Set up as a result of a background in the catering business and a love of the Basque country, Donostia Social Club is the baby of Paul Belcher, and is a fab little street food van and events catering business, with a a more permanent site at Pop Brixton.
I absolutely love a river view, or any view really, and enjoying one combined with a decent meal it’s a very lovely way to spend an evening. Northbank is a stone’s throw from St Paul’s and does both view and food in style.
Continue reading Northbank: St Paul’s
Reservations only? No queuing round the block in the rain for a soggy £14 lobster roll? Yes please. Old Tom & English in Soho’s Wardour Street is the brainchild of brother and sister team Costas and Maria Constantinou (of the Arts Theatre Club), who have opened their latest project to focus on ‘unpretentious British food and vintage cocktails’. I’m not sure how unpretentious it is to enter via ringing a doorbell, but so what, it’s fun.
The name references the 18th century British ‘Old Tom’ gin recipe, as well as being a nod to Soho’s colourful history – apparently ‘Tom’ is a bygone term for a prostitute, for whom all the little nooks and crannies are named. We were shown to a little area called Cora, who I’m sure was a lovely lady. The décor is 60s but sumptuous and expensive, and makes you feel like perhaps Don Draper or James Bond might just be relaxing around the corner…?
Dinner comes in the form of several tapas-style dishes that are meant for sharing, although you probably won’t want to. The food is elevated to something special by the little touches that accompany each dish. Our confit smoked guinea fowl was so smoky, with such rich, gamey meat that nothing would have complimented it more than the anchovy butter it came with.
Crispy braised pig’s cheeks were sitting on a tart apple and fennel sauce, and the tiny cubes of goat’s cheese sprinkled over the scallops and courgette puree brought an unexpected sharp element that added a point of difference from your usual scallop combination, if you tend to go for that sort of thing. Triple cooked chips, almost universally a pleasure, were even more delightful dunked in the little bowl of mustard mayo. Battered seabass, and eggs and mushrooms on toast all excellent also.
Although not normally a dessert fiend, I dived in with unusual enthusiasm. Banana cake was light and not too banana-y, and whiskey cream made it feel extra naughty. Chocolate cake was rich and fudgy, and the hero for me.
The top-notch food, excellent service and luxurious furnishings makes the place feel expensive, and it’s a lovely spot to know about if you’re looking to impress, don’t want to queue or just fancy a bloody good dinner.
A version of this post first appeared on Foodepedia
*We were guests of Old Tom & English
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.
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.
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.
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
On entering The Porchester in Bayswater, you’re mostly struck by the aroma – it’s like when you turn up at your mum’s on a Sunday; starving, hungover and itching for something warm and nourishing to sort you out, and the smell of a roast, or some gravy or fresh bread makes everything ok. So a good start for a cold, rainy Tuesday evening in West London.
Another of the newly made-over Young’s portfolio, The Porchester is situated on Bishop’s Bridge Road, between Royal Oak and Bayswater tubes, and is a fairly hefty site. It wasn’t overly busy on this occasion, but there was still a homely atmosphere, and as you may have gathered, some lovely cooking aromas.
We started off with the scallops, which are served with black pudding and pea puree – a no-brainer combination, but if it ain’t broke and all that. They were completely gorgeous, tender with a bit of texture on the outside, presumably from being fried in butter. The pea puree was perfect, with some pea bits still present, and the black pudding was soft and flavoursome.
Crab with pork crackling was good, it’s a paste rather than chunks of crab and the brown meat gave it lots of good strong flavour that went well with the salty meatiness of the crackling. It didn’t quite have the skull-jarring initial crunch that I love about good crackling, and there was too much crab and not enough to dip in it – best to order some bread on the side.
Pork belly (I seem to have a preoccupation with pork at the moment) with mash, apple sauce, greens and (more) black pudding was simple but very effective – spot-on comfort food with very creamy mash that I certainly could’ve eaten more of, and delicious meaty gravy. It was like a thick, rich pork soup – heaven.
The shepherd’s pie was the hero here though, with its chunks of lamb in minty gravy, and more of the lovely mash and a smidge of cheese. We ignored the bit of cabbage on the side and devoured the rest with unseemly speed. A moist, date-y sticky toffee pudding was the ideal round-off.
The Porchester’s a really good foody pub, with poshed-up comfort dishes in a nice atmosphere with sweet, attentive staff – they’re certainly ticking a whole lot of boxes and if I find myself that way again I’d definitely go back.
*Prices are very reasonable but our meal was courtesy of The Porchester