Saturday, 31 October 2009

Great British Nosh at The Wharf – Canteen

After years of being a relative dining void (with the exception of course of the marvellous, magical Plateau Restaurant), Canary Wharf is swiftly becoming London's hottest new dining spot.

Jamie's Italian opened this summer to rave reviews. I still haven’t managed to try it as the wait has been over an hour for a table every time I've tried and they run an annoying no bookings policy.

At the other side of 'The Wharf', The Lower East Liquor Bar and Inn has opened next to Goucho serving up American food and cocktails at the riverside.

Now diners are flocking to the Park Pavillion where a medley of restaurants have sprung up on the new spot which overlooks Canada Square.

You can take your pick from the vast bar The Parlour, a new Roka, (those that know and love Roka, Charlotte Street will be salivating at the very thought), Mexican street food café Wahaca is to open imminently and last but not least a new Canteen.

We visited for dinner last Sunday.

Canteen does classic British comfort food well, served in unimposing identikit surroundings (other Canteens can be found at Spitalfields, Baker Street and The Royal Festival Hall).

Canary Wharf's Canteen had a bit of an American feel to it when we visited on Sunday evening. We sat down in a cosy green-carpeted booth in the serene and airy restaurant with glass floor-to-ceiling windows throughout and some chilled out jazz playing in the background.

All the roast dinners had sold out. A good sign!

We ate:

Devilled kidneys on toast
Spiced parsnip soup

Chicken tarragon and walnut salad
Prune, chicken and ale pie with mash and greens.

This was all washed down with a nice bottle of Primitivo Sangiovese and a banoffee pie to finish.Perfect Sunday night comfort eating.

Our only complaint was the banoffee pie had way too much crust (which you practically needed an electric saw to permeate) and not enough banoffee filling. In true American style we piped up and made our banoffee pie feelings known.

Look out for a Canary Wharf Wahaca blog post coming soon.

Canteen Canary Wharf on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Don’t Ask for Dessert at Bocca Di Lupo

I never made it to Bocca di Lupo when it opened in Soho late last year. It's still one of London's most talked about restaurants, most searched for restaurant entries on websites like Time Out, and seems to have been unanimously hailed as the best thing since Italian sliced foccacia by London's food critics.

Needless to say, I have been excited about last night's visit ever since I booked a fortnight ago.

The restaurant was much smaller than I was expecting, with no more than 15 tables in a bright, square dining room topped by a stunning glass panelled circular chandelier and surrounded by peach wall paint. The front section of the restaurant is devoted to a long bar area and downstairs there's a private dining room.

The Good (a mini ramble about watermelon):

The cocktails! I chose a basil and watermelon martini and despite the misleading title (the drink was actually vodka based) this was one of the smoothest tasting wonderfully concocted fruity delights ever to meet my lips. The basil and watermelon were a powerful flavour combination, so perfectly blended that I envisaged a fine figure of a barman poring timelessly over my drink as he measured out the perfect quantities of each ingredient to the exact millimetre, before crushing the watermelon by hand and then sieving the liquid through ice to get it to the optimum temperature.

The Menu: a headache for the indecisive and a treat for any foodie. There are eight sections and every dish is offered as a starter or main. By the side of each option you can read which region of Italy it comes from, or if it's a creation of Bocca di Lupo's chef Jacob Kennedy it is awarded a 'BDL'.

After an hour of discussing our dishes and bugging the waitresses for translations of cotechino (a type of sausage cured on site), orecchiette (pig's ear shaped pasta) and guinciale (bacon made from pig's cheek), we were ready to go in for the kill.

I started with a BDL invention – shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil. It was fresh, zingy and bursting with truffle aromas.

Then I settled for a partridge seeing as it's game season and I've been reading and writing about the damn little birds for over a month now. The meat was juicy and rich and tasted great with side portions of wet polenta with Parmesan; borlotti beans with tomato and basil; caponata (summer vegetables in agrodolce with anchovies); and Romanesco broccoli served with parsley and Parmesan. Ahem, not all just for me of course.

Bocca di Lupo is special. The food has that homely, rustic, good-for-the-soul quality to it as well as the notion that time, love, thought and skill has been invested into each dish.

The Bad:
We didn’t order our food until an hour into our 2 hour and 15 minute slot and so sadly when the waitress put the dessert menus on our table she followed by saying we had come to the end of our time slot and didn't actually have time to order.

So, humph, we left without dessert and moved on to Soho's best-kept drinking secret 23 Romilly Street.

Oh well, next time I'll have to book for dolci and drinks only and finish off what I started.

Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon