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Bird of Smithfield – Farringdon EC1A

Classy food in a Georgian townhouse, this restaurant is spread over several interestingly decorated floors

On our visit this evening we chose from this menu here. For starters, I had baked heritage beetroots @ £8.00 – very reasonably priced and outstandingly tasty. Just look at those beautiful big chunks of fresh celeriac with a good dollop of goat’s curd – a great mix of flavours along with the beetroot and balsamic and sorrel leaves:

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Baked heritage beetroots starter with goat’s curd, balsamic, celeriac, radish, sorrel

Another starter that went down very well was this pan fried foie gras @ £12.50:

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Pan fried foie gras with shaved turnip, kibbled onion, roasted duck consommé

 

Service was very slow and we had a long wait (and apologies from the waitresses) for food.

For main course, I had this wild Cornish turbot (so good, it was worth the wait!), served with fresh pasta, clams and butter:

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Wild Cornish turbot with hand-rolled farfelle, clams, celery, Swiss chard, shellfish butter

 

Creatively presented, this caramelised duck breast with a pie top looks almost too good to eat. Almost.

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Caramelised duck breast with crushed pumpkin, pickled red cabbage, spiced honey and a braised leg pie @ £23.00

 

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Bird of Smithfield restaurant – in a Georgian townhouse opposite Smithfield meat market in Clerkenwell, London

 

The verdict: Stunningly presented food that’s outstandingly good. The homeliness of the townhouse was very appealing, and the interior is really tastefully designed and comfortable. Service wasn’t great but I’ll definitely be back to try more of this menu.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: British, international
– Address: 26 Smithfield St, Clerkenwell, London
– Postcode: EC1A 9L
– Nearest station: Farringdon, Barbican
– Website + menus: Bird of Smithfield website
– Bird of Smithfield photos: Bird of Smithfield photos on flickr
– Location: Bird of Smithfield map

Bird Of Smithfield Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Damascus Chef pop-up at the Good Hope cafe – Hither Green SE13

Souq meze with a personal touch

The Damascus Chef (Abdullah Alawayed) and his partner host Syrian meze dinners at various locations in South London. Find out about their current pop-up events on the Eventbright website where you can reserve places. It’s currently £23.95 for adults or half-price for children and you pay locally, at the end of the meal.

We went to the ‘Souq meze’ pop-up at the Good Hope cafe, Hither Green (an award-winning community cafe run by the ForJimmy charity) on Friday night and joined the 6.30pm sitting (on Friday evenings there are 8.30pm sittings too).

Arriving early, the hostess welcomed us excitedly, and talked enthusiastically about the careful preparation that goes into making the dishes on this menu. Which rubs off on customers and makes for a good atmosphere in this small, cosy space, where candle-lit tables were decorated with pomegranate seeds at each place setting.

 

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Meze with fresh bread to share

Top l-r: Fool mudamas bi humous (fava beans crushed with chickpeas, chopped tomato, parsley, olive oil, lemon + cumin) and humous (crushed chickpeas blended with olive oil, tahini, cumin + garlic)
front l-r: Mutabbel (flame-grilled aubergine infused with yoghurt, tahini, garlic + cumin) and lebneh (thick, canvas-strung cows’ yoghurt)

 

We ordered a bottle of Rioja (@ about £16.00 – very reasonably priced and very nice too) and were blown away by the fresh tastiness of the meze starters. The food is familiar as middle-eastern but with a specific Syrian style – for example, humous is made with a ratio of more chickpeas to tahini, and is thicker and creamier for it. The mutabbel (aubergine dip) was absolutely gorgeous and the lebneh (really thick, creamy yoghurt) was a winner too. Shared starters are served with a variety of fresh breads and are limitless (if you dare).

Next came this shurbat adas, a traditional Syrian lentil soup with coriander seeds and cumin:

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Lentil soup

 

For main course, there was a selection of three dishes (we’d had to choose our main course in advance, when reserving):

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Kawaj – Levantine courgette, aubergine and green pepper casseroled in tomato sauce, sauteed onion, garlic and fresh coriander; topped with fresh chives and served with yoghurt and cucumber, pomegranates, walnuts, pine-nuts + fresh tabouleh

 

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Syrian lamb stew – Diced organic leg of lamb stewed with freekeh (smoked green wheat) infused with pine kernels, cashews, pistachios, almonds, green peas + raisins, served with optional yoghurt + cucumber (not pictured) + fresh tabouleh

I had this lamb stew. It tasted as though it had been slow-cooked and was steeped in many flavours. Really good.

