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Archive for October, 2012

The Jury Went Out

A little play on my name here and the phrase “The Jury is Out” as I popped back to The Chancery last week. I had visited a company just down the road in the afternoon who were transporting me to Parliament for the launch of “See Psoriasis: Look Deeper”, a new campaign to ensure the correct treatment of patients with psoriasis, recognising the psychological impact on the patient. If you’d like to read more about it, you can read my other blog, My Skin and I http://wp.me/p2f785-32

As I was dropped off back at Chancery Lane, I dropped Zak a line and asked if they had a spare table. Now I’m not one for dining alone normally so I was planning a quick in and out and it actually turned out that Zak joined me for dinner which was great. Hearing a few stories about the perils of owning a restaurant and how good it would be if I owned the restaurant, in the middle of the legal centre of London, and renamed it The Jury. I checked my bank balance on the way home, I’m a bit short to buy my own restaurant. But a man can dream.

Anyway to the food. I have gone on about the food at The Chancery recently so I won’t go on too much and just share the pictures. Oh and you might notice that I once again had the Venison dish. Yes it’s that good I had it twice. Now if I’d been that Remington chap, I’d have bought the company.

Lobster Cannelloni

Sweetbreads

Flame Grilled Mackerel

Venison – again

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The Chancery

It’s saturday the 13th October. I’ve made quite a nice meal, cumin spiced lamb kebabs with a spicy tomato sauce and rice with onions, green chilli and courgettes. Followed by a plum tarte tatin. It’s nice, really nice but I can’t help wish I was somewhere else. You see this time last week I was getting to the end of a dinner at The Chancery.

On a Saturday evening, The Chancery is like a little place, hidden away, one of those places you think only you know about. It’s in the middle of the legal centre of London which may explain why the area is so quiet. I had been into London with my Dad, another trip back to the tailors as my Dad had spied a jacket while we were there last time and was having it adjusted. This made it an early dinner, half 6 sitting so it was fairly quiet when we entered, one other table taken.

I done my usual, looked at the menu before I went and had been thinking all day of one dish, the main course I knew I would pick. Still, I look through the menu, the starters do have me a little stumped. We order wine, a 2008 Malbec, one of my favourite wines. We actually got a glass of champagne on the house which I’m told was a perfect match for the starter my dad had chosen, cured salmon, verbena, pickled beetroot and horseradish. I went for the Wild Rabbit Ballotine with smoked onion puree, girolles and bacon vinaigrette. I’m sure there is no connection with me having recently bought girolles for the first time and a recent habit of ordering courses that have girolles in, well I’m almost certain. This is a great starter for me, light and subtle flavours. Everything works, and the vinaigrette brings it all together. My dad’s reaction tot he salmon says it all, he smiles, gives me a nod of satisfaction and takes another bite. The salmon was on my shortlist, sort of wish I’d had two starters, maybe next time.

We both went for the same main, the venison with glazed beets, celeriac, apple and blackberries. Thinking of this dish now is the reason I want to be back there. Venison is my favourite meat. This dish is one of the best venison dishes I have ever had. In fact I have been raving about this dish all week, telling anyone who will listen. The meat was so tender and it comes with beets, it’s like they knew my favourite foods. The addition of blackberries I was wary of at first. Why was I wary? It just works and it makes the dish interesting, sweet tender meat mixed with a tangy blackberry. My mouth waters every time I think about it.

We move on to dessert, probably still a glass of wine each left in the bottle so no dessert wine ordered and then two glasses of dessert wine appear, again on the house. Okay, so no after dinner drink, we’ll be hammered. My dad went for the Millefeuille of raspberry and pistachio. Have to say I’m not even sure I remember what it looked for as I was concentrating too much on my dessert, Amedei Mousse, ginger, kumquats, and marmalade ice cream. Now I thought I was lucky having such a great mousse the other week, now I am in mousse heaven. Another brilliant mousse, the perfect dessert for me, light and easy to eat.

We’re at the point we sit back, enjoying a coffee and preparing ourselves for the train home. I should tell you about the service, it’s friendly and relaxed. As we were having coffee I had noticed that the restaurant was almost full. I think this speaks volumes considering how quiet that area of London is at the weekend. I really enjoyed watching a new waiter being trained, I’m sure he will do well learning the trade there. Being an evening meal, the lighting is lower so I didn’t take any photos as they wouldn’t have come out but I have stolen one from head chef, Simon Christey-French as he was kind enough to tweet a picture of the venison dish tonight, hopefully he won’t mind me posting it here.

For more information on The Chancery, visit http://www.thechancery.co.uk

You can follow Zak Jones on  Twitter @chancerylondon and Simon Christey-French @christeyfrench

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After recovering on Thursday from a day of 40th Birthday celebrations, we headed into London again on the Friday for another birthday lunch as my Dad wanted to take me and my wife out to celebrate. I also think he is getting a taste for fine dining. It was quite handy though as my suit would finally be ready and so I thought where near Saville Row could we go. The first place that came to mind was Hix at The Albemarle, partly because we had walked past it the other day and partly because I have been speaking to Simon Oakley, the head chef, on Twitter. We did have a sneaky look at the menu as we passed on the Wednesday so I was really looking forward to this, another menu where I knew I would struggle to make a final decision on what to have.

Kentish green bean and shallot salad with Tewkesbury mustard

We took our seat and ordered Gin and Tonics to start, asking for Sipsmith gin and I have to say, the measures are very generous. Whilst we enjoyed out G&T’s and perused the menu, we were presented with a sharing plate of smoked salmon with shaved fennel from Simon. It’s just so good, fairly think slices, not too heavily smoked and superb soda bread to go with it. We ordered and another plate was placed on the table with smoked duck this time which again was just delightful and our meal was quickly turning into 5 courses.

Yorkshire Dales wood pigeon on toast with elderberries

The starters arrived with my wife going for the green bean and shallot salad, my dad on the wood pigeon on toast and me with the snails, wild boar bacon and black pudding (yes more black pudding). Silence spreads across the table, good food does that. I had actually had my eye on the snails & black pudding dish since Wednesday and was really pleased I chose it even if my wife does give me a strange look for eating snails. I didn’t make any notes about wine this time so you’ll have to excuse me for not mentioning them. We did all go for a glass of something to match our dishes though and all were a perfect match.

Dorset snails with Peter Gott’s wild boar bacon and black pudding

On to the mains and as the other two both went for the rack of lamb with roasted squash, I had to be different and ordered redleg partridge with gamekeeper’s spelt. Oh how I love a game bird. I have to say, if I’d seen the lamb before I ordered I may have been swayed towards that as it did look so good. It has to be good when my wife, who normally doesn’t eat meat off the bone, orders it. The partridge was just perfect and I realised that I had never had gamekeeper’s spelt before, even though I thought I had.  So it was a bonus to try something new. I was getting a bit full by this point and made sure I ate all the meat, can’t waste partridge, especially when it tastes so good it’s almost begging you to eat it.

Swinton Estate redleg partridge with gamekeeper’s spelt

We ordered some sides of Sharpe’s express potatoes, which you just have to try, and the creamed spinach which I didn’t try but I noticed the other two tucking into it quite merrily. By this point we had had four courses and I was thinking an armchair and a glass of port would be nice but desserts were calling. We order our desserts and I order a wine to go with mine, while my wife had an Armagnac matched to hers as she doesn’t drink sweet wines.

Rack of Launceston lamb with roasted Maldon squash and green sauce

We spy 3 of the staff approach the table and all holding something behind their backs. I thought it would be our desserts with possibly a happy birthday on it but no, it’s not our desserts, it’s a pre-dessert. It was a light sponge topped with a raspberry jelly and gold glitter, yes it was sparkly which thoroughly delighted my wife. I loved this as we all received one of these except I got a candle on mine. I just about figured out at this point that they know how to spoil people here.

When our desserts do arrive I was wondering how I’m going to manage it and like all good restaurants, you manage to eat it all because it just tastes so damn good. I had the Amide chocolate mouse with cherries and hazlenuts. It’s made just the way I think mousse should be, light & airy. I was really pleased as I’ve found recently that a lot of places seem to be serving the more dense style of mousse which I know some people prefer.  My wife went for the ginger parkin which I never got a taste of (that’s means it’s very good) while my dad had eccles cakes with stilton and a glass of port.

Amedei chocolate mousse with Julian Temperley’s eau de vie cherries & hazelnuts

We finished of this delightful lunch with coffee, having had quite enough alcohol. We sat, relaxed and Simon came out for a chat. It was a great lunch, the venue is stunning and you almost feel like you’re going back in time and I almost felt like Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to appear at any time. We did actually have a discussion as to whether the hotel had been used for any Agatha Christie films so if you know, please tell us.

The staff were very good, attentive and friendly and felt like we had been regulars for some time, even though it was only our first visit. It was on my list of must-go places and will now be on my must go again list. Thank you to Simon and all the staff at Hix, it was a truly memorable lunch and another great way to celebrate my 40th.

For more info, please visit www.thealbemarlerestaurant.com

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Happy Birthday Northbank

Last Thursday we were lucky enough to be invited to Northbank’s 5th Birthday party. Ever since our first visit there we have felt welcome and like old friends and couldn’t turn down the offer to help celebrate with them. I would like to point out that being an Arsenal fan has no reason at all with me liking a restaurant called Northbank. We do love this place, so relaxed and the food is always good. The party was great fun, especially as we won the bottle of Champagne in the raffle and got a fuss from the Owner’s dog, Veronica.

A great night was had by all and some of the proceeds of the night went to Action Against Hunger’s Love Food Give Food appeal. After the party was over, we decided to stay for dinner, dining from the London Restaurant Festival menu which at £20 for 3 courses is a steal. Here are a few pictures from the night.

Meet Veronica

A Great Location

The Patio

GRILLED FILLETS OF MACKEREL WITH CELERY AND APPLE SALAD

SLOW BAKED ORANGE AND ROSEMARY FIGS WITH GLAZED GOATS CHEESE
AND SERRANO HAM

ROAST GUNEAFOWL WITH FONDANT POTATO AND SAUTEED WILD MUSHROOMS

BROAD BEAN AND PEA RISOTTO WITH SHAVED PARMESAN AND PEA SHOOTS

Vanilla cheesecake with poached berries

Happy Birthday!

And it’s goodbye from Ronni

Thank you to all at Northbank for a brilliant night and the hangover at work on Friday was totally worth it.

Northbank is near St Paul’s, right next to the Milennium Bridge. For more infor, visit www.northbankrestaurant.com or follow them on Twitter @NorthbankLondon

For more information about the Love Food Give Food apepal, please visit  www.lovefoodgivefood.org

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September saw the big 40 arrive and as I had already had a mini mid-life crisis earlier in the year, I approached the milestone with excitement. There were several reasons for this, one being that a couple of months earlier my wife took me to Saville Row to be measured up for a tailor made suit. Nothing like a piece of fine British tailoring. Then there was the list of ideas I gave to my family as they wanted to make sure I got something I really wanted, so I knew I would get something really special.

Then there was the fact I was being taken for lunch on the big day by my wife. I could choose anywhere I wanted (within reason) and this takes a lot of time to decide. For months I thought about it, going through my list of must eat at restaurants, which seems to grow faster than I can dine out.  Eventually I settled on Koffmann’s. When I thought about it after, there really was no competition as I had never experienced Pierre Koffmann’s food before and had to take advantage.

So I find myself one Wednesday morning boarding the train to London for my second suit fitting at Saville Row before lunch at Koffmann’s. I really don’t care about being 40, I’m just a little kid filled with excitement and it just gets better when the tailor compares me to Sean Connery and Michael Caine due to the style of suit I have gone for. Then we wander a bit, my wife is shopping, I am just thinking food.  I want lunch to arrive quickly, constantly checking the time.

The time finally arrives, we are still about 20 minutes early because somebody was too excited to wander any more. We are shown to our table and the fun begins as Kir Royales are served. We peruse the menu which is just a waste of time as far as the mains were concerned. “Oh I don’t know what to order” I say to my wife as “it all just sounds so good”. Yeah right, I’m at Koffmann’s, I’ll be ordering pigs trotter, I mean what else do you order? The starter was the main problem though and as I reduced my choice between a foie gras dish and black pudding I actually uttered the words “Oh I’ve had foie gras so many times I should have the black pudding”. Yes Simon, it’s not like you haven’t had black pudding very often, you poor deprived man.

