The Ivy Market Grill, Covent Garden

Ivy Market Grill business card

The Ivy Market Grill is Richard Caring’s latest venture (he’s the bloke who sold Cote for millions and he also owns Jackson&Rye, Bill’s, Scott’s and The Ivy to name but a few). I wasn’t convinced by the idea of using The Ivy’s name for a high street chain concept but the place was heaving so it has obviously worked.

The inside was smart and handsome; like a grown up version of Jackson&Rye. Tables were insanely close together though – when I went to powder my nose, I practically sat in the neighbouring tables darne of salmon. They’d crammed tables in wherever humanly possible which made the whole experience a totally joyless one – unless overhearing everyone else’s conversations is your thing.

inside

The menu, which has the exact same layout as Jackson&Rye, was confusing and cluttered. To start, the crunchy prawns with wasabi (£9.75) had a touch of the Weatherspoons about them. They were served on skewers which was a little pointless but most annoying of all, the tails were attached yet hidden in batter. Spitting out a mouthful of prawn shell mush is never a good look.

Crispy prawns

Slightly better were the wild mushrooms on toast (£7.25) which were pleasantly drenched in a creamy sauce and they were grit free – hoorah! You’d be surprised how many restaurants don’t clean mushrooms properly these days.

Mushrooms on toast

The 12oz rib-eye (£26.50) had the oddest texture. The steak was so hot it was actually steaming, and when cut into, the meat oozed water which was most bizarre. I’ve never had a steak like it – it was repulsive. It tasted like it had been cooked en masse. It was expensive too – and it didn’t even come with chips or a sauce.

12 oz rib eye

The Market Grill shepherd’s pie (£12.75) was so hot it felt like it had come fresh from the microwave which was such a shame as the flavour was divine. It didn’t seem to lose its volcanic temperature the whole time it was on the table either. A side of crisp, well seasoned zucchini fritti (£3.75) were the best things we ate all evening.

Shepherd's pie

Zucchini

Ivy Market Grill is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. After that meal, I can confidently say I won’t go back for any of them. The whole thing felt like a re-hashed version of Jackson&Rye to me, which is unimaginative at best, and lazy at worst.

4/10

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Portland, Great Portland Street

Portland business card

Portland is a new restaurant from Daniel Morgenthau and Will Lander, co-owner of Quality Chop House in Farringdon. It’s a pretty looking restaurant with a similar feel to 10 Greek Street, just with more room which is never a bad thing. The open kitchen at one end of the room and the noisy natter of diners helped create a lively atmosphere.

Outside

Inside

To start we ordered the pig head croquettes (£4) from the ‘snacks’ section of the menu. These bite size pieces of pig covered in a crisp breadcrumb coating were pleasantly rich and fatty.

Pig

The lamb tartare with anchovy mayo and grated yolk (£7) was a particularly good dish. The thick chunks of raw lamb went brilliantly with the slightly fishy mayo. The grated egg yolk was a clever addition too.

Lamb

The heritage carrots, Mimolette vieille and granola (£7) was a great vegetarian dish. The velvety smooth carrot purée which had plenty of Mimolette (a type of orange cheese) to add to its richness was delicious. The granola sprinkled on top added some much needed texture.

Carrot

Mains however were disappointing and it didn’t help that they were both luke-warm. The Crediton chicken (£16) had the sort of texture and pale, white colour that you might expect from pre-cooked packet chicken at Tesco. The accompanying parsnips were so sticky I had to prise them from the plate and they were a bit of a basic accompaniment for the bird.

Chicken

The chargrilled South Devon sirloin (£18) had a strip of gristle running through it which was far from pleasant. Although the flavour was good, there’s plenty of cracking steak to be found in London and this just didn’t stand up to it. The fries (£4) were at least well seasoned and thoroughly enjoyable.

Steak

Chips

Although puddings were pleasant, they didn’t reach great heights. The lemon tart, meringue and tarragon (£7) lacked flavour. I was hoping to be walloped round the face with big, bold flavours, instead it was just a little tickle. The chocolate bar, peanut butter praline and peanut ice cream (£7) was more successful being a real decadent treat.

