Casse-Croûte, Bermondsey Street

Casse-Croûte business card

Casse-Croûte is a tiny little French bistro on Bermondsey Street which couldn’t be any more Gallic if it tried. The staff are French, the menu’s French, the radio in the background is French; on our visit for a Saturday lunch with the sun shining, it actually felt like we were on holiday.

Outside

Inside

The daily changing menu, written on the blackboard, featured three starters, mains and desserts. We skipped starters however, much to the dismay of our waitress, and opted for some of the freshly sliced charcuterie instead. Coppa, Jesus and Saucisson (£5 each) were all great pieces of pig with a really strong flavour. Some slices of French stick sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds went down a treat with it – but you have to ask for the butter FYI.

Pig

Pig

Pig

For main, I opted for the selle d’agneau (£18.50) which was slices of beautifully cooked lamb atop a vibrantly orange sauce that consisted of red pepper and coconut. It was the sort of dish you wanted to last forever; the flavour of the rich fatty lamb with the sweet pepper sauce was utterly divine.

Lamb

The rabbit, or lapin á la moutarde (£15.50), had an equally lovely sauce and some of the creamiest mashed potato I’ve ever encountered. The rabbit itself was masterfully cooked and the mustard didn’t overpower it one bit – it was a really tasty bowlful of food.

Rabbit

I love the charm and character of Casse-Croûte but my only niggle, and it’s quite a big one, is the price. We really fancied some rosé but they only had one bottle on the list – and that was £36 which seemed awfully steep. And the lamb at £18.50, although delicious, didn’t seem good value. For a tiny bistro like that I’d like to eat there every week, but at those prices, it stays firmly as a ‘special treat’ kind of place, which seems such a shame.

7/10

Casse Croute on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Breakfast Club, London Bridge

Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club has become a bit of a ‘thing’ – they’re popping up all over the place and if the queue outside the original one in Soho is anything to go by – then they’re bloody popular. They even sell merchandise. Their latest offering is in London Bridge so I thought I’d pop along to see what all the fuss is about.

Outside

There was an open bar in the middle of the room which created a pleasantly lively atmosphere, but the tables were a little too squashed together for my liking – I hate it when you can hear everyone’s conversations.

Perhaps being at the Breakfast Club I should have ordered a breakfast (and if I had I probably would have been more satisfied) but instead I went for a burger. The Cow Vs Pig (£12.50) which is ‘a real monster in the world of burgers’ apparently, was a burger topped with pulled pork and barely melted cheddar.

Burger

The patty (I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked) was dry and grainy and the pork lacked any real flavour; I was barely aware of its presence. It wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever eaten (that award goes to Jamie Oliver’s Diner) but at twelve quid, you can find far superior elsewhere. The slightly greasy fries tasted so much better after I sprinkled them with salt myself – I never see the point in serving fries with no seasoning whatsoever.

Burger

The Breakfast Club reminds me a bit of a ‘cooler’ Bill’s – and I’m not very fond of them either. The only saving grace was the lovely waitress who was full of charm and charisma, but as far as that burger is concerned, I ain’t convinced.

5/10

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

Hixter Bankside

Hixter Bankside business card

I loved my visit to the original Hixter in the City (a variation of Mark Hix’s other restaurant Tramshed which serves only chicken or steak), so I was really excited to hear they were opening a second one in Bankside. And even better, there’s a Mark’s Bar in the basement.

Outside

The restaurant’s as pretty from the outside, with its bright red neon sign above the door, as it is on the inside. You walk in past a long bar on the left then eventually get to the dining room, complete with open kitchen – the place was massive and the atmosphere was really loud and lively. It was their opening night and as the place was rammed we were seated at the bar, which was great for people watching.

To start, we couldn’t resist ordering a Yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers (£3.95) from the ‘snax’ section of the menu. The Yorkie was humongous and perfectly made; the only way the whole thing could have been bettered was if the parfait had been served at room temperature as oppose to fridge cold. Once it had warmed up the flavour was cracking.

Yorkshire pudding

The de Beauvoir smoked salmon (£14.50) certainly wasn’t cheap, but the quality of the fish was exquisite and it had the perfect amount of oiliness – I love oily smoked salmon. Hannan’s beefballs with tomato sauce and sour cream (£10.75) might have sounded a bit random but it was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a long time. It was a hearty bowlful of meatballs in a rich tomato sauce topped with shed loads of cheese – yes please!

Smoked salmon

Meatballs

For main, the 1kg rib on the bone (£65) was a beautiful bit of beef and quite possibly the best steak I’ve ever eaten. The meat, which is either Shorthorn, Hereford or Aberdeen Angus breeds, is aged in a Himalayan salt chamber – I’ve no idea what one of those is but it certainly makes for incredible flavour. This was Goodman level – and they know their beef! I just could have done with a larger pot of the bearnaise, as I love a good sauce.

Steak

Steak

We also ordered half a roast barn-reared Indian Rock chicken (£15) which was served with its foot still attached. It was everything you could want from a piece of chicken; great quality, plump juicy flesh and gloriously crispy skin. There was even some stuffing too.

Chicken

For sides we went for chips and buttered Summer vegetables (£3.95 each), the latter having a strong minty flavour throughout which was great.

Chips and greens

For dessert, we shared the credit crunch ice cream (£1.90 a scoop). It was basically vanilla ice cream with bits of honeycomb and chocolate sprinkled over the top. If that wasn’t enough, there was even a jug of warm chocolate sauce to pour over – it was a total indulgent treat and I loved every single bloomin’ mouthful!

Credit Crunch ice cream

To produce food that good in a new kitchen and on their first night, was really impressive. I have no doubt that Hixter Bankside will go down a storm – it’s a great space (the whole restaurant reminded me of an art gallery), the staff are friendly and the bar in the basement is a little hidden gem. I shall dream about that steak for a long time to come…

9/10

I dined as a guest of the restaurant

Hixter Bankside on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Chicken Liquor, Brixton

Chicken Liquor

I loved our visit to Wishbone in Brixton; I’ve had the taste of the Tower Block burger and deep fried mac n cheese etched into my tastebuds ever since. When I heard it had been bought by the guys behind Meat Liquor/Market/Mission and was having a name change to Chicken Liquor (great name), I thought I’d pop down to check it out.

Outside

It’s based in Brixton Market and on our Sunday lunch visit the place was heaving – there’s such a great atmosphere round there. The restaurant inside looked exactly the same; there’s still those incredibly thin tables (possibly too thin?) opposite the bar, but we were lucky enough to grab a table outside which gave the four of us plenty of room.

Inside

Feeling a little peckish, we ordered masses of stuff and it all arrived at the same time on one humungous tray. The buffalo wings (£6) were the biggest wings I’ve ever seen (I’d like to see the size of the chicken) and their sauce was nice and fiery without being overpowering. The Chicken Shop boneless pieces (£6) were crunchy on the outside with succulent pieces of chicken on the inside and the sweet BBQ sauce was a great accompaniment.

Chicken

The good thing about the buffalo chicken burger (£8), which featured a chunk of chicken drenched in more of that fiery sauce, was the bun; it really held its shape and didn’t turn to mush. For the sake of nostalgia, I went for the Tower Block burger (£7.50) which came with a hash brown atop the fried chicken fillet – this is certainly a burger for the greedy and I ruddy loved it.

Chicken

The fries (£2.50) were particularly enjoyable because they were so salty which made them impossible to leave; we literally ate every last one – and we’d ordered two portions. The highlight for me was naturally the deep fried mac n cheese (£4), as anything that is cheesy, crispy, gooey and deep fried will always go down incredibly well with me! The only problem is it’s not on the menu (not sure why?) so make sure you ask for it.

Mac n cheese

Not a huge amount has changed since the takeover, which makes sense really as there was very little wrong with it before. Friendly staff, great location and deep fried mac n cheese – need I say more?

9/10

Wishbone on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

L’Escargot, Greek Street

L'Escargot business card

L’Escargot is London’s oldest French restaurant which is a pretty impressive statement. I remember going for dinner here back in the days when it was owned by Marco Pierre White and it was crap; stuffy atmosphere and service with mediocre food. It has since been given a rather dashing makeover and it’s now in the capable hands of a chap called Brian Clivaz who’s also chairman of Langan’s Brasserie.

Outside

The ground floor dining room (it’s split into two) looks unrecognisable – it’s all red and black now with beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. We were seated by the open window overlooking Greek Street and it actually felt like we were on holiday.

Inside

The bread and butter was served alongside an anchovy dip which got things off to a pleasantly fishy start. The dip was intense but moreish at the same time.

Bread

To start, we couldn’t resist ordering les escargots extraordinaire (£12 for 6) which were absolutely delicious. The snails, served in their giant shells, were cooked perfectly and more bread was brought out for us to dunk in the hot, herby butter. To top it all of, the dish was served on top of a doily – who doesn’t love a doily?!

Snails

The terrine de lapin (£12) featured rabbit, duck and foie gras and although the flavour was there, it was a touch on the dry side. The chunks of creamy foie helped remedy that however.

Terrine

For main, we shared the spatchcock chicken (£15) and the large steak tartare (£18). The chicken was brilliantly moist yet with the crispest skin possible and it was served alongside a really lovely romesco sauce. The steak tartare wasn’t your traditional version as it came with salad, and quite a bit of it too, which actually worked really well. My friend even said it was the best tartare she’d ever eaten.

