Author: Lorraine Marion

Bonnie Gull

Bonnie Gull

Fitzrovia

June 29, 2019

Looe Haddock

On a day that most of the UK were out basking in the 39 degrees of sunshine, I decided to venture to a part of London I had never previously visited, for a rare treat of a three-course lunch at Bonnie Gull. Part of a duo of ‘Seafood Shacks’, the Fitzrovia restaurant, can accommodate possibly 25 covers, and with large windows, and white and blue interiors, it felt much like a deck on a boat on the Mediterranean, which I am sure intentionally set the scene for the white table clothed seafood filled menu with different species sourced from throughout the UK.
Upon entering the restaurant, the cosiness and simple interiors made me feel at ease, and that feeling was unfortunately quickly disrupted when approached by a waitress, who did not seem to know how to crack a smile, and with an expressionless face asked “Can I help you?”, making us feel like unwanted guests who had accidentally wondered off the street and into her home. I also add there were a total of two tables already occupied, w informed her of our booking time, and were soon after seated. I watched her interaction with a French family who entered the restaurant soon after, and they were met with the same glare. I am not sure if it was a relief or not that the absence of a smile was not personal.
It is unfortunate that the waitress set such an negative first impression, because what followed thereafter was three courses of awesomeness. We got talking to the French family on the next table, who were locals and strongly recommend that we try a Pre-Starter, the Avocado mousse, white crab and almonds (£7), and so we took their lead and it turned out to be an excellent start to our meal.

Avocado mousse, white crab, almonds

£7

To start we ordered the Soy marinated Scottish mackerel, with pine cuts and glazed shiitake (£11), and the Scottish sea trout with squid ink aioli & puffed wild rice (£10). The mackerel gently cooked, the skin lightly crisped, and the flesh literally melted in my mouth. The usual fishiness of mackerel subsided by the tang of the soy, and the nuttiness of the pine nuts. The sea trout in contrast not only was presented like art, the flavours meshed harmoniously too. The cousin of salmon, sea trout is one of my favourites because it is mild and versatile allowing it to work particularly well with the aioli. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and really had me anticipating the main event.

  • Soy marinated Scottish mackerel

    £11

  • Scottish sea trout

    £10

For the mains I opted for the Looe hake, heritage tomato and lobster risotto (£31), and the Schiehallion battered north sea haddock with beef dripping chips and mushy peas(£18).
All courses so far were absolutely delicious, but this was by far favourite course of all. I am admittedly a sucker for aesthetics, and often buy food with my eyes. As far as I am concerned, the best of food looks good, and that follows through on a equal footing with flavour and taste. Both dishes did, and was a perfect end to an amazing lunch.

  • Looe Hake, heritage tomatoes, lobster risotto

    £31

  • Schiehallion battered haddock, chips, mushy peas

    £18

One of the great things about seafood is that it is so light, that you can consume a lot of it and not feel quite as uncomfortable, as you would consuming meat. That said, I had to admit defeat after my three-course lunch, plus bread, and though I would have loved too, could not fit in a dessert, to my disappointment.
Bonnie Gull also allow corkage, at a cost of £15, and so we brought along a delightful wine from Bordeaux to accompany our meal.
It felt quite bitter sweet at the end of our meal because as someone who loves restaurants, and eating out, when such a talented chef and wonderful concept is let down, but the front of house team, it is a real shame, as it can really make or break your experience when paying a fairly considerable amount for lunch. As well as the glum waitress, I also noticed a waiter pop out for a cigarette, and returned to serve food without washing his hands.
I removed the service charge, and probably would not return to this particular branch of Bonnie Gull again, even though the food was amazing.
If you like seafood, I would definitely recommend you check out this concept, but perhaps try the branch in Soho?

  • Food

    9/10

  • Vibes

    6/10

  • Service

    5/10

  • Price

    8/10

  • Overall

    7/10


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Naughty Piglets, Brixton

Naughty Piglets

BRIXTON

Aug 27, 2018

Have you ever had one of those days, when you eat a very large lunch (because it was offered to you), knowing full well that you have dinner plans? I tried to convince myself that my elasticated stomach would stretch, to house two large meals for the day, but I was wrong.

