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“There is no sauce in the world like hunger.”

Miguel de Cervantes

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Tuesday
May292012

My restaurant recommendations: West London

West London is not my area of expertise, I admit it. I am not going to try and pretend.

There are two quite simple reasons for this. The first is laziness – the West is not my part of London and I have not devoted enough time to exploring it. Secondly, it tends to be expensive; well the places I want to go to are anyway.

Of course, I’m sure there are many good value local eateries in the suburbs, which if I lived there I might have found. The point is that I am not about to head to West London to find something cheap and cheerful when I can do that in my own backyard. 

Some of the finest establishments in the capital can be found in West London, and I have only just begun to scratch the surface. How fortunate then that this is a blogpost and can be updated and added to overtime. I can and will come back to this post and do just that, but for now here are four great restaurants in that part of town.

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Sunday
May062012

My restaurant recommendations: Central London

It won’t come as a surprise that I am regularly quizzed by family, friends and colleagues for restaurant recommendations. It is one of my favourite topics so I don’t mind at all and I always give a very detailed response. You may well regret you asked.

It is helpful to give me some parameters, for example, where? and what price range?

If your answer to these questions is a combination of the below:

... then you will get an essay on the subject. If you can narrow it down a bit then you will get a more concise response.

Where I fall down is when the answer is something like:

When I first moved to London I was more adventurous. I couldn’t believe Londoners were so reluctant to travel beyond their corner of the city, especially given the efficiency of the transport system. Now I am a Londoner and it has to be a very special occasion for me to travel West. Don’t even get me started on South of the river. It’s another world down there.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think it important to explain in advance why I have so many more recommendations for Central London and the North East; it is not because of a lack of gastronomic flair in the West and South, I just haven’t explored them fully.

You will also notice a weighting towards mid-range in terms of budget because that is what I can afford most of the time.

I start here with Central London and will follow with North, South, East and West, though not necessarily in that order. 

I am always open to new recommendations so please leave comments with your favourites. If I try them and like them, I will add them to the list.

Happy dining.

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Wednesday
May022012

Spring menu launch at Public House

In January I went to Public House in Islington for the first time. I was there on a deal from Top Table: 2 courses for £10 off the a la carte menu, a deal I thought too good to be true. But it was true and it was good. Very good indeed.

I got invited back to the launch of the new spring menu last night. This time the food wasn’t just good value – it was free.

A free dinner for me and a friend, nice. I took my friend, Jen, as she was the one who recommended Public House to me in the first place.

The chef had selected three starters, three mains and a dessert to showcase the spring menu and each table was given a few of each dish to share amongst themselves. This presented a slight problem at first since the other end of the table had two dishes between six and we somehow ended up having to share one between five. This was made more difficult by the fact that two of the five (a) did not like talking to strangers, (b) did not like sharing with strangers, and (c) did not seem to like each other very much either. Thankfully for us, it all became too much for them and they left after the second starter, after which we were three, me, Jen and a fellow foodie called John who was writing a review for London Larder. 

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Thursday
Apr192012

Angels with Bagpipes

It is the sign of a good menu when you really can’t choose. I could have happily eaten any of the six starters at Angels with Bagpipes and really struggled to narrow it down from my top four to one. If only I’d had a companion to talk into ordering all my favourites and sharing. Ha.

The Good Food Guide describes Angels with Bagpipes as modern European, but the focus is strongly on local produce and the menu is peppered with modern takes on Scottish classics. Take for example Cullen Skink with warm smoked haddock and Mull cheddar or Haggis with kohlrabi, potato, mushroom and whisky sauce. Eventually I settled on the Haggis since I hadn’t had any in Scotland yet and I felt I really ought to.

I had only had haggis once before and I remember liking it but nothing more. This, on the other hand, was really memorable; rich and slightly spicy, similar in flavour to a typical pork sausage but with more depth. The whiskey sauce brought creaminess without being too heavy and the mushrooms earthiness. The only real downfall was that the potato cubes were not crisp because the dish really could have been lifted with some more defined textural contrasts.

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Saturday
Apr072012

Restaurant Martin Wishart

Most people save fine dining for special occasions. I’ll take any excuse.

It was my first time in Edinburgh and that was good enough for me. And I didn’t just do fine dining, I did it in style – no a la carte for me, I'll take the full tasting menu with matching wines thank you very much. At lunchtime. All by myself.

It was certainly an experience, and dining alone was a much more enjoyable experience than you might expect. Obviously, when I say that, I am taking as a prerequisite that you have a keen interest in food and that you, like me, would prioritise a few hours of flavour-filled fun over, say, a new iPod touch or that designer dress you have been coveting.

Martin Wishart is heralded as one of Scotland’s most innovative chefs, bringing Edinburgh its first Michelin star in 2001 and continuing to impress the critics each year with his blend of traditional and modern French cuisine using the finest and freshest Scottish produce. He opened Restaurant Martin Wishart with his wife, Celine, in 1999 and both the restaurant and his reputation have been growing ever since.

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