Chisou Mayfair – Japanese

Classy Japanese food without any pomp

The grand finale of our day out ‘west’ (taking in the Summer Exhibition 2017 and a few cocktails) was a meal at Chisou. The main reason for choosing this Mayfair restaurant was seeing the grilled unagi (eel) dish on their menu which I’ve only had once as a main course (rather than as a sushi/nigiri topping) in Japan a few months ago. I love eel done in the Japanese smoked style with a sticky sauce – it’s up there as one of my all-time favourite foods.

So I’ve really been looking forward to eating here – would it (could it) live up to my hopes?

Small, appealing Japanese-style interior – main restaurant

Entering the main restaurant, it’s a small Japanese-style space with counter-seating and a few tables with Japanese wooden benches (the ones with lids so you can store your bags and coats inside, and keep the floor area tidy). But we were taken through to an even smaller backroom with closely arranged tables and no windows.

Befitting a hot, summer’s day we picked a chilled saké that goes really well with seafood, a Fisherman saké (more info here) @ £51.00 for a 720ml bottle. This went incredibly well with the food we ordered (mostly fish). Sipping from the small saké glasses, it seemed to last forever too.

Wagyu steak skewers

Crispy, fried gyoza

We ordered a few dishes to share, starting with edamame – young soy beans served with sea salt @ £4.50, wagyu kushi yaki – two wagyu steak skewers with teriyaki sauce @ £13.20 and gyoza – five crispy, fried chicken dumplings @ £7.90.

Next to arrive was the sashimi omakase selection – five kinds of chef’s choice ‘gohin sashimi’ @ £28.90. Totally divine and worth sharing two photos from different angles:

Gohin sashimi – tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon and wasabi

Gohin sashimi –  tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon

And then the much-anticipated grilled plates: saikyo yaki a ‘creamy’ black cod marinated in white miso paste @ £21.40 and unagi kabayaki – sea eel fillet in a sweet kaba yaki sauce @ £28.30.

Grilled creamy black cod marinated in white miso paste

Unagi kabayaki – smoked fillet of eel in a sticky sauce

Our waiter was charming – when I’d initially asked about the recommended amount of food for two to share (particularly sashimi portions) his advice was along the lines of ordering too much food is a shame but wanting more, we can easily fix. I liked that.

As an afterthought we ordered a portion of rice @ £3.40, to go with the grilled dishes. It arrived within moments.

Nice bathroom

Saké glasses and holders

For the sake of a thorough review (ahem) we ordered a bowl of ice-cream to share – the black sesame was particularly nice:

Ice-cream – Madagascar vanilla, black sesame and green tea

Partition between tables – fortunately, a cute little girl/toddler who “loved beans” (edamame soy beans) sat next to me; one even got flicked into my rice bowl which was amusing. But if you don’t like chatting to strangers over your dinner, this place may not be for you…

The verdict: Really high quality, excellent food and great menu options. The kind of ‘fine dining’ that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I’ll be back for the unagi (eel) and black cod again. Hopefully soon. And I’ll request a table in the main restaurant.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 4 Princes Street, London
– Postcode: W1B 2LE
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus
– Website + menus: Chisou Mayfair website
– Photos on flickr: images of Chisou Mayfair
– Location: Chisou Mayfair map

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


Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho W1 – sublime

Step out of the bustle of London’s Soho into the low-lit, pristine and calming ground floor restaurant Floor 58 in Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, for some truly tasty posh-nosh

Come on in…

Seated at a table for two (space was restricted) we started with a refreshing drink from the cocktail menu. A Banana Sazerac for me @ 11.00 (Monkey Shoulder scotch, Martell VS cognac, banana, pineapple, aromatic bitters, absinthe rinse and orange oils) and an Eldflower Sour for J @ £10.00 (Beefeater gin, elderflower, peach, lemon and marjoram).

We’d provisionally booked a set menu of two/three courses and a cocktail @ £29.50/£34.50. Take a look at the set menu side by side with the a la carte menu – the a la carte menu is too full of exciting options to resist, right?


