Friday, November 16, 2012

Alpine 12?

He says...

And so we continue obviously onwards to our next obvious number.. the mighty 12. It is, without doubt, one of the greats... look at months - not content with 10 per year, they quite literally 'turned it up to 12', which is 'two louder' than ten.

Anyway, what about this alpine restaurant, 12 Temple Place? It's in Covent Garden, and if we're up for braving the cold, they've got waterfalls in the garden.

 Could be fun, although the missus has already turned her nose up at the 'non vegetarian main courses'. Piffle:

'Sauteed calves liver topped with raspberry vinegar and sour creamserved with Rösti.'

I rest my case.

They also have ractlette, which is like fondue but sexier.

Could be good combined with some Christmas shopping in that there London. Unless Kat can suggest a more delicious alternative...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ELEVEN: Eleven

He says...

Our furthest afield number to date - the charming Leamington Spa. Staying at a b&b in nearby Warwick, we popped for an early sitting at French restaurant Eleven on Saturday night, and we were pleased to find that the restaurateur is an actual Frenchman... in Leamington Spa, who'd have thought it?

Starting with a glass of kir each, Monsieur Bomme reliably informed us the drink was named after the French catholic priest who invented it. I had the special starter - escargot - and Kat had the devilled kidneys on toast.

While escargot generally taste like vulcanised rubber, they're great because of the torture-like implements you have to use, while also giving me a good excuse to tell the story (again) about how I once accidentally flicked a snail at a white-shirted Frenchman in a Parisian restaurant.

Determined to remain stereotypically French for the duration of the meal, I went for the other special on the blackboard - duck a l'orange, which was melt-in-the-mouth although sadly let down by an extremely pedestrian selection of veg. However, Kat told me that such Wednesday night-esque fare is also typically French, so I think that made it alright.

It was, however, one of those very rare instances when I was actually jealous of Kat's main course - the cheese souffle. Usually my picking skills are far superior to hers.

Suddenly there was a subtle placing of something on our table. Sadly not the desert menu, but the bill, unrequested... our early sitting had come to an abrupt end. So we weren't to sample the delights of tarte tatin or Cafe leigois...

But we did drink whiskey in a pub, go back to the b&b and steal more whiskey from their delapidated bar, eat hula hoops... then the next day... WARWICK CASTLE.

SCORE: 7/10

She says...

As a last minute escape plan it worked a treat. Choosing a restaurant in an obscure location based on the number in its title and a few pics on the internet is going to get us into trouble one of these days, but this was another (after Hastings #9) winner all round. Cute, with an authentic feel (if a French restaurant in Leamington Spa could ever be called authentic), a genial host, who was ACTUALLY French, and interesting, slightly old school food, cooked well.

My devilled kidneys were a wee bit chewy, but then they generally are. However, I was mightily impressed by my first souffle and you really couldn't argue with it's incredible cheesiness. I put up a good fight but strugglde to finish it. Luckily Matt was on hand to help out. Decent, French, wine and a buzzy atmosphere made it a lovely evening despite the stormy clouds hanging overhead.

To be recommended if you're ever in the area, perhaps visiting Warwick Castle, which is something else I recommend, and as well as an Autumn stroll (in about 30 minutes) down the canal from Warwick to Leamington Spa. Works up a nice appetite.

SCORE: 8/10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Eleven considerations

He says...

So now we're well into double figures and options for eleven are looking very promising... and with thoughts of going away this weekend, I'm thinking of going NATIONAL...

First off, Eleven in Leamington Spa is a French restaurant which promises classics such as cassoulet, braised rabbits and duck... sounds like good winter food. Sadly we can't get a hotel room anywhere in Leamington Spa...

Closer to home,  we have 11 Cadogan Gardens in smarmy old Knightsbridge, where you can have afternoon tea on one of those triple story plates for £22, and by the look of the menu, they do a fine line in top quality weed as well.

There's 11 Park Walk in Chelsea, which looks a bit weird but does do a Florentine Steak for two... at £65... theres also a rather cheesy video on the website.

Eleven Madison Garden... in New York.. but one of the top 50 resturants...

Then theres the very tempting 11 The Quay in Ilfracombe, owned by Damian Hirst, which has potted shrimp and duck liver pate... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Failing that - Lisbon?!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Restaurant Sixteen?

