Vivat Bacchus – London Bridge

Vivat Bacchus at London Bridge was heaving at 6.30pm last night. I’d reserved a table for 6.45pm and was kept waiting in a queue at the door. The man behind me – who was dining outside – was struggling to get a waiter’s attention to order drinks for his table. It wasn’t the best first impression. Would this turn out to be the experience I was hoping for?

Once greeted, we were shown to our table on the quieter cellar floor and were looked after superbly from start to finish. Any initial doubts quickly evaporated.

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Wafer thin biltong

One of the reasons H and I chose this restaurant was because of the the wine list: it includes some great South African wines such as Graham Beck (we visited a Graham Beck vineyard in Franschhoek together a couple of years ago and sampled some excellent wines there).

And so we ordered a bottle of Graham Beck brut NV from the sparkling wine list, reasonably priced at £29.90, “a dangerously good South African sparkler which was served at Obama’s inauguration” (reputedly causing controversy with Californian winemakers, but hey ho – only the best for the U.S. President…). And munched on some peppered, wafer-thin biltong @ £4.00 (is this the best looking biltong you’ve ever seen – it looks like dried carpaccio, hey?) while reading the a la carte menu.

IMG_0725_Vivat Bacchus flat iron steak
Medium rare flat iron steak + triple fried chips with pepper sauce

Homing in on the main course grills – and taking advice from our helpful waiter – we both opted for a current special (check website or Open Table for latest promotions): 6 oz (170g) flat iron steak (rump/buttock) with triple fried chips and a glass of wine @ £15.00. Seriously good value; a seriously good cut of beef perfectly cooked (medium rare), and faultless chunky, crisp-coated chips.

The au poivre sauce @ £2.75 (smooth blend pepper-corn gravy, not crunchy) was a perfect accompaniment for dunking fat chips.

IMG_0731b_Vivat Bacchus cheese board
Cheeseboard (French/Italian) – top down: Comté, Reblochon, Gorgonzola, Fourme d’Ambert

Do you believe in cheeses?

Vivat Bacchus has its own cheese room (you can select your own cheeseboard with the help of a cheesepert) or you can pick a suggested (but adaptable) cheeseboard – British, French or Italian.

Substituting Coulommiers (soft and Brie-like) with Gorgonzola Dolce (from the Italian board) we – again helped by our waiter – chose a French cheeseboard @ £18.50, comprising
~ Comté (I lived in the Franche-Comté region for a short while a looo-ong time ago and this fast became my favourite cheese)
~ Reblochon de Savoie (brie-like)
~ Gorgonzola Dolce (gorgeously melting, Italian)
~ Fourme d’Ambert (blue cheese)

Comté is available in all the supermarkets these days but this chunk of hard cheese at Vivat Bacchus took me right back to its source. Fair to say it was pretty special.

The *freebie* glass of red wine with the steak was an Indaba Mosaic (South African blend of CabSauv, Merlot + Malbec) – nice enough that we ordered a bottle @ £19.50 with the cheeseboard.

The verdict: Fab service, great food, really good value. Can’t wait to return.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: South African, international
~ Address: 4 Hays Lane, London Bridge, London
~ Postcode: SE1 2HB
~ Tel: 020 7234 0891
~ Nearest station: London Bridge
~ Website + menus: Vivat Bacchus website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Vivat Bacchus
~ Location: Vivat Bacchus map

Vivat Bacchus on Urbanspoon

Giraffe restaurants

Kid friendly restaurant-chain serving breakfast/brunch, burgers and more…

Giraffe restaurants are all about the ‘feel good factor’ from chirpy waiting staff to lively background music and simple, almost childish branding which makes good use of the loveable giraffe (menu artwork is by Debbie Powell).

IMG_9727 - giraffe at Giraffe

There’s an extensive menu, and breakfast/brunch is served until 4pm in most branches – a significant highlight for all who enjoy the likes of eggs on toast or a good fry up at all times of the day.

The Giraffe – burger with smoky bacon + mature cheddar with skin on fries @ £11.35

On a recent visit to the Blackheath restaurant (for a sixth birthday celebration) most of us homed in on burgers with skin on fries. Generously sized, with beef patties made from quality Irish beef, and packed full of pickles, salad and relish, they went down very well indeed.

