Golden Union, London

Golden Union

If I hadn't recently discovered two excellent fish & chip restaurants, Geales and Kerbisher & Malt, I might have been here proclaiming Golden Union a legitimate contender for best chippie in London. The fish was a tad greasy but came encased in a nice, crisp, airy, batter quite similar in style (if not quality) to Kerbisher & Malt's, and certainly the equal of any of the fish & chips I have tried in London outside of "The Big Two". Chips were poor, but were made up for by some of the best Homemade Mushy Peas around - easily better than both Geales and K & M (for both of whom this is a weakness) and only slightly behind the rendition at fish!, which I doubt will ever be bettered. I complained (only a little bit!) that K & M makes you buy tartare sauce separately for 50p - well Golden Union does the same, except it charges a frankly scandalous £1.55. For tartare sauce?! I did order it anyway, of course - can't have fish & chips without tartare sauce, and at least it was good, unlike the disappointing version at K & M; but still, quite ridiculous.

Cod & Chips, Homemade Mushy Peas

In a nutshell...
Golden Union is a very decent fish & chip shop. It doesn't quite stack up to the Geales and Kerbisher & Malts of this world, but easily holds its own amongst the "second tier" - I would put it just behind fish! and Seafresh, and ahead of the likes of Masters Superfish, Golden Hind, Rock & Sole Place, and Seashell of Lisson Grove. Could prove to be a useful place for a pit-stop given its convenient location just off Oxford Street.

6.5/10

Golden Union
38 Poland Street, Soho, London, W1F 7LY
+44 (0)2074341933
Average Price: £10-£15

Golden Union Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

Yum Cha, London

Turnip Cake with Wind Dried Meat & Shrimp

As you stroll down busy Camden High Street, past the tattoo and piercing salons, specialist record shops, and quirky arts and crafts boutiques, you don’t really get the sense that a good dim sum meal can be had just around the corner. As you walk into Yum Cha, with its run-down, vaguely Thai decor, very basic wooden tables and chairs, and laminated photos of dumplings plastered on the window, you are even less convinced. But you must persevere because, almost inexplicably, this is one of the better dim sum places in town.

Prawn Cheung FunCrystal Scallop & Prawn Dumpling

As is so often the case at dim sum restaurants, first to arrive was what would come closest to resembling the desert dish - Baked Mini Egg Tart. They were reasonably good – the pastry was a bit coarse but the filling was smooth and delicious. Turnip Cake with Wind Dried Meat & Shrimp was superb – crisp on the outside (and crucially not burnt, as so many renditions often are), tasty and with a lovely texture on the inside - this was easily one of the best versions in London. Fried Taro Croquette with Chicken Roast Pork & Prawn was also done pretty well, with an exterior that was crisp but not hard, and a hearty interior. Minced Pork Shanghai Siew Long Bao had a wrapper that was slightly too thick, and only a so-so flavour to the meat, but was at least filled with a good amount of soup. It wasn’t the greatest, but was still better than Yauatcha’s. Prawn Cheung Fun was the right level of thickness, had a delightful, silky smooth texture, and was packed full of punchy prawns. Crystal Scallop & Prawn Dumpling also had a good wrapper that was not too thick, and a decent filling.

Baked Mini Egg TartFried Taro Croquette with Chicken Roast Pork & Prawn

In a nutshell...
The general quality of dim sum in London, in my opinion, leaves much to be desired. I certainly haven’t discovered any great dim sum venues in the capital (Pearl Liang came very close when it first opened, but whilst still decent, has now dropped considerably below that level). Yum Cha did not prove to be the answer either, but does compare favourably to the level available at some of the better dim sum outlets in town. I would consider it at least the equal of such highly touted places as Phoenix Palace and Imperial China, and superior to Yauatcha and Princess Garden. I personally wouldn’t make a special trip to Yum Cha because it is all the way across town for me, and a number of venues closer serve a comparable (but not superior) standard of dim sum. If Yum Cha was nearer to home, however, say in the same locale as the equally well reviewed but far inferior Dragon Palace, which is just 10 minutes’ walk from my flat, I would be there every weekend.

7/10

Yum Cha
28 Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AG
+44 (0)2074822228
Average Price: £10-£20 (for dim sum)

 Yum Cha on Urbanspoon

The Ledbury, London

Wild Salmon Poached in Brown Butter with Blood Orange, Crab and Asparagus on Toast

The Ledbury has long been one of my favourite restaurants in London, and I was delighted to see it presented with a thoroughly deserved second Michelin Star last year, and make a debut at no. 34 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year, despite my many reservations about the credibility of said list. This was my first visit in almost a year, and thankfully, nothing has changed – The Ledbury remains as good as ever.

Bacon and Onion Brioche

First off, I am very pleased to report that The Ledbury’s Bacon and Onion Brioche, possibly the most famous of all the breads served at all the restaurants in London, continues to live up to its reputation – light, fluffy, and simply delectable, I would have been more than happy to just have a dozen of them for dinner. As it was, I had three to whet the appetite.

