Murray Blake

London food and coffee writer


Leave a comment

More reviews – no. 2

Corrigan’s Mayfair
28 Upper Grosvenor Street, W1K 7EH
Nearest tube: Marble Arch
020 7499 9943
Corrigan's Mayfair on Urbanspoon
website; map

Richard Corrigan was born in Dublin and raised in County Meath, just outside the city.  He left Ireland at 18, working in various Michelin-starred restaurants in Amsterdam before moving to London and rising to Head Chef at Mulligan’s in Mayfair. He won his first Michelin star as head chef of Stephen Bull’s Fulham Road restaurant in 1994 and his second three years later at Lindsay House in Soho. Corrigan’s Mayfair is his flagship fine dining restaurant – it opened in October 2009 to widespread critical acclaim, and was quickly named London Restaurant of the Year by the Evening Standard.  The menu focuses on meat and game – Corrigan’s ethos is all about sourcing good ingredients and preparing them with the minimum of fuss. The decor is very Mayfair – it is smart and extravagant with lots of wood and leather……I pity the poor waitress tasked with ironing all of the white tablecloths.

IMG_0003

I went along for Sunday lunch where they offer a very keenly priced set menu of three courses for £29 (possibly one of best value Sunday lunches in London?).   For starter I opted for braised rose veal breast with caesar dressing, salad leaves and pickles.  I was expecting a warm chunk of veal amidst a hearty salad, but what arrived was quite different.  The veal was served cold – it had been pressed, rolled, seasoned and then thinly sliced, it was served along with dollops of creamy caesar dressing and sharp, zesty pickles.  The texture of the meat was light and soft, with just the right fat content – a very pleasing dish.

IMG_1793

I followed this with roast brill (a flat fish similar to turbot but a tad less refined/pricey), cockles and salsify.  The brill was generously sized and came with beautifully crispy roast potatoes and decadently creamy cauliflower cheese on the side.  As expected, the fish was very fresh – it was chunky and meaty, yet subtly flavoured and slightly sweet.  The outside of the fillet was nicely browned which brought flavour and texture, but for me the fish had been slightly overcooked.  The cockles were wonderful – light and not at all chewy, they had been carefully prepared so they didn’t contain a hint of grit or sand.  I couldn’t resist the chocolate fondant with Guinness ice cream for dessert – this was executed well with a lovely runny centre and a strong cocoa kick.  The ice cream only had a subtle hint of Guinness flavour but worked well with the rich fondant.

Verdict: a decadent, fantastic value Sunday lunch 8/10

Rooftop Cafe
Fielden House, 28 London Bridge Street, SE1 9SG
Nearest tube: London Bridge
020 31023770
The Rooftop Cafe on Urbanspoon
website; map

‘It’s in the wrong sort of building, in the wrong part of town, with the wrong menu. And yet it’s brilliant’ Giles Coren, The Times

IMG_1857

The rooftop cafe is pretty hard to find.  It is round near the back entrance of London Bridge station at the top of an innocuous looking office building: you need to buzz to get in, head into a lift, then up a couple of floors of narrow steps and through a few unmarked doors before you eventually arrive at the dining room.  The space used to be a janitor’s store and it is a pretty small, with an open kitchen and (oddly) orange-painted roof beams.  They have a roof terrace where they grow their herbs and you can dine out there in the summer. It opened in early 2012, and has received a slowly increasing number of favourable reviews ever since, with Giles Coren giving it a great little write up in The Times before Christmas.  Head chef Peter Le Faucheur’s menu is short and to the point, it apparently changes daily and it is strictly seasonal (as everyone claims these days, but I believe it here).  Pricing is reasonable with starters at £6-9 and mains for £12-19.   I started with salt and pepper squid with gremolata (a Mediterranean mix of chopped herbs with lemon and garlic).  The squid was served whole, encased in a light, peppery batter and sitting on the bright, zesty gremolata.  The cooking of the squid was spot on – it was soft and succulent yet retained a slight crunch; the gremolata added depth and interest. A simple, but extremely well executed dish.

IMG_1862

I followed with lamb shank, cabbage and spring onions (£19).  This was a massive dish and would have been big enough for two to share – the shank had been cooked really slowly and was so soft that it could have been eaten with a spoon.  It had been roasted in Chinese five-spice powder which added a slight Asian slant, the cabbage was smothered in roasting stock and was wonderfully sticky and rich – a heartwarming main course.  I had no room for dessert but their bread and butter pudding looks fantastic.

Verdict: An unlikely hidden gem 7.5/10

Bistro Union
40 Abbeville Road, Clapham, SW4 9NG
Nearest tube: Clapham South
020 7042 6400
Bistro Union on Urbanspoon
website; map

IMG_0004

Adam Byatt has been the boss of Clapham’s culinary scene for over a decade, firstly with Thyme (which opened in 2001, followed by an unsuccessful move to the West End) and then Trinity (2006) – he now has competition though, with young pretenders, The Dairy and The Manor aiming to steal his crown with their scando-hipster ingenuity.  He opened Bistro Union a couple of years ago on the gentrified Abbeville Road, a short walk from Clapham South tube station, and quickly won a Michelin bib gourmand as well as a place in Time Out’s 50 top London restaurants.  His head chef, Karl Goward previously worked at St. John Bread and Wine and this experience comes through in his menu – the dishes are simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.  We started with brown shrimp, monk’s beard and boiled potatoes (£7) – the shrimps were meaty, and were complemented by the fresh, crunchy monk’s beard.  The cooking of the potatoes was good and they added bulk to the dish.

IMG_1818

Our second starter was pheasant, blood orange and watercress (£7) – this was light and summery, the bittersweet blood orange paired well with the soft, beautifully pink pheasant.  Feeling both hungry and brave, for main course we chose the whole beef rib (£44 for two to share) which came with Bearnaise sauce and thick cut chips.  As you can see from the photograph below this was an impressive piece of meat (easily over a kilo).  The rib had been cooked on the bone so the meat was very moist, the fat was crispy and melt in the mouth; the cooking was consistently medium-rare across the whole rib.  The quality of the beef was very good and I think on par with my recent steak at Hawksmoor – the chips were double or triple cooked, so nicely crispy, and the Bearnaise had a good consistency.  My only gripe was that we would have liked a few more chips to complement our hunk of meat.

IMG_1823

Verdict: well-prepared, homely classics made with well-sourced ingredients 7.5/10

Advertisements


1 Comment

A Medley of Reviews

Dotori
3A Stroud Green Rd, N4 2DQ
Nearest tube: Finsbury Park
020 7263 3562
Dotori on Urbanspoon
map

IMG_0066

Dotori serve both Korean and Japanese food.  For me, the two cuisines do not mix – bold, rambunctious and hearty Korean food bullies its delicate, healthy and subtle Japanese counterpart.  Therefore we went entirely Korean on our visit.  Their starters are mainly Japanese, with the stand-out Korean offering being the intriguing sounding kimchi pancake (£5.5); it is probably best to start your meal with kimchi – they have the option of traditional or cucumber (both £2).  We opted for the cucumber which was full of flavour – very tart and with a rich spicy body, the fermentation was perfectly measured so that the cucumber retained its crunch.  This was on par with the kimchi that I have eaten in the popular Korean restaurants near Tottenham Court Road in “K-Town”.

IMG_0072

Dotori have eleven Korean barbecue options (£6.5-9 with a seafood platter at £16) – we went for the safe option of beef and pear which was tasty but unremarkable: the quality of the meat was good – it had been cut very thinly, marinated in a rich soy/pear sauce and then cooked quickly.  The seafood options looked more interesting and if you like spicy food you can opt to make any of the dishes extra hot.  They also offer a range of meat, fish and tofu-based stews (£7-8) many of which involve beans, be they red, black or soy.  We had a half bottle Korean rice wine (£9.5) which was eye-wateringly strong and should not be drank by anyone with a weak constitution.  The restaurant is small, noisy, bustling and cramped but still manages to be oddly cosy, possibly because the staff are extremely friendly and the clientele unpretentious.

