The area around Moorgate used to be a wasteland of restaurants and bars. Trust me, I worked there for many years. In the old days, your only option for a nice business lunch was Eyre Brothers on Leonard Street or walking all the way over to The Hoxton Hotel. But now South Place has a posh hotel and a new office building and now they’ve got The Kitty Hawk too. The Kitty Hawk bills itself as the “department store of dining.” I’d like to talk to the person/team who came up with this because I don’t entirely get it but I get that it’s a clever marketing ploy so there’s that.
Cook Sister and I were looking for a place for dinner in the city and The Kitty Hawk fit the bill. New, flashy, full of city types on a Friday night. Just like, uh, us.
We had a table downstairs in the spacious formal dining room, tucked into a corner with no one around us. Very bright spot-lighting compensated for the fairly low venue lighting, and the tables were beautifully set. (Almost perhaps too set as it took the staff a few minutes to clear the table once we placed our order.)
We decided to start our meal with steak tartare because that’s the kind of gals we are. I recommend doing the same just for the table-side display. Yup, I’m a sucker for waitstaff preparing my steak tartare for me. We enjoyed this, deeply so. It was a very generous portion and in hindsight, we should have asked for more toast, given how generous a portion it was.
The Kitty Hawk bills itself on its steaks and seafood. We opted for the 10 oz ribeye, medium, along with chunky chips cooked in beef dripping, a side of mac and cheese, and the tomato salad because really, we needed a veg. All of the beef at The Kitty Hawk is Ashdale beef sourced from Alec Jarrett, a West Country family business, founded in 1926 which uses local farmers to rear the best livestock on open farmland. It is dry-aged for 7-10 days and wet-aged for a further 28, resulting in a 35-day aged, tender British steak. We also ordered some sauces on our server’s recommendation: mushroom and mustard (delicious), along with a chimichurri that wasn’t really a chimichurri. (When we pointed this out, it was removed from our tab.)
Cook Sister and I tucked into everything with gusto while solving all of the Internet’s problems and mapping out a plan for making the millions we deserve. The tomatoes were perhaps the only disappointing part of the meal — they were a tad boring and lackluster in comparison to CHIPS and MAC & CHEESE. In hindsight, I would have ordered mushrooms or root vegetables instead. (I’m never a huge tomato fan in the best of times.)
Our server talked us into the flambe at the end of the meal and boy were we glad he did. It was another table-side display, which I really really am a sucker for. The more I eat, the simpler I want my food to be, so this plate of berries and amaretto cream was absolutely perfect. (OK, I know the very fact that fire is involved makes it more complex. But fire has been around for centuries!)
Service throughout was friendly and fun. We were some of the only customers that evening so we were doted on, in a good way.
The Kitty Hawk is the type of place I wish had been around during my many years working within shouting distances of Moorgate. The bar upstairs makes it a nice place for lunch or a drink during the day (especially in the winter with their fire thing going), and the restaurant downstairs is a convenient venue for a business dinner. Old school table-side displays also make it fun. If you work in the area, it is definitely worth a visit. Note that prices are “business dinner” territory — our ribeye was £31.95 so we split it between the two of us.
The Kitty Hawk provided me with an £80 voucher for dinner. Our total bill for the evening came to £115.48 and we tipped on the full amount.
Min Jiang, why haven’t I visited you before?? Maybe because you are in South Ken and I don’t really go west of Marble Arch BUT I may need to start making some exceptions. Because of you! Where else can I hang out with the South African rugby team (apparently they stay at the Royal Garden Hotel whenever they are in town) AND stuff myself with only two of my most favorite things in the world: dim sum and roast duck!
The views from Min Jiang over Hyde Park were stunning on the day we visited — London at its autumnal finest. In the distance, we could see all of London’s tall buildings. I could have sat in the bar forever, drinking Min Jiang’s excellent Mai Tais, and watching the leaves turn more golden and more brown.
Because the restaurant is a narrow space, it’s hard not to have a table with a view but should you book a table (and you should), make sure to ask for a table by the window because really, the views are that pretty. London, I forget how beautiful you are sometimes. (To be honest, I really don’t forget. But it’s still nice to be reminded.)
