Saturday, 29 February 2020

Endo at the Rotunda, London Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant review

It’s rather fitting that Endo at the Rotunda is located on the top floor of the former BBC Television Centre in White City as watching the kitchen team at work in this Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant is as compelling entertainment as the latest TV boxset.

A procession of different chefs served us an 11 course omakase set lunch (£60) accompanied by passionate explanations about the provenance and preparation of their ingredients and masterful displays of sushi sleight of hand.

Greeted by a host at the TV centre’s former reception, we were whisked up in an elevator to the top floor into a cloud-like dining room with views towards central London. With only twelve covers and all the seats directly facing the kitchen, it's very much a chef’s table experience. 

I don't have a frame of reference when it comes to high end sushi but I was seriously impressed by the freshness and texture of the fish, the perfectly seasoned body temperature rice, the judicious amount of freshly grated wasabi and the small brush of a sweet umami-rich glaze. 

A bowl of miso soup, dotted with enoki mushrooms, had a delicious depth of flavour. 

Delicately fiery pickled ginger was to be used as a palate cleanser between courses rather than to accompany the sushi. It certainly did the job. 

Next up was Endo's business card, his signature dish. A crisp nori taco was loaded with diced raw tuna impeccably seasoned with soy, wasabi and onion. 

Line-caught brill sashimi had been lightly salted to remove some of the water and give it a meatier texture. It was dressed with the funk of winter truffle and citrus lift of yuzu and accompanied by a dainty salad of beets and leaves. 

Lightly-seared medium-fatty tuna nigiri, sourced from a trusted supplier in Spain, was as fine a piece of tuna as I've ever eaten. A theme will begin to emerge as I fail to provide differing descriptions for bits of fish and rice. 

Next up was French sea bream nigiri. Such is the ridiculous attention to detail that Endo imports water from Japan due to the flavour it imparts on the sushi rice. 

Cornish monkfish tempura was juicy and dressed in the lightest and crunchiest of batters. A bonus battered pied de mouton mushroom was meaty as heck too. They both sat in a light, savoury and slightly sweet dipping sauce. After we finished, we were encouraged to pick the bowl up and drink; I gladly obliged. 

Fatty tuna delivered the same luxuriousness as well-marbled steak. 

Yellowtail, a first for me, was topped with a blob of briny caviar. 

Vivid red Akami zuke saw lean tuna marinated in a house blend of soy sauces to add umami. 

Finally, uber beefy, ridiculously tender and well crusted A4 grade wagyu was served with a vivid sauce of sancho pepper, wasabi and miso (a Japanese take on peppercorn sauce) and accompanied by baked celeriac and carrot. 

A pretty dessert was indulgent yet palate refreshing. Two types of sweet pear and pink grapefruit were joined by yuzu cream, grated white chocolate, milk chocolate balls, popping candy and creme fraiche. 

We had an absolutely belting lunch at Endo at the Rodunda. 60 quid a head for front row seats at one of the hottest shows in town seems like a good deal to me.

The Details:

Address - Endo at the Rotunda, 8th Floor, The Helios, Television Centre, 101 Wood Ln, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 7FR
Web -
Email -

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Holborn Dining Room, London restaurant review

Master carpenter, master builder, master plumber. These are all trades I have a lot of respect for - all those years spent honing an artisanal craft until you reach the top of your game.

But, it's pie masters I have respect for above all others.

Oh to be able to craft a water crust pastry Venus de Milo out of nothing more than flour, lard and water.

Calum Franklin is the UK’s pre-eminent pie master. His intricate creations have gained him a cult following on Instagram.

He's based at the Holborn Dining Room in London's uber-swank Rosewood Hotel. The dining room oozes luxury with its moody lighting, brass rails and leather banquettes.

The menu is a comforting who's who of brasserie classics with a pie at every turn. It's all rather pricey but I guess that's what you'd expect in this kind of gaff.

Coombeshead sourdough and Abernethy butter are both best in class. The crisp-crusted, tangy crumbed bread is perfect with a slick of golden Irish butter 

A scotch egg (£10) is the champion of the Scotch Egg Challenge 2015, a prestigious competition founded by the legendary Guinea Grill landlord Oisin Rogers. It's very good - crisp of crumb, golden yolked and with well-seasoned and exceptionally loosely packed sausage meat. I like a little more bite to my meat but it’s a minor criticism. 

Octopus pieces (£15) are tender and meaty with a lovely lick of char. They're served with big hunks of chorizo which are assertively spiced; they’re an ideal foil. 

It's pies across the board for main course.

A steak and kidney pudding (£22) is the winner. Loaded with meat in an intensely beefy gravy, its suet cocoon is soft, light and not at all stodgy. 

A chicken, tarragon and girolle pie (£23) is packed to the brim with big hunks of meat in a gorgeously herb fragranced cream sauce. The golden pastry case is crisp, buttery and every bit as enjoyable as the filling. 

A curried mutton pie (£23) is stuffed with tender shreds of yielding spice-packed flesh. It's all thriller and no filler. A zingy mango salsa and creamy curry sauce with a good wallop of chilli add even more interest to the plate. 

Sweet heritage carrots (£6) have a little bit too much bite for me. 

Top notch champ (£6) is decadently buttery and beautifully smooth. 

For pud, a light and crisp meringue (£9) is adorned with super smooth coconut ice cream and blackberry coulis. I prefer a bit more squidge and chew to my meringue but it gets a big thumbs up from Mrs G. 

A cylinder of egg and vanilla rich brûléed custard (£9) is served with fragrant rhubarb with a lovely bite and a cracking champagne sorbet. 

Only my dessert disappoints slightly - a salted caramel Paris-Brest (£9) is loaded with hazelnut cream and topped with toasted almonds. But, it's just not as good as Cocorico's - the pastry is a little soft and there's a slight bitterness from the caramel. 

I really liked Holborn Dining Room. The pies really are the star of the show and they're worth hunting down. But, this is a pricey place - if you want to save a penny the canny option would be to source a takeaway pie from their Pie Room next door and guzzle it on a nearby park bench.

The Details:

Address - Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Web -
Telephone - 020 3747 8633

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Volare, Caerphilly Italian restaurant review

On a dreary Saturday night in January, Volare feels like the beating heart of Caerphilly town centre.

Alive with chatter, warmth and light, it’s the kind of place which could have been around for decades, especially considering Italy’s intimate ties with the south Wales valleys.

However, Volare has a much more recent history having only opened in 2017 by a pair of friends from Calabria who moved to Wales in 2008 to learn English.

The menu is very much classic Italian pizza-pasta fare with hearty portions and good prices. Prawn cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, carbonara and lasagne all put in an appearance.

A Volare fish board (£7.95) is a fine fritto misto. Generous in portion, crisp of crumb and batter, and grease-free it features whitebait, tender calamari and a quintet of sweet king prawns served with a pot of enjoyably garlicky mayo. It’s let down slightly by a serviceable selection of mixed leaves. 

It’s the same with a whopper of a beautifully creamy liquid-centred burrata (£6.50) which is accompanied by a pedestrian selection of chopped iceberg, cherry tomatoes and a dusting of oregano. 

A linguini bolognese (£10.50) is a hearty winter warmer - the meaty mix of beef and pork mince is nicely seasoned and deep in flavour, the pasta beautifully al dente and topped with a good scattering of savoury parmesan. 

My pan fried pork fillet in breadcrumbs (£13.95) is quite average in comparison. The flattened pork fillet is a touch dry and its crisp-crumb lacking in seasoning. Accompanying linguine in a light and fruity tomato sauce is delicious. 

Desserts get things back on track.

A trio of dinky cannoli (£5.95) are reassuringly crunchy and filled with a smooth and citrusy sweetened cream cheese. 

A chocolate cheesecake (£4.75) is light, smooth and delicately tangy with a crisp buttery biscuit base. Fragrant mango coulis and a warm white chocolate sauce add even more interest. 

Overall we had a really fun evening at Volare. The buzzing atmosphere, brisk service and hearty cooking mean that despite a few glitches, it’s a place I’d happily return if I’m ever in Caerphilly.

The Details:

Address - Volare, 87 Cardiff Rd, Caerphilly CF83 1FQ
Telephone - 029 2132 2077

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Corkage, Bath wine bar and restaurant review

With a focus on interesting wines and eclectic small plates, Corkage in Bath has an extensive menu of plonk by the glass which thankfully includes informative descriptions for wine dumbasses like myself. Take for example a Dorset sparkling rose (“Strawberry jam and clotted cream on a scone. This does the same in a glass.”) or a Galician white (“A peach orchard with crushed cantaloupe melons underfoot.”)

Mrs G stuck to an “elegantly floral” (their words) and highly neckable (my words) Austrian Gruner Veltliner (£5) whilst I also drank a light and fruity La Galoche Beaujolais (£6).

Everything we ate was delicious.

