Skygarden: Fenchurch Street

The newly-opened Skygarden is Europe’s highest garden space, located at the top of the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street at the city end of London. It’s free to go up so why not?! We headed over on a cold but sunny Saturday to have a look, just in time for sunset. You have to book your slot on the website (below), and come at the specified time with photo ID, and either a printout or the original confirmation on your phone – not a screenshot as I discovered!

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There’s tight security at the bottom; they don’t let you take any drinks or anything up and they wont let you store them at the bottom. We had a bottle of rum (for a party later – we don’t walk around town with bottles of spirits) that had to be dumped unfortunately!

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There are two restaurants up there, one brasserie and one seafood, we didn’t go in either, but it seems like the best views are to be had from the bar and surrounding areas. You can walk around the perimeter of the 35th floor which offers stunning views of the Shard, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Thames, Tower Bridge, and pretty much everything else in London – you really can see for miles, and it’s gorgeous. We were lucky with the timing and weather though, I imagine it’s less good if it’s chucking it down.

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Sky5

After wondering around for a while we sat down in the bar for some drinks – although it’s less a bar and more a collection of tables in the middle of an enormous greenhouse. My hangover limited me to a beer, which went down a treat and prices are standard pub prices which was a nice surprise.

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Sky6

If you’re after a romantic or cosy atmosphere it’s probably not the right place; it feels a bit like an airport and it’s pretty cold, but I imagine it will host some spectacular corporate events. In the meantime it’s great for people watching and the ideal place for a sunset aperitif if you’re heading on somewhere else afterwards.

http://skygarden.london/

Babaji: Shaftesbury Avenue

Babaji is the latest venture from Alan Yau of Hakkasan and Wagamama fame, and is a departure from his usual top-notch Asian fare. Alan’s wife is Turkish so the connection is there, and Babaji aims to deliver no fuss, good quality food in the heart of the West End on Shaftesbury Ave, spitting distance from Les Mis.

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Turning up on a Sunday afternoon we were faced with a queue (they don’t take bookings) which had me very close to hopping over the road to grab a Chinese instead – I don’t have any patience for queuing outside restaurants. However a very sweet and smiley waiter came and promised us it was only 15 minutes and there was a large, powerful heater on the wall so let’s give it a chance.

On being seated and going over the menu, it looked great – divided into Pide (Turkish pizza), grills and meze, we went for one pide and 4 meze dishes to share, changing a couple of times when the first 3 things we asked for weren’t available – no mention of this when being given the menus.

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Karides guvec was a dish of baked prawns with peppers, tomatoes and cheese, very good. I love borek, and this one was short on filling but the filo was crispy and perfectly browned. The samphire was unexpectedly cold, but lemony and salty and went well with the other dishes.

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Our third choice of pide was the Afyon – beef sucuk with kasar cheese, which was a mildly spicy beef sausage – somewhere between salami and a frankfurter, with a generous amount of cheese. Freshly baked in the huge oven, the pides are delicious. We followed up with some lethal Turkish coffees which were delicious – strong, thick and sweet, the perfect end.

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Small issues in general included no sign of toilet roll in any of the cubicles, half the menu missing as mentioned and the first 20 minutes of our meal was accompanied by a medley of howling children – not their fault but it ruins the atmosphere somewhat. All in all, lovely food, sweet staff, great location and just a couple of things that I’m sure they’ll sort out. Would go back.

http://www.babaji.com.tr/ 

Square Meal

Babaji on Urbanspoon

Lazy brunch: butternut rostis with bacon and poached eggs

In my house bacon and eggs are more often than not a prerequisite for weekend breakfast, and why not indeed. Salty, crispy smoked bacon dipped in runny yolk, on a soft, chewy bagel or hot buttered toast – heaven. But the time does come to mix things up a bit,  so on a raging hangover after my work Christmas party last weekend (weird I know but I work for a restaurant and we can’t close for a night in December, we’d all get shot) I decided it would be good to replace bread with sweet potato cake/rosti affair. Bit more nutritious, gluten-free if you’re into that sort of thing and just a bit of a change. Unfortunately my odd little shop didn’t have any sweet potatoes but had a shelf with about 400 butternut squashes, so there we go.

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So for 2 people start with: 1 medium squash, 4/6 rashers decent smoked bacon, 2 large eggs plus another for the squash, olive oil, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and coriander (leaves picked) and an optional teaspoon of fresh red chilli – wakes you up a bit.

Peel the squash and grate it on the coarse side of the grater. Put it all in a sieve and push down with a spoon to drain a bit, you don’t want it too wet, then leave it until you’re ready.

Grill the bacon until it’s the desired level of crispy and keep it warm. Squeeze out the squash again and season with salt and pepper.  Add a beaten egg, thyme, coriander and chillis at this point, finely chopped, and heat some oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Using your hands shape the squash into 4-6 patty shapes and put them in the pan, turning the temperature down to medium, otherwise they’ll be that not-so-great combination of black and raw.

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Boil a pan of water for the eggs. Cook the potato cakes for 3-5 minutes on each side until they are golden and crispy on the outside. Prod with a knife to check they’re soft in the middle. Keep warm with the bacon and break the eggs into the boiling water – a dribble of vinegar is said to keep them together, I’ve never noticed a difference to be honest. Just use the freshest eggs you can.  3 minutes is fine for runny yolks, then get them out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll. And assemble! Rosti, bacon then poached egg, sprinkle with something green to make it look prettier and tuck in. I added a dressing of Greek yoghurt mixed with lemon juice, salt and pepper just to wet it a bit and allow for more dipping.

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You can do this with sweet potatoes, swede, celeriac or any combination of root veg. Add herbs – parsley, sage, tarragon, coriander (goes especially well if you use chilli).  It would also work with mackerel instead of bacon. It’s fun and easy and adds a bit of goodness and variety to your fry up. Winner!

Pétrus: Knightsbridge

I don’t know where to start with reviewing Pétrus, so with odd logic I’ve decided to start at the end: it was one of the loveliest meals I’ve had, a fabulous evening with beautiful food and quiet, attentive service, and great company and I wish I could go back every week.

As part of my Christmas present my lovely fiancé promised me dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant of my choice – a brilliant present given I love eating out, but obviously probably wouldn’t book super-expensive restaurants very often at all. I chose Pétrus following a recent grudging fondness for Gordon Ramsay, an ongoing crush on Marcus Wareing and recommendations from various bloggers. So off we went!

Aberdeen Angus tartare
Aberdeen Angus tartare

Pétrus is in London’s posh Knightsbridge area, is owned by Ramsay, was run by Wareing under whom it gained 2 Michelin stars, and is now headed by Sean Burbage, another Ramsay protégé who by most accounts is doing a fabulous job. The restaurant is dominated by a huge wine cellar in the middle, and the setting is formal with white tablecloths, thick carpet and a hushed atmosphere.

There are set menu options available but we opted for the a la carte. We were served an amuse bouche of tiny crackers with smooth, rich mushroom pate, miniature mushrooms on toast and tiny pieces of sweetbread served on sticks in their own smoker, followed by a pre-starter course of creamy butternut squash velouté with oats and crème fraiche. These were a lovely touch and set the scene for some heroic starters and mains.

Butternut veloute
Butternut veloute

We ordered the Alaskan and Cornish crab with yuzu and lemongrass consommé – the crab was delicious, so flavoursome and complimented perfectly by the Asian tang of lemongrass and yuzu. We also had the Aberdeen Angus tartare with truffle and quail’s egg, which was served like a beautiful little garden, to the point where I felt quite bad eating it. That was short lived though, as was the dish – the meat was soft and ideal with the tiny pickles and mushrooms, and I could’ve easily polished it off again.

Alaskan and Cornish crab
Alaskan and Cornish crab

For mains we went for Anjou pigeon with smoked onion purée, served with a mini pigeon pie on the side; the pie made the dish, it was so strong and smoky, with perfectly cooked meat. The main dish was beautifully presented and the various incarnations of onion kept it interesting. And honestly, what isn’t made better with a little pie?! The loin of venison was also incredible, cooked perfectly pink and served with braised celery filled with bread sauce, truffle and little fried sweetbreads, with a rich, shiny jus over the meat. The venison was out of this world, it absolutely melted, and the other elements were fun, delicious and pretty much perfect.

Anjou pigeon
Anjou pigeon
Loin of venison
Loin of venison

I’m a bit of a cheese freak (who isn’t) so the idea of a CART of cheese was too good to resist. The waiter was very patient while I dithered and eventually chose ash-coated goat’s cheese, a creamy dolcelatte, hard French sheep’s cheese and soft camembert-like one to finish off. I wish I could remember what they were all called but I was excited and impatient to dig in so admittedly wasn’t paying enough attention. Suffice to say they were all amazing.

My choice of cheeses
My choice of cheeses

Ian went for a coconut ice cream with pineapple granita, chargrilled pineapple and little blobs of creamy coconut sauce. Imagine a pina colada if it was made solid and touched by angels and you’re there. We finished off with little ice cream balls served in dry ice, a great note to finish on.

Coconut ice cream and pineapple
Coconut ice cream and pineapple
Petit fours
Petit fours

Service was as you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant – discreet, unobtrusive and almost reverent. It seems as if personality is something that is discouraged among staff though; I understand that fine dining is serious business in these parts, but they could have been a bit more smiley perhaps.

I’m not sure exactly what the bill came to as I was being treated, but I’m sure it was upwards of £200. Certainly not what you want to be spending on dinner every week, or month for that matter. But for a very occasional special lunch or dinner Pétrus is a gorgeous, romantic restaurant that I will be recommending to everyone I speak to.

http://www.gordonramsay.com/petrus/

Pétrus on Urbanspoon

Le Garrick: Leicester Square

I must have walked past Le Garrick about 700 times (literally – twice a day for a year give or take) and finally got round to visiting this week with my fiancé’s family. It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric place with a lovely story – it’s been running for 25 years, but was taken over 8 years ago by the manager Dominika and Frenchman Charles who was previously a regular. Charles sent the head chef Rocco to SW France to train with none other than his mum, so on the menu you’ll find nothing but hearty, traditional French fare direct from Toulouse.

There are a few tables at ground level but most of the restaurant is down a spiral staircase into the cellar, where there are various nooks and crannies to settle into. We were seated quickly and served by various friendly, lively French staff.

I started with the Escargots de Bourgogne – snails to you and me. They were delicious – not at all chewy or slimy, but swimming in butter, salty and very garlicky, just how I like.. well, pretty much anything. There was soft, chewy, crusty baguette to soak up all the juice, which was almost as good as the meat itself, and more butter to put on the bread. Heaven. I also tasted the moules marinière (more garlic, also herby and winey, big and tender) and pâté, which had a nice strong meaty flavour and chunky texture.

Escargots de Borgogne

I tackled the Coquelet (whole baby chicken) for the main, and while it was cooked so it was lovely and moist with a flavoursome tomato sauce, the portion was huge. I also tried the Confit de Canard, lovely duck confit with a heart bean stew – gorgeous flavours and again, a huge portion.

Confit de Canard

Dinner came to about £30 per head for 2/3 generous courses, so great value for the West End, and they finished off with a complimentary digestif of a prune liqueur – perhaps not the particular spirit that I’d choose again (!) but a nice touch, and I’d highly recommend the whole experience.

http://www.frenchrestaurantlondon.co.uk/

*Excuse some of the pics – it was atmospheric (dark)

Le Garrick on Urbanspoon

Wild Serai at King & Co: Clapham

Since working for a pan-Asian restaurant in the past I’ve always been a fan of Malaysian cuisine – a reflection of the multi-ethnic population of the country but heavily influenced by Indian and Chinese. The restaurant I worked for was in Harrods, so the majority of my Malaysian eating experience has been pretty high quality with top notch ingredients and incredibly talented chefs. So I may have had fairly high expectations before visiting Wild Serai, and I’m pleased to say they were surpassed on pretty much every dish.

I was invited to join the lovely Jason and Chiara from Goan to London for lunch on Sunday to check out the new pop-up at the King & Co – I hadn’t seen them for months, hadn’t had Malaysian food for even longer and the pub is almost on my doorstep; winner!

Wild Serai have had great success in the last couple of years with various supperclubs in London, and are currently enjoying pop-up status in the newly refurbished King & Co – a stone’s throw from Clapham Common.

The King & Co
The King & Co

After much gossiping (probably to our lovely waiter Anthony’s frustration..) we finally ordered a selection of dishes to share. Mixed satay is standard Malaysian fare and this one was tender and perfectly chargrilled with just the right amount of spicy peanut sauce. Even the dribble of dressing on the cucumber garnish was lovely. We also had pork belly with little gem boats – you could just pick out the star anise in the soy dressing, it was delightful.

Mixed satay
Mixed satay
Pork belly
Pork belly

Nasi lemak is Malaysia’s national dish and Wild Serai’s is gorgeous – coconut rice garnished with spicy peanuts, cucumber and egg, with prawn sambal on the side and a crispy chicken wing (main pic).  We also had oxtail stew – the meat wasn’t overly meaty (high bone to meat ratio), but it tasted slow-cooked and the flavours were delicious.

Oxtail stew
Oxtail stew

For me the highlight was the soft-shelled crab with mantou buns. I love seafood and will always choose it, and this was crispy from the fryer without being greasy and the meat was fresh and fishy, not bland and soggy like it sometimes gets. You can taste the lemongrass and chilli in the sauce, and the sweet, soft little bun is the ideal vessel to shovel more of it in. I also adore the banana leaf plates and want some for home.

Soft shell crab
Soft shell crab

To drink we went for the recommended Cote du Rhone which was smooth and mellow, and complimented everything perfectly.

I’m not a huge fan of Asian desserts and unfortunately these didn’t change my mind! We had both the desserts on the menu, bubur cha cha was like a coconut soup with sago balls, banana and sweet potato – a bit too sweet for me, and cengkodok was deep fried banana balls. The two dishes were nicer combined, but still not as good as the mains.

Desserts
Desserts

Wild Serai is at The King & Co until 31st January 2015 – definitely get down there, it’s well worth a try.

http://thekingandco.uk/events/wild-serai/

Jackson & Rye: Soho

Although I didn’t realise until I walked in, this was my second visit to Jackson & Rye on Soho’s Wardour Street. I attended a networking breakfast there a few months ago and from what I remember (I’m not great in the mornings) it was fabulous, so I was more than keen to go back for dinner.

From the team behind Grillshack and backed by Richard Caring of the Ivy, Carluccio’s, Scott’s and J Sheekey among others, Jackson & Rye is loud, lively and exactly what you’d expect from an American themed restaurant in Soho on a Friday night – in a good way.

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Roast lamb rump on courgettes and tomatoes was tender and packed with herby flavour. Rump steak was delicious if slightly past the requested medium, and chips were thin and the ideal combination of crispy and fluffy that you come to expect from anywhere better than McDonald’s. I ordered creamed grits with sweetcorn on a whim, and thank God – they were smooth, creamy, salty and sweet, the perfect partner for roasted meat. I was expecting something sloppy and vaguely porridge-like, so they were a lovely surprise and something I’m very keen to have again, and soon.

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We also threw in half a lobster as a side dish, why not, January’s crap and you need all the little joys you can get! It was juicy and delicious as you’d hope, simply grilled with lemon.

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Not a huge fan of dessert usually but this was big hunks of charred marshmallow with blood orange sorbet and hot chocolate sauce to pour over the top (main pic) – wow, it was light, rich and fruity all at the same time, and just totally gorgeous.

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The American Merlot (when in Rome) was far too delicious – this combined with the daft proximity of the next tables meant I was extremely close to clearing all their dishes with my backside on leaving, and I was forced to apologise both before and after. No complaints about the wine, but perhaps they could allow another few inches between tables for privacy, dignity and the fact that we struggled to get all our plates on it at the same time. Obviously space is at a premium in Soho and they want to cram in as many covers as possible, but it does give an air of the assembly line.

Overall dinner at Jackson & Rye is fun, hearty and delicious, with a great menu, plentiful booze options and lovely staff. Definitely worth another visit, although go with a group for a bigger table.

www.jacksonrye.com

Jackson & Rye on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Murakami: Leicester Square

Part of the reason for the existence of Feeding Franklin is so I have an outlet to bang on about lovely places I get to go to and also to share recipes and little things I’ve cooked (although this part is normally because I’m surprised it’s worked). I don’t like being too negative, partly due to first hand knowledge of how soul destroying it is as restaurant management to read a horrible blog post, so I dithered for a week about whether to post this. I decided that the hefty positives are so promising that it was worth a mention.

Murakami is a sushi and robata grill restaurant on St Martin’s Lane, on the old Jamie’s Wine Bar site. In addition to the above I have to emphasise that it has just finished its soft launch (as of yesterday) so teething problems are to be expected – that’s what a soft launch and discount period are for – it was 50% off food until 5th January.

Miso pork belly
Miso pork belly

To get the negatives out of the way, we were seated straight away but so far into a corner that my arm was in the coat rack. Slightly annoying when the whole middle section was empty, although we didn’t ask to move so joint responsibility. Our waitress was very sweet but struggled to understand what we were ordering or any questions asked. We got miso soup instead of miso marinated pork belly, despite questioning it when she brought a soup spoon, and when I asked whether what we had ordered was enough for a main meal (about 6 dishes) received blankness then a yes – it definitely wasn’t. The biggest shame was burnt scallops – I know, a travesty! They were tender and juicy but scarred with too-black griddle lines underneath where left on too long, making them bitter.

Ill-fated scallops
Ill-fated scallops

However! Despite communication problems the staff are lovely; the hostess was effusively friendly, and one of the managers brought over complimentary Champagne to make up for their mistakes which was great – although oddly only one between the two of us. The food we had (scallops aside) was gorgeous – the yellowtail sashimi was delicate, soft and light, and the pork belly tender and flavourful, complimented with the sweet marinade. Even the miso soup, although a surprise addition, was rich and almost meaty, much better than the weak ones with one piece of slimy tofu you get in Pret.

Yellowtail sashimi
Yellowtail sashimi

The place also looks lovely – great lighting and décor, and it’s obviously in a great location if you work central and/or are going to the theatre.  Despite my moaning I’m curious to give it a try down the line and if it’s all amazing will eat my words. (Which will be tastier than burnt scallops..)

*Excuse my pics, it was pretty dark in our corner

Murakami on Urbanspoon

Recipe: little cannellini bean toasts

So it appears it’s now January 4th, so I’m rather slow on the uptake here but happy new year! If you’re anything like me you’ll have now been stuffing yourself for about two weeks and may be in need of something a bit lighter (especially if you’ve been inhaling peanut butter jelly brownies) – this may be it.

It’s pretty much a few cupboard bits whizzed up and spread on toast – simple and delicious. I started with a tin of cannellini beans, olive oil, garlic, rosemary and a ciabatta loaf.

Put about 100ml olive oil into a pan on a low heat, and add 4 peeled cloves of garlic and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Let it infuse for about 10 minutes until there are small bubbles at the edges but don’t let it boil – I have a real phobia of boiling oil, so take it off the heat when the small bubbles rise and leave it until you need it.

Put the cannellini beans into a food processor with salt and pepper, and pour in the infused oil bit by bit until it’s smooth and blended. Then cut the ciabatta diagonally into thin slices and place on a hot griddle until you have the charred lines that add flavour and make it look pretty. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite be bothered to find the griddle pan, so held the bread slices over the gas flame with some tongs. Still good!

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Then you just spread the bean puree thickly over the bread, squeeze a bit of lemon over it and that’s it! You could top it with bacon, chorizo, smoked mackerel or anything you have, this is super-flexible and meant for easy making. I’ve also made the puree with butter beans and gorgonzola, with a bit of sour cream – it’s richer but totally delicious.

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We had some  fabulous jerk-marinated ham that we made at my mum’s on Christmas eve, so a few strips of that on top added a lovely salty sweetness and the meaty hit that most of my meals are required to have.  If you’re low-carbing the puree is also lovely as a dip for fresh, crunchy celery. A perfect light dinner, and it keeps in the fridge for a few days.