Jerusalem artichoke, Iberico de Bellota, Arlington white egg, Langres, dandelion + Spring truffle


Mackerel and tartare, Skyr, pickled walnuts, apple + chicory


And so we ordered from the a la carte menu. For starter, I had salt-baked Jerusalem artichoke, Iberico de Bellota, Arlington white egg, Langres cheese, dandelion, and Spring truffle @ £13.50. I don’t think I’ve eaten dandelion before and it looked stunning. So visually pleasing it was almost a shame to tuck in and spoil the design. Almost. The mixture of flavours was sensational – the word sublime was going through my mind right throughout this meal.

J had scorched south coast mackerel and tartare, Skyr (yoghurt-like dairy product), pickled walnuts, apple and chicory @ £12.00.


Set menu Vs a la carte menu – click to enlarge


For main course, J had baked Cornish hake, hispi cabbage gratin, Salcombe crab, Tokyo turnip and saffron @ £28.00, along with a mug of cidre Breton @ £6.00.


I had coriander seed roasted turbot, green sauce, white Wye Valley asparagus, fennel salad and crispy Pyefleet oyster @ £32.00, and drank a Vinha dos Santos 2013 red wine from Portugal’s Douro region @ £9.50 a 175ml glass. Here’s a photo of the turbot (as served) – beautiful. The photo below shows the food disassembled so you can see inside the crispy (breaded) oyster, and the detail of the meaty turbot with asparagus and fennel salad.


Hake, hispi cabbage gratin, Salcombe crab, Tokyo turnip, saffron


Roasted turbot, green sauce, white Wye Valley asparagus, fennel salad + crispy Pyefleet oyster


Americano @ £4.00, Financier (almond cake) + petit fours @ £3.50


Social Eating House on Soho’s Poland Street – Floor 58 on ground floor, Blind Pig on first floor


The verdict: Food here is on another level. It’s sublime, sensational and blew me away. I can’t wait to eat here again. Service was good too.


Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: British, ‘contemporary bistro’
– Address: 58 Poland St, Soho, London
– Postcode: W1F 7NS
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly
– Website + menus: Social Eating House website
– Photos on flickr: of Social Eating House
– Location: Social Eating House map

The Social Eating House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roka Mayfair – Japanese fine dining W1

Robata at Roka – fine dining for treat times

For a special occasion this evening, K and I headed to Roka for some seriously special Japanese robata (charcoal grilled) food. We chose this branch for its menu (see Roka Mayfair menu) which includes black cod, a favourite of mine.

Tuna tataki, beef gyoza, tenderstem broccoli + chicken skewers

We ordered a bottle of dry white wine by La Croix Belle wine estate @ £34.00 – appropriate for a mild Spring evening, and spicy dishes and fish.

While the premium tasting menu looked quite appealing (10 set dishes @ £88.00 each) it seemed like a lazy option. We preferred the enjoyment of reading all of the menu and ordering exactly what we wanted.

As food was arriving at the neighbouring table, it was quite a challenge not to simply copy what they had – it smelt amazing. We took their recommendation for the fried aubergine salad, and were glad we did.

For starters, we shared these plates:

Age nasu no goma-ae @ £6.60
fried aubergine, sesame miso and katsuobushi

Yakitori-negima yaki @ £5.90
chicken skewers with spring onion

– Broccoli no shinme, shoga to moromi miso @ £5.60
tenderstem broccoli, ginger and moromi miso

Beef gyoza @ £9.30
with pickled cucumber and a soy based sauce

Nigiri unagi @ £6.90
two pieces of freshwater eel sushi

Fried aubergine salad with sesame miso + katsuobushi (tuna flakes) –  @ £6.60

This fried aubergine with sesame miso was a recommendation worth sharing. Absolutely gorgeous. And the eel nigiri (pictured below) was the best I’ve had in the UK – we ordered two portions.

Two pieces of nigiri unagi – freshwater eel sushi @ £6.90

Yellowfin tuna tataki – with apple mustard dressing @ £12.60

For main course, we shared:

Kihada maguro no tataki @ £12.60
yellowfin tuna tataki with apple mustard dressing

Gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku @ £24.30
spicy beef fillet with chilli, ginger and spring onion

and, saving the best ’til last…

Gindara no saikyo-jaki @ £37.60
black cod marinated in yuzu miso

Spicy beef fillet – with chilli, ginger and spring onion @ £24.30

Just divine. This black cod may seem a bit pricey @ £37.60 but it absolutely blew me away. And you can’t put a price on that.

Black cod marinated in yuzu miso @ £37.60

The kitchen is open plan in the centre of the restaurant, so you can see the food being cooked on the robata grills. It’s a bit like posh BBQ-ing really.

Men at work: robata grills in the centre of the restaurant


Roka Mayfair interior

Our total bill for two came to £185.21 including service.


The verdict: Perfectly prepared and beautifully presented food that’s so incredibly tasty, it blew me away. Full marks to the kitchen. Service was at odds (either too much – we went from different servers descending on us one after the other, to non-existent). If you like Japanese food, you’ll love Roka.


Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese, Robata
– Address: 30 North Audley Street, London
– Postcode: W1K 6ZF
– Nearest station: Bond Street, Green Park
– Website + menus: Roka Mayfair website
– Roka Mayfair photos: Roka Mayfair photos on flickr
– Location: Roka Mayfair map

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

LardButty Portugal – Furnas do Guincho Cascais

With views over the Atlantic Ocean and rugged coastline, the Furnas do Guincho restaurant is situated in a beautiful part of Cascais 

It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the gorgeous food at Senhora da Guia but we managed to venture out.

Well, over the road.


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Oceanside Furnas do Guincho restaurant – stunning oceanside setting


This restaurant was known to two of our party and – as we were spoilt for choice with all the fresh fish and seafood dishes – we were happy to be guided by those in the know.


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Fish stew – layers of fish, seafood, sliced potatoes and veggies (hot-pot style)


And so we followed a recommendation for fish stew, a local speciality. It reminded me of a good Lancashire hot-pot, in that all the ingredients are kind of casseroled with layers of sliced potato, baked in their own juices, and it’s a hearty dish. But this was packed with all kinds of fish and seafood, as well as peppers, tomatoes and veggies.


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Huge cooking pot – stew for six made to order


This fish stew is cooked to order and a pot for two is €42.00 – this speciality can only be ordered for two or more.

The verdict: Great restaurant in a lovely setting. Order a fish stew promptly then it can be cooking while you leisurely enjoy drinks and starters. Our meal for six came to €420 so €140.00 per couple. This included plenty of Portuguese white wine and service.


Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Portuguese (in Portugal)
– Address: Guincho, 2750-642 Cascais, Portugal
– Website + menus: Furnas do Guincho website
– Photos on flickr: Furnas do Guincho images
– Location: Furnas do Guincho map 


Furnas do Guincho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Crocker’s Folly – old gin palace NW8

Picture the scene: My parents are in town for the weekend. We’ve been on a guided tour of Lords Cricket Ground (excellent btw – our guide really brought it to life with his knowledge and humour) and we’d like to finish off this nice, leisurely Sunday afternoon with some food and drinks nearby (in NW8).

A quick google search on our ipad reveals there’s a new gastropub in a “former gin palace” a couple of streets away, serving Sunday roasts and cocktails in a Grade II listed building. And it’s part of the Maroush Group (prevalent around Marble Arch).


Crocker’s Folly on Aberdeen Place, NW8 – gastropub in a Grade II listed building

We’re somewhere in between a very late lunch and early dinner and the restaurant is deserted. It’s as if we’ve reserved exclusive use of this grand room with its own private waiting staff. What a treat (Mum thinks she’s become the Lady of Downton Abbey).


Fancy interior: marble bar in the restaurant – chandeliers, Romanesque columns, etc


Walking around Lord’s was thirsty work so we start with a refreshing cocktail while reading the menu. K has a Manhattan (Sazerac rye whisky, vermouth, and Angostura bitters) @ £9.50 and I have a Corps Revival No. 2 (egg white, Tanqueray gin, lemon juice and pineapple juice) @ £10.50.


IMG_3298b_CorpsRevival and Manhattan
Cocktails: Corps revival (foreground) + Manhattan (rear)


Choosing from the Sunday Lunch menu, it’s £18.00 for one course, £25.00 for two courses or £30.00 for three courses.

