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25 April 2014

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Blog Reviews from SamTheFoodFan

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  1. Published : Monday, 21st April 2014

    Ember Yard | #STFFBitesize - Ember Yard

    Ember Yard is part of the Salt Yard Group (Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern) and their USP is cooking Spanish inspired dishes on their custom-built charcoal grill. I've wanted to try it for a while and when I saw on Twitter that they were offering 50% off the total food bill over the Easter weekend, I couldn't let such a great deal pass me by. Here are the best bites...

  2. Published : Tuesday, 15th April 2014

    Morston Hall | Morston Hall - #STFFonTour in Norfolk

    Good friends of ours moved to North Norfolk last year and when we planned a weekend visit, the first thing I asked our host was "How close are you to Morston Hall?" I know of Morston Hall from seeing chef/patron Galton Blackiston on various TV shows and I just love his approach to cooking. He is extremely big on seasonality and using the fantastic produce of his home county, Norfolk. And he just seems like a really lovely guy! Morston Hall has been owned by Blackiston and his wife for 22 years and for 15 of those they have held a Michelin star. It is a boutique hotel and they regularly run cookery classes too. Looking at the pictures on the website, I was expecting a huge country house in the middle of nowhere, so was quite surprised to find that even though the location is rural, it's not quite out in the sticks as I expected. It is still a grand old pile though...

  3. In our house, I usually have control of the TV remote and because of that there is normally some cooking show or other on the box. While watching one such show (I forget which one) the contestants had to prepare the cakes and pastries for an afternoon tea. The Better Half's interest was piqued....he loves anything sweet and since he has never experienced afternoon tea before, I thought it high time he did. Afternoon tea has become really popular here in London and there are lots of places offering some very quirky teas, but for his first I wanted TBH to experience the traditional type. The one that I chose was Espelette at The Connaught Hotel. English grandeur at its best, the hotel is over 100 years old. You can read more about the history here. Espelette restaurant where the afternoon tea is held, is a relatively new addition to the hotel. It's a beautiful room with light streaming in and we were seated by a window with plenty of people watching opportunity of the very affluent Mount Street...

  4. Published : Saturday, 5th April 2014

    Angler | Angler Restaurant

    Located on the 7th floor of the South Place Hotel in the heart of the City of London, Angler restaurant was for most, the surprise winner of a Michelin star last year. I say surprise winner because it came onto the scene quietly and not many people had heard of it when the stars were being handed out. My office is quite near by and after I had been to view the hotel (gorgeous), event space (double gorgeous) and restaurant (super gorgeous!) I quickly added Angler to my bucket list and booked a table for my monthly catch up with the lovely M. We decided on the set menu which is really good value at £25 for 2 courses or £30 for 3 courses. The a la carte looks a little pricey, but there were a few dishes on there that I would love to try. I started with Risotto Milanese, chilli & garlic prawns, baby squid. The risotto was a vibrant yellow from the saffron, incredibly creamy and well cooked...

  5. Published : Monday, 24th February 2014

    21 Covent Garden | 21 Covent Garden

    Bestie and I meet at least once a month for dinner and a catch up. Usually I choose where we go, but this time she was invited by the PR of restaurant 21 Covent Garden to dine at their restaurant. Located in the piazza, a pretty prime location, I was surprised that I had never heard of this restaurant before. The area is a tourist Mecca and most of the restaurants and bars around there aren't that great in my opinion, so I wasn't all that excited about eating at 21. How wrong I was! Set over three levels, the restaurant is located in the vaults with the bar and a roof terrace on the upper levels. The restaurant is quaint and atmospheric and I think would be perfect for a date and as it was in our case, for a girly catch up...

  6. Published : Saturday, 22nd February 2014

    Viajante (closed) | Viajante

    I always knew this one would blow the budget! But when I heard that Nuno Mendes, Chef/Patron at Viajante, was moving on after 4 years, I didn't care. I had missed one of my bucket list restaurants when it closed at the end of January and I refused to miss another one! Viajante is located at the Bethnal Green Town Hall, which has been converted into a beautiful Art Deco hotel in the heart of the East End. Truth be told, the area isn't great but on a beautiful day like it was on this Sunday with the bright blue sky and sunshine behind it, the building stands majestically on an otherwise drab road...

  7. Published : Sunday, 9th February 2014

    Chotto Matte | Chotto-Matte

    Chotto-Matte is the latest opening from the man behind the Ping Pong chain of restaurants and the man that brought Nobu to Europe. It is a restaurant specialising in Nikkei cuisine (a Peruvian/Japanese hybrid) Bestie and I both really love sushi and ceviche, so when deciding on where to meet up last week, this was an easy choice. Located on Frith Street in Soho, we walked into the huge restaurant and the bar area was already buzzing. We were seated at the back of the restaurant near the sushi counter and were left with a couple of menus to make our choices. It took us a while because the menu is long! Split into 10 different sections with an additional two sections for sushi, we were advised to pick between 6 and 8 different dishes depending on how hungry we were. Bestie left the ordering with me and as usual, I went a bit overboard. Originally I had started writing about each dish, but it really was starting to become quite an epic read. So I have decided to just write about the highlights and lowlights...

  8. Published : Sunday, 2nd February 2014

    Flat Iron | Flat Iron

    I’m a steak snob. There, I said it! Growing up in South Africa, where red meat is king and babies practically cut their teeth on biltong; a good piece of steak is pretty easy to find and not terribly expensive. Not so in the UK. You can’t buy a decent steak in a supermarket (or I haven’t been able to find one yet) and if you want to eat one in a restaurant, it’s going to cost you. So bearing all of that in mind, when Flat Iron opened in Soho selling steak and salad for a tenner; I was dubious to say the least and every time TBH suggested going there I always found somewhere else I would rather go. Steak for £10? Puh-lease‼! Until one Monday in January when we both had the day off, I couldn't put it off any longer...

  9. Published : Wednesday, 29th January 2014

    Aqua Shard | Aqua Shard

    It was The Better Half's (TBH) birthday on Sunday and I wanted to take him somewhere special. What could be more special than 31 floors up, with a view spanning 360 degrees across the London skyline? Aqua Shard is one of three restaurants located in the tallest building in Europe, serving modern British food. Zooming up to the 32nd floor, the lift opens up into quite a plain lobby area but once we descended the staircase to the 31st floor we found ourselves in a very sleek and sexy restaurant. We were intentionally early so that we could have a drink in the bar to appreciate the stunning views. A special occasion calls for bubbles, so we ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (£65.00). Usually drinks are marked up so much in a restaurant and I thought that although marked up, it was still pretty reasonable. We were taken through to the dining room and seated at a window seat overlooking Tower Bridge. It was absolutely breathtaking!...

  10. Published : Monday, 23rd December 2013

    Vivat Bacchus | Vivat Bacchus London Bridge

    'Tis the season to be jolly and all of that. When meeting a friend for the last of my planned Christmas festivities, I decided on a restaurant right near the station I travel home from. Lazy, I know. I have heard of Vivat Bacchus, it's owned by a few South Africans and the wine list is predominantly South African, a rare thing in London. It's been open in London Bridge since 2008 and there is another restaurant in Farringdon that has been open since 2001. I don't know why it's taken me so long to visit here. I am a massive lover of steak and they have a great selection, but it's not every day you see kangaroo on the menu...

  11. Published : Sunday, 8th December 2013

    AD12 atT42 | AD12 at T42

    AD12 at T42 is located on the 24th floor of Tower42 one of the largest buildings in the City of London. The restaurant formerly had Gary Rhodes' name above the door and I have very fond memories of his restaurant as TBH's dad was a huge fan and we took him there just before he sadly passed away. It was a fantastic family dinner that gives me a warm feeling inside when I think of it. So Gary has now moved on and will be replaced in the Spring with a restaurant by Jason Atherton. In the mean time though the space is hosting a 12 week (October 1st - December 20th) pop-up by chef Anthony Demetre - chef/patron of Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons. Arbutus has long been on my list of restaurants to try, so I was really looking forward to trying his cooking at AD12...

  12. Published : Tuesday, 12th November 2013

    Fish Market | Fish Market

    Meeting up with one of my groups of friends is always fraught with panic because one of them is.......a vegetarian! Growing up in South Africa, a carnivores paradise, it is fair to say that I love meat, so it is with some trepidation that it is left to me to pick a venue. Where to go that would accommodate the veggie (who eats fish)? Earlier this year, I dined at New Street Grill and part of the same D&D development at the Old Bengal Warehouse near Liverpool Street is the restaurant we decided on, Fish Market. Walking into the restaurant it is starkly lit and decorated in a stereotypically nautical theme. We're welcomed warmly and once seated we were left with the extensive menu to peruse. Three of the four of us decided on the set menu - a bargainous £19.50 for 3 courses!...

  13. Published : Sunday, 14th April 2013

    Donostia | Donostia

    Donostia is the Basque word for San Sebastián. Anyone who is passionate about food will know that San Sebastián in the Basque region of Spain has the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita. Donostia is also a tapas restaurant situated just behind Marble Arch. I love sharing food because that way I can get a taste of lots of different things. I'm also greedy and often have plate envy, so tapas is a win/win situation for me. Donostia has been on my radar for a while and I was even more excited to be eating there when I saw the pictures that Nigel Slater posted on Twitter earlier this week of the food he was eating there. I was looking forward to great food and a fantastic catch up with one of my besties...

  14. Published : Wednesday, 10th April 2013

    Patty & Bun James Street | Patty & Bun

    We've just returned from a 3 week holiday where we ate out two or three times every day. Instead of coming back to London and getting straight back on with the health kick, we decided to tick another restaurant off my bucket list. After a long flight and many boozy nights in South Africa, only a burger would suffice. Patty& Bun is nestled on a side street just behind Selfridges, in a neighbourhood that is bursting at the seems with 'Dirty Burger' joints. Competition is tough, but arriving 10 minutes after opening and with a queue already out the door, this had to be good. And it was. The restaurant is cramped, seating only 30 covers, but quirky. I liked the artwork drawn on cardboard boxes, the school desk type tables and the dance hall soundtrack. The menu is succinct, with only 6 different burger options and 4 different side dishes. But what more do you need?...

  15. Published : Wednesday, 26th December 2012

    The Square | The Square

    It's Christmas time and Christmas is a time for indulgence. For me, that means only one thing. Food. It's been a pretty tough year for me in lots of ways, so TBH has really pushed the boat out and decided to take me to the number one restaurant on my bucket list. The Square. Phillip Howard has been at the helm of The Square for twenty years and while many of his contemporaries have moved into the role of celebrity TV chef, Phil has steadfastly remained in the kitchen. It is only this year that he has made an appearance on The Great British Menu, won the London region of the competition, and released his first cook book. (Aptly named The Square by Phil Howard) The restaurant has won a whole host of awards including 2 Michelin stars, which I think is largely due to the fact that Phil Howard is a constant presence and has a vested interest in how his restaurant is run...

  16. Published : Thursday, 20th December 2012

    Bone Daddies | Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

    I was meeting a friend for a girly afternoon in Soho yesterday and we decided to pop into Bone Daddies Ramen Bar for a quick spot of lunch. They have a 'no reservations policy' and the restaurant just happens to be on my bucket list of places to try. So it all worked out rather well! The restaurant is the brainchild of Ross Shonhan, former head chef at Zuma and Nobu - both excellent Japanese restaurants, so you know this will be good! Ramen has been one of the many trends to hit the London food scene this year and the opening of Bone Daddies just before winter could not be more perfectly timed. What better comfort food than a bowl of steaming hot broth?...

  17. Published : Monday, 17th December 2012

    José | José

    First stop, José. The first tapas and sherry bar from José Pizarro, formerly of Brindisa in Borough Market, once described as the best tapas bar in Britain by The Independent Newspaper. The restaurant is located on a corner of Bermondsey Street and as soon as you step in, you forget that you're in South London. It is tiny, but perfectly formed. Authentic Spanish tiles line the walls, wine barrels used as tables and huge legs of Jamon hanging from the ceiling. I've heard that the restaurant gets really busy and there is often a queue to get in, so we arrived early and managed to bag a very cosy spot in a corner by the window...

  18. Published : Sunday, 9th December 2012

    Benares | Benares

    Another week and another 'end of project' celebratory lunch. We had a lot of people to celebrate with, but this is the last one, I promise! Our American project manager and my dear friend, loves Indian food and so our hosts chose to take us to Benares in the heart of Mayfair. Chef Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star (at his previous restaurant Tamarind) and still retains a star at Benares. This isn't your usual curry house you would find on every British High street, that is for sure! Atul combines his heritage Indian flavours with traditionally British ingredients to create a unique and interesting menu...

  19. Published : Sunday, 9th December 2012

    Hawksmoor Guildhall | Hawksmoor, Guildhall

    One of our good friends in South Africa regularly comes to London for business. On his last trip here we got talking about food and I was telling him about the amazing restaurants in this fair city. In particular, I was waxing lyrical about the fabulous steaks you could get here. He basically laughed in my face! "There is no such thing as a decent steak in London!". He needed to be taught a lesson and what better place to go to than Hawksmoor? I don't want to come over all gushy, but to me, Hawksmoor - whichever branch you visit - does the best steak in London!...

  20. Published : Wednesday, 14th November 2012

    Simpson's-in-the-Strand | Simpsons-in-the-Strand

    The end of last week saw another 'end of project' celebratory lunch. I'm not normally this lucky to have two business lunches in one week, but it’s been a long hard slog, so more than deserved I think! Simpsons-in-the-Strand is a British institution. It was opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffeehouse - what Wimbledon is to tennis, Simpson’s is to chess - and only opened its doors to women as recently as 1984. The restaurant was the first to wheel large joints of beef and lamb in on a trolley to the table and carve it there to avoid disturbing the chess players. A tradition they still carry out today. It is a glorious room, all wood panelling, oil paintings and plush carpets. The waiters are all dressed in dickie bows and it’s all very old school...

  21. Published : Sunday, 11th November 2012

    Bread Street Kitchen | Bread Street Kitchen

    Gordon Ramsay restaurants have been like buses for me. I don't go to any for ages and then it's two in one week! I'm not a huge Ramsay fan, mainly because I doubt he's ever in the kitchen much any more. But I do love all the chefs that have come out of his kitchens - Jason Atherton, Angela Hartnett, Mark Sargent and the man overseeing Bread Street Kitchen, Stuart Gillies. I was taken to BSK this week as an 'end of project' work celebration. The restaurant is situated in the One New Change shopping precinct, the first shopping centre to be built in the City for over 150 years! The restaurant is cavernous and very loud and every table was full when we arrived on a Monday lunch time, which speaks volumes about the quality of cooking coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant has been designed to look like a warehouse, all exposed brick and duct work, but with some fabulous Art Deco touches...

  22. Published : Sunday, 4th November 2012

    Maze Grill | Maze Grill

    It was a very special friend's birthday last week. She loves Gordon Ramsay and as it was a momentous day for her, she decided to book The Butcher's Block at Maze Grill for 10 of her closest friends to help her celebrate. I've been to Maze Grill a couple of times before, when Jason Atherton was still there....and before Hawksmoor (To me, the best steak in London) I remember loving Maze Grill though. It amazes me how quickly places fall out of fashion because I must admit to not giving it a second thought once the new breed of steakhouses opened up over recent years!...

  23. Published : Monday, 29th October 2012

    Polpo Covent Garden | Da Polpo

    It was a pretty cold and rainy Friday night last week but as soon as we walked in, the place just enveloped you in warmth. Literally and figuratively. Russell Norman knows how to do atmosphere! We had an early table, which I was miffed about at first – I mean who wants to eat dinner at 6pm? But an hour later when the bar was heaving, I was grateful for our cosy little table at the back of the restaurant. We ordered the house red wine, which was a very reasonable £18 while we perused the menu. We decided to go for 1 dish from each section of the menu, because we’re greedy like that!...

  24. Published : Sunday, 21st October 2012

    Pollen Street Social | Pollen Street Social

    Pollen Street Social is the first solo venture of former right-hand man of Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton. A man who has also worked with the likes of Pierre Kaufman at Le Tante Claire and the first Brit to work with Ferran Adria at the 3 Michelin star El Bulli in Spain. So you just know it’s going to be good! As soon as you walk you in, you get what Atherton was trying to do. The interior is all wood and leather and noise! This isn't what your typical Michelin star restaurants look like. Not only has he put 'social' in the name, but it’s in the feel of the place too! Fine dining in a totally relaxed atmosphere...

  25. Published : Monday, 1st October 2012

    Theo Randall at the InterContinental Hotel | Theo Randall

    So as it was my turn to pick, I decided on something that I knew TBH (The Better Half) isn’t all that keen on but that I absolutely love, a good Italian restaurant! And for me, there was only one – THEO RANDALL at The Inter-Continental. I’ve been watching Theo on Saturday cooking shows for a while and I just love his approach to cooking. It’s all about quality and using the best ingredients to create the most perfect dish. Simplicity is also key and you won’t find a million different ingredients in his dishes. What I love most though, is that Theo Randall is not just a name above the door, like so many other “celebrity chefs”, but that you’ll find him running the pass and getting out and talking to his customers on any given service. I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself on the night we went and I have to say, what a charmer! He really took the time to talk to all of us and by the time he left our table, he had us all swooning!...

  26. Published : Tuesday, 25th September 2012

    Camino | Camino

    We start the day with a river cruise from London Bridge to Canary Wharf. This is a great way to see London and if you have an Oyster card, you get a discount too! So much better than being stuck on a hot, sweaty tube! The boat stops right outside our destination for the day…. Camino Puerto del Canario. This restaurant is part of a small chain, with restaurants based in Kings Cross and The City. Even though Canary Wharf on a weekend during the Olympics is totally deserted, we chose this branch because of the gorgeous outside terrace and awesome views. It’s a wonder it isn’t packed out on sunny days, but an absolute bonus for us because there is no bun fight for that precious outside table! We arrive absolutely starving and dive straight into the menu...