Tag Archives: Sunday Lunch

Savoy Grill

6 Dec

You can often find me in a state of bewilderment and despair over my bank balance. I have no idea where the money goes, and before you say it I don’t seem to have any money even before I manage to sit down at a restaurant. This sorry state of affairs not only affects me but Mark as well as it means his restaurant plans are put on hold until I manage to scrape together a few pennies. However, his impatience often gets the better of him which results in an occassional treat for me.

That is why one nondescript Sunday morning Mark announced he had a treat in store because of my recent good behaviour. I begged him to let me know what it was but he refused and even suggested this treat had nothing to do with food. Because of this I said we may as well leave a bit earlier than he had originally planned so that we could get a quick bite to eat beforehand. We walked around Covent Garden and Soho for about an hour and a half to my cries of ‘I’m tiiiirrreeeeed’ and ‘I want my treaaaaaat’ before we appeared at the front of the Savoy and Mark admitted the treat was indeed something to do with food.

I had wanted to go to the Savoy Grill as soon as it reopened. Despite lacklustre reviews, there is something about the old style dining and vast menu which includes a lunch trolley that appealed to me. I didn’t think Mark was that keen, often using the phrase ‘rip off’ when I mentioned it, but it was clear to me why his views had changed once we were handed over the menus – one a la carte, the other a cheapy weekend menu. I knew which one I would be ordering from (I’m not complaining, it was a lovely treat for Mark to have organised).

We were seated at a table that was considerably higher than our seats which made me feel like a little girl sat in a restaurant for grown ups. Had the chairs been a little higher it is fairly likely I would still feel like a little girl sat in a restaurant for grown ups. The diners were of three sorts. The first and biggest percentage were of the traditional and flashy well off sort, the kind of person I will never be. The second lot were from the school of blue rinse, having the kind of restaurant experience I imagine they had when they were young. The final sort were the dutiful children now in their 30’s treating their mothers to a birthday lunch which the mothers were all dutifully enjoying.

Mark and I both ordered the same starter and main. Bubble and Squeak with Burford Brown Egg and Salt Cured Pigs Cheeks to begin. I know it said ‘salt cured’ but I rather enthusiastically imagined the pigs cheeks to be soft lumps of meat. More fool me, it was just a bit of crispy bacon. I love egg, I love bubble and squeak. I didn’t love this dish so much as it completely lacked seasoning leaving it bland mound of texture.

Running with the theme of pig and potato, our main was Potato and Bacon Pie with Tarragon Cream, French Beans and Shallots. Our beans didn’t arrive until we were half way through our pies. Well, they initially were placed on the table at the same time as our pies but they were swiftly whipped away by a waiter who I assume was the head of our section who snapped at the very friendly waiter who had brought over our food that those greens were not for us. While we ate our pies I watched the greens being carried on a tray around the room by the snappy head of section. I think he did about three laps before he realised they were indeed meant for us.

The pie was a bit of a disappointment. I liked how rich and creamy it was but half of the potatoes were just slightly underdone. Though they were not rock hard it was just not pleasant. The low chairs proved quite of a problem at this point as the pie was served in a high pie dish so our elbows ended up around our ears as we tried to tackle the pastry with our knives and forks.

The dessert list wasn’t that inspiring. I went for Blackberry and Banana Eton Mess because I love banana. It tasted exactly how you would imagine it to. Mark had a Chocolate Fondant which was surprisingly good following the two courses of disappointment. Hot and chocolatey with a very runny centre indeed. Meanwhile I watched a brother and sister look at their bill and gawp at each other, horrified by the price I believe, while Mummy sat looking full and content.

We finished off with some tea and some petit fours which were alright, nothing spesh. Mark paid the bill and we left, taking a Savoy Grill card with us on the way because it looked really cool. We also had a nice time using the toilets and peering through the windows of an overpriced chocolate concession shop. No, it wasn’t the greatest of meals, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a nice time. The Savoy Grill was refurbished with the intention of looking like it originally had I believe, and eating there felt like how it might have been about 50 years ago. I enjoyed this feeling of being stuck in the past and I thought I might bring my mother here in the future because I think she would find it charming and faintly humorous. Though the food was disappointing there is something about the place that makes me want to make a repeat visit. I think it has something to do with that lunch trolley and the lobster bisque I happened to notice on the a la carte menu… Mark, take note.