Upon arriving at Naughty Piglets, and catching sight of the small plates being served to the other tables, I was filled with regret. My usual ‘fill the table’ approach was not happening tonight, and so I would describe this review as a ‘sampler’, as I was only able to share three small plates and a dessert.

The sampler was enough to convert me into a raving fan of a very talented chef, as all of the dishes were presented beautifully, and tasted even better than they looked. Naughty piglets is the love child of married couple Margaux Aubry Sharrat and Joe Sharratt, a chef and sommelier team, and the restaurant open since 2015, is continuing to thrive in popularity.

The 30 cover restaurant, serving small plates, was jam packed, without a table in sight available (to be expected, in Brixton on a Friday night), and here’s why….

Our first plate was the Chargrilled mackerel, gooseberry, coriander (Priced at £10), delicately grilled, with equally as delicate presentation, the gooseberry dressing perfectly balanced out the strong and sometimes overpowering fishy flavour of the mackerel.

Chargrilled mackerel, gooseberry, coriander

£10.00

This was closely followed by the Burrata, Datterini tomatoes, and basil (priced at £9), this was served with accompanying bread, and pretty much fell in line with my expectations on having some damn good cheese and tomatoes.

Buratta, Datterini tomatoes, basil

£9.00

My favourite dish was the Devon crab, peanut and picked cabbage (Priced at £11). As far as I am concerned, crab, peanuts and the vinegar from the pickled cabbage is truly a match made in taste bud heaven.

To finish we ordered the Doughnuts, lemon curd and sour cream (Priced at £6), quite simply a perfect to a delightful snack.

  • Devon crab, peanut and pickled cabbage

    £11.00

  • Doughnuts, lemon curd and sour cream

    £6.00

Now whilst I think that the dishes eaten were faultless on flavour, quality of ingredients and presentation, I could not help to feel a little short changed on the portion sizes versus price, even given my large lunch. How I personally define value for money is made up of environmental, service, quality, taste and price. For me the price, service, and environment combined, is what has led me to this conclusion.

The environment was uncomfortably hot, with a single fan struggling to keep us cool (within the back section of the restaurant), and my visit was during the peak of our unusually hot British summer. The service was casual, our waiter had extensive menu knowledge, though seemed thinly spread between the number of tables he was waiting. The décor is reminiscent to a quaint French brasserie, loads of wood, with a stripped back simple appearance.

Whilst the menu pricing did not sit comfortably with me, I will return to Naughty Piglets, purely because I was so impressed with the dishes ordered, and I am now left wondering curiously, what the rest of menu has to offer. If I was to sum up my visit to Naughty Piglets, I would use three words, flavoursome and beautiful food.

  • Food

    9/10
  • Vibes

    6/10
  • Service

    7/10
  • Price

    6/10
  • Overall

    8/10

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Champagne & Fromage, Brixton

Champagne & Fromage

BRIXTON

Aug 24, 2018

I have visited this little gem, maybe three or four times over the years. I keep on coming back because Champagne and Fromage just does what it says on the tin consistently well, great cheese, great champagne, and a few other French delights such as charcuterie, baguettes, salads and desserts.

The two I have visited in Brixton and Covent Garden, a fairly small, holding no more than 25 tables, and dressed like a quaint French bistro. The group operate a total of four within London, with others locations in Greenwich and Newington.

Let me just expand on why I am such a huge fan of this concept. As someone that has avidly explored champagnes over a number of years, and having arrived at a place, of understanding the good from the bad steering well away from mainstream (lower end) champagnes, I was happily surprised to find a list of 25-30 champagnes, varying in style, non vintage and vintage, with about 25% of them served by the glass. The cheerful French waiter explained that the champagnes have all been produced by award winning, family owned producers…non of which are recognisable brands ( I smile at this!), and with this is sold at much more reasonable pricing than any Champagne within a typical restaurant. Glass prices start at £8, and if unfamiliar with Champagne styles, ordering the flight (priced at £21), is a easy way of trying three 70ml glasses of three different types of champagne.

Sharing boards in a bistro is for me a tasting menu in a fine dining restaurant, allows me to try as many delights as possible within one sitting. With a cheese selection spanning 50 cheese, and a list of extensive charcuterie options, I simply described my likes/dislikes to the waiter, to later arrived with a board of the most wonderful selection to compliment my bubbles.