She says....

Matt is much better than I am at noticing potential restaurants for our blog... here's another of his finds. Somwhere in Hornsey he walked past it on his way from our new flat in Turnpike Lane to his old flat in Muswell Hill. Caribbean fusion too, which sounds great!Good work sweetie x

Sunday, October 07, 2012

TEN: The Ten Bells

He says...

My view from the restaurant above The Ten Bells peers straight into Spitalfields Market, which has been entirely transformed from the shabby vintage clothes stalls I perused in my early days in London into chichi shopping.

This uber-gentrification provides the context for this place, which features some cool art such as a neon scribble by local luminary Tracy Emin (the landlady of the nearby Golden Heart is good friends with Emin), contributing to a tastefully subdued sense of East London cool.

The menu is similarly characterful, with a healthy emphasis on rich meat and offal dishes. My pig's head starter arrives not in the expected shape, but as a number of small biscuits smeared with mustard - delicious if a little embarrasing as one of our friends eating with us is a vegetarian.

Speaking of which, Kat had the sweetbreads, which I discovered is not a euphemism for lamb's testicles but actually comes from the animal's throat. Having been eating sweetbreads for many years I felt strangely cheated by this discovery.

The meat-based excess does not end there as I move on to the featherblade beef with onion rings - the beef itself arrives in a dense and textured 'cake', almost like a black pudding in its condensed nature. It's perfectly matched to a thick and creamy swede mash.

The serving sizes are the closest I've come to nouvelle cuisine style portions in while, and three courses do not excessively fill the belly.

 I finished with a walnut torte which arrives in a surprisingly decontructed explosion of zabaione and yellow plums which sums up what this place is all about - simple, natural but happily contrary.

Score: 8/10

She says...

Relieved to have recovered from the lurgy just in time to enjoy our visit to The Ten Bells in Shoreditch, I fought my way through the buzzy downstairs pub up to the small dining room, invitingly calm by comparison. The neon Tracy Emin style (or original?) sign on the wall and the vintage (secondhand?) mis-matched furniture reminds us that we're in trendsville. The offal and choice of wines from Languedoc are BANG on trend, as I believe they say round here.

The pig's head from the 'snacks' menu drew the attention of all of us and wasn't really any smaller or less enticing then any of the starters proper. 4 quarters of flattened head-lining with a sparky topping of, I think, horse raddish. I'm impressed that they've already changed the menu so trying to double check on the website proves pointless. My lamb sweetbreads were rich and fatty and perfectly pitched. Joe was less impressed by his soup - sickeningly fishy with a sharp radish after-taste. Passed round for everyone to try I can verify it was mighty fishy, but not unpleasent to my more sophisticated tastebuds.

The vegetarian in our midst was a bit under-represented on the short menu but enjoyed his polenta main. The beef went down well, although it wasn't a hunk of steak as I think some expected. 'Featherblade' turns out to be more pulled beef style moulded into a lump with gravy. My grouse was great. The pureed celeriac was smooth, creamy, and uncommonly good, the blackcurrants subtly penetrating this sumptousness.

Enjoying ourselves with tales of MI5 shenanigans we were more than happy to hang around and order puddings as well. Kat's pear salad won in the most bizarre category. A properly unusual combination of pear spaghetti, slightly unripe to make the spirals work, mixed with thyme making it quite savoury, then raw coffee sprinkles and sweet honey icecream. It tasted amazing and I imagine there was much trial and error in the kitchen getting those flavours to work together. My parfait with pressed apple and butternut squash curd won the 'less adventurous but still very interesting and most moreish' category. The walnut torte with plums and zabaione won high praise from Joe and appreciation from Matt, but I thought the torte was more of a cake, crumbly and a bit dry. Luckily it wasn't my dessert!

Overall a lovely evening with food that's inventive and worth talking about, but, most importantly, worth eating! Staff were on the relaxed, friendly side of professional, and knowledgable; happy to correct us in our mis-assumption that sweetbreads were testicles - they're actually a gland from the neck. It's not exactly cheap but I think priced exactly right considering the quality. However, portions aren't big so I think Kat & Adrian regretted their no-starter stance, and after 3 courses it ended up at £44 a head including 3 bottles of wine and tip. A great place to go with friends so you get to try as much on the menu as possible.

Score: 9.5/10