Tuesday, 2 September 2014

CHEFstock 2014 with Alyn Williams at The Westbury

CHEFstock 2014 with Alyn Williams at The Westbury

CHEFstock 2014 with Alyn Williams at The Westbury - Chefs
Four star chefs, three unique dinners, one stylish setting - Alyn Williams presents one of the much anticipated dining experiences of the year - CHEFstock 2014

For three Tuesdays in September, Alyn Williams will be joined in the kitchen of his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant at The Westbury by an internationally renowned chef (or chef duo), to create an extraordinary one-night-only dining experience. If you've read my review on Alyn Williams at The Westbury before you'll know exactly what an accomplished chef he is - surprising the senses along the way.

From the UK’s home-grown talent, Padstow’s Paul Ainsworth and brothers Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias from Bristol, to Margot Janse from Franschhoek, South Africa. The never-before-seen collective promises rare London appearances from chefs collectively boasting three Michelin stars, and countless national and international accolades.

Together, Alyn and his guest chef(s) for each evening will create culinary magic, combining their individual talents to produce one unique tasting menu. This is a dining experience that is not to be missed, and one which you'll never forget. Excited now? well read on and take a closer look at just who will be cooking for you.

MARGOT JANSE, 9th September (No. 73 in S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants)
The Queen of South African Cuisine, Margot Janse of The Tasting Room, Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek was named South Africa’s Top Chef 2012, and is one of the few females named by Relais & Chateaux as one of its “Grand Chefs” (and one of only two Grand Chefs in Africa).

PAUL AINSWORTH, 16th September (One Michelin Star)
Paul is chef and proprietor of the Michelin starred Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 in Padstow, Cornwall. A regular on BBC One's Saturday Kitchen, Ainsworth applies the technical skills picked up during his training in Michelin-starred kitchens to tease maximum flavour from humble ingredients. Paul also represented the South West on the BBC’s Great British Menu and wowed the judges with his 'Taste of the Fairground' dessert in 2011.

PETER & JONRAY SANCHEZ IGLESIAS, 30th September (One Michelin Star)
Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias are the chefs/owners of highly-acclaimed Michelin starred restaurant, Casamia in Bristol. After winning their first star in 2009 Casamia was named as Ramsay’s Best Restaurant in the popular Channel 4 series in 2010, and in 2012 became the only Bristol restaurant to be awarded four AA Rosettes. Peter competed in Great British Menu’s eighth series and both the brothers and their restaurant continue to win recognition and awards for their innovative and meticulous style of cooking which pushes the boundaries of modern gastronomy making them undoubtedly amongst the most exciting young chefs in the UK.
Alyn Williams had this to say about the anticipated arrival of this years CHEFstock: I’m very proud to once again be hosting such a spectacular line-up of chefs this September. Last year at CHEFstock 2013 we had fantastic dishes from Simon Rogan, Sat Bains, Bart De Pooter and Ignatius Chan, and this year’s events promise to be just as exciting. I admire every one of these chefs and it’s very humbling that they are coming to cook with me in my kitchen. When it comes to the menus there are no rules, the guest chefs are in charge and each tasting menu will take its own shape with our different yet harmonious dishes.
Guests can expect to arrive to a welcome Champagne reception and canap├ęs created by both chefs, then take a seat in the chic rosewood-accented dining room and savour each of the crafted eight courses from the one-off collaborative tasting menu – four courses from each chef, with a few surprises along the way - exciting stuff!

CHEFstock 2014 tickets cost £200 per person and includes all food, wine and Champagne. Book early to avoid disappointment and contact reservations on 020 7183 6426 or email alynwilliams@westburymayfair.com - Join in on Twitter using the hashtag #CHEFstock

Monday, 1 September 2014

REVIEW: 2 Veneti, Wigmore Street, Marylebone

I've been working in the Marylebone area for a few years now and have certainly eaten my fair share of the local restaurants. I've had an incredible meal at the late, Pieds Nus. Had a car crash of a dining experience at Cotidie (also now closed) and I'm a regularl visitor to the delicious Sixty One restaurant in Marble Arch. 2 Veneti is unlike any of those restaurants - here it's about hospitality and a place you come to get seriously fed. The locals just can't seem to keep away, even after this Venetian inspired Italian restaurant being here for so many years now.