We did not choose our own food so you will have to rely on the detailed notes over on London Unattached for a complete list of everything we ate. Fiona very capably got the restaurant staff to point out what was arriving with each dish. I always find it a little odd when restaurants invite people like us in and then don’t provide us with any information about what we’re having and don’t seem to want us to take a menu either.)
Now, although I am slightly scolding Min Jiang for not being as prepared for us social media beings as they should have been, I have to say that I really, really, really loved our slightly omniscient server, who told us later in the meal that he’d been with Min Jiang for five years. He’s a keeper, that one.
As dim sum should be, our lunch started off with a veritable parade of dim sum. Soup dumplings, pot stickers, baked char siew puffs (can’t. stop. eating. them.), and an assortment of steamed dumplings. The highlight for me though was the yam croquette with seafood. I remember asking if it was taro and I could swear someone said yes so is taro yam? I had no idea! (LMGTFY…apparently, taro and yam are not exactly the same.)
While we were very happily demolishing all the dim sum, I kept wondering…where is the duck? What will the duck be like? When is the duck coming?
Our lovely server
And it came, along with a very shy chef who wasn’t too keen on having his photo taken. (That’s our server in the photo.) But suffice it to say the shy chef’s carving skills are excellent. The duck was — as duck is supposed to be — beautiful. Crispy skin, and darkly dark flavors.
While our shy chef was carving up the duck, I watched him take small choice bits that he carved from the neck and set them aside. These were presented to us along with a small bowl of sugar. If you’ve never considered dipping your duck in sugar, YOU REALLY SHOULD. It was pretty amazing. Stick a fork in me, I was done.
But we weren’t done! There was more! Was this one of the best days of my entire life? I wasn’t quite sure, but I was sure that if life on earth had ended at that moment — as it sort of had because the US election and had just happened and now Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States — I would have died a very happy woman. Tiger prawns, a beef dish, and some asparagus with lotus root completed our lunch.
And then they brought us dessert! Flaky egg tarts, cutesy sesame dumplings shaped like mice, and a little dessert wine too.
May all our meals be this delicious, this varied, and this interesting.
I have an idea for restaurants everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, you should do some analysis. How long does your average party of two take up a table? Your average party of four? Your tables that make reservations? Your tables that don’t make reservations? If you do this type of analysis, you will avoid treating your customers poorly.
Like Chick ‘n’ Sours did to me when I popped in at 12:20 pm on a Sunday, hoping for a quick lunch. I knew I’d be in and out in 45 minutes. I know myself well. I don’t know if you can believe this, but I’ve been feeding myself for over 40 years! Unless there was a problem in the kitchen — the restaurant’s fault, not mine — I would be quick. Very quick.
So I walked in off the street and asked for a table at a restaurant that doesn’t really seem like the type of place where you need a booking. I was led downstairs to an empty dining room. I lie. There were maybe two tables seated and it’s a pretty small dining room so it wasn’t empty. The host asked me “Where would you like to sit?”
“Well,” I responded, if you’re not too busy, I’d love a table.” (I prefer not to perch.)
Immediately, she responded. “Well…I don’t know…we have a lot of bookings today…I’ll have to check.”
Restaurants everywhere, don’t ask the question if it’s a false choice. And don’t make a big deal about this if your restaurant is still going to be half empty an hour later when I leave. (And for the record, I’d be the first person to take the bar if the restaurant were full.)
Why do restaurants prefer mysterious unknown **future** business over mysterious unknown business sitting **right in front of them**? Money, I know. But if they did the analysis I suggest, they would not freak out about these situations. I imagine a world in which they instead think, “Ah party of one. She’ll be done in 45 minutes. We’re usually pretty quiet between 12 and 1 pm. We’ll be fine.” I’ll chalk this one up to inexperience and move on.
