London: The Palomar, Soho

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The Palomar in Soho is a snug little restaurant serving up dishes from the Jerusalem of today and has been around for a while. It’s still as popular as when it opened and I had a fab dinner with my friend Felicity here quite a while ago that I’d like to tell you all about.

Arriving on a weekday after work the small restaurant was of course full (always expect a popular Soho restaurant to be full unless you go very early or very late) so we put our names on the list and when in search of a drink.

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About an hour later our seats at the bar were ready and our enthusiastic water welcomed us and started to recommend dishes from the menu. The kabaneh, a Yemeni pot baked bread with tahini and a tomato sauce was a must and we loved dipping the fluffy bread in the different sauces.

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Next we had a special for the day; crispy Jerusalem artichoke with tuna rillette and duck fat which was amazingly good. Loved loved loved this one!

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The burnt courgette tzatziki was another favourite. It also pairs very well with the bread!

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Another special, the bonito carpaccio, savoury cookie crumble was also really nice! And full of freshness.

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The Jerusalem style polenta with asparagus, mushrooms, parmesan and truffle oil was pure indulgence (I wish I could cook polenta like that!!) and a real treat.

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But the deconstructed kebab with minced beef & lamb, yoghurt, tahini, cured lemon and harissa disappointed us a little. It was still nice – but lacked a bit om oomph compared to the other dishes.

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So did The beets go prawn with smoky beetroot, labneh, prawn jus, basil and chilli but it was still a nice plate of food. Just lacking a bit of wow factor.

All together we had a fantastic evening here, chatting with our waiter, the people next to us and of course each other, enjoying some excellent food and lovely wine! This is what Soho is all about for me; the informal yet amazing dining experiences.

The Palomar, 34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN

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London: New York Italian at Hai Cenato?

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Jason Atherton’s empire continues to grow and the latest restaurant to open was this New York-y Italian restaurant in the new Nova development by Victoria. It’s in goof company with Rail House Café, Aster, Franco Manca etc. nearby.

The first time I came was early one Sunday evening with my friends Helen and Pete and their son Eddie. We’d had a lovely Sunday afternoon exploring the Natural History Museum, had eclairs and coffee at wonderful Maitre Choux and a walk to Buckingham Palacea and were happy to sit down and tuck into some food just as the skies opened.

Hai Cenato? (means ‘Have you had dinner?’ in Italian) certainly feels New York-y with it’s high ceilings, long bar counter, sketched portraits and cosy feel. It’s nice but relaxes and the menu echoes that with pasta dishes, rosso and bianca pizzas and meats from the grill.  and modern yet cosy interior.

They also have a kids menu and children eat free on Sundays, which is a nice touch.

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Eddie chose a pasta with tomato sauce and plenty of grated parmesan from the kids menu  and was very pleased with his choice.

Helen and I both chose the corzetti pasta with bolognese sauce sage, browned butter and grated Berkswell cheese. It was absolutely delicious and felt very indulgent. The sauce was really rich and could have done with a bit more pasta because of the richness but it was a nice size portion. We also shared a side of amazing crushed potatoes that soaked up the last of my bolognese.

Pete chose a lovely vibrant green risotto with oeas, broad beans and crab that was just perfectly executed.

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We were certainly full after our main courses but still fancied pudding and after a quick browse on the (excellent) dessert menu I chose the brioche with salted caramel ice cream. I just love salted caramel and expected a dainty dessert, perfect to finish off my meal but instead I got a large (burger size) brioche bun and THREE scoops of salted caramel ice cream (insert surprised emoji here). The flavour combination was spot on of course but the portion size ridiculous, especially after such starchy food as pasta or pizza.

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Helen’s chocolate and coffee fondant with creme fraiche, puffed rice and caramel was more the size we had expected and absolutely delicious!

We had a lovely dinner here, but also experienced some (I hope they are) teething problems like slow service and I got poured a flat glass of prosecco which just shouldn’t have left the bar and it took ages to get a new one. It’s not the end of the world of course, but I expect an overall smooth and lovely experience when I go to a restaurant, especially when it’s a quiet evening.

I went back last week with my friend Nick for pizza and a glass of wine and the service was a lot better (i.e. smooth) and the place buzzing with people. Oh, and the pizza? DIVINE!

Hai Cenato?, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London SW1E 5DJ

London: relaxed brunch at Rail House Café

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Another restaurant to open in the new development by Victoria is, Riding House Café, cleverly calling this branch Rail House Café.

