Bocca di Lupo

Archer Street W1B 7BB
0207 734 2223
http://boccadilupo.com

If you like top quality Italian food and lots of atmosphere, look no further than Bocca di Lupo.

Tucked away down a small street in theatre land a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, it is perfectly placed for an early pre-theatre supper. We went there at lunchtime and had a superb meal. There is a long marble bar, at which one can sit on high stools, on the other side of which are four chefs beavering away preparing the food in the open kitchen.

Bocca di Lupo offers Italian-style tapas – small dishes of delicious food, cooked in front of your eyes if you sit at “the bar”. It does, of course, have lots of tables too if you don’t fancy sitting on a stool for an hour and a half! We had a selection of deep-fried sage leaves filled with anchovies in a light batter; sea-bream carpaccio with orange and rosemary, Arancini – balls of rice with saffron, bone marrow and gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, parsley and anchovy) deep fried; flash fried squid rings; mussels a la plancha with spicy chilli and herb butter; and as a token gesture towards vegetables, melt in the mouth roasted slices of pumpkin with sage, parmesan and balsamic vinegar, which was especially scrummy! We drank some good Primitivo and finished with great coffee. Staff were especially nice and friendly.

Highly recommended.

If you want to make your mouth water, have a look at their menu here.

The Cinnamon Club

32 Great Smith Street, Westminster
0207 222 2555
www.cinnamonclub.com

Great Smith Street is tucked away in a quiet street not far from Westminster Abbey. If you are on foot, you’ll need to keep your eyes open for it, as there is little to show from the outside that there is a top class restaurant inside. Once you step inside, it feels a bit more like a club than a restaurant. It is housed in the former Westminster Library, high ceilinged and still with books on the shelves around the walls. It’s well worth looking at the pictures on their website, as it is very different.

We were greeted and shown to our table by friendly staff, impeccably turned out. The lunch menu was £24 for 2 courses, £26 for 3. We started with two superb dishes – Tandoori chicken breast with mace and cardamom and a smoked paprika Raita; and Fenugreek scented Tandoori cod with curry leaf and lime crumble. (I didn’t mention that this is one of Vivek Singh’s restaurants and that he is the king of subtle Indian spicing.) Both dishes were absolutely stunning. We continued with a pan-fried duck breast with coconut vinegar sauce and pilau rice; and green spiced plaice fillet with Maharashtrian koshimbir salad and curried yoghurt. These were very good, though maybe not quite as wonderful as the first course.

Desserts in Indian restaurants are usually pretty awful, but our two desserts here were excellent. A mango and passion fruit cheesecake with mango sorbet, oats and honey crumble; and a White chocolate and pink peppercorn cake with thandai lemon sorbet.

It was a superb meal.

 

 

Lido

Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ
Tel: 0117 9339530
spa@lidobristol.com
www.lidobristol.com

Lido is an unusual restaurant in that it surrounds a large outdoor swimming pool. So while you are eating you can watch people thundering (or wallowing!) up and down the pool. It is bright and airy and the food is delicious. We went there for a wine tasting with dinner. This is what we ate, lots of small dishes tapas-style.

Wood-roasted scallops in the shell with melted butter and fresh dill
Tempura Oysters with hot chilli relish
Cecina Spanish air-dried smoked beef
Roasted salmon steaks on a bed of mixed fresh herbs and leaves
Cold rare roast lamb with a sweet potato ratatouille
Selection of homemade ice creams – Chocolate, Strawberry, Passion fruit, salted caramel, boozy rum and raisin, coffee

Good coffee. Friendly, helpful, efficient service. Thoroughly recommend it.

The Canal Turn

Lancaster Road, Carnforth LA5 9EA 01524 720546
www.thecanalturn.co.uk

If you are going up the M6 at the right time of day, take the exit to Morecambe Bay and the A6 following signs to Carnforth. Look for a sign on the left, and a side road up to the car park. I came upon this lovely pub quite by chance, and didn’t even know it was on the Lancaster canal.

The pub is right by the water, with a small terrace and a dozen tables outside, one of which I was lucky to bag in full sunshine. As the name implies, it is on a broad bend of the canal with narrow boats moored, and quite a few going back and forth.

The pub has recently been entirely refurbished, with plenty of tables inside, and has quite an extensive menu (see their website): I saw others eating beautifully presented fish and chips and platters of cured meats. Service was very slow, so I went to the bar to order the Morecambe Bay shrimp that I had been looking for: they were on the menu, both hot and cold, and were delicious. But when you are sitting in the sun watching boats go by, slow service seems less important! So much better than a motorway service station!

Food is not served on Mondays, but from 12 until 4 Tuesday to Saturday light lunches are served, with things like sandwiches, platters, jacket potatoes and light bites.

Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons

Near Oxford

A few weeks ago we spoilt ourselves and visited Raymond Blanc’s famous hotel and restaurant near Oxford. One does have to be prepared for quite a high bill here, but it is a very special place and we thought worth every penny (pound?!). Sadly it was pouring with rain from start to finish, so we were unable to visit the renowned 27 acres of garden. Another time? No sooner had we arrived in the car park than a friendly member of staff arrived with umbrellas. Once in the hotel, we felt immediately at ease and not at all “threatened” as can happen in some Michelin starred establishments. We were shown into the comfortable bar area and sank into a deep, very comfortable sofa in front of a flickering fire. We perused the menu whilst sipping our drinks and eating canapés. Unlike most people who eat there, we decided against the Tasting menus – they just didn’t appeal to us, whereas several things on the main menu did! Maybe a quarter of an hour after we had chosen, we were shown to a table in the conservatory dining-room. It is a high-roofed room with the tables nicely apart from each other so you couldn’t hear or be heard by your neighbour. Immaculately set tables with great flower decorations everywhere in the room.

As a mise en bouche we were given a shot of cauliflower soup, slightly curried, with a strip of poppadum and a seared scallop with a smear of curried sauce. All very delicate and appetising. Home-baked bread rolls accompanied the meal and were outstandingly good. My mashed potato and beer roll was amazing and I had two!

For starters we chose a fresh crab salad with grapefruit, mango and red pepper and seared langoustines on a confited leek, with pink pickled onions and truffle shavings. Both were well presented and delicious.

Main courses were, for Ethne, slices of monkfish, with poached mussels and a divine lemony, herby, buttery Gewurztraminer sauce. This was definitely the dish of the meal and the sauce was out of this world. I had roasted veal kidneys with wild garlic, lovage and a red wine jus. I felt there should have been a bit more of the jus as calves kidneys are a bit “dense”. This is a comment and not a criticism.

For desserts we had a very fine apple tart with honey and ginger ice-cream. This was stunning! And, as they called it, “our millionaire shortbread” which was a thing of great beauty and amazing taste. Soft toffee with layers of bitter chocolate on a crumbly shortbread with salted butter ice-cream.

Service was impeccable throughout and our main two waiters were Florence and Jean-Baptiste who were thoroughly charming, relaxed and friendly.

It was a great experience and we didn’t begrudge the bill one bit.

A couple of points of interest when considering the price. They have 210 staff there and 42 people in their kitchens! So it’s hardly surprising they have to charge a lot.

The Manoir au Quat’ Saisons, Church Rd, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD
Tel: 01844 278881
http://www.belmond.com/le-manoir-aux-quat-saisons-oxfordshire/

The King John Inn, Tollard Royal

Opened seven years ago already, the King John Inn in picturesque Tollard Royal is well worth a detour. Open for food 7 days a week, the pub still offers a fine selection of draft beers for the beer drinkers amongst you. The decor is a mixture of modern and traditional, with a stunning new pale oak bar and a quarry tile floor of reclaimed red tiles. Lovely selection of framed country photographs on the walls. Mixed scrubbed oak tables. Immaculate loos. It all works really well and has been done with excellent taste.

We arrived just after noon and were the first there. A relaxed but good welcome set the tone and we were shown to a nice table by the crackling open log fire.

The menu when we visited for lunch was quite small but full of interest. Hot out of the oven bread (The King John Bloomer) was crusty and delicious. For starters we chose Moules Marinières; and lightly dressed Portland crab on sourdough toast. Mains were a pigeon breast salad with crispy bacon and croutons; and pan-fried Gurnard with crushed potatoes and curly kale. There was a good selection of puds from which we shared a chocolate and orange fondant. The food was all well prepared and nicely presented, without being too “fussy”.

Service by our friendly waitress Bronte, was very good and well informed.

A three course meal will set you back £30 to £35, excluding drinks.

http://www.kingjohninn.co.uk
Tel: 01725 516207
The King John Inn, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire SP5 5PS