Two new #Scandi openings: @Rokshoreditch & @Lundenwic

A salad box (£6) and the best seats in the house. Photo: FelicitySpector.

A Nordic smokehouse and a Scandi inspired cafe. Two recent new openings which promised plenty of excellent veg-friendly food – we were immediately hooked.

Rök Smokehouse Soft Launch: Seasonal freshness and simplicity.

Rök Shoreditch was a long, narrow space with a small bar, tucked away on Curtain Road. On the very first day of the soft launch, some dishes were still being perfected, but we ordered everything veggie on the menu to try as much as we could. We weren’t entirely sure what was Nordic about ingredients like n’duja and watercress – but consultant chef Matt Young explained. “The menu is not expressly Nordic. We have instead set out to create a restaurant which follows the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto, but makes use of British produce. In short, we are all about seasonal freshness and simplicity”.

Standout dishes were a fabulous charred broccoli salad with toasted seeds and tahini, and another salad of roasted beetroot, goats cheese and watercress, the grill again lending the beets a smoky depth of flavour. A cauliflower cheese was rich and oozing with sauce, although the sweet potato was a bit on the al dente side: teething problems which the opening week appears to have sorted out.

Of the pickles, our favourite was the crunchy sauerkraut – but perhaps the standout dish was the fabulous roasted peach with a crunchy almond crumble and a scoop of creme fraiche. The peach, roasted whole in the wood fired oven with a whisky honey glaze, was soft and tender and just sweet enough, with that note of slight bitterness from the char. And who can say no to a plate of crumble and cream?

3.5 / 5

Rök Smokehouse, Shoreditch: soft launch review

Rök Smokehouse

26 Curtain Road London EC2 3NQ

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, August 3, 2015

Lundenwic: Lunch at Aldwych just got Skandi

At Lundenwic, another tiny venue in the heart of London’s Aldwych, the Scandi influence is all about the design. Set up by Oliver Hiam and Dominic Handy, the pair behind the popular Scotchtails, the decor is pared back minimalism, all white walls and sleek lines. The menu is short but full of interest – there are four salads, huge toasted sandwiches, a tempting array of cakes, and coffee by Workshop. They’ve recruited the former Bob’s Lobster chef Matt Shea to design the food, and his expertise shows – there’s plenty here for vegetarians, from the salads to a sandwich stuffed with butternut squash, chermoula and preserved lemon, on bread by Balthazar.

£6 buys you a pretty generous small box of salads: I was more than happy with my mix of roasted butternut squash with chick peas, pearl barley with roasted and raw beetroot, and pickled peach with green beans, feta and hazelnuts. The desserts certainly lived up to expectations too: a little cherry frangipane slice was gorgeous, while a mini chocolate fondant managed to ooze perfectly: deep and rich with dark chocolate. Breakfasts, including a range of different porridges and some excellent plum compote with granola and yoghurt, looked tempting too.

The entrance to the cafe used to lead to a theatre: Oli points out the old mosaic lettering on the doorstep which still remains, almost intact. “YOU WANT BEST SEATS WE HAVE THEM”. I ate my lunch alfresco, in the nearby Lincolns Inn Fields. Best seat in the house.

4 / 5

Lundenwic Food + Coffee, Aldwych

Lundenwic

45 Aldwych London WC2B 4DW
Web: http://www.lundenwic.com/

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, August 10, 2015

Where to eat in (and around) #Bordeaux, France

If you’re heading down to Bordeaux to enjoy the wine, you might, like us, be a little picky about where to eat. We’re foodies who love a good “gastronomique” experience; we love Michelin starred, though don’t need constant fine-dining. And, we needed to eat on a Sunday. It may surprise you but we found what we think are two of Bordeaux’s best restaurants that fit that bill. One about forty minutes out of town across the border into Charente-Maritime, in the town of Montendre. The other, slap bang in the middle of downtown Bordeaux in the historic centre. Both, with sufficient quality, to call them best.

Belle Campagne Restaurant, Downtown (Historic Centre), Bordeaux

Belle Campagne has a philosophy we can truly get behind. Ultra local (most food sourced within 250 miles), prepared with creativity and finesse, served in a contemporary, casual, friendly environment.

