Saturday, 30 June 2018

Rochelle Canteen ICA, London restaurant review


Posh and Becks, Beyonce and Jay Z, Harry and Meghan, George and Amal.

There’s something enthralling about the concept of the power couple - twice the celebrity, twice the talent and twice the Instagram following.

In the restaurant world, Margot and Fergus Henderson are the closest thing it gets.

Margot is the co-owner of caterers Arnold & Henderson and the Rochelle Canteen, a legendary and well-hidden Bethnal Green restaurant.

Fergus is the father of Nose to Tail cooking and owner of Michelin-starred St John.


Last year, Margot opened a second branch of Rochelle Canteen in the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall in central London. The modern and minimalist space is a good fit for Margot’s confidently simple British cooking.

The menu is a belter - seasonal, to the point, and packed with dishes with ingredient combinations which you know are going to be full of flavour. 


A bunch of refreshing radishes (£5.50) were served with a compellingly savoury and smooth anchovy mayonnaise. This is a dish I’m going to attempt to replicate at home. 


Hunks of soft sourdough (£1.50) were served with a big slab of creamy butter. 

 
Oily and meaty smoked trout (£8.50) was served with deseeded cucumber dressed with a sinus-warming mustard mayo speckled with dill. All the textures and flavours balanced beautifully and it was a clever use for this ubiquitous salad vegetable. 

 
A cold beetroot soup (£5.50), dotted with chives and a blog of creme fraiche, was a super springtime dish. Thick, sweet, earthy and cooling, its richness was punctured by a delicate note of acidity. 


Onto mains (£16), and a handsome puff pastry-capped pie was filled with tender guinea fowl in a light, delicately sweet, meaty and buttery cider sauce.


This was a very generous dish for one and if Margot Henderson says it’s a pie, even if it has no bottom, then I’m not arguing.


A whole shrubbery of verdant, buttery and peppery greens (£4) defeated us. 

 
Crisp-crumbed, deep fried rabbit (£16.50) was a proper guilty pleasure. The flesh was a touch on the dry side but it was a great match with crunchy, citrusy, palette-cleansing kohlrabi and cabbage shavings flecked with punchy capers and parsley. A big dollop of aioli honked of garlic. 

 
A trifle for two (£10) was a handsome devil. Layers of thick whipped cream, decadent vanilla-fragranced custard, soft rhubarb without a hint of tartness, and brandy soaked sponge fingers were an awesome combination. 


It was made even better by a generous scattering of Frostie-like nutty almond clusters. 

 
Lunch at Rochelle Canteen was my kind of meal - seasonal, flavour-packed and uncomplicated. This is a big central London winner.

The Details:

Address - Rochelle ICA, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH
Web - http://arnoldandhenderson.com/rochelle-ica/
Telephone - 020 7729 5677

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Parva Farmhouse, Tintern, Monmouthshire restaurant review


The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny is more important to me than any other restaurant.

It’s not because of their unfussy Michelin-starred food or because it’s owned by Shaun Hill, one of the legends of British cooking.

It’s because it’s where I proposed to Mrs G whilst she had her face buried in a fridge full of freshly baked ham and smoked salmon.

So, Mrs G and I hotfooted it to Tintern when we heard the news that two key members of The Walnut Tree team had struck out on their own.

Tintern Abbey
Parva Farmhouse Riverside Guesthouse was opened in March by Roger and Marta Brook. Roger was head chef at The Walnut Tree, having worked there for 15 years under Franco Taruschio, Stephen Terry and latterly Shaun Hill. Marta was restaurant manager.

To say they’re an experienced duo therefore is an understatement. It’s put to very good use as they run front of house and the kitchen without any other support. With just six tables, service is cleverly staggered to allow for a smooth experience for all guests. 

 
Understandably too, there are only two options available for each course on the menu (two courses £34, three courses £42 and four courses £48). Mrs G and I gave all of them a go. 



Pre-dinner drinks in the lounge were accompanied by a pair of fine complimentary snacks.

Golden brown homemade crisps had a pleasing rustle and a generous scatter of salt. 


Crisp, squidgy and protein-packed fishcakes were served with a dollop of beguilingly smokey paprika mayonnaise. 

 
White and seeded rolls were good but made even better as they were served piping hot so the slathered butter melted into them beautifully. 


Starters set the tone for the rest of the meal, one of high end heartiness.

A handsome courgette flower was loaded with a creamy, tangy, chive-flecked, melty cheese mix and coated in the lightest of batters. Lush accompaniments comprised of finely diced baby courgette, al dente broad beans, baked provencal tomato with a herb crumb and fresh pesto which didn’t dominate. 


My dish was simple by comparison, but just as delicious. A sweet fillet of sea trout was topped with a mound of umami-rich anchovy butter which melted into the flaky fish. Peppery watercress and cleansing radish provided balance to the plate. 

 
For main, Mrs G loved a beautifully pink and crisp skinned breast of Challans duck. It was served with a whopping pastilla filled with a coarse mince of duck and warming sweet spices, french beans, a glossy meat sauce and a sweet and sharp apricot sauce which cut through the dish’s richness. 


A generous fillet of meaty halibut bathed in a creamy mustard sauce was just as impressive. It was served with precisely cooked sugar snap peas, spears of asparagus and tender new potatoes. Lightly pickled cucumber slices and pearls of salmon roe provided a good counterpoint. 

 
Onto dessert, and a big creamy bowl of vanilla-fragranced rice pudding was made doubly indulgent by a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Crunchy mixed seeds, fresh strawberries and coulis completed the lovely dish. 


A pistachio cheesecake was a fine bit of comfort food too. The crisp base was topped with an intensely fragranced pistachio cream cheese mix and a lighter layer of pistachio cream. A ridiculously smooth cherry sorbet and lightly poached cherries were the perfect match. 

 
Happily stuffed, we passed on a cheese course and coffee and petit fours. I’ll definitely have a lighter lunch and make room for them next time.

We had a lush meal at Parva Farmhouse. Their generous yet refined cooking make it another must visit amongst Monmouthshire’s already impressive number of destination restaurants.

The Details:

Address - Parva Farmhouse, Tintern, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales NP16 6SQ
Web - http://www.parvafarmhouse.co.uk/
Telephone - 01291 689411

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Anatoni's, Roath, Cardiff pizzeria review


It’s always a pleasure speaking to people who are deeply passionate about making food.

Tony from Anatoni’s loves pizza.

From name checking the Neapolitan and London restaurants he admires to waxing lyrical about the produce he uses, you get the impression that he wants to make the best pizza he can. And then get even better at it.

 
I’ve loved Tony’s pizza ever since he opened Anatoni’s in Cyncoed.

He then went into business with someone else and rebranded to da Mara. And then moved to new premises in Penylan.

Now, Tony has parted company with his former business partner (who is still running da Mara) and reopened Anatoni’s on Wellfield Road on the former site of Chai.

His focus is still very much on pizza. It’s fairly obvious from the handsome Steffano Ferrara pizza oven which sits proudly in the window for passers by to gawp at.

But, if you’re not in the mood for pizza there are a few other mains available on the menu including parmigiana, pollo milanese and lasagne.

A bottle of Sardinia’s Ichnusa (£3.90) was exactly the kind of refreshing lager I needed after a day’s work. 


Whilst we waited for the main event, Mrs G and I shared a crisp and flavoursome yet slightly dense ragu filled arancino (£3.95).


Both our pizzas were brilliant. Crunchy, airy and chewy of crust with a thin and saggy base, they were topped with first rate ingredients. 

 
My classic margherita (£8.50) combined super fresh and lightly acidic San Marzano tomato sauce, uber creamy and gooey melted Fior Di Latte and iron rich basil. 

 
A Santa Anna (£12.50) was topped with all the above as well as fiery and unctuous 'Nduja sausage, mousse-like creamy ricotta, and plump red piennolo tomatoes. 

 
That’s all there really is to say. If you love pizza then you need Anatoni’s in your life.

The Details:

Address -
Anatoni's, Unit 6, The Globe Centre, Wellfield Rd, Cardiff CF24 3PE
Telephone - 02920 495975

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Herbivore at The Embassy Cafe, Cardiff vegan and vegetarian brunch review


Herbivore is the creation of Simon Matthew.

A chef and vegetarian, his globally influenced cooking makes use of seasonal Welsh produce.

As well as hosting monthly supper clubs at venues such as Kemi’s in Pontcanna and The Fig Tree in Penarth, Herbivore also has a permanent residency at The Embassy Cafe at Cathays Community Centre on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am - 5pm.


The short but well formed menu is predominantly vegan with a couple of veggie options. It’s the kind of food which ticks my boxes - there are no faux meat substitutes, just herb and seasoning-laden dishes that make sense with no meat or dairy. 


A big flavoured, coconut-twanged Caribbean-inspired curry (£7) of tender blackeye beans was served with fluffy cardamom-fragranced rice, sweet charred plantain and roast sweet potatoes (of which a couple of bits were still a touch firm). Freshness was brought to the plate by a cleansing and chilli-laced watermelon salsa. 


Super crisp yet moist fritters of shredded beetroot (£6.50) and dill were flecked with earthy cumin seeds. They were accompanied by a thick chickpea and chive puree, pieces of tender charred aubergine topped with creamy and nutty tahini, couscous-like grated cauliflower punctuated by pearls of pomegranate, and charred flatbread. 


A green shakshuka (£6.50) was a big comforting plate of eggs baked together with soft aubergines, sweet peppers and paprika-spiked potatoes. The dish was lifted by a handful of fragrant coriander and a dollop of nigella seed dotted yoghurt. On the side was an elastic and puffy flatbread. This dish would have been improved even further by the ooze of runny egg yolks and a touch of chilli heat. 


Having shared three generous dishes between the two of us, we valiantly ploughed onto dessert. Just as much thought has gone into Herbivore’s sweets as their savouries.

A piece of orange, almond and strawberry cake (£2.50) was packed with citrus and sweet berries and moist with a polenta cake style texture. 

 
A big, crisp and chewy cookie (£1.50) was infused with peanut butter throughout and dotted with crunchy peanuts and nuggets of dark chocolate. 

