Tag Archives: food

Clockjack Oven

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The craze for chicken restaurants is clearly not dying down and the latest addition is Clockjack Oven in Soho.

It’s minutes from Piccadilly Circus on Denman Street but seems to have (so far) avoided becoming a tourist over-spill.

The food on offer is all based around chicken (obviously) and not just any chicken. Fat, juicy rotisserie chicken which tastes so fresh you expect to see the birds grazing outside. It’s different from the likes of Chicken Shop in North London because the meat here is cooked with a Tudor method on an open-flame rotisserie which leaves the chicken succulent and tender with a deliciously crispy skin.

Instead of grazing on the not so green streets of Soho, the chickens are thankfully reared in Brittany on “high quality cereals” which it turns out makes them incredibly delicious to eat.

The menu is small but nicely put together with the rotisserie chicken being the main event and I’d recommend going in a group so you get to order several of the beautifully arranged salads and sides to go along with the meat.

When it comes to the rotisserie chicken, you can get in three, four or 10-piece dishes, depending on how hungry, or greedy, you’re feeling.

I also fell head over heels in love with the Clockjack torpedo which if decency allowed I’d probably include in my daily diet. It’s a thick sandwich made of a fluffy buttermilk bun filled with chicken bites covered in ranch dressing (an obsession of mine).

Better yet – you can (and must) try the crispy chicken bites – tiny morsels of chickeny goodness fried in buttermilk and gram flour, perfect for dunking into any of the accompanying sauces.

The desert menu is minimal but perfectly adequate with the usual classics such as lemon tart and ice cream sorbets.

All in all I was pretty impressed with Clockjack. It’s a friendly place where the emphasis is on producing exceptional chicken.

It’s rare to find a good independent restaurant in this part of town which isn’t grossly expensive or rammed at the seems. Clockjack is a simple, straightforward place with, most importantly, really good roast chicken.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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The Athenaeum

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Walking down Park Lane you’re almost falling over yourself with five-star hotels to visit, be it for a cocktail, afternoon tea or maybe if you’re feeling plush or in charge of an expenses card, an over night stay.

As there are so many it can be hard to pick and as most menus require you to spend a month’s budget over one meal, it’s important to pick the right place. The competition is fierce but one which has managed to retain it identity without becoming outdated is five-star The Athenaeum.

One of the best things about the hotel is its whisky bar, serving more than 270 different varieties of the amber spirit. It’s lovely and traditional and as a whisky novice, I was a little out of place, but the staff are friendly and helpful and ready to help you pick out a good drink if you’re not a connoisseur.

After a warm-up drink in the bar, my friend Rav and I tried out the hotel’s restaurant last week. It’s an elegant room, with padded chairs covered in velvet and cushions making you feel a little like royalty. The room is also set out well for intimacy as each of the tables are cleverly placed in booths leaving you quite separate from your fellow diners.

The menu is simple but successful with classic British dishes cooked well. We had the onion soup, creamy and subtly infused but nothing too special with tuna carpaccio, which was brilliantly delicate with a slightly spicy edge from the peppercorn coating.

Onto the main meals, salmon parcels with a green salad and wild mushroom risotto. The salmon was fresh and juicy wrapped in flaky pastry with spinach squished into the mix whereas the risotto, possibly a bad menu choice on Rav’s part, was pretty bland.

By this stage, after sharing a bottle of Riesling and after our initial whiskey starters, things were beginning to feel a little unbalanced. To soak up the alcohol we ploughed on to puddings and went for a squidgy chocolate pudding and a beautifully light crème brulee with crunchy shortbread biscuits on the side.

All in all the night was pleasant but nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a classic place built on tradition and everything from the décor to the food served up is based on this idea. The average age of most of the punters is around 50, so if you’re not of this age maybe find some older friends or take your parents along.

If you’re looking to go somewhere traditional it’s a strong contender in Mayfair and you won’t be left with too much of a financial hangover.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Sophie’s Steakhouse

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London has gone steak mad recently with restaurants popping up across the city promising to serve the best-cut steak in the UK or sometimes even on the planet.

However, one steakhouse which caught my fancy is Sophie’s which can be found in Covent Garden or Chelsea.

On visiting the Covent Garden branch I was pleasantly surprised to find somewhere which kept up with the oh so high standards for steak-eating in London and gave a little bit extra.

It’s a huge restaurant and generally packed on most nights with a mix of locals, suits and tourists but don’t let this put you off. There’s also a lot of good steak on offer, a lively and exciting atmosphere and the prices aren’t as ridiculous as some meaty chains will charge you.

Starting off there’s a small selection of mini plates, with nothing that out of the ordinary. I opted for the beef Carpaccio which pretty much melted off the plate and into my mouth in a delicious delicate way. My friend went for the scallops, which again were cooked to perfection and served with pea puree to smother on top.