 

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Jaj bil muhammara – Chicken thigh braised with lemon, coriander + pomegranate syrup, on a bed of crushed mild chilli muhammara, served with walnuts, yoghurt + cucumber, and tabouleh salad

 

For dessert, the choice was baklawa with ice-cream, or ice-cream with watermelon. I had baklawa:

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Jiljil wa hab ruman – Traditional filo pastry baklawa made with flour, syrup, honey, butter, egg white + pistachio, served with ice cream. Laden with fresh mint, pomegranates + pistachios.

 

For the fifth and final chai course, we had a choice of fresh mint, cardamom or cinnamon + walnut.

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Chai – cinnamon + walnut tea

 

The verdict: Good value for such a freshly prepared, unique and tasty banquet. The hosting couple put their heart and soul into making this dining experience enjoyable and relaxing for customers – the kind of personal touch that you don’t easily find in high-street restaurants. And the choice of venue for this pop-up makes it even more worthwhile. Eat, drink and be very merry – your money goes to good places.

 

Pop-up info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Syrian, middle-eastern
– Location: venues vary – this was at the Good Hope cafe, 216 Hither Green Lane, London, SE13 6RT
– Contact: chef@damascuschef.com
– Website + menus: Damascus Chef website
– Damascus Chef events (reserve places): Eventbright website
– Photos of Damascus Chef: Damascus Chef on flickr

Apple + cinnamon cake – a LardButty homemade recipe

I made this gorgeously moist and spicy apple and cinnamon cake for K’s birthday recently. It’s way more interesting than your average sandwich-cake-and-vanilla-icing kind of birthday cake.

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Apple and cinnamon cake – moist and spicy

INGREDIENTS 
• 50g butter, softened
• 134g self-raising flour
• 66g light muscovado sugar
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon (1 for mixture, 1 to decorate)
• 2 dessert apples
• 2 free-range eggs, beaten
• 2 tbsp apricot jam (warmed in microwave)

Apple-and-cinnamon-cake-banner
Mix                                   Bake                               Decorate                        Slice + eat

METHOD
1. Mix the butter with the flour in a food processor (or by hand) until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

2. Stir the beaten eggs into the mixture.

3. Peel, core and slice the apples and stir most of them into the mixture then pour into a cake tin and decorate with remaining apple slices.

4. Bake for 35-45 minutes at 160°C fan/gas mark 4 until golden-brown, then brush the top with warm apricot jam and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, and leave to cool.

NOTES 
• Adapted from Mary Berry’s loaf cake recipe here
• A dry ounce is equivalent to 2 tablespoons or to 28.3 grams

Caravan – Kings Cross N1C

Our group of eight ate from a ‘set menu’ this eve. This is great when there’s a few of you as it means you can have a few starter plates to share (they’re exceptionally tasty) and still get to choose a main course and dessert.

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Sample set menu for groups

If eating from the a la carte menu, this Burmese chicken salad, turmeric, chilli, lime and peanuts starter sharing plate is £7.50. It’s a gorgeous blend of flavours.

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Burmese chicken salad – starter sharing plate

This red quinoa and buckwheat grain bowl, stem broccoli, sweet potato, peanuts with miso-tahini dressing is £8.00 on the a la carte menu. Again, really tasty and healthy too.

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Quinoa and buckwheat grain bowl – starter sharing plate

There’s a good choice of wines ranging from £18.00 a bottle up to about £60.00 (we had a good Rioja @ £18.00).

After such a good start with the amazing sharing plates, my expectations were raised. And dropped again. Most of our main courses arrived together, but some didn’t arrive until after a further 20 minutes (so a couple ended up eating after everyone else had finished).

Pizzas are stone-baked and nice enough but the base is very thick, made from a heavy dough – it was like munching through a loaf of bread and a bit of a chore. Toppings were nice and fresh but my pizza base was burnt. Still, there was enough of it that even after cutting off the burnt part of the base, I was still left with plenty.

This mozzarella, tomato + basil pizza is normally £9.00 on the a la carte menu:

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Mozzarella, tomato + basil pizza

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Portobello mushroom, porcini ricotta, mozzarella + rocket pizza

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Caravan Kings Cross – a grade II listed Victorian grain store

The verdict: Appealing venue, basic but cosy. Food was either exceptionally good (starters) or poor (burnt, thick-based pizza) and service wasn’t great (that our group’s main courses arrived at different times, meaning we ate – in effect – in two sittings, was disappointing).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: International
– Address: Granary Square, 1 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London
– Postcode: N1C 4AA
– Tel: 020 7101 7661
– Nearest station: Kings Cross, St Pancras
– Website + menus: Caravan Kings Cross website
– Photos on flickr: Caravan Kings Cross photos on flickr
– Location: Caravan Kings Cross map

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

Begging Bowl – Thai tapas in Peckham SE15

Thai tapas concept menu

We were a party of ten on a Friday evening and this restaurant in Peckham was heaving. Tables were packed in close together and we were crammed in. It was noisy and lively befitting a Friday evening – the start of the weekend – but the acoustics were poor making it difficult to hear conversation.

