Posted by Krista on April 21, 2010
1 Snowden Street
Date of Last Visit: Friday, March 26, 2010
The Victim: Fellow London food and restaurant blogger, the delightful Mathilde of Mathilde’s Cuisine
The Damage: None. This was VERY unexpected. The restaurant decided to comp us (Mathilde, really). We were ready to pay. Expected to pay. But all such offers were declined. You know how I feel about this. So we left a nice tip. The tip was the only damage.
The Background: This is one of the nicest meals I can remember having as of late. Up there with The Loft which was almost exactly a year ago. And remember, as I’m eating all this and thinking that this is the nicest meal ever, I had no idea that I wasn’t going to be paying.
Because I continue to run out of words after all these years, I’m going to try to do this in pictures. Hopefully these photos will convey the beauty of the meal and Francesco Mazzei’s skill and style.
L’Anima bread. I could have had more of this. Was hard not to fill up on it before the dishes started arriving. (Things got off to a pretty slow start, but quickly picked up pace.)
Scallops and ‘stocca fisso’ with peppers & anchovy. I love anchovy more and more with each passing meal. This was a fantastic combination of flavors. Salty.
Borage tortelli with “Famiglia Gottardi’ balsamic vinegar. I’ve been thinking about these plump little pockets for days. The gentleman at the table next to us had a whole plate of them. JEALOUSY.
Wild sea bass with smoked aubergine and jar tomatoes. I loved the smoked aubergine. And the crispy skin on the sea bass. I mean, I loved the whole dish, but the aubergine and the skin were the best parts. And look at those little leaves, scattered around the plate.
Veal tuna. This was particularly lovely and tender. Summer. I like capers. A lot.
Sicilian rabbit, served in an almost Asian-style. (Putting aside the tomatoes, of course.) At this point, I was so full, I couldn’t do justice to this very rich dish. Francesco came out of the kitchen after he saw our returned plates to see if anything was wrong. (Talk about embarrassing.) I did not have the nerve to ask for a doggie bag. But had I know it was possible, I would have.
Lovely sorbets. I thought this was the end. I mean, I know about palate cleansers and all that, but this seemed like a sunny-weather type of end to everything. I was wrong.
Because then the most deliciously light but tremendously rich hazelnut soufflé arrived. Maybe a little too eggy for me, but still absurdly delicious. Ah, L’Anima, I think I’ve lost my heart.
The Verdict: Sadly, Francesco is married. I checked. I’ll still go back though.
Posted in EC2, Italian, London, United Kingdom | 14 Comments
Posted by Krista on March 1, 2010
56 Shoreditch High Street
London E1 6JJ
Date of Last Visit: Friday, January 29th
The Victims: Feathers, Jen, Niculie
The Damage: £10ish each
The Background: On Fridays, if I do go out for lunch, I refuse to go out for a 1 p.m. booking. Because here's what happens. EVERYONE goes out for Friday lunch. At 1 p.m. They sit down, they chat. Maybe they order some drinks. And then they all put their orders in between 1:10 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. which means that the kitchen gets slammed and you don't see your food until at least 1:45 p.m.
If it's a Friday booking, I'll only do 12:45 p.m. Beat the crowd by 15 minutes, you know?
So it was that we found ourselves at Pizza East on the last Friday in January. Promptly at 12:45 p.m. And you know, I didn't expect to like the inside as much as I did. This is a pretty cool space. Check out the front deli area. A little retro modern…
Pizza East is also pretty massive. Caterer Search says that on a busy night, they can do 600 covers. The restaurant seats 200. I don't mind massive, as long as you have a good product. And I think Pizza East is off to a pretty good start in that respect.
Based on some recommendations from the friendly folks on Twitter, I went for the spicy sausage and sprouting broccoli pizza. Liked it. Big time. Except for maybe the too puffy crust. I left a lot of the crust behind. Carbs are evil anyhow. The sausage was spicy, as advertised. But I've never been quite sure what "sprouting" broccoli means so I can't comment there.
The Verdict: I really liked the space at Pizza East. (Sucker for subway tile, sorry.) My one pizza was pretty good too. I'd go back here. Even just to check out the deli and drink some of the "wine on tap" business.