Any weariness from our cross-country schlep to get to Bordeaux left us as soon as we were seated in the pleasant dining room of Belle Campagne. Ours, a lovely window seat, overlooked the cobblestoned streets of Bordeaux’s historic centre. We perused the menu and our waitress handled our finickiness impeccably. The Beynatpink Merlot Cabernet Franc, fulfilled our need for a local rosé, while a surprisingly tasty artisan blonde beer Mascaret Blonde Grand Cru, a Gironde local brew, sated my uncharacteristic beer craving.

The menu is a contemporary, small plates and main dishes affair. Obviously it’s seasonal, with products coming from 70 local producers. We chose every veg starter, although were almost tempted by the house hot dog and made a meat exception for the frites, fried in animal fat. But they were served of  “mother’s house” and with” son’s aioli” – how could we resist? There were also two sharing boards which we didn’t try, one of charchuterie and the other of cheese.

The mains were as delicious as the starters. For veggies, a massive ravioli, stuffed with cheese and herbs and drenched in a soupy sauce with more cheese and (optionally) topped with truffle d’été. If you see a “plat confidential” on the menu do enquire. We had the delicious duck sashimi. Seriously one of the most ingenious and considered dishes I’ve had in a long time. The duck, ever so lightly seared and complemented with a charging stir fry of leek, onion and sharp soy. Melt in mouth deliciousness.

Desserts were what you’d expect from a top notch French kitchen. The pictures above, surely say it all. Creams and sauces like soft cushions of loveliness, combined with bright berries and delicious presentation. What a finish!

While Belle Campagne isn’t open for supper on Sunday, it is for brunch. We recommend you book in advance, this place is highly popular with trendy young French things. Belle Campagne, 15, rue des Bahutiers 33000 Bordeaux visit www.belle-campagne.fr for more information.

La Quincaillerie, Montrendre’s restaurant gastronomique

It’s atypical to find somewhere smashing for lunch in France, that’s open on a Sunday. We had to search high and low. But finiding La Quincaillerie was worth the effort. Located in Montrendre, about 40 minutes north of Bordeaux, it’s perfect spot for lunch, even on a Sunday, if you’re heading up the E606 to Jarnac, Cognac or Angoulême. We parked in a gorgeous town square, dabbled in sunshine, and made our way to La Quincaillerie.

La Quincaillerie is Michelin guide listed, and the menu described as “hearty and with good ingredients”. We couldn’t disagree, except to add that they also cater very well to vegetarians. As we were seated we explained to the waitress that one of our party was vegetarian, she smiled, “So am I! And my Husband is the chef!”. She bought out an alternative set menu, designed that day. The 5 course set menu is €50, with wine accompaniment at five different price points. We were tempted by the cocktails but, wary of the further drive ahead of us, opted to order wine by the glass.

While meat eaters will be impressed with the hearty beef served, perfectly cooked and served with a classic foie gras, the veg diner is well catered for. Each course was customised and although there was a small amount of repetition, the asparagus drenched in a rich sauce and topped with truffle made an excellent focal point. The dessert deserves special mention. I was at first worried that the chef had gone overboard, including elements of almost every dessert ever known, but the rich combination of apple, chocolate mousse, chocolate and salt caramel (plus garnish!) was enticing, decadent, yet balanced.

La Quincaillerie serves a set menu lunch every day and dinner every evening except Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Located in the centre of Montendre, 30 r. de l’Hôtel-de-Ville 17130 Montendre. More information www.restaurant-laquincaillerie.fr.

Could it be, that vegetarianism is starting to be seen less as a dark art in France? Neither of these restaurants looked down upon us when we asked for veg-friendly options. In fact, they embraced our request and what they delivered, rather excelled. Tres bon! Experiencing both of these gems has solidified to me, that Bordeaux is one of the gastronomique epicentres of France. Go for the wine, but stay for the dining.

A Popup to follow: @SabelFood in Clapton, via @FelicitySpector

Sabel Food Popup

“Extra wheat, for the table!” You’ve got to love a place like that: where warm bowls of smoked freekeh, cooked risotto style, creamy with stock and dotted with peas and lettuce, are ferried over to a table already crammed with huge platters of beautiful food.

This is the Sabel Food pop-up, a family run business where flavours are big, produce is impeccable and the cooking is confident and assured. Chef Toby Williams has an impressive pedigree, learning his craft from some truly world class restaurants, from The Square to one of my New York favourites, Gramercy Tavern. His soon-to-be wife, Lianna, with a background in event management, leads the front of house.

