José Pizzaro, Broadgate Circle, EC2M

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It isn’t often that we get this excited about a new restaurant opening, but from the moment we read of José’s new venture many weeks ago, we could not wait to be among the many who would sample his dishes from the moment the doors opened.

This is Pizarro’s third offering and the first of his to be in a part of the city that we wouldn’t have expected. Nestled amongst other great names like Franco Manca and Yautacha, the restaurant takes pride of place in the newly renovated Broadgate Circle, just behind Liverpool St Station.

One great thing about this place is that you can reserve a table, something that is a rareity and with being in the city, we feel, a necessity. We arrived early and our table was ready. The dining room is small with the focal point being the long bar with stools so you can see the chefs at work. But when there is more than 4 of you, a table is a must. We were kindly told we had the table for 2 hours and were then given time to look over the menu.

We had already done ample research on what to order so we right ahead and picked a portion of the Prawn Fritters with Saffron Aoili, the Croquetas ‘Caseras’ (House croquettes, which change daily – We had White Crab) and Pan con Tomate. Unfortunately they did not have any Padron Peppers which we were disappointed about.

The Prawn Fritters, WOW. Hand-minced coarsely, these were succulent, on point with flavour and just sublime. Next the White Crab Croquetas. Again how Croquetas should be, crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. We loved every bite. The fresh bread with tomatoes. garlic and olive oil was refreshing and light compared to the deep flavours of the the previous two dishes.

We moved onto choose a few small plates: Sautéed heritage root vegetables with Monte Enebro cheese and black olive dressing, Ibérico pork meatballs in tomato & orange sauce, Asparagus grilled on the plancha with fried duck egg & Romanesco sauce and a side salad. All three dishes were equally delicious for different reasons, the Asparagus was tender with the sauce adding a hint of heat, the meatballs crumbled in the delicious rich sauce and the Roasted root vegetables were firm, with their sweetness cleverly balanced by the acidic cheese and black olive dressing.

We knew we had to save room for dessert has we had seen several pictures of a certain one in particular that we just had to try. Chocolate with olive oil & salt, with toast. This took us back to when were were kids and we would eat Nutella sandwiches in the park. A clever adult version with dark bitter chocolate cut with the sea salt was just amazing. To accompany it we sampled the Almond cake, pistachio ice cream, which was a refreshing counter part to the chocolate.

We are so glad that we were able to visit this Spanish haven before the city masses begin to flood it. We cannot wait to go again, to sample more dishes, or just to sit and watch the kitchen at work whilst sampling some wine, ham and cheese, the true Spanish way.

José Pizzaro 

36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS

Polpetto, Berwick Street, W1F


Polpetto, another branch out from Russel Norman; one of the best restauranteurs in London. You may know him from his three branches of Polpo (Beak Street, Covent Garden, Smithfield), Spuntino and the Ape & Bird. When Polpetto closed its doors in 2012 it felt like it might be a sad time but it was never to be for good. The aim was to find a larger premises and move away from being above the French House pub on Dean Street.

There’s always a restaurant you’ve been meaning to go to but it just gets missed during the important part of your search. Polpetto was ours and we’re just finally glad we made the trip!

You enter Polpetto through a thick red velvet curtain which is a nice touch you normally see from fine dining establishments. It shields the customers from the outside and it means you’ll have to actually take a step inside to see the restaurant if you’re browsing. The restaurant is long with a a bar on the left hand side. The furnishings are wooden and the dimly lit space looks fantastic. There are seats at the bar and just behind it where we waited whilst our table became free. We did find out at this point that there’s a chefs table downstairs which is available to book.

Once seated at our table a small menu was handed to us. These are the best kinds of menus, with not too much choice but just enough to make you wonder. The menu is seasonal so take a look at the menu online for an example of what might be in store. Being a Venetian small plates venue, the wine list is aptly Italian so it wasn’t long before we were glugging down a lovely bottle of Chianti Reserva. To accompany this fine wine we ordered: Cavolo nero, with anchovy & burnt butter bread, Burrata with agretti & chilli, Pork belly with Jerusalem artichoke & parsley and Clams with sea purslane & linguine. The stand outs for us where the Cavolo nero and the clams. Both executed to perfection and kept us very happy as the cavolo nero hit home first. Being kale fans this was always going to go down well with us! The anchovy in this dish helped take it to the next level and we can’t recommend it enough. It’s easy to just keep on ordering here so we thought why not get the Beef shin with strozzapreti, braised chick peas and some wet polenta. It was becoming quickly apparent that head chef Florence Knight (great name!) is on to a winner and has been for quite some time.

To finish we had the Fried pecorino with honey and the Chocolate flan with creme fraiche. Both very good desserts for different reasons. Firstly because you’ll never have had fried pecorino cheese with honey and secondly because the chocolate flan is famous in soho (our bias!).

Keep ordering the excellent wine and try your best not to order everything on the menu. Don’t worry, we nearly did it! This quickly has shot up our list to one of our favourite meals in Soho and it’s not far off being one of our most enjoyable yet.

Polpetto
11 Berwick Street, Soho, W1F 0PL

Barrafina, Adelaide Street, WC2N


Small plates restaurants are probably some of the best in the city. However the name Barrafina is now becoming associated with it when people think of tapas. Barrafina got their first Michelin star for their Soho branch last year and has made the place very popular. It is the newer Adelaide Street branch that we visited and there’s reasons we think it’s even better.

We expected a queue which is often the case at Frith Street but at 9pm on a Friday we were happy to see no queue present. There was, however, a 30 minute wait to be seated at the bar. Barrafina is renowned for its sit on bar stools in front of the kitchen and Adelaide Street presents this in a brighter fashion. The lights in Barrafina aren’t the dimly lit, romantic type. It’s more a case of bright lights to see the exquisite small plates presented to you; all of which are not allowed to be served until the head chef has taken a look. Whilst waiting there is a bar menu to pick a few delights from the full menu and it would be rude not to have their famous Crab Croquetas. Quite easily the best croquettes we’ve had to date! They don’t have the gooey cheesy-ness you expect and are in fact packed filled with amazingly seasoned crab meat. To accompany our wait we had a selection of their cured meats (which included Jamon de Bellota – some of the best jamon you can get) and a carafe of Vilosell 2011.

Our stools didn’t take long to be free and it wasn’t long before we had the real menu in front of us and it dawned on us that we wanted to order everything on the menu! As much as this sounds like a good idea, it probably wasn’t at closer to 10pm. Rather than order starters or anything of that ilk, we just ordered a selection of dishes. One of which was their special that day and that was Turbot. It’s not something that we have often but after this dish, it’ll always be ordered. The array of dishes that were chosen were as followed: Chipirones, Artichokes & Alioli, Stuffed Courgette Flower, Queen Scallop Ceviche, Turbot, Chicken Wings with Mojo Picón, Iberian Pork Ribs, Milk Fed Lamb’s Kidneys, Quail Escabeche.

The dishes came out in the order that they would be cooked and it may seem quite a lot but believe me when I say you could have a few more just for how delicious they were. Every dish was perfect in its execution and it’s difficult to find any faults with this branch of Barrafina. We quickly became good friends with the chef that was preparing dishes in front of us and it’s good to have that kind of access to a kitchen. Personal standouts for me have to be the Courgette flower, the lovely piece of turbot, the scallops and the kidneys. Not being the biggest kidney fan, and after a recommendation, I’m definitely sold. 

Desserts were a must and we went for the Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce and a couple of scoops of their ice cream. Both excellent and the ricotta ice cream was special.

Three carafes of wine later and a meal we will always remember; the best tapas restaurant in London just got better.

 

Barrafina

10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, WC2N 4HZ

Bad Egg, City Point, Moorgate, EC2Y



London’s best food isn’t always of the dinner variety. Sometimes it can come in the form of an egg. Once we heard that Neil Rankin was expanding his empire to include a place specialising in eggs, we knew it was going to be epic.

Opened last November we decided it was time we visited this egg-cellent establishment (it had to be done!). Walking in we are greeted with american diner style booths and dim lighting with the walls laden with graffiti. We like it already.

Once seated we couldn’t help but look around us to see what others were eating and what was coming out of the kitchen. You can tell the dishes are lovingly prepared and attention to detail is key. We settled upon Poached Eggs and Gaucamole on Sourdough and the Breakfast Tacos. For drinks its had to be tea (TeaPigs of course!). The Poached egg is as it should be, round and soft with a runny yolk centre. The gaucamole was fresh and you can tell it has been made on site and not from a shipped-in box. The Breakfast tacos were also delicious. Creamy scrambled eggs mixed with gaucamole, chipotle and  sour cream nestled on top of three mini soft tortillas. No knife and fork required – two bites and they were gone! I think 3 may be too little, perhaps a 4th would satisfy the stomach. The all day diner aspect of this place is what really makes sense. You can come at any time of day and have some really good food. They also have a brunch option for the weekends!

We only sampled the breakfast menu but we can say it is somewhere that we will come back to. It’s reasonably priced and worth the visit. Next time we will sample the all day menu as Neil has stated the baked eggs are the champions of the dish. Can’t wait to find out.

Bad Egg
City Point, Unit 1b, 1 Ropemaker St, London EC2Y 9AW

Nopi, Warwick Street, W1B

Yotam Ottolenghi is one of many chefs who we admire immensely here at London’s Dinest. His food, inspired by north African flavours and tastes of his home town of Israel, is full of vibrancy and punchy tones that we just adore.

Nopi, one of four under the Ottolenghi name, is nestled just off Regent St, bordering Soho making it a great spot for all. We had reserved a table (a rarity these days in London) and were greeted by the lovely front of house who showed us to our table right in the middle of the dining room.

The interior of Nopi – think marble, glacial and white. Very slick and clean cut with the only colour coming from the fresh salads on display and the food from the kitchen. Intentional perhaps? It definitely did make us look at our food a whole lot more!

As we had arrived pre-6pm we were given the option to order from their pre-theatre menu. A great option for those who are going onto a show straight after. For us though, we stuck to the a la carte and promptly requested Prosecco whilst we decided what to order.

We opted to share a few dishes to get a real taste of what the menu has to offer. We chose the Burrata with blood orange, coriander seeds & lavender, Roasted aubergine with black garlic, chilli, broad beans, & basil, Courgette & manouri fritters and the Valdeón cheesecake with pickled beetroot, almonds and thyme honey. The Burrata was fresh and light like you would expect and the coriander seeds added some heat which is something we wouldn’t normally expect. The aubergine had a gorgeous smokey taste and we loved the flavours that had been infused. It is served cold but could easily work hot. Up next were the courgette fritters. They were delicious. The Manouri cheese is one we haven’t tried before and It mirrors that of feta but without being too salty, which makes it a perfect partner for the courgette. Finally, the cheesecake. By far our favourite dish. Hot fondue-like cheese bubbling away topped with the almonds to give it a crunch. This has to be one of the best dishes we have sampled in a long time.

All in all our experience at Nopi was excellent. The service was friendly without being too invasive and the food was on point and really showcased flavours that you wouldn’t normally expect. Cookbook purchased, time to try and recreate the Ottolenghi magic at home.

Nopi

21-22 Warwick Street, Soho, W1B 5NE

 

Smoking Goat, Denmark Street, WC2

Entering this dimly lit restaurant you’re welcomed with the lovingly familiar smell of a barbeque. You’d think it was summer but this was a bitterly cold night and the warmth and aromas inside this establishment changed everything. There’s a lot been said about Smoking Goat and we’re very glad to tell you it’s all credible.

The theme is Thai and the overtone is barbecue; two things we have no issues with. We were lucky enough to meet Ben Chapman who is the chef and co-partner of Smoking Goat after asking the waitress about some of the flavours being used. He’s clearly an intelligent guy given the combinations on offer here so we take our hat off. The venue is small and that’s not a bad thing, with a few tables arranged around the bar where there are quite a few stools for informal dining. We also loved the soundtrack on offer and it was clear the place was playing vinyl, we loved that.

