November 2008

Monthly Archive

Gaucho

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 29 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Gaucho can be summed up in two words: Excellent meat. The waiter comes round the table before you place your order with a big wooden tray holding examples of all their meats: rump, ribeye, sirloin and fillet steaks, churrasco (a thinner and marinated for 48 hours steak) plus some lamb chops. The beef steaks come in 225gr, 300gr or 400gr portions and are simply perfect: tasty, juicy and tender. They’re so good they hardly require any sauces to go with them (the peppercorn sauce being the only tiny let down in this restaurant).

The rest of the food doesn’t disappoint either. On arrival you get bread with butter and a delicious warm cheese-bread bite. Starters are great too, but I usually opt to go straight to a sizable steak, along with some side-orders (these are necessary as the meat doesn’t come with any salad or vegetables). The chips are worth particular mention, as does the dulce de leche cheesecake, if you can find the room for it. Vegetarians are also accounted for, as their menu has expanded lately to include more mains including a couple of veg ones. Still, this remains very much a steakhouse.

The list of wines is extensive and you won’t have any trouble finding a great red wine to match your meal. The restaurant atmosphere and service is also well looked after (most of them have room set aside as a bar), so the place doesn’t lack in ambiance either. 

This restaurant really scores high marks in every department, the steaks are truly outstanding and the place is worth every penny.

Maze @ Mayfair

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 27 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Restaurants

The Maze, one of Gordon Ramsay’s ventures, ticks all the boxes of a fancy restaurant: well cooked elaborate dishes, excellent wine, efficient and unintrusive service, lovely atmosphere. As it has a bar attached to the restaurant with nothing to separate them, there is music played perhaps louder than most restaurants but at reasonable levels for having a conversation over your meal.

The menu however is organised a bit more differently than you’d expect. There is a list of dishes, split into smaller and slightly larger ones, and you are free to order as many as you want, but advised that two smaller and two larger ones is probably the right amount. Something like a gourmet tapas menu. There is also the option to go for the chef’s menu, which consists of 7 dishes (the last 2 of which are deserts) with only a couple of choices in the list to vary your selection. Even though the portions are predictably small, this is a lot of food, but it’s a good chance to sample many dishes. On our visit, the pumpkin soup with pieces of duck was very tasty, a dish of pickled beetroot with cream cheese was deliciously sharp and full of flavour, a quail with warm foie gras was quite pleasing, a dish of hake wrapped in parma ham was marvellous and the lamp accompanied by shepherd’s pie was fantastic (I told you it was a lot of food). The ice cream with fig jam and the floating island were light and sweet, a perfect finish to the meal. The wine list is extensive and they also offer “flights” - three glasses of three different wines to match your meal. The flight suggested by the Sommelier for our meal was excellent and original.

Overall, it’s very much worth a visit for a special occasion dinner.

Bumpkin @ Notting Hill

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 23 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Bumpkin has a brasserie on the ground floor and a restaurant on the first floor, but the whole place feels more like a gastropub than anything else. So did the menu on our Sunday lunch visit. There was only bread with liver pate and onion marmelade for starter, an extensive list of different Sunday roasts (beef, pork, lamb, chicken and a fish and a vegeterian option) for a main and a choice of cheese, strawberry tart or chocolate cake for pudding. It’s a very short menu (it would be interesting to see their regular one) but the food tastes very good (so did the brilliant 2005 Rioja).  Especially on a wintery afternoon, it was ideal and left us perfectly satisfied.

Carpenter’s Arms @ Ravenscourt Park

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 09 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Capenter’s Arms received some very positive reviews from Timeout and we decided to pay it a visit after the Bonfire night fireworks at nearby Ravenscourt Park.

This establishment is classed as a Gastropub, and it was indeed a small and cosy pub converted into a comfortable dining area. There are limited tables, but the outdoor area would add to that in better weather.

However, the similarities and relevance to a traditional pub end there. The service, the menu and the presentation are those of a classy restaurant and bear no resemblance to a pub. You won’t find traditional pub-food dishes on offer, like fish and chips or sausages and mash, or even approximations of them. The daily changing menu on our visit included a starter of hot foie gras with barley which was delightful, and a satisfyingly creamy but light goat’s cheese salad. The list of mains was unusual and adventurous. No beef, no lamb, the only pork dish also contained snails, and there was a dish with haddock and rabbit. Our venison steak with chips and salad was excellent, as was the accompanying Rioja. We rounded off with a rich and tasty pear and pecan tart.

The imaginative dishes are very well cooked, this seems to be one of those places where the cooking skills of the chef are undeniable, no matter how plain or bold your choice of food is. This is as restaurant-like as a Gastropub gets, but it hits all the right notes. With so many summery options in that area, this is definitely a worthwhile one for the colder nights of the year.