 
Alongside our food I enjoyed a floral, citrusy and not too sweet homemade elderflower fizz (£1.80) whilst Mrs G had a good mug of filter coffee (£1.80).


Brunch at Herbivore was delicious. It’s great value and is definitely bringing something different to Cardiff’s brunch and cafe scene. I'd recommend a visit.

The Details:

Address - Herbivore at The Embassy Cafe, Cathays Community Centre, 36 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HX
Web - http://theherbivore.co.uk/herbivore-embassy-menu/

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Koya Bar, Soho, Japanese restaurant review



Koya Bar has been on my list of places to visit ever since it opened its doors in 2013.

This celebrated Japanese udon bar in the middle of Soho makes the best use of British seasonal produce with its daily changing blackboard specials menu.

After a swift 15 minute queue we perched at counter seats, which dominate the whole restaurant alongside the open kitchen.


As an udon ignoramus, the various merits of hot udon with hot broth, cold udon with hot broth, cold udon with cold pouring sauce, and cold udon with cold dipping sauce were unclear.

My friend and I both went for hot udon and hot broth.

A special of light miso broth contained bobbing dumplings of chicken and fragrant wild garlic (£11.90). Light, tender and of the non-pastry variety, they certainly occupied the healthier end of the dumpling spectrum. 

The udon themselves were a delight - the fat slippery noodles retained just the right amount of bite. 


To my right, a big bowl of udon and broth was topped with a fat tempura prawn (£10.50) with a bubbly batter coating. 


A side of pork belly (£7.10) long braised in cider was tender of flesh and wobbly of fat with a rich sweetness. A blob of fiery English mustard was the perfect foil. 


Tempura vegetables (£8.60), grease-free and hyper-crisp, were more interesting than the usual assortment; cauliflower, king oyster mushroom and marrow all put in an appearance. 

 
They were accompanied by the usual light vinegar dip and a selection of ginger, radish, spring onion and seeds. 

 
We had a very good lunch at Koya.  However, I must admit that I prefer the rich, fatty and spicy flavours of tonkotsu ramen over the understated clean taste of Koya’s udon.

The Details:

Address - Koya Bar, 50 Frith Street, London W1D 4SQ

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Garopapilles, Bordeaux Michelin-starred restaurant review


When I think of French Michelin-starred restaurants, I picture temples of haute gastronomy with starched tablecloths, stiff waiters and cream heavy dishes.

Garopapilles in Bordeaux is the antithesis.

At this cool wine shop meets restaurant there are no tablecloths, the friendly waiting team are eclectically dressed and the food is light, modern and seasonal.

Having opened in 2014 as a joint venture between chef Tanguy Laviale and wine specialist Gael Morand, Garopapilles was awarded a Michelin star in 2018.

 
It was sunny on our visit so most tables, including ours, had been moved outside into a pretty courtyard. Two menus were available at lunchtime, a 5 course tasting menu for €60 and a 3 course market menu for €35. With a bucketload of eating ahead of us, we decided on the lighter option.

To accompany our meal, we had a couple of lush glasses of wine by the glass including a delicious Bordeaux (obvs) and a Côtes du Rhône which each cost around €7,50 a pop. If you fancy something by the bottle then there’s over 600 available.

 
Snacks saw a quartet of uber-thin and crisp tartlets filled with light and nutty chickpea mousse dotted with pieces of smoked herring, tangy feta and a lift of mint. 


A carpaccio of meaty John Dory was joined by pearls of salty lobster roe, crisp croutons, fresh-as-you-like al dente peas and an aromatic and creamy lemongrass soup. 

 
Bread was of the highest calibre - a crunchy, squishy and buttery brioche twist and a lovely white baguette. 


Mrs G declared her fillet of iberico pork to be the finest bit of pig she’d ever eaten. Phenomenally tender, packed with flavour and blushing pink, it was accompanied by a glossy meat sauce swirled with butter, mushrooms, caramelised baby onion and white and green asparagus. A few pesky seeds added no flavour and their only purpose seemed to be getting stuck in my teeth. 


A cheese course to share (€12 supplement) saw two good sized pieces of creamy and bouncy Saint Nectaire served with a fruity and tangy homemade apple and rhubarb jam. 

 
With produce as fine as seasonal cherries, things don’t need to be overcomplicated. Lightly poached and served warm in their cooking liquor, the sweet and slightly sharp fruit was joined by candied pistachios, crisp baby meringues and a light botanical ice cream. 

 
A bowl of warm beignets served on the side were dusted in coconut sugar. They were so addictive it was a relief that we had a handful each. 

 
Accompanying the bill were pieces of light and squidgy blackcurrant marshmallow and a chocolate and pistachio cookie with a good crunch and chew. 

 
Lunch at Garopapilles kicked serious ass. The food and wine were lush and well-priced and the atmosphere was enjoyably relaxed. In terms of bang for my buck, I can’t think of many better meals I’ve eaten in 2018.

The Details:

Opening hours - Lunch: Tuesday to Friday, Dinner: Thursday and Friday
Address - Garopapilles, 62 rue Abbé de l'Epée, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Telephone - +33 9 72 45 55 36