Dishes are designed for sharing. The menu offers 12 dishes, roughly half are starter portions and the other half mains. Plus limitless Jasmine rice and sticky rice @ £2.50 a head, and a choice of three desserts.

Drinks took ages to arrive and weren’t altogether correct when they did. That continued throughout the meal. By the time they did arrive, we were happy to accept whatever had been brought. Servers were busy and under pressure; service was hit and miss.

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Thai tapas at the Begging Bowl
Top – starters: (left) Miang of pomelo, ginger, peanuts, dried galangal, palm sugar, seaweed, caviar wrapped in betel leaf @£5.60, (right) mixed salad starter about £5.80
Bottom – pudding: (left) Coconut saffron rice, pomelo, satsuma, cognac caramel, cobnuts, puffed black + flat rice, jasmine smoked coconut cream @£6.00, (right) Banana fritters, coconut sesame batter, tamarind, peanut brittle, turmeric custard @ £6.70

We ordered most plates from the Thai tapas menu to share (the food was amazing – top marks to the kitchen) starting with a peanut and ginger miang (a bite sized snack, wrapped in a leaf) with pomelo (citrus fruit), dried galangal, palm sugar, seaweed, and caviar wrapped in betel leaf @ £5.60 – absolutely gorgeous blend of flavours; a salad of salsify, betel leaf, lemongrass, coriander, peanuts, Thai shallots (there’s an option to have this salad with chargrilled duck) about £10.00; and a morning glory stir fry with garlic and fermented yellow bean @ £6.50.

This menu is really pleasing for nut lovers like me.

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Charcoal grilled salt-crusted whole gilthead bream stuffed with pandanas, lemongrass, grilled green chilli dip @ £13.50
Behind: a near-finished plate of morning glory (Thai green stems) stir-fry @ £6.50

This charcoal grilled salt-crusted gilthead bream was a hit (we ordered more). You can see what it looked like whole (above) and the soft white fish-meat inside is pictured below.

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Sticky chicken, gilthead bream, sticky rice, morning glory stir fry

Other dishes we shared included chargrilled sticky chicken @ about £12.50, a mushroom parlow – king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, hens egg, and pickled morning glory (Thai green stems) @ £9.50 and of course – an unlimited supply of Jasmine rice and sticky rice.

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A selection of dishes: Parlow of king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, in foreground; sticky chicken left

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Parlow of king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, hens egg, pickled morning glory @ £9.50

For dessert we shared a dish of coconut saffron rice, pomelo, satsuma, cognac caramel, cobnuts, puffed black + flat rice, jasmine smoked coconut cream @ £6.00 and banana fritters made with a coconut sesame batter, tamarind, peanut brittle, and turmeric custard @ £6.70 (exceptionally good).

The verdict: Prepare for noise, being squashed in, hit-and-miss service and excellent food. This ‘Thai tapas’ concept menu puts an interesting twist on traditional Thai food. It’s worth a visit.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Thai, Thai tapas
– Address: 168 Bellenden Road, Peckham, London
– Postcode: SE15 4BW
– Tel: +44 20 7635 2627
– Nearest station: Peckham Rye station
– Website + menus: The Begging Bowl website
– Begging Bowl photos: The Begging Bowl photos on flickr
– Location: The Begging Bowl map

The Begging Bowl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Lion – West Boldon, Tyne & Wear

Simple, no-fuss menu with gastro-pub style food

This Saturday lunch time booking at the Red Lion in West Boldon was a family get-together for a party of nine. We’d originally wanted to go to the Poetic License Bar (to enjoy the craft gins from the onsite gin distillery) but on booking we were warned to allow for delays (they warned of poor service, even though I was booking several weeks in advance). Having experienced terrible service already at Poetic License Bar, we decided not to risk it again and booked the Red Lion instead, as it’s more convenient for all the family anyway. Great decision.

You can eat bar meals in the main pub but on this visit, we were shown to a nicely laid out huge solid wood table with very high-backed (and heavy) wooden chairs in the main restaurant. It felt a little like walking onto a set for Game of Thrones, befitting a medieval banquet.

The menu is very plain and simple in its writing and design style. The intention may be to avoid being overly descriptive (and pompous) but it doesn’t capture just how exciting the food that is served here, really is. I was expecting traditional pub food to match the plain menu. Not so.

We’d started with a leisurely round of drinks in the pub while waiting for everyone to arrive, then ordered wine once seated at the dining table – a Navardia Rioja Bagordi @ £18.50 and a Pinot Grigio @ £13.95.

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Selection of dishes served at Red Lion
Starters (top right): prawn cocktail, Thai fishcake + chilli sauce, and (bottom left) goats cheese crostini all @£6.95 each
Mains: Ribeye Steak with grill garnish and  thick-cut chips @ £14.95 (main pic) and Thai red chicken curry with chips instead of rice @£10.95 (bottom right)

Starters range from £4.50 for soup of the day to £7.95 for king prawn skewers. I had goats cheese crostini with dressed mixed leaves @ £6.95, beautifully served with a balsamic glaze, while others had prawn cocktail (described as ‘classic prawn cocktail’ on the menu but beautifully served like this with leaves and balsamic glaze) @ £6.95, Thai fish cakes with chilli sauce also @ £6.95 and black pudding and chorizo salad @ £5.95.

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Starter: Black pudding and chorizo salad @ £5.95

Already very impressed (it’s a while since K and I ate here) we were suitably excited about the main courses. My fish and chips were gorgeous – really good, tasty fish with chunky chips; the mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce enhanced it perfectly.

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Red Lion burger – homemade burger with bacon + cheese  @£11.95

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Traditional fish and chips – mushy peas + homemade tartar sauce with capers @£11.95

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Oven roast salmon with a tomato Provencale sauce – and new boiled potatoes @£9.95

Check out the huge, wooden thrones we’re sitting on:

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Solid wood high-backed chairs

Some had desserts. While, ahem, others had more drinks. And a great pub lunch was had by all.

The verdict: Gastro-pub style food in a homely, friendly pub. Very good value – checkout the website for latest offers (as of Feb 2017 there’s a credit crunch lunch @£9.95 for two courses and a tea or coffee, served Monday to Saturday, 12-7pm).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: British, pub
– Address: Redcar Terrace, West Boldon, South Tyneside
– Postcode: NE36 0PZ
– Tel: +44 191 536 4197
– Nearest station: East Boldon metro
– Website + menus: Red Lion website
– Photos of Red Lion: Red Lion pics on flickr
– Location: Red Lion map

Cow + Pig Bromley – best Sunday roasts

How often does a Sunday roast really satisfy your desires? A really great roast takes time and effort to prepare. It’s tricky to get everything ready to serve at the same time – making sure the Yorkshire puddings are perfectly risen with a crispy shell that’s soft in the middle; that you got the best cut of beef and it’s pink and not over-cooked; that the roast spuds are crispy and not under-cooked, and that the veg is neither mush nor too raw.

All too often I’m disappointed with Sunday roasts served in pubs and restaurants that don’t live up to my expectations (nostalgic memories of mum’s perfect roasts, perhaps through rose-tinted glasses…) particularly if the cuts of meat used aren’t the best.

So for me, the thought of a good old Sunday roast is often better than what you get.

Our first visit to Cow + Pig was for Sunday lunch (well, all Sunday afternoon as it turned out) a few weeks ago. As the name implies, Cow + Pig specialises in meaty dishes and there are a lot to choose from.

We were warmly greeted and seated, and started with these cocktails (white lady @ £7 and whisky sour @ £8 from the cocktail menu here) while reading the wine list and menus:
– starters and grill menus
Sunday lunch
grazing lunch and dirty dogs
the rest, salads and sides
pudding and dessert wine
after-dinner drinks menu

For starters, we shared cheese + onion doughnuts @ £3.50 (six cave-matured cheddar and onion doughnut-shaped puffs with garlic mayo – so tasty, and lighter than you might expect) and gin salmon @ £7.50 (oak-smoked gin-cured salmon, pickled cucumber and brown bread – really good but surprisingly not as exciting as the cheese and onion doughuts).

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Cheddar and onion puffs – starter @ £3.50

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Oak-smoked, gin cured salmon – starter @ £7.50

At Cow + Pig every Sunday boasts the best roast.
This bold statement appears on the Sunday lunch menu, along with “all our meats are hand-picked, locally sourced and served with lovingly made week long gravy, Covent Garden vegetables, roasted potatoes and Yorkies your nan will be proud of.”

Can you resist?

It’s a thoughtfully crafted menu that is beautifully branded, lets you know that meats and produce are carefully and locally selected, and appeals to the reader’s desire for perfect food with direct questions such as: “why not try the best you can possibly get – a roasted 500g fillet steak served with all the trimmings @ £60 to share between two”.