Run by husband and wife duo, nothing more could be said for the service we received. Walking through the doors of this charming little restaurant we were shuffled outside to our requested terrace seating (only two tables), glass of prosecco in hand. For the quantity of food, quality and the prestigious location this really is a very well priced restaurant. For four courses (chosen from the a la carte menu) you'll be set back £34.50, or less if you think you can't manage that much food. Bread basket was a perfect accompaniments to the copious amounts of olive oil we were getting through too.

To start our mammoth feast we ordered the grilled Tomino cheese with cabbage salad and mustard fruits (mostarda). Sounds old fashioned you say? well it was, very. Still the cheese was gorgeously stringy and full of flavour. Cabbage added crunch, and the mustard fruits were just plain odd. If you've never heard of mustard fruits before, they are candied fruits, soaked in a mustard-flavoured syrup. Yet with its sweetness and strong mustard hit, it works very well with the cheese. Give it a try, you'll be pleasantly surprised. I was.

Another old timer of a dish. Burrata mozzarella, aubergine puree, tomatoes and a shallot dressing drizzled all over was one of the surprising highlights of our meal. A simple dish but one which showcased how to really utilise simple, Italian ingredients. Juicy plump rip tomatoes oozing out all over the plate. Soft creamy burrata and a aubergine puree mixture which was to die for. It's dishes like this that can really make you fall in love with food.

If there is one thing 2 Veneti get serious about, it's their pasta sauces. I've become obsessed with Italian cuisine recently and if you've been keeping up to date with the site, you'll know I'm on the hunt for the best Italian restaurant in London (recommendations please). I ordered the fresh egg penne with white veal ragout and black truffle. The pasta was well cooked, not the best I've ever eaten but served its purpose. With it was one of the best pasta sauces I've eaten in a while. The sauce was light and thin but with such a deep and concentrated meaty flavour you'd think such a triumph was near impossible. The black truffle added decadency and throughout the whole dish was a lingering flavour of rosemary which left a sweet finish on the tongue. Perfectly seasoned and doused in grated Parmesan - this was close to pasta perfection.

Things didn't stop there with another pasta dish continuing to leave us salivating. This time with a fantastic homemade ravioli pasta, filled with lamb and rosemary - then drench in a tomato and vegetable based sauce, and a little more rosemary for garnish. Again the pasta wasn't the showstopper, but instead the sauce. Here at 2 Veneti all the sauces have such a real depth of flavour concentration to them that every mouthful is an explosion of flavours. I only wish i could conjure up such sauces at home, instead of relying on Loyd Grossman (in his dreams). The dish wasn't particularly large portioned but with everything we were eating, it was perfectly sized.

The chicken milanese here at 2 Veneti is easily one of the best you'll find in London. And the biggest. Quite literally this flattened chicken escalope covered the whole of the plate. Topped with fresh peppery rocket, sweet and juicy tomatoes and a good whack of seasoning - words can't describe the experience. The chicken was covered in such a thin layer of crunchy, flavoursome breadcrumbs fried just to perfection you wonder why so many other Italian restaurants in London get it so wrong.

Fritto misto was as good as one might expect. Soft shell crab, calamari, large juicy prawns, a few vegetables and chunks of fish. All perfectly cooked, seasoned well and the batter delicate and light. Some Italian restaurants across London seem to cover their seafood in so much oily batter that much of the time overcooking the seafood ends up being the result in trying to get the crunch on that batter. 2 Veneti have got the balance just right. A squeeze of lemon and a dollop of tartar sauce - there wasn't much not to like about this hefty plate of deep fried goodness.

Dessert unfortunately didn't leave us ending on a high, and quite frankly was a bit of a shambles. A profiterole was not fresh, or at least didn't taste as if it was. Hard, crunchy, crumbly - it only got worse once it was soaked in that over glazed chocolate sauce. Inside was a heavily doused aniseed infused cream that for me personally, was far too intense to enjoy any of the other flavours left in this dish. Apart from are not so delicious dessert, things couldn't have been more enjoyable. Well sized portions, value for money, even greater wines and fantastic service. 2 Veneti really is a relatively undiscovered gem for the foodie world. It seems only the locals know about this place, which perhaps should stay that way if I'm to get a table for lunch - which can be very hard sometimes.


