I’ve never bought into the dry January/detox thing – what a rubbish time to do it! I had a boss a few years ago, a lovely guy called Roger, and he always did dry February instead, on the basis that January is miserable enough already without the bleak prospect of lentils and no booze. It’s something that’s kind of stuck with me, and in that spirit ( albeit in early Feb) me and Ian headed off to Dip & Flip in Brixton, home of meat, gravy and other lovely things.
Despite getting slightly confused by the layout of West Smithfield (as usual) I had a really lovely evening in Cellar Gascon a few nights ago, and must recommend it to anyone in the area looking for a sophisticated tipple and Michelin quality snacks.
It was a fairly sunny Saturday and left a Tough Mudder widow (I honestly offered to go and watch), I decided to go and find somewhere new to get some treats. Brockley is about half an hour from me and I’d heard great things about the little food market, so off I went on the bike to have a look.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For some reason I’ve always been a bit wary of pop-ups – what if there’s no-one there? Can I pay by card? What if it’s really good and then we can never go back? All unfounded, as proven this weekend with a little trip to Turntables, situated canalside next to Hackney Wick station.
It’s a big tented area with strings of lights, three bars (one is a hot bar with mulled wine and cider), multiple gorgeous food stands, DJs and plenty of oil drum bonfires to stave off frostbite. I made a beeline for The Cheese Truck (@CheeseTruckLDN) for a delicious melted cheese, rocket and chorizo sandwich – it was heaven, and I’ll definitely be trying to catch these guys again. Other choices included Bill or Beak (@BillorBeak) for juicy-looking duck and pork rolls, as well as hot dogs, jerk chicken and waffles.
Amaretto and whiskey sours from the cocktail bar were perfect, and at £8 the same as you’d pay in a bar. DJs were playing loud funky house, and there’s a dancefloor area to really get stuck in. They also throw in an afterparty at Shapes next door to carry onto into the next day – it’s a fab little venue that’s well worth a trip to Hackney.
There are two more weekends to get involved, it runs from 5pm Friday-Sunday until 20th December.
This was my second visit to French restaurant Androuet in Spitalfields Market – I had to see if the first time was a fluke, and I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t! After all, we’re talking about a cheese restaurant here with a cheese menu, create your own cheeseboard option and lovely little shop attached for good measure. Three guesses what they sell.
The menu is varied considering it is based around one ingredient, and after much dithering we settled on an individual special fondue with charcuterie and crusty bread, a cheeseburger and double-baked gouda soufflé.
All the food was incredible; the burger was cooked rare (I wish more places would do this) and was juicy and perfectly sized, complimented by huge chips with crispy outsides and fluffy middles – not a soggy flop in sight, and punch-you-in-the-face garlic mayo. The soufflé was light and fluffy, very cheesy (needless to say) and surrounded by a delicate, sweet butternut squash puree, with pumpkin seeds and frisée giving the perfect crunch to an otherwise fairly soft dish.
Fondue always seems like the ultimate guilty pleasure; a bowl of hot cheese to dip things into feels like a dirty secret, something unseemly to be ashamed of, something that I might dream up and think about often but be too embarrassed to tell anyone about – but here we were, in public and everything! The cheese mixture at Androuet changes and this one was perfect. Creamy and rich but also sharp with the distinctive tang of blue. By the end of the meal it had become a dip for everything left on any of our plates – heaven.
Despite good intentions to create our own cheeseboard instead of dessert, by the time we got there eating another morsel was out of the question. But this remains on my list for the next Spitalfields outing.
The service at Androuet is by no means exemplary – it was pretty slow most of the time and a couple of things were forgotten. It was also extremely chilly – dinner buddy Alice had her coat on for most of the meal. It’s not cheap – £90 for three mains and one bottle of Prosecco, and they close the shop in the evenings which is a shame. But it’s still very much a keeper, anywhere that serves food beautiful and delicious enough to override these things always would be.