Sunday, 14 December 2014

MILDREDS

Recently I have tried to eat less meat and more vegetarian when eating out or cooking at home. Halloumi, paneer, cereals & quorn substitutes are the new ingredients in my cupboard and fridge. With good vegetables and sauces I realised that meat free dishes can be as good and tasty as meat dishes.

To embrace my new found interest in veggie food, I went out for dinner at Mildred's with two friends. Opened since 1988, Mildred's serves only vegetarian food. It was my first time at Mildred's, while my vegetarian friend is a regular there. 

We arrived at 7pm and the restaurant was already packed, we were asked to wait 45 minutes to get a table at the bar as their rule is 'no reservations'. After 20 minutes and a passion fruit cocktail only we managed to get a table on the ground floor. 

I was impressed the menu had so many options, and of course all 100% veggie.
My friend and I shared two starters, the first one was pan fried halloumi, the cheese was soft and very tasty; usually this cheese doesn't have a strong taste but this time the balsamic glaze added a very nice sweet touch to the dish.
Pan fried halloumi, cherry tomato and wilted spinach with balsamic glaze.

The second starter was a mexican platter, they recommend this dish for 2 person. Guacamole was ok, nothing special but it was good. My favourtie dish from the platter was brie and jalapeno quesadilla with pico de gallo. The brie was melted in the quesadilla and jalapeno gives a little bit of spice to the dish. Spicy black turtle beans were fine but not my cup of tea.
Mexican platter, spicy black turtle beans, chipotle sour cream, guacamole, corn chips, mango, brie and jalapeno quesadilla with pico de gallo.

My friend went for the mixed mushroom; porcini and ale pie, it smells very nice when the dish arrived, mushroom were slowly cooked in a red wine sauce I think. It was really nice. I tried also one fry and the mushy peas - they were ok, nothing special. I usually prefer skinny fries. 

Mixed mushroom, porcini and ale pie with mushy peas and fries or mash

On that night, I went for one of their special pasta of the day. It was delicious. Butternut squash is one of my favourite Autumn vegetables and mixed with goat's cheese...this dish just sounded like heaven to me. The perfect comfort veggie food. The cream with basil was perfect to link all the ingredients from the dish together. 
Fresh tagliatelle with creamy basil and goat's cheese sauce with butternut squash and sweet potato

My other friend went for the other pasta dish which is on the current menu everyday, when it arrived I was a bit jealous as it looked good too. The tortellini was very nice and a little bit sweet. The best part of this dish was sauce with mushroom and truffle oil, so creamy and tasty.
Fresh tortellini filled with pumpkin and ricotta, with chestnut mushroom, white wine cream sauce, drizzled with truffle oil

Overall I really liked my dinner at Mildred's I didn't miss meat at all. All options sounded great, It took a bit of time to choose what we wanted qnd it was a really good value. We were all too full to get a dessert. We saw some cake on the table next to us that looked delicious, maybe next time I won't eat too much from the starter to leave some place for dessert.
Service was good, not special but they were at least attentive to details which is a good thing considering they were extremely busy (apparently it is like that every day).
Since my visit I discovered that they also do take away, I think I might get my Meat free monday on more often - and of course preorder to avoid the wait.


7/10.

Mildreds
45 lexington street
London W1F 9AN 
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Sunday, 7 December 2014

GYMKHANA ★

Christmas celebrations started this year with my friend Lisa at the recent Michelin starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana in Mayfair. We booked a month ago and managed to get a table on a Saturday night. We were both very excited about this dinner.

The day before I received a phone call to reconfirm my booking and they told me tables are allocated for two hours, I thought two hours might be a bit short if we were having their Tasting menu with 6 courses but I guess they know what they are doing.

We arrived there and were seated in the first part of the restaurant. Straight away the waiters gave us the menus and the wine list without explanation about dishes and spice level (and do not expect to have more details written on the menu!). We ordered their 4 course Taste of Gymkhana with pairing wine and decided to choose all the options and share everything. 
As soon as we gave our choice, papadum arrived with chutney, follow by our first glass of wine.
My friends and I thought the rhythm of the meal was quiet fast and we didn't realise that worse was yet to come. 
The sommelier brought the first glass, and she told us the name but nothing more. I thought as it was a Michelin starred restaurant I would learn a bit more about the wine, for example why they have chosen it to compliment the dish, but nothing, only the name and the country it was from.
Papadum with chutney
Papadum were slightly different than other Indian restaurants I have been to, chutney was ok but not the best I have had.

The first dish was one of our favourite dishes of the night in terms of flavour and presentation. I really liked the mix of potatoes, chickpea and spices. The yoghurt was perfect to balance the level of spice in the mouth. 
We just had the dish for few minutes on the table before the waiter came to see if he can take our plate (our dish was still half full). We told him we hadn't finished it yet. 
Potato Chat, Chickpeas, Tamarind, Sev 
Before we finished the first course our new glasses of wine arrived for the following dishes again with no details about it. Papadum were taken off the table, I had to hold the waiter back from taking it, even with a few left in the basket.
Paneer tikka was nice, I am usually not a big fan of warm corn but it balanced with the hot green sauce inside the paneer. 
Paneer Tikka, Cashew Nut, Corn Chat
Ajwani salmon tikka was a great dish, I enjoyed the texture of the fish which was really moist and not too spicy. The sauce, a basil and coriander chutney added a fresh touch to the dish.
We hadn't finished our course yet before again they asked to clear up the plate. I started to see that my friend was a bit annoyed by that and to be honest me too. We felt they were rushing us to eat. To disturb the waiter and let my friend finish her dish, I asked questions about the way the salmon was cooked. 
The sommelier arrived again to bring the new wine for our main course and we started not to be very attentive and continued our conversation as we were always disturbed by dishes arriving at a very fast rhythm or waiters trying to take them away before we even finished. We noticed the sommelier seemed annoyed by us, but we didn't really care.

Ajwani Salmon Tikka, Tulsi Chutney
Our main arrived on the table, it was mushroom methi mattar pilau and chicken butter masala. Both were nice dishes but nothing exceptional really considering we were in a Michelin starred restaurant. My local indian do a nice Chicken butter massala too and they are not rushing me to finish my plate. 
Main course were served with basmati rice, dal maharani, naan and saag paneer.
Mushroom Methi Mattar Pilau
 
Chicken Butter Masala
I was very disappointed by the saag paneer, I couldn't taste any paneer in it and spinach was very watery and there was not much spice flavour in this dish.
 Saag Paneer
 Dal Maharani
 Dal Maharani was ok but I prefer the House black daal of Dishoom restaurant. 
 Basmati Rice
Bread Basket  
Naan were ok to dip in the sauce otherwise they were a bit bland.
Again during this dish we had two requests from waiters to clear up dishes again, while we were still eating. We couldn't believe it! Once is fine, twice is ok, but it honestly happened with every dish. 
We didn't finish our main in the end.
They brought us desserts, I don't know if it was because of the bad service throughout the meal, but we didn't really touch them, just a bite to try.
Both of us didn't like it the dessert.
I really liked the wine served with the chestnut and date kheer, it was Moscato d'Asti ‘Nivole’, Michele Chiarlo, Italy, Piedmont, 2013.
Chestnut and Date Kheer
Ras Malai, Damson Chutney

When they cleared up the dessert from the table we asked for the bill straight away and they left without eating our petits fours.
 Petits fours
Overall I was very very disappointed and so was my friend. I was so excited to eat at Gymkhana as I read a lot about it (most of the review I read, people were invited to eat there).
They won a Michelin star so I thought it would be a very special place for Indian food, now I know that doesn't mean anything at all. We left the place and both thought that next time we want an Indian dinner we will just go to Dishoom. 
Two dishes were really good and special but the rest was just nice. Service was surely the worst ever and I never felt so rushed before in a restaurant. For sure service is the reason why our experience at Gymkhana was not as we were expecting and we didn't take time to enjoy the food and the wine.

5/10.
Gymkhana
42 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4JH
Twitter: @GymkhanaLondon
Gymkhana on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Monday, 1 December 2014

CAFE PISTOU

Recently Exmouth Market has welcomed a new restaurant: Café Pistou. I am always very happy when a French restaurant opens in London, as I am sometimes homesick especially for food.
Café Pistou is all about South of France, especially West with classic provencal dishes.

When my friend and I arrived at the restaurant, the team was very welcoming. I really liked the classic decoration with different chairs and the brick wall painted in a light green-turquoise colour.
We were seated on a small table by the window.
We started our meal with a plate of sliced Bayonne ham with Comté cheese to share with a glass of red wine. 'So French' you must think...YES but it is so good!
Sliced Bayonne ham with aged Comté cheese

The bread was very nice and served slightly warm, probably homemade. If not, it is a nice touch to warm it first (tastes better). My thoughts when I ate it was,that I would like to be able to find a baguette like this every morning at the corner of my street.
Bread
We shared one of the light bites: Barbajuans, dishes from Monaco which literally means uncle Jean. 
I am very easy to please when a dish involves goat's cheese. I love goat's cheese so much I often have some slices for breakfast too!
The dish was very nice, the wontons were crispy and tasted light considering they were deep fried. The sauce was very sweet with a little kick with pepper. It really goes well with the melted goat's cheese curd.
Barbajuans: deep-fried provençal 'wontons' with goat's cheese and honey pepper dip
Provençal Sheperd's pie made with ratatouille, feta cheese, Puy lentils, chickpea purée and spiced feuille de brick.

