Posts Tagged ‘Soho’
Hoorray! Churchill’s Port House is back. The adventure started as a pop-up, only meant to present Churchill’s beautiful port and wine for a few months but proved amazingly successful. And so – and this really warms my heart – they have now reopened in Soho. Same place, white and black interior, more space now that the upstairs has been opened, pictures of the master house cellars on the wall, fairy lights on the side, specials on the blackboard, making your mouth water in advance. This is the place to celebrate port, forget the stereotype of this classical after-dinner drink, it is so much more! Vibrant, cheerful and the perfect match to tapas. You will find a very passionate team, always smiling and happy to guide you. The music is equally brilliant, playing softly in the background, a perfect mix of hits, comforting and cheerful (Coors, Beatles, 80s, The Doors, Morrison, Hendrix…). One of those places you stop by as much for the atmosphere as the food.
The menus, this time, will bring a smile, hidden in the covers of vintage comic books, starting conversations between strangers, exchanged from one table to another. Now, what about an apéritif? How about white port, matured 10 years, amber-like nectar. Contrary to what you might expect, it will not prove syrupy and honeyish, playing on glacé chestnut instead, a hint of spice, pleasantly earthy, a terroir showcase. A lovely but dangerous apéritif, so drinkable. Try this with marcona almonds, naturally creamy. The basic ones with salt flakes or fragrant with thyme and rosemary… Traditional Spanish toasted bread with grated tomato, a little olive oil, also proves an excellent start to a meal.
I cannot recommend enough the charcuterie sharing board. You will want a 10 yo Tawny with this. Even Robert Parker is fond of this one – It is all a Tawny should be says the master. Dried sweet cherry, orange peel, this is liquid velvet framing the cured meat perfectly. It’s hard to know where to start on the slate and there will be serious negotiation around the last slices. Indulge in a feast of lomo (pink, surprising depth of flavour, smoky), chorizo (well aged, interesting flavours, a world away from the supermarket versions), cecina (farmyardy, dark, very well aged, creamy) and bella (rich, fatty, smooth, well cured grainy fat). Amazing how different the aromas and tastes are from one variety to another, so refined too. Do order the Andalou beetroot gazpacho too, the sweetness of the root vegetable contrasted with a lovely kick, garlic, fruity olive oil, a few croûtons… I could have put a straw in it and drunk a whole glass.
The menu also proposed a salmon tartare, apparently a favourite with the guys. Fresh flesh, sumptuous, mixed with capers, thinly cut onions for that sharp pickled note. The surprise? Layers. First spiced avocado cream then black olives making it more complex to the palate. Match it to a white Douro wine, light, mineral, quite dry, a lemony touch – easy drinker.
Next, ask for the pork belly, sublime, melting on the tongue, served with rather surprising warm watermelon cubes. A little pepper – wow! An adventurous alternative to apple sauce, and my does it work.
I have a sweet tooth. Yet, I doubt I will ever get to try the passionfruit cheesecake or crème catalan. My mind always seems to stop at a glance of the cheese platter. It is so nice to try something else than my usual French choices or the rather limited British range… You will be presented a palette of 4, increasing in strength. Manchego, well aged, nutty but retaining a lovely creaminess. Idiazbal, robust, tart, also a sheeps milk cheese, holding its own with the ports. Los Cameros, a goats cheese bathed in olive oil, moulded in cotton cloths. Rustic, distinctive, intense, authentic, the perfect saltiness. Last but oh, unforgettable, Pasiego – a real artisanal cows milk cheese, very well matured. Heady, strong, a gem for all blue cheese lovers.
And to finish on a fireworks effect, ask for a tasting in 3 glasses and share with friends. We tried the following but you can adapt them to your taste. The 2011 Vintage Port is considered young, still peaking, sweet and full of promises. This is one to revisit every year and see how it evolves. The Gricha 2005 has a wonderful old wine line, lots of fruitiness, a vitality that will light you up. Let it roll on your tongue and warm you… Last, we had the 1997 Vintage Port, caramelised black cherry and prunes, a complexity of flavour unmatched but with a sound base. One of those serious but comforting, sip-by-the-fireside tipples…
Do sign up for their newsletter (bottom of the page, here). Churchill’s Port House really brings a welcome dynamism to the port universe and they love to experiment. Recently, they held a tasting with Paul A Young and his chocolate creations. I have to admit I can’t wait for their cocktails to make a comeback (the white port mojito by The Rum Runner was quite something, Hemingway would have approved, I’m sure, that twist on Cuban spirit). What else? They are the official port sponsors for the London Wine Week with more tastings coming up…
Churchill’s Port House
26 Greek Street
London W1D 5DE
Memories of a French market. Woven basket in hand, paper-wrapped seasonal treats, shopping at the butcher, cheesemonger, the baker, baguette protruding from the bag. Sudden stop, spin on a heel, now following a tantalizing scent leading to the rôtisserie. Spell bound.
