrow, right now, you simply feel good!

Dragoncello

104A Chepstow Rd London W2 5QS, UK
Email: info@dragoncello.co.uk
Phone: 0207 221 1821
Phone: 079 30 46 93 55

Ossobuco Alla Milanese

3 Apr

As you may have noticed, I am back on my blog…. The past 2 years have been sort of hectic with the pregnancy and the arrival of the twins in our lives! The new bottles-nappies rhythm kept me more or less out of the kitchen for a while and for the few new recipes I was able to try, I either did not have time to take pictures or time to write a post!

But here I am, back to work: whisking, frying, baking and having lots of fun trying new recipes! And as I looked at my Index of Recipes, I just realized that there was not that much meat recipes… not that I am a Vegetarian now but just that I am having more interest in sweets and vegetables… Anyway, I want to offer a wide range of choices and to do so, I am trying different techniques including meat!

I choose Ossobuco because it’s not a common piece of meat but also because it’s one of the recipe that we learned at the Cookery School when we had to braise meat and it seemed to be so complicated at that time that I wanted to give it another try….

To our old fashion school recipe I preferred The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook recipe which is easier and very tasty. Also in that recipe they are using veal shin which is much better but also more expensive than the tail….!

By the way, if you did not have the opportunity to go to that restaurant…. it’s really worth it! We went there with my husband on a sunny weekday in April 2 years ago and we had a lovely time on the quiet terrace, a few steps from the Thames River walk. The fish is fresh and delicate, as well as the meat, the dressings are well balanced, the puddings are the final great touch. This is a feel-good place not a presumptuous one. Only one advice…. book in advance!

Ingredients for 6 people

  • 6 pieces of veal shin – 2-3 cm thick
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Plain flour
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 120g of butter
  • 1 small red onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery heart peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 a bottle of white wine
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes (400g) drained of juice and coarsely chopped

Ingredients for the Gremolata

  • 2 lemon zest finely grated
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 handful of flat leaf parsley chopped

Method

Preheat your oven to 150°.

First of all choose a heavy-bottom ovenproof pan or have a deep tray at hand in which the pieces of veal will fit in one layer.

Prepare all your garnish and set aside.

Season the veal with salt and pepper on both faces and dust with the flour. Shake off the excess of flour and reserve on a tray.

Heat the oil in the pan and brown the meat over medium-high heat just to sear the pieces on both sides.

If the pieces don’t fit in your pan, brown them into 2-3 batches. If you put too many pieces, it will not brown properly and if you have a pan too large, you may burn the oil. Just be careful to use the right pan…!

Remove the pieces from the pan and set aside on a tray.

Wipe the pan and put it back on medium-low heat, add the butter and gently fry the onion, celery and garlic until they get very soft (10-15 min). Don’t forget to stir from time to time.

Once they are soft, cover with the wine and bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently until it reduces by half.

If the pan is big enough, place the pieces of meat back on top of the vegetables with the bones upright so that the marrow cannot fall out while cooking.

If you cook for a large number, spread the veg on a deep cooking tray and place the pieces of meat on top.

Add the thyme, bay leaves and chopped tomatoes on top. The liquid in the pan should come halfway up the pieces of veal.

If it doesn’t, add more wine and for the tray, add more wine and water and keep an eye on the level of liquid while cooking. If needed, repeat the same process, add more wine and water.

Bring to a boil then cover with a cartouche (parchment paper cut to fit inside your pan or tray with a hole in the center to release the steam) and the lid.

For the tray, you may put a serving spoon on top of the parchment paper if your oven has a fan as it will prevent it from flying away.

Cook for 2-2.30 hours in the lower part of the oven and check regularly that the liquid is gently simmering.

While that time, prepare the Gremolata: grate the lemon zest, chop the parsley and the garlic and combine them together and reserve in a bowl until serving.

As a result, the meat is not chewy but very tender and falls from the bone. You don’t even need a knife to eat it.

Serve the veal with the sauce and the vegetables from the pan and sprinkle the Gremolata on top.

My first Sunday roast…. at last!