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Smoked salmon + scrambled eggs on toasted rye bread – brunch @ £7.95 (£8.75 at airport branches)

And on arriving early for a flight from Heathrow even more recently, we took advantage of having a relaxing breakfast in the comfortable surroundings of Giraffe at terminal one. I had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on rye bread with fresh tomatoes @ £8.75 while K had the breakfast plate special @ £9.95 – an enjoyable and nourishing way to start any holiday.

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Breakfast plate special 2 sausages, 2 bacon rashers, baked beans, scrambled eggs, tomato, toast (substituted for wedges) @ £9.95 at LHR t1 branch

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: International, breakfast/brunch, burgers
~ Address: 58-62 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath London ….+ lots of locations!
~ Postcode: SE3 0BN
~ Website + menus: Giraffe Blackheath
~ Photos on flickr: images of Giraffe food
~ Location: Giraffe Blackheath map


More burger restaurant chains:
~ Byron burgers

Giraffe on Urbanspoon

Turquaz – Catford

Authentic Turkish food + live belly dancing in Catford SE6

Next door to the large TFC Turkish supermarket on busy Bromley Road, you’ll find Turquaz Turkish restaurant.

We’d walked passed it many times and not thought much of it (it’s not especially appealing from outside). It was some enthusiastic personal recommendations that led us here last night.

What sets it apart is its super-welcoming, friendly staff (who genuinely seem to enjoy themselves looking after their customers), great Turkish food and lively atmosphere with live belly-dancing entertainment by a stunning dancer.

Turquaz Restaurant on Bromley Road

For starters we shared a mixed hot meze @ £9.90 – borek (cheese-filled pastries – outstanding), hellim (grilled halloumi), sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) and calamari (tender squid in light, crisp batter).

IMG_0416 - hot meze sharing platter starter at Turquaz
Mixed hot meze starter platter – for two @ £9.90

For main course, I had a tandir @ £13.95 – an Anatolian speciality of very slow oven-baked lamb, served on fresh, paper-thin flat bread with rice and salad. This really was special – the bread was really light and the lamb just melted in my mouth. It’ll be a challenge for me to try something different on Turquaz’s menu next time, having been thoroughly spoilt by this divine lamb dish.

IMG_0421 - lamb tandir at Turquaz
Lamb tandir – slow cooked lamb with fresh flat bread

K had lamb guvec @ £11.95 – a traditional Turkish casserole with onions, peppers, aubergines, mushrooms, tomatoes and a blend of spices with lamb cooked in a clay pot (disappointingly bland; not in the same league as the tandir).

IMG_0419 - lamb guvec at Turquaz
Lamb guvec

Along with a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay dry white wine @ £16.50 (the wine selection was limited) and a bottle of Efes beer @ £4.50, our total bill for two came to £55.80, excluding service – very good value.

The verdict: Generous food portions, fab staff and great food. The belly dancer was a really good dancer and got the odd customer up to dance and even the waiters too. This light-hearted entertainment is what makes Turquaz a bit different, although K felt it was bordering on the atmosphere of a package holiday hotel with in-house entertainment.

My only slight regret was that I didn’t resist the complimentary olives and fresh warm Turkish bread that were brought to the table on our arrival (they *were* gorgeous). I was then too full to eat all of my main course. Possibly a lesson learnt for next time. But probably not…

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 163 Bromley Road, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 2NZ
~ Tel: 020 8697 4545
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Turquaz website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Turquaz food
~ Location: Turquaz map

More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ La Pizzeria Italiana – top Italian restaurant
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen

Turquaz on Urbanspoon

The Wharf – Gabriel’s Wharf

Situated in a converted boat house at Gabriel’s Wharf, one of The Wharf restaurant’s finest assets is its view over the River Thames towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and the changing skyline of East London.

There’s nothing quite so relaxing as sitting on the terrace here on a summer evening, watching the sun go down while the light and shadows go soft over the City, from Blackfriars across to the Leadenhall Building (cheesegrater).

Riverside view from The Wharf at Gabriel’s Wharf

Part of The Pizza Express group, The Wharf is positioned as a seafood restaurant and has a more independent feel than its high street relations.

Sipping a bottle of prosecco @ £22.00, we watch the world go by and enjoy the view while leisurely reading the menu that offers the likes of fresh daily fish, fish and chips, moules-frites, tempting warm salads, as well as pasta, steaks and burgers.

Seared tuna steak salad @ £15.95

We all order a seared tuna steak salad @ £15.95, comprising a free range egg, capers, olives, mixed leaf salad, fine green beans, new potatoes, tomatoes and dressing and a chargrilled, seared tuna steak – a really good mix of ingredients and flavours.

Converted boat house restaurant

The verdict: Nice and easy, no fuss restaurant with straight-talking food. The Wharf is part of the Gourmet Society scheme (currently 2-for-1 for two people only, and you must book in advance).

More of the menu:
Battered fish + chips with mushy peas @ £15.95

Fish of the day – sea bream with green beans + fries @ £18.95

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: British, seafood
~ Address: 6 Upper Ground, Riverside Walk, Gabriel’s Wharf, South Bank, London
~ Postcode: SE1 9PP
~ Nearest station: Southwark, Waterloo East, Waterloo
~ Website + menus: The Wharf website
~ Photos on flickr: images of The Wharf
~ Location: The Wharf map

More South Bank/Waterloo dining:
~ Bangalore Express
~ Canteen
~ Zen China

The Wharf on Urbanspoon

Criterion – Piccadilly

It’s worth seeing inside the Criterion restaurant just for its opulent gold and marble decor. The Neo-Byzantine architecture is stunning and it feels like stepping into a bygone age.

Neo-Byzantine architecture

I first came here in 2001 on a work’s party night. We had a large table at the back (near the loos) and were entertained by a magician. It was a great experience. K and I returned shortly thereafter and ate from the pre-theatre menu (an extremely limited set menu and the food tasted so dry it was as if it had been prepared well in advance and left out all day). It was a contrastingly disappointing experience so we didn’t return. Well, not for a long time.

Over ten years on, ownership has changed and we decided to give it another try while my parents were visiting London. As a historical landmark, it is worth seeing after all.

Summer set menu – two courses + a Pimms + lemonade @ £20.00

In a restaurant with such extravagant gold and marble interiors bejewelled with mosaics and mirrors, you’d probably expect a formal dining experience with impeccable service.

Surprisingly, the summer set menu @ £20.00 for two courses including a Pimms and lemonade was exceptionally good value, and had a reasonable amount of choice (for a set menu). Food portions weren’t huge but it was all good quality although service was a bit of a let-down (one waiter didn’t seem to understand or speak English at all which was problematic, while another was so super stressed and panicky he reminded us of Basil Fawlty).

For starters, I had salmon gravlax on rye bread with a lemon mousse, capers and pickled shallots; K had thinly sliced rare roast beef with rocket salad and horseradish cream (@ £2.00 supplement), and B and K both had ham hock and black pudding terrine with gooseberry jam, pickled vegetables and croutons.

Salmon gravlax on rye bread starter

Thinly sliced rare roast beef – £2.00 supplement on the set menu

Ham hock + black pudding terrine

For main course, K and I both had ginger and chilli meat balls with potato gnocchi, peas, broad beans and celery cress (@ £2.00 supplement) while B and K both had confit of guinea fowl leg, potato purée, beetroot and peas.

Meat balls + potato gnocchi with peas and broad beans – £2.00 supplement on the set menu

Confit of guinea fowl leg, potato, beetroot and peas

The verdict: Worth seeing the impressive interiors of one of London’s oldest restaurants but overall – a bit hit and miss. Perhaps afternoon tea or a drink at the bar would be enough.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: British, International
~ Address: Criterion Restaurant, 224 Piccadilly, London
~ Postcode: W1J 9HP
~ Nearest station: Piccadilly
~ Website + menus: Criterion restaurant website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Criterion restaurant
~ Location: Criterion restaurant map

More West End (London) dining:
~ Andrew Edmunds
~ Asia de Cuba
~ Cây Tre
~ Mint Leaf Haymarket
~ Wagamama Soho

Criterion Restaurant on Urbanspoon

World food market – Devonshire Square

World Food Market at Devonshire Square first week of every month

The Epicurean Events team brings World Food Markets to Devonshire Square, the first week of the month from Tuesday to Friday, 10am – 3pm.