They barely need to crack open their door and the curious arrive in minutes, already salivating. The call of succulent roast chicken. A conducive atmosphere of polished concrete, blond wood, glazed tiles. Austere enough for that holiday feeling but still quite comfortable for a family meal. Cute tables for two, longer ones for a bunch of friends or just chairs at the counter to be at the forefront of the show.
But on a Friday night, after the rush to finish up the working week, the idea of a Czech beer, light but slightly lemony is attractive. It will also clear your palette nicely before the creamy notes. Expecting a guest? Order some herb bites – desirably soft, fabulous scent of sage, terribly addictive, a crisp scent of outdoors. Disadvantage: If your friends do not arrive fast enough, you’ll happily devour a mountain and spoil your appetite. I’m trying to tell you – resist! But, see, for such an aroma, no, I could not but be defeated.
The joy of the meal is in the sharing – you can choose a whole chicken or assortments. Let yourself be tempted by the chicken bites, one of their signature dishes. Marinated in buttermilk, they offer a melt-in-the-mouth quality which will stop any conversation. We forget ourselves, this is too good, so fresh, meat really tender. Four sauces are offered to complement BBQ, chilli, gravy and our favorite, the Ranch. Sour cream, herbs and garlic – it wraps every bite perfectly without masking the sweet quality of the chicken.
Burger lovers will be delighted – only 3 on the menu, normal, Cesar or veggie (sage again!) but they will make you sigh in pure happiness. Take a look at the specials – definitely worth taking note. Particularly the word Creole, do not hesitate: Just the right amount of spices to evoke the tropical sun. Brioche, juicy tomato, generous sauce, tasty coleslaw (without too much mayonnaise) and a perfect meat, crisp yet moist. To accompany, fries twice-cooked, rich, perfectly seasoned or a salad of tomatoes and onions reminiscent of those back in my region.
And every bite of chicken, wondering how they achieve the perfect tenderness, trying to bribe the team, so what is the key ingredient, the secret sauce?
Succulent. It fills but ah, with gusto! I dare you to go for dessert… For pure indulgence, we shared a cup of rich clotted-cream ice cream, the vanilla perfectly complemented by a shot of Baileys or Limoncello.
At the edge of Soho, close to Piccadilly, a friendly place to satisfy one’s cravings for comfort food… I would not be surprised to see other branches emerge elsewhere in London by the end of 2014.
14 Denman street
London W1D 7HJ
Ramen. The word alone makes my mouth water. I remember, as a teenager, reading mangas, intrigued at these characters focused intensely on their bowl of noodles, the chopsticks rolling them with skill. I finally got to try them at Shoryu - one of the best addresses in town, really. Such a large dish, so complex in flavours and yet… you will devour it.
Shoryu has just opened a new address in Soho, mixing beautiful traditional decoration and design lights, zen curves, soothing hues… and even better has a sake bar. Never had I seen so many bottle of that wine before. Makes you realise how little you know about it and even more curious to learn.
The launch evening started on a gorgeous, floral cocktail perfectly names Geisha Fizz. Imagine the alliance of Asia and summer: Gekkeikan sake, fresh lychee (what a difference this makes!), prosecco and lavender cordial. Exotic yet as sparkling as an August day.To celebrate the opening a special barrel of sake is opened, even a tasting set engraved. See those wooden cubes? You pour the content of your glass and drink from it. Now this - have a look below – is a very festive sake called Honjozo gekkeikan junkinpakuiri,shining with hundreds of gold flakes. It’s hypnotising, rich, semi-dry and highlights the creaminess and saltiness of dishes. The tasting session also included 2 other selections. Quite fascinating how different they are, how clearly you can separate the tastes. Now, the one in the little black cup is a Tokubetsu Junmai Gekkeikan Yamadanishiki, round on the palate, frank, slightly lemony, a hint of pepper, brilliant with spicy dishes. The last, in the clear engraved glass is a Tokubetsu Honjozo Gekkeikan Nouvelle, a longer feel, very refined that matches perfectly bbq and pork flavours.