 

Savoy Grill
Strand City of London
Greater London WC2R 0EU
http://www.gordonramsay.com/thesavoygrill/

 

Advertisements

The Hand & Flowers

18 Apr

March 13th marked a very special day for Mark and I. A first anniversary. It was hard to believe that it was just a year ago that we went to The Fat Duck. Now that is an anniversary worth celebrating, and how better to celebrate this special occasion by consuming good food? This day would also mark the start of an anticipatory week of delicious dining (Alain Ducasse on the Wednesday and lunch at Apsleys on the following Sunday). And before you ask, no, I don’t seem to spend my money on anything else and lunch menus are the only means for me to get by.

As the 13th fell on a Sunday this year we decided we needed to eat at a Sunday Lunch kind of place and The Hand & Flowers fell neatly into that category. Ever since watching Great British Menu I have been salivating over the idea of Tom Kerridge’s roast duck with duck fat chips and their website has the most enticing picture slide show of various dishes that would lure anybody through their front doors.

The Hand & Flowers is all chunky wooden tables and low ceilings but well-lit with natural light. As I had furiously studied their online menu for weeks beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised at a couple of additions, particularly the salt cod scotch egg with red pepper sauce as a starter. Embracing the exhilaration of the risk that comes with spontaneity I went for the scotch egg over my previous decision of veal sweetbread with pearl barley. Mark decided to play it safe and went with his original choices.

Canapés were in the form of deep-fried whitebait with marie rose sauce. I liked these a lot. Sure, they were a bit cold, but they were the most substantial canapés I have ever had and probably the most original. Nothing can beat the taramasalata at Marcus Wareing for sheer incredible tastiness in the canapé league table, but these newspaper wrapped fishy morsels came in at a close second.

Our starters were brought to us by the greatest waitress of all time. She joked and smiled and was completely genuine. We listened in to her chat with the couple next to us who appeared to be as ardently enamoured with her as we were and we discovered that this was just her weekend job and she was currently studying for her A Levels. I don’t know why but that made me love her a little more, probably because some like Bybrook’s nasty little man could learn a thing or twenty from her and no doubt his experience by far exceeds hers.

I seem to have become a little distracted, we were here for the food after all. My scotch egg was nice but Mark definitely won with his veal sweetbread. I tried the sweetbread with closed eyes and I was momentarily confused as I thought I had taken a bite of my egg. It had the consistency and taste of a very rich egg yolk. Uh-mazing.

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be full when my main course arrived. At a first glance the slice of duck breast looked alarmingly small so I was slightly relieved when my chips arrived shortly afterwards.

However, once I had finished thanking the waitress profusely and my gaze was fully concentrated on my plank of food I noticed lots of extra bits hiding. Like a deep-fried ball of rich ground up duck bits. And pieces of duck lurking in the mini pot of creamy cabbage. It was a duck fest! The actual duck breast was really wonderful and it was covered in a delicious sweet sticky glaze. The skin was so so great. As were the chips, especially when dipped in the gravy. And I think my favourite thing about it was how greasy it all was – greasy in the most positive sense of the word in that it just dripped flavour. I felt my arteries clog with every bite, but they understood and they cheered me on when I began to lag: ‘FINISH IT FINISH IT FINISH IT’. I did. Just.

Mark had a venison and beetroot tart. The pastry tasted purely of butter. Marvellous.

My eyes were obviously distracted by the word ‘soufflé’ on the dessert menu so every other option was irrelevant. The lovely waitress confirmed it was a good choice but do be careful of the hot copper pans so I felt doubly pleased with myself.

Apricot in flavour, heaven on the lips. My greed got the better of me and I took a bite before I took a photo. Both Mark and I managed to severely burn ourselves on the copper pans but it was worth it. Mark showed the lovely waitress his burn, looking for sympathy and she made a joke about how men always do exactly what they are told not to do. I didn’t share with her my burn in case she thought less of me.

Petit fours were not included with the tea, we spent an extra £2.50 on those. They were very nice but not as nice as if they had been free. There was a tea list which was great. When confronted with a wine list I always feel intimidated as I know absolutely nothing about wine, but with a tea list I feel at ease even though my knowledge about tea really begins and ends with a builders brew –  incidentally a builders brew was included, to be served in a mug for a mere £1.50. Brilliant.

Highlights of the rest of the meal was witnessing a lady accidentally pour her bowl of soup on to her lap.

The 13th March 2011 was not as exciting or adventurous as the 13th March 2010. But it was really very nice. And hearty, as a good Sunday meal should be. It was certainly a good enough meal for the 13th March to be kept as a special day of culinary delight.

The Hand & Flowers
126 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2BP
http://www.thehandandflowers.co.uk/

St. John Bread & Wine

16 Jan

Working on a Sunday is unnatural. Sundays are made for waking up around midday, staying in your pajamas and eating stodgy meals that will promptly send you into a coma until Monday morning. So imagine my disdain as I sat at my desk on a drizzly Sunday morning in December, fully dressed and with an empty stomach. No matter how many times I repeated ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m starving’ I still felt as if I wasn’t getting my point across, so it was with some surprise that I heard my boyfriend ask ‘Do you think we should go to St John Bread & Wine after work?’ Naturally I leapt at the opportunity and my protestations of hunger became optimistic as I anticipated my upcoming meal.

By the time we arrived we had about 10 minutes to decide what to eat before the kitchen closed at the end of lunch service. Luckily I had obsessively perused the menu before we left so I already had certain expectations of what I would be eating. I went for a glass of cheeky white as well, only because I didn’t notice the red wine list on the back of the menu.

We gratefully scoffed the bread provided as we both ordered a main course that would take 40 minutes to prepare which meant that our starter also arrived later in order to shorten the gap in between courses. I am a big fan of bread from St John – it pops up in restaurants everywhere, probably because it is so nice. While we tucked into the freshly baked goods we chatted about the difference between black pudding and blood pudding as our impending starter consisted of the latter and a poached duck egg. Based on our one experience of blood pudding at The Fat Duck I deduced that it would be soft and red, though I was fully aware that our previous taste of it may not necessarily bear any resemblance to the original product. However, my prediction was right. It was a musky red colour and was rich with fatty flavour. The egg was just cooked so that the yolk coated every bite with eggy glaze.

Although there were few diners left at this point, the restaurant surroundings are relaxed and small enough to encourage conversation. Although, it did mean that the group of yummy mummies with rich husbands and screaming kids in tow were just that little bit too close making gaps between courses just that little bit painful. However, once our mains had arrived we were able to divert our concentration on to the food in front of us. We both went for Mallard which came with a beautifully crisp salty skin. The meat is richer than your average duck and metallic with iron in a very pleasant way. Some of it was incredibly tender and melted away in the mouth, yet some of it was very chewy and a bit of a chore to masticate. It was while I was munching away on a particularly tough bit that I nearly broke my tooth on a bit of shot. This made me very excited because of the good luck that apparently comes with finding shot in your mouth – a tasty pudding maybe? Or perhaps the screaming kids to magically disappear?

We were re-presented with the menu and I was immediately enamoured with the idea of rice pudding with quince jam. My belief is that rice pudding can’t ever be bad. Whether it comes from a tin, from a school dinner tray or Gordon Ramsay’s oven my taste buds are always guaranteed that they will have a good time. A somewhat signature pud of St John are the madeleines that come in either a full or half-dozen, so to avoid missing out on anything I encouraged my boyfriend to order them.

The rice pudding arrived school dinner style – at room temperature and with a generous dollop of jam in the middle. Of course I enjoyed it, though I found the jam to be a bit sickly sweet. The madeleines were warm, soft and comforting, though after a couple just a little bit on the dry side and slipping on the flavour excitement scale… the jam, however, made a wonderful accompaniment which brought them up a notch. My good luck from the shot was fulfilled though the children still screamed and had taken to running round the tables in a frenzied manner.

