Wednesday, 3 February 2016
I can't stand no reservation policies.
I know I'm beating a well banged drum but if I'm heading out for a meal I don't want to spend half of the night stood in the rain or to have to drop loadsa money on pre-dinner drinks whilst squeezed into a cramped restaurant bar.
This is the reason why I've never visited Russell Norman's acclaimed Venetian small plate restaurants Polpo & Polpetto. Twice I've visited on a Friday night. Twice I've been told there would be a long wait for a table.
Thankfully, Tom Oldroyd, the former chef director of the Polpo group, has opened his own joint in Islington and hooray, they take reservations at all times of day.
It's one of the smallest restaurant I've ever eaten in - there’s room for around 10 covers downstairs and 18 in the main dining room upstairs. It took a feat of table Tetris to squeeze into our corner table. But, there's a buzzing cheek by jowl charm to the space.
The menu of eclectically influenced food can be treated as a small plates sharing meal or you can order three courses and keep your scran to yourself (our preference).
A glass of spiced prune ice tea (£3) was heady with winter spices.
Silky Pumpkin soup (£5) was drizzled with stonking olive oil studded with chopped hazelnuts and a hit of herb. Slices of first rate sourdough were served on the side.
Wild mushroom croquetas (£5) were golden orbs filled with the smoothest of mushroom laced bechamels. A truffle mayo turned up the fungi fiesta a notch.
Orecchiette (£11) were served with a flavour packed combination of al dente broccoli, chilli, garlic and a scattering of crisp breadcrumbs. A drizzle of olive oil and just the right amount of pasta water combined to create a light sauce.
A trio of whopping lamb meatballs (£7.50) dwarfed the plate they were served on. They were delicious - neither too dry nor too moist and served with a rich romesco sauce and shavings of Parmesan and almond flakes.
A pork rib-eye (£9.50 on the bill / £15.50 on the menu) was one of the finest bits of pig I've ever eaten. Deep flavoured and blushing pink with a bronzed crust, it was served with a punchy salsa verde with a whallop of anchovy and stock rich lentils and carrots.
Sides were also en pointe - crisp green beans (£4) with a well poised dijon vinaigrette.
And long-cooked baby roast potatoes (£4) with uber-tender pieces of fennel.
Dessert was a proper looker - a wodge of gooey brownie (£6) flecked with warming stem ginger and crunchy hazelnuts. A scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream and a slick of hot fudge sauce sealed the deal.
Lunch at Oldroyd was so so good - the food, the friendly service, the bill (£80 including drinks and service for 3 people), the buzz and the lack of a queue were all hard to find fault with.
Address - Oldroyd, 344 Upper Street, London, N1 0PD
Web - http://www.oldroydlondon.com/
Telephone - 020 8617 9010
Saturday, 30 January 2016
However, walk past the rotating spits of shawarma, the fridge of fresh looking kebabs and through the door at the back and you enter into a low-fi dining space. The focus is an electric fireplace with a half-finished pine framed thingy hanging above it (I’ve no idea).
But, I’m not here for the decor.
I’m here for the tasty Turkish kebabs.
And for the BYOB policy with no corkage.
There’s a range of hot and cold mezze available to start which includes freshly baked pide (Turkish pizza).
On the recommendation of our super-friendly waiter we ordered the mantar tarator (£3.50), a seriously addictive mix of warm mushrooms bathed in garlic-powered yoghurt.
A basket of excellent bread with a good chew and a note of olive oil was the perfect mop for the tasty dip.
A plate of stuffed vine leaves (£3.50) were tasty yet unremarkable.
Then came the main event, the BBQ full mix (£23), a gargantuan selection of all of Sen’s kebabs.
Whilst the groaning sharing platter looked like a hot mess, it tasted very good.
Standouts included lamb koftes with a big whack of chilli and mint; a lamb chop with a crisp strip of fat and buttery rice topped with shavings of chicken and lamb shawarma. Lamb and chicken shish and flame licked chicken wings were good whilst halves of quail were a little light on flesh and flavour.
Salads were run of the mill, a red cabbage variety was the pick of the bunch.
A couple of squeezy bottles of sauce were the only genuine let-down of the meal - fiery chilli and a mayonnaise based mint sauce seemed most likely bought in.
We finished off the meal with a couple of complimentary glasses of sweet Turkish tea and pieces of nut-flecked Turkish delight.
Dinner at Sen was very tasty. If you’re looking for a kebab on the other side of town to City Road then Sen is a good option. And, the BYOB policy is always a big bonus.
Address - Sen BBQ, 146 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9ND
Web - https://www.facebook.com/senbbqcardiff
Telephone - 029 2023 2222