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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Taste of London 2016

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The week before last, Taste of London, the restaurant festival I visit every year, was on in Regents Park. It was nice like always, but I was still a bit disappointed. Some of the restaurants were not as exciting as previous years and didn’t deliver amazing dishes. Previous years it’s been a higher standard on the whole, so I hope it gets better again last year. With that said, I still tried some great dishes, but also a few disappointments. Reviews below.

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Parmesan and polenta croquetas with truffle dip from Duck & Waffle: crispy, seriously cheesy, far too rich and not enough truffle flavour. Pretty dull actually.

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Fettuccine with broad beans, Grana Padana and black truffle from Sartoria: nice pasta and generously sprinkled covered with black truffle it still didn’t impress.

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Barbecued lamm cutlet from Roka: really nice!

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Grilled pork belly with miso marinade, also from Roka: very nice!

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Soft shell crab taco from Champor Champor: not very nice, but like the idea.

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Baked scallop with mustard, chilli and cheese, covered with puff pastry from Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen: nice and different! But very filling.

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Raw red prawns with black curry and coconut crème from Restaurant M: nice flavours but the curry slightly overpowered the lovely sweet prawns.
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Bao with duck from Chai Wu: alright but now wow.

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Hotdog with truffled mac ‘n cheese bites from Bubbledogs: nice hotdog but couldn’t really taste the truffle (oil).

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Lamm meatballs with sheep’s curd from Seacontainers: OK, but nothing spectacular.

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Fried chicken burger with Asian slaw from Chicks ‘n Sours: nice!

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48 hr short rib with lovely trimmings from Restaurant M: absolutely lovely and in a class of its own!

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Bacon and cheddar burger from Shake Shack: nice enough but it doesn’t beat their Shackburger.

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SASA roll from Sushisamba: really nice! I’ve had it lots of times already, but it’s still great!

Restaurant M was a nice acquaintance, and having had the (two) SASA rolls I can’t wait to go back to Sushisamba soon, but some of the other restaurants were a bit disappointing. Hope it gets better again next year.

Taste of London, Regent’s Park – annual restaurant festival

Dinner at Magdalen, London Bridge

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There are definitely holes in my London knowledge of restaurants and I really appreciate when friends introduce me to new places. I had never heard of Magdalen near London before a friend took me there, as it’s not an area I usually frequent but Magdalen was a good find; a really cosy neighbourhood bistro.

We started with potted crab with toasted sourdough. Simple and very nice!

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For my mains I chose the pan-fried cod with leek, little beans and clams in a creamy delicious sauce. Very satisfying with subtle flavours.

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The pork belly with seriously crispy crackling, lentils and green beans was equally nice. I can honestly say that London Bridge is not one of my favourite areas in London, but having this restaurant in your neighbourhood is a little bit tempting.

Magdalen, 152 Tooley Street, London SE1 2TU

Two favourites in Palma revisited

During the last few years I have come to love Spanish cuisine. In London there are plenty of authentic and nice tapas around, at Barrafina, Barrica and the Saltyard group for example.

Palma has plenty of nice restaurants and it was especially two I couldn’t wait to go back to; Tast and Puro Chef.

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On Saturday we had lunch at Tast in the middle of the town centre. There are cold pinxtos at the bar to pick yourself and warm pinxtos and tapas on the menu to order. Further in there is a proper restaurant serving more filling maincourses but I prefer the all day bar menu. We ordered some pan con tomato because the neighbouring table had some and it looked amazing. And it was. Of the cold pinxtos we had crab mayonnaise with smoked salmon, white fish with pickled pepper and fried quail’s egg and beef with tomato and mayonnaise. The marinated camembert (looks like a fish tartar) was the only one we didn’t like – the others were amazing! From the menu we ordered a crab and gulas (mini eels) gratin each (so so good!), a kebab with monkfish, king prawn and peppers and a mini toastie with the local sombrassada sausage and cheese. All great!

I like the fact that Tast is unpretentious, nice but not fancy and that the food is consistently good. Everything is well-cooked but simple and you can pop in for a proper dinner or just a glass of wine and nibbles. The wines, by the way, are very good and very reasonably priced!

Tast, C/ Unión, 2, 07001 Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Puro chef

Another afvourite is Puro Chef in Santa Catalina. Here they take pinxtos to gourmet level, serve nice tapas, proper maincourses and puddings. I never seem to be able to order anything other than the amazing gourmet pinxtos and a few tapas to share.

The jamon iberico croquetas were the best I have ever had (and I have sampled my fair share). They came out piping hot, were incredibly delicate and creamy and of course the flavour was spot on. How they were able to deep-fry anything so soft is a mystery to me! The amuse bouche was a creamy concoction with tuna and eggs served on sourdough. Of the gourmet pinxtos we both had the scallops with paprika purée which was delicious. Laura had the anchovies and lime toast full of salty goodness that she really liked and I couldn’t help but order the crispy suckling pig with Spanish sauce that I fell in love with last time. And it was just as delicious as I remembered. But the star of the evening was a brand new pinxtos the waitress recommended to us. Octopus with potato foam. It was utterly amazing. The foam was rich and light at the same time and had the most amazing flavour and hidden underneath were pieces of wonderful octopus.

