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Posts Tagged ‘16/20’

da Polpo, London, United Kingdom

At the rate the team behind Polpo opens new restaurants in the West End, I would not have thought of going to their 4th restaurant da Polpo so soon after its official opening. I love Polpo: every time I take someone there, it never disappoints. I was slightly less impressed with Polpetto last time I went – it was not just me; my friend Axel who went to Polpo with me on a previous occasion agreed that Polpetto was good, but just not as good as Polpo.

I met up with Priya on this sunny Friday in the West End for lunch, and originally I was thinking of going to Polpo again; but then I thought – let’s risk da Polpo and see what it’s like in its first week.

The first thing that I liked about da Polpo was that it’s light and spacious – unlike the somewhat darker look of Polpo and the crammed dining area in Polpetto. The menu looked somewhat familiar, with some dishes at the other restaurants also. Service was attentive, and we got our drinks and the free focaccia (that’s fresh and delicious) promptly.

Choosing the dishes was not so easy – not because there’s not enough to choose from, but it’s more like how to be sensible and not over-order, with so many choices in front of us. I would have been quite happy to close my eyes and just point randomly!

The two potato and Parmesan crochettas came first to fill the two empty stomachs. They were crispy on the outside with a very smooth, slightly runny and piping hot mashed potatoes inside. Probably amongst some of the best croquettes that I have ever had.

The next two dishes arrived simultaneously – the fragrance was already showing promising signs even before tasting. The tasty lamb and mint meatballs, with a tomato-based sauce, were of a generous portion, and I could have eaten anoter place of this without any hesitation. The chilli and garlic prawns were good too, though I would have prefer the prawns a bit larger.

As it’s still the asparagus season, we thought it would be a good idea to order the grilled asparagus, buttered eggs and Parmesan. Again it’s a generous portion and the combination was simple but effective.

To finish off the meal, we had the affogato al caffe – again just something simple but satisfying.

It was a very nice lunch, and considering that the restaurant was new, it had certainly made an excellent start. The only downside I can see with this place is that, because of its high quality of cooking, popular location of Covent Garden and good value for money, da Polpo would be as successful as its siblings, if not more, in the future, and this means that it would be difficult to get in at mealtimes!

Address:  6 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7NA , United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7836 8448
Website: www.dapolpo.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday: 12.00pm to 11.30pm

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in June 2011]

The Gilbert Scott, London, United Kingdom

May 30, 2011 2 comments

One really nice thing to have visitors from abroad is that I can have a perfect excuse to eat out and try out new restaurants. So when my godparents from Melbourne informed that they would want to meet up for lunch on Sunday during the bank holiday weekend in May, I was trying to think of a place that would not only just serve good food, but somewhere with a bit of character. With the Gilbert Scott and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel just opened not long ago, I decided that it could be an interesting place to go.

I used to go to St Pancras station a lot when I was travelling between London and Nottingham back in the early 1990s, and I always wondered why there was such a magnificent building that was left empty and derelict. So I was sufficiently excited when I learnt about the major renovation and the re-birth of the hotel next to the station. Somehow I did not pay much attention on what was on offer in terms of food there until pretty recently, when I learnt that Marcus Wareing was branching out and opened the Gilbert Scott in this magnificent building.

Before going to the restaurant, I warned my godparents that I couldn’t guarantee the standard of this restaurant: (1) it’s only opened a few weeks ago and like most restaurants, I’d expect a list of teething problems; (2) I have not been until this point, and so have no idea what it would be like and (3) I was not that impressed with Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at the Berkeley and I feared that this place could be just another one of those London hypes.

We were the first to arrive at the restaurant at lunchtime. The high ceiling and the decor of the dining room certainly seemed to have transported us back to the grand old days of railway travels – it was a very classic design that reminded me of some of the classic restaurants on continental Europe. The classic theme carried over to the menu, with many of the classic British dishes but with an updated twist featured on there.

Titus chose Cornish lobster salad, with baby gem, Marie Rose sauce, fennel and lobster oil – he’s a big fan of lobster and there’s no shortage of the fresh crustaceans down under. However, he thoroughly enjoyed this fresh salad.

Flora and I both opted for the Dorset crab (brown and white crab) with pear and hazelnuts. The dish was delicious to look at, and there was a generous serving of the crabmeat underneath the tower of salad leaves. It’s a light and refreshing starter.