Posted in E1, Italian, London, United Kingdom | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on December 15, 2009
22/23 Trinity Street
Cardiff, CF10 1BH
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, November 28th
The Victims: Craig, Leanne, Brook, Christian, Mark, Natalie
The Damage: About £20 with drinks
The Background: We walked into Piazza Italia in Cardiff, sat down, looked at the menu, and laughed. Now…I’m not saying I don’t like fusion. But this place is called Piazza Italia. Explain please then these items…
Pisetto Di Salmone (I can’t really read the photo–it looks like Pisetto, but I can’t find that word anywhere.)
Breaded marinated filet of salmon with teriyaki sauce on a bed of noodles.
Pan-friend basmati rice with saffron, garlic, wine, diced chicken and tiger shrimps.
Deep fried vegetable spring rolls served with our signature (slightly nutty) cocktail sauce.
The Verdict: I had the crabmeat ravioli in cream sauce. Was tempted to ask for some soy sauce.
Posted in Cardiff, Italian, United Kingdom | 12 Comments
Posted by Krista on April 27, 2009
Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
The Victim: Dad
The Damage: About £80 for the two of us.
The Background: I had high hopes for Bocca di Lupo. And there you go, I've spoiled the whole review already. Because in that one sentence, you can hear the "…but…" can't you? I'm sorry.
It starts out with my dad's observations of life in London, as we exit the #19 bus: "Well, I'll tell you what I've observed about London this trip. People take the bus a lot. And they smoke. And everyone is rolling a suitcase behind them."
Observant, isn't he?
And as we enter Archer Street, the former New York City cop in him tenses up. "This street. Why don't I like this street? I don't like this street."
I have to admit. There were a lot of random people just standing around. Waiting for nothing. It was odd.
But then we entered Bocca di Lupo and everything was fine again.
The Entrance: I really want a seat at the restaurant's "chef's counter." But I'm denied. To the back of the restaurant we go. And you know? It's sort of like being in a hotel restaurant. The decor is nothing special. Also, Bocca di Lupo is smaller than I expected. Maybe 12 tables in the back of the restaurant? Plus the bar seating.
And our table was wobbly. That was annoying, but our very nice server promptly saw to it once I pointed it out and the wobble, for the most part, went away.
The Menu: I like the menu. The menu clearly states where each dish is from, and you can order pretty much any dish in a small or large portion. I like this. Because you know, with my dad in town, I've been eating out for six days straight and I need a little break. Small portions it is.
The Food: Mussels to start. My father is a very predictable man. When I was a kid, we went to Maine for two weeks one summer, where my father took us from one all-you-can-eat mussels house to another. Buckets of mussels. Really, buckets. At Bocca di Lupo, we get a bowl. A very generous bowl.
Now we had just had mussels in Paris the day before at one of those Paris chain restaurants. (Again, my father is a very predictable man.) Those mussels were good, but the Bocca di Lupo mussels are huge in comparison. They're meaty. They're good. They are mussels with celery, tomato and thyme. It's a clean-feeling dish. It's fine.
For me, it's the tortelloni with with spinach and morels. I keep trying to like mushrooms, really I do. But eh. I still don't. The tortelloni are cooked well and the filling is moist but I sorta feel like it's all a little too clean and bland-tasting for me. I need salt. Or something.
For my father, it's a seafood risotto. He says it's nice. Actually, at the time, he says it's just "okay." But then the next day, he keeps saying, "You know that meal last night? Now that was really good." So you never know, I suppose.
For Dessert: We split one–just one–chocolate and marzipan ball–and order some dessert wine from the very well organized wine list. It's a nice ending.
The Loos: Pretty decent.
The Service: Pretty excellent. Really a nice guy.
The Verdict: Eh. I'm on the fence for this review. I liked how interesting the restaurant's menu is. I liked the idea of sitting at the chef's counter. I just wasn't wowed by my food, but given how everyone is salivating over this place, maybe I should give it another chance. Or maybe everyone's just on some hype train that hasn't stopped at my station.
Posted in Italian, London, United Kingdom, W1 | 7 Comments
Posted by Krista on December 3, 2008
66 Great Eastern Street
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
The Victim: Charles
The Damage: £35 for two
The Background: My hot water has been acting up for AGES. It's very inconsistent. Some days, I have hot water. Some days, I don't. At all. And some days, I have something in between.
Luckily for me, I have two things going in my favo(u)r:
1. I used to go camping a lot as a child. Particularly here. Where my parents convinced me I had my own horse. We visited my horse every summer. This ruse worked well, until the summer all the horses disappeared. Yes, insurance reasons. (Brownie, wherever you are, I still love you.)