I liked my fried chicken at Chick ‘n’ Sours (unphotogenic as it was) although maybe the xian xian spice was a little too subtle. I also REALLY liked my fried aubergine. And the wall of print blocks from an old printer in Manchester on the wall. And the light fixtures. Hipster central! And the music! I really liked the fun music.
The Verdict: Go, but make a booking and sit where they tell you to if you want to maximize their utility and forget about your own. Even when they are empty.
Guys, why didn’t we buy flats in Elephant & Castle years ago? We’ve been mocking it all these years BUT…have you been there lately? I think I want to move there. I mean, convenient transport links, a great name, AND a new awesome Italian supermarket with a mostly Italian food court that’s open every day but Monday! Oh, for it to be 2010 again…or maybe 2008 during the financial crisis. Why didn’t I buy property then?? Why???
So yeah, if I lived in Elephant & Castle, I would live at Mercato Metropolitano. It’s like Eataly, but without the bad typography (seriously awful use of white space) and stacks and stacks of panettone. I was about to ask when London was getting its Eataly when I found this article, that says that Mercato Metropolitano was started by one of the founders of Eataly. Oh, and that the Eataly/Selfridges deal has fallen through. So yey for Mercato Metropolitano! Long may it prosper. Maybe if we go there enough, Eataly will finally open a central London foodhall.
After a short walk from Elephant & Castle tube, I entered through MM’s grocery store, which is a long, narrowish space with seemingly no real place to check out except at the entrance. It’s like they really don’t want to take your money! Very odd. I thought for a moment that this was all Mercato Metropolitano had to offer until I made my way to the back yard and into the warehouse behind it. Oddly, a vegetarian stand, a Vietnamese stand, and an Argentinian grill greeted me. This was not what I expected. And there was no coffee…very very odd. (Although there was a little stand with a guy selling Sicilian pastries.)
I turn the corner again, and there it all it. Aha! Now I get it! There is wine and beer and fried things and cheese and more wine and paninis and all sorts of great things. There’s a stand with nothing but tuna! And they have a fat fresh big tuna with eyes so clear he (or she) must have just been plucked out of the Atlantic that morning. (Or well, have been frozen immediately two weeks ago.) They are sawing the tuna open and I peruse the menu while I watch and well, I want to eat everything but I can’t really so now I have to go back.
I order a pizza because…pizza. It’s the Pizza Fresca, which very clearly says that it has salume on it, but yet is also very clearly labeled as vegetarian. The pizza is a hot, bubbly delight although perhaps a little too much crust for my liking. I wish I had some olive oil or something because crust is just a little bleh otherwise. Also, I can confirm that pizza was definitely not vegetarian, unless laboratories worldwide have made amazingly meaty strides with tofu and seitan. It’s a very good pizza though.
I order a wondrously well-priced (5 quid) glass of white in the Enoteca, and snuggle in for a bit in the wooded Tirolean space. The seat covers are sort of like like those wooly rugs you buy at Ikea, but they will look dank and gray and matted in another three months so please, Enoteca, replace them regularly.
I take another wander around Mercato Metropolitano. I love it here. I want to come back. I will come back. It’s a great addition to London.
I was wandering around Shoreditch this past Saturday when it got to be lunch time and guys, it’s been a long since I had one of my old days of wandering. I love wandering around London. Everything is always changing! Curtain Road??!! Who’s been down Curtain Road lately? Can you gentrify gentrification? Because if so, it’s a-happening on Curtain Road.
So I had this idea in my head. I’d go to Tramshed. They’ve been closed lately (a fire?) and I figured I’d check out what’s new at Tramshed. But I never got there because I was walking down Rivington Street when I passed Santo Remedio, the Mexican place, and noticed that IT WAS CLOSED. Which is super sad. Because I liked Santo Remedio and I would have gone back for some tacos. Social media says they closed because of things outside of their control. What does that mean?? Stingy landlord? Council problems? In the absence of information, people start to make things up, don’t they? I was imagining all sorts of worst-case scenarios.
Santo Remedio wasn’t the reason why I never got to Tramshed, though. (Although I did stand there for a bit, wondering.) The reason why I never got to Tramshed was a guy named Munur, who was standing in the doorway next to Santo Remedio while I looked at the menu for a new looking place I was pretty sure was not there a month ago.