The menu is small and it’s safe to say we ordered everything on it that was available. It is divided into ‘Small’ and ‘Wood Grill’ and we started with Coal Roast Scallops & Red Nam Yum, Chilli Wings and the now very famous Fish Sauce Wings. The scallops were cooked perfectly and came in the shell with a red nam yum sauce. It’s not often you drink the sauce out of the shell like you were eating an oyster and wow it packed a punch! The chilli wings were a pretext to the finale which I will mention in a second. These were cooked well and had a crunchy batter which you rarely see. They weren’t oily and again packed a punch. The sauces and opportunities to dip all items in high class ingredients changed the way you thought about the food here; the dish is as good as the sauce that accompanies it. Now for the fish sauce wings. These are hands down our favourite wings eaten to date. They echo the sentiments earlier about the chilli wings however took it up a fair few notches with the fish sauce incorporated in a glaze. These are outstanding and it’s easy to see why these sold out later on in the evening.

Next up were the lamb ribs. Another rarity on a menu but one we’d quite happily eat again. These are smoked and basted with fermented shrimp, chilli and palm sugar. Just reading those ingredients again show you the level of complexity in the flavours on offer here. These were excellent and we were tempted to order more when the duck legs came out. These are slow roasted and marinated with galangal, lemongrass & kaffir then basted with ketjap manis & white pepper. For those wondering, ketjap manis is an Indonesian soy sauce – it’s a bit thicker and slightly sweeter. These, again, were fantastic. It’s not often you get duck served up like this and they didn’t last long at all. The lamb ribs and the duck legs are both served with papaya salad (som tam) and sticky rice. The som tam has a lot of chilli so be warned! However what a vibrant dish to accompany a meal. The sticky rice in our eyes was there just to mop up the leftover sauces and juices, which makes sense! For drinks we had a bold bottle of red and it mixed well with the strong flavours on offer.

Smoking Goat is a Thai barbecue feast. Be prepared to get your shirt to get splattered with an array of sauces and know that your fingers will get finger-licking messy. Served up is some of the best Asian flavours around and you’d be hard pressed to find more intelligent cooking. There’s no phone and there’s no bookings so come hungry and arrive early.

 

Smoking Goat

7 Denmark Street, Soho, WC2

The Jones Family Project, Great Eastern Street, EC2A



We’d heard about this place for a while and it was a relief to finally make it recently. When you see the words ‘Steak’ ‘Bar’ and ‘Grill’ we are always interested over here at London’s Dinest and we weren’t disappointed. Recommended by many, it’s not hard to miss The Jones Family Project but if you’re having difficulties it’s opposite the Hoxton Hotel!

Once we’d arrived at the restaurant we were greeted by a friendly waitress (always a good thing if there’s no wait for this; there wasn’t). We were told we could have some drinks while our table became ready as we hadn’t reserved. The bar upstairs isn’t the biggest but it is a beauty. Dark walls, friendly staff and a lovely bar. The cocktail menu here is pretty extensive so make sure you have a look through the entire menu before ordering! We went for a couple of Diplomatico Old Fashioneds and some champagne cocktails, all were lovely. It wasn’t long before our table was ready so we headed downstairs to the lively restaurant.

Steak is relatively simple to describe and here it comes from their Josper charcoal oven. The meat is sourced from the famous Ginger Pig and we have no complaints when it comes to that. The seafood menu changes constantly and once we heard of the salmon special it wasn’t long before we’d ordered our meals. To start we had the Jones’ charcuterie board spiced crispy squid and the Jones’ fillet steak tartare, both of which were excellent. The steak tartare especially was one of the finest we’ve eaten in a fairly long time. The squid had a lovely kick to it and the bitter lime hints added to a lovely start.

For mains there was a rib eye steak, the salmon special and a chuck burger topped with slow-cooked oxtail. These three were big hitters and we’d have happily eaten more had we not been so full. Accompanying these were truffled macaroni cheese and some greens. The former of these was quite easily one of the best we’ve had as a side dish – it could easily be a main dish on its own. The steak was cooked perfectly, the burger would be at home in any burger restaurant and the salmon was fantastic. The staff here are really friendly and it’s great to see a big wine list accompanying such a great menu.

Unfortunately this time we had no room for dessert but we can imagine they are great. If you’re looking for a lively restaurant that’s a lot of fun with excellent food to match then head on over.

The Jones Family Project
76 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3JL