2 Veneti on Urbanspoon
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Thursday, 21 August 2014

REVIEW: Antidote Wine Bar, Newburgh Street, Soho

I'm always on the hunt for two things when choosing a restaurant in London. If it's not for a special occasion or random splurge then i always look for the underdog. That restaurant who goes relatively undiscovered and also one which represents great value for money. Antidote Wine Bar just off Carnaby Street ticks both boxes. I've been walking past this popular little restaurant for a couple of years now, always telling myself I'd pop in, but never did. Just as i decided to head down in February they'd closed for a refurbishment - just my luck. But then i heard a rumour, and got a little excited. 

After a little research on the Internet i discovered that not only was the refurb revealing a fresh new looking dining room, but also that Michelin Starred Hedone in Chiswick's head chef, Mikael Jonsson would be overseeing the menus. Chris Johns (former senior sous chef of L'autre Pied) would be the one delivering this food to us fellow diners from the kitchen. The restaurant still offers its staple small plates downstairs, but upstairs a sumptuous four course meal can be had at lunch for £27, or £40 for dinner.

Once food critic Fay Maschler made her way down after the opening and blogger Chris Pople of Cheese and Biscuits divulged - everyone started to notice Antidote Wine Bar just a little bit more. Especially its bread. The bread is a recipe from the kitchens of Hedone and is baked fresh daily and delivered all the way to Soho every morning. Hailed as 'The Best Bread in Britain' i unfortunately can't agree with that accolade. Yes this sourdough is good, solidly charred underneath and has a crumpet like texture, but for me it was just a little too crisp and a little too chewy. It was good bread, sure - but perhaps this is only the best bread when it's hot and straight out of the ovens of Hedone.

I really had no idea what to expect from the new menu here, but once a little amuse bouche of cucumber slivers, sorbet and yogurt arrived i knew things were going to be special. Freezing cold, and astonishingly refreshing - what a way to start our lunch. It quite literally induced salivating and left a tingle to the tongue. With all the flavour in this amuse bouche, it strangely managed to cleanse the palate and prepare the taste buds for what was coming next.

I've never eaten at Hedone, but i do have plans to and if this is a little insight into the cooking that goes on there - then I'm sold. What may sound like a simple starter of heirloom tomato salad with barrel aged feta, was much more than that. Once upon a time i used to despise tomatoes, and i discovered the reason was not because of the texture (my conclusion at the time), but simply because I'd just never had a very good one. Antidote Wine Bar managed to squeeze some of the best tomatoes i have ever eaten on to a plate - well half a plate anyway. The feta was served as a sort of soft sorbet with shaving of ice. As it started to melt everything poured out over the plate, saturating the tomatoes. The dish was so incredibly fresh, vibrant and packing a real depth of flavour from the feta - words simply don't do this dish justice.

Our other starter was one hell of a plate of food - at least in its size anyway. A huge dish was filled with strips of suckling pig (which I'd prefer ever so slightly thicker) that had the most amazing snappy crackling that was nicely salted. The meat was flavoursome but lukewarm, instead of hot or cold. Dollops of apricot puree, glazed carrots, jus and endive made for such a mouth-watering starter. Yet again we were practically drooling on to the table. I ordered a glass of Organic natural made wine which was served unfiltered and cloudy, with its slightly green apple aroma and stark acidity it went perfectly with the pig.

