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

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Dinner at Tredwell’s, Covent Garden

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The Masterchef: The Professionals judge and famous chef Marcus Wareing, known for fine dining, opened the doors to a more casual restaurant in Covent Garden in September that I have been very curious to try since.

Two floors, the interior a flirt with art deco and trendy well-cooked food is certainly a good combination. Especially when located bang in the middle of Central London.

We had a lovely chorizo jam with charred bread as a snack while looking over the menu.

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My friend Tom started with slowcooked salmon with spirulina and cauliflower which was really nice and interesting.

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I went for a classic dish with a twist; incredibly fluffy chicken liver mousse served in a jam jar over bacon jam (yep, it’s all about meat jam at the moment), with toasted bread. The flavour of the mousse was amazing but it was incredibly rich.

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The main courses followed the same rustic no-fuss theme and the confit duck leg with charred cabbage was a show of simplicity. Incredibly tender meat!

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I had a gratin with smoked haddock, crab and courgette. It was fresh and although the smoked fish flavour was strong the other flavours came through well too. We both had mash as sides which was nice but nothing special.

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The portions were generous and we were pretty full after all that. But then we saw the pudding menu offering soft serve salted caramel ice cream and couldn’t resist. It was quite a milky ice cream (I prefer a creamier texture) but the flavour was nice and the honeycomb a nice touch.

Tredwell’s certainly feels like a restaurant from a team who knows what they’re doing. The decoration is nice and feels luxe although it is a casual restaurant, the food is very on trend (chorizo jam!) and what people want to eat right now as well as perfectly cooked. The waiting staff are all young people in casual uniforms and although the service was good when paid attention to, there was a lot of joking around with the colleagues instead of keeping track of the tables.

With the waiting staff being a bit more on the ball this restaurant is my new favourite casual restaurant in the area. With the close proximity to the West End theatres this is an area overpopulated with boring chain restaurants and Tredwell’s is a most welcome addition.

Tredwell’s, 4a Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9NY

Lunch at Barrafina, Covent Garden

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Barrafina, one of London’s best tapas restaurants, have opened a second restaurant conveniently located two minutes away from my office and with more seating than in the original restaurant on Soho’s Frith Street.

The new restaurant also consists of a tapas bar with full view into the kitchen behind it so you interact with the chefs during your meal. I love that set up and the fact that this new restaurant is more spacious so if you’re waiting for a table you’re still comfortable.

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I went here with two colleagues and we all had some input on what to order so it is a real mix. The first dish to arrive were the crab croquetas which were very nice!

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The pan con tomato was also really nice and not too wet.

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But the star of the show was definitely one of the day’s specials; langoustines with tarragon butter. They were absolutely delicious and cooked to perfection!

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We also had the classix tortilla, which might not look very special but it is the best one I’ve ever had (including those in Spain). It was filled with plenty of caramelised onions and wonderfully creamy.

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Grilled asparagus with Romesco sauce and pecorino was another delight.

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As well as the incredibly simple yet perfectly executed salad of various tomatoes, fennel and avocado.

The food is simply prepared here but the produce is so good it would be wrong to serve it any other way!

Barrafina, 10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HZ