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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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