The best dish throughout our meal, apart from the dessert was this stunning to look at confit duck leg, heritage beetroot and onion compote. The confit leg was by far the best example i have ever eaten. Moist and stringy inside, with incredibly crispy skin on the outside. Beetroot served as a puree, plus whole pieces which were sweet and earthy, while the onion compote somehow magically blended everything together with another touch of its sweetness. All of this gorgeous food was sitting in a thin, light gravy that was more similar to a consomme, glistening and completely clear - yet with all the flavour

Cornish pollock, mussels , spring cabbage and cobnuts was a dish i only ordered because my greedy dining companion who always orders the meat, had the duck. I have an insatiable appetite and always want to try just about everything when i dine out, so feel obliged to order something different. And I'm so glad i ended up ordering this. The pollock was so well cooked it actually made me forget the last time (if ever) i had a piece of fish cooked this well. The top of (or the base depending where you are) was beautifully crisp with a lip licking saltiness to it. Mussels were juicy, cob nuts were interesting but really didn't add much flavour and with the cabbage and vegetable smear running underneath the fish - someone was really showing off now. Serious talent lurks in the kitchens here.

When i saw chocolate moelleux on the menu i couldn't say no. It's one of my favourite desserts. But when it came out it was nothing like i was expecting. A moelleux? I'm not so sure. It was more similar to Soho's Gautier Louis XV chocolate crunch and praline slice. Whatever it exactly was, i can say it was easily one of the best desserts i have ever eaten. The chocolate outer was gleaming with such perfection i could see my reflection in it, and the inside was quite literally the inside of heaven. Decadent, chocolaty and a layer of something crunchy at the bottom. It came with a serving of lemon sorbet - that was equally as good. This dessert needed its own name.

So did Antidote Wine Bar closing down for a refurb and employing Mikael Jonsson to instruct the kitchen deliver results? Most definitely. Antidote has become one of Soho's best restaurants, offering fantastic value for money, a great selection of wines and informative (not necessarily attentive) service. There have been speculations of Antidote getting a Michelin star and while i think the food is definitely on its way, I'm not so sure the restaurant quite conforms to Michelin standards. It somehow still feels too basic inside. But who knows, the Michelin critics can be a very surprising bunch of people.


Square MealAntidote Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

REVIEW: INK, Palmers Road, Bethnal Green

East London to me really is a kind of an alien world, i know nothing about it. I've lived in London all my life yet seem be pretty much confined to Zone 1. Mostly it's down to my hatred for the tube but also the idea of sitting on a bus for a couple of hours to East London is not the most attractive of transport methods. I can't quite remember where i first heard about INK but social media was telling me to look forward to an exciting, well priced restaurant with a fine dining element and experimental cuisine - i couldn't resist that temptation of finally getting the chance to make my way down after all this time.

The head chef here at INK is Lithuanian born, Martyn Meid. Martyn loves to experiment in the kitchen here with unusual cooking methods, avant-garde style presentation and a unique blend of flavours. Inside the restaurant, the place has been completely stripped back - much like the food. Bare walls, neutral colour schemes and a fantastic (huge) outdoor terrace for sipping on a glass of champagne before sitting down to a multi course dining experience. The stark bareness certainly lets the food do all the talking but if a quiet evening arose I'm sure it could very easily lack atmosphere.

I'm a huge radish fan and you barely see them in restaurants these days, even though it used to be a much loved salad ingredient from the 90's - especially served bathed in salty water at the table. Here, INK have gone a few steps further than that and stuffed the centre of them with bone marrow and served alongside a traditional Nordic flat bread. Now the flat bread is rather bland, but this was about educating and introducing us to some traditional Nordic delicacies. I get it, it's a nice idea but people paying money will in fact want something with more flavour and to be wowed. The bone marrow in the radishes didn't work in the slightest leaving the roof of your mouth feeling as if you'd swallowed a bottle of glycerin - still i appreciate the inventiveness and technicality.

What i have yet to mention is that all this food you're seeing is from the 72 hour menu. If you pre-book (72 hours ahead) you can design your own tailored seven course tasting menu for £72. Making a menu this personal, and at this price can't be argued with. Hand dived Scottish scallops, burnt onion and peach puree was actually a delightful plate of food. A well cooked scallop, which could have done with a little more heat through it went perfectly with the few burnt onions skins and the peach puree gave it a lovely zesty, yet soft mouthfeel. I've eaten my fair share of tasting menus and i felt this dish, of all of the dishes we ate was out of sync in terms of size. Quite literally it was one mouthful.

