Category Archives: Restaurants we love

Fifth Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols gets a revamp

This is excellent news. This bar on the top floor of the famous Knightsbridge department store has always looked great on paper, perfect for a cocktail or two after flexing the plastic at Harrods and Harvey Nichols on a Saturday afternoon. My experience in years passed, however, was often less than spot on, usually fuelled by the trashy clientele of cash-rich car dealers and ‘professional’ Russsian women clad in fur and bad leopard print.

Recently revamped, the place is looking great, with a cocktail list heavy on vodka based drinks and a Baltic-influenced menu in the adjoining restaurant. Definitely worth a visit if you are in Knightsbridge and licensed now till 3am. We’ll be visiting very soon.

See press release at Harvey Nichols.


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Restaurant review: Napa

This blog post is written by the lovely Emily Bridgewater, who writes the great blog Meet and Two Veg. 

THEY say all roads lead to Rome.
Well, I say that all roads lead to Birmingham. Because no matter where I am in the world, from Norwich to New York, I am guaranteed to bump into someone from Brum.
And a recent meal at Napa restaurant at the Chiswick Moran Hotel in west London proved no exception.
On introduction, it transpired that Napa’s restaurant manager – an Italian named Mark – had arrived in Chiswick from Perry Barr, Birmingham, via a stint at the Watford Gap services. Small world, eh?
While swapping second city tales, Mark helped the boy and I select a wine to accompany our meal, recommending a light Cotes de Provence rose to compliment my cod and the boy’s steak.
Rose seemed the fitting wine too, as Napa’s interior has a funky ’70s feel, which is also reflected in the menu with dishes such as ‘open’ beef Wellington and steak Diane.
I opted for a ‘classic’ Napa starter of crayfish and prawn cocktail, which had it been served in a frilly-edged glass goblet, would have been right out of a Fanny Craddock cookbook.
Served instead in lettuce leaf shells, the seafood was succulent and Marie Rose dressing nicely spiced. Accompanying homemade breads were excellent, with a lovely open texture.
The boy’s tian of white Dorset crab with avocado and tomato dressing ‘tasted a lot better than it looked’. He also commented on the freshness of the seafood.
He was equally impressed by the ‘medium’ cooking of his steak, although his hand-cut chips were undercooked.
My fillet of cod on saffron-crushed potatoes with mussels and tomato beurre blanc exceeded expectations, while some accompanying green beans still had good crunch.
The boy’s Eton mess was packed with fruit and deliciously creamy, while my passion fruit sorbet a good palate cleanser.
Sadly, prices aren’t based in the ’70s, with main course dishes averaging about £15, but Napa is worth a try if you are in this neck of the woods.

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Restaurant review: Kai, Mayfair, London

This blog post is written by the lovely Emily Bridgewater, who writes the great blog Meet and Two Veg.

In my experience really great meals fall into two categories.

