Friday, October 28, 2016

Colbert: French-Style Brasserie on Sloane Square

Inspired by the great boulevard cafés of Paris, Colbert is a charming and informal neighbourhood rendez-vous in the heart of Sloane Square. The latest offering from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the duo behind the Wolseley, the Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel, Colbert, which opened in 2012, pays homage to the grand Continental tradition of classic Parisian pavement cafés, with marble, linen napkins, vintage posters and mirrors galore. Dishes are mostly traditional French brasserie fare, from simple croque monsieurs, to moules marinière and cassoulet, but they also serve wonderful omelettes and an all-day full English breakfast. 

The menu at Colbert, which opens early for breakfast and continues to serve food and drinks throughout the day until post-theatre

A hot Cappuccino with cream in the shape of a heart

Our lovely corner table at Colbert, great for people watching

Tableware with a french fleur-de-lis, Colbert's logo

An old vintage poster of Jane Venturini, an old French singer from the 1930s 

The Full English with choice of fried, poached or scrambled eggs
with bacon, sausage, tomato, black pudding and mushrooms

An Omelette aux Fines Herbes

Warm toasted baguette 

A small pot of butter served with the baguette

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Cena: Northern Italian Cuisine in East Twickenham

A favourite neighbourhood restaurant in Twickenham since opening in 2001, Tim Healy and Camilla Kennedy started A Cena out of a passion to serve high quality simple Italian food set in an elegant but relaxed friendly atmosphere. Having launched Giorgio Armani's first restaurant in Knightsbridge in 1989, Camilla was no stranger to high quality Italian cuisine. Having an Italian mother who was an exceptional cook, she loved being in the kitchen with her, and visiting family in Lake Como and Emilia Romagna ignited a passion for simple, stylish, great tasting food. It was only natural that she would become a chef. Together with husband Tim Healy, a world-class polo player, and head chef Nicola Parsons who Camilla knew from the Armani Café, the idea of A Cena was born and since opening, has had stellar reviews. Serving authentic Northern Italian cuisine with a modern twist, Chef Parson's seasonally inspired menu changes every day using only the finest, freshest, seasonal ingredients, with dishes such as Fusilli with Homemade Pork and Fennel Seed Sausage, Marinated Gressingham Duck Breast with apricot and watercress, and Torta di Verona, a tiramisù-style sponge cake soaked in amaretto and marsala with mascarpone, blueberries and roasted almonds. The wine list is extensive, ranging from small, modest Italian vineyards to some of the great names and superb vintages. An exceptionally pretty town on the banks of the River Thames, with stunning views of the beautiful Richmond Riverside, Twickenham is also the home of English Rugby, who thankfully weren't playing as we made our way over the Richmond Bridge and back to Sloane Square. 

With a warm and inviting interior and great food, A Cena has been a favourite neighbourhood restaurant in Twickenham since opening in 2001

Fresh flowers and candlelight create a welcoming atmosphere on the swooping cocktail and champagne bar as one walks through the door

Owners Camilla and Tim Healy

A big silver bucket of Prosecco and Champagnes are ready to be uncorked

The wine menu is extensive, ranging from small modest Italian vineyards 
to some superb vintages, but also features great wines by the glass

Rocket Salad with Roast Pine Nuts, Balsamic and Parmesan

Fried Tiger Prawns with Lemon and Chilli Mayonnaise

Fried Chickpea and Sesame Seed Panelle Pancake with Cauliflower 'Puttanesca' 
of Anchovies, Black Olives, Capers, Chilli and Tomato

Ricotta Gnocchi 'au gratin' with Spinach, Gorgonzola, Cream and Parmesan

Pan Fried Spiced Marinated Gressingham Duck Breast with Apricot and Wild Watercress

Whole Roasted Seabass

Tim Healy eyeball to eyeball with dinner

Spring Lamb with Cherry Tomatoes, Asparagus and Black Oliver Tapenade

 Torta di Verona

Taleggio, Gorgonzola and Fontina with Grapes, Honey and Nuts

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Saturday Lunch at The Wolseley on Piccadilly

Modelled on the grand cafés of Vienna, Milan and Paris, there are few places that can match The Wolseley for sheer elegance. Originally a 1920s car showroom, it was built on such an extravagant scale that it bankrupted Wolseley Motors. Swift black-clad waiters now glide across the gleaming marble floor, carrying groaning platters of fruits de mer, steak frites and lobster bisque between the pillars and archways of this Italian-influenced dining room. It has a reputation for being packed with celebrities at all times of day and booking a table is usually done weeks in advance. The glittering restaurant, which is open from breakfast to dinner since 2003, is the creation of Christopher Corbin and Jeremy King, the original owners of The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey. The pair are big on the personal approach and often one or the other can be found working the room at lunch, dinner, during afternoon tea or even in the wee hours of the morning for the ever-popular Breakfast at The Wolseley — there's even a cookbook and fine set of crystal glasses or antique silverware available online! 