We opted for the Gastroboard XL (Priced at £30), which included five cheese, five meats, cornichons and three tapenades. On the face of it, £30 may seem fairly high in price, for a bit of cheese and ham, the quality and portion size are enough for this to quite easily act as lunch or even dinner.

  • Gastroboard XL

  • Gastroboard XL

I just love ham, cheese and champers, and so will more than likely visit Champagne and Fromage again at some point soon. If you love all three, then a visit is a must!

Bubbles

  • Food

    9/10
  • Vibes

    7/10
  • Service

    7/10
  • Price

    8/10
  • Overall

    7/10

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Ikoyi, Piccadilly

Ikoyi

PICCADILLY

Aug 13, 2018

What I love most of all about living in London, is that you can eat almost every type of cuisine, at almost every price point. That said, there are some gaps, and every year there are new ’emerging cuisines’, coming to the forefront. This usually transpires from takeaways into the street food scene, festivals, and then later casual dining restaurants. This is the path I have seen Caribbean Food take within the the past few years, and so here we are with a ‘Fine Dining, West African’ restaurant opening just over 12 months ago in Piccadilly. Upon hearing about the opening last year, I was of course excited to hear that it was coming, but I also did wonder how it would be received. The journey of West African food with the UK, has been very different to that of Caribbean Food, and most other  ’emerging cuisine’. I have personally only ever enjoyed West African Food at weddings, or restaurants, that have an unapologetically ‘for us by us’ feel. Simply meaning fellow Africans come and enjoy the authentic delights of their home countries, in a no frills environment.

Ikoyi is a fairly small space, with anywhere between 50-60 covers, and the tables cramped so closely together that you would not struggle to take part in neighbouring tables conversations. I did not like this at all (especially as this restaurant has the label fine dining, and in keeping with this, is charging fine dining prices), but I do understand it. Rent in central London is astronomically high, and so it is essential that every square meter works for restauranteurs.  The decor is simple, colourful and tasteful with careful consideration to the detail.

Plantain is one of the many loves of my life, and so of course I had to order the Buttermilk Plantain (dusted in a raspberry salt), accompanied by a scotch bonnet (Priced £5.50). It tasted as good as it looked.

For Starter, I ordered Monkfish Cheek Mbongo, White Yam and Cep (Priced £13.50)

  • Buttermilk Plantain & Smoked Scotch Bonnet

    £5.50

  • Monkfish Cheek Mbongo, White Yam & Cep

    £13.50

For my main, I ordered for the Iberico Pork Suya (Priced £35), and the Jollof Rice with smoked bone marrow (Priced 11.50). Jollof is one of the most common dishes served throughout many countries within West Africa, and the one dish of personal familiarity. The Ikoyi version was delicious, and the bone marrow added a richness to the well seasoned rice.
  • Iberico Pork Suya, Hibiscus & Condiments

    £35.00

  • Jollof Rice & Smoked Bone Marrow

    £11.50

  • Wild Nigerian Tiger Prawns, Banga Bisque

    £29.00

My friend ordered the Wild Nigerian Tiger Prawn (Priced £29), which was packed with flavour, but unfortunately left her wanting more as the portion was very small.

I loved that Ikoyi has arrived in London, experimenting with West African flavours and ingredients with a twist. What I do think though is that “fine dining” by definition is not about the food quality alone, it is also about the environment, and the service. The food and service definitely qualify as fine dining, but I question whether the environment does.

All in all a delicious meal, just a bit on the pricey side for its casual setting.

  • Food

    8/10
  • Vibes

    6/10
  • Service

    8/10
  • Price

    6/10
  • Overall

    7/10

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Kricket, Brixton

Kricket

BRIXTON

Aug 9, 2018

Two things that I really love is small plates and Indian food. I have stumbled across a few restaurants that combine the two very well, but who knew this gem was literally on my door step in Brixton.

Chef Will Bowlby is the creative behind Kricket, which is essentially Indian small plates with a twist. I always have a really good feeling about food that looks and smells good, and I sat waiting for one of my friends (who do not understand the concept of time keeping) as I looked on, with food envy as plates of food arrived to the neighbouring tables. The food looked fresh, colourful and tantalising. I was excited!