We left St John Bread & Wine full and with our earlier shift at work almost eradicated from our minds. Stepping out into the rain and the ice would have been a sad parting if it weren’t for the fading cries from the bored children that I contentedly left behind.

St John Bread & Wine
94 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ
http://www.stjohnbreadandwine.com/

The Florence – Herne Hill

16 Dec

Last week it was a friend’s birthday and this friend thought that the best way to celebrate this birthday would be to eat food. I like the way you think, I thought, as I received an email inviting me to join her at The Florence for a nice bit of pub grub. So with that I found myself on Sunday afternoon in Herne Hill opening the door of The Prince Regent and wondering why I couldn’t see her sat anywhere (just a small example of my poor sense of direction). Waving goodbye to the drunk man sat outside I walked further down the road to be greeted by a far more personable kind of pub – flattering lighting and attractive people in their early 30s. It still took a lap and a half round the room and a scouring of a sort of family communal eating area before I managed to find the birthday girl – hello!

I settled down by a radiator and a waitress quickly took my drink order. With the promise of some home-brewed beer I demanded that she bring me a pint. She informed me that they brewed some ale called Weasel. Or Beaver. I don’t remember. Not because I drank too much of it, no. There is something about ale that means I find it near impossible to finish a glass. I enjoy drinking it but it seems to take on the quality of a magical bottomless drink so that after an hour I am left with three quarters of a glass of luke warm amber liquid. I’ll take three generous gulps and yet it doesn’t seem to make a difference – the cup will always be three quarters full. So I just don’t remember the name because I forgot to remember it.

The menu had a selection of roast meats on offer. Usually I would aim for something that was once a cow and would potentially arrive on my plate rare and oozing blood. But something else caught my eye. Something too good to turn down. Those magic words – BREAD SAUCE. Like a souffle or lobster bisque, if bread sauce is on the menu I have to order it. I know it is isn’t even the main part of the dish but when something can be as comforting and delicious as bread sauce always is, who cares? So the fact that it came with roast chicken was a non issue. I rarely see the point of ordering chicken when the other meats on offer are generally far more exciting, but with bread sauce it would be like opening the doors to Narnia in my mouth.

The food arrived quite quickly. I had a yorkshire pudding about the size of my head balancing precariously on the top of my plate. Good start so far. As soon as I could get a hold of it I took the yorkshire in one hand looked for the bread sauce. There was a rather disconcerting lump of dry crumbs and onion lurking in the corner of the plate – although definitely made out of bread there was a distinct lack of sauce like quality to it. Holding back tears I realised this was my lot. Emitting loud sighs I ate my yorkshire like I would an apple while I prodded at the mound of dry with a fork. When I finally brought myself round to trying it I was pleased with the flavour, but the missing wet did mean that I was unable to enjoy it as I should.

The real winner of this dish was the chicken. They gave me a portion which I struggled to finish (always a win in my book) and it was moist allllll the way through. Despite it being under seasoned, the meat was full of flavour and tender.

Never one to turn down a pudding I was ready to order some apple and blackberry crumble with custard but everyone else seemed to be ordering coffee or putting on their coats and leaving. Not to risk feeling self-conscious by stuffing my face and probably making odd groaning sounds, my boyfriend and I decided to head off in search of another dessert. We went to Gail’s in Clapham Junction which sells the best chocolate chip cookies this world has ever seen. Rather than go with the familiar, we spent £7 on a coconut and chocolate loaf cake. Accompanied by a nice hot mug of tea it didn’t stop being as dry as the proverbial bone and nothing could wash away the overriding taste of sugar. At least the tea was good.

If I have learnt anything about the Sunday just past it is not to order a dish just because bread sauce is part of it. Saying that, old habits die hard. I can’t ever imagine changing my ways.

The Florence
131-133 Dulwich Road London SE24 0NG
http://www.capitalpubcompany.com/the-florence/