World Food Market – Food in the Middle, Hand Made Sushi, Moroccan Street Foods, Colombian Foods

More photos of World Food Market at Devonshire Square here>>>

Food stalls include the likes of:
~ Bare Bones – home smoked pulled pork, homemade slaw, pickles n killer sauce (also at Horniman Market)
~ Cheeky Burger – hand made burgers made from top quality beef patties
~ Colombian Street Food – empanadas + fresh coleslaw
~ Food in the Middle serving up Pakistani kebabs in flat bread freshly baked in the tandoor (choose from BBQ chicken, beef or paneer)
~ Moroccan Foods – stir fried lamb, chickpeas with spinach, chicken meatball tagine, beef kofta, lamb meatballs + more

IMG_9911_FoodInTheMiddle at DevSq
Food in the middle – wrapped in bread freshly baked in the tandoor @ £6.00 (gorgeous!)

Hand made sushi – freshly prepared

IMG_9912_Moroccan foods at DevSq
Moroccan Foods: stir-fried lamb

The verdict: Great variety of food types from many countries but there’s a lot of stalls packed into a fairly small space and it does get RAMMED with people. Be prepared for gridlock and queues.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Street food market
~ Address: Devonshire Square, London
~ Postcode: EC2M 4WQ
~ Nearest tube stations: Liverpool Street, Aldgate
~ Websites: Devonshire Square world food market + Epicurean Events
~ Photos on flickr: images of World Food Market at Devonshire Square

Nearby street food markets:
~ Goulston Street food court
~ KERB at Spitalfields



KERB street food – Spitalfields

KERB comes to Old Spitalfields market in E1 on the first Wednesday of the month

From 11am – 3pm on the first Wednesday of every month, KERBanists set up street food stalls on Lamb Street at the back of Old Spitalfields market in Tower Hamlets, selling a range of culinary treats stemming from all over Europe and as far afield as the Middle East, Korea and the USA.

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KERBanists: Kimchinary, Kooky Bakes, Jamon Jamon Paella, Capish

More photos of KERB at Spitalfields here>>>

Food stalls include the likes of:
~ Capish creators of Italian-American tomato-ey meatball sandwiches
~ Falafel Al-Hooriya serving up traditional Gazan falafel in Arabic flat bread (vegan)
~ Jamon Jamon Paella making Valenciana + seafood paella
~ Kimchinary serving spicy Korean burritos (pulled pork, ox cheek, sauteed aubergine)
~ Kooky Bakes offering whoopie pies (salted caramel, strawberry cheesecake), brownies + small batch baking delights …you’d best be quick!
~ Miss P’s Barbecue cooking up barbecued fish + meat, served in a sandwich or skinny

Kimchinary’s Korean burritos – pulled pork + kimchi

Lightly toasted on the outside before serving – slightly crispy, sealing all the sloppy-tastiness inside

This Korean burrito from Kimchinary was full of moist, slow-cooked pulled pork, spicy and sour kimchi (prepare for the endorphin rush!) and crunchy veggies, and grilled before serving which crisps up the outer layer of the burrito and seals in all the lovely sloppy contents.

Made fresh and served hot, this burrito @ £6.00 wasn’t exactly the cheapest lunchtime sandwich but Kimchinary had the longest queue on my visit, appearing to be the most popular stall.

The verdict: nice and spacious food market with a sufficient variety of stalls – shame it’s only here once a month.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Street food market
~ Address: Lamb Street, London
~ Postcode: E1
~ Nearest tube stations: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East (or Shoreditch High Street – Overground)
~ Websites: KERB + Spitalfields
~ Photos on flickr: images of KERB at Spitalfields

Nearby street food markets:
~ Goulston Street food court
~ World Food Market at Devonshire Square



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