Saturday, 12 September 2009

Friday Night in Soho - Yalla Yalla and Jrink

When I close the office door behind me on a Friday evening and burst out on to the streets of central London, the feeling of relief of not having to return to work for a whole 72 hours is always a liberating one.

London is great in late September. The sun is still shining, the air is still warm and the evenings are still light.

I stopped off at Office in Covent Garden and bought a lovely pair of black boots (oops, naughty) before meeting some friends for drinks.

When I asked around the office for a good cocktail bar in Soho someone said try Jrink. It’s at the top of Frith Street near Arbutus. Just £4 for cocktails at happy hour between 5pm and 8pm and it wasn't ridiculously busy like most bars on a Friday night. We knocked back some rasberry Mojiots in quick succession.

The night's mission was all about visiting the new Beirut street cafe Yalla Yalla. Since receiving a glowing write up in the Metro and and similar praise from Charmaine Mok in Time Out, it's been hard to get a table.

Down an alley of sex shops, Yalla Yalla makes for a wholesome contrast. We didn’t realise it was quite so cosy.

There's just a handful of seating, dotted around, in front of a counter laden with baklava, pickled chilli and Lebanese pastries.

If you're after a boozy Friday night, this probably isn’t the place for you, but for a homely lunch or afternoon catch up with a friend or two it's perfect.

Yalla Yalla is snug and inviting and serves up simple but tasty Middle Eastern treats. We had babah ghannouj, hummus and fattoush salad followed by a mixed meat grill and moussaka with rice, and flat bread that lived up to its name wonderfully, eg. very flat!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Apsleys - A Heinz Beck Restaurant Opens in London

Last night, I tested out the newly re-opened Apsley's restaurant at the London's 5 star Lanesborough Hotel.

Past the lobby's ornate flower arrangements, statues and plush carpets, we entered the dining room to find a scene reminiscent of London in the 1920s.

Three glistening chandeliers hung from the glass-roofed ceiling of the two-tiered Art Deco dining space (tip: if you like people gazing, request a table on the top level).

Charming waiters floated around us effortlessly bringing us foccacia, homemade bread sticks and olive bread, which we dipped into a choice of two olive oils along with some coarse and incredibly strong tasting salt that we were advised by the waiter was originally used by the Romans.

Triple Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck has devised the new "light Mediterranean menu", and while he's not around executive chef Massimiliano Blasone will head up the team.

Best dishes included perfectly al dente rabbit ravioli with asparagus and pistachio and potato gnocchi in shellfish broth.

A sommelier chose all of mine and my pal's wines, pairing us something different with each dish and each one was spot on.

Fergus O'Sullivan gave it a pretty crap write up in today's London Paper which I thought was a bit harsh!

London Paper verdict:
Food - 4 stars
Vibe - 3 stars
Service - 1 star
Veggie choice - 2 star

He said "staff scurry around with crumb catchers and constantly ask if you're enjoying the meal".

I found the staff to be a complete pleasure and despite the huge size of the dining room, everything worked like clockwork and every waiter was busy at all times looking after customers needs. In my opinion attentivness is part of what you're paying for in a fine dining restaurant, no?

And yes, it was on the expensive side Fergus, but for a one-off special occasion and to sample Heinz Beck's fabulous food I would say worth it.

Ps. Image is of our very lovely amuse bouche.

Apsleys - A Heinz Beck Restaurant on