Why not indeed? We could think of no good reason not to try the best you can possibly get. It was K’s birthday after all.

And so we ordered rare fillet steak (perfectly pink, melt in your mouth beef) with Yorkshire puddings (exceptional Yorkies, on a par with Plum + Spilt Milk or  Crocker’s Folly), mixed roast veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, squash), crispy roast potatoes with rosemary, cauliflower cheese and gravy (gorgeous).

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Sunday fillet steak for two – roast dinner @ £30 a head

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Fillet steak with gravy

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Cauliflower cheese

To accompany ‘the best’ Sunday lunch option, we chose – as a birthday treat – a bottle of Rioja Roda I Reserva @ £75.00.

This was all very pleasing, filling and relaxing. We were served by a few different people, most of whom were outstandingly helpful, friendly and chatty and came across as knowing the menus (both food and drink) inside out, and happy (proud, even) to be working here. Good.

The restaurant design is appealing, from the clean, simple Cow + Pig logo and clearly laid out menus, to the playful pictures and cow and pig themed furnishings (cow skin chairs and wooden pig decorations). Tables are arranged spaciously and with some privacy making it a comfortable place to eat leisurely and while away a few hours (we arrived slightly early for our 1pm reservation and didn’t leave until after 4.30pm).

Cow + Pig playful pictures
Branding and humour

We attempted a sharing platter of cheese and biscuits with tasty chutney. Cheeses included: Ellie’s goats cheese from Kent, Lord London from East Sussex, Mayfield Swiss style cheese from East Sussex, Winterdale shaw cheddar from Sevenoaks, Kentish blue (gorgeous), Lancashire bomb and Baron brie from Suffolk.

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Cheese and biscuits with chutney @ £12.00 to share

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Cheese selection – includes Baron brie, Kentish blue, Winterdale shaw cheddar

Cow + Pig birthday cake and cognac
‘Happy birthday’ and cognac

I’d brought some birthday cake and candles (see the LardButty homemade recipe for apple and cinnamon cake) which I’d slipped to our waitress earlier. She brought the lit cake out, and got a rendition of Happy birthday going. Others joined in. It seemed like nothing was too much trouble.

To prolong this enjoyable afternoon a bit more, we ordered Remy Martin XO cognacs @ £12 each and coffees. A birthday afternoon well spent.

When the bill arrived, something was missing. We questioned that we hadn’t been charged for something we’d had. Maybe I shouldn’t advertise this but it was such a nice gesture: we’d been given some complimentary drinks by way of a birthday treat and a thankyou. How nice, and unexpected, was that?

This is somewhere to come for a celebration and be assured you’re in safe hands, for a reliably good meal.

It’s also a great place to come even if you’re not celebrating and splashing out. For food of this high quality, it’s reasonably priced.


We were back just over a week later. On this mid-week evening visit, I had a Gentle Ocean Breeze alcohol-free cocktail @ £2.50 (absolutely gorgeous with cucumber and elderflower and other mystery ingredients left to the barman’s creativity).

We ordered these starters: cheese and onion doughnuts (K enjoyed them so much last time, he couldn’t venture to try anything different; and you get six rings for £3.50) and salt and peppered calamari @ £7.50 (again, a big portion).

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Salt + peppered calamari rings with garlic mayo @ £7.00

We shared a bottle of Les Puits Neuf Chateauneuf-du-Pape @ £35.00 (note that there’s a good choice of wines, starting from £14.00 a bottle) and, for main course, both had the Cow + Pig plate of meat – a hugely filling plate of seven meats, chips and slaw @ £18.00 a plate (if I have this again, I’ll skip the starter).

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Cow + Pig plate of meat – with chips and slaw @ £18.00
L-R (ish): Pork belly with crackling, black pudding, burnt ends, Orchard sausage, steak, lamb chop, beef in tomato ragu

We added half a grilled lobster with garlic butter @ £15, making it surf n turf and shared this.

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Half a grilled lobster @ £15.00

On this visit, we had a window seat under a canopy of twigs and leaves:

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Interior – bringing the outside in

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The cow theme extends to the furnishings

The verdict: Best Sunday roast I’ve had in a long time. Extensive menus with an interesting twist. Great service and reasonably priced. If you like great quality meat and are handy for Bromley, give this restaurant a try. It’s one of those rare occasions where a restaurant scores five out of five in the LardButty index.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 5 / 5
– Type: British, steakhouse
– Address: 39 East St, Bromley
– Postcode: BR1 1QQ
– Tel: 020 8464 8877
– Nearest station: Bromley North
– Website + menus: Cow + Pig website
– Photos on flickr: Cow + Pig photos
– Location: Cow + Pig map

Cow & Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato