Posh nosh at Bronte – Trafalgar Square, WC2N

Posh nosh at large brasserie near Trafalgar Square

What’s this restaurant like? Well, the first clue is in the address – The Grand Building, The Strand. I’m guessing you’re with me so far.

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Bronte restaurant on The Strand

Our party of eight visited on Tuesday evening, a cold autumnal evening. Entering the brightly lit, brasserie-style rooms at ground level, we were taken down to the equally large and elegant basement restaurant and bar area where our booked table was waiting.

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Get a load of this edamame + kale pancake: aerial, sideview, cut open 

We each selected a main course and dessert from a set menu – three courses at £35 per head while starters and sides were served for the table to share. From the wine list, we chose a Le Paradou Viognier (dry white wine with subtle fruit and floral flavours) @ £27.00 a bottle.

Our shared starters included:

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Roast beetroot + root vegetables

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Octopus + charred pineapple with kalamansi (hybrid citrus fruit), chilli, Thai shallots and mint (Ceviche style with slightly pickled flavours)

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Chilli + honey chicken skewers with baby leek, pickled cucumber, spring onion + sesame – so, so good

For main course, some in our party chose the fillet steak at a supplement of £10 (10 oz grass-fed rare-breed Black Angus with miso slaw and roast garlic) which looked great and was met with approval. But the exciting option had to be the edamame and kale pancake, it’s not something I’ve seen on a menu before. The smoked avocado and aubergine ratatouille had the lovely smoky flavours of baba ghanoush, and the pancake – despite sounding like a relatively healthy option – was spongy and dense, and really filling (which seemed appropriate on a cold, autumnal night).

Edamame + kale pancake with smoked avocado + aubergine ratatouille, sheep’s milk yogurt + harissa:

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Spongy pancake texture – dense and filling, befitting a cold autumnal evening

Our shared sides included:

  • Skinny fries with nori + rosemary salt
  • Tenderstem broccoli
  • Black sesame tahini + truffle
  • Miso slaw
  • Shiso, spring onion, red onion + sweetheart cabbage

Dessert choices included:

  • Limoncello cheesecake with pomelo grapefruit salad + yuzu sorbet
  • Summer berry pavlova – strawberry coulis
  • Sorbet / ice cream – three scoops of your choice

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Limoncello cheesecake + yuzu sorbet

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Three scoops of ice cream including green tea

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Summer berry pavlova – strawberry coulis – slightly sickly but it didn’t go to waste…

The verdict: If you’re not counting the pennies and want something that’s not mainstream, this is reasonably priced given the interesting, unusual menu items and quality food. Nice and spacious, it’s an easy space in which to feel comfortable and relax.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: International
– Address: Grand Buildings, 1-3 The Strand, London
– Postcode: WC2N 5EJ
– Nearest station: Charing Cross
– Website + menus: Bronte website
– Photos on flickr: Bronte photos
– Location: Bronte map

Bronte Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Firezza fire baked pizza – various locations London

Perfect pizza – fire baked and super fast

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time in south west London recently. So we’ve been enjoying perfect pizza from Firezza Battersea too.

Firezza sell themselves as delivering pizza that is “fire baked and super fast”. And that is exactly what they do.

 

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Salsiccia –  *new* White pizza with Sicilian sausage meat, friarielli (Italian wild broccoli), fresh cream, garlic, mozzarella, olive oil and red chilli

 

Firezza currently have about 20 branches around London (none in south east London yet… please take the hint @firezza) and are expanding to other UK cities like Milton Keynes and Exeter too.

Last week – making the most of being somewhere that Firezza will deliver to – we ordered:

  • a spicy piccante @ £9.25 – ‘nduja (spicy, soft calabrian sausage), gyulai pepperoni, fresh basil and green chilli with tomato and mozzarella, and
  • a porcini Di bosco @ £9.75 – white pizza with wild porcini mushrooms, fresh field mushrooms, Tartuffata (truffle cream), creamy Taleggio cheese, mozzarella, Gran Moravia (Hard Cheese) shavings, cream and tarragon

Ordering through Just Eat, the estimated delivery time was 45 mins. It arrived within 30 – we were happy customers.

This is seriously good pizza made with fresh ingredients. It’s fire-baked and everything Firezza claim it to be, and some. It’s not the thinnest base Italian pizza but it’s a great freshly baked bread base. It’s simply all-round great.

 

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Piccante pizza – nduja (spicy, soft calabrian sausage), gyulai pepperoni, green chilli with tomato and mozzarella

 

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Porcini di bosco – wild porcini mushrooms, fresh field mushrooms, Tartuffata (truffle cream), creamy Taleggio cheese, mozzarella, Gran Moravia (Hard Cheese) shavings, cream and tarragon

 

This week, we would probably have ordered the same but the menu had changed. That’s either a frequently changing menu – from week to week – which would be exciting and impressive, or an updated menu for the season change from summer to autumn. I suspect the latter. The oh-so summery spicy piccante was no longer listed.

On the plus side, Salsiccia was new to the menu – white pizza with Sicilian sausage meat, friarielli (Italian wild broccoli), fresh cream, garlic, mozzarella, olive oil and red chilli @ £9.95 for a quarter metre. And so we tried it. It seemed that the kitchen made a mistake so we received that too – half a metre instead of a quarter. Hey ho, accidents happen.

 

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Top: Salsiccia @ £9.95 – *new* White pizza with Sicilian sausage meat, friarielli (Italian wild broccoli), fresh cream, garlic, mozzarella, olive oil and red chilli

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Porcini di bosco @ £9.75 – porcini mushrooms, field mushrooms, Tartuffata, Taleggio cheese, mozzarella, Gran Moravia shavings, tarragon

 

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Capricciosa @ £9.65 a quarter metre – Prosciutto cotto ham with fresh field mushrooms, Gyulai pepperoni, black olives, fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella – so good!

 

The verdict: Perfect pizza, made with fresh ingredients that arrives ‘super fast’. As far as I can tell, Firezza are achieving what they set out to do (keep opening more branches pleee-ease). So I’ll follow their mantra – demand proper pizza.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Pizza
– Address: 40 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London
– Postcode: SW11 5RL
– Website + menus: Firezza website
– Photos on flickr: Firezza photos
– Location: Firezza Battersea map

Firezza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Chez Léon – Brussels

Excellent meaty moules and cosy American diner style at Chez Léon friture Bruxelloise

I recently read this article in The Telegraph Why I remain a fan of Brussels by Stanley Johnson. He spent over two decades living and working in the Belgian capital so his top five list of ‘favourite things in Brussels’ seemed like a trustworthy source. I was inspired to try out his favourite restaurant – Chez Léon (not realising that a branch had opened in London, called Léon de Bruxelles – and being unsuccessful – promptly closed).

And so I wandered over to the strip of tourist restaurants that is Rue des Bouchers, passing Le Bourgeois (where I enjoyed Flemish stew last month) to Chez Léon.

 

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Inside Chez Léon: casual American diner feel with cute murels 

 

Greeted and seated promptly, service was lively and friendly. It’s a large restaurant with several interior spaces that are sectioned off (to feel cosier), spread over several floors. And while it was busy, staff seemed to be on the ball, whizzing around and exchanging light-hearted comments. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Brightly lit with some neon signage and cute murels of ‘moules frites’ caricatures depicting key scenes of Belgian and Vanlancker family history, Chez Léon has a casual American diner feel – homely and comfortable, which I particularly enjoyed as I was dining alone.

The 12-page menu itself takes some digesting so I ordered a Delirium tremens (gorgeous Belgian beer but very strong) while reading.

 

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Mini Léon salad – fried moules, tomatoes, egg, potato, crème au poivre

I ordered a mini salad as a starter containing deep-fried moules or mussels in breadcrumbs. This was the first time I’d eaten moules this way – it’s really just another form of scampi and these were excellent.

 

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Delirium tremens – a few of these and you’ll be seeing more than pink elephants and parading crocodiles…
For main course, I had Léon spaghetti @ €16.25 – mussels (moules), shrimps, mushrooms and a cream sauce.

 

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Léon spaghetti – mussels (moules), shrimps, mushrooms and a cream sauce, as served

 

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Léon spaghetti absolutely gorgeous moules with shrimps and mushrooms in a cream sauce
I was reminded just how good moules can be when they’re done well. These were excellent – a really meaty texture and naturally tasty without being camouflaged by the flavour of other ingredients or sauce. The cream sauce on the spaghetti wasn’t ‘sickly creamy’ either but perfectly complemented all the flavours in this dish.

 

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Moules frites caricatures – showing milestones in Belgian history and Friture Léon‘s history

 

The verdict: I can see why Stanley Johnson used to eat here time and again. I would do too. You have to try moules in Belgium, right? This is a great place to do just that.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Belgian (in Belgium)
– Address: Rue des Bouchers 18, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
– Website + menus: Chez Leon website
– Photos on flickr: Chez Leon photos
– Location: Chez Leon map

 

The Wilmington – gastro pub Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell

 

It’s Monday morning. Still smiling and happy from a good weekend, what better way to extend that weekend feeling than with a pub lunch? 

Go on then.

OpenTable recently published a list of “London’s top 10 gastro pubs” based on diner reviews. One of them – The Wilmington – is just off Exmouth Market in the Farringdon/Clerkenwell area. It’s handy for work so I’d put it straight on LardButty’s “to try” list. And today seems like the day.

On arrival at 13:30 it’s pretty much dead, though it’s clear to see there’s a great range of craft beers on at the bar and that the pub is split into several segmented spaces for drinking or dining. We’re led to our reserved booth in a dining section by someone who seems happy to be at work.  He tells us about the specials with enthusiasm and generally makes us feel welcome and pleased to be here.

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At The Wilmington, off Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell

It’s an interesting, original menu that requires a proper read:

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We order:

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Orecchiette, peas, oyster mushrooms, romanesco and gremolata @ £11.50 

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Rosemary chips on the side @ £3.50

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Field mushrooms with garlic crumbs @ £3.50 – gorgeous

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Fritto misto – mixed seafood including king prawns, calamari, fish – with citrus aioli and crispy fennel @ £7.50

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Homely bar space with lots of craft beers on tap

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Appealing dining spaces  – wooden floors, solid wood furniture

 

The verdict: Excellent service, great quality gastro pub food (I’m left wanting to try more of the menu) and a variety of craft beers on offer.

 

More of the menu (re-visited):

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Starter portion of cod scampi with nduja aioli @ £8.00

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Seasonal salad -pickled pear, chicory, candied pecans, quinoa, blue murder, celery – main course portion @ £12.00

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: pub, gastro-pub, British, international
– Address: 69 Rosebery Ave, London
– Postcode: EC1R 4RL
– Nearest station: Farringdon, Angel
– Website + menus: The Wilmington pub website
– Photos on flickr: The Wilmington pub images
– Location: The Wilmington pub map

The Wilmington Arms Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yauatcha City – Broadgate Circle

Casual dining dim sum teahouse by Hakkasan Group at Broadgate Circle

We chose a 9-course tasting menu comprising a variety of dim sum, rolls, macaroons and a cocktail as something a bit different for my parents to try, while they’re in town this weekend. Chopstick challenges aside, it was a  novel experience and good value @ £29.00 a head.

 

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From a 9-course tasting menu

– top left: dim sum – prawn shui mai with chicken and garden dumpling
– top right: prawn and beancurd cheung fun (rice noodle roll)
– bottom left: baked venison puff and mushroom spring roll
– bottom right: macaroons

 

The restaurant space is unusual in that it’s long, narrow and circular. Following the corridor along to the toilets (with lovely Aesop hand wash) has the feel of being at an airport or a mall – and a bit soulless.

 

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In the round – Yauatcha at Broadgate Circle

 

We began with a refreshing cherry chaser cocktail along with the first course of dim sum and rolls, served with soy sauce, and two chilli dipping sauces:

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Dim sum – crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pine nut + har gau (traditional dumpling); baked venison puff and mushroom spring roll

The vension puff and mushroom spring roll were both in light, flaky pastry with strong flavours – perfect for a small portion, absolutely gorgeous.

 

Moving on to the next course, we had prawn shui mai with chicken and a garden dumpling, accompanied by Picpoul de Pinet dry white wine @ £30 a bottle.

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Dim sum – prawn shui mai with chicken and garden dumpling

 

This prawn and beancurd cheung fun (rice noodle roll) was a favourite of mine, as it was similar to kakiage (fried onions and veggies in Japanese dishes).

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Prawn and beancurd cheung fun

 

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Sticky rice in lotus leaf

 

Inside this steamed lotus leaf parcel, was a portion of sticky rice with a gooey chicken and dried shrimp middle.

And finally – eight different flavoured macaroons.

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Macaroon selection

 

I’m no macaroon connoisseur and prefer savoury/salty food over desserts/sweet stuff. But these were pretty good. The coconut one (top right) was the least popular (sweet, dessicated coconut) while I enjoyed the peanut butter macaroon the most (surprise).

 

The verdict: Novel experience – you get to taste a good variety of Asian-inspired food items. Service was very relaxed, informal and attentive (bordering on overly attentive) throughout. Our total bill for four came to £193.67 which seemed very good value.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Chinese, Dim Sum, Asian
– Address: Broadgate Circle, London
– Postcode: EC2M 2QS
– Nearest station: Liverpool Street
– Website + menus: Yauatcha website
– Photos on flickr: Yauatcha City images
– Location: Yauatcha City map

 

Yauatcha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Traditional Flemish stew at Le Bourgeois- Brussels

Traditional Carbonnades à la Flamande (Flemish stew) at Le Bourgeois

Arriving in Brussels by eurostar this evening, I walked over to the Manneken Pis and wandered around the Grand Place before stumbling across the strip of tourist restaurants that is Rue des Bouchers. I had – quite accidentally – arrived at the street where K and I ate on our first holiday abroad together back in 2001. It seemed like serendipity.

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Grand Place, Manneken Pis, Belgian beer and stew

On this quaint cobbled street of back-to-back restaurants, waiters tout the passers by (some more persistently than others) to drum up custom. So that hadn’t changed in 15 years. There was a nicely lively buzz without being too hectic. And being a warm summer evening some diners were sitting outside watching the world go by.

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Le Bourgeois – outside dining, tacky food boards

Many restaurants have low quality (ok, tacky) boards showing fairly unappealing food images – a universally understood visual menu nonetheless.

Somehow I became conditioned to the boards, and they not only became acceptable but the Carbonnades à la Flamande (Flemish stew) outside Le Bourgeois really grabbed my attention, even though I’d been hankering after fish.

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Carbonnades à la Flamande (Flemish stew)

I sat outside. The restaurant was completely empty indoors and only a couple of other tables were taken outside. Yet service was really slow. At first I was given a tourist menu (in English) and couldn’t find the stew. When I asked the waiter (in French) he exchanged the menu for the proper, full menu, acknowledging that the tourist menu contained limited choices.

This Flemish stew was absolutely gorgeous. Carbonnades à la Flamande  is made with shin beef which is sweeter than other parts and stews really well; the chunks were really soft and tasty and fell apart easily. It’s a bit like bœuf bourguignon but made with Belgian beer instead of red wine, making a really tasty gravy.

And talking of Belgian beer… A trappist (made by monks) Chimay beer accompanied this very well.

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Chimay – a Trappist beer

The verdict: Stick to the local ‘proper’ menu (avoid the tourist menu in English with limited choices) and soak up the atmosphere by sitting outside. If eating here, I recommend the Carbonnades à la Flamande (Flemish stew), it’s a bit like bœuf bourguignon but made with Belgian beer instead of red wine. Although, there are plenty of similar restaurants offering tourist menus on this quaint street so for traditional Belgian food and tasty moules, head to Chez Léon opposite.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
– Type: Flemish/Belgian (in Brussels)
– Address: 17 Rue des Bouchers, Brussels
– Photos on flickr: Le Bourgeois photos
– Location: Le Bougeois map

Poetic License Bar – Roker, Tyne and Wear

Poetic License Bar, in the Best Western Roker Hotel, is situated on the rugged North Sea coast at Roker.

It’s part of Tavistock Hospitality group so you’re guaranteed some very tasty, locally produced drinks –  craft beers from Sonnet 43 brewhouse and craft gins from Poetic License distillery.

 

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Poetic License Bar – ‘Distillery bar and soul food’

 

Having been for a walk along the rugged, exposed coast to Camels Island first, we’d worked up a thirst and an appetite.

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The Poetic License Bar is in the Best Western Roker Hotel . We passed the botanical garden on the way in, which looked really appealing with its chunky log wall.

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Botanical garden – nice log wall

 

These craft gins from Poetic License (the distillery is at the bar – handy!) are already winning awards, less than a year after launching: Old Tom Gin and Northern Dry Gin. They make a perfect gift for all the special gin lovers out there, no?

 

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Poetic License – perfect serves

 

At £3.75 a single or £5.75 a double, the three ‘perfect serves’ pictured above are:

left: Old Tom with Fevertree premium ginger ale, cinnamon and red apple – my favourite (nice and dry, I loved the flavours of ginger and cinnamon spice)

centre: Northern Dry with Fevertree premium Indian tonic water and pink grapefruit

right: Picnic gin strawberries and cream flavoured gin with a Fevertree elderflower tonic water and fresh strawberries (sounds sickly but it wasn’t)

 

Service was slow and a bit blasé. It took well over an hour for our food to arrive. But we were happy to keep trying out more gins…

 

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Blue cheese and walnut salad with grapes and chicory @ £9.95 – slightly sickly and creamy (just as it looks)

 

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New York style Reuben burger – 8oz beef burger with pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing @ £9.45

Also served with lettuce, tomato, mayo and dill pickle in a brioche bun with skin-on fries and house slaw. Good value for such a filling meal, and great quality beef burger.

 

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Look at the size of that – get your chops around this. If you can.

 

 

The verdict: Excellent range of drinks. Skip the salads and go straight for a burger. And check out the website for theme nights and promos.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Pub, British
– Address: Roker Hotel, Roker Terrace, Roker, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
– Postcode: SR6 9ND
– Nearest metro stations: Stadium of Light, Seaburn
– Website + menus: Poetic License Bar website
– Photos on flickr: Poetic License Bar images
– Location: Poetic License Bar map