Wednesday, 18 January 2017

New opening: Tom's Kitchen

My first blog event of the year! Tom's Kitchen opened right at the end of December but they sensibly waited until we were a couple of weeks into the year before hosting a launch party.

As always, launch parties are jolly good fun with plenty of free booze and canapes floating around and the opportunity to chat to folks you haven't seen in some time. Not a true representation of what the restaurant will be like but a good opportunity to look around.

We were given tours of the restaurant in groups. There's an ample bar area, restaurant seating stretching out into the Mailbox and a couple of private dining rooms.

I loved the feel of the place: both classic and current at the same time. Think wooden panelling, leather benches and 60's style chairs in muted colours, wine bottles on display and stylish light fittings.

The bar serves beers, wines and a small selection of classic cocktails, you will also be able to buy bar snacks such as fish and chips, meat boards and a burger.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and brunch at the weekend. Expect classic British cooking- steak, pork belly, plenty of fish. Prices seem to be about £5 more for a main than the average restaurant so I'm looking forward to seeing whether the price is justified.

Outside in the Mailbox 'Urban Room' there is also a deli where coffee, lunches and fizz will be available daily. I really like that The Mailbox and Tom's Kitchen are using the space like this.

Here we were able to listen to a live band, drink plenty of prosecco (I tried to be good and not drink too much, I've got this pesky job) mingle with other local foodies and even meet Tom Aikens himself.

Canapes were a good selection of produce which will appear on the menu- chicken liver pate, smoked salmon, steak tatare and whipped ricotta with a beautiful balsamic vinegar topping.

Finally a mini version of lemon meringue pie which was incredible- light, sweet merinuge, thin, crispy pastry and the most zingy, creamy lemon filling. I don't usually rant about canapes but this was lovely- I hope the full size is just as good.

A lovely evening celebrating the launch of Tom's Kitchen. I'm excited to return!

Tom's Kitchen, The Mailbox

Food and drink were complimentary. A blog post was not required.

Photos by Helen and Edd. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

New opening: Varanasi

Before Christmas, a new restaurant called Varanasi opened on Broad Street. But it's not quite what you'd expect from this part of town. The press release promised a giant, underground, opulent Indian dining 'experience'. I'll be honest, I was worried it would be a case of style over substance but as far as I can tell I was wrong.

We were able to have a tour around, try some cocktails and a few nibbles. We had to walk through a long corridor from reception and were let in to the upstairs bar where there was a waterfall, believe it or not.

After a lovely glass of champagne, I tried one of their cocktails: a lychee martini, with rose syrup. I wasn't sure of the point of the rose syrup as it just sunk to the bottom and couldn't be drunk. This was a pleasant enough (if rather sweet) drink and looked pretty but I hope they have some more grownup cocktails on the menu.

A tour showed me two large restaurant areas and some private dining rooms, all decorated in a lavish fashion which isn't quite to my taste but is appropriate to the theme and isn't too cheesy.

 As for the food, it was only canapes and there wasn't a huge variety. However, I did enjoy everything I tried. Everything was well presented and was delicately spiced. I'd be very happy to see what the main menu is like based on these little snacks.

I enjoyed my evening at Varanasi. The decor is good fun and the private dining rooms would be the perfect place for a celebration meal. I'll look forward to heading back for a proper meal.

Varanasi, Broad Street

Food and drink were complimentary for review purposes.

Photos by Helen and Edd. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

New York Day Six

Central Park Zoo

Another trip to Central Park, this time for the zoo. I was excited to see the penguins and the Only Cow in Manhattan.

I found a red panda having a snooze in the shade.

Poor lonely cow.

I particularly liked the petting zoo where you could feed the sheeps. There was an alpaca too but he was surrounded by children constantly.

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is the coolest place near the High Line. It's a huge hipstery food market, where you can buy all manner of delicious things- cheese, cake, spices, alcohol etc. I was there for what the Internet told me are the best tacos in New York.

The queue was long but moved swiftly. Gave us plenty of time to decide to order everything off the menu. Including grilled cactus because it just felt right.

Trying proper tacos was an exciting moment for me. I love tacos but the ones we get in the UK are either hipstery with pickled onion on or the sort you get in boxes. Both of which I love. But these are the proper sort; the tortillas were being made in front of us, the meat was being chopped up with a big cleaver and all the sauces were super fresh and delicious.

The chicken was my favourite but the pork was also delicious. I loved the grilled meat flavour and the hint of chilli.

Look at the char on that meat!

Chelsea Market was incredibly busy but I loved the industrial, un-finished feeling and the way you kept discovering interesting things like a water fountain and a corridor filled with fairy lights.

The High Line

A disused overground railway line which has been paved and filled with art and plants. It's an absolutely gorgeous way to spend an afternoon.

People tend to tell you about the High Line as if it's an undiscovered secret but it is, naturally, full of people and you shuffle along it like the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm sure there's better times to go but I went for a post-lunch stroll. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that.

I just got excited because it said Parks and Recreation.

Excuse My French

We'd popped into here for happy hour cocktails on Saturday and the food smelled so good that we had to go back for dinner.

It's a gorgeous little French bar on Orchard Street with a few bar seats and tables, a vintagey style without being gimmicky, the smell of truffle oil in the air and basically my ideal cocktail menu.

We weren't super hungry so ordered some salmon gradvalax, scallop carpaccio and duck confit with parmentier potatoes. Salmon was beautiful, the scallop carpaccio was very light and an interesting texture but a little oily. The duck smelled amazing- so rich. It was a very rich dish, which I enjoyed but couldn't eat too much of it.

For drinks, we initially stuck to happy hour Royales (champagne or prosecco with syrup). They have a whole range of floral syrups, which I loved, with rose being my favourite.

I was happy to spot my favourite Aviation (or L'Aviateur as they called it) on the cocktail menu and had a lovely chat with the bar tender about the history of the cocktail. He told me a story about it being served on the first flight from Paris to New York or vice versa maybe. I can't remember, I'd had plenty of cocktails. 

Hill and Dale

Hill and Dale do a great Monday happy hour with $1 oysters all night. I've never tried oysters before and we were feeling hungry, so we ordered four, some devilled eggs and some chips plus some HH cocktails. 

Really enjoyed the oysters with the hot tomato sauce, the eggs were fun and the cocktails were fine but nicely presented and reasonably priced- a rarity in Manhattan.

Hill and Dale was the closest I found to a 'pub' in New York, with plenty of booths but also big squishy sofas at the back and board games available to play. We had great fun drinking and snacking and playing giant jenga amongst others. We brought so many tequilas that they ended up giving us a free round. 

A lovely day in the big city. 

Photos by Helen and Edd.

Everything paid for ourselves though Hill and Dale did give us a free tequila shot!