And all that experience shows: from the very moment we walked into the bright, airy space above a Clapton grocery shop: there were baskets of sourdough bread and whipped brown butter, plates of peppery sharp radishes with a smoked cods’ roe dip, pigs cheek croquettes and for me, a special veggie option, grilled peas in their pods, as fresh as you like.

These were just the ‘snacks’ to get us going: next came plates of technicolour heritage tomatoes with a floral hit of lovage, toasted seeds and crumbled feta, scallops with salsa and air dried ham. And for me, another inspired veggie creation: tranches of grilled cucumber with yoghurt and mint, and thin shavings of radish. Who knew cucumber could taste so much better grilled?

With cheerful efficiency the plates were cleared and replaced: and in came the mains. That freekeh, with tender chunks of lamb neck for the meat eaters, and for me, an individual onion tart, the allium caramelised super-sweet on its own round of crisp puff pastry. I’m not usually a fan of onion. Or puff pastry. But I was completely won over: it was delicious. There were salads too: fragrant with mint and slick with buttermilk dressing – summery and fresh. And an extra plate of grilled sardines, “just in case.”

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An individual onion tart on a round, crisp, puff pastry. Photo: Felicity Spector.

But then, the piece de resistance: dessert, and the custard tart I’d been promised. I couldn’t resist darting up to the pass for a look – a huge table, loaded with perfect tarts, dusted with nutmeg, waiting to be sliced. Alongside, bowls of summer berries scattered with tiny elderflowers: that faultless attention to detail.

Piece de resistance: Custard tart. Photo: Felicity Spector.

Piece de resistance: Custard tart. Photo: Felicity Spector.

And what a tart. The pastry, thin and crisp. The custard smooth, velvety, and heady with vanilla. There were eight slices. There were six at the table. Somehow by the time our plates were cleared, the tart was gone. I couldn’t possibly comment.

What a dinner: what a night. There must have been sixty covers, yet chef Toby and his small team pulled off a flawless service. Nothing was too much trouble – and they’d taken the time and care to come up with skillful and imaginative vegetarian dishes.

I went on the last night of their current run – but follow them on Twitter @sabelfood and keep an eye out for their future events – this is one supper club I’d gladly go back to again and again.

4.5 / 5

Felicity visits the @SabelFood #Popup

Sabel Food Popup

Palm2, 152-156 Lower Clapton RdLondon E5 0QJ

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, August 1, 2015

The best #Pizza in London?

PIZZA UNION: Thin and crispy and served ultra fast.

While the ancients in Europe and the far east ate baked bread dough, topped with fruit, nuts, meat and cheese, it was the emergence of the word “Pizza” in Naples in the 16th century that signifies the start of the mega-phenomena we know today. Fast forward several hundred years, finding great (dare we say “the best”) pizza is surprisingly tough. From home-delivered greasy discs topped with questionably sourced toppings, through to franchise “gourmet” businesses, who’s claim is only reflected in price, the pizza world is complex and, in London, unfortunately prone to disappointment.

But of late it seems there’s been a Pizza renaissance. The traditional mainstays have been joined by a group of challengers, each achieving varying levels of hype, but all providing a preferable pie. And, we’d argue, each having a different slice of the market. You see, Pizza works in a variety of circumstance, from casual street food to more formal evenings out. So rather than find “the best”, we thought we’d offer up a selection.

Best street food: @PizzaPilgrims

Founded by two gents who trekked 4,000km across Italy to research the Pizza tradition, Pizza Pilgrims have a hard earned and well deserved reputation for being amongst the best. Baked fresh and served fast, you’ll only have to choose from three or four options. These sour dough pizza’s are simply topped with authentic ingredients (how does portobello mushroom and truffle oil bianco sound?) and are so good that they often sell out their daily supply of dough. Get in early!

To be fair, they’re no longer a pure-play street food vendor (Pizza Pilgrim’s is now open in three London locations), but we still prefer to eat them that way. In August you’ll find their van at Summer Tales in Old Street, Thursday through Saturday nights. More information at pizzapilgrims.co.uk.

Down with the kids: Pizza Union

Pizza Union, now well established in Spitalfields has just extended to Kings Cross. This tasty, super fast (3 minutes in the oven is all it takes) pizza in a trendy atmosphere hits a very particular spot and is achingly popular with the younger crowd. That said, when two *almost* 40 year-old foodies ventured, we gobbled up the crispy based pizza and happily lingered to finish our wine.

Part of the youthful appeal of Pizza union is no doubt the value. A 12″ Margherita for £3.95 and the more heavily (and meatily) topped pizza’s come in at £5.95. Costs are kept down in part as there’s no table service: order at the counter and you’ll be buzzed when it’s time to collect your order.

If you do go, be sure to try the filled dough ring. We shared one between two. It’s awesome foodporn and finger licking good. Pizza Union Kings Cross at 246-250 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JY, more information at www.pizzaunion.com.

Most hyped: Franco Manca

Not being huge fan’s of waiting, we skipped out of the queue at Franco Manca Soho, hoping the Tottenham Court Road branch would be less popular. How wrong we were, the queue here was just as long and we almost gave up. But glancing inside to the busy, open plan kitchen and the vibrant, on-trend crowd ordering, sipping, eating and chatting, we couldn’t resist. The queue moved fast and after another streamlined decision (only six topping choices here), the pizza came quickly.

Franco Manca’s dough is superb. Our white pizza (no tomato) was so creamy the dough and the ricotta almost melded. It was like eating air. Thoughtfully prepared toppings too, like marinated courgettes and Franco’s own pecorino graced the bready base. Has to be said: this place is worth the hype.

Worth the hype: Franco Manca's Courgette, Basil, Mozzarella, Ricotta and Pecorino Pizza, £6.85.

Worth the hype: Franco Manca’s Courgette, Basil, Mozzarella, Ricotta and Pecorino Pizza, £6.85.

Franco Manca are soon to be at 15 locations across London, though they’re managing to maintain good quality pie. For more information visit www.francomanca.co.uk.

Neighbourhood favourite: The Regent, Barnsbury

With plentiful carbs, fat and protein, Pizza has to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. And that’s why on a Friday night we can often be found at our local pub, the Regent. The pub is sister to the Lauriston in Victoria Park, both attract a welcoming, vibrant, local crowd and both serve up great stonebaked Pizza. Toppings are generous and include a potato, rosemary and gorgonzola ($7.95) as well as our favourite, the spinach and olive, topped with a poached egg (£8.25). Not quite as cost-effective as some of the high volume, low cost new arrivals, but worth it for the atmosphere and friendly service.

Great pizza, beer and atomsphere at the Regent pub, Islington. What better Friday night?

Great pizza, beer and atmosphere at the Regent pub, Islington. What better Friday night?

The Regent serves pizza lunch and dinner, 7 days a week and offer gluten free on request. Visit them at 201 Liverpool Roadd, Islington, N1 1LX. Visit theregentpub.com for more information.

It might be a dish with ancient heritage, but Pizza continues to be deliciously contemporary and hugely popular. It’s great to see it’s reinvention has upped the quality, without a ridiculous price. What’s more with the range available, it’s now more than ever, the best dish for just about any occasion.

Paradise (Garage) arrives in Bethnal Green.

paradise_garage_bethnalgreen

Before I start – I’m going to give this place five stars. Not just for the sheer exuberance of its opening night, but the brilliance of everything we ate, and an atmosphere bathed in enthusiasm and a happy, contented buzz.

This latest venture by Robin Gill, executive chef of the Dairy and the Manor in Clapham, is already another triumph in the making. Housed in one of the giant archways under the Hackney overground line, flooded with light, Paradise Garage has echoes of its older siblings with a signature all of its own. Chef Simon Woodrow’s menu has some familiar touches: fermentation, house grown flowers and herbs, a smoked whisky butter with the sourdough bread (how do they come up with these things?) and desserts by Kira Ghidoni, who works up many kinds of magic with the skill and imagination most pastry chefs can only dream of.

Pea purée, radishes and paper thin shards of potato cracker.

Pea purée, radishes and paper thin shards of potato cracker. Photo: EdibleJared.

But onto dinner, which began with a dish of pea foam, radishes and paper thin shards of potato crackers, that bread and whisky butter, and – from the ‘snacks’ section, chargrilled corn with savoury and hemp seeds, smoky and sweet all at the same time. Another dish of puffed seafood crackers with cods roe and sticky pools of ink was mopped up with the rest of the bread.