On the menu, appetising choices including two signature ramen dishes. One is the Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen prepared with thin noodles and a clear miso broth. Pork in a bbq sauce cooked gently in this for hours, infusing it. Have been added kikurage mushrooms, beansprouts, spring onions, sesame, nori, ginger and my favourite a nitamago egg (poached in a mix of miri, soya sauce and sake). So intense in flavours!
The Karaka Tantan Tonkotsu Ramen uses the same base but the pork was grilled in spices first and the dishes enhanced with chili oil. It wakes you up in a gently manner, makes you go wow. Why not use of the special sesame grinders on the tables if you fancy more nuttiness? Do try the Hirata Bun too – slightly sweet bun, pork so well cooked it melts in the mouth and a spicy sauce. I am totally hooked on this.
Pssst! Until July 19 2013, all ramen dishes are £5 only. Such a deal!
2-3 Deman Street
London W1D 7HA
In the heart of Soho is BRGR.co, a clever diner, smart and cosy. Brick walls, smiling cows on the side, leather banquettes, wooden tables and a sense of humour even on the napkins. The key word here is BRGRology, the art of burgers. You will learn about marbling, which naturally includes thin layers of fat in the meat. Those melt when cooked, giving the beef a gorgeous taste. And so the burger is out of this world, so, so tasty, juicy, extra-ordinary. You had tasted many before this - basic ones, complex ones, gourmet ones. This one is simply first class. Order some crunchy fries perfumed with truffle oil and enjoy the luxury of the moment. Oh yes, that is quite a new take on fast food.
Another must on the menu is their hot-dog. This, my friend is the best in town, pure beef, perfectly grilled on top, each bite more delicious than the previous one. Try it with gruyere for a raclette effect or treat yourself to a portion of chilli con carne on top. Trust me – you will come back often for that one.
Desserts side, you will find your favourite classics - Vanilla sundae topped with crunchy M&Ms, cheesecake, apple crumble, chocolate brownie… We decided on a splendid Oreo milkshake instead and tried to recreate it at home but never could get the same creaminess nor rich texture. I wonder what their secret is…
In a hurry? You can still indulge and have these as a take-away. Just saying…
187 Wardour Street
A bookshop with style. Well, many styles, more reasons to love it. Here, you will leaf through classic and contemporary books as well as extraordinary limited editions. Sit down for a chocolate biscuit or maybe a glass of wine. Find vintage treasures on the shelves and even homemade marmelade jars. And some days, there are beautiful texts being read, or live music, or art exhibitions… A bookshop following the vibe of Soho and bringing to the neighbourhood its own bohemian poetry…
The Society Club
12 Ingestre Place
Madd is a paradisiac mango dessert bar in the heart of Soho. Amazing how many textures you can create with this fruit, the velvety touch it can bring. And so there are mousses, crumbles, cheesecakes, upside down cake, crême brûlée, ice-creams, rice puddings and more. Even better, you can personnalise them with your favourite toppings: candies, chocolate-covered raisins, mini-cookies, fresh fruit or my favourite sobas, edible pearl filled with mango juice that explode in your mouth. Thirsty? They have smoothies, lassis, milkshakes and gorgeous tropical cocktails served in adorable teacups. The pictures below have been taken under a gorgeous golden light hence their tropical tint…
You will find gorgeous armchairs and tables at the back of the boutique and even board games. This is now my favourite spot on a rainy day - what better way to add a little exotism to a grey afternoon while stocking up on vitamins!
A wall is dedicated to the visitors’ drawings -some have a great sense of humour, others are in different languages and you will be amazed how many there are. Madd is looking for their artist of the year so do use your skills! You can download a form from the website and send your piece via FB or twitter to them until June 05. The winning artist will be commissioned to design a number of wall/window vinyls for the dessert bar based on their winning design, as well as winning a year’s worth of MADD treats and receiving extensive press coverage. As they are located in the centre of Soho, the main hub for design companies and agencies in London, it will be a great chance for artists to promote their work. ready, steady, draw!
53 Rupert Street
London, W1D 7PH
A little love at the heart of the urban jungle. See, street art can be so easy, a little sticker and you can bring a smile to a total stranger. Now what will you do of this sunny week-end? Nothing planned yet? Scroll down, we have a few ideas for London.
* Love Damien Hirst but do not want to pay the Tate Modern fee to see his retrospective? See his latest paintings at the White Cube for free instead.
* Christopher Boffoli’s miniature world is sure to leave you with a smile on.
Yummy time ahead:
* A delicious walk for gourmet Londoners this way.
* Too hot? Stop at Chin Chin Labs to try ice creams made with liquid nitrogen. Amazing to see et ever so delicious.
Out of the ordinary:
* Geocaching fan? There is quite a hunt on Thursday in Greenwich.
* On Friday, dinner is served at the V&A for their late evening theme.
* Find a bargain at Soho’s flea market on Sunday.
* Can’t find a good book to read? Bibliotherapy will find the dream one for you…
Stuck between mountains of files, fed up with the usual sandwiches, need a break, a real lunch but there is no time to go to a restaurant. Well, if you work in Soho, I have the perfect solution: just go to Carom. This address had already seduced my tastebuds with its exotic cocktails (jasmine mojito, honey and basil daiquiri… ) and they are now open for lunch. The room is bathed in natural light, tables decorated in festive colours, the ceiling draped beautifully - instant change of atmosphere.
The menu has been simplified to offer an express services - wraps, curry of the day or this much more fun option, the bento box. You probably have encountered those compartimented trays is Japanese places already: this is an Indian version of it. By the time you have finished nibbling on your poppadums (do try the mango and pineapple chutney, tangy, lovely texture), it will already be in front of you.
Each comes with naans rich in butter and herbs, mini-poppadums with raita, a portion of curry, another of daal, Basmati rice and a dessert. The sauces have been cleverly enriched with spices, the meat is extra tender, the portions well balanced, the perfect quantity too. The dessert, a mago cake with a velvety mousse, brought some extra mmmhs. Try this with a chutney passionfruit martini to wake up your tastebuds – cumin, lemongrass will bring a smile to your lips.
So yes, you can have a real, yummy, satisfying meal in 30 minutes, without the frustrating wait between each dish. no checking your watch nervously here. One order, one service, no stress and less then £9. An excellent quality/price ratio.
Bento Box: vegetarian (£7.45), chicken (£7.95) or lamb (£8.45 lamb)
Teatime in Wonderland was invited by Carom.
Nothing worse for a froggie than a cup of bad coffee – too watery or bitter. We cherish places that serve it just right.
I have found the perfect little haven, just a street away from the Soho buzz. The address is mostly famous for its sublime gelato with fascinating flavours: watermelon, pineut and ricotta, clementine, saffron and vanilla… The Pierre Hermé of ice creams!
Their menu also propose amazing hot drinks such as bicerin (a specialty from Turin, an alchemy of dense chocolate with cream and espresso), caffe allo nocciola (on a spoonful of the most delicious hazelnuy paste), caffe allo zabaglione and my favourite, caffé affogato, enriched with a scoop of hazelnut. be adventurous – you can ask for the ice-cream of your choice – montebianco (chocolate, chestmut and rum) or pistachio are a match made in heaven. Choose one instead of desert, play with the textures and don’t hesitate to have another round!
7 Archer Street
London W1D 7AU
Well, this week-end, I will be sitting on a beach in the South of France with a glass of Sauternes in my hand. Heaven. If you are staying in London, here are a few ideas to make life sweeter, to tip your hat off, to travel in time… and many more!
* Dance in a very French atmosphere at the V&A.
* Have a look at a real space capsule.
* Try hoola-hooping again.
* Indulge in a Tolkien night.
* Rediscover the treasures of St Paul.
* Chiswick park turns symphonic.
* The best response to riots? A lot of love and a little art.
* London really is the home to strange but fun museums.
* Discover a secret garden in Spitafields.
* Beach souvenirs from London-on-sea.
* How would you recycle routemasters?
* Cycle through the city.
* Ping-pong and cocktails. Or vice-versa.
Psst: from August 24 to the 26th, Soho Square will be deliciously Swedish. Come and discover the sweetest pop-up, enjoy a cup of real coffee with one of the amazing traditional treats!