Tag Archives: Lunch menu


18 Feb

Don’t you just love it when someone buys you a present and they then doubt themselves and then overcompensate with additional gifts? Well, sometimes I love it. Often it means receiving some body cream I will never use or a spotty notebook I will too embarrassed to be seen out with. However, it can work out. For Christmas my sister bought me a couple of great gifts, the mother of these being Thor on DVD (this is not a joke (I really like this film (I LOVE Thor))) and after much worrying she decided to treat me to lunch at Market in Camden to make up for it. I don’t mean a dodgy Chinese where the meat is more likely cat or human than pork from Camden Market, but a small restaurant on Parkway serving modern British fare with seasonal produce. At £10 for two courses during lunch times on a weekday, this was some rather inspired work from my sister (also known as Liza) – a restaurant I most definitely wanted to visit for the price of some utterly forgettable consolation present.

On a crisp day in January Liza and I joined forces on our matching day off and from different parts of London we headed into Camden, colliding outside the tube station. This is not entirely accurate as I was early and Liza was late and I had to wait, biding my time by painting my nails with all the tester bottles of nail varnish in American Apparel. The girl in the shop did not find me annoying at all, just like I wasn’t finding Liza’s inconsiderate tardiness increasingly frustrating. Because we are sisters I was very understanding when she finally decided to turn up 10 minutes later than originally arranged.

When we walked into Market a member of staff did that disconcerting thing of looking worried while scanning the room as a result of saying we had not booked a table. Now answer me this, why does this sort of response only happen when the restaurant is at most a quarter full and at a time where it won’t get much busier? This is not a criticism on the place because it seems to happen everywhere so there must be a reason. Right? So anyway, once she had found an empty table (if it were a competition, I would have won) we sat down and were promptly given the menus. My eyes went straight to the £10 deal at the top but it took a little longer for Liza to understand. I think because she didn’t want to give up on the idea of having absolutely everything on the main menu. Soz Lize, it is your own restrictions holding you back.

As there were two options per course I decided to order the opposite of whatever Liza ordered which meant that although I had to go for the cauliflower fritters, I did get to order the linguine with chorizo as Liza inexplicably went for the grilled chicken breast. As soon as they took our menus away she knew it was a mistake and I believe she was in a state of confusion for the rest of the meal. Imagine what she’d be like if she didn’t have someone like me to look up to? Eating cauliflower fritters as well as chicken breast I’d imagine.

We waited quite a while for starters. I didn’t mind so much as Market really is a nice restaurant to sit in. Cool, bright and casual and our table was placed in great viewing distance of the kitchen pass. This did mean that I received a constant reprimanding from Liza as I seemed to be concentrating on my food arriving more than our conversation. But it is so tantalising when you are so hungry and you see your cauliflower fritters that you were never that excited about waiting at the pass for ten minutes while your sister’s starter is sent to the wrong table. It all ironed itself out in the end and my fritters which were just a bit cold were finally put in front of me.

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed them. Despite their temperature they were crispy and light and the creamy mayo went very well with it. The mayo was especially delicious, being all genuine and olive oily. I was gross and ate the remainder out of the pot using my finger once I had run out of dipping appendages. Another surprise was how much the sprinkling of paprika really livened up the dish. Cauliflower seems to have such a bad rep as being the most boring vegetable in the world, but come to think of it, I really like it. I think I had been swayed by the opinions of others when I should have stayed true to myself. I love it when a meal leads to a moral lesson.

Liza’s starter was mushrooms on toast. Even with my new found love for the flower we call cauli, I cannot deny that Liza won the starter round. The mushrooms were rich, earthy and almost boozy in taste and the toast was crispy and possibly fried in the same pan as the mushrooms. It was so simple yet so ridiculously good – I like it when that happens. But I mostly like it when it is my starter and not someone else’s.

Despite the long wait for our first course, the main dish followed shortly after the starters were cleared away. This was good because I was still very hungry, my cauliflower fritters having opened my hunger gates even further rather than closing them. Luckily my relationship with pasta is that it takes very little to fill me up. Once Liza and I went to Florence together and we found a restaurant that sold spaghetti and nothing but spaghetti and that was wonderful. Not wonderful were the sporadic opening times that made no sense but we managed to eat there three times in 4 days. I tell you this because I think it important that you have an idea of how important pasta is to us.

This linguine with tomato and chorizo went down very well. As predicted, I filled up pretty quickly but it was so moreish I managed to finish the lot. The sauce was creamier than expected with a strong tomato flavour and a nice spicy kick from the chorizo. It wasn’t groundbreaking but it is the kind of pasta dish I wish I made at home rather than the usual dollop of pesto from a jar. I wish I had the foresight to keep some of the sourdough given to us at the beginning of the meal to wipe up the rest of the sauce.

I believe Liza was jealous, but as I have already explained, she only had herself to blame. Her chicken was nice though and it came with some wonderful crispy fried potatoes. When trying each others meals I think I was a little greedy with her spuds which I do feel bad about but it was a meal gifted to me so I don’t feel that bad. There was a bale of rocket on top of the chicken which was tasty but aesthetically it made my inevitably terrible photo look even worse. So that is my excuse.

I think you can deduce that for £10 this was a pretty successful meal. It really is astonishingly good value, especially in a place which is surprisingly devoid of good eateries. We decided not spend extra on pudding in favour of doing a bit of shopping and finally ending our day at Yumchaa for a nice cup of Earl Grey for me and a less nice cup of mulled tea for Liza which just tasted of mulled water. The banana and nutella bread was an excellent addition.

So I think it is only right that after Liza’s initial doubts that Thor on DVD would not be adequate present enough I should provide her with some words of thanks and support: Thank you Liza, for a delicious meal and your time and don’t stop doubting yourself for then you will never let me down.

Market Restaurant
43 Parkway
London, NW1 7PN

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

28 May

On my 22nd birthday my friend Frances took me to lunch at the Dorchester. We had a great time, we ate lots of food and we drank many cocktails and a glass of diet coke which cost £4.50. When I went to work the next day three different people informed me that Alain Ducasse was responsible for my meal. I wasn’t convinced, but as I knew I definitely hadn’t eaten at the Grill apparently there was no other option. A few months later Alain won his third Michelin star, and although I had a brilliant time I was most definitely surprised. After a quick visit on the Dorchester website my suspicions were confirmed – I did not eat at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, I just had lunch in the Promenade bit. Ho hum.

However, by this point I was too embarrassed to reveal my discovery and every time Mark asked me about my Ducasse experience I just had to say that I was too drunk to remember (partially true). Mark and I have a mission to eat in every 3 Michelin star restaurant in England. We have already ticked The Fat Duck off our list and Mark has been to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay so I should really have been on a par with him. A couple of days before our reservation at Alain Ducasse I had to break the news to him, and what a relief! And I sort of was on a par with him anyway – me wrongly believing that I had been to Alain’s and his experience at Gordon Ramsay wasn’t that successful as he felt ill on the day and couldn’t eat anything. It is as if our 3 star journey together is meant to be.

We walked past the table Frances and I dined at and were taken through some glass doors to a dining room that screamed THREE STARS.  Our table was tucked away in a corner behind a private dining area which did block my view of the rest of the restaurant, which was a blow as I do enjoy judging my fellow diners. At least we had a moody Australian couple next to us for me to stare at.

I found the lunch menu an absolute delight to read. Lobster ravioli! When do you ever see that particular crustacean on a cheapy menu? I was quick to order that with the lamb to follow and Mark did the same. From that moment on there was never a time where our table didn’t have some food on it. First up was a bowl shaped as a cabbage leaf piled high with balls of cheesy chou pastry. They were hoovered up by our salivating mouths very quickly. The Australians, I noticed, only nibbled on a couple from their bowl, the fools. The bread basket was an absolute marvel with at least seven different types of bread complete with a choice of spreads – unsalted butter, salted butter and cream cheese blended with whipped cream. A couple of months on I am wondering if I dreamed the latter up but Mark confirms that it was true.

The steady flow of edible extras continued with an amuse-bouche. Butternut squash velouté with apple, goats cheese and chestnuts. The little lumps of goat cheese were incredibly soft and melted immediately in the mouth within the piping hot velouté. The apple gave a welcome freshness and the chestnuts provided a comforting chewy texture. The empty cups were removed from our sight and our cockney waiter appeared once more with his basket of bread. He immediately understood what we were all about – taking advantage of all the free food that we possibly could – and decided on his favourite types of bread before loading them up one, two, three on my side plate. The Australians, I noticed, only wanted one bit of bread each.

Finally onto the main event, our lobster ravioli with lemongrass consomme arrived looking beautiful. In an ideal world I would have preferred my lobster ravioli to be served with a beurre noisette or maybe something a bit creamy, but Asian style is what I got. The flavours were punchy and the lobster was fantastically fishy. I am not sure what the red things were but they were pickled, crunchy and delicious. The attractiveness of the dish is what I appreciated the most. Though my dodgy camera phone photo may suggest otherwise, it was a symphony of colour and shapes. Vegetables were carved into unrecognisable forms which was a challenge for my not particularly lively palate, but I think those little balls were carrot (they were orange). The freshness of my starter certainly whet my appetite and I can still clearly remember what it tasted like.

I finished off the cream cheese whipped cream during our quick break between courses. It’s silver container was deceptive in size as it looked as though there were up to five inches of creamy delight, when in reality the bottom of the bowl stopped just an inch below the top.

My main course appeared before I could get too upset. Lamb with baby gem, girolles and these little potato pancake things.

I think you’ll find me simple for saying this… but it really tasted of lamb. Like it really tasted of lamb. The lamb flavour was so intense I still cannot get my head around it. I liked this course a lot. I wasn’t so hot on the idea of baby gem as I thought it might be braised thus soggy, but to my surprise and delight it was grilled and fresh. The potato pancakes were excellent for soaking up the excess lamb sauce. As with the first dish and the amuse-bouche, the variety of textures were spot on.

The desserts were not particularly inspiring. I did have to google what a vacherin was a couple of days before in case I ordered it not knowing what it was and it arrived dripping in amaretto (vom). Turns out it is a bit like a pavlova, or it is a particular kind of cheese. I opted for the rice pudding to be on the safe side. It was nice, though extremely cold. Like all of the courses it looked stunning with tiny cubes of multi-coloured melon scattered on top. Mark went for the vacherin (not of the cheese variety), which was also nice but not particularly memorable.

No, the desserts were nothing special. But little did we know that our adventure in sweet was about to get so much better. Our earl grey teas arrived with a vast array of petit fours.

Working from the front to the back – a selection of chocolates, chocolate covered nuts, an assortment of wrapped toffee and nougat and a compilation of  macaroons.

We ate them all, down to the last chocolate covered nut. The Australians, I noticed, did not.

Many critics believe this restaurant is undeserving of it’s three stars. It wasn’t the greatest meal I have ever had, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think I know where these Michelin inspectors are coming from. If it were my job to eat and judge, I think I would give a star for every extra bit of food that wasn’t included on the menu. Now if the Promenade had offered me that, I would still be none of the wiser that Alain Ducasse was not responsible for my food.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA