Frenchie

Address: 16 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8QH
Bookings: Booked through Open table
Day: Friday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 16.18.49Friday night saw my partner in culinary crime and I on our last pre-Christmas restaurant excursion. For this valedictory event, we picked Frenchie, the 2016 offering from French chef Gregory Marchand.

Marchand has something of an interesting backstory. Placed in an orphanage at the age of 12, after his mother died, he cooked his first dish (escalope normande… a type of chicken) when the home’s chef was having a weekend off. Cooking became a form of self-defence, his talent for whipping up concoctions in the kitchen earning him the protection of bigger – but very hungry – kids in the orphanage.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 16.18.16At the age of 16, he left and joined a culinary school, before moving to London in his 20s to begin a cooking odyssey across a number of the capital’s prominent restaurants, including the Savoy Grill and Electric. He also worked as the head chef at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen.

It was Jamie Oliver who, summoning all his immense wit and creativity, dubbed Marchand ‘Frenchie’, a name which became Marchand’s personal brand when he set his up own restaurant in Paris in 2009. After many accolades and much adulation, and a stint cooking in New York, he came back to London last year, bringing his Frenchie brand with him.

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And we’re glad that he did. Frenchie is a good restaurant, and a fun one as well. It is not tethered to strict French culinary traditions, either in terms of the food it serves, or the ambience it cultivates.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 16.18.37The menu was small, but interesting. I launched into a dish of burrata, with slices of avocado, pickled onion and olives. It came with great shards of crisped bread which were useful tools for scooping up the burrata, which was perfectly creamed on the inside, soft and delicate.

My partner in culinary crime honed in on the sea bream tartare, with yuzu, quinoa and chestnuts. As someone who has eaten more raw fish than a leopard seal, her verdict on such dishes carries weight, and she pronounced it excellent, light and fresh, carrying that sharp undertone that characterises the best fish tartare.

For my main course, I had the pan seared gnocchi, which came with shimeji mushrooms, potato confit and tarragon. It was an excellent twist on gnocchi, well sauced, powerful and full bodied, the texture excellent.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 16.18.26As I was wolfing this down, my partner in culinary crime was grumbling that her roast duck was too tough. Looking up, I saw that she was sawing at it with the wrong side of the knife… once this was pointed out, and the knife was flipped, the duck cut beautifully. She declared it succulent, the exterior well-crisped, the interior bursting with flavour.

We finished off with a selection of 3 cheeses: Spenwood, an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese, a lovely Innes Log, which is a goat’s cheese, and a Deauville, from France. Only the Deauville missed the mark, with a 4-second aftertaste so smoky it felt as if you’d swallowed a small ash tray.

So, dinner was a success, not tainted even by the occupants of our adjacent table who talked loudly, at length, and in detail, about a range of operations recently undergone on various body parts, which isn’t ideal background music for the eating of gnocchi or cheese.

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Never mind. My partner in culinary crime and I are fleeing London for Christmas, but we shall pop up again before New Year, to regale you with further culinary adventures. Have a lovely Christmas.


Mirror Room

Address: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Bookings: No booking required
Day: Monday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.27I like the Rosewood Hotel. It is elegant, it is grand. The elegance and the grandeur cannot even be undermined by the fact that Justin Bieber allegedly stays there when he’s in London. Watching him take afternoon tea in its dining room wearing a baseball cap, a basketball jersey and a pair of over-sized shorts must be a bizarre sight. Any self-respecting Edwardian gentleman would have taken a riding crop to him.

But moving on. Earlier this week, we decided to sample the Rosewood’s Mirror Room, an all-day dining spot at the back of the hotel. It is spectacular to look at. As the name suggests, there are floor to ceiling mirrors dotted around the room, with myriad tables, sofas, fires, paintings, low-lighting and mysterious side-rooms, giving the space a disorientating, endless feel.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.46We were sat at a low, dark, Japanese table. The menu started off with a page of canapes, which were terrifying expensive (think lobster, avocado croustade, £14 a hit), before moving on to a short list of starters, sandwiches and mains, before rounding out with a much larger selection of cocktails, champagnes and wines.