2. My fair share of time on U.S. Navy Bases. Military showers.
So this is my usual long way of saying I was stuck at home, waiting for the electrician to come fix my boiler.
Now see, I know that an electrician is not going to fix my boiler. He (or she) will fix my timer, some fuses, some electrical things.
But this no hot water thing? I don't think Pete the Electrician can fix it.
And I'm right. He can't. So I've spent the morning at home for nothing.
Well, there is lunch with Charles…
The Entrance: Lena is empty when I enter. Very empty. Except for some workman, still putting the finishing touches on the light and white dining area. They offer me my choice of seats, and in comes Charles, with his VERY fabulous hat. It's like he's Russian. But he's not. (But maybe he is. I didn't ask.)
The Food: Chickpea soup for me. Smoked mozzerella for him. My chickpea soup is…a bunch of chickpeas, in some broth. I honestly feel like someone just opened a can. It's a bit lame.
Then, I got some sort of ragu for my main. That's it in the photo. Maybe it was oxtail. A very creamy oxtail ragu. I don't know. It's all lost. All lost In the memory of the next 24 hours. Because you see, something that day made me ill. Very ill. Me, the stomach of steel. I won't go into details. But suffice it to say, I sat home on Wednesday morning thinking, "Crap, what do I do? I just worked from home yesterday morning so I could wait for the electirican, and now I have to wait for the boilerman this afternoon, but I'm going to call in sick??? Even I wouldn't believe me."
I debated calling the restaurant and talking to them. But having experienced my own fair share of U.K. customer "service," I could imagine their reaction. There was nothing to guarantee the exact cause of my illness. It could be my weak stomach (but really, it is of steel), my breakfast, my dinner (I didn't eat any, just for the record), my something. And besides, I was too ill to call anyone. Plus, I'm a wimp.
So I didn't call anyone. But I did Google what I had for ages and ages. And I learned all sorts of things that you really don't want to know. Really. And then I went to Superdrug.
But I will tell you, although the service at Lena was a little uninformed, it was sweet and responsive.
The Verdict: Umm. I just can't say.
Posted in EC2, Italian, London, United Kingdom | 6 Comments
Posted by Krista on November 6, 2008
201 Liverpool Road
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, November 1, 2008
The Victims: James, Kellie, Feathers, Matt, Julie
The Background: We've been to see the new James Bond. It was good. But just good. This was no Casino Royale. The teachers on sabbatical/lottery line was about the best one. For afterwards, I've made a booking at The Regent, the Islington pizza pub, based on the recomendations of many an Islingtonite.
The Entrance: We are early. And our table is ready! The Regent is nicely packed but not overly so. We are right in front of the jukebox and Matt takes over. We write down our orders on the back of our "Reserved" sign. That works well.
The Salads: The tomato and mozzerella salad is HUGE. And there actually is a lot of salad. I mean the green stuff. My mixed greens is fine, but I don't like the dressing at all. Hmmm.
The Pizzas: Spinach and egg for me. It looks GORGEOUS when it arrives, but I fear the egg has made it overly soggy. Either that, or it just really needed some more time in the wood-burning (nice) oven. It just wasn't very crispy. It was all so very wet. And maybe it was all the popcorn I ate at the cinema (cinema! hah!), but the pizza just wasn't salty enough for me. I am disappointed, so I order another beer.
The Verdict: Out for me. But so many people like the place that I'd give it another shot.
Posted in Italian, London, N1, United Kingdom | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on September 23, 2008
118 Marylebone Lane
Tel: 020 7935 1144
Date of Last Visit: 20 September 2008
The Victims: Jeff, Geoff, Christine
The Damage: Unknown. Jeff paid!
The Background: I was on a roll after my cooking class at Marylebone's L'Atelier des Chefs. Where else could I take a class? (Yes, I have always liked going to school.) A bit of Google-ing turned up La Cucina Caldesi, another London "cookery" school. (I put "cookery" in quotes because in American, we just don't say "cookery.") I would save learning to cook at La Cucina Caldesi for another day, but there was nothing preventing me from eating in one of their two restaurants on a Saturday evening.
The Entrance: I'm a litte on the early side and opt for a glass of Proseco in the downstairs bar area. Jeff arrives shortly afterwards and asks for a glass of something red and "chewy." I admire the antipasto misto platters as we're waiting for Geoff and Christine. Even through I just had a big three-course meal (minus the dessert, more or less), I am starving.
The Starters: We all share an antipasto misto and the calamari. Both are good. The antipasto misto is huge. I'm not sure how they could say this is just for one person.
The Mains: I opt for the special, which is spaghetti with mussels and a little bit of a kick to it. The waiter warns me that it's spicy. It's not! Just mildly so. You English…such virgin tastebuds!
The Conversation: I come clean on my life-long regret: I should never have dropped out of Irish step-dancing lessons.
The Verdict: I like it here. The waiters were charming, Italian-ly so. My food was nice, if not particularly spectacular. It strikes me as a nice neighborhood place. For those of you lucky enough to live in Marylebone.
Posted in Italian, London, United Kingdom, W1 | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on July 18, 2008
91 Brick Lane (entrance on Dray Walk)
Tel: 020 7247 3137
Date of Last Visit: Sunday, July 13
The Victim: Molly
The Damage: £13 each or thereabouts
The Background: Back when I was in college, my friend DeeDee and I (among others) spent a year at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, drinking beer and eating Schnitzel and pretzels.
DeeDee’s friend Molly has just moved to London, so Deed asked me if I could show her around town a bit. We did the usual loop around Spitalfields and then wandered through Brick Lane, stopping at Story Deli for some pizza.
£11 pizza. This seems like a lot.
Interestingly, at 2 p.m. on a Sunday, Story Deli has a bouncer. A big one. But we liked him because he kicked some beer-drinking thugs away from the outdoor tables and got us two seats.
The Food: The pizza at Story Deli is served on something that’s a bit more doughy that Sardinian Carta di Musica, but a lot less doughy that bread. It’s very crispy. This was odd at first, but I got used to it. My pizza was chorizo and rocket…that’s it there in the picture. When I was done with it, I felt like I had eaten a lot of snacks–like breadsticks and some chorizo slices and some buffala mozzerella, but I was still hungry.
The Verdict: I thought this was just okay. I’m not dying to go back. Plus, I felt like my purse would get stolen and at least one homeless person bothered us and someone else asked us to give money to charity. Not while I’m eating, please.
Posted in E1, Italian, London, United Kingdom | 4 Comments
Posted by Krista on July 15, 2008
Cantina del Ponte
36c Shad Thames
Tel 020 7403 5403
Date of Last Visit: Thursday, July 10
The Victims: Melia, Kathrin
The Damage: £63 for three
The Background: Life is funny. For 18 months when I frst moved to London, I lived right around the corner from Cantina del Ponte. But I never went. It’s like now…I can think of one restaurant in the particular that is about 50 meters from my current flat, but I’ve yet to visit. (Nor do I really want to, but that’s another story.)
And you forget sometimes what it’s like to see London through the eyes of someone who is still new to the city. And how great that is. And how much walking is involved.
Melia is working from London for the next two months, so Kathrin and I set out to show her a bit of town. We wandered through Smithfield Market, and then over Millennium Bridge and then along the Thames. It was lovely. (But I did feel bad about the walking. I’m just used to it, I guess.)
The Entrance: Once we got over to Tower Bridge, I figured we might have a problem with dinner as we didn’t really have a booking. We tried The Chophouse, but no dice. And I still hold a grudge against Le Pont de la Tour. So I walked into Cantina del Ponte and wasn’t too optimistic that we could snag a table.
But we did! And outside too. And the bridge went up while we were sitting there, and these two naval vessels sailed through. So all in all, a good show!
The Service: Our initial excitement about snagging a table on the river faded quickly. Because they forgot about us. No menus, nothing. All eyes were on the large table of 10 behind us. There was no multi-tasking.
But then someone spotted us staring longingly at the bread, the wine, all the food going by. He was young, enthusiastic, friendly. And we had his attention for the rest of the evening.
The Food: We kept it simple. Very simple. We all ordered the same thing. Parparadelle with lamb ragout. And it was nice. I would make this at home if I could cook. It wasn’t anything exceptionally interesting. But sometimes, you don’t really need that.
The Loos: I think they can do better.
The Verdict: I think this is a decent sort of place, despite the mixed reviews we read online. Good for a business dinner. And our server is a keeper.
Posted in Italian, London, SE1, United Kingdom | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on June 30, 2008
5-23 Old St
Tel: 020 7689 5626
Date of Last Visit: Wednesday, June 25
The Damage: £5
The Victim: Me
The Background: Sometimes, I forget I'm a foreigner. I had to run home during lunch the other day to grab my passport so I could prove my identity. I was a little weirded out about going home at lunch because the last time I went home at lunch, two guys from the Council were at my building and told me about the rats. Yikes.