Tart

Chocolate

As the restaurant had only just opened and was still in soft launch, there was 50% off the bill and we weren’t charged for the dodgy main courses which was a kind gesture. At full price though, it ain’t cheap. On the plus side, service was absolutely brilliant but I wonder if the food at Portland is the type that’ll be absolutely brilliant in a year’s time.

6/10

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Relae, Copenhagen

Relae business card

Relae was the last of the Michelin starred restaurants we visited during our time in Copenhagen and it was based in the slightly rougher part of town – mind you, it’s worth bearing in mind I’m a total wimp!

Relae outside

The restaurant had a totally relaxed feel about it; the wine and water were left for you to help yourself and there was also rather loud music which made for an even more informal atmosphere. The cutlery, napkin and menu were placed in a specially made drawer underneath the table which was quite clever. The tables were awfully close together though – the kind where you’d knock your neighbours cutlery off when you go for a wee.

Relae inside

Relae table drawer

After 8pm a seven course tasting menu priced at 725 DKK (roughly £76 ) is available so we went for that. First up was some sourdough bread that had a gloriously treacly crust served alongside some great quality olive oil.

Relae bread

Our first course was trout, chicken skin and mushrooms which, due to the whole thing being covered in grated raw mushroom, had an overbearing flavour of the stuff. It was enjoyable, just a little basic and one dimensional.

Mushroom

Next was a strip of cucumber covered in a vibrantly green, stripey sauce. It certainly looked impressive but like the dish before, there was only one flavour present. As much as I love a bit of cucumber, it’s not exactly a life changing flavour is it?

Cucumber

The risotto made using sunflower seeds instead of rice was really clever and it tasted utterly divine. Kornly (a type of cheese) had been used to make it extra rich and creamy and the grated truffle on top added some extra decadence.

Rissotto

I struggled to get my head round the next dish; courgette and grilled goat cream. The poor courgette had been tampered with to buggary, first being dehydrated and then rehydrated, leaving it with a chewy and most unpleasant texture. Why bother going to all that effort to produce something so positively minging?

Courgette

The plate of beautifully cooked havervadgård lamb could have had a more flamboyant presentation. It was covered with Swiss chard and seaweed which was a shame, the meat was so wondrous that it deserved to be shown off.

Lamb

We decided to share the cheese (roughly £10 extra) which was odd to say the least. Melted Nordlys (a type of sweet cheese) atop a thin wafer sprinkled with dried berries wasn’t what we were expecting but it was pleasant never the less.

Cheese

First of the sweet things was a little cup of raspberry mousse topped with frozen raspberries and it was certainly a melange of different textures. I preferred what was next however, sweetcorn and marjoram. It was a really interesting balance of flavours; the sweetcorn ice cream was dusted with a fine popcorn dust which was great and something I’d never seen done before.

Mousse

Sweetcorn

Relae was the more relaxed and trendier of the Michelin starred restaurants we visited whilst in Copenhagen. But we found the same problem here as we did with the others – all the hard work and effort that goes into each dish, resulted in a plate that doesn’t taste very good. A slice of cucumber and a courgette that has been dehydrated and then rehydrated just doesn’t really tickle my pickle.

6/10

Kitty Fisher’s, Mayfair

Kkitty Fisher's business card

After hearing much praise, I was really looking forward to dinner at Kitty Fisher’s, a new restaurant in Mayfair with head chef Tomos Parry heading up the kitchen who won Chef of the Year at the Young British Foodie Awards. He’s installed a bespoke wood burning grill in the kitchen – sounds right up my alley.

We were seated on the ground floor which was tiny and a little breezy every time someone opened the door – it’s amazing how many people just leave it open when they leave! It was a beautiful space though with a real old-fashioned character to it. But it’s downstairs you want to be as there’s a glass fronted kitchen so you can see all the action.

Inside

To start we went for the bread and burnt onion butter (£3) which was only let down by the bread having too much crumbly crust and not enough actual bread. The burnt onion butter was to die for.

Bread  and burnt onion butter

I would have gladly eaten a couple of plates of the whipped cod’s roe (£6) atop little fingers of toast, as it was seriously good. The fried Mylor shrimp (£7.50) was an interesting one, as we were encouraged to eat the shrimps whole. The salty, crispy legs (which reminded me of the crispy prawn legs at El Celler de can Roca) made these totally addictive and rather lovely.

