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

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Dinner at Social Eating House, Soho

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Jason Atherton has been busy opening restaurants the last few years with the additions of City Social, Little Social and Social Eating House to his earlier established Pollen Street Social.

Out of the new editions I have only been to Little Social, but a few weeks ago I went to Social Eating House in Soho for dinner with a friend from home I haven’t seen in ages. It was so much fun and since we’re both foodies we thoroughly enjoyed the food as well!

Both starters were amazing! My smoked Angus steak tartare (above) was to die for. Lovely flavours, amazing meat and loved the toppings that added different textures. Oh and the egg cream was delicious too!

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Mattias basically had a cheese fondue on a plate with warm Vacherin Mont d’Or, croutons, ham, chicory and boiled new potatoes. Utterly delicious!

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The main courses were also really nice. This slowcooked venison with date jam, kale, brazil nuts and goat’s cheese was delicious but the lamb was even better. V

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The lamb loin from Kent with neck confit, miso caramel, aubergine and mint yoghurt was pure perfection! Especially the confit was to die for and the whole combination of flavours was spot on!

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We were too full for a proper pudding (the portions here were certainly substantial) but we couldn’t resist some sorbets and icecreams. Mattias had the coconut (which tasted a bit like Malibu) and mixed berry, which was really nice. The mango sorbet I had was really good and the yoghurt icecream was nice too.

I’m a big fan of chef Atherton and his restaurants. Both I’ve been too have a very high standard of both food, wine and service. The ambiance is nice and relaxed too which is a plus. It’s just very well done. All of it.

Social Eating House, 58 Poland Street, Soho, London W1F 7NR

Salmon with pea mousse and crayfish tails

The starter at my birthday party back home was a recipe courtesy of Jason Atherton. It’s from his wonderful cookbook Gourmet Food for a Fiver. I really enjoyed the dish, but it was lacking a little bit of ‘oomph’ so don’t be surprised if you see a new spin on this dish here soon.

Although it is a British chef’s recipe the dish seems quite Scandinavian, and I made sure to use the best salmon availble. It is a fresh and summery dish and it feels very light.

Salmon with pea mousse and crayfis tails, serves 4

Adapted from Jason Atherton’s recipe.

260 g skinless salmon fillets, cut into 4 portions

600 vegetable oil

salt

80 g good-quality crayfish tails in brine, draines

1/2 cucumber

Pea mousse:

1 lef gelatine

1/2 tsp caster sugar, plus a pinch or two

300 g frozen peas

75 ml double cream, lightly whipped

1/2 tsp lemon juice

Garnish:

handful of watercress sprigs or pea shoots (I used maché)

olive oil to drizzle

Heat up the vegetable oil in a wide heavy-based pan and place over a very low heat until it registets 55C on a frying thermometer. Lower the salmon fillets into the oil and poach them gently at this temperature for 6-8 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep it at 55C as necessary. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the salmon fillets and drain them on kitchen paper. Transfer to a plate, cover and refrigerate.

Soften the gelatine by soaking in cold water to cover. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, with a pinch of sugar added. Have ready a bowl of iced water. Add the peas to the oan, bring back to the boil and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Drain, reserving 80 ml of the liquid, and immediately plunge the peas into the iced water to refresh.

Squeeze the gelatine to remove excess water, then dissolve in the reserved hot cooking liquid. Drain the cooled peas and tip into a blender. Add the dissolved gelatine and blend to a smooth purée. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing the pulp to extract all of the juice; you should have about 200 ml.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream, sugar and lemon juice into the pea purée. Season with salt and add a little more sugar to taste, if needed. Chill to set.

Just before serving, rinse the crayfish tails and pat dray. Peel the cucumber, halve lengthways and dessed, then cut into batons (I peeled it and used a potato peeler to peel long thin strips).

Take the salmon out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving to bring to room temperature. Plate.