But there were no Council guys or rats so I was in and out in a jiffy so I dropped into de Santis for lunch on my way back into the office.
The Entrance: It's just 12, and de Santis is empty. I order pasta with green beans, potatoes, and pesto. The staff walk around for a while as if they're looking for something. I honestly think they were looking for the chef. Never a good sign.
The Food: I brought the pasta back to the office and enjoyed it. For £5, it was pretty high quality. I liked it enough that I actually dropped back in on my way home from work, lured by the promise of free aperitivos. See, de Santis is a Milanese chain, and the Milanese, they love their aperitivos. If you've never had aperitivios before, well, it just means that you get some nice free snacks with your drink. So I figured I'd have some aperitivios while I waited for my food.
But there was a problem. No one wanted to take my order. The staff spent a lot of time going up and down the stairs. And when they did finally take my order, they couldn't understand a word I was saying. Now I know I don't speak the Queen's English, but I speak some pretty decent English. I was reduced to sign language, something that has never happened to me before in this country. Personally, I think they were trying to feign ignorance because they didn't want to give me any aperitivos. Weird.
The Verdict: The food, particularly take-away at lunch, is decently priced. And it doesn't taste bad. But something is wrong with the service.
Posted in EC1, Italian, London, United Kingdom | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on June 19, 2008
18 Brewer Street
Tel: 020 7437 6482
Date of Last Visit: Friday, June 13
The Victim: Me
The Damage: £15
The Background: I love London. I love my blog. I love the people who read my blog in and out of London. I love when I have no plans and all of a sudden, a plan presents itself at the perfect time and the perfect place.
Scott in Tasmania read my Fernandez & Wells post on Friday and left a comment…"Have you gone to see Tony at Lina Stores, down the road in Brewer Street?" Why no, I haven’t! But it sure sounds like I should! So I did.
The Entrance: Lina’s is packed with pasta and vegetables and more pasta and cheese and meats and olive oils and vinegars. It is happy chaos and I fall in love. There’s home made raviolis on the counter so I order some artichoke and some spinach. (If you know the difference between ravioli and tortellioni, let me know.)
The young man serving me talks me into the pesto and the parmasean to go along with it and he is very wise. I don’t know anything about sports, but Italy seemed to be playing while I was there so you can imagine three generations of Italians yelling at the TV while they are packing up my ravioli.
The Verdict: I buy four portions of ravioli and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next few days. I’m serious. I’ll be back many times.
Posted in Italian, London, United Kingdom, W1 | 4 Comments
Posted by Krista on June 13, 2008
Fernandez & Wells
43 Lexington St
Tel: 020 7734 1546
Date of Last Visit: 7 June 2008
The Victim: Me
The Damage: Less than £10?
The Background: I’ve become a compulsive shopper as of late. I really can’t help myself.
I think it’s because I normally go back to the U.S. with two empty suitcases around this time of year and stock up on all sorts of new duds. I don’t, unfortunately, have time for that this summer. So Oxford Street is getting to know me better than ever before. It knew me pretty well, that’s for sure, but I was more a looker than a buyer. Now the AMEX is primed and ready and I own four too many purses than ever before.
The Entrance: I’ve had Fernandez & Wells on my To-Do List ever since I watched the Trusted Places video with Niamh of Eat Like a Girl. A Saturday on Oxford Street provides the perfect excuse.
It’s buzzy when I enter…it’s not big place, maybe just eight stools? Five are full and I pick mine overlooking the cash register. (Photo taken from my stool.) The staff are fun and jovial and pleased to see me, a total stranger. I order a chorizo sandwich and because I got my ass kicked that morning by my personal trainer and it’s just coming up on 3 p.m. (when I think drinkng during the day becomes acceptable), I do treat myself to a sneaky glass of rioja.
The Food: The sandwich arrives in all its crispness and it is fantastic. I want it to go on and on and on. I watch them plate up ham and cheese for other guests, and I wish I was hungrier and/or already thinner so I could join in the fun. In short, I have a lovely sandwich and a lovely time and me and my AMEX are refueled and ready to hit the streets again. Which we do.
The Verdict: Love, love, love Fernandez & Wells. Simple is perfect and perfect is simple. Why haven’t I been here before? I will be back.
Posted in Italian, London, Spanish, United Kingdom, W1 | 7 Comments