Hereford Road, Westbourne Grove

Hereford Road business card

Hereford Road is a restaurant located in an old Victorian butcher’s shop in Westbourne Grove. The head chef, a chap called Tom Pemberton, used to be in charge of the kitchen at St. John Bread and Wine, which is obvious when looking at the menu; simple and seasonal cooking – which is never a bad thing.

Hereford Road outside

It was a charming restaurant with mini booth seats for two in the entrance area opposite the completely open kitchen. We were however seated in the more straightforward dining room out the back, underneath a giant circular glass window in the ceiling which was pleasant.

Hereford Road dining room

Hereford Road dining room

The daily changing menu was printed on a piece of A4 paper. To start, I opted for the ‘lamb’s sweetbreads, green beans and mint’ (£7.50). The sweetbreads were plentiful and perfectly cooked, it was just a shame the beans were cold as they would have been far more enjoyable served warm. The flavour was cracking though.

Sweetbreads

My gentleman companion opted for the ‘marinated smoked haddock, potatoes, horseradish’ (£7.50) which was a really tasty plate of food. Although the horseradish was almost unnoticeable, the oily haddock along with the intensely smokey potatoes was a thoroughly enjoyable combination.

Smoked haddock

Things went slightly downhill from there. A seriously long wait ensued for our main courses. My gentleman companion enjoyed his guinea fowl with lentils (£14.50) which came exactly as described but my roast leg of black face lamb (£16.50) wasn’t quite so successful. The lamb, although served pink, was tough and chewy. The accompanying celeriac and anchovy was so inedibly salty that it remained mostly uneaten. It was so fishy too, which completely overpowered what little flavour the lamb had. A side of greens (£4) came unseasoned and sitting in a bowl full of water; boiled, watery greens – not hugely pleasant!

Guinea fowl

Lamb

Greens

For dessert, the gingerbread with toffee sauce (£6), which lacked the promised ginger flavouring, was a good sponge pudding but the dollop of lemon curd that lay atop was so horrendously overpowering. The ‘meringue, poached pear, chocolate and hazelnuts’ (£5.50) felt like two different puddings. The meringue with cream and hazelnuts was delicious, but the addition of a watery poached pear felt completely out of place. No harmonious pairing of flavours here!

Gingerbread

Meringue

Service throughout our dinner was a bit lacking in warmth and enthusiasm; the staff certainly weren’t rude but weren’t particularly friendly either. Our waiter failed to tell us about the ‘specials’ which was a tad annoying, it was only because we heard them being told to another table that we actually knew there were any. I imagine if you catch Hereford Road on a good day, then it’s bloody brilliant, but during our bank holiday Monday visit, it was far from it.

6/10

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Q Grill, Camden

Q Grill business cardLocated on Chalk Farm Road in Camden, Q Grill is the latest venture from professional Jason Statham look-a-like, I mean restaurateur, Des McDonald – he also owns The Fish and Chip Shop and Holborn Dining Room, both of which I love.

Q Grill outside

It was a large and beautifully done-out restaurant. There was a long bar with comfy stool seats to the right hand side, large semi-circular booths to the left and an open plan kitchen out the back, plus even more seating round the corner and up the stairs.

Q Grill inside

To start, my gentleman companion went for the waffle, sweet cured bacon and maple syrup (£6.50). There’s something about bacon and waffles which is so bloody lovely and here it was exactly that; proper diabetes-inducing comfort food. The bacon could have been a bit more plentiful though.

Waffles

I went for the bag of barbecued Cornish hen wings (£6.50) which were served in a takeaway bag a bit like you get from Domino’s. The wings were big old beggars with seriously moist and juicy flesh and a moreishly soft and gelatinous skin.

Wings

For main I couldn’t resist ordering the whole Josper ribs (£17.50 or £9 for half) which were absolutely ginormous. The flavour was incredible but sadly they were served cold so had to be sent back to the kitchen. Once returned, with steam coming off them this time, they were divine and easily the best ribs I’ve come across. The meat retained its texture yet was still soft and succulent and the sweet, sticky barbecue sauce they were glazed in was in no way sickly.

Josper ribs

My gentleman companion opted for the Kielbasa hot dog (£8.50) which seemed great value as it was huge. The sausage was really tasty and had the perfect amount of grease and spice that you’d hope for from a proper hot dog. Both sides of seasoned fries and scrumpy fried onions (£3.50 each) were the perfect accompaniments for all the meat we were shoving in our gobs.

Hot dog

Fries and onion rings

For dessert we decided to share the Bulleit bourbon pecan tart (£7.75) which took an awfully long time to arrive. This boozy little tart was worth the wait however; sweet, nutty, treacly and with a serious wallop of bourbon, there was nothing not to love.

Bulleit bourbon pecan tart

Our lunch wasn’t without its faults but they were easily forgiven considering how enjoyable the food was – those Josper ribs really were good. There’s plans for a few more Q Grills (and some more Fish and Chip Shops too) across London which I can only see as a good thing. But for now, if I’m in Camden and in need of some meat, I’ll know where to head to…

8/10

Q Grill on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Ship, Wandsworth

The Ship business card

The Ship is a rather popular Young’s pub situated right by the river in Wandsworth. As my parents were down in London for the day, I thought it might be nice to pop along for a Sunday roast – and I wasn’t wrong thank God!

The Ship outside

The Ship terrace

It’s not in the most obvious of locations and it’s certainly not the sort of place you’d stumble across. However we arrived to find a heaving pub, with a really lively and buzzy atmosphere. They don’t take reservations for Sunday lunch after 1pm but after a short wait in the bar area, we were seated by the open plan kitchen.

Whilst we perused the menu, some light and spongy bread sprinkled with sesame seeds was served alongside some salty butter – all of which was lovely.

Bread at the Ship

We decided to skip starters and jump straight to mains. We all opted for a roast; sirloin of beef (£16), loin of pork (£14.50) and roast chicken (£14.50). All were served with a giant Yorkshire pudding and masses of veg – it was easily the biggest Sunday roast I’ve ever shoved in my mouth. It was all delicious though and perfectly cooked – nothing felt like it was a cheap filler. The beef was served pink and was in no way tough or chewy. My chicken was moist which was helped by a big dollop of bread sauce in the middle and the pork was equally as juicy with a lovely bit of crackling on the side. Plenty of gravy too with extra jugs gladly provided.

Sirloin of beef at The Ship

Loin of pork at The Ship

Roast chicken at The Ship

For dessert the four of us shared the vanilla creme brûlée with shortbread biscuits, the white chocolate parfait and the sticky toffee pudding (all £6.25). The brûlée got a big thumbs up from my sweet toothed Mother, and although the sticky toffee pudding looked like it could have done with more sauce, there was actually plenty. They’d run out of the accompanying salted caramel ice cream though, which was rather devastating! The white choc parfait was a bit of an odd one as it didn’t quite work alongside the jugful of rhubarb syrup and the brandy snap; it was a weird blend of textures.

Creme brûlée

White chocolate parfait

Sticky toffee pudding

As far as Sunday roasts go I think you’d be hard pushed to find a more filling and satisfying one in London (Smokehouse in Islington is bloody good too FYI). The service throughout our lunch was really friendly and enthusiastic too which ensured we had a brilliant time. If you haven’t eaten at the Ship yet, then I think that time has come.

8/10

The Ship on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Amaya, Knightsbridge

Amaya business card

Located in Knightsbridge, Amaya is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant by the same people as Veeraswamy, Chutney Mary and Masala Zone. After a recent incredible meal at Indian restaurant Gymkhana, I was really excited to see what Amaya had to offer – but sadly the whole experience from start to finish was a total disappointment.

Amaya outside

The restaurant was an attractive space which was flooded with natural light and the open plan kitchen gave the place a relaxed atmosphere. The chairs were bloomin’ uncomfortable though. We were seated next to a giant colourful painting, which on closer inspection, had food splattered across it – lovely.

Amaya dining room

We decided to order the ‘Amaya Favourites’ menu priced at £35 per person. A mandarin and goats cheese salad was the first to arrive and it was exactly that; a bit of rocket, some sliced mandarin and some crumbled goats cheese. Pleasant at best.

Salad Amaya

The black pepper chicken tikka was one mouthful – more of a canapé than an actual dish. The letter ‘A’ had been written on the plate in a flavourless sauce which, other than being pointless, was a bit naff. There was nowhere near enough of the accompanying (and cold) satay sauce either.