“We just opened three weeks ago,” he told me, and then launched into a very thorough explanation of all things Popolo.
“Great! Honestly, you don’t have to convince me! I’ll come in!” I said, as I took a place at the counter. (Cement counter, interestingly enough. Sorry, I notice these things.)
I was quickly introduced to everyone within eyesight. We talked about Santo Remedio. We talked about Instagrammers with 90,000 followers. (12 years people! 12 years and all I have is 900 Instagram followers!) I went back and forth on what I wanted for lunch. Pasta? More pasta? I’d just been to Italy! I’d just eaten at Frescobaldi! Who cares? I wanted more pasta. Butternut squash and sage ravioli, thank you. Also, did you say anchovy something? I’ll take that too. Perfect.
The squash ravioli, warm, comforting, autumnal.
The anchovy something (sorry), green, bitter (in a good way), and anchovy (in a very good way).
Delicious. Throughout, Tony the Spanish Bulgarian was there for everything I needed. Including that second glass of white wine, which I probably didn’t need.
And then…after I pretty much told everyone in the entire Popolo how much I did not like grouse, they brought me — surprise! — grouse cappelletti. And it was good. It was very good. Life was good. Popolo was very good. Shoreditch was good. And maybe I’m okay with grouse now. As long as it’s wrapped in pasta.
And no, I didn’t tell them that maybe their name was a little too close to Polpo. I thought about doing it. But I didn’t. And then my friend Lee told me she saw I was at Polpo earlier and I thought again about telling Popolo their name was too close to Polpo. But you know, choices people.
The Verdict: Go. And go soon! I think you will like it.
After a summer of working, working, working — where do the days go, my friends? — I am finally free for a bit. Hence my trips to Thailand and Venice, and hence my leisurely lunch with my friend John last Friday at Ristorante Frescobaldi off of Regent Street. Because you know, I haven’t eaten enough Italian food lately. Oh my goodness, the carbs.
John and I both made the same mistake at Frescobaldi — we tried to enter the restaurant from a corner of the building that is definitely not the entrance. So scan carefully as you approach. The entrance doesn’t seem to be where you might think it is. But once inside, everything is exactly where you’d expect it to be and THE CHAIRS. The chairs are amazing. I am immediately distracted by the chairs, they are so beautiful. Tables are spaced, well, spaciously, and you really get to see the chairs, which look Danish in their form. I spent a lot of time eyeing the chairs at Frescobaldi.
While I waited for John, I tried to order tap water. I tried three times before they actually brought me tap water and not bottled still water. I’m not into the miles or the price on bottled water when London tap water is totally a-ok.
The lunch special! That’s why we’re here. 25 quid for two courses from the very succinct lunch menu. Some lovely, lovely beef carpaccio for me to start…soft and delicious. And then the autumnal tagliatelle with mushrooms which I swear got more autumnal with every bite. Every bite. Many carbs were consumed — i.e., the entire bread basket — in making sure that tagliatelle plate was clean before it was returned to the kitchen. This was all washed down with a very affordable bottle of Frescobaldi’s own attractively-priced Chardonnay, a bottle that never seemed to end. Either that, or I am losing my ability to make half a bottle of Chardonnay magically disappear.
For a Friday afternoon, Frescobaldi was strangely empty during our visit. With the exception of the “Tap Water Incident,” service was prompt and friendly, although don’t mention Monica Lewinsky to them. (I, for one, am a fan of her anti-bullying agenda.) Ah…strangely amazing was the array of candy that was delivered to our table at the end of our meal. It’s like someone had run down to Sainsbury’s and picked up all the Halloween Candy they could. We ate it all, plus the homemade mini meringues and biscotti. I stumbled out of Frescobaldi in a glassy-eyed sugar coma. (John’s words, not mine.) Fascinating.
The Verdict: I like it here. I like the space, I like the chairs, I like the food, I like the wine, and I like the service. I don’t understand why there weren’t more people there. You should go.