For main courses, Titus, after overcoming the superstition of the word associated with deaths and funerals, chose soles in coffins (lemon sole) with vermouth cream, Morecambe bay shrimps, mace and crispy potato. None of us knew what “soles in coffins” was, so we enquired. It was a play on the words “souls” with “soles”. But rather than the classic way of the fish being placed inside a scopped out potato, in this dish the fish was rolled up and placed on a bed of potatoes here.  It looked elegant and Titus was glad to have made the choice and forgotten his earlier hesitation on the dish just because of the name!

Flora had Scottish halibut poached in Camel Valley brut with mussels. I told her that I learnt about Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall when I was dining at Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in March, and that I fell in love with the sparkling wine. With her small appetite, Flora gave me quite a sizeable chunk of fish and mussels to try out – the fish was fresh and cooked to perfect timing.

For me, my main course was pan-fried Cornish seabass, Cullenskink (smoked haddock) and potato sauce. It was rich in flavour but without overpowering the flavour and texture of the seabass.

After the main course, we had the difficult task of choosing the desserts. There were so many classic British desserts that I could have gone for (Bakewell tart, apple amber pudding, trifle etc). But in the end I opted for the orange marmalade jaffa cake with Earl Grey tea ice cream – the jaffa cake was moist and sticky, while the ice-cream actually neutralised some of the ultra-sweetness of the cake. I could have easily have eaten another one.

Flora was already so full that I suggested that she should try Mrs Beeton’s Snow eggs with Everton toffee, peanuts and burnt honey custard. I managed to try a mouthful of this and it was a mixture of sweetness and saltiness, and softness and crunchiness.

Titus went for the Lord Mayor’s trifle (pineapple, coconut, rum) which would be my other choice of dessert. It was full of pineapple but he said that there was a lack of coconut and rum flavour. Ah well, maybe next visit I’ll have this and see for myself.

There have been a few restaurants that opened in London in the first few months of 2011 that have attracted a lot of attention: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton, and The Gilbert Scott by Marcus Wareing. I must say that out of these three, this was the most enjoyable, and one that’s definitely worth going back.

Address:  St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7278 3888
Website: www.thegilbertscott.co.uk

Opening Hours: Lunch: Daily 12:00-15:00 ; Dinner: Daily 17:30-23:00

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in May 2011]

Tang Court, Hong Kong

April 27, 2011 1 comment

Located inside the Langham Hotel, right in the middle of the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui district, you get a sense of tranquility as soon as you enter the restaurant. It’s spacious in there – plenty of room between tables. The decor is verging towards pure decadance, with burgundy and gold as the main theme of the colours, and velvet curtains and sculptures adding to the finishing touch of the place. Maybe the idea was to reflect the golden era of the Tang dynasty in Chinese history.

I went there on the last day of my business trip in Hong Kong, just before I headed off to the airport to catch the plane back to London. It was also the opportunity to meet up with my friends Ken, Carol (and their baby Sigmund) and Joyce. And anything to prevent me having to stomach airline food afterwards was also a big plus.

The menu was extensive, with the price range spanning across the whole spectrum. For dishes such as abalone and bird’s nest, the cost would be about HKD1,000 ; while for the dishes with the more “ordinary” ingredients, the cost was about HKD150-300 per dish. Not at all unreasonable. After studying the menu for quite a while, we opted for the following:

(1) Sauteed Prawns and Crab Roe with Golden-Fried Pork and Crab Meat Puffs, which had won the Gold with Distinction Award in the 2001 Best of the Best Culinary Award. This dish was beautifully presented, and the taste was exquisite.

(2) Steamed Boneless Chicken with Yunnan Ham, Black Mushrooms and Vegetables – I normally can’t stand steamed chicken, but the ham and mushrooms augmented the otherwise very bland flavour of the chicken.

(3) Stir-Fried Diced Beef with Mango, Walnuts, Celery and Red Pepper – The different textures from the beef, nuts and mango worked really well in this dish.

(4) Stewed Asparagus in Broth – nice young asparagus, and the broth had a full body of flavour…. the sauce did look as if there’s a bit too much cornstarch in it.

(5) Baked Rice with Avocado and Diced Cod in Cream Sauce – this is how a Chinese dish should be: the colour, fragrance and taste all worked magic. I would have asked for seconds if there were any left in the dish.

I would love to go back again and try a few other dishes. And if money is no object, then a few very expensive dishes would certainly be on the card!

Address: 8 Peking Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Telephone: +(852) 2375 1133  ext 2250
Website: hongkong.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/tang_court.htm

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12:00 noon – 3:00pm & 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday: 11:00am – 3:00pm & 6:00pm – 11:00pm

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in January 2010]