Next up, the steak course. You can go for something else if you want but why would you.

There’s sharing dishes such as the chateaubriand, but as a greedy person I prefer to have my own cut and went for the fillet steak while my friend had the rib eye. Both were cooked pretty much exactly how we asked, if not a tiny bit over done, and were excellent cuts of meat served with thick chips to soak up all the delicious meaty juices.

Forget pudding, the list isn’t worth a look, and go for a cocktail. There’s an extensive cocktail menu and the Covent Garden branch is open until 1am so aim to try a few.

This is not a place for an intimate dinner, it’s an open setting and packed full of people so better for a large group. As Sophie (the founder) is the daughter of Jeremy Mogford, founder of Brown’s, you can slightly see the mass-produced similarities.

But although it’s a little chainy you can’t knock the steaks. It’s not a place for meat connoisseurs but somewhere to go and have some fun while enjoying a decent, honest steak and some amazing cocktails with your friends.

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The Jugged Hare

The line between gastropub, plain old pub and fancy restaurant has become very blurred lately. Attaching the ‘gastropub’ label onto an ordinary looking pub usually means an excuse to rack up the prices while luring in unassuming diners who were looking for some pub grub.

Well pub grub is certainly not what you’ll find at The Jugged Hare and despite the slightly haughty atmosphere and higher-than-average prices the food is well-presented and most importantly it tastes good.

This is the 10th in a line of gastropubs owned by Tom and Ed Martin and it’s clear to see they know what they’re doing. Walk in through the main entrance and you’ll be met by crowds of local workers enjoying the impressive drinks menu. It’s got its own ‘by the glass’ machine creating seasonal wines from local producers and if you’re indecisive, go for the wine flight – you get three glasses of seasonally picked out wines for £10. If wine’s not your thing try the Jugged Hare pale ale, brewed in conjunction with Sambrook’s brewery in Battersea.

If you’re peckish, or you’ve booked a table (recommended for most evenings), walk through the crowds towards the smell of meat and you’ll reach the restaurant area where an open kitchen takes centre stage. For those of you who enjoy watching cookery programs you’ve come to the right place. Here you can stare at the chefs to your heart’s content and watch them popping out intricate looking meals, but a warning – it’s no fun for fellow diners if you spend the meal commenting on events in the kitchen which they can’t see.

For people who find it hard to say no to a starter (like me) you won’t be disappointed and I went for the honey roast kiln salmon (£8) while my friend had the diver king scallops gratin (£9.50) with a creamy sauce to melt any fish-haters heart.

The food available is all local, organically sourced (fish from Billingsgate Market) and what you might expect really and there’s a different meat available everyday from the spit roast and some hefty steaks on offer. Most of the main meals are around £17 but you do pay for what you get and the meals are fresh, delicious and perfectly matched with the sides (although you have to pay extra for these).

Greedily I also tucked into a pudding and despite being a bit of a connoisseur in this sector, the lemon junket (light mouse) with blood orange jelly is one of the best fruity treats I’ve ever eaten – and an ideal way to end a heavy meal. It’s light, airy and sweet enough to make you feel light you’ve been transported to some kind of magical land but doesn’t leave you feeling like you need a root canal.

Downstairs there are more tables and it would be a good place for a group meal such as a birthday and once you’ve gorged on the meaty feast the bar is perfectly situated to finish off your night.

This review was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Comptoir Libanais

South Kensington is a place I often find myself, either after wondering around the V&A or one of the surrounding museums and I continually have a problem trying to find anywhere good to eat or drink.

Every place I stumble upon seems to be ridiculously over priced or just rubbish and surviving on the fact that so many tourists, and non West Londoners like myself, are hungry or thirsty and will just drop into anywhere nearby. Luckily I’ve found a few options to safeguard against this and one such is Comptoir Libanais on Exhibition Road.

This is the second in the chain of ‘fast’ food Lebanese restaurants and it’s ideal for a quick, tasty meal that won’t break the bank. You can choose from several platters piled up with deliciously comforting treats such as smoky aubergine baba ghanoush, falafel, hummus, and salads with pitta bread for dipping and fried vegetable samosas. These are to share but if you’re feeling greedy and a lover of  creamy hummus topped with pomegranate seeds, and let’s be honest who isn’t, then you might be able to go for one.

For the main meals there are lots of small dishes and I had the prune and lamb tagine which was so tender it virtually melted into one. There are also meat koftas with side salads, whole salads for those attempting to be healthy and lovingly prepared mousakas with crispy fried onions and fresh pomegranate seeds on top – it doesn’t sound like it should work but it does. A mouthful of this feels a bit like a giant duvet wrapped around you, it’s delicious, warming and will leave you feeling comfortably full.

The pudding selection is a bit of a must. There are lots of beautiful looking sweet treats, from rose water macaroons to more varieties of baklava then I ever thought possible and as they’re so tiny you can almost believe they’re calorie free.