We order wine by the glass to match our chosen courses which is great and the sommelier is brilliant, explaining the wines and how they match the food, making sure we try them before we eat the course to taste the difference once drinking with the food. I had the Limoux ‘La Tante Claire Selection’ (Pierre’s Wine) 2001 with my Gascony-style black pudding with bethmale cheese, onions & beetroot. I have never had a white wine of such vintage and I will admit I was a little concerned when I brought the glass to my nose. The aroma is, well how do I put this, it was old and musty, not really that pleasant to be honest. The sommelier encourages me to taste the wine and suddenly I’m in heaven. It is fantastic, I do love a white wine with body. The mustiness just seems to fade from your mind as you taste it.

As I eat the black pudding I force myself not to shovel it down my throat as it taste so good, I want to savour it. This is helped as I keep looking at the generous plate of Serrano ham my wife is eating. My brain telling me that she can’t possibly eat all that ham on her home. I think she must have noticed the longing on my face and eventually offers me to try some. I take a smallish bit, making sure I have some of the radish butter. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that really please the taste buds and very good Serrano ham is one of the things.

We head onto main, another explanation from the Sommellier as to which wines he has suggested and why and this causes somewhat of a problem. My wife chose the Iberico pork and the wine to go with it is a Cozes-Hermitage, Etienne Guigal 2006. All good so far, the wine is just to my wife’s liking. This is a good time to point out that my wife loves Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The sommelier turns to me and says with the pig’s trotter he suggests the, yes you guessed it, Chateaneuf-du-pape, Cuvée des Sommelier, J.Mestre 2005. My wife gasps, I grab the glass and hold firmly before she tries to dive across the table to taste it herself. It’s good, it’s very good and I delight in telling my wife this. The Somellier obviously noticing my wife’s reaction gives us a little extra in my glass so my wife can try some too.

The pig’s trotter arrives and it’s not quite what I had expected but then I’m not entirely sure what I expected having never had pigs trotter anywhere else. It comes stuffed with sweetbreads and morels and the creamiest mash. The first taste is just an explosion in my mouth, it’s so rich, full of flavour from the cooking liquor that made the skin so tender. I fully understand what the mash is doing there, something lightly flavoured to go with the intensity of the trotter. It is almost too rich a dish for me and I found myself struggling to finish, but I can’t stop eating. It tastes too good to waste any.

My wife meanwhile  makes here way through the Iberico pork dish which contains, loin, a chop and belly. I’m not getting any of that like I did the ham and it’s surprising as she doesn’t normally eat so much meat. I have to say I was a little upset. It is the sign again though of how good the food is, so good you can’t stop eating.

We pause a while and then have a fairly lengthy discussion over cheese before deciding on 4 cheese to share. My wife beams with joy as I offer her the last of my wine as I order a port to go with the cheese. I am happy, cheese, port, if I could have had a cigar I probably would have.

Then we start to look at the dessert menu. I’m stuffed but you have to have dessert, it’s the law when eating out. My choice was actually more exciting a few days later when a certain chef by the name of Pierre Koffmann made the very same dish on Saturday Kitchen. I had the pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream.  It’s my kind of dessert, light, tasty and has pistachio, I think possibly my favourite nut.  It’s just beautiful. My wife, who is a fan of all things rum and baba and the rum baba which she tells me was very nice, but they could have been a bit for generous on the rum. Although again we were too interested in eating the desserts to take photos.

The drinks to go with dessert were interesting. Two bottles of sherry were brought over to the table for my wife to decide which one she preferred. Some may think, sherry with dessert? (oh and they were sweet sherries either). Don’t knock it until you try it, the one she chose was superb, almost like caramel without the sweetness. Now I may have already been a little on the tipsy side by now, what with a drink before we even got to the restaurant and very little to eat (nothing) before lunch, so my mouth starts speaking before my brain has really registered what I’m about to say. I tell the Sommelier I saw they do a selection of dessert wines and before I know it, 3 glasses of wine appear before me. Each is explained to me and all I remember was one of them was a Sancerre. I think the bargain hunter part of me ordered this, 3 different wines for £15 and it’s 150ml rather than 125ml for just one glass – see bargain!

It was a great meal. I couldn’t fault the food or service and we thoroughly enjoyed what turned out to be a four hour lunch. Pierre Koffmann is one of the legends of cooking and this is a place everyone should have on their list of must eat at places.

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