With a simple food menu of ten dishes, plus two accompaniments, the menu size makes it quite easy to order the entire menu. I dined as a table of two, but any larger group, could have definitely ordered the lot. The waiter ( who I later read online to be the other co owner Rik Campbell) recommended that we take up to six dishes between two. We modestly opted for five plus an accompaniment the ‘Malabar Paratha’, which was plenty. What I was not prepared for is the amazing ride of culinary and creative delights that Kricket was to take me on.

Before the food, came cocktails, opting for the ‘Dark Matter’, this well balanced, and flavourful cocktail combined sweetness of mango, agave and spiced rum, with heat of pink peppercorn and green chilli (Priced at £8), I really could have done with a straw, given the size of the ice cubes, though it was simply to delicious to care. These are the types of cocktails that I adore, simple yet punchy.

Dark Matter Cocktail

£8.00

Typical to the tapas service style, the dishes arrived at the table as and when they were ready, and the first to arrive was the ‘Goan Sausage Pao’, (Priced at £6) which is a spiced sausage served in a slider, along with ‘Bhel Puri’ (Priced at £5.50), which was what I would describe as an explosion of flavours made up of puffed rice, vegetables, mango, tamarind and yoghurt.

Goan sausage pao and bhel puri

£6.00

Both delicious dishes were packed with flavour, and were closely followed by the ‘Pig Head Vindaloo’ (Priced at £12), which did have me wondering precisely what part of the head, I was eating?! Next came the ‘Macher Johl’, which was a fillet of cod on a bed of curried fennel, and wild garlic (Priced at £10.50), the ‘Malabar Paratha’ (Priced at £2), which is an Indian flat bread, and last but not least, but the unusually placed ‘Keralan Fried Chicken’ (priced at £6).
  • Pig Head Vindaloo

    £12.00

  • Macher johl

    £10.50

  • Keralan fried chicken and malabar paratha

    £6 & £2

After this meal, the five star reviews made sense. The only dish that I did not love was the fried chicken , and I am not sure if that was because it didn’t ‘fit’ with the other dishes, or simply because I have had better fried chicken in Southern Restaurants in the UK, and over the pond.

The service was causal, informal and friendly. The environment was loud ( as in the chatter really travelled across the room), and being under the arches on Atlantic road, meant that you can clearly hear the trains passing overhead. Value for money is always that balance of service, quality and cost, and Kricket felt like a real treat given that the spend per head excluding cocktails was actually only £23.

I finished the meal with the ‘Cocoloco’ cocktail, coconut rum based with cardamom, lime and mint, which was quite simply a perfect end to a near perfect meal.

I will definitely be coming back for more delights at Kricket.

  • Food

    9/10
  • Vibes

    6/10
  • Service

    8/10
  • Price

    8/10
  • Overall

    8/10

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The Dutchie, Croydon

The Dutchie

CROYDON

Aug 07, 2018

Jamaican food is admittedly the love of my life, I am not really sure how better to describe it. Its so near and dear to my heart, there is a very different level of critique and expectation, when I visit a Jamaican restaurant for the first time. The one thing, I never expect from a Jamaican restaurant (by this I mean Jamaican owned and run), is speed of service. Somehow, no matter where in the world you are service is never in a haste, and sometimes it is more than worth the wait.

The name of the restaurant does set an expectation of authenticity, as ‘The Dutchie’ is an alternate name for Dutch Pot, which is a cooking pot made from either cast iron or aluminium, which holds pride and place in every Jamaican’s home. It is used to cook anything from curry goat, fried fish and oxtail, and is probably the most common kitchen tool used to produce Jamaican food.

Dutch Pot

Having heard rave reviews of The Dutchie, I was eager to try the delights on offer. Upon entering the building, and walking down the stairs into the restaurant, I grew more and more excited, “The Gleaner” articles (a Jamaican newspaper, that my dad often read when I was a child), is plastered onto the walls to form a messy but tidy wallpaper on the staircase. The news stories seemed carefully considered, with nothing but good news showcasing the wonderful island that is Jamaica (yes I am admittedly biased).

