SUSHISAMBA, Heron Tower

SUSHISAMBA business card

Getting the lift up to SUSHISAMBA is pretty impressive; as you hurtle up to the 38th floor in an elevator that’s placed on the outside of the Heron Tower, the views are nothing short of magnificent.

The excitement doesn’t end there, or at least it didn’t for us, as before you get to the restaurant there’s an outside bar – which is amazing considering how high up you are. Cos’ it was a bit nippy, we popped upstairs to Duck and Waffle for a quick pre-dinner cocktail and some pigs ears – another restaurant worth a look in if you haven’t already.

Outside

The dining room was a really lovely space with a relaxed atmosphere and we luckily had a table right by the window – again the view was stunning. It had a lively atmosphere and the chairs were seriously comfy meaning we never really wanted to leave. If you time it right you get to watch the sun go down then the restaurant seems to get ever prettier.

Inside

View

Things kicked off with a lovely amuse bouche of tuna tartare in a tiny lettuce leaf. Not only was it delicious but it looked beautiful too – something we found with all the dishes.

Tuna

Wagyu gyozas (£12) were as rich and fatty as you could wish for with that perfect amount of greasiness from being fried on one side.

Wagyu

The sushi was great too; we started with some salmon, tuna, prawn and scallop nigiri (between £6-£8 each) then ordered a plate of samba rolls as well (£16) which featured things like crab, more wagyu, scallop and ‘tempura crunch’ – bloody hell they were good. The accompanying wasabi mayo was the perfect dunker for it all.

Sushi

Sushi

The pork ribs (£14) were utterly divine; the meat fell off the bone yet it still retained its texture and wasn’t at all mushy. The sharp pickled yuzu apple was a great contrast. Staying on the piggy front, the kuromitsu glazed pork belly (£12) served in lettuce wraps were heavenly pieces of soft, fatty pork. They were messy to eat; I ended up with pork glaze all over my face, but it was worth it.

Pork ribs

Pork belly

The yellowtail sashimi tiradito (£12) (that’s a Peruvian dish of raw fish in a spicy sauce FYI) was the only thing we didn’t like but that’s mainly because I’m not a huge fan of anything too acidic – I find it always overpowers the main ingredient.

Sashimi

The miso black cod (£17) which was served on two small skewers was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a long time. The cod practically melted in my mouth – it was pure bliss!

Miso black cod

For dessert we shared the passion fruit cake (£10) and ‘With Love From Rio’ (£12) which was a Valrhona macaé dark chocolate ganache, coffee mousse, tonka bean ice cream and caramelized macadamia. That last one was bloody lovely – if you like chocolate then you’ll be a happy chappy.

Dessert

Dessert

It was difficult not to fall in love with SUSHISAMBA; the food was delicious and it looked incredible, the staff were relaxed and friendly yet really efficient too and those views were beguiling to say the least. If you haven’t been then I really think you should.

9/10

Sushisamba on Urbanspoon

The Fat Duck, Bray

Fat Duck business card

Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck is one of only four three Michelin starred restaurants in the UK and it resides in the Berkshire village of Bray, which is also home to The Waterside Inn (another three starred restaurant which I loved).
Outside

The dining room is very much not what I expected; it has an old fashioned charm about it (it’s a listed building don’t you know), so there’s low ceilings with wooden beams and it’s actually quite small. The white tablecloths and hundreds of immaculately dressed staff remind you however that you’re not in your Granny’s living room.

Inside

To kick things off, a tiny beetroot meringue sandwiching a horsesradish cream was served on the biggest plate I’ve ever seen. It was a simple mouthful but one which was impressively delicious.

Beetroot

Next up, a trolley was wheeled over to our table and a rather dashing waiter served some ‘nitro poached aperitifs’. There were three flavours to choose from; ‘vodka and lime sour’, ‘tequila and grapefruit’ and ‘gin and tonic’ – I opted for the latter. An egg white mixture was dropped into a bowl of dry ice, creating a freezing cold meringue and although the flavour wasn’t particularly distinctive, it certainly had the fun factor.

Gin and Tonic

Red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice cream sounded like a bit of an odd one but the blend of textures, flavours and temperatures worked together perfectly.

Red cabbage

‘Jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss and truffle toast’ had a very theatrical presentation. It started with a box filled with moss being placed on the table and we were told to put a little sheet of edible plastic on our tongue which ‘tasted of the forest’. Some water was then poured over the moss which sent dry ice cascading over the table which was a great touch. The quail and crayfish was utterly divine and the little piece of truffle toast was moreish to say the least.

Quail

Bread was next, which was surprisingly simple; a choice of white or brown sourdough with some really salty butter – hoorah, salty butter! Don’t get me wrong, the bread was really good, but I was kind of hoping for a bit of choice – a bit of three Michelin star variety.

Bread

‘Snail Porridge’, which has become something of a signature dish, was a vibrantly green, herby soup filled with actual porridge oats and sliced snails. I’ve never had snails cooked so perfectly before; so often they’re like rubbery bits of leather but here they were as soft as anything.

Snail

The roast foie gras was a real highlight and it easily wins the award for the best foie I’ve ever tasted. The crab biscuit that was sticking out the top of it had both a sweet and seafood flavour which was great and the perfectly formed dollop of barberry (not had that before) was a brilliantly sharp accompaniment for the richness of it all.

Foie

The ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ brought a touch of theatre back to the table. We were presented with a box of gold covered pocket watches which were then dropped into a teapot filled with hot water. As it melted to create a beefy stock (which honestly tasted like Bovril) we then had to pour it over an eggy creme caramel concoction which had tiny mushrooms sticking out of it – the attention to a detail was ever so impressive. The highlight of all of that work however was a simple ‘burnt toast sandwich’ which was absolutely delicious.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Tea Party

Next was another signature dish of theirs, ‘Sound of the Sea’, which was served with a giant shell that had an iPod hidden inside. The idea is you can taste something that looks like a wave crashing onto the beach whilst listening to exactly that – it was most bizarre. The dish wasn’t for the faint hearted though as the seafood aroma and taste was epicly strong – it was too overbearing for my lady friend but I really loved it. The only thing that let it down was a piece of chewy, rubbery octopus – which was a shocking oversight for a three star kitchen.

Sound of the Sea

‘Salmon poached in a liquorice gel’ was such a clever balancing act of flavours. The tiny balls of Golden Trout roe provided an intense seafood explosion, whilst the vanilla mayonnaise was sweet yet didn’t make it feel like a pudding and the tiny pieces of grapefruit brought a refreshing touch to it all. A beautiful plate of food too.

Salmon

‘Lamb with cucumber’ was a more straighforward dish – the lamb was cooked well and the cucumber was a refreshing companion for it. There was even a little strip of crispy lamb fat sticking out the top – crispy lamb fat makes me very happy. The side dish filled with the heart and liver was a nice touch and a cold jellied consommé, which gave my taste buds an intense meaty wallop, was very pleasant indeed.

Lamb

‘Hot and iced tea’ was ever so clever; it was a small glass of tea – one side hot and the other side cold. You could even feel both temperatures go down your throat which was insane.

Tea

Both puddings were really enjoyable ‘Macerated strawberries’ was a pretty little thing but it was ‘Botrytis Cinerea’ (which is a kind of mould?!) that was the stand out pud. Each little ball represented a flavour present in Sauternes, so when you took a mouthful of everything at once it was actually like you were drinking the stuff.

Strawberries

Wine

‘Whisk(e)y Wine Gums’ were little whiskey jellies that were stuck on a framed map which made for slightly bizarre presentation. The final sweet thing in this epic luncheon was ‘Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop’ – the edible chocolate playing card and toffee in an edible plastic wrapper were real highlights.

Whiskey wine gums

Like a Kid in a Sweetshop

Without doubt I really enjoyed our lunch; it’s definitely an experience worth experiencing – the only slight problem for me is the cost. The tasting menu is £195 a head (plus booze), but after they return from a sixth month Fat Duck residency in Sydney that price is going up to £220. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s a brilliant restaurant with clever food and lovely staff, but is it really worth that kind of dollar? I’ll have to think about that one….

9/10

The Fat Duck on Urbanspoon

BROR, Copenhagen

Bror business card

As we didn’t have much time left during our visit to Copenhagen, we decided to pop into BROR simply for ‘snacks’ and not for dinner – they do love their snacks out there. It’s a restaurant popular with the locals as it serves simple, no fuss food and they use plenty of offal and off cuts meaning a visit doesn’t break the bank.

It was a pleasant space inside with seating either in the bright and airy basement or upstairs opposite the semi open kitchen; it all felt very rough and ready in the most charming of ways.

Outside

Inside

We started with the ‘bull’s balls’ which were actually flattened bull’s testicle (I was expecting meatballs!) that had been breadcrumbed and deep fried. I’ve never had testicle before (stop it) but they were really tasty, just like sweetbreads, and the accompanying tartare sauce was a great contrast to the fattiness.

Testicle

The ‘cod cheek, Jimmy’s remoulade and crispy bread’, came served inside the cod’s head which we weren’t expecting – it looked great though. The cheek itself was soft and succulent but it was the extra bits of flesh around the head that were really impressive – even the tongue, which I had to prise from its mouth.

Cod cheek

‘Squid, watercress, cep’ came in a little bowl and the squid was cooked to absolute perfection. The thinly sliced ceps were raw; I’m not usually keen on raw mushrooms but here they were a great companion for the squid.

Squid

‘Chicken liver, smoked corn’ was a really rich and creamy chicken liver parfait served with sweet, charred baby corn which had been smothered in butter – altogether it made for a brilliant mouthful. From the main course section we couldn’t resist ordering the beef tartare which came with little chunks of bone marrow and roasted beef heart – the flavour was intensely meaty and ruddy lovely.

Chicken liver

Beef tartare

For dessert, a small sour milk ice cream covered in chocolate and walnuts was served with a sharp cherry compote. It was really enjoyable; it tasted like a mix between a MiniMilk and a Feast.

Ice cream

We were really impressed by BROR – so much so we were saddened we couldn’t try the full menu. It’s a cute little restaurant which actually serves tasty food you want to eat – and in a city filled with 20 course tasting menus consisting of berries and leaves, that’s rather a nice thing.

9/10

Noma, Copenhagen

Noma business card

It’s been voted the best restaurant in the world for a number of years now (apart from last year when it lost out to El Celler de Can Roca) which is quite an achievement. That’s all well and good, but I feel like I must be honest from the outset – I’m not entirely sure I liked Noma.

Outside

Let’s start with the positives; we were greeted with the warmest welcome I’ve received at any restaurant – every single chef was standing at the front desk to say hello which was a really sweet and unusual touch. The dining room was beautiful too – it felt like a very stylish hunter’s cabin. You can also see into the glass fronted kitchen which is something I love.

Inside

Only one menu was available; a 20 course tasting menu priced at 1,600 DKK (around £170). A whole load of snacks kicked things off – a ‘flower tart’ here, ‘reindeer moss’ there – even a steak tartare topped with dead ants – which was ironically the tastiest thing we ate.

Tart

Moss

Tartare

A ‘mahogany clam’ which was about 100 years old, a cucumber topped with more of those dead ants, a little bowl of raspberries, a small mound of peas – all were dishes that tasted of their said ingredient but very little else. No fireworks or mmmmm’s – which seemed a little disappointing.

Mahogany

Cucumber

Raspberries

Peas

The smoked quail eggs were the first time I felt satisfied from a dish, as the flavour was actually enjoyable. Slices of crispy white cabbage sandwiching samphire weren’t quite so tasty – it felt a bit too healthy and they looked like fly’s wings. The ‘burnt onion and walnut oil’, which was charred to buggery on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside was good, but at the end of the day it was an onion. A lovely onion. But an onion.

Eggs

Cabbage

Onion

‘Squid and broccoli’ was a bit chewy for me. I mistook the squid for overcooked razor clams, but the bowl made from ice that it was served in was very clever. I actually struggled to finish the next course; ‘blackberries and cherries, turbot roe and coriander flowers’ as it was so incredibly bitter.

Squid

Bitter

‘Butternut squash, kelp and beech flowers’ was helped along by the giant mound of caviar – which was really lovely but without that it was just a bit of butternut squash. The ‘salad root, lemon verbena, walnut and parsley’ was a teeny bit boring. I felt like I’d dragged my mouth along the forest floor and picked up a load of leaves, resulting in a mouthful which tasted of nothing.

Squash

Salad root

The egg yolk which had been poached to a thick and creamy consistency was served with some mini potatoes which were about a year old. They also tasted of nothing and could have really benefitted from some seasoning. ‘Roasted bone marrow, cabbage and nasturtium flowers’ was a weird one; we were told to make our own tacos using the ingredients. To be fair, it was really enjoyable as the blend of crisp cabbage, fatty bone marrow and bitter flowers was a well balanced one – I just wish more of the dishes had that kind of flavour.

Yolk

Roasted bone marrow

A little wedge of squash was far too sharp and acidic – the sauce it was drenched in totally overpowered it. ‘Raspberries with double cream’ looked beautiful and tasted great – the simple blend of cream and raspberries was comforting to say the least. Our final sweet thing was ‘egg liquor’ which felt like a bit of a cop-out desert. The creamy mixture was similar to eggnog – it was pleasant I guess but not very impressive and the accompanying cherries and plums that had been coated in a sticky, bitter syrup were actually minging. To go with our coffee some little chocolate covered ceps were presented in a large tin – I liked the flavour but they were awfully chewy.

Squash

Raspberries

Eggnog

Chocolate mushrooms

So yeah, Noma, the best restaurant in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the time and effort put into making all that food is really impressive; pretty much all of it is done in house – including the fermentation and they even have their own bee hives. But all of that seems somehow pointless if it doesn’t taste absolutely 100% delicious. I found myself longing for Simon Rogan’s food – where the balance between foraged ingredients and wonderful flavour is spot on. With Noma, I loved the experience, I loved the restaurant, I loved the staff, I just didn’t love the food.

7/10

Outlaw’s at The Capital, Knightsbridge

Outlaw's at the Capital business card

We had a truly brilliant meal at Nathan Outlaw’s Michelin starred restaurant in Cornwall a few years back; the service was outstanding and it was the only time we’ve ever had a seafood tasting menu. I wasn’t entirely convinced the whole ethos of fresh and mostly local fish would transport well to his second restaurant (in the Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge) but it got a Michelin star soon after opening so it must be doing something right.

As soon as we walked in it was very evident we were in a hotel restaurant; everything was just so ‘plain Jane’ and non descript. It was also far smaller than I expected.

Outside

Inside

Talking of small, the menu, which was printed on a single piece of paper, was a little too concise for me. It also had the set lunch on it – surely at dinner they could serve a freshly printed menu with only what’s available – God am I becoming overly fussy?!

Some little cod balls with a herby mayo kicked things off and were pleasant enough; the fish was moist and the breadcrumb coating was crisp – they were about as exciting as that description. Bread was light as anything and well made but the choice was limiting – white or brown.

Cod balls

Bread

To start, my gentleman companion went for the special of scallops. These not overly large scallops came served in their shell and considering it was three courses for £55 (which ain’t cheap) to charge an extra fiver for them seemed awfully tight. The shells also clattered about the plate making eating them a bit of a noisy faff.

Scallops

I went for the mackerel and crispy oyster which was a very tasty plate of food but it was bloody small – it was the size I’d expect if I was having a tasting menu. The accompanying cucumber chutney was so tasty I used the bread to mop up every last bit – I just could have done with quadruple the amount.

Mackerel

For main, the breaded monkfish was a weird one – I’m not convinced anything is gained by covering a gorgeous piece of meaty monkfish in a slightly bland and unappetisngly dark green breadcrumb coating. The tomato and sardine ketchup was too overpowering; it tasted simply of tomato purée. The bass with chargrilled octopus and octopus fritter was a little better but the leaves of rocket seemed totally out of place. Again it was also terribly small.

Monkfish

Bass

For dessert the ‘gooseberry crumble tart with elderflower ice cream’ was simply a well made pastry case filled with poached gooseberries – there was nothing wrong it, it just didn’t make me want to stand on my chair and do a dance. The plate of cheese could have had a more flamboyant presentation but at least it was delicious. A particular highlight was the blue goats cheese, which is the only one available in the UK.

Crumble

Cheese

I was really surprised by how disappointing our meal was – it seemed so far removed from Nathan’s Cornish restaurant. It was bloody expensive and I left feeling absolutely starving which is never a good thing. Service was friendly and attentive but the whole experience just didn’t tickle my pickle.

5/10

Outlaw's at The Capital on Urbanspoon

Pizza Pilgrims, Kingly Court

Pizza Pilgrims business card

I loved Pizza Pilgrims’ first bricks and mortar restaurant in Soho. Before that they used to sell their Neapolitan inspired pizzas out of a tiny van with an oven on the back. So when I heard they were opening another one, a ‘Friggitoria’ in fact (I’m still none the wiser how you pronounce it), I was rather excited.

Outside

It’s based in Kingly Court in the tourist haven of Carnaby Street and as expected the place was pretty rammed so we were seated at a large shared table. It’s a big space with lots of nooks and crannies; there’s an open kitchen, a downstairs bar, outside seating and two entrances meaning people are constantly wandering in and out.

The pizzas, we ordered the margherita (£6.50), Napoli salami (£9) and the Carbonara (£10), were unsurprisingly delicious. I’m talking SO delicious though, I think you’d be hard pushed to find better pizzas in London. The Carbonara even had an egg yolk in the middle which added to the creaminess of it all.

