Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Short and Sweet? You must be kidding...

"YOUR next blog's going to be about three pages long," a friend said to me, before I went off for my weekend away in London.
"No it won't," I said scowling at the suggestion my blogs were possibly a bit too long and/or self indulgent. "I'll keep it short and sweet."
But, and after this weekend it is a big butt, I can't help go a little overboard in honor of the square meal in the square mile.
I've found that great dining experiences come in cycles. You have a couple of patchy meals out, then you are richly rewarded by three fantastic dinners in a row. Sometimes the only incentive to get you through the bad times - and by that I mean poor food and/or service - is knowing there is a superb meal waiting around the corner.
I guess the more experienced diner you become, the lower the risk of having a truly bad meal, simply because you make more informed decisions.
I had a good feeling about the forthcoming weekend as I tucked into a steaming pile of fish 'n' chips on Friday night. As planned we went to the Great British Eatery at Broadway Plaza, and were not disappointed. It was even tastier than I remembered, the only downside being that I gobbled them up far too quickly.
And on to the big city, where our first meal of note was at Tibits, a new vegetarian restaurant at Westfield London, near to the Shepherd's Bush tube station.
The other half had already eaten at - and raved about - Tibits after a trip to Switzerland, where it originates and after we found out it was branching out in London I couldn't wait to try it.
Part bar, part restaurant, it's sultry interior wouldn't look out of place in an upmarket boutique hotel, with it's William Morris-style wallpaper and dimmed lighting. It's a far cry from the typical veggie haunt and while it's a buffet style set-up, all hot and cold the food have been prepared with flair using quality ingredients. Lots of dishes were Asian influenced with dhals, chickpea salads and crunchy samosas, but there were also flavors of the Med, Middle East and Mexico.
It's costed by weight, and although it's not cheap, you definitely get what you pay for.
The following day we headed to Chandos Place, Covent Garden, where I was dying to try Tommi Miers' Mexican venture Wahaca. I'd heard there's always queues for this place, and even at 2pm on a blustery Sunday afternoon, the hungry hoards were patiently waiting.
But worth the wait it was. Specialising in freshly-cooked street food, served in tapas-sized portions, we delighted in delicious pork pilbil tacos, beef salpicon tostadas and black bean and cheese quesadillas. Sides of spicy slaw, green rice and chips and guacamole were unbearably moorish.
We even managed pud - although it was definitely more through desire than need -, sharing a mound of mango sorbet and then churros with bitter chocolate sauce.
For dinner we headed to old favourite Hummus Bros in Wardour Street where we indulged in piles of creamy hummus, topped with Moroccan meatballs and mashed fava beans, all scooped up with fluffy wholmeal pitta breads.
It's a wonder we had room for the feast that followed during Monday's lunchtime trip to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road.
But by the time we were seated our tummies ached for the bread basket.
We chose the a la carte menu which, along with numerous extra surprises, did not fail to surpass expectation.
My starter of Scottish lobster tails with Charlotte potatoes, creme fraiche, baby squid and watercress vichyssoise was perfectly light while unctuously creamy.
The main course of monkfish tails on chorizo cous-cous, tomato and basil sauce, baby octopus and braised artichokes, was a new dish, the maitre d' told me. Subtlety spiced, it was a beautifully balanced, almost summery dish, and poles apart from the deeply rich Highland venison and roasted squash on the other side of the table.
For pud there was little option but to go for the signature dish of apple tarte tatin.
Served for two, at your table, plates were artistically drizzled with toffee sauce before the generous tarte is served up with vanilla icecream.
It was categorically the best dessert I have tasted; so sweet, rich and buttery, a taste that will linger in my mind forever.
Coffees arrived with a cylinder of dry-ice which, when the lid was released, revealed a row of tiny balls of white chocolate encasing lucious strawberry icecream. There was a plate of mince pies too.
Service was relaxed and without the stuffiness associated with top-flight restaurants.
It was perfect end to a wonderful weekend. My only worry now, apart from the arrival of my credit card bill, is when will the good food bubble burst?


Jim said...

Ah, areal "foodie" weekend, your a Girl after my own heart Emily. :)

I went to the Balti Bazaar last week, don't know if you've been there, it's on the Pershore Rd, heading out of the city just after the bowling alley and before the Morrison's. Bring your own wine. Cheap and cheerful, but really good food.

Emily said...

You know Jim, I haven't been there in a long time. I actually ate my very first proper balti there and have fond memories. I remember it being very spicy, but only because I wasn't accustomed to it! The naan bread were beautiful though and perfect for mopping up that delicious sauce. Maybe I will head back there sometime soon and relive some happy memories.

Jim said...

I hadn't been there before, but some old workmates of mine managed to get a bunch of us together for a reunion. I was very pleased, I had the Razatta, yum yum.