Entering the restaurant itself, it is rustic, vibrant, colourful, and embodied the stripped back feel of the Caribbean, without the sun. Even though the restaurant is underground, the lighting is well lit enough for you to not even notice.

Keen to try as much as I could, I ordered the Jerk Chicken and Pork Mix (£9.95), The Jerk Lobster (£18.95), and the Curry Goat (£10.95). All of this nicely accompanied by Rice and Peas, Mac n Cheese (Priced at £4.50), and a portion of plantain (Priced at £3.50). The service was attentive and friendly, and the food was served after about 45 minutes, which I was prepared for.

It was worth the wait, the food was authentic, generously portioned, and quite simply delicious. The reviews were pretty much spot on, and so if you are wanting to experience some amazing Jamaican food, similar to that experienced in Jamaica, or at a elder Jamaican relative, The Dutchie delivers on all fronts. Just a word of warning, do not visit if your limited for time!

  • Jerk Pork Chicken Mac-N-Cheese Plantain

    £9.95

  • Jerk Lobster Rice and Peas

    £18.95

  • Food

    8/10
  • Vibes

    7/10
  • Service

    6/10
  • Price

    9/10
  • Overall

    7/10

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Hakkasan, Mayfair

Hakkasan

MAYFAIR

Aug 06, 2018

Hakkasan is pretty special, it is one of few Asian restaurants to hold Michelin star (this location in particular has held this status since a year after opening in 2011). The vibe of Hakkasan has always reminded me of the type of venue, that my besties from Sex and the City would frequent. Dimly lit, wooden panelling, and chillout but funky background music, the environment feels comfortable and relaxed.

I personally love restaurants that can create a really comfortable space for a mix of different types of people, whilst never wavering on food and drink quality. It means that the restaurant can cater to multiple occasions, a causal business lunch, celebratory dinner and everything in between.

Time and pocket permitting, I will always go with a tasting menu at a restaurant such as this one, it allows you to more easily taste a broad array of what’s on offer, as opposed to visiting on several occasions. The ‘Taste of Hakkasan” set menu prices start at £32 per person, right up to £120 per person for the “Signature Menu”.

There is certainly no shortage of Asian restaurants in London, and one of my absolute favourites is Hakkasan. Yes, I am reviewing a restaurant that has been operating for 8 years, which in London terms, is pretty much ancient. My excuse is being a certified Brumdoner (Brummie come Londoner), and so I am simply playing catch-up on the old, whilst still seeking out the new.

The menu had multiple pages, and so I asked the waitress to point me in the direction of the set menu’s, to her response of “Do you want the £32 menu?”. Now the entry point menu may well be extremely popular (and could very well be the reason for her suggestion), however I was offended by her assumption. I understand it that the job of the waitress/waiter is to guide the customer through the menu, giving advice where necessary or requested. The job of a waitress/waiter is definitely not to play the guessing game on the customers tastes or bank account, especially when no prior probing questions were asked. It was actually a black woman asking me (another black woman), this question, and so whilst service was seamless, this question, left a bad taste in my mouth.

I opted for the £120 Signature menu (nothing at all to do with the presumptuous waitress!), which was genuinely enough to feed a family of six, and so I recommend that you DO NOT do as I did….unless you have not eaten all week.

In total this menu included three starters, four mains (plus rice), two desserts, and a glass of champagne. Below are some of the highlights from my feast.

  • Steamed Har Gau with Gold Leaf

  • Peking Duck with Prunier Caviar

  • Roasted Silver Cod Alaskan King Crab in XO sauce

  • Stir-fry Rib Eye Beef with Lily Bulb in Black Bean Sauce

  • Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Though I preferred certain dishes over others, the food was delicious, the service was attentive (apart from the psychic waitress), and for a second time Hakkasan has reminded me why it still remains a favourite for Londoners after such a long time.

Restaurants such as Hakkasan is always a stark reminder of how bad the Cantonese food was from my local takeaway 20 years ago, but also how great this food can be when done well within the right environment. Forever one of my favs!

  • Food

    9/10
  • Vibes

    9/10
  • Service

    7/10
  • Price

    8/10
  • Overall

    8/10

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