Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Hix Oyster & Chop House!

2 weeks ago, on a Friday night after work , it was snowing in London and we wanted to go for dinner somewhere fairly local. As Andy works in the city and we live close by, we decided to go to Hix Oyster & Chop House.

The Oyster and Chop house was Hix's debut restaurant after going solo in 2008.

I was really looking forward to this restaurant as I had heard it had a very unique menu and was one of 'THE' places to eat in the city...as it had been snowing and Andy was in jeans and snow boots we were also attracted by the casual dress code.
I thought to myself, I am going to order a big fat juicy steak and sink it down with a bottle of fruity red.....what a perfect way to escape the snow.

As we walked in we were greeted by a lovely hostess, she offered us drinks at the bar first but we decided to go straight to the table and have some cocktails there, the bar did not look terribly appealing and at that time it was a little dead, most likely because of the snow.

The restaurant was quite small and had a 1920s theme with 1920s music playing.

It had a cool, quirky vibe and I really liked it.


We were shown to our table which was nice, only thing I didn't like was it over looked a small kitchen area and there were dirty blue cleaning cloths hanging over the tap and it looked really grimy. If it was a cool, slick kitchen and you could see them preparing dishes this would have been great but they didn't seem to use it much and it took away the special vibe this place had to begin with.

A really sweet waitress approached us, dressed in a smart shirt and she looked really friendly.
Hello! Cocktail menus?

Yes please. Hmmm what shall we go for, I asked the waitress if they had any cucumber based long drinks, they had none on the menu but she said the barman would be happy to knock something up. Amazing!

She came back shortly with our drinks, mine was gorgeous! Exactly what I wanted and I asked her to thank the barman for me!

Ordering time....

We toyed with the idea of having oysters to start but we just weren't in the mood, with all the snow outside I really fancied a hot soup.

Andy noticed  Lambs brains on toast on the starter menu.....he constantly wants to try new things, so he of course chose this!

I , however, opted for something less risky, I chose the horseradish soup, even though I'm not a fan of horseradish, the waitress told me it was creamy and not too hot, so I thought id give it a go.

We ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir, Drouhin Wilamete Valley, Oregon, USA 2010.

The wine arrived....

It was beautiful, very fruity and fairly light - a great choice at a reasonable price. We were happy.

The starters arrived.....

Even though the idea of eating Lambs brains turned my stomach I was really excited to see what they looked like!

They had been lightly fried with flour and came on 2 pieces of toast.

It looked very interesting and actually quite appealing.

Andy had a huge mouthful with no hesitation, and smiled at me as I waited in anticipation.

He said they were really nice, with a very unique texture.....

I had to try some and see for myself, I guess it's nice to be able to say you have tried Lambs brains!

They were soft, very rich and creamy, like nothing I had eaten before. The flavours blended nicely with the toast.....I could only stomach one mouthful as it was BRAINS!

My soup?

DELICIOUS! I was really impressed, it was very thick and mixed in with bread crumbs which were really tasty. After every mouthful I could feel the heat of the horseradish in my nose, it certainly warmed me up and gave the wine a spicy kick.

For our main courses I had chosen the Hanger Steak with baked bone marrow. I had never 
tried bone marrow before so I was looking forward to this!

Andy went for the Woodcock, complete with the head and beak. 

We sat back, enjoyed our wine and noticed the restaurant had really started to fill up.

The main courses arrived.....

I asked for my steak to be cooked medium rare, I sliced into it to check and it the was perfect colour of pink, YUM!

Andy's bird looked a little on the small side and he was slightly disappointed....he was really hungry. 

My steak was delicious, bursting with flavour, the bone barrow was really tasty, reminded me a little of butter, the texture is velvety and smooth and went really well with the steak. I was slightly hesitant in trying it but really enjoyed the new experience.

The Woodcock meat was incredible, very rich and beautiful but just not enough of it.  He ended up eating half of mine!

To finish our evening at Hix we both had 2 double Amaretto liqueurs on the rocks, even though the dessert menu was tempting!

We were really impressed with the meals, I felt the menu offered lots of exciting new dishes which most people would not have tried before so the experience is allot of fun!

However I do feel it was a little over priced, and reading all the other reviews when I got home I saw lots of people had said this too.

I think the venue could have offered more to add to the over-all experience. It's all very basic...relying too much on the 1920s 'too cool for school' atmosphere. 

There was no WOW factor for me but I did enjoy the food.
I think it would be great for a group of men or a business lunch.

Check it out!


Friday, 18 January 2013

Tapas time at El Pirata

A few weeks ago I was walking around Mayfair and I stumbled upon a restaurant which was hidden from the main streets. I was immediately intrigued as it was standing alone, tucked away amongst the glam of Mayfair.

I loved the inside lay-out  as it looked really cool and interesting. The walls were covered top to bottom with art work from Miro and Picasso which gave me the feel this place was packed with culture.

Pablo Picasso and Salon Business

As I walked closer to check out the menu I noticed it was Spanish Tapas, great I LOVE Tapas and hadn't been to a really good Tapas restaurant since Barcelona.
Could this place provide a Spanish retreat.....which we all need in January!

El Pirata Spanish restaurant in Down Street exudes Mayfair style. Matías Costa/©ICEX

When I got home I looked up the restaurant and read the reviews, they were fantastic and lots of people had commented on how authentic the food was and how it was very reasonable and NOT your average Mayfair prices.

