Saturday, 27 April 2019

Perilla, Newington Green, London restaurant review

Tom Kerridge, Paul Ainsworth, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, Daniel Clifford and Josh Eggleton.

Many of the UK’s best chefs have raised their profiles by competing on TV cookery competitions. It makes a great deal of sense as you can put bums on seats in your restaurant without the expense of paying for advertising or PR.

London’s Perilla can count themselves amongst the savviest when it comes raising their profile by appearing on TV.

Chef owner Ben Marks is one of the standout contestants on this season’s Great British Menu, senior sous chef and Welshman Adam Wood recently impressed on Million Pound Menu with his concept Coracle and another member of the brigade recently competed on Masterchef the Professionals.

It was thanks to seeing Ben’s and Adam’s cooking on the telly that I was itching to visit Perilla.

Located in a bright and airy corner spot in Newington Green, Perilla serves modern and seasonal small plates. I gobbled down their well-priced set menu (£44) whilst perched at the bar with a cracking view of the pass. 

During the meal I drank a couple of glasses of excellent wine - a refreshingly effervescent Ameztoi txakoli (£7.50) and a sherry-like Honorio Rubio Macerado orange wine (£8). 

A trio of snacks set a seriously high standard which was maintained throughout the meal.

Delicate leaves of crispy kale were blobbed with rich salted egg yolk and bright avocado. 

A small piece of yesterday’s bread was the embodiment of moules marinière. The crumb was soaked in a creamy white wine sauce whilst the crisp crust provided the vehicle for a deep flavoured mussel puree. 

High end filth took the form of a dainty fillet of flaky gurnard coated in light beef dripping batter. Blobs of salty and tart gooseberry puree and fragrant curry leaves added complexity whilst a dish of deeply spiced chip shop curry sauce kept the dish firmly in junk food territory. 

No ordinary bread and soup was up next.

A hollowed out onion was filled with a deep grey burnt onion soup with a big hit of allium, tang of cultured cream and a complex charred note. 

Sourdough was light of crumb, crisp of crust, flecked with umami-rich seaweed and paired with whipped caramelised brown butter. 

A clever reference to spaghetti ragu saw threads of al dente monk’s beard greens coated in a properly meaty red wine braised cod head ragu without the merest hint of fish. Salty bottarga-infused toasted breadcrumbs dialled up the luxury. 

A bowl of big Spanish flavours saw a tender piece of chicken sat in a chicken and Albariño broth and topped with a smokey chorizo sauce. The kicker was a trio of charred and bitter padron peppers each filled with a different flavour-packed puree - red pepper, honking garlic and verdant parsley. 

An intensely herbal coriander, basil and tarragon sorbet was the perfect palette cleanser before two dessert beasts. 

A golden and flaky pastel de nata was loaded with silky egg custard and topped with pieces of cleansing blood orange. 

Finally, a crunchy chocolate biscuit base was topped with nut studded salted caramel and the glossiest of thick chocolate ganaches. 

Lunch at Perilla is an early contender for my best meal of 2019. I seriously recommend checking out their huge flavoured, technique-packed food.

The Details:

Address -
Perilla, 1-3 Green Lanes, Newington Green, London N16 9BS
Telephone - 0207 359 0779

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Hollybush, Draethen, Newport pub review

When I heard that Barnaby Hibbert was running the kitchen at the Hollybush in Draethen I promptly booked a table.

Barnaby was the former head chef and owner of the excellent Gallery in Barry, three time winner of Wales’s most sustainable restaurant. I know I wasn’t the only one who was a little bit gutted when he put the place up for sale a few years back.

Just a fifteen minute drive from Cardiff in the direction of Newport, the pretty Hollybush pub is the kind of place where you could happily spend a night sat by the fire tucking away a few pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or Wye Valley’s Butty Bach. 

On the Tuesday night we visited, the place was packed with locals getting ready for the Tuesday night pub quiz and a rather tasty sounding quiz night curry special. 

The Hollybush’s dinner menu focuses on rustic pub food with a few flourishes. Steak burgers, beer battered cod and sirloin steak are all present and correct. But, if you’re looking for something a bit different there’s pan roast pigeon with beetroot and pickled mushroom or three bean cassoulet with bacon wrapped chicken, crispy kale and gremolata. 

A bread selection (£2.50) included a warm and soft soda farl dotted with salty nuggets of bacon and a squidgy flatbread drenched with punchy melted garlic and lovage butter. 

Starters were both lovely.

Warm smoked mackerel fillet (£6.50) was accompanied by a light and creamy dressed salad of crunchy apple and new potatoes, crisp lettuce leaves and lovage oil. 

A generous plate (£7.50) of al dente pappardelle was topped with an uber-tender 12 hour cooked rabbit ragu with a light tomato sauce. A big flavoured pesto and curls of savoury cheese added an extra dimension. 

Mains were both very tasty but not quite at the same level as the starters.

A trio of venison sausages (£12) were enjoyable gamey but a touch chewy. They were joined by a thick gravy dotted with tangy red currants, nicely caramelised red onions and thick, smooth and buttery mash twanged with garlic. 

A gargantuan portion of beef bourguignon (£14) was loaded with tender meat, sweet baby onions and mushrooms coated in a beefy and winey sauce which could have had a bit more body. Accompaniments comprised cavolo nero cleverly dressed with butter and richness balancing citrus, thick mash, and crisp shards of bacon. 

Our shared dessert was killer. I’m a little bit gutted we didn’t have room to order the spiced banana bread with rum sauce and mocha ice cream or the sticky toffee pudding.   

A sherry trifle (£6) was a bowl of treats including golden cinder toffee with a compelling delicate bitter note, fresh raspberries and blackcurrants, smooth custard, barely set raspberry jelly, thick whipped cream, soft sponge fingers and a good hit of booze. 

We had a lovely meal at the Hollybush. If you’re looking for hearty pub food cooked from scratch just a short hop from Cardiff then it’s well worth a look.

The Details:

Address - The Hollybush, Draethen, NP10 8GB Newport
Web -
Telephone - 01633 441326

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Bravas, Cotham Hill, Bristol tapas bar review

As soon as we perched at the heavy wooden bar of Bristol’s Bravas we were transported to one of the countless tapas bars we love in Murcia, Seville and San Sebastian.

It's the little things which give it a sense of authenticity; from the counter top refrigerator loaded with fresh salads to a wheel of tortilla ready to be sliced for the lunchtime crowd.

An ice cold glass of dry house manzanilla and a citrusy Albariño sealed the deal. 

We worked our way through a hoard of the traditional tapas on offer at this Cotham Hill restaurant. But, there were so many I'd make a return visit across the Severn Bridge for. 

Jamón croquetas (£2.40 each) were perhaps the weakest dish, their innards having leaked out a little from their golden cocoons. What remained of the nutmeg spiced béchamel was packed with flavour and studded with salty nuggets of ham. 

Once you've had Spanish style fried aubergines (£4.30) they'll be an essential order from that day on. The tender vegetable fingers were coated in the lightest of batters before being liberally drench with sticky, sweet and tangy molasses. 

A potato salad (£4.60) flecked with meaty tuna and spiked with fragrant dill, punchy capers and pink pickled onions was a distinctly British take on the classic Russian salad tapa. 

Cordoban salmorejo (£3.70) was one of our friendly server's favourite dishes and I can see why. A vibrant thick cold tomato soup with a good whallop of garlic was topped with a fine dice of salty cured beef. 

It's a bit of a giveaway as to how tender a pice of meat is when you only need a spoon to tease it apart. The ridiculously good slow cooked ox cheek (£8.20) was coated in a thick beefy and winey gravy and served atop aniseed-fragranced celeriac puree. 

A final roll of the savoury dice saw a jackpot in the form of salt cod fritters (£6.70). The golden exterior gave way to a light potato-based filling strewn with chunky pieces of tender fish. Textbook parsley and caper based tartare and a good squeeze of lemon brought balance to the plate.

Dessert was completely unnecessary and one of the best value restaurant dishes I've had in a while. £15.90 bought us four out of the five desserts on the menu alongside any two glasses of dessert wine. Whilst you’d perhaps expect this to result in taster size portions, they were anything but.

I guzzled an apricotty moscatel whilst Mrs G necked an intense and raisiny Pedro Ximénez. 