More plates arrived, a gift from the kitchen. Artichoke with charred padron peppers and goats curd and a green chilli salsa. A bowl of crab, slivers of kohlrabi and diced apple with grilled lemon. And the most vibrant plate of heritage tomatoes, with the unexpected twist of eel jelly, strands of onion fried crunchy crisp, and the floral bite of nasturtium leaves.

But the main event blew us away. The simply titled ‘Picnic: rabbit for the table’. More feast than picnic, it was ferried to the table by three staff, including the most magnificent rabbit pie you could possibly imagine. Vegetarians should probably look away now, but this was deceptively complex simplicity at its finest, with a bowl of spiky piccalilli alongside; although ours was missing the jug of gravy, that’s completely forgiveable on a first night.

The main event: Rabbit picnic.

The main event: Rabbit picnic. Photo: Felicity Spector

And vegetarians are well looked after too – there’s a whole separate tasting menu, with some dishes adapted and others entirely new. A plate of mushrooms with miso and green beans was outstanding: vibrant and beautifully composed.

Beautifully composed: Mushroom, miso and peas. Photo: EdibleJared.

Beautifully composed: Mushroom, miso and peas. Photo: EdibleJared.

We should probably have stopped right there after demolishing everything on the table – but of course, my favourite course was yet to come.

Kira Ghidoni, the best thing to come out of Switzerland since the giant Toblerone, has actually moved house to the area, the better to take charge of this new project. Here, her desserts take advantage of seasonal produce, with all the excitement and technique she brought to The Manor. We were given a palette cleanser first – cucumber sorbet with mint and pickled melon, bright and refreshing. Then, what joy – a beautifully thin apricot tart, studded with thyme, with a milk ice cream and, for contrast, a milk foam crisp. Another bowl held scoops of incredibly rich caramelised white chocolate ganache, cut with fresh berries, a vivid raspberry purée and a lemon verbena ice. Magical. And all from a kitchen that by all accounts, is hotter than an oven.

As we left, well into the early hours, the team were setting up for their first weekend service, watering the mini indoor garden, stacking the vintage plates which someone must have had fun scouring for through Hackney’s antique shops. They might be Clapham born, but the Dairy team fits very well, very well indeed, in East London. I’ve been to Paradise, indeed. Paradise, by way of Bethnal Green.

5 / 5

Paradise (Garage) arrives in Bethnal Green.

Paradise Garage

Paradise Row London E2 9LE

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, July 18, 2015

Oldroyd, Islington: @FelicitySpector at the Soft Launch

July_07__2015_at_0939PM

If bread pudding and French toast had a love child – it would be this. A dish of warm, custard infused brioche, dotted with juicy nuggets of apricot and plum, crowned with a scoop of gently melting ice cream. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start where this begins – with Tom Oldroyd’s first restaurant, a tiny forty cover affair tucked next to a kebab shop at the top of Islington’s Upper Street.

It had been open barely a day the night we went – there’s no name out front – but it already fits right in: this is a kitchen in experienced, confident hands. We made our way up a spiral staircase – it’s all about space saving here – to the narrow upstairs room, already longing to order our food. I’d like to say it was like eating in someone’s front room, if they had a front room lined busily with tables and chairs, a front room filled with people happily eating, with that heady, convivial buzz which money can’t buy.

The menu was full of seasonal produce, well priced, interestingly composed. I had eyes, though, only for the paella. Confit rabbit, squid and broad beans – and, irresistibly, a dollop of aioli. It was simply glorious. So good, in fact, that I didn’t want it to end. A summer panzanella of peach, beans and torn bread, scattered with cows curd and mint was fresh and beautifully balanced. Green beans appeared again, in a side salad with heritage tomatoes and a clever, tarragon spiked bearnaise reduction.

Around us, a couple of waitresses squeezed between the tables, ferrying plates of monkfish with braised fennel, pert radishes in a pool of smoked cods roe, tumbles of tagliarini with crab. “The menu will change depending on what’s in season, and what produce is around”, says Tom – whose five years at the helm of Russell Norman’s restaurant group has clearly served him well. Oldroyd, he says, is a chance to offer his own take on classic European dishes: if only every paella was as good as his.