There are those which at the time were sublime, but afterwards evaporate into the darkest confines of your memory, only to be revisited in a moment of reminiscence.
Then there are those – relatively few – dining experiences where the tastes are so incredible that they will linger on your lips forever and, no matter where you are in the world, you will hanker after a return visit.
While I know there are a million more food experiences to be had, I will always lust after one more taste of what can only be described as a crispy onion pancake that we ate in House of Nanking in San Francisco.
Food memories like that don’t discriminate; they can take place in roadside shacks or prince’s palaces.
It just so happens however, that my most recent such experience took place in the very stylish Kai in Mayfair.
Kai is one of only three Michelin star Chinese restaurants in London. So good is the food that I fear every other Chinese meal I now eat will pale into insignificance.
Unlike many such celebrated establishments, there is no stuffiness and diners seemed to delight in being able to tuck into communal dishes.
We started with Kai‘s signature starter of Wasabi Prawns, which our waiter assured us was ‘not too spicy, as it was a special recipe devised by the chef’.
He also told us that during Kai‘s recent participation in Taste of London festival, they traded more than 1,000 portions of this dish.
It’s easy to see why. The jumbo prawns were delicately cooked and coated in just the right amount of creamy, ‘not too spicy’ wasabi dressing, as well a tiny flecks of chopped fresh ginger. The boy and I agreed it was a taste revelation.
We also tucked into canapes of prawn toasts and aromatic crispy duck – both excellent examples of classic Chinese fare, while enjoying a bottle of Dr Loosen Riesling recommended by our sommelier.
However, the food really came into its own for our main courses of chicken and cashew nuts and aubergines stuffed with minced prawns.
The sauce coating the chicken was deep, dark and rich with a good kick from the sundried chillis – a million miles from the MSG-laden gloop you’d find in your bog standard Oriental sauce.
And the prawn-stuffed aubergines was a superbly inventive dish, combining the smokiness of the vegetable and sweetness of prime seafood in a pulse-rich black bean sauce.
Even our waiter admitted he was dubious about the dish until he tried it.
Ginger and sesame oil, and coriander fragranced rice, were subtle yet stunningly delicious side dishes.
Puddings were zingy pineapple carpaccio with lime, lychees and lemongrass syrup, and another Kai signature dish of pumpkin cream with purple rice and coconut icecream – an intelligent dessert deconstructing the elements of a pumpkin soup and turning it into a divine velvety dessert.
Some of the prices on the Kai menu may leave you breathless, but the quality of ingredients, intelligence of the cooking and -most unusually – the generosity of the portions, make them justifiable.
This is what food memories are made of.

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Restaurant review: Souk Bazaar, Leicester Square, London

A sense of relief prevails as you duck out of the rain-drenched streets of Leicester Square and are immediately transported into a glittering and exotic underworld. The restaurant is almost invisible, crammed next to the famed restaurant, The Ivy, and painted a charcoal grey which works as a convincing camouflage against the damp London streets.

Souk Bazaar is one of two North African themed restaurants (the other named Souk Medina) set in an excellent location in the heart of the bustling West End. Souk Bazaar has been running for 11 years and has won many awards and stunning reviews for their inspirational ambience and tasty food.

Souk BazzarFlickering candles line the way from the narrow entrance down the stone steps to the main restaurant, which is a maze of dimly lit rooms with low ceilings and winding paths, the walls adorned with countless colourful lanterns and the floors laden with brass shisha pipes. You are coiled further still into this mysterious world by the swirling Moroccan music and smoky smell of dozens of candles and burning incense.

Our party of six were seated in a low lit corner in one of the rooms, there were no other diners present for the majority of the evening, giving us a cosy feeling of intimacy and privacy. Our seats were low sunken sofas scattered with plump cushions, and the large metal tables that our food was laid upon were surrounded by little decorated poufs, giving our dining experience a real authentic Moroccan feel.

Our menu consisted of a three course mezze feast for a price of £19.95 per person, with authentic homemade starters, main courses of sweet tender meats infused with intoxicating spices and wickedly indulgent syrupy desserts, by my book a well thought out trio and a great way to taste all the different flavours of Morocco. What was also great was that you could request as many refills of the dishes as you liked, on the conditions that your whole party ordered the mezze.

Our starter was a platter of home-made humous served with warm pitta bread, mini spicy lamb sausages with potato cubes, and stuffed vine leaves. The humous was especially sought after, it had a tasty sprinkle of Moroccan spice on top giving an extra little kick to the dish. The stuffed vine leaves were surprisingly sour and weren’t very appetising at all.

Souk BazaarThe main course of tangine of lamb was a big hit with our party, it was slow cooked so very tender and had a real melt-in-the-mouth nature to it, soaked in the juice of prunes and topped with roasted almonds, it was a very sweet dish. Another dish that was a big hit was the tangine of spinach, feta cheese and roast onion which complimented the sweetness of the lamb very well with the sharpness of the feta cheese.