For starters, K orders baked camembert while I choose salmon gravlax with a fennel cream (subtle aniseed flavour that cleans through the intense fish taste) served with wafer-thin, lightly toasted seeded bread.


IMG_3294b_baked camembert
Starter: baked camembert


Starter: salmon gravlax with fennel cream and wafer-thin seeded toast


For the main Sunday roast, dad and I order lamb and mum and K order beef. It’s a giant plateful with just-perfect Yorkshire puddings (well-risen, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle) a good selection of veggies and gorgeous lamb and beef gravies.


IMG_3300b_beef Sunday roast
Sunday roast beef


IMG_3303b_Yorkshire puddings
Beautifully served, perfect Yorkshire puddings


IMG_3306b_Lamb Sunday Roast
Sunday roast lamb


We’re so full after the main course that none of us can manage a dessert.

But somehow it seems incomplete if we don’t at least try one.

So we share a creme brulee between us (just a ‘taster’). It’s creamier than usual (but not sickly) with a very light, burnt caramelised topping (no hammer required). A very satisfying end to a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.


IMG_3320_creme brulee
Under attack: cream brulee


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Gastropub
~ Address: Aberdeen Place, London
~ Postcode: NW8 8JR
~ Nearest stations: Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale, St Johns Wood, Marylebone
~ Website + menus: Crocker’s Folly website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Crocker’s Folly food
~ Location: Crocker’s Folly map



Crocker's Folly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Mistley Thorn Essex – best Sunday roasts

Having spent a relaxing weekend away in Suffolk, we decided to stop off somewhere for a leisurely Sunday dinner, and break up our drive back to London.

A quick google and The Guardian’s 2013 Best Sunday Lunches lists four pubs/restaurants for East England, one being The Crown & Castle in Orford, Suffolk, where we happened to go on Saturday night (it was excellent – hopefully a good indication that the others would be of a similarly high standard).

The Mistley Thorn near Manningtree in Essex is one of the listings: their “seafood specials at this old coaching house include the North Sea’s finest scallops, squid and local beer-battered haddock with chips”.

Decision made. We were going to Mistley, a small village on the coast (by the River Stour ajoining the North Sea) with much history (a Roman road to Colchester, C.17th witchfinders, a Cold War control room that became a museum before finally closing in 2002, etc).

Inside The Mistley Thorn – bar area

It was mid-afternoon, we hadn’t booked. And this place was full – an indication of its popularity. A table for two was made available and we were told there’d be a short wait (by the accommodating, friendly staff) before they could take our order.

And so we enjoyed a leisurely beer (a bottled Goose Island IPA for me, and half an Adnams Spindrift on tap for K) while admiring the simple wood panelled decor that gives the restaurant the feel of a converted seaside hut.

We homed in on the set menu – two courses for £15.95. And both started with the chef’s soup of the day (leek and potato) with croutons (packed with flavours and helped warm us up on this cold wintry day).

Leek + potato soup – soup of the day with croutons

For the main course Sunday roast, we both had roast Suffolk red poll rump of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables, with a red wine gravy and fresh creamed horseradish.

Red Poll cattle are native to East Anglia (a cross between Norfolk Red beef cattle and Suffolk Dun dairy cattle, developed in the 19th century) and are naturally polled (without horns).

This red poll beef was really special – a great cut of lean beef, cooked perfectly (medium), pink in the middle and moist (no chewiness or gristle). Undoubtedly the best roast beef I’ve had in a Sunday roast dinner. The Yorkshire puddings were just right too – crisp on the outside, and soft in the middle.

Roast beef + Yorkshire pudding

Specials menu – sample menu from Sunday 29 March 2015


The Mistley Thorn Rooms + Restaurant – Mistley, Essex


The verdict: Excellent food and great service in homely, comfy surroundings. Well worth a visit, even if it’s out of your way.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: British, Sunday roasts
~ Address: High St, Mistley, near Manningtree, Essex
~ Postcode: CO11 1HE
~ Tel: 01206 392821
~ Nearest station: Mistley
~ Website + menus: The Mistley Thorn website
~ Photos on flickr: images of The Mistley Thorn
~ Location: The Mistley Thorn map

Mistley Thorn on Urbanspoon

The Tannin Level – Harrogate

Last night was a busy one for Harrogate due to the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks on the Stray. While some restaurants were booked up well in advance, we’d managed to reserve a table for six people at the Tannin Level – a basement wine bar and bistro that’s had a good reputation for donkeys years. Somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for ages.