I ordered up a plate of burrata cheese to start, which came hidden under fistfuls of roasted fennel, and a scattering of sultanas, berries and pistachios. It was a hugely refreshing dish, but refreshing in the way that a glass of cold water is. It was deficient in flavour and body. My partner in culinary crime ordered a Scottish scallop carpaccio, which was again too watery, too mild, without the zest and sharp intensity of the best carpaccio. We found ourselves sipping on our tap waters to lend some flavour to our starters.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.55My main course was an excellent chicken schnitzel, great shards of sea-salt sitting on its golden, crispy coating, the chicken succulent and tender. I’ve only had better schnitzel at The Delaunay, down on Aldwych. An accompanying bowl of mash potato was so soft and creamy as to border on being liquid. I almost poured it onto my plate. Delicious.

Meanwhile, my partner in culinary crime was chewing her way through a beef onglet, which looked for all the world like a thick, wooden log. I tried some; it would have challenged the jaws of a sabre-toothed tiger, so tough and sinewy was it. Another mouthful and I would have developed a migraine. My partner in culinary crime laboured through it bravely.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.37So, a mixed meal, in a highly impressive room. I would recommend a trip for afternoon tea, rather than dinner. The Holborn Dining Room – the Rosewood’s other restaurant – serves better food. And on the off chance of bumping into Bieber, keep a riding crop close at hand.


L’Osteria 57

Address:  57 Grays Inn Rd, Holborn, London WC1X 8PP
Bookings: No booking required
Day: Thursday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.27.38I have eaten at L’Osteria 57 more than any other restaurant in London. Because it was delicious, and because it sits barely a ravioli’s throw from my front door. But then everything changed.

Back in the day, it was owned by a Neapolitan gentleman who ran a tight ship, selling magnificent bowls of pasta, a chicken fricassee that was frighteningly tasty, and bowls of mussels swimming in garlic and cream sauce. The restaurant was busy almost every night, catering to a noisy crowd of local lawyers, and occasionally Jon Snow, who would lope across from the nearby ITN building and devour pizzas in front of an adoring audience of youthful media types.

But one day, our Neapolitan host, deep into his 60s, decided to hang up his apron and head back to enjoy a well-earned retirement in Italy. He sold the establishment to a Russian man, who promptly proceeded to run it into the ground, within six months it had all the cheer and warmth of a winter’s day in Chernobyl. We stopped eating there. Everyone stopped eating there. I think I once saw some tumbleweed peeping out from the side entrance, but I may be wrong. I almost forgot about the place.

So, it was with some excitement that earlier this week I noticed a new group of people staffing the place. Gone was the Russian man, replaced by a moustachioed, tanned chap who looked like he could have been an Italian. We decided to give it another chance. Gathering up my partner in culinary crime (PICC), as well as my sister, I headed in.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.28.03I am quietly hopeful. We were the only diners there, and clearly the restaurant is still in the process of opening, but the food was pleasant enough. Full of nostalgia, I ordered the cozze alla marinara, mussels cooked in white wine, cream and garlic. It had shades of its former glory. The mussels were juicy and ripe. The sauce was bursting with flavour, and after I had a pile of empty shells stacked on my plate, my PICC and I mopped up what was left of it with delicious, fresh bread.

My sister reported a mediocre meatball and tagliatelle dish in a tomato sauce, whilst my PICC spoke highly of a ham, onion and mushroom pizza, which came with a thick, soft crust. My main course was a basic but well-done spaghetti with olive oil, chilli and garlic, the spaghetti pleasantly al dente, the chilli pleasingly hot.

We were provided with constant amusement and occasional concern by the young, Italian waitress who served us. To say she was drunk would have been an understatement. She would have been turned away at the door of most self-respecting London clubs. Even in Italy, she wouldn’t have been allowed behind the wheel of a car. She was rollingly, gigglingly, babblingly drunk.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.28.25She brought us multiple plates of olives, each time informing us that they were Italian, free, and delicious, and that we could have more if we liked them. They piled up on our table. She dropped at least one piece of cutlery on every trip to and fro the table. When she took my plate of mussels away, balancing it wobblingly on her forearm directly over my partner in culinary crime’s head, my heart missed a beat as I imagined a rain of shells descending on her.

When she wasn’t serving us, she danced around the kitchen and irritated the chef. She popped downstairs every 5 minutes, presumably to top up on whatever sort of liquid had elevated her to that happy place. At one point, the owner accused her in a not so quiet voice of drinking the restaurant’s gin, a charge she hotly denied.