Lunch at the Wolseley is always an elegant affair

Warm and chewy, even the humble baguette-style breadsticks get the silver service 
at the Wolseley

Butter served in an elegant silver plate with a Wolseley wrapper

The extensive wine list with many served by the glass

2015 Jean-Francois Guilbaud Chateau La Bretonnerie Muscadet Sur Lie, 
the ideal wine to enjoy with oysters and fruits de mer

The Muscadet Sur Lie served in the Wolseley's fine crystal wine glass with 
short sturdy stem and a wide foot are actually sold online - 6 for £90.00

Dungarvan Rock Oysters and plump juicy Whelks served on crushed ice with fresh seaweed

A small pot of mignonette sauce and buttered bread served with the oysters

Homemade mayonnaise is served to enjoy with the whelks

Croustade of Quail Eggs and Hollandaise 

Chilled Minted Pea Soup - thick and delicious

Wiener Schnitzel with Sauce Robert

A tangle of golden Pommes Frites

Steak Tartare topped with an egg yolk with toasted pain de olé

Chilled Pea Soup with Shredded Radicchio and Romaine Lettuce
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of The Wolseley

1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 stick of celery, thinly sliced 
2 oz thinly sliced leeks
2 lb frozen peas 
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of mint
1 sprig of thyme
1 cup hot water 
1 lb ice cubes
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
1/2 head Radicchio shredded finely
1 small Romaine lettuce heart, shredded finely
2 oz peas to garnish
3/4 cup olive oil 

Wrap the thyme, bay leaf and mint in a muslin bag. In a large pan, add a splash of water and simmer the onions, celery and leeks, then add the muslin herb bag. Place a lid over the pan and simmer, cooking the vegetables until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Then add the the frozen peas and boiling hot water to the pan, cover with a lid and once boiling, cook for 2 minutes then remove the pan from the stove and add the ice cubes to cool it rapidly — this is important as it will maintain the colour.

Remove the muslin bag and blitz the soup in a liquidizer and pass through a conical strainer, then season with salt and ground white pepper. To Serve, reheat the soup and have four warm bowls ready. Pour into bowls sprinkle on the romaine lettuce hearts, radicchio lettuce and a sprinkle of peas. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Terroir Wine Bar: A Hidden Gem in the Heart London

If you could dream up the perfect wine bar then this would probably be it: an atmospheric little place tucked away on a small street between the Strand and Covent Garden in the heart of London's West End, serving great food and wine at terrifically reasonable prices. Opened in 2008 by Guildford-based wine merchant Les Caves de Pyrene, Terroir serves sensational tapas, charcuterie and small plates that while mostly French, have some Spanish, Italian and British touches and the occasional Middle Eastern influence, with a menu of ever-changing dishes such as Christian Parra Boudin Noir with Polenta and Chanterelles, Lincolnshire Smoked Eel and Celeriac Remoulade, Pluma Iberia with Pommes Purée, Cavolo Nero and Sage Butter Sauce, and their signature Pork & Pistachio Terrine. And then there's the wine — to say its pivotal is an understatement. Terroirs’ wine list is impressive, with an intimidatingly long wine list of natural wines, many of which are organic and biodynamically produced, sourced from small scale, artisan winemakers — in short wines that encapsulate the notion of 'terroir'. The length and unfamiliarity of the list might be momentarily overwhelming, but one of Terroirs' knowledgeable group of sommeliers are soon at hand, perching on the corner of a neighbouring table to talk us through the options, which included some sensational open bottles from a special Aussie Wine Night the previous evening. With warm, friendly and professional service, inspired menu and excellent wines, Terroirs has become a firm favourite with theatre goers and workers in the area, and it's easy to see why.  

Terroirs' daily lunch special featured on the outside board

Terroirs menu is short but sweet, offering an excellent selection of fish, shellfish, duck, 
cheese and charcuterie

Artisan sourdough bread from E5 Bakehouse in East London,
made with organic, locally-sourced ingredients

Hackney Wild Country Loaf and Semi-Sourdough Baguette from E5,
an independent, organic bakery

I let our waiter make the wine suggestions and he did a marvellous job serving open wines from a recent Aussie Wine Night like this Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris from Quealy Winery, Melbourne

The luscious Aussie Pinot Gris from Quealy Winery outside of Melbourne

A perfectly ripe Camembert de Normandie, one of four spectacular cheeses at Terroirs

Lincolnshire Smoked Eel with a mustardy celeriac remoulade

Creamy Burrata with Samphire, olive oil and lemon zest

Steak Tartare

Heritage Cauliflower with Pine Nuts, Mâche and Autumn Truffles

Venison Ragu with Soft Polenta and Girolles

Mackerel à la Plancha with Salsa

Smoked Eel, Pickles Beetroot and Horseradish
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Terroirs

2 red beets, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin 
1/2 cup olive oil 
7 tsp white wine vinegar 
1 oz mild honey 
1 tsp white sugar 
6 thyme sprigs, plus extra leaves to serve 
3/4 cup whipping cream 
2 oz fresh horseradish, finely grated on a Microplane 
1 tbsp cider vinegar 
6 pieces of smoked eel, about 2 oz each 
1 loaf of crusty bread

Place the beets in a non-reactive container and set aside. Stir the oil, vinegar, honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat to dissolve sugar, about 3-5 minutes. Cool slightly then pour over the beets. Add some thyme, then cover and refrigerate for the flavours to develop, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks in a bowl, then fold in the horseradish and cider vinegar. Season to taste and refrigerate until required.

Drain the beets, reserving the brine, and arrange on serving plates. Top with eel and spoonfuls of horseradish cream, then drizzle with a little reserved marinade, scatter with extra thyme and season to taste; serve with crusty bread.