Chicken Tikka Amaya

The ‘Amaya naan’ which were in fact just naan, quickly followed. They were fine, but I’d expect fine if I was sitting in that Indian restaurant above the Blue Eyed Maid on Borough High Street – where was the finesse? The invention? The wow? There was also a distinct lack of dips/sauces/chutneys. When we finished, they replenished the bowl but with only one naan this time for us to share, which seemed awfully miserly.

Amaya naan

The spinach and fig tikki followed which were, and I hate to use this word, disgusting. Luke-warm balls of dry, flavourless stodge. I was in desperate need of a sauce so I could actually swallow the things.

Spinach and fig tikki Amaya

The tandoori ocean wild prawn was a big bugger at least, but so overcooked that the flesh no longer resembled anything that had come from the ocean. The tomatoey paste that covered it was also dry and dull in flavour.

Tandoori prawn Amaya

The tandoori chicken chop was presented alongside an unappetising smear of green stuff which looked quite positively gross. The plate also had a huge thumbprint on it too – I hate to sound pernickety, but we’re talking about a Michelin starred restaurant here. The attention to detail was non existent.

Tandoori chicken chop Amaya

The grilled lamb chop was overcooked, chewy and dry which wasn’t helped by the fact it was covered in crushed nuts, which really weren’t a great companion for the lamb. There was yet another smear of that green concoction here too but no sauce – a sauce would have made the chop so much more manageable.

Lamb chop Amaya

The best thing we ate was the final dish; chicken biryani with raita – only because it was filling and had some form of flavour. Served inside a little pot with a candle underneath, the rice and chunks of moist chicken thigh were tasty but the accompanying raita simply tasted of yoghurt; it could have done with some seasoning.

Chicken biryani with raita Amaya

We couldn’t bear to look at the dessert menu so paid up and made a swift exit. I can quite honestly say our meal at Amaya was one of the worst I’ve ever had. The place was absolutely packed though (mind you, so is Angus Steakhouse), but with a certain type of clientele. Fellow diners spent their whole meal on their phones, in silence, barely looking up even to order. Amaya obviously appeals to those people – it well and truly doesn’t to me.

2/10

Amaya on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Marcus at The Berkeley

Marcus business card

Two Michelin starred Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Hotel recently underwent an extensive refurb including, a name change to Marcus, in the hope of making it a much more relaxed affair. We had a brilliant lunch there a couple of years ago so when I received an invitation to review the new place, I jumped at the chance.

The Berkeley Hotel

Ever since blaggergate (what? You’ve not heard of blaggergate? Where have you been?!) some of you, including certain restaurant critics, will find the following words, photos and opinions ‘worthless’ as I didn’t pay for my meal. I won’t whittle on too much about the whole thing, as it’s been intelligently summed up here, here and here, but I will say this; surely as a long as a blogger/critic/journalist is honest and makes it clear that they were invited along/comped/treated/bribed then what’s the harm? It’s up to the reader to make up their own mind. Let’s get things straight – contacting a restaurant for a free meal in return of a positive review is wrong. Accepting an invitation to eat a free meal simply isn’t.

Anyway, moving on! The new look Marcus was a rather attractive one; it felt far less austere than it used to be. Gone were the purple felt walls and the champagne trolley and instead were bare tables (possibly too bare?) with crisp white tablecloths, dark wood panelled walls and plenty of natural light.

Marcus dining room

Some Parmesan and tapioca gougère followed by some fennel and potato bread started things off brilliantly. The little cheesy puffs were really light and totally moreish and the bread was so good we demolished two rounds of the stuff and could have easily done a third.

Goujeres

Fennel and potato bread

Menu wise, there was a taster menu priced at £120 or two courses for £60, three for £85 or four for £95. We opted for the latter. There was also a small but much cheaper a la carte available.

I started with the ‘veal belly, frog’s legs (where should the apostrophe go?), snails and wild garlic’ which was a rich and hearty bowl of food. The vibrantly green sauce had a really strong garlicky punch which went beautifully with the soft, tender frog’s legs. A little piece of deep fried breaded veal brain was also delicious and helped add to the richness of it all. I do love a bit of brain.

Veal belly, frog's legs, snails, wild garlic at Marcus

My gentleman companion went for the ‘foie gras, mango and granola’ which sounded like a bizarre combination of ingredients – granola makes you think of breakfast doesn’t it? In fact, it was a great companion for the fatty foie and sweet mango. And the quality of that foie gras was sublime.

Foie Gras at Marcus

The ‘scallops, cauliflower and cucumber’ was a truly wonderful blend of flavours. Not only did it look like a stunning plate of food, but the finely diced pickled cucumber, along with the sweet cauliflower purée was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in a long time.

Scallops at Marcus

‘Mackerel, onions, egg’ was far more complex than its description would have you believe. The little piles of chopped egg had been so finely diced that they had the texture of couscous, which was most unusual and the oily mackerel had been blowtorched, giving its skin the most crisp exterior imaginable. Really lovely stuff.

Mackerel at Marcus

We were then treated to an extra course of ‘turbot, Dorset snails, shallot and gnocchi’, which was a definite highlight. The turbot had a meaty texture yet was still succulent and moist and the snails weren’t balls of rubber which I often find to be the case. There’s something so comforting about gnocchi too.

Turbot at Marcus

Both mains were divine; the ‘Herdwick lamb, beetroot and barley’ was a meaty treat but it was the Anjou pigeon that was the real star. It was drenched in a thick sauce that had been made using the blood and offal of the bird, giving it a really strong yet not overpowering flavour. Each part of the pigeon had been cooked to perfection; crisp skin and soft, rare meat and the addition of some tiny roasted potatoes with salty, blistered skins were a brilliant touch – I could have eaten a bowl full of those on their own.

Herdwick lamb at Marcus

Anjou pigeon at Marcus

Desserts helped end things on a satisfying note. The ‘warm chocolate, crunch, salted caramel ice cream’ was basically a chocolate fondant covered in cocoa powder – any chocolate lover’s idea of bliss really. I had hoped for a slightly more flamboyant presentation though. The ‘pineapple, pain perdu, coconut’ tasted like a posh Piña Colada – which is never a bad thing. Pain perdu is posh for eggy bread and here, with a mouthful of coconut meringue and sweet pineapple, it was ruddy lovely.

Chocolate at Marcus

 

Pineapple, pain perdu, coconut at Marcus

The food we sampled at Marcus was truly outstanding, but it was the service that really made the experience so memorable. The general manager, the sommelier, our waitress, the guy topping up our water; all did their job with such charm and warmth – you might be hard pushed to find a friendlier dining room in London. The new look Marcus has got it bang on the money if you ask me.

9/10

I dined as a guest of the restaurant.

Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

London House, Battersea

London House business card

London House is the latest restaurant from Gordon Ramsay Holdings, adding to their current portfolio of twelve restaurants in the UK. It’s located on a rather unassuming main road in Battersea, in a building that’s seen numerous failed attempts at success as an oyster bar, a Greek restaurant and an All Bar One to name but a few.

London House outside

It’s a handsomely designed restaurant split into several different mini dining rooms. The tables were adorned with white linen tablecloths but the lively background music, and the fact pretty much every other table had a baby sitting at it, meant the atmosphere was certainly not stuffy. It all felt very yummy mummy, yah.

London House inside

The only menu available was a prix fixe priced at £28 for three courses (£35 at dinner) which included no supplements – hoorah! Don’t you just hate supplements on a set menu? Everything sounded very tasty indeed.

Some beautifully spongy bread served in a little bag started things off and was so good we wolfed down two lots of the stuff – after seeing the portion sizes of the dishes we were glad we did!

Bread at London House

To start, I opted for the roasted chicken wings, parsley, green bean salsa and garlic which was served in a beautiful ceramic bowl. The wings had been deboned making them easy to eat elegantly, but they quickly became sickly as their fat wasn’t fully crispy. The green been salsa wasn’t exactly the perfect accompaniment for them either.

roasted chicken wings, parsley, green bean salsa and garlic at London House

My gentleman companion went for the seared Scottish scallops which, other than being too small, were overpowered by the diced apple AND apple purée, as both were far too sharp and tangy.

Scallops at London House

For main, my saddle of lamb, wild garlic purée and pressed lamb hot pot was a catastrophic disaster. The thin slices of lamb (only four of which made it on to the plate) were more raw than medium-rare which made for seriously chewy meat, and even chewier fat. The meat in the slice of “hot pot” was dry, overcooked and lacking in flavour. The small (halved) carrot was sweet and tasty but barely noticeable – surely they could have managed a whole carrot? It’s the smallest main course I’ve ever seen in my life.

saddle of lamb, wild garlic purée and pressed lamb hot pot at London House

My gentleman companion’s Cumbrian beef fillet was far less horrendous. The beef (again, very little of it) was soft and tender, and the braised beef cheek stuffed gnocchi were a revelation – such intense flavour with a gooey texture. But two of them? Christ.

Cumbrian beef fillet with braised beef cheek stuffed gnocchi at London House

In stark contrast, portion size was no problem with puddings however. The chocolate tart, which had the consistency of a warm, unset chocolate mousse, was enjoyable for the first few bites but then quickly became sickly. The accompanying lavender ice cream had a touch of the potpourri about it. The passion fruit posset suffered a similar problem; only this time it was too tangy after a couple of mouthfuls. The ‘cardamom and ginger oatcakes’ (there was only one actually) was in fact the best bit.

Chocolate tart at London House

Passion fruit posset at London House

It’s a shame the food was such a failure at London House as it’s actually a really lovely restaurant. And the staff are even lovelier; attentive and really friendly. But the portion sizes were horrendously small and the inability to cook four slices of lamb correctly is inexcusable. I wouldn’t avoid London House like the plague, but I wouldn’t exactly rush there either.

6/10

London House on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Camberwell Arms

Camberwell Arms

The Camberwell Arms is the new pub-cum-restaurant from the guys behind Great Queen Street and the Anchor and Hope. Terrible as it might sound, I’ve never actually ventured to the area before but I’m pleased to report that Camberwell isn’t quite as rough as I’d once imagined!

Camberwell Arms outside

Based inside a former pub, it was a large space with a pub style bar at the front and a dining room out the back complete with open plan kitchen. It was charmingly noisy; chatty diners, babies crying, chefs shouting “service!” – the atmosphere was great. The three of us were seated at a larger shared table which wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea but it didn’t bother us particularly.

Camberwell Arms dining room

Whilst we perused the menu, which was printed on a small piece of paper, some delicious, if not a little unevenly sliced house bread with salty butter got things off to a great start.

House bread at Camberwell Arms

We decided to share three starters. The buttered shrimp, toasted crumpet and pickled cucumber (£7) was a truly brilliant blend of flavours. The homemade crumpet was excellent too – I do love a good crumpet. The ox tongue, beetroot, horseradish and pickled walnut (£6.20) was also delicious; the tongue was cooked perfectly and the slightly tangy beetroot with the aggressively fiery horseradish were brilliant accompaniments. The simplest starter however was my favourite; scotch bonnet and pork fat on toast (£4). It was less spicy than I imagined but seriously rich and well…bloody lovely.

Ox tongue, buttered shrimp and crumpet, scotch bonnet and pork fat on toast at Camberwell Arms

Main courses were slightly disappointing to be honest; two of us decided to share the sausage and confit pig cheek gratin (£30). Served in a large ovenproof dish it was basically a sausage pasta bake in a tomato sauce with a couple of pig cheeks thrown in. It was the sort of pasta you get in minestrone soup, which seemed a bit odd as it didn’t mention pasta on the menu. It was also insanely hot which caused a few burnt mouth moments. It was served with a bowl of lettuce leaves which seemed like an odd companion for the sausage but it actually provided some splendid respite from the richness of it all. Not a horrendous dish, just not what we expected.

Sausage at Camberwell Arms

The ‘slow cooked spiced ox tail, corn bread and sour cream’ (£14.60) was a massive bowl of food. Two humongous chunks of ox tail drenched in a rich gravy quickly became a little too sickly for my friend alone – I gladly helped her out, mind. A side of buttery hispi cabbage (£3.50) was delicious and a welcome bit of greenery.

Ox tail at Camberwell Arms

Hispi cabbage at Camberwell Arms

Desserts helped put things firmly back on track and ended things on a real high. The blood orange pot with amaretto biscuit (£5) was incredible; it was like an orangey lemon posset. The accompanying biscuit, which was seriously chewy, shall go down in history as my favourite ever biscuit. The chocolate and marmalade tart (£6) had the texture of a chocolate fondant centre yet wasn’t at all sickly – partly because of the chunks of marmalade running through it. These guys know how to make seriously good puddings.

Chocolate and marmalade tart and blood orange pot at Camberwell Arms

Even though the mains were slightly disappointing it still wasn’t enough to ruin our evening, as when the food was good, it was insanely good. The really friendly and efficient staff and the lively atmosphere ensured we left happy bunnies. And it’s made me a Camberwell convert (sort of), so it can’t be bad!

8/10

The Camberwell Arms on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 399 other followers