As we were paying the bill, we heard a shrieking sound from outside. The young waitress was on the phone, sucking on a cigarette and ranting in Italian at the top of her thankfully very small lungs. The girl taking our payment looked ruefully at us, before saying: “Boyfriend troubles, we’ve all been there.”

If you like Italian food, and plenty of drama, book a table.


Morito

Address: 32 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QE
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.45.57Exmouth Market is a little oasis of restaurants in Clerkenwell, stretching from Paesan in the west to Bourne & Hollingsworth in the east, with the jewels in the middle being Moro, and its younger sibling, Morito.

These are run by the same husband and wife team, Samantha Clark (nee Clarke) and Sam Clark, who were apparently introduced by friends many moons ago because of the similarity of their names. It turns out they were both excellent cooks as well.

We stood outside Moro and Morito for a few moments, deliberating between the two. Moro, large, a little formal, a little empty at 6pm on a Tuesday night, or Morito, tiny, seats crammed against the pane of glass facing the street, pulsing with people and energy, a whir of small plates meeting wooden tables.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.40We chose the latter, and moments later found ourselves perched high at the window table nearest the door, which meant we were exposed to an arctic blast every few minutes as some cheery food pilgrim came in to enquire about availability.

Morito serves tapas, which loyal readers will know is a favourite eating form for Life at the End of a Fork. It is perfect for the indecisive eater, allowing you to order a series of meals in miniature, each one an experience unto itself.

Once ordered, the food came thick and fast, and a slight moderation of pace from the kitchen would have been appreciated as we found ourselves shifting the plates on the table into ever more intricate patterns just to make space for the next arrival.

Two small jamon and chicken croquetas dropped first.  They were good, but lacked the truly eruptive flavour of the very best croquetas we’ve had at Barafina.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.57Next appeared a mound of well-crisped aubergine, cooled with a whipped feta and date molasses concoction. Seldom have opinions been so divided at Life at the End of a Fork. My partner in culinary crime found the dish positively offensive, wrinkling her nose and reaching for her diet coke to act as a makeshift mouthwash. I found it to be perhaps the best dish of the evening: tangy, creamy, sweet, and deeply moreish. This the is the perfect sort of disagreement to have over tapas: I decided I would drag the dish in my direction and eat the whole thing, and she was happy to oblige.

A plate of bruschetta was fresh enough, with a frisson of garlic, but a little non-descript. It could have done with a little more vinegar, and the tomatoes with slightly more texture. A pair of prawns in a green pesto sauce blinked at us unappealingly, but a hard-fought war with their shells revealed the small slither of meat within to be firm, but juicy, a shot of the ocean.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.24We finished with some spiced lamb, mixed with pomegranate and pine nuts, sat on a bet of pureed aubergine, which was unequivocally delicious. The lamb had body and a thick salted flavour, the pine nuts crunched, and the pomegranate offered a sweet little kick to the whole thing.

It was a satisfying ending to a satisfying evening. Drop into Moro if you fancy something serious, something substantial. But go to Morito if you fancy a flurry of fun, a twist of Spanish soul on a little strip of London.

 


Cielo Blanco

Address: 55-57 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QL
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Sunday
Meal: Lunch
Price: £
Rating: 3/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 20.45.40I normally go into a restaurant knowing ahead of time that I am going to review it. Not on this occasion. This is an impromptu review written out of a sense of civic mindedness. Having had lunch in Cielo Blanco, it would be wrong of me not to pass on the warning: whatever else you do, never, ever eat there.

It is difficult to know where to start rubbishing this restaurant. The food was slower than if a team of sedated snails had been manning the kitchen. It took 25 minutes for a bowl of tortilla chips and guacamole to arrive. I could have nipped to the local Sainsbury’s in 5 minutes and got exactly the same produce, which is probably what they did anyway.

The food itself was an atrocity. For our main courses, we ordered Huevos Rancheros off the brunch menu. They arrived 45 minutes later, and I wish with all my heart that the wait had been much, much longer. The eggs were a deathly grey, the bacon almost inedible, the avocado lifeless. The concoction was completely tasteless, and exuded a watery, greasy liquid that makes me tremble to think of even now. The only consolation to take from the meal is that I ate it several hours ago and still haven’t succumbed to food poisoning, which is a good sign.

I didn’t take any photographs of the food (it would have been cruel to inflict them on you), but the presentation was the worst I’ve seen in a restaurant – the food was so viscerally ugly that even the Tate Modern would think twice about hanging it on their walls.

The experience was further blighted by the behaviour of the couple who sat on the table directly opposite me, smack bang in my line of sight. Now, I am the furthest thing from prudish or puritanical. Nor am I a killjoy by nature – the sound of birds chirping or the sight of a new born babe grinning both bring light into my life.

But this couple, evidently in the first flush of a particularly soppy sort of romance, spent the entire meal kissing, muzzling, stroking and petting each other. For long periods of time he just gazed into her eyes, their noses touching, and didn’t even say a word. When the food arrived, things were a little better, because they occasionally broke off eating each other’s faces to eat some actual food, although, of course, he couldn’t resist spoon-feeding her guacamole as if she was a baby, and then dispensed with the spoon all together, and just pushed little pieces of fajita into her mouth with his spindly, hairy fingers. She cooed and batted her eyelashes in response.

Turning to my sister, I tried to analyse what is so infuriating about this sort of behaviour. Is it the wanton exhibitionism? The refusal to acknowledge any distinction between public and private acts? Is it the arrogance of trying to broadcast to everyone in sight that you are in the grip of a deeper, more powerful love than they are? Perhaps it is just the sickly wetness of character it reveals.

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I cannot blame Cielo Blanco for the behaviour of these two repellent love-birds. But I can blame them for serving hideous food at a glacial pace, and for making my quest to locate a great Mexican restaurant seem more hopeless than ever.

 


Berners Tavern

Address: 10 Berners St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP
Bookings: Booking required
Day: Saturday
Meal: Dinner
Price: £££
Rating: 9/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 10.45.56Last weekend, I went to Berners Tavern. It is a long-standing fixture of Life at the End of a Fork’s illustrious top-ten restaurants list, notable both for the food it serves and the impressive room in which that serving takes place.

The joyous occasion was my younger brother’s birthday, and so after spending the afternoon hunting around Covent Garden for a suitable gift (he narrowly missed a set of black working socks and blue tie), I headed off to Fitzrovia to meet the family.

Regretfully, my partner in culinary crime was absent from the dinner, marooned outside London because Greater Anglia had closed various train lines for the weekend, presumably because one of their staff had spotted a rogue leaf on one of the tracks and had called in a full bomb squad to remove it. Given her absence, apologies in advance for the dearth of photographs, and the dark, blurry quality of the only one that does exist from the meal.

But back to the restaurant. Berners Tavern couldn’t be less like a tavern if it tried. It is one of the most spectacular dining rooms in London, vast in area, the ceiling high and ornate, and every single inch of the walls smothered in paintings. The paintings may be of variable quality, but their combined effect is dazzling, making the place both very majestic and a little surreal.

I ordered a 2-person slow cooked Herdwick lamb shoulder, which came with potatoes, roasted sprouts, and a sprinkling of bacon, bathed in lamb sauce. I split the dish with my dad. Having eaten lamb the last time I visited Berners Tavern, I was forewarned of its gargantuan size, and so broke the habit of a life-time by not ordering a starter.

This decision was not regretted. The lamb was glorious, so tender as to practically disintegrate at the touch of a fork, wholesome and hearty. We dug into it with genuine joy, even conversation ceasing briefly as reverence for what we were eating took hold. The sprouts and the potatoes were simple, perfect companions.

My siblings and mum ordered steaks and some sort of fish that I was too lamb-fixated to enquire after, but there were certainly no complaints.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 10.45.56There was one odd distraction. Midway through the meal a woman in a white, wispy dress, her faced blanched white with powder, her eyes sad and lifeless, her arms outstretched, came walking slowly into the dining room from the adjacent hotel lobby. She began to step softly from table to table, running her hand across the backs of people’s chairs, pausing to bat her eyelids mournfully, to sigh heavily. For a moment, I genuinely believed that a raving lunatic was in our midst – perhaps that some wealthy lady staying in the adjoined hotel had just uncovered a husband’s infidelity and been driven to insanity on the spot, and was now venting it on some hapless diners.

But as the staff stood by either smiling or ignoring her, I recalled that it was Halloween weekend, and that this was just one more piece of theatricality from a pretty theatrical restaurant.

If you live in London, Berners Tavern is one of those restaurants you must dine in at least once in your life.