Ham hock croquettes (£7), laden with shreds of porky goodness and silky bechamel, sat on a pokey kimchi mayonnaise. 

Padron peppers (£5) were nicely blistered and liberally sprinkled with sea salt. 

A crisp crumbed brick of shredded confit duck leg (£7.5) was nicely herbed and flecked with richness balancing greenery (capers, I think). A nutty, vinegary and sweet pickled walnut ketchup was a genius accompaniment. 

A silky babaganoush (£6.50) was topped with smokey and fiery harissa and texture-giving chickpeas. Shards of nigella-seed flecked flatbread were a little too well crisped rendering them on the chewy side. 

Fudgy caramelised heritage carrots (£8) were paired with a thick, tangy and creamy chickpea yoghurt, a liberal scattering of spiced mixed seeds and nuts, and a warming chilli oil. 

Well-aged complexly beefy bresaola (£7) was topped with shavings of pecorino and deliciously sweet yet sharp petals of baby pickled onion. 

Finally, the surprising star of the whole meal was delicately charred yet beautifully tender hispi cabbage (£7.50) topped with a ridiculous quantity of umami-rich miso butter and a snowdrift of pecorino. I think there may have been more cheese and butter than there was cabbage but I’m not complaining. 

We had an excellent lunch at Corkage. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d gladly spend a few hours leisurely working my way through a heap of booze and food.

The Details:

Address - Corkage, 5 Chapel Row, Bath BA1 1HN
Telephone - 01225 423417

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Honest Burgers, Cardiff review

You don’t see many chain restaurants on this blog.

It’s not that I don’t have a soft spot for a McMuffin, a Greggs sausage roll or a KFC bargain bucket.

But, these guys don’t need the publicity when they already get wall to wall coverage from Wales’s mainstream media.

And, it’s not really that interesting writing about restaurants which you can visit in any other city up and down the UK.

But, I don't mind featuring Honest Burgers, because I enjoyed it so much.

With 36 branches across the UK, this chain has grown a heck of a lot since opening its original branch in Brixton Village in 2011. They’ve also received backing from venture capitalists Active Partners who’ve put dollar into other interesting brands such as Finisterre, Chick N Sours and Northern Monk.

Honest’s ethos very much focuses on quality and local produce; their chips are made in-house daily and they’ve made a point of sourcing local craft beers in each of their restaurants from Gipsy Hill in London to Moor and Good Chemistry in Bristol. 

Tiny Rebel Church Street Pale Ale (£5), brewed especially for Honest Burger, was seriously sessionable. Super light and hoppy, I knocked back a pint and a half without it even touching the sides. 

A mountainous bowl of onion rings (£4) with crisp and well-seasoned batter (cumin seeds, I think) arrived well before our mains. They made for a lovely starter. 

In contrast, a bowl of Buffalo wings (£5) arrived quite a bit after our mains. Tender of flesh and with a good lick of vinegary and fiery Franks red hot sauce, they were let down a little by their crumb which could have been a touch crisper. 

Onto mains and we all ordered beef burgers. Made using grass-fed Scottish beef that they butcher themselves, it’s worth highlighting just how good Honest’s patties are. Cooked medium as standard and made using a blend of chuck and rib cap, they’re loosely packed, coarsely chopped instead of ground, ridiculously beefy and seriously juicy. We were all very impressed. 

My Tribute (£11.50) saw the cracking patty topped with crisp streaky bacon, an ooze of American cheese, cleansing dill pickles, tangy burger sauce, French’s mustard and token salad. It was all tucked into a ridiculously squishy steamed bun which held together throughout. 

Mrs G’s Cardiff (£12.50) saw a tasty combination of nutty Hafod cheddar, crisp candied bacon, mustard mayo and soft sweet leeks cooked in Tiny Rebel Cwtch ale. She didn’t let me have a taste but reported that all of the flavours worked well whilst allowing the beef to come to the fore. 

As standard, both burgers were served with rosemary fries. These chips come with the baggage of some serious hype. Golden and salty with the fragrance of rosemary, they were very good chips but not game-changing. In fact, they could have been touch crisper.

However, they were pretty awesome when dredged through a bowl of thick beef and bacon gravy (£2) which delivered on its billing of meat squared. 

I really enjoyed Honest Burger and was seriously impressed by their patties. Alongside, Hoof and Nomad Kitchen, they’re knocking out some of the best burgers in Cardiff. They just happen to be a chain.

The Details:

Address - Honest Burgers - Cardiff, 10 Church St, Cardiff CF10 1BG
Web -
Telephone - 029 2130 3446