We drank to our hearts content, perhaps something to do with the unwinding nature of the atmosphere, and we ordered a wide variety of the tempting beverages on offer. The cocktails were given names such as ‘Juicy Marrakesh’ , ‘Flying Carpet’ and ‘Thirsty Camel’ and were rum or vodka based, mixed mainly with fresh mango and coconut milk. One of our party sampled a Khaymer Martini, a mix of Moroccan vodka and apple juice, shaken over ice.

Our desert was a selection of baklava; it is made from pastry, chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The baklava was served to us with fresh mint tea, and was a lovely light accompaniment to a very sweet dish.

Although the service was far from attentive, the immaculate design and buzzing atmosphere of Souk Bazaar won us over. We had an early dinner, but from 10pm the restaurant also features live entertainment of various belly dancers which works to kick the mood up a notch. Our bill came to £35 per person, but our choice of expensive beverages made up a lot of this.

Swept so swiftly into the mystical world of Morocco and transported into a dusky tavern on the outskirts of Marrakesh, we arrived somewhat disappointed back on the grey pavements of London, looking back on the sultry and enchanting cavern we left behind. With the recession so prevalent in people’s minds, Souk Bazaar is an inspired and charming place to experience the exuberance of North African cuisine and culture without ever having to leave the country.

Anna Zuchowski-Morrison – London Gekko Spotter

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Bernie Madoff’s New York restaurant tips

Where do you celebrate ripping people off to the tune of $65 billion? Well, now we can see exactly what Gekko Spots monster fraudsters hang out at. This week a snapshot of Bernie Madoff’s American Express spending was released to the public, so not only can we see where he ate, but how much he spent, and more importantly, how much he tipped.

Now obviously, we know Bernie had eyes bigger than his stomach for many things, but his spending wasn’t as extravagant as one would imagine for someone who was splashing someone else’s cash for fun.

The Lure of moneyLure, SoHo
His favourite eatery was Lure, a classy seafood and sushi restaurant in New York’s SoHo. We wonder whether Bernie managed to stay away from Lure’s amazing cocktails as he racked up a respectable £830 bill in eight visits. Even more revealing is the fact that he only tipped 6%. Yup, Bernie’s a bit of a tightwad.

Steak out
Patroon, MidtownThankfully there is a good example of old fashioned splurging with a $2,000 meal at Patroon, which serves modern American cuisine in Midtown. That’s a whole lot of steak.

Bernie’s hot NYC tips:

Lure, SoHo
Contemporary American Seafood featuring an extensive raw bar and first class sushi program. The striking design is reminiscent of the interior of an elegant cruise ship.
Find out more about Lure

Patroon, Midtwon
A classic New York restaurant, owned by legendary restaurateur Ken Aretsky. Patroon offers superb contemporary American cuisine, warm, polished service and beautiful rooms.
Find out more about Patroon on Gekko

Dan Pilkington

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Restaurant review: Thai Edge, Birmingham

This review is by Emily Bridgewater who writes the blog, Meet and Two Veg.

They say the true test of a relationship is your first holiday together. If you can survive that, then you can survive anything. Not ones to do things by half, when the boy and I first started dating we decided the perfect test of our blossoming relationship was a two-week trip around Thailand.

He’d never flown before, I’d only holidayed in the Med and North Africa. It was leap into the unknown. However, it was a fantastic trip; we visited golden temples, tropical beaches and trawled night markets. My only regret was that I was an unadventurous eater, ordering the ubiquitous Thai green chicken curry at every turn.

Thai Edge Birmingham
Seven years on and many adventures later, how things have changed. We are still as happy as ever, but I’d like to think I have more of a palate for the exotic. In fact, during a delightful Sunday lunch at Thai Edge, I gave the Thai green curry a wide berth. That’s not to say, it wasn’t good. The boy – an ever adventurous eater – reported that it was delicious! The tranquil Oozels Square restaurant offers a Sabbath buffet lunch for the value-for-money price of £12.90 per person.