22 May

It’s been 2 years now that I am back in London and I kept that very french opinion about Sunday roast….

For me, the Sunday roast is served at home, shared with your family and prepared with lots of love and patience by your mum, grand mum, old aunt… depending on were you spend your Sunday!

How and why did I change my mind?

10 days ago, thanks to Fabienne initiative, many french “bloggeurs” and “bloggeuses” were invited to participate to the first “apéro-blog“. The idea is to gather the people who have created a blog about their lives, activities while they live abroad. It was a real success as we were about 20 and even if I did not stay til the end, I had time to share a few point of view and the Sunday roast was one of them!

When I confessed to my friends Alice and Zaza that I never tried the Sunday roast, I almost lost my hearing as they both screamed at me….! I tried to explain my point of view but it only made them scream louder…. I was considered as old fashion, chauvinist, narrow minded, stubborn…. and last but not least it was my duty as a foody to take part to the British way of life through the food experience!

The screaming had imprinted more than my tympan as the next Sunday, we decided to try a gastro pub near Holland Park called The Mitre and while spending hours on the Menu I suddenly decided to go for the Chicken Sunday Roast….

My husband stared at me in disbelief and I decided to plead for the pregnancy cravings rather than admit that I did not like being considered as stubborn, narrow-minded….about the Sunday roast.

As I was sipping my delicious and very spicy Virgin Mary, I started to regret my choice….. why did I ask for a Sunday roast when there was so many other delicious options such as the Tuna Steack, the Duck Breast or the Rib-eye Steack…..

Was it the rain, the growing twins in my belly???? I don’t know but I was to be served a Chicken Sunday Roast with gravy, bread sauce, Yorkshire pudding and roast root vegetables such as parsnip and turnip… what the hell happened to me????? Did I loose my mind…. 3 times I wanted to call back the waitress to cancel and go for another Main, 3 times I decided to stick to my choice…. my husband was making fun of me as he saw me so perturbated by my choice…. “it’s only a Sunday roast”!

It was not please me but anyway, I started to starve and anything was to please my noisy stomach!

My husband also promised he’ll let me have a bite of his burger if I was to be disappointed by my Roast!

There it is…. my first Sunday roast!

The picture does not really enhance my Sunday Roast but really, it was delicious….. the chicken was very tender and tasty, the asparagus, perfectly cooked, the roots vegetables perfectly roasted and the gravy was a real one and not one of those fake disgusting brand they tend to introduce in any restaurant trying to reduce their costs….

Even the Yorkshire pudding was soft and crusty at the same time! I enjoy every bite of it except for the bread sauce….

There we are, one month from my return to France to spend the last weeks of my pregnancy, the first Sunday roast my twins will have tried is a British one…..!

I’ll have to ask my Mum to prepare a French one in order to get them to compare!

I you were like me about the Sunday roast, I hope you will give it a try from now on!

Sunday Brunch at The Connaught…..

8 Mar

At last we did it…. trying to book 6 Sex in the City-ish girls on a week-end is somehow kind of a challenge but once you mention the place they are to meet….. no more week-end abroad, pilates classes, full manucure-pedicure-hair treatments…. the date gets fully available and everybody is almost on time at the “Rendez-Vous”.

Saturday the 6th of March, 12.30, I just popped out of the swimming-pool, hair almost dry, sunglasses out for the first time of the year and walking fast to be on time to a perfect girly brunch in Mayfair….

Thanks to Prune who took the time to organise the booking for us, we had one of the best and largest table, close to the window. There we were sitting, enjoying the sun coming in and staring at the menu and the two breathtaking buffets waiting for us!

None of us tried to pretend she was on a diet but rather that she did not eat for ages and was starving…

Surrounded by waiters and waitresses all but one French speaking, we went through the Menu with them, placed our orders and headed towards the first buffet.

The first buffet was in itself more that enough to make us happy but we tried to get decent plates in order to be able to reach the sweet buffet by the end of the brunch.