The Provençal Sheperd's pie dish was nicely presented, the ratatouille was topped with a spiced feuille de brick and served with chickpea purée. It was a good ratatouille. The feuille de brick added a crispy and spiced dimension to the dish. It was a good dish but I would have preferred it with more ratouille and less chickpea purée. I didn't think the chickpea bring something special to the dish.

Spatchcocked poussin seasoned with pickled lemons and raz-el- hanout. Served with a sweet & sour dried apricot & mint dressing.


The spatchcocked poussin was my far our favourite dish of the night. The chicken was moist and tender with crispy skin. Razz-el-hanout spice was well balanced with the yogurt sauce and the sweet and sour apricot. 

Chargrilled lamb cutlets pistou and sunblush tomatoes.

The lamb was well cooked, slightly pink. It was served with pistou sauce. The dish was nice but nothing special compare to the poussin.

The pistou: charcoal roast plums with blackcurrant, plum & olive oil sauce, vanilla mascarpone and blackcurrant sorbet. Served with a caramel & pine nut crisp and basil sugar.

Both desserts were very good and well executed. The pistou dessert was very refreshing and fruit was tart but sweet.
The creme brulée was very nice and had the perfect sugar caramelised on top.
Vanilla creme brulée

Overall my dinner at Café Pistou was really pleasant. Food was good. All the spice and ratatouille reminded me my holidays in Provence in the middle of the garrigue with cicadas sounds. Only disappointment was the way they organised the service. Food comes as soon as it is ready. I don't really like this concept as  you always end up with too much food on the table and most of it cools down. The lamb cooled down while I was eating the poussin... The experience would have been better if the service was a bit more slow. 
They recently opened so they are probably still trying to adjust to the rhythm of service and cooking, depending on the number of covers. 
Hopefully the service will be more organised for my next visit.

7/10.
Café Pistou
8-10 Exmouth Market
London EC1R 4QA
Twitter: @Cafepistou
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Sunday, 2 November 2014

ADULIS

Certainly one of the best things about London is that you can easily find any kind of food. 
I decided on Saturday night to try a restaurant in my new local area. There is not many proper restaurants is the area compared to Smithfield-Clerkenwell. In Oval it is mainly chicken fast food shops and kebabs. If you want more choice of course you can always go down to Brixton or Clapham, but for a Halloween hangover reason we wanted to stay local. 

One of the proper restaurants is Adulis who have served Eritrean cuisine since 1996. 
It sounded like the perfect option for my friends and I, as two of them were vegetarian and Eritrean is veggie friendly.
I didn't think we really needed to book for a Saturday night in Oval, but we did in case.
We arrived to Adulis and we were all very surprised to find the place packed. 
We ordered some drinks and we shared a starter while we were waiting for the main to arrive. All of us noticed the nice little smell of roasted coffee in the restaurant, it was really pleasant. 

We had humous to start, it was served with pitta bread. It was a really nice and smooth humous. At that time of the meal, we didn't know we did a mistake by ordering a starter and eating bread. 
 Chickpeas and sesame paste served with pita bread

My two vegetarian friends already tried Eritrean food in Africa, for my other friend and I, it was a new experience. We shared the mini kirchat for two people, and our veggie friends shared the Nai tsom for two people. 
The food arrived on two massive platters and were served with Injera underneath and on the side too. Injera  (also called Tatia) is leavened pancake made with sourdough of taff flour. 
 Mini kirchat, a selection of four different vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes

I liked the fact that you didn't have a knife or fork in Adulis, you had to eat with your hand and your piece of pancake. There was such a lot of food on this platter, I only regret the waiter didn't tell us what was each dish on the platter. 

We had a mix of vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. We had beef, lamb and chicken on the platter, every meat were cooked with the perfect balance of spice in a different way. Each dish was very good but our favourite was the lamb served in the middle. All the vegetarian option were also very good and tasty. The best one was the shimbra assa: chickpeas cooked in spices, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and olive oil. 
Nai tsom special vegetarian - selection of vegetarian dishes selected by head chef

Overall the meal was a delight, vegetarian dishes were as good as meat dishes. I would probably take the vegetarian next time as it is more healthy. We were all very full and couldn't finish the platter, next time we won't order any starter as the injera with all different meat and vegetables was enough, especially if you had a brunch and a snack before on the same day. 
We didn't go for the coffee ceremony at the end as we were too tired, but it is definitely on our future plan for our next visit, the roasted coffee smell was very attractive and tempting.

7/10. 
Adulis
44-46 Brixton Road
London SW9 6BT
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