Category Archives: Uncategorized

Carters of Moseley

I always find it difficult knowing where to eat when in Birmingham.  Getting a last minute table at Purnells or Turners is virtually impossible and the city centre is littered with chain restaurants that would never be your first dining choice.  So on a recent trip up to Birmingham I was pleased when a friend of mine suggested we try a restaurant he had heard good things about called Carters of Moseley.

Carters has been trading just over a year and was established by Brad Carter (Head Chef) and Holly Jackson (Maître d’).  The restaurant is in the suburb of Moseley (as the name suggests), which to those who are not familiar with Birmingham, Moseley is just outside the City centre and is the kind of area you expect to find independent boutiques, second hand book stores, decent pubs and for the last 12 months, a very good restaurant.

The three of us arrived for our lunch reservation slightly early, which turned out to not be a problem as the restaurant was pretty quiet.  We were promptly seated and left with gin and tonics whilst making our selections from the menu.  All three of us decided to go for dishes from the lunch menu, which at £18 is an absolute bargain.

Fried duck egg, brown shrimps, brown butter

Lincolnshire pork fillet, braised belly, black pudding, compressed apples, mashed swede

North-coast Pollock, clams, seabeet, mustard

Vanilla rice pudding, apple compote, crumble

Petit Fours – Which Holly was kind enough to bring to our table despite the fact that we didn’t order any coffee’s to finish the meal

The food at Carters is fantastic with perfectly judged cooking. The front of house staff struck the balance of relaxed yet attentive just right and are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about delivering a memorable dining experience.

At these prices I think that Carters might just about be the best value lunch I have ever had.   Only one thing didn’t seem to make any sense to us about Carters and that was why it wasn’t busier, if this restaurant was in our area, we would be there every Saturday lunch time.

I can’t wait to go back next time I am in the Midlands.

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Carters of Moseley

2c Wake Green Road,

Moseley,

Birmingham,

B13 9EZ

www.cartersofmoseley.co.uk

@cartersmoseley

The English Pig

The reason for the long delay in posts is quite a simple one. Money. I’ve been told by the lovely man at the bank that whilst in the process of saving money to buy a house dining out several times a week is not a good idea. He was also against the idea of buying a Macbook Air.

I therefore I made a decision to resort to a drastic measure, which to my surprise worked out quite nicely, Groupon.

For the bargain price of £29 we bagged two courses at The English Pig with a glass of wine each, or the option to forgo the glasses of wine and have £10 towards a bottle of our choice. Bargain.

I can imagine that given its location that this is place does well out of the City lunch time crowd. The restaurant was relaxed, about half full, with a good buzz on the Friday evening we visited. We were running a little early so bagged a sofa for a G&T before being seated.

Starters were enjoyable and a good start to the meal, although the best cooking was to come later. Only criticism for the starters is really easily rectified, the toast was very brittle and shattered to the bite, we would have both preferred it a little thicker.

I forgot to get a shot of the menu so my descriptions of the dishes may not be exact, but you will get the gist.

Ham hock with piccalilli

Pork and rabbit rillette

Mains were fantastic. I went for the pork belly and N chose pork loin. Both were impeccably cooked, mine with perfectly rendered fat and crispy crackling, N’s with a juicy pink blush.

21hr slow roast belly, mustard mash & red cabbage

Pork loin, apple, vanilla and cabbage

Naturally we had decided to trade the voucher against a bottle of wine and those G&T’s also needed to be added to the bill, but all in all this turned out to be a bargain meal. We had been intending to eat at The English Pig for quite some time and will no doubt be returning for perfect Autumnal / Winter comfort food over the coming months.

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The English Pig
171 – 176 Aldersgate Street,
London,
EC1A 4HR
020 7600 9707
bookings@theenglishpig.co.uk

@theenglishpig

The Elephant

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I once again will start this entry with the same apology I’ve had to issue before.  The photographs in this entry do not do the food justice and with food as pretty as the food presented to us by Simon Hulstone this is a real shame.   The reason for this is simple, I had to resort to using an iPhone camera as my SLR did not want to play ball in low light on Saturday and I refuse to use a flash in a fine dining scenario.  Shopping for a new camera is now on the agenda.

So onto the restaurant itself.  The Elephant is simply stunning.  When I compare this meal with others that I have eaten at one star restaurants this is up there as probably the best.  The last time that we can remember eating a meal as good as this in a one star restaurant it was at The Ledbury, shortly before it was awarded its second star.

We were greeted with a warm welcome on arrival and shown to our table upstairs in ‘The Room’.  The Brasserie downstairs was full and there was a great atmosphere, my fingers were firmly crossed at this point that upstairs wasn’t going to be quiet with hushed tones for the evening.  My fears were unfounded though as upstairs was also full as we were the last to take our seats in the part of the room that we were to be dining.

Beets and Curds – Candy, golden and Cheltenham beets, elderflower, Vulscombe goats cheese, tansy

Rioja Blanco 2010 Montelciego, Rioja, Spain

Ham Hock – Tortellini, toffee pea, salted pecans, shoots

Vouvray 2009 Domaine du Vaufuget, Loire, France

 

Scallops – Cabbage and confit lemon risotto, scallop, mussel foam (bonus freebie course)

 

Halibut – Parsnip, lardo, verjus, spring onions, golden sultanas, flowers

St Aubin 1er Cru 2009 ‘La Chantaniere’ Gerard Thomas, Bourgogne, France

 

Duck – Roasted breast, celeriac puree, pak choi, spiced honey, pain d’epices

Pinot Noir 2008 Tindall vineyard, Marlborough, New Zeland

 

Cheesecake – Passion fruit, vanilla, honeycomb, citrus

Coffee – Coffee with petit fours

The Elephant is a fantastic restaurant and well worth a visit to Torquay.  The tasting menu is priced at £60 per person and the matching wine menu priced at £27.50 per person which for food and wine at this level I think is very good value for money.

This meal was up there as one of the very best that we have had this year.  We are in Devon at least once a year for family occasions and The Elephant will be getting a visit each and every time from now on.

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The Elephant

3 & 4 Beacon Terrace,

Torquay,

Devon,

TQ1 2BH

01803 200044

http://www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk

@elephantrest

@Hulstone

La Bécasse

La Bécasse sits on a quiet street that leads uphill to Ludlow’s town centre.  The street itself is littered with the kind of shops that could quite easily relieve you of the content of your bank balance before you have even made it to the restaurant.

The restaurant itself is simply yet elegantly decorated with oak panelling on the walls and a Paul Smith jacket lining carpet.  The tables are well spaced allowing natural conversation without feeling too conscious of the table next to you.

The only lunch reservation that we could get for our party of six was an early sitting at midday and as a result we were more or less the first people in the restaurant.  Much to our relief the room soon filled with people and atmosphere.

As a table we all decided to order the lunch tasting menu which consists of six courses and is priced at £40.  In addition, N and I also ordered the wine pairing priced at £29.

A few snacks were placed at the table.  Curried popcorn, olives and mixed nuts with wasabi peas.

I personally found these to be a little pointless and whilst inoffensive I felt that they didn’t need to be there and added nothing to the meal.  Things soon picked up though with an amuse bouche of caramelised garlic risotto.

The bread at La Bécasse rivals some of the best that we have had.  The cumin bread in particular is right up there with the bread at Roganic and The Ledbury.

First course was ‘Greek salad’ with “Ticklemore” goat’s cheese 
and watermelon gaspacho.  The dish was a fresh and light way to start, although it was universally agreed at the end of the meal that whilst pleasant this wasn’t the strongest course on the menu.

Next was jellied pig’s head ballotine, chick pea salsa, 
preserved lemon, caramelised onion hummus.  This is right up my street in terms of flavours.  The pigs head was as refined as a pigs head can be and was offset beautifully with the tahini and the preserved lemon.

Next was mine and N’s favourite dish of the day.  Sea trout fillet slowly poached in smoked rapeseed oil, 
potato and dill gnocchi, peas, broad beans.  The trout was stunning and the whole dish worked wonderfully.

Main course was confit lamb breast with pine nuts, rosemary, capers, sprouting broccoli, anchovies and salsa verdi.  Much of the rest of the table named this as their favourite of the day.  The lamb was well cooked and the flavours balanced, so whilst not my personal highlight of the day I did agree that this plate was delicious.

The best of the puddings was next.  Lemon curd, strawberry, olive oil and basil salad, 
black pepper caramel and strawberry sorbet.  The only thing that I wish they had done differently with this dish is to make it bigger.  Everyone around the table loved it.

To finish was tea poached peach “melba”.  A simple and classic way to end the meal.  As I’m not really a desert person I find it hard to get excited by the dessert section, however my Brothers girlfriend loved this dish in particular the meringue as believe it or not, this was the first that she has ever eaten. (She is from Korea and it would appear that meringue isn’t any where near as common there as it should be in her view)

We were then shown upstairs to the lounge for teas and coffee and a selection of petit fours.  The observant staff had noted during conversation that there had been a Birthday in our party during the week and when the petit fours came out were decorated accordingly.  A nice little touch.

 

The wine pairing was excellent with a different wine paired to each and every course.  We were a little surprised by the volume of wine served but there certainly were no complaints from N and I.  I didn’t catch the Sommeliers name but he is a credit to the restaurant, witty, knowledgeable and engaging.

Only negatives to note was the service which whilst excellent though the majority of the meal did tail off towards the end.  The plates on the final course were left on the table for 10 – 15 minutes before we could order coffees.  We were then shown upstairs were the petit fours were served straight away but it took approximately another 15 minutes for the coffee to arrive.  I must stress though this is nitpicking, as on the whole the service was excellent throughout.

In summary La Bécasse offers excellent value for money, a good dining atmosphere and a great excuse to visit Ludlow which is a town I would happily return to for a weekend anytime.

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17 Corve Street, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1DA

Telephone: 01584 872 325

Email: info@labecasse.co.uk

Twitter: @labecasse10in8

Marcus Wareing @ The Berkeley

A friends’ birthday lunch was the occasion that bought me back together with five old friends that I had not seen for way too long.  It shows how times have changed for the group that first met at Godskitchen circa 2001 that the chosen location for the reunion was Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley.

I was pleased with the chosen restaurant as it has been on my list of places to visit for the last couple of years, yet for one reason or another, I had not.  So a friends birthday seemed like the perfect excuse.

Upon arrival there was a small hiccup with our table as it had been laid for four, rather than the six it had been booked for.  This was dealt with swiftly by the excellent front of house team and we were seated in no time.

We were set to dine off the lunch menu which is priced at £50 for three courses including homemade chocolates and two wines chosen by the sommelier.

The meal began with several amuse bouche.  An aubergine dip, a bite sized chicken skewer, and the highlight of this section of the meal, a clever take on fish and chips with a fantastic fish soup served alongside the pea and potato component.


The decision on the first course was unanimous.  Everybody at the table went for the Cornish mackerel.


Cornish mackerel, burrata, gooseberry, lettuce, garlic
’Clos Poggiale’’, Domaine Skalli, Corsica, France 2009

This dish was met with mixed reviews from the table for two main reasons.  Firstly the majority of us agreed that the decision to not crisp the mackerel skin was a strange one.  The texture of the skin was slightly unpleasant in my opinion, but others at the table disagreed with me so I guess this point is just down to personal preference.  The second point was the burrata, which whilst delicious, I’m still unsure if  it worked with the fish.  I only have myself to blame for this though as it was the inclusion of the burrata that provoked me to choose this dish as I was intrigued by how they would work together.  Again this is all down to personal preference, but for me I probably won’t be pairing these two together again.

The next course divided the table.  Half of us went for the lemon sole whilst the other half chose duck.  I personally went for the sole.

Corn fed duck, rainbow chard, new potatoes, girolles, cherry
Rioja “Ganko”, Olivier Riviere, Spain, 2008


Lemon sole, brown shrimp, pea, lemon
La Crema, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, 2007

The Lemon Sole was the real highlight of the meal for me.  Beautifully cooked fish, served on a fantastic pea risotto and a lemon puree that really lifted the dish.  Excellent cooking.  This course also bought about another highlight; the wine pairing on this course was brilliant.  At this price point this is a wine well worth checking out.

A pre-dessert was served following the main course.  Pineapple sorbet, white rum jelly, coconut shavings and coconut ash which acted as an excellent cleanser before the desert orders were taken.

The majority of us chose the Great British Menu winning custard tart for dessert with one exception that ordered the strawberries.  We ordered dessert wine to accompany, but I’m afraid I neglected to get the details of these wines.  They were an excellent pairing as was the case throughout our meal.


Custard tart, raspberry, tarragon, meringue


Strawberries, sweet cicely, hay, malt

The tart itself was superb, by far the best custard tart I have ever had and one of the best desserts I have eaten for a long time.  The one component that I didn’t eat was the tarragon sorbet, which N and I found to be overpoweringly strong.

Next followed coffees and the rather impressive chocolate trolley.  The fennel and liquorice was my personal favourite.  Our waiter was over five minutes later offering another round of chocolates and once these were dispatched offered some chocolates to take home, this was an offer that none of us were going to turn down.

There was one more little unexpected treat in store before it was time to leave which was an invite to a tour around the kitchen and an opportunity to meet some of the brigade.  We jumped at the chance to see backstage and we were invited to ask any questions that we wanted.  This was a really nice touch of which we were all very grateful.

In summary I enjoyed the experience of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley.  Not all of the dishes were to my personal taste and overly formal spaces always make me feel a little queasy, but as I said previously, this is just personal preference.  The front of house team really are excellent and the sommelier did a fantastic job of pairing wines at a low price point and was more than happy to write down the names of wines for me to buy online at a later date.  The pace of the meal was perfect, I was surprised that there was no effort made to turn the table given a relatively low spend, the meal lasted around three hours in total.

The total spend was approx £75 per head including service, which I think for the overall experience qualifies as good value for money.

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The Berkeley
Wilton Place
Knightsbridge
London. SW1X 7RL
T: +44 (0)20 7235 6000

@jamesknappett

Roganic

Probably the best meal we have ever eaten in London.  This was the post meal consensus following the fantastic lunch that my friends and I shared at Roganic this weekend.  High praise indeed given the list of London restaurants that this newcomer to the scene was being compared to.

Roganic is only a couple of weeks old, but you wouldn’t know that from the way that the dining room is run and the quality of what comes out of the kitchen.  They manage to find the difficult balance of a well run, efficient service but still retain an informal and relaxed atmosphere.  Far easier said than done.

We were seated and left to peruse our options on the menu, which couldn’t be more straight forward.  You have three options, three courses, six courses or ten courses.  It took our group all of about 30 seconds to decide.  We went for the full ten courses.

Now to the wine.  Sommelier, Zsolt Kismodi, was promptly on hand to help guide us through an exciting wine list, bereft of clichéd options that often fill wine lists.  Whilst there isn’t a wine paring option on the menu, Zsolt informed us that he would be happy to put something together for us if we were happy to leave ourselves in his capable hands, paring wines by the glass or bottle where applicable to guide us through the meal.  We were more than happy to do this and with no talk of cost he went about his work.

Now before we go any further an apology from me.  As anyone reading this will be able to see, this is my very first review and as a result a small schoolboy error has been made on my part.  The photographs aren’t fantastic.  They are okay, but food this beautiful deserves more and so going forward I will ensure I take my DSLR with me rather than try and get by with the iPhone camera.

Chickpea wafer canapés were served to get us started followed by the arrival of the best looking bread I’ve ever seen.  So good looking in fact that I couldn’t get a picture of it before half of it had already disappeared.

Broad bean and hyssop, fresh curds and beetroot

Rubin turnip baked in salt, smoked yolk, sea vegetables and wild mustard

Seawater cured Kentish mackerel, orache, broccoli and warm elderflower honey.  As you will come to see on this blog, my fantastic girlfriend, N, has what some may consider an obsession with mackerel dishes and this one didn’t disappoint, even surpassing the excellent mackerel dish we have both sampled numerous times at The Ledbury.

Shredded ox tongue, pickles and sourdough paper

Flaky Crab and mallow cream, young squid and cucumber.  Even the member of our party with a passionate hatred for cucumber and all that it stands for managed to finish this dish with no complaints.

Vintage potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel

Roasted monkfish, chicken salt, cockles and ruby chard.  This item was originally listed as brill on the menu but a substitute of monkfish had to be used instead.  At this stage we were moved across to a light red wine to accompany the fish and also the hogget coming up next.  This proved to be an excellent move, one that we probably wouldn’t have instigated ourselves, so thanks again to Zsolt.

Cumbrian hogget, artichokes and chenopodiums.  This may have been my favourite course of the day.  I’ve read elsewhere that this dish also appears on the menu at L’enclume but with slightly better execution.  I can only imagine how good this must be up in Cumbria.  Only one way to find out I guess.

Sweet ciceley with strawberry, buttermilk and verbena

Warm spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream.  The smoked clotted cream is inspired.  N is a Cornish gall and clotted cream aficionado so this dish raised an eyebrow when we spotted it on the menu.  It did not disappoint.  Stunning.

Douglas fir milkshake with douglas fir flapjack

Mini victoria sponge cakes

At the end of the meal our waiter asked the table for our highlights of the meal.  Between the four of us at the table naming our favourite couple of dishes each we managed to cover more or less the whole menu, such was the range of excellent plates we had eaten we were struggling to find a unanimous winner, they were all that good.

The next surprise was yet another pleasant one, the bill (you don’t hear that very often).  The ten course tasting menu is £80, we knew that before we started so no surprises there.  What did come as a surprise was the total inclusive of wine.  As I mentioned earlier, we put ourselves firmly in the sommeliers hands with no talk of our budget for the wine.  Five excellent glasses of wine each later we were looking at a bill of approx £30 a head.  Staggering value for the quality (and quantity) of wine we received and especially pleasing given that Zsolt could have frankly gone to town on us given the open brief.

Roganic is nothing short of sensational. I can’t wait until the day I finally get to go to L’enclume, which is really going to have to be something special to surpass what is being created by Ben Spalding and his team down in London at the moment.  I can’t wait to make a return visit to Roganic, although judging by the fact that the restaurant is currently taking up 75% of Twitter feed and receiveing rave reviews left right and centre, I’m guessing that getting a table over the next few months may be easier said than done.

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Roganic

19, Blandford St,

London,

W1U 3DH

Tel: 0207 4860380

Twitter:

@Roganic

@Benspalding

@watermelonchang

Time to get started…

Time to get started…

How long does it take, on average, one to get around to writing their first blog entry upon registering and creating the template? I’m going to hedge my bets and say that for once in my life I’m coming in above average given that it has taken me over 12 months to get this far.

Blogging opportunities including Noma, The Fat Duck, The Ledbury on multiple occasions and St John amongst countless others have been missed and the justification that I used to buy myself an iPad, for blogging purposes, is looking decidedly thin.

It is with all of this in mind that I have decided to turn a corner. This month sees reservations at Simon Rogan’s new London venture, Roganic, in the diary. In addition to a trip to Marcus Wearing at The Berkeley, amongst other dinner plans.

I’ve decided that these meals will not be missed opportunities joining the list, but instead will give this blogging malarky a go.

I’m going to try not to deliberate too much over each word, agonising over the prose and generally indulging in behaviour that results in 12 month gaps occurring again. Promise.

Expect the next post soon…