London: relaxed dinner at The Ninth

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You have to search far and wide to find a more relaxed Michelin starred restaurant. In London at least. But that’s also what I love about The Ninth; that it (and its staff) seem so relaxed without losing the professional edge. That just sets a perfect ambience for the guests and you feel like it’s just your table there although there are other guests and staff surrounding you.

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It probably helps that The Ninth is situated in Charlotte Street; still central and an area for dining out, but without the worst hustle and bustle of Soho (and yet – it’s still within walking distance).

Arriving a little late, and flustered, for our dinner here – due to the sometimes terrible London traffic, it was like stepping into a calm oasis. We were seated at our table, felt like we had all the time in the world to decide on the wine and study the menu and immediately we lowered our shoulders and took the time we needed.

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Which wasn’t all that much; the only problem was narrowing down what to eat as we’d happily eaten our way through the entire menu had we been able! Instead we started with a light snack of barbajuan, little parcels filled with spinach, pine nuts and cheese (if I remember correctly). They were very good and the perfect start to our dinner.

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Next we had pasta; orecchiette with an egg yolk and PLENTY of black truffle which I love. This was a lovely dish. So simple but perfectly executed.

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Our next pasta dish was fried gnocchi with mussels, which was also very nice but slightly overshadowed by the truffle feast. In the background lovely baked root vegetables with Fourme d’Ambert. Delicious!

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The piece de resistance here was not the pudding (we were too full to even consider it!) but the main course, a beautiful duck breast cooked to perfection, with rhubarb, rainbow chard and granola. The crispy Belle de Fontenay potatoes and the root vegetables were the perfect accompaniments.

It was such a lovely dinner – and evening. Instead of pudding we had champagne at the nearby Charlotte Street Hotel and then ventured into Soho.

The Ninth, 22 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NB

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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

 

Meat feast at Zelman Meats, Soho

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The team behind the amazing meat restaurants Goodman (and Beast and Burger & Lobster) opened a new meat restaurant in the space where the fish restaurant Rex & Mariano (also owned by the same company) used to reside. In fact, they still use the Rex & Mariano crockery.

Zelman Meats (after the founder Mikhail Zelman) is a mid-market steak restaurant offering “All we do is beef, and we stick to what we know best” according to the website.

The menu is simple, with just a few starters, four different cuts of beef, sides and a few puddings. I like this simple no-fuss approach, which also makes the ambiance relaxed. It’s not white table cloths like Goodman, just good steak and sides in a relaxed restaurant.

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This is where to go to pig out on great steak, because the bill won’t be that bad and the meat is just as nice here as at Hawksmoor or Goodman. Take your date or a group of friends and just let your hair down. The staff is really friendly and relaxed but with a sincere passion for steak so they can guide you through the cuts and let you know what’s best served rare or medium.

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I came here with two colleagues for lunch, and as only one of us has a big appetite we ordered modestly to begin with, some delicious picanha and amazingly smoky and tender short rib. Once that was demolished we ordered more of the same and enjoyed it with crispy chips, salad and the two sauces on the menu. It was great and even the least meat eater out of the three of us (obviously not me) loved every bite!

Zelman Meats, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ 

 

(Birthday)Dinner at Mele e Pere, Soho

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I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my girls around nice but unpretentious food just having a good time. And Mele e Pere offered just that. And  they had decent prosecco on tap! Amazing!

One of my friends can’t eat wheat and the staff were really sweet trying to amend the dishes to suit her.

We started off with some prosecco and rosé at a table in the bar before sitting down in the restaurant sharing lots of starters.

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We had two burratas (one with a tomato sauce containing bread and one with just cherry tomatoes and olive oil), ricotta with peas and broad beans, octopus scewer with potatoes, melon and San Daniele ham, vitello tonnao and gnocchi with speck and parmesan.

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Octopus scewer with potato and a lovely purée

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Ricotta with peas and broad beans

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Min plate with all the different dishes

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After all that we were quite happy to order small portions of our mains, which were just the right size. The different take on spaghetti carbonara with ravioli (above) looked delicious and I can’t wait to try that next time.

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This time I had the lobster risotto which was amazing too! Absolutely loved it!

I really enjoyed our dinner here. It was quite spacious so you could just sit and talk about whatever without feeling like the table next to you can hear every word. The staff was friendly, utterly helpful and efficient and the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed. Can’t wait to go back. Soon. Very soon.

46 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9TF