Whipped cod roe

Fried mylor shrimp

The lamb cutlets (£10.50) were the best bloody lamb cutlets I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t just the insanely good quality of the meat, but the cooking too; the smokey, charred outside, bright red flesh inside and the oozing, salty fat. They should serve a massive plate of them with some veg and potatoes – it would be an amazing dish.

Lamb cutlets

Beef tartare, rosemary, nasturtium and rye (£10) was spicier than I’d anticipated which made for a pleasant surprise. The chunks of raw beef were soft and full of flavour.

Beef tartare

The beef sirloin with pink fir potatoes topped with Tunworth cheese (£30) was a cracking bit of cookery. Although the potatoes could have been crispier and topped with more cheese, they were still a great companion for the strong flavour of the beef. A surprising highlight was a bowl of hispi cabbage (£4) which had chargrilled, crispy edges, elevating it to new heights.

Beef sirloin

Hispi cabbage

Dessert was a winner; chocolate mousse with burnt orange and hazelnuts (£8). The combination of flavours (the masterful addition of salt and olive oil) was so very spot-on that it shall go down as one of my favourite puds of all time.

Chocolate mousse, burnt orange, hazelnuts

The food at Kitty Fisher’s was seriously impressive, the only weak link being the service. Our waiter, who turned out to be one of the owners, was certainly charming but he had a calamitous/panicky touch about him which was a tad unsettling. If they get that sorted and buy some proper napkins (paper serviettes in a Mayfair restaurant?!) then Kitty Fisher’s will be a pretty faultless affair.

8/10

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Kokkeriet, Copenhagen

Kokkeriet business card

Michelin starred Kokkeriet isn’t Copenhagen’s newest or trendiest restaurant, in fact very few of the locals we spoke to had heard of it (that might be because our pronunciation was wrong though). We didn’t let that deter us however and off we trolloped for dinner.

kokkeriet outside

The welcome from each member of staff was as warm as it gets; they exuded friendliness as soon as we walked through the door. The dining room was quaint and a lot smaller than I imagined; it felt like we were in someone’s living room. The addition of some background music was a wise one – without that the atmosphere would have been a bit flat.

Kokkeriet inside

A barrage of snacks kicked things off (they do love their snacks out there in Copenhagen don’t they!) the first being two tiny pieces of Indian cress sandwiching some salmon tartare. Now I know what you’re thinking, don’t worry, we thought the same thing, but even though this was barely a quarter of a mouthful it was actually bloody delicious.

Cress

Next was a cheesy twiggy thing, which tasted like a cheesy twiggy thing, followed by a venison faggot (I do love a faggot me) and a little jelly bonbon which was seriously meaty. Our final nibble was a beetroot crisp that looked like it had been scraped from the side of a volcano. All were most peculiar but enjoyable never the less.

Twig

Faggot

Bon bon

Beetroot

Bread was cheesy and a little bit chewy in an enjoyable kind of way. It was served with a skir butter (which was really tangy) topped with seaweed powder which was great.

Bread

Not feeling in the mood for a humungous tasting menu, we instead opted for the three course a la carte priced at 700 DKK per person (around £75).

I started with the lobster, spring cabbage and cream sauce which looked beautiful and tasted pretty darn lovely too. The lobster claw (intact which was impressive) was so immaculately prepared and the flavour was probably the best I’ve ever tasted. My gentleman companion decided to pop his caviar cherry and thank God he did it here as the caviar was seriously flavourful and beautifully presented too.

Lobster

Caviar

The two main courses; veal tenderloin and monkfish, saw massive chunks of both accompanied with rather dry and crunchy vegetables which seemed a shame; the thin ribbons of undressed carrot didn’t really stand up to the spectacular veal.

Veal

Monkfish

For dessert, we shared the selection of cheeses which were cut and served table side by a really sweet and charming chef. As is often the case with a cheese board, they describe every single one and I stop listening after the first five seconds, so God knows what we had but they were all exceptionally good.

Cheese

Cheese

The only dessert available was coffee punch, dark chocolate and aquavit (which sounds like a toilet manufacturer but is in fact a Scandinavian spicy liquor). It was a thoroughly pleasant end to an usual and intriguing meal.

