Rowley’s, St James

Rowley's

Rowley’s is somewhat of a St. James institution; it’s been serving its signature steak swimming in Roquefort butter sauce and unlimited fries for over thirty six years.

The dining room had a touch of the old school about it in a glamorous kind of way. It was packed and the atmosphere was noisy and echoey yet not intrusively so. The menu was fairly short and concise and featured a lot of the old classics that my parents are so fond of.

Outside

Inside

To start, the chicken liver pâté (£8.50) was simple (and simply presented) yet perfectly made. A mouthful of the smooth pâté and congealed butter atop a slice of crust-less white toast was a most pleasant one. The same for the prawn cocktail (£10.50); there’s nothing wrong with simplicity if you get it bang on and that was certainly the case here.

Pate

Prawn cocktail

For main we opted for the chargrilled 28 day matured entrecôte steak (small at £24.50) but we asked for the Roquefort butter on the side. The steak was served on a heated skillet left on the table which was a nice touch as it kept the meat warm and added a touch of theatre to proceedings.

Steak

We also went for a rather huge T-Bone steak (£38.50) which really was exquisite. Both steaks had enormous flavour which was bettered by the gloriously darkened crust on the outside of the meat – it was seriously impressive beef (from the Lake District). The fries were cracking too and as they were unlimited you kept getting them fresh from the frier which was great.

Desserts were perhaps the weaker part of the meal; the steamed treacle sponge pudding with custard (£8.50) was good but the tarte tatin (£9) appeared to have fallen apart a little somewhere along the line.

Desserts

There’s something about Rowley’s that we found utterly charming. Perhaps it was our incredibly sweet waitress who described the dishes with such passion and enthusiasm. On a wet and windy Thursday, sitting in there with a bottle of Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd ‘Good Ordinary Claret’ and a nice bit of steak was most delightful.

7/10

I dined as a guest of the restaurant

Rowley's on Urbanspoon

Sea Containers at The Mondrian

Sea Containers business card

The Mondrian has opened its ship inspired five star hotel in the old Sea Containers building right on the river near Blackfriars Bridge. It’s a pleasant, if not a little showy, hotel with a large tin covered ship’s hull running all the way along the reception and through to the restaurant.

Outside

The dining room is all open plan with a semi open kitchen and lively music in the background – it’s a bit plain but perfectly fine. We had a seat by the window with a lovely view of St Paul’s which was nice.

Inside

I knew I wasn’t going to hugely enjoy the food when our waitress described the dishes as “delicious and really healthy”. To start, we went for the kale salad (£10) which featured apple, pecans, avocado, yoghurt, chillies and a dill vinaigrette. It lacked depth of flavour and excitement; it tasted like all of the said ingredients had been thrown into a bowl and left to wilt for a few hours. There was a lack of chilli too.

Kale

The smoked lamb flatbread (£11) should have been described as a yoghurt flatbread as there was so much of the bloomin’ stuff. There was hardly any of the promised rich, smokey lamb – it all just felt very healthy. Even the base was wholegrain; it tasted like a crispy pita bread.

Flatbread

From the raw section of the menu we opted for the salmon crudo (£11) which was basically a deconstructed salmon blini. The smoked salmon was of good quality but the fennel and dill yoghurt (they do love their yoghurt) was overkill as it made everything too wet. The only thing I did like was the crispy salmon skin which had been deep fried – finally some flavour!

Salmon

From the ‘Large Plates’ section of the menu, or ‘Big Boys’ as our waiter described them, we shared the double cut heritage pork chop (£42). Served on a large wooden board it looked impressive but that’s where the fun ended for me. It was undoubtedly a well cooked and great quality piece of meat with a serious gammon-like flavour but it was just a bit boring. Served with a giant mound of watercress and a crunchy carrot vinaigrette it didn’t knock me for six. Not in the slightest.

Pork

There weren’t any potato sides which seemed a shame so we opted for the seasonal vegetables (£5) which was randomly a celeriac gratin. Hoorah, a cheesy, gooey creamy delight right? Well no, as even that felt healthy. Rather than a thick rich sauce it was very thin and watery. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t provide the comfort factor that I was longing for.

Gratin

For dessert we ordered the homemade cookies (£4) which were pleasant but no better than you’d find at Pret. The chocolate cookie contained no actual chocolate just cocoa powder which was a shame. From the Sundae section I ordered the carrot sorbet with raspberry ice cream mainly out of curiosity. The carrot sorbet was simply disgusting but the raspberry ice cream was heavenly. A bowl of that with the accompanying stewed berries and granola would have been great – so why go to all the effort of making a carrot sorbet?!

Cookies

Carrot sorbet

Perhaps it didn’t help that I went to dinner at Sea Containers with a mild hangover but even so, it’s just not the sort of food I enjoy eating – or ever will enjoy eating. It was expensive too; for the same price we recently ate at Spring which featured big, bold hearty cooking with plenty of sustenance. That’s what I’m after. I didn’t hate it – I just didn’t get it.

4/10

Sea Containers on Urbanspoon

The Colony Grill, Beaumont Hotel

The Colony Grill

The Colony Grill is the latest offering from restaurant giants Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, who also own The Wolseley, Delaunay, Colbert, Brasserie Zédel, Fischer’s and now this, inside the recently opened Beamont Hotel in Mayfair.

It’s a grand building in an understated kind of way – the giant Antony Gormley art installation on the outside (which is actually a suite you can stay in) is a thing of beauty.

Outside

The dining room was small with no windows and a low ceiling but with that comes a certain intimacy and great atmosphere. There was an exciting energy about it all; we were seated near Raymond Blanc and Margaret off of the Apprentice (they weren’t together) – it felt like how I imagine The Ivy once was.

Inside

The only downside to our perfect for people-watching booth was the lack of space; the four of us felt mega packed in. Fair enough we’re a family of fatties but I think it was just a little too cramped to really enjoy ourselves.

The menu was eclectic and there really is something for everybody. To get things going, as is often the case with a Corbin and King restaurant, some very decent bread and butter hit the spot perfectly.

Bread

To start I went for the Colony Club Salad (£8.50) which was most pleasant indeed. Finely diced avocado, cheese, tomato, chicken, bacon and cucumber (I’d hate to be that poor chef) drizzled with a tangy dressing made for a really light and refreshing salad.

Salad

The New York shrimp cocktail (£14) wasn’t served how I imagined as there was no lettuce with it but the shrimp were of exquisite quality and taste and they came with a fiery tomato sauce which was great. Bigoli and meatballs (£10) was a comforting plate of thick spaghetti and plump, juicy meatballs.

Shrimp

Meatballs

For main, the calf’s liver and bacon (£19.75) was perfectly cooked and not dry or chewy which is so often the case. The 14oz New York strip on the bone (£37.50) certainly wasn’t cheap but it was the most enjoyable steak I’ve had in ages. Both were served with grilled mushroom and tomato which seemed so charmingly old fashioned.

Calf's liver

Steak

Grilled Dover Sole with bearnaise (£38.50) was exquisite – and for a restaurant that doesn’t specialise in seafood the quality and cooking was seriously decent. The veal pojarski (£19.50) was a minced veal version of a schnitzel and although the sauce that surrounded had created an unpleasant skin, the flavour was really enjoyable.

Sole

Pojarski

A side of roasted pumpkin (£4.25) was particularly wonderful as it isn’t often seen on a menu. The French fries (£4.50) were as perfect as you’ll find and the creamed spinach (£4.75) did just the job.

Sides

As tempting as most of the desserts sounded we could hardly resist ordering a Colony Club Bespoke Sundae (you choose what you want from a mini menu). With a generous choice of ice creams/sorbets, toppings and sauces, it brought back memories of the Ice Cream Factory at Pizza Hut – but the posh version. Two scoops (£5.50) of hazelnut and vanilla with a flake, marshmallows topped with salted caramel was a winner for me.

Sundae menu

Sundaes

Colony Grill is undoubtedly an exciting place to go for dinner. It’s good old fashioned glamour with charming and perfectly executed service with really tasty grub thrown in. Like all their other restaurants, they just seem to get it right from the beginning.

8/10

The Colony Grill Room on Urbanspoon

Mission, Bethnal Green

Mission

Mission is a new restaurant in Bethnal Green by the husband and wife team who created the ever popular bar and toastie haunt Sager + Wilde.

It’s based in a large railway arch but the large palm tree (is it a palm tree?) in the middle of the dining room turned it from something quite plain and ordinary to something a little more fun. We were seated against the large glass wall which shook ferociously every time someone opened the door which wasn’t ideal.

Outside

Inside

To start, the ox heart tartare (£7.50) was a tad disappointing as the heart was really chewy. The accompanying toasted bread was so hard and crunchy that it actually hurt my mouth chewing it. I know it sounds so fussy but these things are important if you want to make an enjoyable plate of food.

Heart tartare

Squash, hazelnut, kale and ricotta (£7.50) was a far more successful dish; it was the sort of salad that even on a cold day you’d want to munch on for hours. The duck pappardelle (£12) has become something of a signature dish and I can see why as the flavour was superb and the pasta was expertly made. I found the sauce a bit thin though.

Squash

Duck pappardelle

For main, they’d run out of the lamb shoulder for three to share (£38) once we ordered it which was annoying. The ox cheek, carrots and coco de pajmpol beans (£17) was nice big chunk of meat and it was sitting in a beautifully rich sauce. The breasts of the partridge with sweetcorn and giroles (£17) were cooked perfectly but the legs were quite dry and chewy.

Ox cheek

Partridge

Grilled onglet, purple sprouting broccoli & chili (£16) was an odd one; the onglet was lovely but it came swimming in soy sauce which I wasn’t expecting. It was fine but I don’t think I would have ordered it if I’d known.

Onglet

A side of garlic & rosemary potatoes (£3.50) were pungently garlicky which was great – they were crispy and really salty which made them totally moreish. The cauliflower cheese (£5) was the cheesiest I’ve come across – a definite must order.

Sides

I didn’t hate Mission but for the price I was hoping for a little more perfection with the food – the dishes all sounded like the sort of grub I love to eat but they didn’t quite deliver. Service was charming; we were served by the owner who was so sweet and lovely which is always a good thing. I’m just not sure I’d go back for that food though.

6/10

Mission Wine Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Dairy, Clapham

The Dairy business card

I’ve heard nothing but praise about the Dairy, a restaurant from husband and wife team Robin and Sarah Gill. It’s done so well they’re even opening a deli next door and a new restaurant up the road called The Manor.

The outside

It’s a cosy candlelit restaurant with a small bar area with stool seats at the front and a narrow dining room out the back. The semi open kitchen added a touch of drama to proceedings and the super friendly staff made us feel at ease as soon as we arrived.

Inside

To get the full experience we opted for the tasting menu priced at £45. To start, a whole host of nibbly snacks (all of which were delicious) were brought out in quick succession. There were Noelera del Belice olives, a heather smoked wood pigeon tartare, Cheltenham beetroot with kefir and hemp seeds and a plate of crispy chicken with cellar kimchi and burnt kale. They certainly seemed on trend with their snack portion sizes yet they tasted unlike anything I’ve eaten before; they all featured a really clever combination of flavours and textures.

Tartare

Beetroot

Chicken

Bread was a real highlight and I know I say this a lot, but it was probably the best bread I’ve ever eaten. It was a simple looking sourdough roll but it was out of this world; the almost treacly inside was insanely light and fluffy which was the perfect tool to scoop up the smoked bone marrow butter and chicken liver mousse.

Bread

‘Lucie Marie’ sea bass, toasted cauliflower and dulse butter was another example of brilliant flavour combinations. The quality of the fish was superb too. ‘Lady Hamilton’ smoked cod, charred leeks and sorrel was a pretty little thing. The fish had been (I assume) cooked in a water bath giving it that translucent uncooked look which wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea but I really enjoyed the cod’s mushy texture.

Cod

Cod

The stand out dish for me was the Yorkshire wood pigeon. Even though the accompanying pigeon hearts were overcooked and therefore chewy, the pigeon itself was exquisite. To add texture, the breasts were covered in puffed barley and although they did look a little like maggots, it was a great touch. A little sheet of celeriac encased the most divine offaly mousse I’ve ever encountered.

Pigeon

We opted for the cheese course (£4.50 extra) which could have only been bettered if the truffled Brie de Meaux hadn’t been served fridge cold. It was atop a slice of fig and walnut toast and drizzled with rooftop honey (they have beehives on the roof don’t you know) which was most pleasant indeed. Just too bloomin’ cold.

Cheese

The first of the sweet things was a Jersey cream and quince baked Alaska which had a great balance between sharp and sweet.

Baked Alaska

There was a choice of three deserts but we were kindly treated to them all. The ‘baked spiced Delicia squash cake with yoghurt sorbet’ and the ‘roasted pears, hay milk panna cotta, brown butter’ were both good in a savoury pudding kind of way but it was the ‘salted caramel, cocoa and malted barley ice cream’ that was the real star. Anything with salted caramel in it is always gonna be a winner with me.

Puddings

It was really difficult not to love the Dairy, there’s something about the place that made us want to stay all night. We were even shown the rooftop herb garden which was humungous and seriously impressive. London ain’t short of good restaurants but the Dairy is certainly one of the more exciting ones.

9/10

The Dairy on Urbanspoon

Hubbard & Bell, The Hoxton Holborn Hotel

Hubbard and Bell

Hubbard & Bell is the restaurant inside the new Hoxton Holborn hotel (there’s also a Holborn Grind coffee shop and a Chicken Shop in the basement). It’s the creation of Nick Jones – the clever chap behind the ever growing Soho House empire.

Outside

It’s a very casual space; the dining room merges pretty seemlessly between the foyer and bar area. The open kitchen and long shared tables made for a relaxed atmosphere – we were seated in a booth (each one has its own plug socket FYI) which was very comfy indeed. The whole hotel feels a bit like you’re in somebody’s living room.

Inside

The Sunday roast looked rather epic but they’d sadly run out of the rib of beef (£18) and it was only 3pm. Instead I went for the 12oz 60 day rib eye (£22) which was a really lovely piece of meat. It was cooked perfectly (medium rare naturally) with a nice charred crust on the outside of the beef with a really pink and juicy centre and just the right amount of fat. The accompanying bearnaise was spot on.

Steak

The patty melt sandwich seemed great value at eight quid. A thin beef patty topped with caramelised onions and gooey cheese, sandwiched between toasted brown bread (I thought they would have used white but it worked perfectly) made made for a really enjoyable combination of flavours. The French fries (£4) were served with a really punchy roasted garlic alioli which was cracking and the fries were all you could possibly hope for; fresh, thin, salty, crunchy and totally moreish.

Patty melt

Fries

We only popped into Hubbard & Bell for a quick bite to eat and it was the perfect spot to do so. It’s a cool and casual space with friendly and efficient staff and the food is really rather good.

8/10

Hubbard and Bell on Urbanspoon

Smoking Goat, Soho

Smoking Goat

Based on what was once affectionately known as Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street on the edge of Soho), Smoking Goat is a tiny new restaurant specialising in Thai food.

I’m not joking when I say tiny – and that’s everything from the tiny tables, to the tiny beer barrel that we were seated at and the tiny walkway to get to the toilets (good luck with that); it took cramped to a new level. It’s mega dark too. But with that came a seriously great atmosphere which was helped along by the vinyls playing in the background; it felt like an exciting place to be – just like Spuntino did when it first opened.

Outside

Inside

The menu was small so we pretty much ordered everything. The coal roast scallop with red nam yum (£6) was a big old bugger and came sitting atop its shell and in a puddle of sweet/salty/sour deliciousness. It was really good.

Scallop

The smoked lamb ribs (£15) shall go down in my ever expanding record book as being the best lamb ribs I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps it was all the perfectly cooked lamb fat (which I love), or the soft flesh, or the fermented shrimp, chilli and palm sugar that they’d been basted in, either way these were jaw droppingly good.

Lamb

Slow roast duck legs (£15) were equally as squeal worthy – this was “dirty” junk food Thai style. The meat was succulent and the skin evenly crisp throughout; it was seriously impressive meat. Both mains were served with a green papaya salad which was a little forgettable and sticky rice served in a bag which was delicious.

Duck

Salad

Rice

The fish sauce chicken wings (£6) were humungous – I’d hate to see the size of the actual chicken. They were sticky, salty, sweet – everything you could possibly hope for and more. They reminded me of an even better version of the wings available at Patty&Bun.

Wings

The best thing we ate was the whole Cornish crab (£20) and they weren’t wrong when they described it on the menu as “messy eating”. No joke, I had to wash my shirt and trousers afterwards things got that chaotic but it was absolutely worth it. Being the first time I’ve had a whole crab it was a little daunting as we had to crack the shells ourselves but it was just incredible – the crab meat was divine and so was the coconut flavour covering it all – they make their own coconut cream don’t you know.

Crab

For all its imperfections (the toilets were of the hygiene level you’d expect at a festival), Smoking Goat provided me with one of the best evenings I’ve had in ages. It’s great fun and I haven’t stopped thinking about the food since I left. If I go back, and I will, I’d order the whole lot all over again.

9/10

Smoking Goat on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 558 other followers