 


Margot

Address: 45 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5AA
Bookings: No booking
Day: Wednesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7.5/10

My partner in culinary crime and I have two lifestyle objectives at the moment. 1) To spend less money; 2) To consume fewer calories. Neither of these two objectives are conducive to the writing of a food blog. Both become almost impossible if you are overwhelmingly greedy and surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the world.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 17.31.01And so it was, that earlier this week, only hours after piously agreeing to dine frugally on a few leaves of lettuce and diced tomatoes in my flat – possibly to be followed by a brisk run through a leafy park – we found ourselves slumped in one of the more decadent, expensive and calorific restaurants in Central London: Margot.

Margot is an Italian restaurant on Great Queen Street, just around the corner from Covent Garden. Everything inside is low-slung, symmetrical, squeaky clean, glamorously lit, soft, deep-green, inviting banquettes lining the walls, glasses and wine bottles hanging behind the bar, refracting the lights. Everything exudes a calmness and a confidence, a world within a world, detached from the babble of the streets outside. The waiters, masters in their realm, glide from table to table, dispensing bread with a polite serenity, if even if they do look faintly ludicrous in full dinner jackets, complete with bowties.

And the food was good too. We started off with a large plate of hams and cheeses, including a well-aged Parma ham, a solid, earthy salami, a firm goat’s cheese, and another softer, creamier cheese (I forgot to ask the waiter which particular barnyard animal we were indebted to for the last of these).

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 17.30.42For my main course, I had a bowl of tonnarelli pasta with clams, parsley and chilli. The tonnarelli, thick and squarish, was perfectly cooked, firm and al dente, the ideal companion for some fresh little clams. I would have wished it a little hotter from the chilli, but it seems rude to complain about pasta this nice.

My partner in culinary crime had a tuna carpaccio, which the restaurant happily agreed to upsize from a starter to a main course. When the fish arrived it brought the freshness of the ocean with it, sharp and tart, a zip of lemon infusing it.

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We finished with a milk chocolate and hazelnut fondant, with meringue and a deep cherry sauce, which was ceremoniously set on fire in front of us. Since we had no warning, and were dazzled by the act of pyromania occurring under our noses, my partner in culinary crime was a little slow on the draw with her camera, so we only caught the dessert in the smouldering aftermath of its glory. It was rich and mysterious, even if the meringue could have done with a little more crunch.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 17.22.48A good, confident restaurant that you will never be embarrassed to recommend to anyone. It just slightly lacks that element of creativity or twist of culinary genius required to elevate it right to the top of the London restaurant scene, but is knocking on the door of Life at the End of a Fork’s top ten list.


Sticks’n’Sushi

Address: 11 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8PY
Bookings: No booking
Day: Wednesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 5.5/10

 

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The irritatingly named Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is just off Covent Garden, on Henrietta Street. Apparently it is based on a Danish “concept”, which I think means that the décor is minimalist, and the furniture may or may not come from Ikea.

Either way, the place was bulging with diners on a Wednesday evening, and so we were seated downstairs at the bar, the whir of the kitchen occurring right under our noses. Bewildered by the enormous and chaotic menu (which comes in the form of an album with every single dish photographed), we pointed at the two-person Gala set menu and sat back to sip a pair of diet cokes.

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The Gala menu turned out to be absurdly large. Certainly, it was far too large for two people, unless those two people were a pair of sumo wrestlers bulking in anticipation of a yokozuna title bout. Some of things on this smorgasbord were nice. These included edamame beans, which I ate compulsively, and some delicious scallops with trout roe and miso aioli.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.57.32Other dishes were less satisfactory. A plate of beef tataki with smoked cheese, chives and almonds (a fairly disgusting combination even to read) looked so incredibly grey and sickly, so like a corpse in a morgue, that I didn’t even dare have a bite. My partner in culinary crime, showing courage, ate one, and then pushed the plate as far away from her as was possible without actually tossing it onto the floor.

A bowl of tuna tartare was decent, but nothing to write home about. The final dish to arrive was a plate with three pairs of skewered meats; chicken, lamb chops, and duck. These were difficult to eat because they had been smothered in so much salt that each mouthful had to be accompanied by a gulp of water to stop the body rejecting it.

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Compounding this, the Japanese sushi chef who stood in front of us rolling maki and chopping sashimi spent the evening snorting so violently and loudly that I wondered whether he was trying to inhale the entire room up his nose. By the end of the meal I wanted nothing more in the world that to unite this poor man with a tissue and instruct him on how to use it.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.44.08The atmosphere in the place was lively and the staff were friendly. A certain sort of diner will like Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, but on balance, we did not.