Puro Chef, c/ Sant Magí 66, Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Hvar Town, Croatia

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The first week of my summer holidays was spent in sunny Croatia. We had one evening in Split and then stayed in Hvar town for the rest of the week. Gaby, Rowena and I had an amazing week with lots of sleep, lots of sunbathing, a bit of party and several nice meals. My ideal holiday.

We stayed jn Hvar Town the whole time and although it is small town there were plenty of restaurants to choose from so we never got bored.

Macondo

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Our first evening we tried Macondo, a fish restaurant with a great reputation. We tried the local dish marinated octopus which was really nice and then shared a platter of grilled seafood and a lobster pasta. The food was alright but not amazing so we were a little disappointed. But then again, maybe we just ordered the wrong things from the menu?!

Macondo, Groda, Hvar Town, Croatia

Zlatna Skoljka  (Golden Shell restaurant)

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This restaurant’s speciality is slow cooking and offered lots of stews. We started with a fish tartar (not sure which particular fish) to share and then Gaby and I had the fish stew with potatoes and shelfish. It is one of their signature dishes and it was nice in a homemade kind of way. Rowena had a beef stew (shortribs?) with dumplings that was very heavy. The meat was very tender melted in the mouth and although a hearty stew isn’t summer food for me it was nice and well cooked.

Zlatna Skoljka, Petra Hektorovića 8, 21450 Hvar, Croatia

Giaxa

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Gaixa had a bit more oomph than the previous two restaurants. Gaby and Ro shared the swordfish carpaccio which was lovely and so was my ravioli with truffle sauce. The beef with gnoochi and truffle was utterly delicious while my swordfish with cauliflower mash was underseasoned a little underwhelming. But overall I really liked this place.

Giaxa, Trg Tv. Petra Hektorovića 3, 21450, Hvar, Croatia

Paradies Garden

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We sat outside in a cozy courtyard at Paradies Garden and could watch the boats in the harbour. The portions were huge but everything we tried was well-cooked and very nice; grilled fish, risotto, scallops and their signature dish – meat cooked on a hot stone. The table next to ours shared a huge seafood platter that looked great too!

Paradies Garden, Groda bb, Hvar, Hvar Island 21450, Croatia

Restaurant Vartal

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Ro and Gaby noticed this place when out for a walk and thought the pizzas looked nice. So that’s what we had when we had dinner here the last night (and pasta). It is a no-fuss restaurant but the food was nice, the wine nice and it was very good value for money. Definitely the cheapest place we had dinner.

Restaurant Vartal, Fulgencija Careva 1, Hvar, Hvar Island, Croatia

Dinner at B.A.R., Malmö, Sweden

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When I went to Sweden over Christmas I tried to fit in a few dinners out in Malmö with friends. The place topping my list was B.A.R. Malmö; a natural restaurant and wine bar situated on the cosy Davidhall Square. I had high hopes about this place but felt right at home when I saw the marrow bone napkin rings.

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Walking into B.A.R. the interior is quite sparse and the upstairs bit almost feels a bit cold but as you walk downstairs and past the kitchen the interior feels more cosy although still simple. I think the decorating and lack of tablecloths have been done deliberately to make it feel more comfortable and counterbalance the cooking style which is quite elaborate without being poncy.

Instead of a bread basket the lovely sourdough is almost tossed onto the table in brown paper bags and the accompanying spreads are served on rocks. The whipped butter with sea salt and fennel powder was absolutely delicious and completely trumped the pork fat with dill, which actually was very good too.

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As there was eight of us we all had the same four course menu called the Chef’s choice menu to make it easier for the kitchen. Even if in a smaller group I would still recommend this menu or at least four courses from the a’la carte menu as some of the dishes are quite small. With that said I was still to full to finish my main course but everyone else at the table did.

The first course was quite small and consisted of more or less four mouthfuls but the flavours of squid and leek were delicious. .

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The duck served with beetroot, grated bone marrow and a mayonnaise with confir garlic was even better than the first course. Absolutely gorgeous!

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The maincourse with amazingly tender boar, crispy fried cavolo nero, celeriac cooked two ways and pears was absolutely wonderful!

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The dessert was a small let-down after the previous two stellar courses, although there was nothing wrong with the chocolate sorbet, berry granita and vanilla custard it didn’t blow us away.

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We had a lovely evening here and I can’t wait to go back in the spring or summer and try a different menu. What I really like about this place is the relaxed atmosphere and the fact that the concept appeals to food geeks like myself as well as people who just like good food in general.

The wines recommended by our waiter were also very good and of course a perfect match with the food, but also all natural and not very expensive.

I think it is about time this type of restaurant opened in Malmö and I certainly hope the town is ready for it!

B.A.R Malmö, Erik Dahlbergsgatan 3, 211 48 Malmö