Chicken

Tartare

A side of frites (£5) were brilliantly salty but could have been double the size for a fiver. The dauphinoise (£5) were spot on; creamy, cheesy, gooey – heaven!

Sides

The food we ate L’Escargot was really delicious – the only thing that wasn’t so faultless was the service. Although it exuded friendliness, it was a bit clumsy at times, and the dining room was often left unattended for long periods. A restaurant like that needs a maître d/manager as flamboyant as its history making sure everything’s in order. Once that’s sorted, it looks like L’Escargot will be back on the map.

7/10

L'Escargot on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Dirty Bones, High Street Kensington

Dirty Bones business card

Dirty Bones is a basement restaurant and bar in High Street Kensington which specialises in the kind of ‘dirty’ food this city has grown accustomed to; hot dogs, ribs, wings etc. It’s backed by the same company as Rum Kitchen and Tommi’s Burger Joint, so one can only imagine a second Dirty Bones is on the cards.

It’s kitted out beautifully inside and on our Sunday night visit, even though the place was dead, they had live music which was a nice touch; it was the perfect place to chill out and have a chat. It was incredibly dark though so excuse ‘les images merde’.

Outside

Inside

We started with some sticky pork back ribs (£6) and the crispy spiced fried chicken (£8 for 1/2 a pile). The ribs were really tasty; the meat was firm meaning it had texture and didn’t turn to mush yet at the same time wasn’t tough or chewy. The chicken, two pieces of deboned thigh and a drumstick, had a beautifully crisp exterior giving way to soft, moist flesh. The coating had a really lovely spiciness to it too.

Ribs and chicken

The hot dogs were less impressive however. We went for the Brit Dog (£7.50) and the Burger Dog (£8.50). The latter was my favourite as it was a hotdog made from aged bavette and beef fat mince – and you could really tell as the meaty flavour came through in every bite. But the bun was dry and a little burnt on the top. The pork hotdog in the Brit Dog had a really tough and chewy skin making it really difficult to bite into. The triple cooked fries (£3) were rubbish too; undercooked, under seasoned and slightly eggy. I’m pretty certain they hadn’t been cooked three times either.

Hot dog

Hot dog

Chips

As it was a Sunday and they’ve recently started doing the whole music thing, we were given 25% off the bill which was sweet of them. Even without that the bill was pretty cheap which is never a bad thing – I’m just not convinced the food on the whole was good enough. I’d gladly go back for a drink but I think I’ll leave the hot dogs next time.

6/10

Dirty Bones on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Arabica Bar and Kitchen, Borough Market

Arabica business card

Arabica Bar and Kitchen is a restaurant which specialises in food from the Middle East (if you’re into that sort of thing you must try The Palomar by the way) and it’s based right in the heart of Borough Market.

The dining room sits under a huge railway arch making the space a rather charming one. The atmosphere matched that of the market; bustling and lively which was helped by the open kitchen and bar with stool seats, and not to forget, the loud music.

Outside

Inside

The menu was vast meaning there was plenty to choose from. We started with the Armenian style lahmacun (£6), which was a flatbread topped with spiced lamb, and the three cheese man’ousheh (£6) which was basically a cheesy garlic bread. Plenty of flavour was found in both.

Lamb

Cheese

The tarama, or whipped cod’s roe (£5.50), was unlike any taramasalata I’ve had before; here it was white and had the texture of polenta – I can’t stand polenta! The flavour however was absolutely delicious and it made for a great dip for the flatbread which was served in an Arabica paper bag.

Tarama

The semolina crumbed Cornish squid (£9) was a particular highlight with its succulent flesh and peppery coating. The beef and bone marrow kofte (£9.50) was also up there; the little balls of beef were served rare and had serious amounts of meaty flavour. The charred tomato and pepper provided the perfect sweet accompaniment for the richness of all that fatty bone marrow.

Squid

Kofte

The Label Anglais chicken wings (£7) were cooked perfectly; they had a crispy skin and moist flesh; I could have easily eaten another portion. There could have been a little more meat with the onglet and smoked barbecue salad (£9.50); for the price I thought the slices could have been a little thicker. Great taste though.

Wings

Onglet

The batata harra (£5) which were triple cooked potatoes, were an explosion of flavour, and so would you be if you’d been dunked in the fryer thrice and then mixed with sautéed peppers, onion, toasted garlic, chilli and coriander. Corr they were good.

Potatoes

We loved our lunch at Arabica; each dish exuded big, bold flavours meaning everything was most enjoyable. It could all add up quite quickly though if you’re pigs like us and order loads of plates (and the glass of pomegranate juice at £6.50), but it’s definitely worth a visit.

8/10

Arabica Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 500 other followers