Terroirs Wine Bar

Address: 5 William IV St, London WC2N 4DN
Bookings: No booking
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.13.19Terroirs is a restaurant and wine bar on William IV Street, a stone’s throw from the National Gallery. We were there on Tuesday night, as part of a week-long extravaganza of joyous treats in honour of my partner in culinary crime’s birthday (exactly which birthday shall go unspecified).

It was a clement evening, warm for the season and without a raindrop in sight. It felt as if most of London was out and about, beginning to warm up for Christmas. Terroirs itself was packed to the rafters. Coming in through the doors I scanned the restaurant nervously – my week of joyous treats had not extended to actually making a reservation anywhere, and for an awful moment I suspected that we were about to be turned back into the night by a pitiless French waitress.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.12.36But then I spied it: one, lonely, unoccupied table, beckoning us on. And thank goodness. Because Terroirs is not a place you want to be turned away from. Crouched over our small wooden table, bathed in the contented babble that is the auditory hallmark of satisfied diners, we ate very well.

First to land at the table was a pork and pistachio terrine. As soon as I saw it I knew it would be delicious. It had that crumbling, thick appearance, that compactness, that reddish brown complexion, that marks out all great terrines. It tasted inexpressibly earthy; I could almost see the pig, snuffling on a farm somewhere in rural France, fattening himself for our table on a cold, crisp morning. I can only thank him… he did not snuffle in vain.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.12.04We had a decent beef tartare with lemon and rosemary, although ever since we ate steak tartare at Otto’s it has been the fate of all other tartare to exist in its shade. I have never before or since tasted one so sharp, so rich, so sweet, and that of Terroir’s, try as it might, fell short of this elevated benchmark.

A fresh, nicely seasoned bowl tomatoes with oregano tided us over until the final stage of the meal: a quartet of cheeses, and a Scottish onglet with braised peppers and salsa verde. The cheeses were a delight; a smooth, soft Gouda and a blue veined French cheese were particular favourites.

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The steak was a good one, rich, blood red and tender. But by then I was nearly spent, my appetite dulled by the excellent small plates we had already eaten.

We wandered home along the Strand, our bellies full, the city buzzing around us, the lights of Theatreland twinkling, another happy birthday in the books.


The Northall Corinthia

Address: Corinthia, 10a Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5AE
Bookings: Booked through Bookatable on a set menu £45 bottomless champagne
Day: Friday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.49.10The Northall restaurant is situated in the impressive and imposing Corinthia Hotel, on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place. Many are the evenings back in my student days when I wandered past the building on the way to some insalubrious watering hole around Leicester Square, and wondered about the grand things that doubtless took place within its walls.

Having now eaten there for a friend’s birthday, I can confirm that the cooking and serving of nice food is not one of those things. If the restaurant has a defence, it might be that we had selected to eat off its set-menu, and so perhaps the kitchen was teeming with delicious dishes that we simply didn’t have access to. But I doubt it. And besides, a set menu should be a discount on the price, not the quality, of a restaurant’s food.

Compounding this, the set menu we actually received upon arrival was materially different to that which had been advertised online: the steak we had been promised had vanished, and been replaced by a piece of chicken. When we asked the waiter if we could substitute the chicken for a steak, we were told that we could, but only if we paid an additional £18, which is the basically the full-price of a steak. The economics of this suggestion was not appealing, so chicken it was.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.48.50We were not particularly varied in our orders. If memory serves me right, each person at the table ordered smoked salmon to start with, and chicken to follow. The smoked salmon was decent enough, if a little thin and insipid. It was accompanied by a small bread roll, which looked for all the world like a burnt potato. It made a sad companion for the flamboyantly coloured salmon.

The chicken breast was tolerable, but absolutely miniscule, and wouldn’t have provided enough calories to satisfy a dieting mouse. It was also rubbed in some sort of curry paste, and as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, spice of any sort is my partner in culinary crime’s kryptonite. With a tear in her eye and a rumble in her stomach, she pushed the meagre morsel of chicken away from her.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.48.31After finishing with a fruit and meringue dessert, we were presented with a pretty hefty bill. All in all, I was disappointed with Northall; it promised so much from the outside. Afterwards we walked up Northumberland Avenue towards the Hippodrome Casino, where a more transparent sort of rip-off takes place.