Pizza

Pizza

Pizza

Slightly less impressive however were the deep fried items. The frittatine di macherone (£5), which were basically parcels of deep fried macaroni with cheese, were cold and dry. They were sitting in a warming cabinet which perhaps explains it – if they had been served fresh from the fryer they would have been sooo much better. I longed for the similar thing available at Chicken Liquor in Brixton. The Porchetta, ricotta and smoked mozzarella deep fried calzone suffered the same problem; a bit dry and not warm enough.

Deep fried things

All in all we really enjoyed our time at Pizza Pilgrims – if you like your pizza then you really should check it out. For me though, my favourite is their one in Soho for a quick Margherita and can of Pompelmo – that’ll do me nicely.

7/10

Pizza Pilgrim Pizzeria & Frigittoria on Urbanspoon

Fischer’s, Marylebone

Fischer's business card

Fischer’s is the latest offering from restaurateurs Corbin and King – the pair behind the Wolseley, Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and Colbert. It’s based on Marylebone High Street on the former site of Cotidie; a dire Italian restaurant where I had one of the worst meals of my life.

Outside

What a transformation; it’s a really beautiful restaurant – like a glamorous Austrian cafe in a railway station. The atmosphere felt lively and buzzy yet not manic or out of control which was impressive seeing how busy the place was; there was a constant flow of people coming and going throughout our entire visit.

Inside

The Austrian theme doesn’t end with the decor; the menu is littered with ‘Zwielbelrostbraten’ here and ‘Überstürtzer’ there. To start I opted for ‘Käsespäztle with bacon’ (£6.25) which was a type of egg noodle/dumpling similar to pasta, in a carbonara sauce – it was comfort food in its purest form.

Starter

The ‘beef broth with cheese dumplings’ (£6.95) had the sort of intense beefy flavour that made me want to pick up the bowl and lick it clean – it was really impressive. The cheese dumplings were well made, not stodgy, and actually tasted of their said flavouring which isn’t always the case. The ‘beetroot cured salmon’ (£9) was vibrantly purple in colour and its quality was sublime. With the accompanying horseradish cream and Nordic bread it made for a perfect mouthful.

Dumplings

Salmon

For main, the ‘Würstchen’, or sausages (you had the choice of two with potato salad, Sauerkraut and caramelised onions) seemed great value at eleven quid. My gentleman companion went for the ‘Nürnberger’ and ‘Käsekrainer’, the latter being a real highlight as it was stuffed with emmental cheese – I do love a cheesy sausage! There was a choice of three great mustards too which varied in eye watering strengths – German mustard has got to be the best around.

Sausages

Mustard

I couldn’t resist ordering the Wiener Schnitzel (£19.95) which was served with a ‘Preiselbeeren compote’ – I haven’t heard of it either – which provided a perfectly sharp antidote for the richness of the veal. The Schnitzel was a beautiful blanket of crisp breadcrumbed meat atop a thick gravy which was absolutely delicious.

Schnitzel

The ‘grilled spatchcock chicken’ (£15.50) was served with a herby garlic and tarragon concoction and although the flavour was great, the dish lacked one extra element to lift it.

Chicken

Sides were all great; the medium cut chips (£4) changed my mind about fat chips as they were so bloody tasty – I always find fat chips a bit too ‘potatoey’ but not here. The buttery mash (£4.25) was exactly that and the pickled cucumber salad (£4) shall remain one of my Mum’s favourite side dishes of all time.

Sides

For dessert, the ‘Scheiterhaufen’ (£6.25), which we only ordered so we could say ‘Scheiterhaufen’, was a joyous bread and butter pudding filled with apple, topped with soft meringue peaks and drenched in a calvados anglaise – it tasted every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Dessert

The ‘Wien ice cream coupe’ (£5.95) was a filling blend of coffee and vanilla ice cream topped with crunchy meringues, whipped cream and an espresso anglaise – it was the perfect pud for sharing.

Finally, the ‘chocolate and Grand Marnier Dobos’ (£4.25) was proof that whoever’s running the pastry section really knows what they’re doing. There were layers upon layers of creamy, yet not sickly, chocolate and sponge which all had a subtle flavour of boozy orange which is never a bad thing.

I knew I was going to enjoy Fischer’s as soon as I walked in the door – a feeling which I get at the other Corbin and King restaurants too. They just get it all so right; the look of the dining room, the tasty food, the friendly staff – even the toilets are beautiful. It’s worth a trip for that cheesy sausage alone.

9/10

Fischer's on Urbanspoon

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