I’m a huge foodie, and a massive fan of Asian cuisine, so when Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall opened up in Colindale, not far from the old, now defunct, but still legendary Oriental City shopping centre, I had it on my wish list for months.
I don’t intend to do regular, weekly training updates for my marathon prep, but I thought it might be interesting to chart my first steps towards making that 26.2 mile run!
A day before its official opening by Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, I was invited along with a handful of journalists to view the reveal of the brand new Exhibition Road entrance to the V&A Museum in London. A project seven years in the making, the new entrance brings the museum right into the bustling heart of Albertopolis, the cultural learning centre envisioned and coaxed to life by Prince Albert.
At the launch, the practical nature of the new entrance was revealed – an increase of visitors numbers from around 1.5 to 4 million per year meant that the current entrance was under strain, and the new Exhibition Road entrance was sorely needed to not only accommodate the influx of guests, but to also consolidate the museum’s place amongst its neighbours.
Nestled in a quiet residential area just off the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street lies The Arch, a 82 room, five star hotel situated in a Grade 2 listed building. When Madonna lives over the road, you know you’re in good company! Seven town houses have been combined to create this gorgeous boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe, incredible art, and a child- and dog-friendly policy. You can’t ask better than that! (I’m holding out for a reservation…)
At some point during this meal, I realised I had hit the jackpot. Not only is Bordelaise truly authentic French cuisine, but it’s affordable, and it’s a short Tube journey from my usual London haunts. I challenge you to find me a more decently priced and bona fide steak-frites inside the M25. No, really – if there’s better French food for this price somewhere else in London, please do let me know!
For my birthday in October, my husband and I went to Clos Maggiore, just off Covent Garden – supposedly the most romantic restaurant in London, and also a place that the Duchess of Cambridge was spotted having a meal with her family. Because I’m nosy, and a foodie, I had to try the place out to find out what all the fuss was about!
In a brand new, cavernous space a short walk from Bank station in the heart of the City lies the latest branch of Jackson + Rye, a restaurant chain dedicated to bringing an authentic slice of classic East Coast Americana to London. You wouldn’t know it was brand new except for the slightly lingering smell of paint – the dim lighting, dark leather banquettes, distressed wood and cages of whisky make it look like it’s been here forever. I was invited along to the press night to sample the menu, and never one to turn down an offer of some good grub, I duly arrived on a gloomy rain drizzled night, stepping from the cold air into the dark, cosy warmth of the restaurant.
General manager Harry and his staff were helpful and extremely proud of their new space – hardly surprising when it’s so striking! The menu is a mix of classic all-American fare – some introduced to the UK long ago by chains such as TGI Fridays (hello buffalo wings), but there were a good number of recently trendy offerings like truffled mac and cheese, or more imaginative and original dishes like beetroot and curd, or crunchy Chorizo prawns.
It was tough to decide between the Blue swimmer crab cakes, the endive and pear salad or the New England chowder, but I eventually plumped for the latter. Main courses were a mix of burgers, steaks and BBQ and traditional entrees like buttermilk fried chicken, griddled steaks and eggs, some fish dishes and a couple of pasta choices – again, a difficult decision. I decided to give the Short Rib a go – I’m a sucker for a well-cooked beef rib, and always curious to see how well the BBQ sauce goes down.
Before all that, though, was a dish of spiced caramelised nuts – a mix of cashews, pecans and peanuts – and an Illegal Negroni (Mezcal, Antica Formula and Campari). The drinks here are strong and pack a punch – and the nuts were a perfect complement, although I always hanker after a blend of sweet and salty… these were very slightly spicy but definitely not savoury.
The starter of New England Chowder is served with scallop, clams, sweetcorn, leeks and potatoes in a smoked haddock cream sauce – a real rib-sticking winter dish. It’s served with a flourish as the rich stock is poured over the potatoes and seafood at the table. There’s the perfect amount of chowder for a starter – the salty rich soup balanced perfectly with the waxy potato and fresh clams – and it’s all topped with a plump, butter seared scallop, and studded with juicy, fresh pieces of corn.
The short rib is an 18-hour smoked beef short ribs with BBQ sauce and green slaw. The BBQ meats are prepared with spices and left to marinate before being smoked with British oak chips. Neither rib dish comes with fries (you can order them from the extras menu), instead being served with a fresh green slaw. The short rib is a thick, meaty slab with a fantastic aroma of smoke that’s apparent even before you dig in.
The meat has a beautiful, rich and smooth texture and is easily pulled from the bone. The result of the smoking is a springy, almost teeth squeaking texture and a bold and distinctive flavour. The green slaw is a genius addition and nothing like the herby coleslaw you might be imagining – instead it’s a crisp mix of hearty greens and cabbage and red onions and sliced gherkins in a sauce of yogurt and mayonnaise; a perfect foil for the rich umami ribs.
I also had to try the triple cooked fries – to be honest, these were overkill (and if you want to ditch the slaw and replace it with the fries you can), but I never like to pass up a triple cooked potato! These did not disappoint – well seasoned throughout with a crispy Shell and fluffy middle. Both my starter and my main course were so delicious I’m still thinking about them both days afterwards!
For pudding I went with my waitresses’ recommendation of pecan pie with the Ritterhouse Bottled in Bond 100 Rye. Jackson + Rye’s list of whiskies, bourbons and ryes is a sight to behold, intelligently constructed and a great read to boot. The liqueurs are ordered according to flavour profile and the Ritterhouse I had was from the section called Pancake Parlour – promising a rich, viscous drink with notes of maple and banana, a great pairing with the pecan pie.
The dessert was homemade – a reassuringly familiar jellied like textured base topped with crunchy, caramelised pecans on a crispy pastry base. It came with a rich caramel ice cream and a bourbon and maple syrup sauce. Divine! I have to say, it tasted exactly like it does when I make it at home, which makes me wonder if my love of it is just a massive humblebrag…
If you fancy a decent helping of Americana, served with sophistication rather than a hefty squirt of cheese from a can, I heartily recommend Jackson + Rye. The broad yet classic menu is full of modern twists, the cocktail list is fantastic, and their liquor can’t be beaten. Every course I had met my expectations, and I don’t think you can beat their chowder or their short ribs! There are multiple locations across London, and you can find them and view the menu here: www.jacksonrye.com.
View images taken during my review by clicking below. My meal was complimentary but my photos, views and opinions are my own.
There’s nothing better than a good steak – but don’t you find that very often, the steak on a menu seems like more of an afterthought that a really well done dish? I rarely bother ordering steak on a menu when I’m out at a restaurant, because it just feels as though the cut will be cheap and the cooking a bit of a lottery.
That’s why if I want a proper steak at a restaurant, I make sure to visit a speciality place. Cue London Steakhouse Company! I was asked to pop down and review the gorgeous City branch, and I have to say, it was my absolute pleasure. The restaurant has been recently refurbished, and is on two levels – doesn’t it look gorgeous?!
City has a classic French bistro interior with white tablecloths, red leather chairs and mirrored walls with wooden panelling. The logo of the steer skull seems more in keeping with a Texan steakhouse, but the menu is classically French. The bar is well stocked with premium spirits, although there are only a handful of cocktails on the menu. But, the bar staff are more than happy to accommodate any requests. We had a Four Seasons cocktail and a bespoke raspberry and pineapple mocktail, both of which were fruity and delicious!
Starters were beef short rib with house BBQ sauce and coleslaw, and chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche. The parfait was whipped and super light, like a dreamy mousse, and accompanied by a basil oil dressing and smears of a spiced fruit chutney. The brioche came in the form of small croutons – it would have been nice to have had a thick wedge to spread the parfait onto, but the croutons provided a delicious contrasting crunch.
The short rib came stripped from the bone and perched atop a cylindrical mound of coleslaw, pink with the BBQ sauce, which was sweet and smoky.
The main was a Boston Chop, served carved off the bone to share. It came with a sharp bearnaise with a hint of tarragon, and a creamy, peppery sauce. The steak was divine – a seared outer edge coaxed forth the deep umami flavours of the beef, and the cut was tender and soft with an extra depth of flavour you only get from a really good piece of meat. I think you can always tell the quality of steak by tasting the seared fat along the edge (I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it!) and this was crispy and rich.
The steak doesn’t come with side dishes so you select your choice from the menu (and you will need to order at least one per person). We tried the Pont Neuf and house fries – the former were a bit of a miss for me, the interior was a bit floury and the taste wasn’t as good as the house fries.
Let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with frites with your steak! You are also offered condiments of your choice including tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, and sharp English mustard. I always go for a mustard with my steak, and I originally thought I’d need some as there didn’t seem to be a lot of sauce. But the sauce we were provided was so rich and creamy, it was just the right amount!
If you’re going low-carb, there are quite a few food choices on here, and I’d love to try the buttered greens and lardons, panazella salad or the creamed spinach at some point!
Onto the puddings, and the restaurant has a decent selection which should please everyone – classic creme brûlée, sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake, chocolate cake, plus a gorgeous looking cheese selection.
There are dessert wines suggested for every option which is a lovely touch – and I can rarely resist a glass of Sauternes when it’s offered! The creme brûlée was dense, silky and creamy, studded with vanilla seeds, with a great tasting thin layer of caramel on the top.