But back to that dessert. A chocolate mousse with raspberries and praline sounded tempting – but the ‘brioche pain perdu with stone fruit’ was a must. Not too sweet, homely, custardy and soothing – it was everything I hoped for. I could have sat there and eaten the entire thing again.

Oldroyd opens fully on Thursday 9th July – seven days a week, with a good looking brunch menu at weekends. I’m just glad I live a few minutes down the road. If their aim is to become “an integral part of Islington’s dining scene” then I say – three cheers to that.

4 / 5

Oldroyd, Islington: @FelicitySpector at the Soft Launch

Oldroyd

344 Upper Street London N1 0PD
Web: https://www.oldroydlondon.com

Reviewer: Felicity Spector, July 08, 2015

St. John Restaurant, Smithfield: If you’re veggie, go twice, for dessert

When I think of self-flagellation, an image of Berengar, the forlorn monk from In The Name of the Rose comes to mind. Attempting to absolve his sins (having and acting upon his homosexual desire), he’d whip himself with a specially crafted belt, ripping out slices of skin from his back as he did.

Some may liken a fair weather-vegetarian visiting St. John Smithfield to such self-flagellation. Indeed, as plate after plate of whole bone marrow were whisked through the dining room on dainty porcelain, resisting the temptation to divert from my mission was challenging.

But resist I did, for I was eager to understand how this restaurant, renown for it’s nose to tail eating would cater to someone who abstained from sins of the flesh.

Steamed asparagus and butter

Steamed asparagus and butter

In keeping with St. John’s philosophy, the ever changing daily menu’s veg options focus on seasonal ingredients, could simply. The asparagus was fresh, perfectly steamed and drenched in butter (why dip when you can pour?). It couldn’t be faulted.

stjohnrestaurant_smithfields_artichoke_vegetarian_main

Artichoke with beans, shallots and a light broth.

There was one vegetarian main. Two whole artichokes, braised and served with fresh leaves, broad beans and shallots. It was visually spectacular; and clearly a well thought through dish that bought a spark of creativity which for a moment distracted me from the ooh’s and aah’s echoing around the dining room as dish after dish of meatiness arrived. And while  subtle seasoning might work for meat, I found the ingredients of this dish needed further accompaniment if they were to truly sing.

Not wanting to be defeated, we turned to dessert.

And this my friends is the real reason a veggie might venture into the meaty territory of Smithfields for supper. So much so that I simply had to return to sample a few more of the so very British influenced, dreamy and comforting dessert menu. There’s not a lot I can say that the photo’s don’t say better. So go on, get your mits around these, scroll away, visually please yourself till your heart’s content.

St John is rightfully a London institution. The prices reflect the service and the ingredient quality and are suitable adjusted for veg dishes. You might not go for the veg dishes alone, but if you end up there to entertain some meaties, the veggies diner wont be disappointed, more likely tempted.

My advice: go twice, and go for dessert.

3.5 / 5

St. JOHN Restaurant, Smithfield: If you’re veggie, go twice for dessert

St. JOHN Restaurant

26 St John St London EC1M 4AY
Web: https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/smithfield/

Reviewer: EdibleJared, May 28, 2015

Square Meal

Click to add a blog post for St John Bar and Restaurant on Zomato

Restaurant La Ferme, #ExmouthMarket’s newest #French bistro

Whole courgette, stuffed with fetta and olives. Corn purée, candied beetroot.

It’s not often a quality opening in London escapes the city’s food press, bloggers and instagram community. But from what I can tell, La Ferme has. We stumbled across it on the way to one of our regular neighbourhood haunts, and were suprised. Could it be that a restaurant can arrive in London and grow through the quality of the product, rather than the usual hype?

Nestled on the traditionally maladroit corner between Exmouth Market and Farringdon Road, La Ferme is an authentic French bistro and delicatessen. A spin-off from a market stall in Angel which imports French cheeses and meats. The delicatessen still honours those roots, while in the restaurant, you feel as if you’re sitting in a favoured Bordeaux café, with shabby chic tablewear and country charm ornamentation. But La Ferme feels effortless. It is authentic, without trying. And, with a seasonal, consummate and decidedly brief menu, La Ferme has a right to be self-assured. 

Our visits spanned the spring and summer menu’s, so some dishes won’t be available now.

In the evening, the service is à la carte and starts with a range of French themed cocktails (£8), from absinthe mint frappé to a Provençal pimms, complete with rosemary sprig. A simple menu continues, with three of four choices for each starters, main and desserts.

On our first visit in late spring, we were greeted with a massive whole artichoke. Which, happens to be one of our favourite dishes thanks largely to the insistence a whole artichoke makes that you appreciate it slowly and wholeheartedly, before it gives up it’s treasured centre. Accompanied by three dipping sauces, including a deliciously light hollandaise, it announced to us that a skilled craftsperson was in the kitchen. A massive goats cheese salad (£8) was next; topped with a crispy candied walnut topping.

On a second visit we enjoyed the set lunch menu for just £12.50. A round courgette, cooked and filled with a Provençal style feta, olive and tomato sauce and served atop an earthy, creamy, sweet corn purée and finished with candied beetroot. A surprising dish, tasty, creative and delicious. It screamed that someone in this kitchen knows how to invent with veg which to us is a true measure of culinary skill. 

someone in this kitchen knows how to invent with veg which to us is a true measure of culinary skill

Of course no French chef can be judged without a close assessment of their tart au citron. The slither we had as part of the set lunch was dainty, though more than adequate. It ticked all the boxes, a bold filling, so citrusy, almost metallic, with an instant, balanced sweetness that forgives the initial surprise. The pastry, short, crispy and buttery. To top it off, a lemony granit accentuated with thyme provides a refreshing summer twist. Tres bon, innit.

The kitchen, like the atmosphere, confidently does what it ought too, without shouting about it. Go quickly, before it’s discovered.

4 / 5

Restaurant La Ferme, #ExmouthMarket’s newest #French bistro

Restaurant La Ferme

102-104 Farringdon Road London EC1R 3EA
Web: lafermelondon.com

Reviewer: EdibleJared, June 30, 2015

Marksman Pub: It’s hype-worthy…

Asparagus, egg, flax & sunflower seed, £8.

In my mind it was always going to be a stretch that two culinary brains, developed at the meat-focussed St John, would open a restaurant kitchen that catered well to veggies. But the refresh of the Marksman Pub on Hackney Road by Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram has attracted considerable hype. We’ve seen dishes on Instagram, heard about “that” Brown Butter & Honey Tart (even that some diners’ had been pre-ordering a slice), so we simply had to check it out.

We visited in the opening week, along with fellow foodie of the “almost meat only” variety, AllThingsMeaty. An early summer’s day like the one we visited, is a great time to appreciate this boozer-cum-dining room. Light streams through the windows revealing an interior that hasn’t honours the Marksman’s iprior incarnation. There’s plenty of varnished wood and upholstered leather while fitting yet somewhat mismatched chandeliers adorn the ceiling. The locals still frequent, lending authenticity. Here you’re eating at an east-end pub, not a pre-fab’d, shipped in, ultra-cool pop-up.

The food, however, is strikingly now. The menu has a particularly vibrant small plates and starters section. The night we went (the menu changes frequently) there were six veg choices in the starter section, including olives and bread, though only one amongst the mains. But reading the menu I saw brown shrimp rissoles and devilled mussels on toast; our group decided to order them and, well, it would have been rude not too try, right?

The rissoles seemed quintessentially British to me: I could imagine eating them at Padstow restaurant. The shrimp a tasty grit smothered in lightly seasoned sauce, scalding hot when teeth crack through the breading. An experience. But the mussels were really something. Meaty, with a hit of curry flavour and chilli, and a light creamy broth that meant the sour-dough toast was deliciously soggy.

Of the veggie starters, the fried potatoes have proved a hit, if controversially so. A hit, in that they press all of the satisfaction buttons that drive food hype: salt, fat and carbs and they’re insta-friendly. Controversially, they aren’t terribly far away from a confit potato number that The Quality Chop House has been making for years. We noticed the similarity immediately, though, I have to say, Quality Chop’s version is denser and dirtier. The burnt onion mayo is fab, a really pungent smokiness that meant we licked the plate clean. The asparagus, seasonally fresh and dressed with a sauce I mistook for tahini, was actually sunflower pureéd with egg and flax. We also had the cos salad: far from boring, the creamy, almost caesar-like buttermilk dressing was invigorating and decadent.

Our table shared three main courses between three people – a decision which took some time, as we were wary of over ordering and mindful of dessert. But in the end we ordered the much hyped curried kid, grilled chicken with beans and anchovie and the vegetarian main, a pressed potato dish with caramelised leeks and a deliciously rich sauce of Bermondsey hard press cheese.

The veggie main had a casual elegance to it; the fennel added a sweet freshness to the press, while the sharp, rich cheese sauce again pushed all the satisfaction buttons. And although these chef’s are known for their simplicity, it did seem the meaty dishes had a little more going on.

Pressed potato & fennel, leeks, bermondsey hard press, £11.

Pressed potato & fennel, leeks, bermondsey hard press, £11.

The desserts when we visited were formidable. A buttermilk ice cream with pickled pear and oats. A chocolate and barley malt. But we’d decided before we even arrived to try the brown butter and honey tart. It did not disappoint. The soft biscuity pastry contained a satisfying orgy of delicousness; a rich, custardy filling which somehow maintained a paste like quality despite being baked set. The browned butter and honey delicately fight for precedence in your mouth as you devour every mouthful.

And ever so kindly, they let us take a slice home. Which was still quite delicious the next day.

Take-away tart: Brown butter & honey tart, £7.

Take-away tart: Brown butter & honey tart, £7.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Marksman. The service was friendly and approachable, the atmosphere sunny and authentic and the food simple yet surprising. But, is it veg friendly? Just. If you lean toward the starters and allow yourself to be pushed over the line by the desserts. Which you will, because they are well worth the hype.

3.5 / 5

Marksman Pub: It’s hype-worthy

Marksman Pub

254 Hackney Rd London E2 7SJ
Web: http://www.marksmanpublichouse.com/

Reviewer: EdibleJared, June 11, 2015

Square Meal
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Review: Brunch at Sunday Hemingford Road, Barnsbury N1

Post updated June 2015 with new images and dish descriptions.

The problem with Sunday brunch in London is that Everyone wants one.  Every man and his iPad toting dog wants to sip a latte and enjoy a scrambled egg on stone baked sough dough. Shed loads of demand, and limited supply. Disaster.

So when a quality establishment opens just around the corner, and, when it’s slightly off the beaten track, escaping the bulk of the aforementioned hordes, this is a very, very, good thing.

“Sunday” has opened on the Hemingford Road site of what was Christoffer Hruskova’s  “unpretentious bistro”, Fig. After a considerably makeover, it’s opened serving lunch, dinner and, as I’m most interested in, Brunch! We arrived it evoked a casual cool, a place you would want to sit and read the papers. You know, a place to sit and enjoy your sunday sleepy haze.

sunday_restaurant_hemingford_london_n1_interior

A light and energising interior with plenty of natural light, polished timbers and “effortlessly-shabby-skandi-look-furniture”.

You’ll find a comprehensive brunch menu. A granola, fruit, eggs a few ways and the obligatory french toast. You know the drill.

I pride myself on my home cooked brunches, so to say that the dishes we had were solid is quite a compliment. Served on decent, chunky bread, with properly poached eggs and reasonable serving sizes. They were more than accommodating about removing salmon here and adding a poached egg there. Coffee was well made from Caravan roast beans. The service we found solid and friendly, and, shock horror – the bill came to just over £20, including coffees, result!

And I can’t not mention the objects that show up, around table settings and sideboards. A vintage glass paperweight here, found objects there and neat little jam jars for the orange juice, everywhere. It seemed to me that someone had put their heart into these touches. And rather than be trite or overdone, they landed, quite nicely.

Jam jar'd OJ. It could have been cliched, but wasn't.

Jam jar’d orange juice. It could have been clichéd, but somehow it wasn’t.

Word has certainly got out, although it only opened in mid-summer, Sunday was heaving by the time we left. Some customers came in to make enquiries for later. Sadly, Sunday couldn’t transport us to an alternate reality with fewer seeking out their Sunday brunch, but we can’t blame them for that. And it’s great to have another quality brunch on the N1 Brunch list. I’ll certainly be back.

Foodstinct ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ (4)
Non-meat options ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
(4 because they don’t mind subbing)
Service ♦ ♦ ♦ (3)
Atmosphere ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ (4)

SundayBarnsbury
169 Hemingford Rd
London, N1
(020) 7607 3868
Twitter: @SundayBarnsbury

Reviewer: Jared
June 14 2015

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