This was a real hidden gem that I had not heard of before but I had to go and see for myself.....
I booked us a table for the following Saturday night.
I was really excited to see what this new find had in store for us, I love discovering new restaurants and love it even more when they deliver!
After banging on about it all week to Andy, Saturday finally arrived.
The restaurant is located about 5 mins from Green Park tube, it's secretly located in the back streets which immediately makes you feel like you're going somewhere really special and unique.
As we entered we were greeted by a loud, bubbly, Spanish manager who welcomed us in a very friendly manner, he asked us if it was our first time there.
We explained it was and he smiled, as if to suggest we were in for a real treat and a good night!
          So far so good! 

          Drinks at the bar first?

          Oh yes, I was looking forward to  a nice cold glass of cava :)
          I ordered the house, it was very refreshing and light.

The bar staff were really friendly and even said we could eat on the bar if we would like.

I looked around and saw a few people were and thought it's a great idea if you wanted a few casual drinks and dishes.

Scanning the restaurant more it became evident of the lovely mixture of clientele this place attracted, lots of nice couples, some groups of friends, a few families and there was a birthday dinner happening down stairs. I loved the spiral staircase leading down to the lower level, the dynamics of the restaurant gave it a very buzzy atmosphere

We both absolutely loved it, but we were yet to try the food....
After our drinks we were shown to our table, it was a great table, exciting views from both sides, don't you just hate it when your facing a wall!

Our waiter came over and introduced himself.
We asked him to recommend a bottle of wine for us. 
As we drink mainly French reds we explained we didn't  know much about Spanish wine and the waiter pointed out a Pinot Noir for us which was around £30, it was nice of him to not recommend a really expensive wine as some waiters do. 

The tricky part about Tapas is choosing the dishes as there are so many and they all sound delicious!

We both picked out our favourites...

I chose - 

Octopus brushed with olive oil and paprika , 
deep fried medallions of monk fish, 
marinated chicken skewers with chorizo 
and aubergine stuffed with vegetables & topped with cheese.

Andy chose -
Chicken livers in white wine & onion sauce, 
prawns in olive oil, garlic & dry hot chili peppers 
and then we both decided to try the baby eels in olive oil, garlic & roasted potatoes..
Yes we ordered way too much food, as we always do, but it was our first time there and we wanted to try everything. Next time we will definitely order less.

Each dish was seriously TASTY, we were really impressed. It was at the standard you would expect in Spain.

The baby eels? Delicious! I was a little apprehensive but they were yummy, nice and salty. 

We took our time and the waiter brought out 2/3 dishes at a time.

The wine was OK, nothing amazing but it went well with food....at 14% we were both pretty tipsy by the end which is when a cheeky dessert was required :)

 I had fried banana served with honey and ice cream and Andy had creme brulèe with a crunchy caramelised top.

They were both gorgeously sweet and really hit the spot after our meal.

We had so much fun and really enjoyed ourselves, I will be recommending this place to everyone and going back very soon to try more dishes!

They also do a dinner set menu at either £16.35 per person or £20.95 pp, depending how hungry you are.
I think that's excellent value for money.

Check out the website and get booking :)


Thursday, 10 January 2013

First date - 9 course tasting menu with matching wines at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon....WOW

As we walked in we were greeted by a lovely hostess who took our coats. I remember I was wearing my fur coat as it was coming up to Christmas and it was freeeeeezing outside. 

I was immediately impressed but the decor, it was fairly dark and I could see into the ground floor restaurant which had a Japanese style to it...we were eating on the first floor.


The hostess then guided us into the lift (very cool) and asked us if we would like to have drinks at the bar before we sat down to eat...of course we did, first date nerves are all ways cured by pre-dinner cocktails ;)

We went up to the first floor.

The bar was slick, darkly coloured and led onto a roof top terrace. The low clubby dance music gave it a very cool vibe.

This is where we sat at the bar and asked the barman for 2 FLEUR DE FRAMBOISE - raspberries puree, violet liqueur and Cointreau topped with Prosecco - YUM. " Two more please".

We chatted for about an hour trying more fantastic cocktails.

When we realised the time we told the barman we were ready to go to our table, by this point we were a little tipsy and excited for the 9 course dinner ahead. This was my first tasting menu, boy was I in for a treat!!


The restaurant host greeted us and showed us to our table, it was a great table and close to the open kitchen where you could see the chefs preparing the dishes, I loved this as it just added to the anticipation.

And so it began....we started with an amuse bouche which was in a little shot glass layered with foie gras and topped with some kind of parmesan foam, it was heaven and like nothing I had ever tried before.

La Cuisine at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon London: amuse bouche

As this was our first date and over 2 years ago I do not fully remember each course, to give you an idea I do recall one we had which blew my mind - Caviar served on a bed of crab meat and lobster jelly.

Each dish was prepared in such detail and the presentation was perfect.

The courses each came with a matching wine and the waiter explained where each one was from and how it complimented the food, it was all so theatrical and entertaining.

Time went on and as the wine flowed we were swept up in the magical, french atmosphere.

And the desert courses arrived :) OH WOW.

We started with a white chocolate ice cream lolly (on a stick) as we got licking we realised there was popping candy inside, this was such a great idea, I hadn't had popping candy in years and had forgotten how fun it was!

Then 2 more deserts followed which were HEAVEN, one was a  rich chocolate pot layered with caramel and then a refreshing sorbet delight which melted in your mouth.

4 and a half hours later (the longest time I've ever spent in a restaurant) we made our way down in the lift, collected our coats and left. 
BEST FIRST DATE EVER! The boy did good! :)

I recommend this experience to any couple who want to have an un-forgettable evening, perhaps for a birthday or valentines day.