Talking of donkeys (well, animals) one of our party is a vegetarian/pescatarian. And the Tannin Level’s menu caters for all tastes and dietary requirements. There’s a good variety of dishes, with plenty of seafood and vegetarian options.

IMG_0860_cod fishcake pea puree
Cod, leek + chive fishcake with pea purée

For starters, I chose cod fishcake mashed up with potato, leek and chive, coated in breadcrumbs, and served on a pea purée with rocket @ £6.50 (absolutely gorgeous) while others had
Wensleydale pannacotta with caramelised pear, walnuts and cranberry dressing @ £6.95 (an original take on a cheese starter that tasted wonderfully different)
black pudding hashcake with a poached egg + Hollandaise sauce @ £7.95
tempura king prawns with a chilli dip @ £7.95
warm tomato + mozzarella tart with basil dressing @ £5.95

IMG_0865b_Wensleydale pannacotta
Wensleydale pannacotta with caramelised pear, walnuts + cranberry dressing

More starters:
Selection of starters at the Tannin Level Harrogate
Black pudding hashcake, tempura prawns, tomato + mozzarella tart

To drink, we chose a bottle of red and white wine from the wine list to accompany our range of veggie, seafood and meaty dishes:

white: Pecorino, Italian (“sweet ripe fruit of peach and mango, rounded but with an intense clean finish; a very refreshing, crisp white”) @ £25.20

IMG_0852b_Pecorino at Tannin Level
Pecorino – Italian

red: Drink Me Tinto, Portuguese (“intense berry and dark cherry flavours, everything you expect from Niepoort, with all the character of the Douro”) @ £28.50

IMG_0851_Douro red
Drink Me Tinto – Douro with Hallowe’en themed hand-shadow games

For main course, I had pan fried sea bass with fondant potato, buttered spinach, king prawns and salse verde (included capers, one of my old favourites) @ £15.95, while others had
slow braised lamb shank with chorizo, tomato + chickpea cassoulet @ £15.95
salmon fish fingers + chunky chips with pea purée + homemade tartar sauce (full of whole capers) @ £15.95
baked hake fillet with tarragon potatoes, green beans + Hollandaise @ £12.95
seafood pancake – hake, salmon, smoked haddock + king prawns in a smoked Applewood cheese sauce with sautéed potatoes and mixed leaves @ £15.95

IMG_0866b_Sea bass
Pan fried sea bass with fondant potato, buttered spinach, king prawns + salsa verde

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Slow braised lamb shank with chorizo, tomato + chickpea cassoulet

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Salmon fish fingers + chunky chips with pea purée + tartar sauce

More mains:
Selection of main courses at the Tannin Level Harrogate
Baked hake fillet with tarragon potatoes, seafood pancake, pan fried sea bass

After two courses we were – unsurprisingly – all stuffed. Most of us ordered a liquid dessert (the likes of Remy Martin @ £3.75, Courvoisier @ £3.50, malt whisky @ £3.95 or limoncello @ £3.50) or shared a dessert.

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Lime + stem ginger cheesecake – gingernut base, stem ginger syrup, champagne sorbet @ £5.50 (as good as it looks, if not better!)

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Chocolate brulée with a homemade chocolate chip cookie @ £5.50

The verdict: Lovely cosy restaurant (while quite large, there are several alcoves and arches which give a feeling of privacy), good service and excellent food and wines. Scoring 4.5 out of 5 in the LardButty index, it’s definitely a hit.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: British, International
~ Address: 5 Raglan Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1LE
~ Website: Tannin Level website
~ Photos: Tannin Level images
~ Location: Tannin Level map

More Harrogate dining:
~ Black Sheep Brewery – tours + visitor centre, Masham
~ Carriages – Knaresborough
~ Drum + Monkey – seafood in Harrogate
~ Major Tom’s
~ Storm at The Dower House – Knaresborough
~ Sukhothai – Harrogate, top Thai in Yorkshire

Tannin Level on Urbanspoon