Coffee punch

I think we would have seen more of Kokkeriet’s flair if we’d gone for the tasting menu, but on the whole it was quite an impressive experience. The dining room is more old fashioned in comparison to Copenhagen’s other Michelin offerings (Relae, Noma, Geranium), but the food is anything but.

7/10

The Mariners, Cornwall

Mariners business card

The Mariners is Nathan Outlaw’s first pub in Rock, Cornwall (he also owns a two Michelin star restaurant round the corner and the one star Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac) and as we were staying in Padstow which is just a short ferry ride away we thought we’d pop along for lunch.

The outside

The website spoke of no reservations for the dining room upstairs but we arrived to be told it was fully booked which was a tad annoying. Instead, we found the only available table (in the bar area) which was as wobbly as the tiny stools we had to sit on. It also happened to be by the front door which meant the most horrendous gale would ruffle us up every time it was opened. It was the only meal I’ve ever eaten in my woolly hat and coat; it was an awful place to sit.

The inside

Being New Years Day, only a reduced menu was available. I opted for the roast topside of Warren’s beef, Yorkshire pudding and Horseradish cream (£12.50) which certainly wasn’t bad, in fact it was very tasty, but it wasn’t perfect. It was all luke-warm and the beef, although tender, should have been a lovely shade of pink and not the unappetising grey. The cauliflower in the accompanying cauliflower cheese was raw and the carrot and swede mash was watery and tasteless. The ginormous Yorkshire pudding was a particular highlight though.

Beef

Veg

My gentleman companion went for the grilled cod fillet, spring onion mash and parsley and caper sauce (£12.50) which again was very pleasant but let down by it not being quite warm enough. The quality of the fish was great but it would have been more enjoyable had its skin been crispy instead of soggy.

Cod

By this point our numb bums and the force ten gale meant it would be unbearable to stay for puddings so we left, which was a shame as I wanted the steamed treacle sponge with custard. I was shocked by The Mariners to be honest, I was expecting a cosy Cornish pub but it was quite the opposite. The place was packed though, so who cares?

4/10

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The Five Fields, Chelsea

IMG_6920

Hidden down a sleepy residential street off the Kings Road, The Five Fields is the sort of restaurant you’d never accidentally stumble upon. On our Saturday night visit the place was packed however and it’s easy to see why.

Outside

The dining room was small but beautiful, some serious money had clearly been spent on the place. It was all very elegant but the armchairs sloped backwards however which was a little uncomfortable – it was like sitting on a sun lounger.

Two options were available; a three course a la carte at £50 or a tasting menu at £75 which is what we went for. Some lovely nibbly bits featuring a crab tart, an onion consommé and a shellfish and purple potato mousse got things off to a lovely start.

Tart

Potato mousse

Bread was the type that you’d gladly eat all night long. A black olive brioche and a buttermilk roll, all served with slabs of seriously divine butter, were masterfully made.

Bread

Butter

Our first course was simply described as ‘Roots’ on the menu and that’s exactly what it was, a plate of crispy vegetable roots that had a moreish sweetness about them. Who’d have thought it eh?

Roots

Foie gras, plum and almond was a simple blend of flavours but one which worked really well. It helped that the fatty foie was of splendid quality. Orkney scallop, turnip and smoked eel were insanely good; the smoked eel tasted like bacon and went brilliantly with the scallop.

Foie

Scallop

Red grouse with pear and chestnuts would only have been bettered if the grouse had been roasted as opposed to being sous-vide. The bird was soft and succulent at least. Next was a pretty little plate filled with beetroot done a number of different ways, which made for a wonderful blend of textures. The mini beetroot meringues were great.

Grouse

Beetroot

There was an option for the next course so we shared both. The cornish turbot with celery and bone marrow was divine but the Herdwick mutton was even better. Served with a little strip of crispy skin, courgettes and a courgette purée, the flavour of the mutton was incredible.

Turbot

Mutton

Dessert of Muscat grape and hazelnut with chocolate and yoghurt was a perfect balance between sweet and sharp. The caramel truffles that followed served alongside a small cup of hot rum were the perfect end to a really impressive dinner.

Dessert

Truffles

Service throughout our dinner was faultless; it felt like we’d been invited inside someone’s home from the minute we stepped through the door which is a really lovely thing. That, combined with some bloody good cooking and there’s little to dislike.

9/10

The Five Fields on Urbanspoon

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