Verdict: definitely worth the trip to Finsbury Park but I would recommend sticking to the Korean menu 7.5/10

Roast
The Floral Hall, Borough Market, SE1 1TL
Nearest tube: London Bridge
0845 034 7300
Roast on Urbanspoon
website; map

Roast sits in the mezzanine above the bustling Borough Market and has been a successful exponent of simple British food for the past ten years.  It was founded by the man who kick started the modern “refined” curry movement in Britain, Iqbal Wahhab, owner of the Cinnamon Club.  The menu at Roast is unfussy and seasonal, boasting classics like slow roast pork belly (£22.5), hake fillet (£25) and fish and chips (£16).  This being game season, they have a whole roast grouse at £30 and redleg partridge at £24.

IMG_0153

They open through the week at 7am so we went along early one morning to try their supposedly famous fry-up.  The breakfast menu is curt, focusing on Sassenachian (£15) and Scottish fry-ups (£16.5)- the Scottish version boasts tattie scones and a flat sausage whilst the Anglo option centers on bubble and squeak.  I opted for the full English – the star of the show was the black pudding which is sourced from Ramsay’s of Carluke in west-central Scotland – the texture was moist but it retained a nice crunch, the spicing was subtle and the body rich and earthy.  Next best was the bubble and squeak which was composed of light and fluffy potato and slightly sweet but crunchy cabbage, along with the odd slice of carrot, I think it had been fried in butter so it was incredibly unhealthy but mightily tasty.  The fried tomatoes and mushrooms were unremarkable – they were rather tasteless and not dissimilar to standard supermarket offerings.  Both the bacon and the eggs were of decent quality and cooked well.  The major disappointment though was the sausages which are apparently a “Roast recipe” but seemed to be composed of cheap meat and were severely underseasoned.  I also had a filter coffee which was truly terrible – unfortunately the London coffee revolution has not yet reached Roast and I hope some hipster baristas invade and string up the oaf that produced such repugnant coffee.

Verdict: a breakfast that was less than the sum of its parts – it is not in the same league as Caravan and I would strongly recommend going there instead 4/10

Rasa
55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 OAR
Nearest tube: Stoke Newington
0207  249  0344
Rasa on Urbanspoon
website; map

Rasa is a family-run Indian mini-chain – the first (entirely vegetarian) restaurant appeared in 1994 and there are now six restaurants in the stable, including one in Newcastle.  We went to the Stoke Newington branch which is painted a gaudy bright pink and about a five minute walk from Stoke Newington train station.  The food is Keralan vegetarian (there is a meat/fish serving Rasa Travancore opposite).  We started with a great little mix of pickles and chutneys, which are all apparently home made – stand outs were the rich, smooth garlic pickle, the punchy lemon pickle and a fruity coriander chutney.  We followed with banana boli (£3.25) deep fried slices of plantain (the batter is made from chickpea flour) served with a salty/sweet peanut dipping sauce – an unhealthy but very tasty starter.

IMG_0165

Better still was the Bhel Mix (£3.25) which consisted of crispy chickpeas, puffed rice, crunchy noodles, peanuts and onions, all topped with chopped coriander.  We then moved onto a selection of curries (all £4.5) which were reasonable but unremarkable: the best was a beetroot and yoghurt dish with a smidgen of mustard seeds which added a slight kick, the day’s special mixed veggie curry was well spiced but its components were overcooked; our aubergine with tomato, curry leaves and coriander was simple but well executed – the aubergine was slightly sweet and not at all greasy.  We mopped these up with a fantastic paratha (£2.25) and some light, melt in the mouth poories (£2).

Verdict: an extremely tasty and great value carb overload 7/10

Busaba Eathai
319 Old St, EC1V 9LE
Nearest tube: Old Street
020 7729 0808
Busaba Eathai on Urbanspoon
website; map

Stuck for somewhere open at 11pm on a Friday night, we stumbled across Busaba Eathai, a Thai chain restaurant which now boasts eleven sites across London (they close at 11.30pm at the weekend).  Busaba serve generic, cheap and cheerful Thai food, with a range of soup and wok noodle dishes, grilled meats, curries and stir-frys.  I think they must rely on customer volume to make money (possibly coupled with cheap ingredients) because their outlets are based in prime locations and the most expensive item on the menu is £12.50.