It went really well with the Sauternes, and at this point I was in dire need of a coffee so that I could continue writing my notes…
You’re treated to a little marshmallow at the end of the meal, served from under a glass cloche, which is a lovely little addition!
All in all, I thought that the ambiance, food and service made this an excellent spot for a special celebration meal out. The food is incredible, the steak was of a really high quality, and the staff were more than happy to go that extra mile to make sure you were happy with every dish, even making some spot-on recommendations for us throughout.
I have fond memories of the Boston Chop, and if you’re visiting with a loved one or a fellow steak-enthusiast, I’d recommend you go for that option. My only regret is that I couldn’t gnaw the bone at the end!
Click the image below to be taken to my Flickr set for the restaurant, and make sure your keyboard is wipe clean…
London Steakhouse Co. has branches in Chelsea and City, and you can find their website here. There are some excellent dishes on the affordable set menu, and they have some gorgeous looking Christmas menus as well, for £35 or £55 per person, plus drinks packages of £15 or £25 per person.
My meal at London Steakhouse Co. was complimentary – my review, opinions and photography are my own.
Rumour has it that the best dim sum in London is to be had at the Royal China Group, so I was only too happy to pop along to the flagship Baker Street branch when they asked me to review their spread.
Dim sum is one of China’s worst kept culinary secrets – you might think you’re content with sweet and sour pork balls and some egg fried rice, but if that’s the extent of your knowledge when it comes to Chinese cuisine, you’re missing out on an amazing experience! And when you finally get yourself to a dim sum place (especially one as good as this) you’ll realise you’ve been in the dark for far too long…
The Royal China Group has locations all across London, including the aforementioned Baker Street branch (Baker Street is also home to the Royal China Club, the premium restaurant in the chain), as well as Canary Wharf, Queensway, Fulham and Harrow-on-the-Hill. Each restaurant has its own dedicated dim sum chef, and serves dim sum from noon to 5m – and believe me, the tables fill up fast, so if you want a seat, book ahead, or get there early!
One of the most popular dishes on the dim sum menu is cha siu bao, or steamed roast pork buns, but don’t miss out on these gorgeous honey roast pork puffs, pictured above. While cha siu bao are traditionally served in a sugary, steamed, marshmallowy bread bun (second image), the pork puffs have the same sweet and savoury roast pork filling encased in flaky, buttery pastry. These didn’t last long!
If you’re a fan of the Japanese gyoza, you should definitely try the original Chinese version. Thicker dough wrappers and a more amalgamated centre portion gives these a chewier texture – and they’re just as delicious as the Japanese ones!
At dim sum, the idea is that all the guests select their favourites from a menu of tiny dishes – almost exactly like Spanish tapas or Greek / Turkish mezze. But don’t forget to check out Royal China’s scrumptious noodle dishes too, to bulk out your meal – we ordered the Soy Beef Ho Fun, above, and it was one of the tastiest noodle dishes I’ve had in a Chinese restaurant for a long time. Wide strips of noodles, tossed in soy sauce with generous strips of sliced beef, accompanied by spring onions, beansprouts, and topped with an egg, this was a great way to keep the meal flowing while we waited for various dishes to arrive.
If you’re ordering dim sum, you need to move away from your comfort zone somewhat – otherwise you’ll miss some of the most delicious and intriguing dishes! These stuffed bean curd rolls were a case in point – earthy, wood-scented mushrooms with prawns, encased in a stiff, chewy casing, they were unlike anything you’ll get from your local takeaway.
Also, this fried dough cheung fun – a slippery noodle layer encasing a spear of fried dough, served with a sweet soy sauce dip. The texture contrast is what makes this dish so moreish, and again, so very unlike anything you might be used to if you have a western palette!
We also tried the Chinese rice pot, which was a pottery lidded dish stuffed with delicate rice, topped with corn-fed bone-in chicken, mushrooms and Chinese sausage, again served with a tasty sweet dip.
You also have to give the steamed meatballs a try (succulent beef with preserved orange peel and spring onions) – and make sure to round off the meal with egg custard tarts served with Chinese tea!
Three or four dishes will be more than enough to fill you up at a dim sum lunch, so pace yourself! The Royal China menu has most of its items priced at £3-4, although some items are more expensive (and the large noodle dishes, which are big portions, are around £8-9).
Also, whatever you do, don’t forget to check out the cocktail menu! I can highly recommend the Royal China Martini!
Head to the website at www.theroyalchina.co.uk to find out more about the restaurant group, find a branch near you, and to look at the menus. Royal China also do a more traditional ala carte menu, as well as tasting experiences as well! Check out the dim sum menu here, and try not to drool on your screen!
The meal I enjoyed at Royal China was complimentary – the views in this review are my own.