An amazing selection of French cheeses, thinly sliced hams, cured meat and other Delicatessen were displayed but also perfectly creamy scrambled eggs with “poutargue” or other seasonings, delicious smoked salmon, small home-made bagels toasted on request and a amazing selection of bread buns also home-made…. I did not list all those little details that really make the difference but the tasty butter, soured cream with chives, rocket salad perfectly seasoned…. are some of those little Extras that really makes your experience even better! Especially when you are the kind of person always asking for one of those….. you’re more than happy not to have to ask for it for once!

A few giggles, a few comments about our respective plates and there we are…

END OF PART ONE

The whole table gets suddenly quiet and enjoy in a religious silence the first part of the tasting….

But don’t worry, the silence did not last more than a few seconds….. and as we went back to our girly conversation, the Main course suddenly appeared…. Surrounded by 4 waiters holding trays of our orders, we stopped moving to let them place the piece of art attributed to each of us.

We then realized we almost all had chosen the same one:

The Roasted Scottish Scallops with Tandoori spices, citrus and carrot mousseline, spring onions reduction with fresh coriander…. who wouldn’t?

Only one of us choose the Home-Made Burger because she had been clever enough to read what it was made of…. and also because she decided to share it in order to taste the scallops…!

The Home-made Burger stuffed with braised Aberdeen Angus beef ox cheek and duck foie-gras from Les Landes… except for the name…. everything but a Burger…. even the Ketchup was home-made with a little Espelette spice!

What we did not try….

The Classic Caesar Salad with cogollos and grilled chicken from Les Landes

and

The Black and Creamy Carnarolli Acquarello Rice, sautéed squids with chorizo and confit tomatoes, Reggiano parmesan foam

We’ll have to come back to give it a try…of course!

The Burger was pretty big in itself and the foie-gras plus the hand-cut potatoe wedges did not make it lighter but the Scallops were a perfect main course to take us to the Third part of our brunch.

END OF PART TWO

At this stage, we have been chatting for about 1 hour and a half but we still have lots to talk about…. the last Sonia Rykiel collection at H&M, what our partners or husbands are doing while we spend hours in luxury hotels for brunch, new jobs, new responsabilities, birthdays, Prune’s baby to come and so on….

But suddenly, we all freeze when we see two plates passing by our tables with wonderful Waffles just cooked and filling the room with a wonderfull smell…. We all stand up and try not to rush to the sweet buffet!

There we are…. in front of Mini chocolate fondants, delicious fruit salad in a litchi juice, creamy yogurt and home-made granola, basket of viennoiseries with small brioches buns filled with Nutella (home-made of course) or Raspberries and the waffles served with chocolate sauce, jam, honey…. and a light as cloud Chantilly lightly sweetened with a strong vanilla flavour!

We did not have any space left for desert????? The plates we brought back to our table seemed to prove the opposite!

We did not finish all of it but we really enjoyed all we tried.

END OF PART THREE

Back to our week-end, bus routes, shopping on Oxford Street, we leave the Connaught and its nice team with lots of upcoming brunch projects in places as nice as this one….

To be followed…. Tea Time at Sketch, brunch at The Dorchester, The Petersham Nursery in the summer….

For Burgers’ Lovers….. Byron!

2 Feb

Lunch break in the week-end used to be a never ending, always happening struggle… Even if London counts many good places for burgers, I used to fight against them as you sometimes don’t get what you expect and spend the whole afternoon complaining about the weird feeling resulting from the strange “herby-spicy” steak they had put in your burger and the much too fatty french fries you had been eating with…. no mention of the extra mayo they spread on the buns of course!

Don’t even count on me for a BK, Mc Do or even Gourmet Burger Kitchen…. rather die than getting in there…..!

Burgers were a boy’s dinner time or happy lonely evenings watching movies while I was working….

At last, everything changed when we happened to discover Byron on High Street Kensington!

The place is a kind of fast food but set in a cozy, nice, bright place full of welcoming waiters & waitresses. They have all sizes of table in order to be able to welcome any group sizes and large amount of kids.

The menu is simple, mainly burgers with a few salads and other mains for the remaining “ANTI”, the traditional coleslaw, french fries, onion rings and the casual very American deserts if you are still hungry (cheesecake, brownies, banoffee pie…)!

But what really convinced me is the set of Mini-Burgers they use to reserve for kids and that I always take…. For small appetite or deserts fans, this is the perfect size…. You get served 3 tiny hamburgers filled with mini steaks and all the ingredients you can get in the normal one!

And for the others, you can still ask for the double burgers….!

The products are fresh and tasty and they are selected among some of the best farms in the U.K. The service is efficient, fast but there is no pressure to get rid of you as others customers are waiting. Kids are provided lots of games and the staff is always patient and smiling to make the lunch an happy time for both the parents and the kids and also the other customers as kids won’t be screaming as long as they are happy!!!!

To resume, this place is not a Gastro place neither a place to have a nice romantic dinner but definitely a perfect place for a nice lunch with friends during the week-end or even as a couple….

Enjoy…..

Beef, Jazz & Soufflés with my Familly in Law

18 Mar

Beau Papa being in London with Jean-Pierre, a cousin of my husband, I had been a little bit under pressure this week, thinking about where to go, in which restaurant and wondering if the weather would be nice….

In the end, I changed up my mind for most of the restaurants I had planned to go but I have to say that eventually we where happy to discover some new places….

On Friday we went to the top floor of SOS (Smith of Smithfield) the restaurant just next to the so famous nightclub “Fabric”!

It had been a long time since I did not eat any meat especially in London where I am becoming a veggie but when I had a look at the menu I thought that it was not the place to order some fish!

The four of us ordered beef and the four of us enjoyed it….It was cooked the way we wanted it to be (rare is rare not well cooked, well cooked is well cooked, not overcooked!) and they were not served with the usual ketchup and mayonnaise but with more sophisticate sauce and mustard.

The mood is also very nice, the view is breathtaking thanks to the great bay window open on the roofs of Smithfield Market and the City.

http://www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk/sos/index.html

On Saturday, after visiting the Tate Modern, the Borough Market and the Portobello Market, we decided to stay East side and try one of the restaurant around Old Street. Even if the fresh pasta were a little bit sticky, the mood was really nice, the sofas very confortable and the good surprise was downstairs, some sort of lounge bar, very cosy thanks to the wooden surrounding and  offering live music from Thursday til Saturday.

http://www.lenarestaurant.com

The last thing I have to tell you about is the Soufflé….

When my “Belle famille” arrived on Friday, I had just been assisting a cooking class on the topic of the “soufflé”.  When I told them I had been working on the chocolate, the vanilla and the raspberry soufflé, they decided we had to try one so that Jean-Pierre may impress his two daughters when he’ll come back.

We decided to work on the Raspberry Soufflé…..!

For the crème patissière

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 10g cornflour
  • 40g plain flour
  • 280ml milk

For the soufflés

  • 250g raspberries
  • 3 tbsp crème patissière
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a few drops vanilla extract
  • 8 egg whites
  • 60g caster sugar, plus extra for dredging
  • icing sugar, to decorate

Method

Make the crème patissière first:

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, then whisk in the cornflour and plain flour.
Heat the milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Very slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
Pour the mixture into a clean pan and heat until simmering. Cook gently, stirring, for about 1 minute until slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat and leave the crème to cool. Cover with cling film to prevent the mixture from forming a skin.

To make the soufflés; preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

Butter 6 ramekin dishes very thoroughly; dredge them with caster sugar and put in the fridge.
Crush a third of the raspberries with a fork.
Mix 3 tablespoons cooled crème patissière with the vanilla extract, the egg yolk and the crushed raspberries.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar and whisk again for a few seconds until slightly opaque.
Fold one third of this into the raspberry mixture, to slacken it and then fold in the rest gently so as not to lose the air.
Fold in the whole raspberries.
Fill the chilled ramekins to the brim with the mixture. Smooth the tops and run your thumb around each, just inside the rim (this helps rising).

Cook the soufflés in the oven for 7-8 minutes until well risen.

Sift a little icing sugar over the top of each soufflé and serve immediately.

As I did not have any ramequin, we used a larger dish. We just had to wait twice the time to get it cooked and to agree that we will share it on an equal basis….

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