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Electric Diner @ Portobello Road

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 03 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: Restaurants

The Electric cinema and brasserie suffered a fire a few months ago and the owners seized the opportunity to re-invent the restaurant as well as refurbish the entire premises. So instead of the brasserie we now got the Electric Diner.

The Diner certainly looks like one, with red comfy booths as well as seats at the bar. The latter ones have the added benefit of watching the chefs at work, as everything is prepared right in front of you - as good as entertainment as you could hope for. There are no reservations and the place is busy, but there are plenty of places in the area to have a drink at after putting your name down for a table.

The food on offer doesn’t so much remind of a diner, apart from being no-fuss, laid back indulgence. But the cooking and the taste of it was spot on. In fact, every bit of the ingredients assembled on our plates was amazing in its own right. The steak was bursting with flavour and cooked to perfection (on the charcoal open fire right in front of us as it happens), the chips that came with it were crunchy and tasty and the bearnaise brilliant. The chicken with garlic jus was juicy, flavoursome and came with a charcoal-grilled scent that gave it an extra kick. We opted for a salad with our mains instead of starters - and what a salad it was. I don’t believe I’ve ever raved about salads on this blog, but this raw vegetable, apple, blue cheese and walnuts was absolutely amazing. Filled with juicy veg (not all of which are usually served raw - beatroot for example) with mouthwatering dressing and seasoning, the blue cheese and walnuts were almost a distraction. It might just be the best salad I’ve ever been served.

Seating at the bar allowed us to watch as other dishes were being prepared and making us want to come back for more. Wine and drinks selection was good and the stuff easy-going but efficient.

Overall, a gem of a place, can’t wait to go back. Even if you’re not combining it with a visit to the cinema next door (and you should, there’s super-comfy armchairs and sofas - plus donuts!) it’s a must, can’t recommend it enough!

Hawksmoor @ Piccadilly

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 10 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Having visited a Hawksmoor sister restaurant at Seven Dials, we expected nothing but meaty indulgent excellence. And we were not disappointed. 

This Hawksmoor actually does fish as well as meat, and our starters of smoked salmon and some very tasty scallops did not disappoint. But the main attraction remains the beef. Apart from the usual cuts, there are a few more to choose from (like chateaubriand and porterhouse to name a couple). Our safe choice of fillet and ribeye was mouthwatering - grilled and seasoned to perfection. Some spot-on crunchy chips, smokey grilled mushrooms and incredibly creamy spinach accompanied our meat wonderfully. Should you be brave enough to face desert afterwards, the sticky toffee pudding and the imaginative Jaffa cake desert were excellent. 

Other than the food, staff were very efficient and friendly and the wine list has something for everyone without being the size of an encyclopaedia. The restaurant has a sophisticated British feel to it creating a lovely ambience, and the fact that it was mostly full on the first Monday of the year, officially the most dull day of the calendar, was telling of its popularity. 

In short, if you like meat at all, you need to visit one of the Hawksmoor restaurants!

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 21 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: Restaurants

The Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester has everything you would expect from a Michelin star restaurant: inventive and delicious food, attentive service and beautiful relaxed ambience.

Service was competent throughout, apart from the slightly inexperienced and obviously nervous waiter at the bar before dinner, who recovered well regardless. Staff didn’t bat an eyelid on our request to change tables, which was executed immediately and seamlessly and they never missed a chance to wish us a happy anniversary, information which they asked for on their own initiative after we’d booked.

The food was everything you could hope for. The amuse bouche, a take on Greek salad, looked nothing like it (tomato jelly with cucumber and yoghurt gems on top) but tasted surprisingly similar. Starters of foie gras with pickled vegetables and heritage tomato tart was tasty and light (even the fooe gras was on the delicate side rather than overpowering). The mains were the highlight: the halibut fillet with toasted almonds on a bed of peas was the most flavoursome fish I’ve tasted  in a while (and I’m not a fish fan),  and a pork rib and pork belly with black pudding and apple sauce main was succulent and tender and delivered fantastic flavour, while also being of surprisingly large sized for a fine dining restaurant (not that there was any left at the end). Deserts were a suitably impressive finish, with some delicious macaroons and chocolates arriving to bridge the gap. The raspberry soufflé was oozing with fruity flavour and the rum baba, which came with a choice of 5 rums and whipping cream on the side, was powerful but not too heavy. A chocolate biscuit desert added as a treat for our anniversary was also delicious. We had to take the macaroons and chocolates in a small bag to take home, which appeared to be a popular practice with other guests as well.

The wine list is extensive, mostly French of course but with some additions from the rest of the world, and there are sufficient options at reasonable prices.

Overall, the restaurant delivered on every front and was a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion - with a price tag to match of course.

The Savoy Grill

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 12 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: Restaurants

It took a lot of time and money to refurbish the Savoy, but based on our visit it looks like they did an amazing job. The hotel exudes old British luxury. The gold decorations, the displays of old china and crystal used in the hotel in the past, the luscious furnishings, all give out a luxuriously pampering feel.

The downstairs bar is a dark and moody affair, decorated in black and gold with very low lighting. There is a piano and on our Saturday night visit there was a jazz singer belting out old classics. A long list of imaginative cocktails were on offer, as well as some champagne from small growers and wine makers. All in all, a very pleasant environment to start your evening before proceeding to dinner.

And what a dinner it was. The Savoy Grill, a Gordon Ramsay establishment, did not disappoint us in any way. Our scallops were fresh and meaty, served in their shell with cauliflower, while the foie gras terrine was surprisingly mild and smooth, and the glass of Sauternes wine that the waiter suggested would go well with it made for an explosive combination. And then of course there is the meat. There is a satisfactory selection of different beef cuts, a couple of options of bigger cuts for two and several options for other meats and fish, overall a very comprehensive menu (if you’re not a vegetarian that is). The meat is grilled over a coal and wood fire, and you can taste that in each bite. The fillet was served unusually on the bone and was lovely and tender and a porterhouse steak with marrow bone sauce was juicy and powerful. This was complimented by an outstanding Rioja from the not particularly long but exceptionally varied wine list. The deserts were mercifully light - the baked Alaska with passion fruit delivered a bit of theatre to the table along with the sharp fruitiness and the pistachio souffle was luscious. Service is as professional and competent as you would expect, while also being friendly.

All in all, this is an excellent destination for drinks and dinner if you feel like splashing out a bit, and its history makes it that extra bit special.

Portobello Organic Kitchen @ Portobello Road

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 16 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Restaurants

What nice little gem of a restaurant this is. Portobello Organic Kitchen, as the name implies, uses only organic ingredients to prepare its dishes, and there are a couple of organic wines as well. I don’t know if it’s the organic ingredients or the chef’s skill, but the food tastes fantastic. The place is small, making it quite intimate, and the staff are extremely friendly, making you feel like you’re a visitor in their living room.

We popped in for a quick meal before our film at the Electric Cinema nearby (comfy armchairs, footrest, bar at the back, well worth the cost by the way) and only had time for mains, but they were great; the pork belly with braised cabbage and celeriac puree was perfectly balanced and full of flavour (the braised cabbage was without a doubt the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’m not even much of a fan of it), while the roasted chicken breast with porcini mushroom risotto was fresh and tasty, with succulent meat and the risotto packing a punch. Our side of mixed salad was also good and very fresh.

This place serves beautiful food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and the fact that it’s all organic makes it all the better (probably partly why it tastes so good!). I can’t wait to be back for the full three course meal.

Mennula @ Charlotte Street

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 08 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Mennula is an Italian restaurant with Sicilian roots, located in Charlotte Street just north of Oxford Street, a street brimming with restaurants and bars. It recently featured on TV (Gordon Ramsay’s best UK restaurants or something along those lines) and seemed to produce great food, so we thought we should pay them a visit.

And great food it was. The evening started with an unimpressive bread selection, which on the other hand was served with excellent Italian olive oil, while the starters of scallops with pancetta and lentils and buffalo mozarella with aubergine caviar and grilled courgettes were fresh tasting and mouthwatering. The mains were the highlight: a lamb shank with root vegetable puree and balsamic sauce was tender and packed full of strong flavours and the beef with mushrooms, winter truffle and celeriac mash was a great combination while still allowing the beef to shine through.

The deserts turned out to be the chef’s chance to display excellent customer service. While the chocolate cake with pistachio semi-fredo was the chocolate punch we expected, the traditional Sicilian cannoli (pastry filled with sweet ewe’s cheese) came out tasting not at all sweet, almost salty. However, the chef (who was in and out of the kitchen chatting to patrons often) noticed me shaking my head on the first bite of it, went to the kitchen, tried the filling himself and came out to apologise for it and to offer to bring me another one prepared just right! The second one really did taste much better and the chef’s effort was well appreciated.

Service on the whole was friendly if a little slow, the waiters seemed a bit rushed with a full house. The only other complaint would be the cramped space, as the place is quite small, resulting in small tables, uncomfortable sofas and feeling slightly crowded.

Overall, this restaurant has great food and a genuine desire to ensure customers leave fully satisfied. A more comfortable venue would probably make it that bit better for both customers and staff.

The Wolseley @ Piccadilly

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 12 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: Restaurants

The Wolseley, being a bit of an icon amongst London restaurants, made for a perfect special occasion Sunday lunch. The elegant environment, smartly dressed staff and being full to the brim made for a very buzzing atmosphere - yet intimate and cosy with its brasserie-style decoration (well, it is one) and the impressive building features.

The food choices were the ones you’d expect at a brasserie, and well executed. Our steak frittes was spot on and the 7 hour lamb bursting with taste, while the starters of chicken soup with dumplings and polenta cream with gorgonzola and mushrooms were tasty, if perhaps not particularly exciting. The meal ended on a high with a moreish vanilla cheesecake, reminiscent of the kind you’d find in a New York deli, and a gorgeous crème brûlée.

The wine list has reasonable choices by the glass, and good ones if our Pinot Blanc from Alsace was anything to go by. Service was friendly and competent, but tended to be on the slow side, which perhaps can be forgiven since the place was full.

Overall, this is a good restaurant to have a bit of a treat in, with afternoon tea and brunch looking like equally attractive options on the menu. Be sure to book in advance.

Tom’s Kitchen @ Chelsea

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 17 May 2010 | Tagged as: Restaurants

Tom’s Kitchen is Tom Aikens’ casual eaterie, round the corner from his fine dining restaurant. With a variety of brunch options (such as English breakfast or pancakes) to pub lunch favourites (fish and chips, sausage and mash, pies), there’s always something good to choose for a lazy Saturday or Sunday meal.

We opted for the fish and chips on our visit and were impressed with the result. The batter was delicious, the fish tender and flavoursome, the tartar souce thick, sharp and tangy and the chunky chips perfect. Attention to detail was evident with a very tasty and well seasoned salad accompannying the fish and homemade mayonnaise and ketchup for the chips. There is also a decent selection of wines as well as a single stout on drought.

I believe it might just be the best fish and chips I’ve ever had - mind you, at £19.50, it’s also the most expensive one. The brunch ordered by others also looked delicious, and we will definitely be back to try it.

If this is what Tom’s casual cooking tastes like, I can’t wait to try the fine dining version.

Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte @ Marylebone

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 17 May 2010 | Tagged as: Restaurants

At the Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, you will only be asked one question: Rare, medium rare, or well done? This is French steakhouse at its best. The décor strives to give a Paris atmosphere and does a good job according to the French colleague along for the meal - the fact that the first of them was opened in Paris is definitely a good sign. The restaurant does not take bookings, but had a queue out the door during Friday lunchtime, a testament to its popularity.

On to the food. We were first brought a green leaf salad with walnuts, drenched in strong mustardy vinaigrette - as good tasting as green leaf salad gets. Then followed a plate of perfectly cooked entrecôte steak, sliced and so tender that a steak knife would have been unnecessary. It was accompanied by a mustard sauce and a mountain of fantastic thin fries. And when you’re through with that, the staff tops up the plate for you with a second helping - no need to ask, that’s the standard portion size (i.e. huge). We did not have the capacity for desert on our visit, but must definitely try them next time. The wine list is not big and our wine was unexciting, although we definitely share some of the blame for that for choosing an ‘02 £22 Bordeaux.

This restaurant does only French steak and chips, but gets it absolutely perfectly. And for £20 for the meal described here, with desert and drinks being extra, it’s a bargain. A must-go.

Locanda Locatelli @ Marble Arch

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 13 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Restaurants

What an outstanding restaurant. Locanda Locatelli is a very successful combination of wholesome Italian food and a fine dining experience. The first good sign were the two middle-aged Italian men waiting at the (small) bar area for their table - it’s always a good sign when people from the country the cuisine originates from frequent the restaurant.

The meal started with a basket of various types of bread (about 5 different ones) and olive oil, along with some bread sticks. The starters and mains were fantastic. A risotto with Castelmagno cheese and Barolo sauce was absolutely spot on - bursting with flavour, the cheesiness prominent but not overpowering, just about perfect - while the starter of scallops and celeriac puree really brought out the freshness and sea-flavours. A main of lamb with polenta and sweet peppers achieved a perfect balance of the savouriness of the melt-in-the-mouth meat and the sweetness of the peppers, and the beef special of the day came with a tender and flavoursome medium fillet. The only let-down was in the deserts - although the chocolate tasting dish was all you’d expect it to be and delivered a powerful kick of cocoa, the tiramisu was disappointing. Delivered in a cocktail glass, the light texture didn’t make up for the lack of taste and flavour. Some petit-four with the coffee rounded of the meal.

The drinks and wines lists are also extensive. The wine list resembles an encyclopaedia, the somellier was helpful and informative and our Barbaresco was truly marvellous - while the after dinner drinks catalogue was also extensive and included a full page with grappa, two pages with whiskey, another one for rum, and so on.

This is a really fantastic Italian restaurant - the food is fantastic, the choice of wine and drinks is massive and the service is efficient and attentive without intruding. Of course the price tag reflects all that, which makes it more ideal for special occasions. Definitely recommended.

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