All the dishes are around £7 which is a bargain given the location and the quality of the food. It’s a little bit like Leon but better and the bright paintwork and pictures create a cheery atmosphere which is a must at this time of year.

One thing I would avoid next time is the wine. Despite the good value and tasty food, the wine was expensive and the quality was no where near as good as the food. Instead I would go for one of the freshly made juices or some traditional green tea.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Bistro du Vin

Bistro du Vin Soho When walking through the door at the Soho branch of Bistro du Vin you’re immediately met with a bright, open restaurant decorated with light, modern features. The bar stretches along one side of the room and nestled in the corners of the room is a cheese room which is opposite an impressive wine cellar.

The bar offers a wide range of cocktails, from your usual gin and tonics to specially created and blended seasonal drinks, and if you fancy a quiet one it’s an ideal Soho spot.  The menu changes every few months and each ingredient is perfectly balanced to create a mixture of flavours to compliment each other. As it’s Christmas there are several current delights on offer, and if you’re bored of mulled wine already try the light and creamy eggnog drink with bacon flavoured whisky (needs to be tried to be believed).

After you’ve exhausted the cocktails, it’s time to move on to the menu. It’s a step down from Hotel du Vin, but only in price as the quality offers every bit as much. From delicate rabbit terrines and soup to rich seafood platters, you could probably spend an evening on starters alone so make sure you restrain yourself for the main event.

The meat is the big player in the mains and if you’re a steak fan go for something cooked on the Jasper Grill. It gives the meat a succulent moist texture but with a smoky flavour to make you think it’s just been thrown on the barbecue. If you don’t love your meat, do not fear, there’s plenty more to indulge in and I would recommend the bream doused in roasted garlic, butternut squash ravioli or if you’re feeling extravagant the lobster. Prices for mains lie around the £14 mark.

Next is the (mandatory for some) cheese course which if you miss out on you will regret, guaranteed. The cheese room is stacked with your old classics and some regional specialities and you can go in and choose whatever takes your fancy or leave this up to the experts to pick for you.

Another must – desert. Chocolate tart with crème chantilly or if you’re feeling full the gratinated figs with marsala. To wash it all down there’s an extensive wine list so unless you’ve spotted your favourite, ask for a recommendation – the waiting staff were falling over each other to help (but not in an annoying way).

Bistro du Vin is not trying to be something it’s not – it is a chain restaurant and you can get cheaper Plat du jour dishes through the week. If you’re looking for something a bit nicer than Strada and Café Rouge but for around the same price this is it. It says “We don’t do pretentious” (which in itself sounds a little pretentious) but it really isn’t. It’s an affordable treat and every part of the experience is enjoyable.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Seasonal delights

Heading out of Finsbury Park tube there’s not exactly a huge variety of encouraging sights, as with any tube station out of zone one, endless kebab shops and newsagents seem to line the immediate vicinity.

But one place that caught by eye when walking around in my new neighbourhood is the Season Kitchen on Stroud Green Road. It’s a five-minute walk from the tube and well worth the effort.

The restaurant boasts a changing monthly menu including only seasonal, and where possible, local produce so don’t go expecting to get the same thing twice. It also lacks the pretentiousness (and price tag) you might expect from such a message. Independently owned, the staff are friendly and welcoming and pleased to talk you through each dish and pick out something you will really enjoy.

The atmosphere is intimate with only one large dining room largely reserved for couples on a weekday night, but don’t let this put you off as the food is exciting, fresh and delicious.

I tried the sea bream with lentils and a melting sauce of anchovy and lime butter (£13.50) which was cooked to perfection and served beautifully. The fish was clearly very fresh and smelt and tasted as if it had been swimming a few hours before. Blended with the  lightly fragranced herb sauce and the lentils it went down very well.

Also on the menu I tried the roast pork belly dashi, with spring greens  and shitake mushrooms – for those unfamiliar with the name, it is basically a very light Japanese broth. This dish puzzled me at first, as every time I’ve tried pork belly before the most appealing part is the crispy texture. It was successful because of the delicate blend of each flavour sitting alongside each other, although it might have been better with a different meat.

To finish I had poached rhubarb with ginger shortbread and a vanilla and mango parfait (£4.95). Now I am a big fan of puddings and if it was up to me I would eat one for every course so as quite the connoisseur I can safety say this topped everything I’ve tried in recent months. It was delicate and delicious and the tangy rhubarb was sweetened by the vanilla parfait. The texture of the creamy stewed fruit with the light ginger shortbread went perfectly and I only wish I could have had more.

It’s not hugely cheap compared to other restaurants in the area but the food is of a very high quality and you can guarantee you’re not going to be served soggy strawberries in December. By visiting Season Kitchen you’re getting a culinary lesson in sustainable eating, while enjoying some very good food. Enjoy.

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