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23 July 2014

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Blog Reviews from Drifting Epicure

(menu)

London based epicure exploring the edible locally and internationally


  1. Published : Monday, 23rd June 2014

    Bumpkin Chelsea | Bumpkin Chelsea

    As much as I want to explore more of London my food map is sadly still mainly focused around Soho and eastward with the occasional escapes to Mayfair/Notting Hill/Kensington for something over the top. The thing with London is that you don’t have to leave your area and still have more than enough good options no matter what you want to eat. So when I received an email from Square Meal about a blogger dinner at Bumpkin in Chelsea I got a good excuse to visit a more relaxed restaurant the other side of town. There are 4 Bumpkins around London: Notthing Hill, Chelsea, South Kensington and Westfield Stratford. The Chelsea branch has an outside dining area which is quite nice when the weather allows. About 10 people were gathered for this event, all new faces, all curious of what the evening might entail. The evening started with Pimm’s cocktails which together with the relaxed surroundings in the garden reinforced the arrival of summer. Judging by the crowd this evening it seems to be a popular place for families living in the area. The food at Bumpkin is centered around British produce presented with classic cooking...

  2. Published : Monday, 16th June 2014

    Barnyard | Barnyard

    Barnyard is the second restaurant by Ollie Dabbous and Oskar Kinsberg, the duo behind the more-than-difficult-to-book restaurant Dabbous in the same area. Though related Barnyard is hugely different. As the name suggest it is a much stripped down version of Dabbous. No hay balls in sight but unpolished wood decorating the walls and tables plus a mix match of bar chairs are part of what creates a rural feel in the city. Barnyard has a no reservation policy for those who can’t get an evening table at Dabbous but hope to be able to experience a drizzle of that kitchen wizardry. Just be warned that the food is as humble as the name Barnyard suggests. How good this simplicity is remained to be tasted...

  3. Published : Tuesday, 29th April 2014

    The Ledbury | The Ledbury

    Every now and then the culinary curious deserves a treat. The only thing needed is just an excuse to splurge. Once justified the next task is deciding where to go. In London, this is not necessarily an easy task with an ocean of top notch restaurants to choose from. This time we settled with The Ledbury which has been around for 9 years. Earlier this week it was ranked number 10 in the most recent World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The solid reputation The Ledbury has built up the past decade plus the two Michelin stars it holds attracts many bookings. Going to this kind of place requires some careful planning or luck if you’re aiming at popular hours. In our case it was a combination of the two. I was one month ahead and only managed to get the last available dinner table for the following month. Note that weekday lunch tables probably are probably easier targets for flexible travellers. Brett Graham, a chef from Australia, is the guy behind the success story. Prior to The Ledbury he was working at The Square, another well regarded French restaurant in London. Situated in this quiet corner of Notthing Hill just a few blocks away from the touristy Portobello Market The Ledbury is surrounded by a mix of residentials. It melts in quite well with its discreet black facade...

  4. Published : Saturday, 12th April 2014

    Berners Tavern at Edition Hotel | Berners Tavern

    By coincidence the birthday dinner of a friend was organized at Berners Tavern the day after my visit at Little Social, both part of Jason Atherton’s growing empire. That’s the only common thing the two restaurants shares though. Berners Tavern offers more of a British fare as opposed to the French of Little Social. The setting is also notably grander. Berners Tavern is located inside The London Edition hotel in the calm neighbourhood of Fitzrovia. The restaurant was all but calm though. It was fully alive already early in the evening when we arrived. We were seated in one of the small tables next to the bar in wait for our dining table. I can see why it’s been so busy since opening last year. The food aside, which I yet had to try, the place was stunning. Walking into the dining room is an eye opener for the unprepared. The tall walls filled with a patchwork of golden frames embraces the spacious dining area beneath the ceiling of elaborate stucco...

  5. Published : Wednesday, 26th March 2014

    Little Social | Little Social

    Little Social is a cozy restaurant tucked into a quiet alley in Mayfair with Regent Street only a stone throw away. It opened up its doors last year in March just opposite to its Michelin starred sibling Pollen Street Social and has been quite well received. In recent years the success of Jason Atherton, the founder, has given birth to more restaurants in London and abroad in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. He has previously worked for heavyweights such as Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria. We went to Little Social on a fully seated Tuesday evening which meant a wait of about half an hour for a table. Meanwhile bar seats were offered for a drink...