Moist and citrusy arbequina olive oil and lemon sponge was topped with a delicately fragranced and airy moscatel cream. Rich, thick and smooth chocolate mousse was nicely twanged with orange and topped with the golden crunch of an almond crumb. 

Smooth crema catalana was also delightfully citrus twanged but its burnt sugar top could have benefited from slightly more caramelising. 

Finally, crisp and marshmallowey meringues topped with a Seville orange and crunchy hazelnut caramel were cunningly doggy-bagged and inhaled later that night. 

We had a lush lunch at Bravas. In a city as fiercely competitive as Bristol it takes a lot to flourish and these guys are smashing it with their traditional Spanish cooking.

The Details:

Address - Bravas, 7 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6LD
Telephone - 0117 329 6887

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Plough and Harrow, Murton, Swansea pub review

Awards raise punters’ expectations.

When you don't expect the finest (delete as appropriate) roast dinner / burger / spam fritter, it’s much easier to be impressed.

However, when the bar is set high, you're a lot more likely to be disappointed.

Located in the village of Murton (just a few miles from Swansea), the Plough and Harrow was named best gastropub in Wales 2018 in the Food Awards Wales and Tom Parker Bowles named it in his best 50 Sunday roasts in the UK in 2018.

Two menus are available in the evening, a bar menu with high-end pub grub and an a la carte with more bistro style food. We went for the latter. 

The meal kicked off in very fine form. Thick tranches of warm and soft soda bread were accompanied by soft and salty Netherend Farm butter, pretty much the Rolls-Royce of the dairy world. 

Soup of the day (£6.50), a mix of courgette, dill and fennel was well-seasoned, well-herbed and a little bit different to the norm. It was accompanied by more of that excellent soda bread. 

Tenby crab pate en croute (£8) was inexplicably lacking its pastry exterior, one of the key selling points of the dish. Instead, a smooth crab pate with a good hit of brown meat was served on a trio of croutons which could have been a fair bit crisper. Sweet pickled fennel slices provided a lovely acidic note but intensely flavoured grapefruit and pearls of pomegranate were two ingredients too many.

There was a big thumbs up from a friend for their whole Gressingham quail (£9). Crisp of skin and tender of flesh it was joined by a sweet white onion puree, glossy meat sauce and a nice mix of green vegetables. 

Onto mains and Mrs G loved her Welsh Wagyu burger (£16). 

The medium-cooked, big-flavoured and juicy patty was served with thick cut smoky bacon, a punchy and oozy wasabi rarebit, wilted pak choi and a toasted brioche bun. Accompanying triple cooked chips didn’t have the extreme crispness I’d usually associate with this variety but they were still nicely golden and crisp. 

A friend enjoyed her mildly spiced Mauritian curry (£18) loaded with sweet prawns and served with wild rice and a punchy and aromatic coriander chutney. But a pair of generous fillets of monkfish, whilst tasty, were deep fried rather than cooked in a more delicate manner. 

The third main was a letdown. Overnight pork belly (£18) was essentially a pleasant roast dinner. A pair of slices of tender pork were light on meat and consisted mostly of a nicely seasoned stuffing made from white pudding and rhubarb (although the fruit was barely perceptible). 

Crackling was lacking apart from in a couple of small places and the other accompaniments were okay - leek and bacon hash was more like a robust, coarse mashed potato whilst a whopping baked apple was still quite firm. 

A tower of beer battered onion rings (£3.50) were golden and crisp with a soft sweet interior. 

Desserts were both good.

A thick and creamy creme brûlée (£7) studded with pistachios impressively arrived at the table mid-brûlée. It was joined by a tasty slice of almond flapjack. 

A crisp tart (£7) loaded with fragrant and tangy rhubarb was topped with a golden crumble spiced with cardamon and joined by a thick and creamy scoop of Turkish Delight ice cream. The spicing of this dish divided opinion - I felt the intense fragrance of cardamom and rose water detracted from the first rate fruit. Others thought it worked well. 

Overall, we had a mixed dinner at the Plough and Harrow. Whilst most of the food was lovely (and Mrs G had a delicious meal), I was a bit disappointed by my choices. 

The Details:

Address - The Plough and Harrow, 88 Oldway, Bishopston, Swansea SA3 3DJ
Telephone - 01792 234459