Lobster with textures of cucumber was another lovely and refreshing dish. Gorgeous lobster tails oozed a taste of the sea. Its meat was sweet, juicy and its outer side ever so slightly charred adding another dimension of flavour. Sliced cucumber, cucumber puree and a cucumber granite made for such a refreshing and summery vibrant dish. If i had to pick a dish whose flavours and cooking techniques summed up Martyn Meid's cooking - it may just have to be this.

Who's ever eaten a quails egg with the shell on before? I hadn't, but i did and i liked it. Pea and quails egg - the dish described. But it was much more than that. One thing i will comment on first are the new potatoes, tasting as if they came from a tin with a briny salted water flavour to them - I'm not entirely sure how they were cooked. Quails egg eaten with the shell on gave a lovely contrasting texture which quite literally disintegrates with the warmth of your mouth. Peas served in the pod, loose peas and as a thick mouse like pea block were all together were stunning. The flavour of the pea in that mouse had been extracted so well and cooked so perfectly that not an ounce of freshness was lost. A helping of some sort of white sauce was added to the dish shortly after. I never quite figured out what it was, or whether they intentionally managed to shape the sauce in to a..... -  I'll leave that for you to work out.

By this time the wine had certainly made it apparent that i was probably quite drunk now - that and my attempt to finish off everybody else's glasses of wine. Goose with popcorn and caramelised hazelnuts was paired with a beautiful Cotes du Rhone which went perfectly. The goose was cooked perfectly and had a lovely strong flavour while the popcorn left what could have been a elegant dish feeling a little cheap. Popcorn should be in only two places, in the cinema or between your teeth. The caramelised hazelnuts were also nice but would have been better chopped finely around the dish. The gravy on the other hand was worth licking the bowl for.

Monkfish, celeriac puree, carrots, parsnips, raisins and chives made up our next course. An enticing mixture of foods which may sound like they wouldn't work together, but in fact they do - very well. The piece of monkfish was minuscule in size, even for a tasting menu portion but was cooked very well and had that meaty texture one should expect. This dish had all the flavours i could have possibly wanted, yet they still needed to work on its plating and deliver that wow factor in presentation to match some of the other dishes we had eaten so far.

Our final dish, dessert - was a strange mix of ingredients. Chocolate served a few ways, and textures of avocado. The avocado wasn't solely served or immediately apparent but instead mixed in with a gorgeous bitter chocolate. A slight avocado creaminess could be detected but nothing that was too intense or offensive. Presentation perhaps needed a little more work but importantly the flavour was there which is what really matters, especially if you have a sweet tooth like mine.

There is no denying that serious talent is lurking in the kitchens here at INK. Armed with competent chefs, a friendly and infectious manager it is certainly a great new addition to Bethnal Green. Some dishes need a little work in terms of flavour intensity, and consistent portion sizes. But one thing to remember here is that INK has only been open since April and I'm sure it still has lots more potential. And while i love the idea of the 72hr tasting menu i could imagine the dishes form the a la carte which have had more time to be developed, and conjured up could give even more to the dining experience.


Ink on Urbanspoon

Friday, 15 August 2014

REVIEW: Apero Restaurant & Bar, Harrington Road, South Kensington

I've been passing through the South Kensington area now for years. Whether it's on the Boris bike on the way home, a drink fuelled - sorry i mean 'sampling' afternoon at the Sampler. Or simply an al fresco meal on the Exhibition Road. It took a long time before i had any idea that a Mediterranean restaurant even existed inside the barely known Ampersand Hotel. Opening it's doors back in the summer of 2013. Head chef, Chris Golding is the brains behind it all and has a stellar CV having previously worked at the likes of Nobu and Zuma. Looking to bring the South Kensington locals a slice of the Mediterranean life - he's certainly done just that already.

Walking through the doors of Apero you'd really have no idea that from the outside, this stunning restaurant exists on the inside. Shiny white tiles adorn the walls, cool turquoise leather chairs fill the room and an array of lighting which looks as if it was put together from a set design from Heal's illuminates the room. They really do have the decor spot on. A stunning selection of fluffy bread arrived, one with a heavenly streak of saffron through it. Smoked butter was a dream come true, while a dip of olive oil and what i think was pumpkin was like nothing I've eaten before - but would happily do so again.

