I have been terrible at keeping the blog up to date – I am sorry! I will try to keep the restaurant list up todate at least.
I have been going to Bubbledogs since it opened 6 years ago. Thankfully the queues are much shorter than they used to be, and I popped in for a late lunch at the weekend.
I have always maintained that this is a champagne bar with hot dogs, rather than the other way around. The owner is passionate about grower champagne and I had a glass of rather delicious rose champagne, and decided upon some sweet potato fries and a Fourth of July hot dog, with southern BBQ sauce, coleslaw and crispy bacon.
The food was just what I needed on a cold afternoon, and I had to drag myself out before ordering more champagne. What I also really like about Bubbledogs is that the service is efficient and the front of house staff are friendly and professional. I will happily continue to spend time there!
I like to get dim sum frequently and rather than going to one of our usual places, my friend suggested we try Hutong at the Shard.
After navigating security and the lifts (which have buttons, but also signs saying “do not press the buttons”), and dealing with a flustered front of house, we got to our table. We weren’t seated at a prime windowside table, but effectively one row back. It was fine though; you could still see plently of construction cranes from our table.
Rather than order the set menu, we went a la carte and chose some sliced pork belly with cucumber, turnip dumplings, various dim sum, peking duck, mapo tofu, green beans in pork, steamed rice and some puh-er tea to drink. The food itself was pretty decent (the turnip dumplings were the highlight for me), though I did notice the cucumbers had dried up a bit. Nothing was standout apart from the turnip dumplings, even though we had selected plenty of their house specials.
The main concern was the tempo – the starters came out quickly, and then we had to wait an age for our duck, and then another huge gap before the mains. I nearly started eating my serviette in hunger. The room was not well-lit, which I assume was supposed to highlight the views outside; but it somehow gave the place a gloomy atmosphere.
We chose some mochi and sesame buns for dessert, which were not terribly inspiring. Then finally we managed to pay – the amount was less than I feared, thankfully.
Overall, it’s not a *bad* place but with a few tweaks it could be so much better (sharper service, more care on the cooking, sorting out the lighting).
We had an unpromising start; firstly a very stressed front of house gave us the impression that our presence was causing a problem (despite us having booked and arrived on time), and we ended up sharing a table for four with another couple. Then the waitress insisted on explaining all the menu in great detail, which was just irritating.
After that, things started to pick up. We got two rather citrussy negronis and started with a decent salad of fennel and orange and also gorgonzola with pear chutney; the gorgonzola was tangy and melting just in the right way.
Next were the pastas; pici with sausage and mushroom, agnolotti with shavings of summer truffle and mezzelune with potato and lemon. All were delicious and served in Italian-sized portions (75g of pasta) so we could try three plates between the two of us.
For dessert we had a dark chocolate cake and a giant cannolo. I prefer my pastry to be slightly less cooked than for the cannolo here but the soft and sweet filling was delicious.
After the initial stress, the rest of the service was pretty efficient. It’s a very small place and they only take reservations at certain times. I’ve seen some criticism of the prices and portion sizes but if they give me pasta that delicious I am willing to forgive them!
I really wanted to like this place, as I had seen some good reviews. My mum’s crab and chilli spaghetti was decent enough; I ordered a cacio e pepe and I think it must have been waiting for the spaghetti to ready, as halfway through eating my pasta started to congeal and get clumpy. Urrrgh!
We also ordered a nduja sandwich, a reasonable burrata and some sourdough (which I wouldn’t bother with next time).
I just was a bit disappointed. The people near us were eating the daily special and that looked good, so I might give Pastaio another go. I just can’t recommend it right now based on that cacio e pepe.
Today we managed to find a spot at the counter at Sabor – we were pretty lucky on the timing as just after we entered the last few spots at the counter were taken and then people had to eat at the bar.
We were initially not planning to drink but got tempted into having some vermouth; mine was sweet and nutty and my dining companion’s herbal and refreshing.
Although the seafood looked great, displayed on a bed of ice, we were tempted by the meat and veg options. Croquettes were light and the tempura pepper, filled with goat’s cheese and drizzled with honey was excellent. We also ate bread with tomatoes and ham, a piece of Iberica loin with a green sauce (mojo verde), a tomato, parsley and sausage salad, and chargrilled potatoes with sobrasada.
We managed to save enough room for dessert and had a turron flavoured set cheese with oloroso sauce and a goat’s cheese ice-cream with liquorice sauce.
We thoroughly enjoyed our impromptu lunch; all of the food was excellent, service was efficient and friendly without being overwhelming and the drinks were great too. And it didn’t cost the earth!
This is going to be one of my new favourites.
Honey & Smoke
My other half is a tad obsessed with Honey & Co and so we decided to try the newest addition to their mini chain, Honey & Smoke.
There was a ‘concept’ to the menu – the explanation was a bit convoluted but essentially there is a set menu with a very generous portion of mezze and then each person can choose a grill. The other alternative is to do a la carte but the set menu seemed to be the way to go.
The portions were incredibly generous! So many dishes, all very tasty. I am not a huge fan of tahini and luckily this was under control (unlike some Middle Eastern restaurants). My favourites were labneh, roasted cauliflower, and a pistachio and apricot salad. I also enjoyed the tasty dish of pickles.
I had a chicken fatayer as my grill; the chicken inside the pastry was well seasoned and succulent, though I found the knife not up to the job of cutting through the pastry on the outside. I ended up picking out the chicken in the middle, before eventually admitting defeat; I was too full, which doesn’t happen often!
Will we go back again? I would say so; I think it’s a solid addition to the north end of Fitzrovia and I think next time we’ll go a la carte.
We went to Noizé a few weeks ago, on an evening when we didn’t feel like cooking. It is in the old location of Dabbous, so unless you are specifically in the area, you wouldn’t necessarily walk by the restaurant. The menu was French, and we found plenty of dishes to keep us happy; from what we can remember the cocktails and wine pairings were good too.
What probably struck me the most was that this was a properly grown-up restaurant – the fact that there were no gimmicks and no trends; just comfortable seating, proper tablecloths and cutlery, a coherent menu with no strange experiments, food cooked well, straightforward service and helpful staff who did not try to be our best friends. And it is all the better for that!
Rovi is the newest branch of the Ottolenghi chain, and is focused on vegetables, fermentation and grilled food (their description, not mine). We decided to go somewhat last minute, and managed to get a table (there is also seating at the bar for walk ins).
The menu was pretty much as described and I would say close to 70% was vegetarian or vegan. We only ended up ordering two non-vegetarian dishes, one being a squid and lardo skewer, the other being a cabbage dish with dashi and anchovies. There was a memorable celeriac shawarma, fresh radishes (which reminded me of those from the Clove Clubs), leaf and stem tempura and peppers with polenta. Peas and broad beans were served in their pods, having been grilled in olive oil, garlic and chilli; this was a very clever dish as we were instructed to eat the peas and beans like edamame, and the result was that we got the taste of the oil, garlic and chilli alongside the freshness of the peas and beans inside. For me, these and the cabbage dish were the highlights.
I had an apricot clafoutis with fig ice cream for dessert, and my dining companion has some small and perfectly formed ricotta doughnuts.
Service was a touch confused at the beginning, but they had only been open a week; once we got our orders in the food came pretty rapidly and I would expect this to continue to improve as they get into their stride. It was a touch expensive but not overpriced.
Overall, we are happy to find another good restaurant in the area. It was already pretty busy and so hopefully, given the backing of the Ottolenghi reputation, this is here to stay!
Santa Maria Fitzrovia
I’m always happy to try new pizza places and this did not disappoint; my pizza had a thin, charred base, a sweet tomato sauce and small pieces of molten mozzarella on top. We chose two side dishes – an aubergine parmigiana and tender, well-seasoned meatballs. Both made good use of the same tomato sauce as the pizza.
I was surprised to find Santa Maria fairly easy to book but I suspect it won’t be long before everybody else in the area gets around to going. It’s completely different to Homeslice (Homeslice has 20 inch pizzas with unusual toppings, whereas this is more traditional Napolitano style pizza) but I am happy to have both in the area.