I love the original restaurant on Great Titchfield Street, as much for it’s wooden interior and cosiness as for the food. This new restaurant is all modern with large glass windows but is still cosy in the same way.

I came here a while ago with my friend Daisy for brunch one Sunday and it was so lovely I would happily go back every weekend. The interior is really relaxed with sofas as well as proper tables, inviting you to take it easy and not rush. We had coffee and a proper brunch dish each. Daisy went for an avocado toast with additional poached eggs and crispy bacon, whereas I chose a version of Eggs Benedict but with crab cakes instead of ham.

Both dishes were really well executed and lovely, and really substantial. Such a great brunch spot!

Rail House Café, 8 Sir Simon Milton Square, London Victoria SW1E 5DJ

 

London: Scandi lunch at Aster

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The building works near Victoria station has been going on for years, but now some parts of the development are finally ready. The rest is still a building site but the whole Nova area is brand new and quite exciting. There’s a Shake Shack (yum!), Franco Manca (yes, please!) and lots more restaurants to explore. The Scandinavian one was the first one I tried out, with my dear friends Gaby and Rowena for lunch one weekend.

Aster, as the restaurant is called, has a very nice interior (like all D&D London restaurants) and has a café area, restaurant area, bar and deli.

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We had lunch in the café area but it still felt restauranty enough for a lunch.

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With lots of familiar items on the menu it was difficult to choose but we got there in the end.

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Gaby had the meatballs with potato mash, cream sauce and lingonberries. Really nice and I got a small case of food envy (even though my homemade meatballs are really nice too!).

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I went for the smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches). One with pork belly, apple sauce and lovely crackling on rye.

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And one with prawns and mayonnaise. The pork sandwich was lovely and ticked all the boxes but I was disappointed with the prawn sandwich. It tasted nice, but I would have expected at least the double amount of prawns. Smørrebrød always have more toppings than bread but here that wasn’t the case.

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Rowena had the Aster Caeser salad with prawns, smoked vendace and rye croutons, but it arrived without the fish on the plate (!) and we had to ask for it. Then it took quite a while until the complete salad arrived and it was also smaller in size than the first one.

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The food was nice though (not wow – but nice) so we had pudding as well. Rowena had the apple cake with custard above which was really nice.

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And Gaby and I had a cinnamon bun each which was amazing. Still warm, buttery and lovely. We also spied people around us having afternoon tea which looked great so definitely want to go back and try that.

There are definitely a few tweaks to be done here, both when it comes to food and service (it was rather slow and wobbly) but hopefully it was all teething problems and it’s fixed now.

Aster restaurant, 150 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5LB

London: crudo and pasta at Veneta

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SaltYard Group, the company behind favourites like Ember Yard and Opera Tavern recently opened a restaurant in the newly redeveloped area of St James’s, just next to Swedish Aquavit actually. Called Veneta it has a distinct Italian, and Ventian, cuisine, compared to the other restaurants with a more Spanish menu.

I assume it’s because of my frequent visits to Opera Tavern (I wonder how many times I’ve eaten their mini pork and foie gras burger) that I was on the mailing list for Veneta’s soft launch.Either way, I was quick to book a table and went there one night after work with my friend Ro.

As it was a soft launch they offered 50 % off food in exchange for trying things out on us, and requesting feedback.

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Just like the other restaurants in the group, Veneta’s menu consists of small dishes perfect for sharing. I was super excited to see a whole section of the menu devoted to crudo, i.e. raw fish and seafood, which I love and we quickly ordered the raw red prawns with rosemary (top photo). They were plump and sweet and very fragrant from the rosemary. Lovely! Next time I want to try the raw red prawns with lardo.

Next we had the tortelloni, filled with red prawns and served in a seafood broth. It was nice but didn’t blow us away.

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The goat kid ragu with pappardelle however, did. It was just amazing and I predict it will become one of their signature dishes (if it isn’t already!).

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The salt baked carrots and beets with sheep ricotta, date purée and oregano was lovely and the plate was as pretty as a picture. It’s fun to see the vegetable dishes getting as much care and attention as the meat and fish dishes.

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The lamb with chard, lamb fat crisps and caprini fresco cheese was another amazing dish I’ll come back for.

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For pudding both Ro and I were set on having one of the amazing sounding sundaes but they were all sold out (sob) so we had a rethink and settled on fritelle doughnuts for Ro and tiramisu for me.

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The doughnuts were rather compact and chewy but that could have been intentional, as neither of us have had Italian doughnuts before. The taste was lovely though and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam works every time. The tiramisu was really nice but lacked a little in presentation I thought.

I could definitely see some teething problems here, like the tables being too close together (it felt like we had dinner with, not next to, our neighbours) and the waiting staff didn’t seem to have worked out a routine yet, but that’s also the whole point of this trial run soft launch.

Food wise I think the savoury dishes were very good and thought out, whereas the puddings could have done with a little more work, however I’m still intrigued by those sundaes and hope they haven’t sold out on my next visit.

I have already planned my meal. Definitely lots of crudo, the kid goat ragu and the lamb. And that ice cream.

Veneta, 3 Norris St, St. James’s Market, London SW1Y 4RJ

London: Loved every bite at Kricket Soho

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It feels like almost every day a new fun restaurant opens its doors in Soho. Maybe not quite, but I love how this part of London evolves quicker than the rest.

One of the latest additions to Soho’s Denman Street is the opening of Kricket Soho. Kricket started out in a shipping container in Brixton and created such a following with their trendy Indian dishes that they opened a proper restaurant in Soho.  My friend Felicity, and also my dinner companion this evening, has frequently visited the Brixton restaurant and so was my menu guide here.

Some dishes were completely new additions to the menu, which our waiter kindly highlighted for us. And when I queried if the Grüner Veltliner would work well with the food he poured us a taster so we could decide. And yes, the slightly fruity (but not sweet) Grüner Veltliner complimented the array of dishes perfectly.

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Our first dish of the evening, and a must for Felicity, was the bhel puri – one of their classics consisting of puffed rice, raw mango, tamarind, sev and yoghurt. Sublime!

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The Hyderabad baby aubergines with coconut and curry leaves we had next were nice, but lacked a little oomph compared to the other dishes, we thought.

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The Lasooni scallop with goan sausage, poha and seaweed (we had one each) were really nice! Perfectly cooked, the roe still attached and full of flavour.

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Next we had another seafood dish; butter garlic crab with seaweed papad (papadums) which was also delicious. It was served warm but we still had some left towards the end of the meal and it was just as nice cold.

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The kathi roll with duck leg was utterly moreish and perfectly paired with the peanut chutney and pickled cucumber.

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Although it may not look that special, this kulcha bread with bone marrow and cep was amazing!

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The last dish we had were these grilled lamb chops that we could see on the pass when we arrived and I knew straight away from the smell that they would be delicious. They certainly were and the two sauces; yoghurt with black stone flower and wild garlic chutney were lovely too!

Although using lots of Indian flavours and ingredients there is definitely an element of cross-over here, by using wild garlic and creating dishes full of flavour but not too spicy. I’m sold! And will be back shortly. Probably with Felicity as we both loved it!

Kricket, 12 Denman Street, London W1D 7HH

London: Shackfuyu

As proof that time is passing at what feels like the speed of light, here’s a post I meant to publish at the end of the summer last year when I’d just enjoyed my birthday meal at Bone Daddies’ Shackfuyu. I love this type of food that I would describe as Japanese junk food and the restaurant calls Western Japanese food.

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My friend Ro and I met up for a drink at then newly opened Café Monico before heading over to Shackfuyu. We were both really hungry and ordered away. First up was padron peppers. Not much to say about them really; they’re always lovely!

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Next we had the Korean fried wings which were nice and hot, just very messy to eat!

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The imo fries, crispy sweet potato fries, with yuzu mayo were also lovely.

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And by the time we had the sashimi it was a lovely palate cleanser with its fresh flavours.

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At the beginning of the meal the food arrived at a fast and steady pace but when it was time for the last two dishes – the heavier ones – we waited for approximately 40 mins. Not great and it wasn’t communicated very well to us either. It was just a shame as we then started to feel full before the rich meaty dishes finally arrived. We still managed to enjoy them though, but it was a bit of an effort trying to finish them!

The sukiyaki style wagyu picanha was amazing but so so rich. It was piping hot when it arrived, cooking the beef in the stone bowl at the table. When it was cooked we mixed it all together and thoroughly enjoyed the sweet sticky sauce enriched with an egg yolk and the enoki mushrooms. A must-order dish!

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The sticky fatty lamb ribs with pickled plum miso glaze were also full of umami and finger-lickin’ good.

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We were beyond full at this point but still had to order the Kinako French Toast with matcha soft serve ice cream. It’s probably the most instagrammed dessert in London and very very good, even when you’re so full you’re about to explode!

Shackfuyu, 14a Old Compton St, London W1D 4TJ