Starter of courgette flower stuffed with a minced squid mixture felt as if it would be more at home as one of the sharing dishes instead as a starter, but either way it was a lovely example of just what an amazing ingredient courgette flowers really are. Crisp tempura like batter with shaved orange peel and a well seasoned filling that tasted as if it were freshly fished out of the sea that morning. Apart from perhaps wanting a nice dollop of aioli on the side, it was difficult dish to fault.

Artichoke, olive and pata negra arrived as another starter and brought the colours of the Mediterranean to the plate. Vibrant and vivid vine ripened tomatoes and lashings of olive oil were the best part. Unfortunately the kitchen had managed to do something unspeakable and serve artichoke that was hard, tasteless and still with its hard bristly hairs. The dish managed to leave a sour note in our mouths, meaning even the the pata negra had lost its flavour too and only the tomatoes were at least forgiving. Last time i checked the best way to enjoy artichoke is soft and its segments shredding apart to the touch.

The most amazing thing about Apero, has to be the price of its set lunch menu. Three courses for a mere £15 - and everything you're seeing and reading about is exactly that. An absolute bargain, especially given its prestigious South Kensington setting. And with that came our favourite dish. Roasted hake, vanilla butter mash, more of those artichokes - which were actually cooked well in this dish, and sea purslane (shrub found mostly in Eurasia). Everything was so beautifully balanced and cooked so well. It also looked great on the plate - and there was so much of it. You do have to wonder sometimes just how much money they really are making. It seems too good to be true.

Another dish oozing Mediterranean charm was this oven cooked free range chicken with borlotti beans, olives and some sweet, juicy tomatoes. Again not an extremely technical dish but with perfect execution of the chicken, crispy skin and a sweet tomato based juice lurking under it made for a very satisfying plate of food. This dish looked, and reminded me so much of something i once ate while in sitting down next to sunny coasts of Malta. It brought back some fond memories, mainly of too much wine.

Once we got round to ordering desserts, the realisation of how full we really was started to become apparent. A slice of pistachio cake with lavender and honey ice cream arrived, the cake being ever so slightly dry but the ice cream was heavenly. Lavender, especially in ice cream is one of those rare matches that produces something so unexpectedly satisfying. I'm still amazed lavender hasn't made it into the ice cream parlours and gelato takes outs across London. Hopefully it will become more of a reality some time soon. If not I'll just have to beg head chef, Chris Golding to send me home with a 5ltr pot of it.

Brillat Savarin is perhaps one of my favourite cheeses, so once i saw it on the menu i couldn't say no. This cows milk cheese from Normandy was named after the 18th century political figure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and was created in the 1830's. Why it was named after him i have no idea, but it was a nice short story for the interim. With a line of rich truffle through it this amazingly soft cheese felt as if it went directly on to my hips with each spread on a cracker.

To sum up Apero was actually quite a hard one. Some dishes were great, while others needed more precision behind them to really balance out their flavours and blend everything on the plate together. One thing Apero can easily take an accolade for is having one of London's best value menus. At £15 for three good quality courses in this part of town you'll be hard pushed to find something similar at this price point. The most exciting part of it all is knowing that these dishes are really just an insight into the restaurants full menu, so I'm sure things getting even more serious once you delve in. I'll just have to go back again and find out for myself.


Square MealApero Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

REVIEW: The Pearson Room, Reebok Sports Club, Canada Square, Canary Wharf

Roaming around the financial district of Canary Wharf has never been my playground. So when i made my way deep in to the heart of it all i realised there's actually something quite exciting about it all. Not only the multitude of fine dining restaurants for wooing clients over, but also the tranquil industrial side of Thames mixed with what feels like stumbling around the blocks of New York. With the building so sky-high, judging where you are is barely impossible. Even Google maps seemed to think i was always in the building next door. I was late for my booking, and incredibly lost.

Once we finally, and I'd like to exaggerate that word 'finally' found The Pearson Room, which is located in the Reebok centre - we were glad to just sit and relax. There really is no indicators to this restaurant existing. You have to find a tiny Reebook sign, pass a Waitrose and get in the correct lift. I'm sure passing trade is completely unheard of here. But they can't exactly help that, it's only huge buildings in Canary Wharf, no standalone restaurants on the sidewalk. A cheeky Bourbon sour proved to be one of the best I'd had. A Negroni, while excellent really could have done with a little more strength. Olives too, the mammoth kind were incredible and tossed in a little light vinegar.

Service here at The Pearson Room was immaculate. From the moment we sat down our waiter couldn't have done enough for us. Starters shortly arrived and first to come out was a seabass ceviche with ginger, sesame seeds and some sort of tortilla type crackers. The actual flavour of this dish was lovely, but the main problem (of which my photos don't really show) was the portion size. It was like eating a tapa or bar snack. Three fork fulls and it was gone. It barely scraped the sides and for £10 this was asking alot. Eating it slowly is key as to refrain from not sitting with an empty plate in front of you while your other dining partners are still only halfway through their starters.

Deep fried chipirones (tiny squid) were seasoned to perfection, covered in chopped green chillies, sprinkled with lots of coriander and served with a jalapeno mayonnaise. Again it was hard to fault and that heat and seasoning were so unbelievably moreish you couldn't help but shovel them in at the speed of lightning. A problem arose again, portion sizes. The dish itself felt again more like a tapa or bar snack, and not at all like a starter. If this was made the same way with either calamari rings, or just something else on the side i could get it, but as it was i couldn't quite work out what to make of it as a starter.

Main courses came out and to our surprise portion sizes were near perfect. And actually so were the dishes - almost. Rib-eye steak with black truffle butter and a rocket salad with Parmesan was exactly the sort of dish we were craving that evening. Cooked medium rare the meat was as soft as butter, and tender to the fork. Although a little cold in the middle. We were willing to overlook this due to the intense flavour and smokiness from the grill managing to seep its way through every fibre of meat. Rocket was peppery and the truffle butter which could have easily overpowered was subtle and earthy. A lovely dish whose side of buttered mash let it down, as of course did the meat not being completely warm all the way through.

Opting for the special of the day out came the grilled monkfish. Served on a bed of richly flavoured risotto, chopped herbs and pieces of crispy salty bacon. It was a dish which really didn't match the description i was described, but actually its arrival was a much welcomed one. The quantity of monkfish was questionable but with risotto being such a heavy thing it actually worked out for the best. Except I'm sure some people may be a lot hungrier than me and be disappointed with only a few cubes of this gorgeous fish on their plate. I couldn't fault that risotto's flavour, buttery, oozing flavour and with that all important bite.

When the dessert menu came out we were hoping that there may at least be some orderly balance in the dishes this time round. And in fact one of them was very well balanced. A fried apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Not too dissimilar from what we'd normally refer to as a McDonald's Hot Apple Pie (although making the latter sound repulsive). Fried perfectly, covered with sugar and filled with an apple spiced mixture that reminds you far too much of the impending Christmas season just round the corner. Served with good quality ice-cream (home-made i suspect) and dollops of fruit coulis. It lived up to being just as good as it looked.

I'm all for presentation but when my chocolate fondant with caramel ice-cream came out i wasn't sure if i should be taking the hint with my plate cocoa decorated with a Bethlehem Star. That or one of the chefs went a little crazy with the paintbrush. It just looked a messy. All that being said you couldn't deny how good that chocolate fondant was. Soft and firm on the outside, but runny, smooth, decadent and richly flavoured on the inside. Ice cream was good and that little extra helping of sauce and fresh fruits around the plate gave it a sort of black forest gateaux. Gorgeous.

I was slightly baffled by my meal at The Pearson Room. Overall the food was good, and sometimes excellent but what it lacked were the basics. Such as presentation, steak being warm all the way through and most importantly - portion sizes. The strange thing was that at the end of our meal, while deciding on a digestive to wash our food down we turned over our menu, and there were the bar snacks - chipirones and ceviche. There is certainly some talent here in the kitchen and with new Head Chef Tim Tolley on board perhaps it just needs to find its feet. Because if the rest of the food can match those incredible desserts then I'm sure this place could become much more of a destination restaurant - which essentially is what every chefs wants to see their restaurant become.


Square MealPearson Room on Urbanspoon