30 June 2014

Friday Night At The Berners Tavern

When it comes to décor, the jaw-dropping opulence and glamour of the Berners Tavern places it at the forefront of the London restaurant field. It opened just under a year ago and as you'll see from the photos coming up below, it's no more a tavern than, say, The River Cafe is a cafe.  Set inside the glitzy London Edition Hotel, the restaurant attracts London's elite and thus is a great place for lovers of people-watching - like me! If you book a table here (and do it way in advance) expect to see both the rich and famous. I saw many, many rich. No bloody famous this night though - typical!

I was first to arrive when meeting my friend for dinner last Friday evening and I was floored by the grand, stately home-esque room that I had walked into. The ceiling, which is as high as a cathedral's, was intricately designed. Beautiful chandeliers add to the enchantment as do hundreds of gold-framed paintings adorning the walls.

I settled myself at a table next to the impossibly high cocktail bar. Whilst tempted to request a shot on the rocks from one of the bottles right at the top, I settled for one of their very pleasing and well-presented cocktails (a Room With A View - vodka, quince, citrus syrup, apple juice, lemon and prosecco) then took in my surroundings until Jen arrived soon afterwards to join me for aperitifs.

At our table, we considered the menu. It's certainly mouth-watering with something to please most people; grills and steaks, salads, sandwiches, elegant seafood dishes, sharing platters and Sunday roasts. The decision wasn't an easy one!

The friendly and informative sommelier was on hand to help us choose a fantastic wine based on our food choices and budget.

There are many Berners Tavern takes on classic dishes on the menu, one of which I was quick to secure as my starter: the good old-fashioned prawn cocktail. Or to be more precise, the native lobster and prawn cocktail with avocado and crispy shallot.

I was delighted when it arrived before me!

The cocktail was bursting with flavour, wonderfully tangy with a pleasing texture from the crunchy lettuce and toasted croutons in the creamy sauce. I also liked how the lettuce was chopped up to the perfect size with none of those annoying long pieces dangling off the spoon and making a Marie Rose mess!

Jen had the "Egg, Ham and Peas" - new season pea and broad bean risotto, crispy quail egg and lardons. Beautifully presented, Jen said the ingredients complimented each other perfectly and the dish was delicious.

We both ordered fish for main. I had the turbot with squid ink risotto and Jen chose the Cornish cod with borlotti bean, courgette and chorizo.

Although we commented on how nice both our dishes were, they didn't make for particularly appealing photographs (jet black squid ink risotto in a pan doesn't look too enticing). Instead, I'm going to move on to something much more of a feast for the eyes because - as it turns out - The Berners Tavern do some great desserts.

Introducing their strawberry trifle!

And their cinnamon doughnut! 

That's a warm, cinnamon sugar coated doughnut with 70% chocolate ganache seeping from the inside, served with almond sorbet...

Each plate was paired by the restaurant with a delectable glass of dessert wine. The trifle went fantastically with the Italian sparkling Brachetto d'Aqui and the doughnut with a Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel.

I was a big fan of that trifle. It had the perfect ratio of cream to custard to sponge to jam.

I was the cat that got the cream. And the cat that got the oozing chocolate doughnut...

We both had lovely meals in an impressively grand environment. Berners Tavern may not be a place for everyone - it's not the most laid back, unpretentious atmosphere in London and it delivers a rather punishing bill at the end. But the venue definitely has something special and the food lived up to the hype for both Jen and I.

Unable to tear ourselves away after our dinner, our waiter secured us a table back in the bar area where we enjoyed a post dinner cocktail and a selection of their little macarons. The perfect finish to a super-luxurious evening.

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27 June 2014

A Japanese Dinner - Teppanyaki Style!


 noun \ˌte-pän-ˈyä-kē\

Definition of TEPPANYAKI

:  a Japanese dish of meat, fish, or vegetables cooked on a large griddle usually built into the diner's table
With my memories of that steaming sushi boat still very much present in my mind and a visit to Tokyo planned for next January, it was with glee that I accepted Laura's kind invitation to accompany her to an evening of traditional Japanese culinary delights at Matsuri St James'.

Although the restaurant opened in the heart of Mayfair back in 1993 as a joint partnership of Kikkoman (the soy sauce people) and JR-Central (the high-speed railway company), this year they've been through something of a relaunch not only bringing in a brand new head chef to overhaul the menu but also adding an authentic sushi counter to the mix.

Today though our visit was not at the new counter but in the main restaurant. We were dining teppenyaki style and our visit promised the finest sushi, tempting tempura, black cod (one of my favourites) and prime Galician beef cooked right in front of us dribbling food-lovers.

Firstly, try not to let the decor put you off. Inside it's not unlike an office boardroom and they could probably do with a snazzy Zuma-style makeover but let's turn a blind eye to that and let the food do the talking. After all, that's what matters the most, right? (especially if you're as hungry as I was!).

The assorted sushi and rolls were very nice indeed. To be honest, I don't think I'll ever be the biggest sushi lover so I find it a little hard to judge but this was as good as I've tasted and according to the huge sushi fans who were sitting to my left at the table, it was bloody good stuff.

The fresh prawn tempura was more my thing! Tempura restaurants in Japan use a secret blend of oils to deep fry with to give it its individual flavour. These oils can be a mixture of vegetable, soya bean or sesame. Matsuri's was crispy, very tasty and not even a little bit greasy. 

And then the exciting bit started!

It was great being able to see all those fresh, raw ingredients laid out in front of us pre-cooking. Our dedicated chef put everything into preparing the fish whilst Laura and I reminisced about Rhodes, sipping on the accompanying sake and wine the very informed sommeliers were spoiling us with. 

The black cod was exactly as I like it; soft and melt-in-the-mouth. Absolutely beautiful fish.

I was fascinated by the huge joint of Galician beef the chef was about to tackle next. He covered it in rock salt and cooked that cow to perfection. 

Just look at that juicy meat! It was a sample plate of kings! The teppanyaki style of cooking really draws out the natural flavours in both the meat and vegetables. 

We watched as the yummy egg fried rice was also prepared...

...along with a tasty dessert of crepes with fruit and ice cream. Flambé! 

It was an impressive and very enjoyable meal. Matsuri St James' is definitely a restaurant worth considering for an authentic Japanese experience. Being able to watch the talented chefs at work is worth the visit alone!

I'm getting very excited for my trip to Japan next January now...

Just a tip: If you visit, ask for a glass of the Kamoizumi Nigori Ginjo - it's AMAZING

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22 June 2014

My Summer Fruit Chocolate Glasses

We've just enjoyed another one of those lovely sunny Sundays! I can't get enough of them! I spent most of my lazy day in the garden catching a few rays and listening to Jessie Ware and John Mayer on the iPod. I did, however, take twenty minutes out of this busy schedule to rustle up these babies

They are my Summer Fruit Chocolate Glasses and they're not quite as naughty as they first appear. In fact, I'm pretty proud of this recipe as it's one that I didn't expect to work too well. I thought the texture and taste may not be brilliant because I wasn't using any egg yolks or cream but to my delight, they are absolutely yummy. Not only that, they can be knocked up in no time at all and the chances are you already have all the ingredients in your cupboard!

The mousse is made up of:

75g dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 egg whites
5 tablespoons Total 0% Fat Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon caster sugar

I love Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate. It tastes great - not half as bitter as you might imagine - and when it comes to chocolate, the higher the cocoa content the better. Read all about its benefits here

Here's how to make them:

1. Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt slowly over a barely simmering pan of water. When completely melted, stir in the ground cinnamon then set aside to cool.

2. Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites until they are a stiff consistency. Add the sugar slowly, bit by bit, whisking on a slower speed until all incorporated. Whisk again until stiff.

3. Place the Greek yoghurt in a bowl. Using the cleaned whisk, mix together the yoghurt and cooled chocolate until fully combined. Then add the egg whites and whisk until creamy and smooth*.

4. Put some summer fruits in the bottom of 3 port, champagne or shot glasses. I used blueberries, raspberries and pomegranate. If you like, drizzle a little honey over the fruit for a bit of added sweetness, then spoon or pipe the mousse on top. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it into the corners of the glasses. Top with some extra fruit on top.

You can now either eat them straight away or, for a thicker consistency, place them in the fridge to set for a few hours.

* many insist that you should always fold in your egg whites. I tried this the first time but it just didn't achieve the lovely, creamy consistency I love that whisking did! Over-ruled!

They're a delicious and light summertime dessert. They look all pretty too!

My raspberry chocolate glass was enjoyed in the back garden in the sunshine.

And just a note: chocolate is very dangerous for dogs so never, ever treat them with it...

...however cute they look whilst trying to convince you to!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! 

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