Flame Grilled Mackerel with Avocado, Celtic Mustard and Shiso

My starter of Flame Grilled Mackerel with Avocado, Celtic Mustard and Shiso was perfectly composed, with each component complimenting the next. Another starter, Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish was refreshing and appetising. But best of all was the Crisp Chicken Wings with White Asparagus, Stuffed Morels and Arbois, with the beautiful asparagus and the exceptional stuffed morels especially noteworthy.

Crisp Chicken Wings with White Asparagus, Stuffed Morels and Arbois

My main course, Loin and Shoulder of Lamb with an Aubergine Glazed with Black Sugar and Garlic, Green Tomato Juice and Dried Olives was another resounding success. The lamb was done just right, with the aubergine providing the ideal counterbalance to the meat both in terms of sweetness, and texture – it was spectacular; one of the best lamb dishes I have ever had - and I order lamb all the time.

Loin and Shoulder of Lamb with an Aubergine Glazed with Black Sugar and Garlic, Green Tomato Juice and Dried Olives

Another main course of Wild Salmon Poached in Brown Butter with Blood Orange, Crab and Asparagus on Toast was also superb, and almost at the level of my outstanding lamb, which is saying something. That The Ledbury was able to make a salmon dish, so often some of the most unexciting, unmemorable, safe options on a menu standout this much was testament again to the level of talent in the kitchen. Crisp Pressed Suckling Pig with a Pork Cheek Cooked in Pedro Ximénez, Carrots, Toasted Grains and Dried Chicory also could not be faulted.

Pavé of Chocolate with Milk Purée and Lovage Ice Cream

All three desserts we sampled demonstrated a refined, delicate touch, with complimentary elements that just worked - which is a great deal more rare, even amongst Michelin starred restaurants, than you would expect. My Pavé of Chocolate with Milk Purée and Lovage Ice Cream was rich yet not too dense or heavy; Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit and Peanut Oil Parfait was a lovely combination; but the pick of the desserts was the exquisite Brown Sugar Tart with Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream - it was stunning.

Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit and Peanut Oil Parfait

Service, another widely-praised aspect of The Ledbury experience, was impeccable as always – friendly, efficient, attentive but without the slightest hit of the over-formality or stuffiness that can so often afflict the wait staff at other fine dining restaurants. The timing between courses was also spot on.

Brown Sugar Tart with Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream

In a nutshell…
Every single dish was well-balanced, every combination well thought out, every plate beautifully presented and perfectly executed; there was not one false move. This was polished, assured, accomplished cooking of the highest calibre. The Ledbury and its Australian-born head chef richly deserves every accolade it has received. Quite simply one of the finest dining experiences in the capital.

9/10

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ
+44 (0)2077929090
Average Price: £85
2 Michelin Stars

I must take this opportunity to make mention of the incredible bravery shown by the staff at The Ledbury, who, with only kitchen tools, went far beyond the call of duty in taking it upon themselves to defend their restaurant and customers from the senseless rioters that caused such chaos in London in early August. Truly commendable.

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

Wafflemeister, London

Dream Team - Original waffle with Vanilla Bean gelato and a drizzle of hot dark Belgian chocolate fudge

You know that lovely smell of waffles at the entrance to the Bond Street tube station? Well Alexander Troullier is the man responsible for that lofty aroma, having founded that, and many other, Belgian Food Company stalls back in 1999. He then sold BFC, went to business school, and took up a job in finance, but has now returned to what he knows best in setting up Wafflemeister, which as you might surmise from the name, specialises in Belgian waffles. I went to the South Kensington outlet (there are also branches at Embankment and on Portobello Road), and had a Dream Team: Original waffle with Vanilla Bean gelato and a drizzle of hot dark Belgian chocolate fudge.

The first thing I noticed upon stepping into the Wafflemeister shop was the distinct lack of that familiar waft of waffles from the Bond Street tube station. Slightly disappointing, but never mind. My waffle was ready in a flash, and was rather enjoyable – waffles, ice cream and chocolate sauce rarely, if ever, aren’t; but I failed to see anything particularly outstanding about this waffle in particular. I would also have liked my waffle served much warmer than it was.

Wafflemeister

In a nutshell...
Nothing all that special, but not bad. I’d prefer a sweet crêpe from nearby Kensington Crêperie on most days, but Wafflemeister is a viable option for a change now and again. Troullier recently bought BFC back with the intention of converting all the BFC locations into Wafflemeister shops, so I suspect we’ll be seeing many more Wafflemeister outlets in the capital before long.

5.5/10

Wafflemeister (South Kensington)
26 Cromwell Place, London, SW7 2LD
+44 (0)2075844688
Average Price: £3

Bonda Café, London

Roti Canai

Bonda Café is the epitome of a hidden restaurant. Just off Sussex Gardens, a menu on the wall is the only indication at street level that there is a restaurant on the premises. The entrance - dingy stairs leading to a sparse, basement room hardly screams "welcome, great food here" either. But don't be put off - Bonda is quite the gem. This is a Malaysian restaurant, run by Malaysians, for a clientele, I suspect, 99% made up of Malaysians, which means it’s the real deal.

For starters, Roti Canai was crisp yet reasonably fluffy – a much above average rendition by London standards, while Sate Ayam used meat that was just a tad too lean for my liking, but delivered on flavour and authenticity.

Sate Ayam

Amongst the mains, Ayam Masak Merah was pretty good - deep-fried chicken, in a tasty, tomato-based sauce - not quite the same level as the rendition at Satay House but miles better than Tukdin's. Beef Rendang, meanwhile, was absolutely superb – tender, melt-in-the-mouth beef, in a dry, lemongrass and coconut sauce – it was done just right, making it undoubtedly the best version I have come across in town.

Ayam Masak MerahBeef Rendang

Nasi Lemak had rice that was a little bit dry, and hence not quite as bouncy as could be, but exhibited a decent coconut flavour; and was accompanied with a lovely sweet and not-too-spicy sambal.

Nasi Lemak

For dessert, Malaysian Kuih was too dense, in stark contrast to the Durian Cheesecake that was delightfully light and fluffy, with a very evident durian taste. Service was relaxed, pleasant and homey.

Malaysian Kuih

In a nutshell...
On the whole, perhaps just a half-notch below nearby Satay House, but still a very faithful representation of Malaysian cuisine; and given its comparatively budget prices (to go with more modest surroundings), not to mention a beef rendang that was simply the best, Bonda Café deservedly makes it onto the (very) shortlist of Malaysian restaurants in the capital worth a return visit.

7.5/10

Bonda Café
190 Sussex Gardens, London, W2 1TU
+44 (0)2074025550
Average Price: £10

Bonda Cafe on Urbanspoon

Goodman City, London

Any discussion about the best burger in London town will invariably include a mention, sooner rather than later, of the offering at Goodman, so it was high time I tried it for myself. Conveniently, Goodman City on Old Jewry (the original is in Mayfair) is just a stone's throw from my place of work, affording, as it did on this occasion, the opportunity of a lunchtime visit to brighten up a mundane Monday morning.

Goodman Burger

I had a Goodman Burger, which also came with chips. The bun was absolutely delightful - feathery soft, yet slightly crisp, it was probably the best burger bun I’ve encountered in London, even bettering the excellent example at Bar Boulud. What, then, about the patty? The meat was clearly of a high quality - unsurprisingly given Goodman’s reputation as a top-notch steakhouse, and it was cooked medium rare exactly as ordered, but it was rather too thick for my liking, thus deviating from the ideal bread to meat coefficient. The excess of meat (yes, you can have too much of a good thing) also meant that the additional cheddar topping I requested was so overwhelmed it barely registered at all – given the thickness of the patty, an adjustment should at least have been made to use a second (or third) slice of cheese. I’m also partial to a burger with a bit of a sauce (New York’s Shake Shack’s being the standard by which all others are judged – yes I know I keep going on about it, but it is THAT good), and Goodman’s lacked that.

The chunky chips were great – crispy on the outside, smooth and piping on the inside, and totally greaseless.

Summary
Despite my grouses (constructive criticism!), the Goodman Burger still deserves a spot amongst the upper echelon of London burgers.

7/10

Goodman City
11 Old Jewry, London, EC2R 8Du
+44 (0)2076008220
Average Price: £13 (for burger)

Goodman City on Urbanspoon

Michelin Guide 2012 – Great Britain & Ireland

I must confess, the release of the 2012 Michelin guide for Great Britain & Ireland, at the exceedingly non-regular time of early October, slipped totally under my radar. As it turned out, I didn't miss a lot as barely anything changed, perhaps borne from the fact that this year's list was released a good four months earlier than is customary.
Most of the (small number of) movers were outside London, with second stars awarded, notably, to Sat Baines in Nottingham and Tom Kerridge's gastropub The Hand & Flowers in Marlow in Buckinghamshire.
In London, debut Michelin stars were bestowed upon Heston Blumenthal's Dinner and Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social; both entirely predictable, the latter wholly undeserved. A third London newcomer to the list, North Road, has garnered some positive reviews for its Noma-esq cuisine and is very much on my to-try list. The fourth and final newly starred London establishment was again a long-time Michelin guide staple, Hakkasan Mayfair joining its elder Hanway Place sister, amongst the ranks.
The subtractions were led by Pied á Terre, which lost one of its two stars; not at all surprising if my meal there 18 months ago was anything to go by, whilst Tom Aikens was dispossessed of the Michelin Star it has held since 2004, again a wholly justifiable decision based on my experience there in the summer. Ho-hum.
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