Unlike many other buffets (and I have an extensive knowledge), the presentation of the food is not sacrificed; every dish is just as beautiful as the delicate, poised staff. I tucked into the superb salads; the seafood salad, featuring jumbo prawns and lightly-cooked squid was a particular favourite, as was the piquant papaya salad. The boy was equally impressed with the starters, raving about the light sweetcorn fritters, filo prawns and miniature spring rolls.

For main course I made a beeline for the sweet and sour fish, which was succulent and not overly sweet. The crispy bean curd with cashew nuts and stirfried vegetables was also excellent, although the delightful crispness of Wok-fried vegetables is lost when dishes sit on a buffet table. The better half tried a spoon of everything, reporting that the meat was of a high quality, and the curries well-balanced.

Puddings were irresistible – once again, impeccably presented on platters dressed in banana leaves. The mango cheesecake was sublime and the coconut tapioca refreshingly light.

For a true taste of royal Thai food – without the price tag – Sunday lunch at Thai Edge cannot be bettered.

Emily Bridgewater
Read more restaurant reviews by Emily at Meet and Two Veg.

Find out more about Thai Edge here

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Below Zero restaurant and bar, by London Appetizer

We’re always on the look out for the best bloggers in the restaurant and hotel industry, and Piers from London Appetizer has to be up there with the very best. Piers was the first restaurant blogger in London, starting out back in 1996, so he’s a true expert in his field.  Below is a restaurant review that he wrote for Below Zero, in Heddon Street in London.  For more restaurant reviews and industry news, have a look a London Appetizer let us know what you think.

Below Zero, Heddon St, London. Written by London Appetizer

A subterranean secret to some, a hidden gem to others, the temperature has been raised at belowzero, London’s favourite restaurant and lounge bar.  Located beneath bustling, vibrant Heddon Street, belowzero has reached new heights with the appointment of Head Chef, Sean Marshall, and the opulent transformation of the interior.

Marshall brings a wealth of experience to the role having worked at Prism, Oxo Tower, Bank and Mint Leaf. His new modern European menu showcases his excellent and varied cooking skills whilst being driven by quality, seasonal ingredients. This, shared with Marshall’s passion for innovative combinations of flavours and textures, positions belowzero as a destination restaurant.

Typical starters include pan-fried red mullet, warm blood orange and red onion salad with saffron orange oil; seared Scottish scallops with Arbroath smoky and parsnip purée; as well as lavender smoked wood pigeon with caramelised black figs, wild mushrooms and blackberry jus.
Main courses feature must-try pistachio and sage crusted lamb rack with spiced sweet potato, spring greens, morels and port and bacon marinated kidneys; line caught seabass with stuffed steamed baby cabbage, girolle and cockle butter; or pan fried fillet of venison with seared foie gras, walnut braised red cabbage, beetroot and cranberry compote and a rioja jus. Whole lemon sole, swordfish, rib-eye steak and maize-fed chicken are also available from the grill, each served with capanota and sauce vierge.

Inventive and decadent desserts include cardamom and star anise mousse with spinach genoise and lime leaf anglaise; white chocolate fondant with szechuan ice cream and crystallised fruits; or banoffee cheesecake with rich butterscotch sauce and home-made banana sorbet.
The menu is complemented with a strong and extensive international wine list, with many bins under £30. Alternatively blow the budget with stars of the show such as Shiraz, Penfolds Grange Hermitage, South Australia, 1995 or Mouton Rothschild, Aile D’Argent, Pauillac First Growth, Bordeaux 1996.
The lounge bar at belowzero takes cocktails to another level with its talented bar team, contemporary concoctions
and its comprehensive premium and super premium spirits list, which includes Absolut 100, only available at 100 bars in the world. Unique creations include ‘Ultimat Mochatini’ – Ultimat Chocolate Vanilla vodka, white cacoa liquer and coffee jelly or ‘Sagini’ -Whitley Neill gin, Pimm’s No. 1, fresh sage leaves and pomegranate juice.

For the rest of the article, please visit London Appetizer

Thanks to Piers for the review.  Visit the superb London Appetizer
and see what else he has to offer.  You can thank us later.

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