IMG_0488

We started with fishcakes and peanut relish (£5.9) which on the face of it was very tasty, but a couple of hours later when we tried to get to sleep we realised that the dipping sauce must have been laced with MSG – I was hot and restless, with a thumping headache.  I wouldn’t recommend going to Busaba, but if you do end up going there (probably because everywhere else is closed) then ask for your food to be prepared without MSG.  We then moved on to a green chicken curry (£9.5) that was served in a big coconut milk broth, again there may have been MSG involved in this because the sauce was very tasty but not seemingly fresh, the chicken was plasticy and tasteless, but certainly palatable with a big spoonful of said sauce.  We also had the chilli prawn rice with mushrooms (£8.5) which was similar to the sort of meal served by high street Chinese restaurants – the rice was cooked well but the prawns were devoid of character.

Verdict: please avoid this place like the plague….but if nothing else is open apart from kebab shops then eat here but ask for no MSG in your food 1/10

Ichiban
58A Atlantic Rd, SW9 8PY
Nearest tube: Brixton
020 7738 7006
Ichiban on Urbanspoon
website; map

Opening in 1999, Ichiban was the first sushi bar in Brixton – it has survived waves of gentrification and commercialisation and still sits in its original location in Atlantic Road.  Ichiban’s history is interesting – I came across some discussion about Brixton people boycotting the restaurant due to staff mistreatment, finding a facebook protest page from 2011 stating that a Latin American couple employed in the kitchen had been dismissed and the owner had refused to pay maternity leave wages and unused holidays (also see photos here).  I was oblivious to all of this on my visit to Ichiban and will focus my review on the food, which was decent, although given this mistreatment case I am now not sure I will return.

IMG_0554

The menu is vanilla Japanese with a mix of sushi, sashimi, soups, curries and fried rice dishes.  The pricing is very keen with curry and teriyaki dishes all at £6.5-8, sushi pairs £2.7-4.5 and sashimi sets around £10.  After starting with a decent miso soup we opted for a range of tuna and salmon sushi and sashimi.  The fish was very well prepared and fairly fresh – the rice was rolled quite loosely and retained a bit of crunch and texture.  The dining area is very much no frills but the waiting staff were friendly and attentive.

Verdict: decent sushi 6.5/10


The Breakfast Club

12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS
020 7078 9633
The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon
website; map

The Breakfast Club has been one of London’s hottest brunch spots for many years – they have five branches and you can guarantee a long weekend queue at every one of them.  After a disappointing morning at the highly commercial London Coffee Festival I thought I would cheer myself up with a nice filling brunch.   We arrived at the Spitalfields branch (which is a few minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street) at around 1pm and the queue was already about 30 people long and we waited for around 40 minutes before finally being seated.

IMG_0317

The menu is made up of hearty brunch food, with a range of traditional fry ups straying into Mexican breakfast food like a chorizo and egg burrito; they also serve a range of sweet and savoury pancakes and lots of egg dishes including benedict, florentine and royale.  Portions are large and good value – nothing on the menu is over £10.  I enjoy dishes that mix salt and sweetness, so I opted for the All-American which combined pancakes with bacon, sausage, fried potatoes and a poached egg.  The sausage was reasonable and made with decent quality meat; the poached eggs were nicely runny and free range (though I don’t think organic).  However, the rest of the dish was a severe disappointment – the potatoes were dry, dull and I think had been prepared much earlier in the day (or possibly the previous day) and the pancakes tasted like they had been made from a packet mix.  It was not a patch on the diner breakfasts I have eaten in America.

IMG_0237

On a positive note, the service was attentive and friendly – very impressive given the volume of covers they are turning over every day.  I also enjoyed my bloody Mary which would be a perfect hangover cure.

IMG_0228

Verdict: 3/10 over-hyped and not worth the wait – head to Caravan King’s Cross for brunch instead.