  6. Published : Tuesday, 25th March 2014

    Oslo | Oslo Hackney

    Set up a restaurant/bar decorated in wood and bricks with a rugged edge next to Hackney Central station. Hire staff that know more about the latest trends than the food served. Name the place after a Nordic city people might have heard of but do not know much about. That’s the combination of ingredients in the recipe behind Oslo Hackney’s success, at least if you judge the number of likes their Facebook page has attracted within 2 months. This is a place where your entrance will turn heads to see if you are cool enough to blend into the forward crowd, because sticking out here is the last thing you want. Next thing that grabs the attention is Oslo’s decor. In combination with the tall ceiling the interior has a certain cold charm to it, much thanks to the hanging lamps draped in ghost like cloth...

  7. Published : Thursday, 6th March 2014

    Zucca | Zucca

    Zucca is a modern Italian restaurant on Bermondsey street not far from London Bridge, almost next to the contemporary art gallery White Cube which by the way is a must visit when you’re around. There is no lack of restaurants in the area and it might be worth taking a walk to the nearby Spa Terminus where you will find independent food producers tucked into the railway arches selling their produce. Walking into the visually peaceful environment of Zucca is not what I’m used to when it comes to Italian restaurants but then I usually go to more casual places for Italian food. Despite the somewhat sterile interior comfort is found in the open kitchen and decor pumpkins spread out in the dining room. After all Zucca means pumpkin in Italian. Booking a table during the weekend is advisable. Shortly after noon the restaurant filled up but without feeling busy...

  8. Published : Tuesday, 28th January 2014

    Il Bordello | Il Bordello

    Italian food for me is at its best home made with quality ingredients. Maybe that’s also why I’ve left London’s Italian dining scene pretty much untouched except for the occasional pizza which is difficult to do at home without a proper oven. I felt it was time for a change and explore what is out there other than pizza. This night the destination was Il Bordello, a local Italian restaurant in Wapping I’ve heard good things about. Wapping is a residential neighbourhood, a dead silent one on top of that. The only sign of life is the restaurant emitting warm glow in the winter darkness. The first observation once inside was the age of the waiters which must average above 40...

  9. Published : Wednesday, 22nd January 2014

    Sebright Arms | Lucky Chip

    This time I wanted to try something new, as did my friend. Both of us haven’t tried Lucky Chip yet and after being convinced by rave reviews it was decided and off to Bethnal Green we went. Lucky Chip can be found in Netil Market on Saturdays but this weekday evening we went to their permanent residence in Sebright Arms which is hiding on a side street next to Hackney Road. The random chairs and wall items inside were not a big surprise for a pub around here. It’s more random that the pub houses one of the better burger makers in the East or even London, or at least we were to find out whether that is the case...

  10. Published : Monday, 20th January 2014

    Duck & Waffle | Duck & Waffle

    Being on top of the city with an unobstructed view clearly adds another dimension to a dining experience. What would you do to go one step further? Keep it open 24/7 for guests to enjoy sunrise and sunset which is what Duck & Waffle has done. It’s truly non-discriminating with the more than generous opening hours, be it for early birds, power lunchers, romantic diners, late nightlifers, Sushi Samba haters or the occasional tourist who got lost in the city. Success is the word to describe it considering how far ahead I needed to book a table for 6 people early in the morning...

  11. Published : Thursday, 9th January 2014

    Viajante (closed) | Viajante

    Trend is both a blessing and a curse in East London for any business owner trying to win over the sensitive crowd. Pop-up stalls seems to be a recipe for success judging by the number of them I’ve seen over the past years. There are however restaurants that’s proved their right of existence and Viajante is one of them. Located just north of Bethnal Green station inside the retro chic Town Hall Hotel Viajante offers one of the most innovative menus I’ve tried in London. The Michelin star and 59th place on the San Pellegrino list Viajante holds is the result of Nuno Mendes’ international experience and hard work. Viajante means traveller in Portugese. The name was chosen to reflect the international staff and knowledge behind the food...

  12. Published : Wednesday, 18th December 2013

    Tonkotsu East | Tonkotsu East

    Finally, a place dedicated to ramen in East London! Now there is no need to go all the way into Soho for a quick bowl. If the past year was about testing the market for ramen the coming year will be about expansion beyond central London and Tonkotsu East is the first one of the few that are all based in Soho to take the step. This also means that ramen is here to stay...

  13. Published : Sunday, 8th December 2013

    Yashin Sushi | Yashin Sushi

    Here is yet another review of a Japanese restaurant. This time it goes all the way to High Street Kensington area where Yashin Sushi, a small sushi restaurant, is hiding in one of the side streets. As you would expect from the area the restaurant is maturely decorated in a simplistic way with a few extravagant details. The space is quite small with the main sitting area surrounding the chef counter. There is a small room downstairs with a bar for bigger parties where you will also find the wine/sake storage tucked away in a small space next to the bathrooms. We sat at the far end of the counter in front of the prep section (I think). The menu is quite straight forward with a selection of mixed dishes to complement the sushi offering. I went for Omakase Eleven which was a selection of eleven pieces of nigiri and a maki roll of the day. Together we shared the Wagyu Beef Sirloin and Yaki Yose Tofu...

  14. Published : Tuesday, 19th November 2013

    Roka | Roka

    When I want to go for Japanese food in London Roka is often a name that comes to mind but never ended up going to. It’s one of those internationally oriented (and expensive) Asian restaurants on in London that spent a fortune on designers to create an ambience lifting up the food rather than the opposite. It’s very similar with Yauatcha in many ways in terms of styling, international staff, Asian cuisine and also being a highly successful restaurant based more on a concept rather than a star chef. The dining floor becomes a more upbeat space in the evening with more flow of people and the interior lighting coming alive when the sun goes down...

  15. Published : Thursday, 14th November 2013

    Koya | Koya

    Koya is a serious Japanese udon (noodles) restaurant and also one of my favourite places in Soho for a quick meal. The only problem is that more often than not it involves a bit of queueing. Udon is the thing to order here as half of the menu consist of udon items. There are three ways to have it here: hot noodles in hot broth, cold noodles with hot broth and cold noodles with cold dipping sauce. Personally I prefer to have the noodles (cold) served on the side. The space is very small with one bigger room and a small space sitting in front of an equally small kitchen...

  16. Published : Monday, 4th November 2013

    The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell | Modern Pantry

    This was one of those lazy Sundays when the first thing you do of the day is to head for late brunch in the afternoon. There is no better way to start a Sunday than with a hearty meal of good food and catching up with friends. We came to Modern Pantry, a comfortably relaxed restaurant located in the area of furniture shops, Clerkenwell. It has two floors and outdoor seating when weather allows. The first floor where we sat is the more informal space with bare white wooden tables. Modern Pantry is known for the brunch but I ended up ordering the three course set lunch instead since I was quite hungry...

  17. Published : Thursday, 17th October 2013

    Flesh and Buns | Flesh & Buns

    “Dear child has many names” is a Swedish saying that fits perfectly for Gua bao. Also known as Hirata bun in English it can be called 割包, 刈包 or 掛包 in Chinese. My favourite though is 虎咬豬, simply translating into ‘tiger eats pig’ because of the shape of the bun (often) with pork as filling. This Taiwanese dish entered the London food scene not too long ago and to my understanding been quite well received. I have only tried it once before in London at Yum Bun which is more of a take away place with a few seats by the windows. This weekend I decided to give Flesh & Buns a go with a friend. It’s founded by the same people as the ramen joint Bone Daddies. Bone Daddies is probably my favourite place for ramen so I was looking forward to their interpretation of gua bao...

  18. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was a highly anticipated restaurant when it opened in January 2011, probably the hottest restaurant opening in London that year. For those not familiar with the name Heston Blumenthal he is one of the handful of British chefs behind a three Michelin star restaurant, Fat Duck in Brey. He is a self-taught chef playing in the field of molecular gastronomy. However, molecular gastronomy is not what defines Dinner. It is rather the history of the dishes that stands out, along with meticulous execution. The menu is filled with reinvented old British recipes, some dating back a few centuries. The style leans towards rich and earthy flavours...

  19. Published : Tuesday, 30th July 2013

    Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs | Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

    Hidden behind the heavy curtains at the back of Bubbledogs it’s either by chance or word of mouth that you might stumble upon Kitchen Table, a 19 seat and 13 course dining experience in Fitzrovia. Part of the same restaurant, the two dining concepts can’t be more different but it works out quite well judging the queue for Bubbledogs and the number of fully booked days in the Kitchen Table online booking system. Kitchen Table was launched shortly after the opening of Bubbledogs in 2012 by husband-and-wife team James Knappett (the chef) and Sandia Chang (restaurant manager/sommelier)...

  20. Published : Sunday, 14th July 2013

    Barrafina | Barrafina

    Barrafina is a modern Spanish tapas bar in the heart of Soho. The restaurant has been around for a while and built a reputation of reliably well-made Spanish tapas. In terms of location it perfectly blends in among the mix of bars and restaurants in the area being a mix of both itself. Barrafina only has 23 bar stools and a few tables outside when the weather allows. Seating is based on a first come first serve policy, no reservations taken. This means that on a hot summer evening queuing time easily surpasses 1 hour. I can already say now before going into details that it’s worth the wait...

  21. Published : Tuesday, 2nd July 2013

    Brawn | Brawn

    Brawn is a homely small restaurant located in the heart of Columbia road which transforms to a busy flower market every Sunday. The location cannot suit better for this rustic neighbourhood restaurant much similar in style to St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant. Making a booking can be a good idea, especially around lunch time. It filled up fairly quickly after we arrived early afternoon. It’s a sibling of wine bar/restaurant Terroirs which is known for its organic wine list so naturally you’ll find a few quirky bottles at Brawn as well...

  22. Published : Sunday, 23rd June 2013

    Yauatcha | Yauatcha

    Yauatcha, founded by Alan Yau in 2004, is a well established dim sum restaurant in London. It is part of Hakkasan group which was acquired by Abu Dhabi investment company Tasameem in 2008. The group almost holds a monopoly of Michelin stars for Chinese restaurants in the city (Yauatcha, Hakkasan Hanway Place and Hakkasan Mayfair) with the exception of Kai. Yauatcha is different from many restaurants in Chinatown in that it offers dim-sum in the evening as well (dim-sum is traditionally eaten in the morning/early afternoon in Hong Kong) which is quite nice...

  23. Published : Sunday, 16th June 2013

    Bone Daddies | Bone Daddies

    It was about time that London got its own ramen eateries and it happened 2012, not one but three: Shoryu, Tonkotsu and Bone Daddies. Yesterday I finally made it to the last one I haven’t tried yet: Bone Daddies. I must say that it has most character of the three ramen places. John Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising” was streaming in the room when I entered. On the wall was a collage of B&W photos of Japanese rockabillies, like those I saw in Harajuku when I was in Tokyo a few years ago. I don’t know how busy it usually is since I came late afternoon and didn’t need to wait for a seat. Tables are shared here as opposed to the other two ramen restaurants...

  24. Published : Monday, 10th June 2013

    Beagle | Beagle

    Sometimes I wonder whether the restaurant scene in East London is driven by a flicker minded dining crowd chasing the frontier of hipness. Having an catchy concept seems to be what keeps many eateries alive and sadly the food often becomes second priority. In this regard Beagle has hit the right balance. While not having a tangible “concept” its style is well defined by the warm tone of the chairs and tables in dark wood within the naked brick walls of a few railway arches next to Hoxton Overground station. The well groomed and friendly staff are not too cool to care which contributes to the comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. Last and most important, the food doesn’t disappoint...

  25. Published : Sunday, 2nd June 2013

    Balthazar | Balthazar

    Yet another New York restaurant has arrived London recently. This time it’s Balthazar, a stylish brasserie breathing golden orange tones. It’s almost an exact replica of the New York restaurant from mirrors to pillars and it’s equally busy during peak hours...

  26. Published : Monday, 20th May 2013

    MASH London | MASH

    here is something raw about going to a steakhouse. It’s the ultimate place to go for the feel of being on top of the food chain. The interior of MASH definitely fuels on that feeling. Although being Danish there is nothing modest about the restaurant. Upon...

  27. Published : Friday, 3rd May 2013

    Sushi Tetsu | Sushi Tetsu

    Sushi Tetsu is located in an unassuming alley in Clerkenwell shared by The Zetter Townhouse and The Modern Pantry. When I saw the dark front door cloth with two Japanese characters memories from past sushi experiences in Japan flashed through my mind. I was thinking zen-like music...

  28. Published : Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

    St John | St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant

    If I have to name one British restaurant I would probably say that St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant is very close to the down to earth food that I understand British cuisine to be. The restaurant was founded in 1994 and is now run by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver. The success has spawned several sister restaurants, a wine importer and a hotel through the years...

  29. Published : Thursday, 11th April 2013

    Bocca di Lupo | Bocca Di Lupo

    Upon entering you feel the buzz around the long bar with people eating and waiting for tables. Further in is an open kitchen. We were seated fairly quickly at the bar to join the other diners. I don’t know if the sight of Bambi in the menu (see above) helps sales but it’s a nice touch that all dishes has a region in Italy assigned to it. It gave the impression of the care for provenance...