Escoffier Comes to Battersea

It’s refreshing to meet a chef and restaurateur who don’t believe they need to fall in line with food fashions yet deliver wonderful, hugely enjoyable food, sensitively balanced with an exceptional and unusual wine list. At Gastronhome on Lavender Hill, Damien Fremont, chef/co-owner and Christopher Nespoux sommelier/co-owner model their modest, homely restaurant on the ethos of legendary Lyon 3 Michelin chef Paul Bocuse and don’t take any shortcuts. The commitment to detail and to service is superb and it is gloriously French. Where else would you find a garlic snail croquette as an amuse?

Though subtle, miso aubergine partnered with smoked aubergine caviar and puree suggests a nod to Japan and Morocco.

Gastro aubergine

Fish is superbly handled. Slow poached John Dory is delicately accented with an ethereal lemon verbena foam and rather acidic pickled sea lettuce. I adore the Silveni Cellar Reserve 2014 Marlborough New Zealand, a superb wine match and am tempted to purchase a bottle as it is available for off-sales.

gastro john dory

A homage to mackerel is painterly, light and refreshing: the fish is marinated in soy and merely flamed and accompanied by pressed beetroot and turnip and watermelon with lime. Brilliant with a very special Viognier. Lamb is more traditional, a cutlet cooked to perfection with crisp skin, served with coco beans from Brittany, pea puree and a double butter, rich sauce.

Gastro mackerel

Most spectacular of all is millefeuille (puff pastry is labour intensively made in-house and melts in the mouth) with almond cream, poached apricots and a fine apricot sorbet served with a vintage Limoux. It’s a perfect combination. What charms me most is the sheer professionalism, dedication and pride in the tiny – 20 seater – dining room. A great jazz play list with plenty of Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson helps too. It feels like a proper old-fashioned treat.

Gastro apricot

59 Lavender Hill, SW11 5QN 0203 417 5639

How authentic Sicilian food found its way to South Ken

Iddu pic

Iddu taglioni with pistachio pesto

Iddu swordfish involtiniThe hunt for authentic granita led me to Iddu and what a discovery! The cafe serving exceptional Sicilian food is the brainchild of successful restaurateur Luca del Bono who was born on Lipari, one of the Aeolian islands, and brings huge passion to the venture. Almost all the ingredients are sourced from Sicily and the emphasis is on healthier takes of traditional dishes interpreted by chef Martina Zanini. So caponata has baked rather than fried aubergine that brings out the flavour beautifully with plenty of capers from Pantelleria and there’s tuna tartare with wild fennel pesto to start. Mesmerising mains are simple yet bursting with sunshine and flavour: taglioni with pistachio from Bronte that are vibrantly green and taste incredible especially accented with a little concentrated bottarga (dried and smoked cod’s roe). There’s swordfish involtini too – paper thin rolls of fish with orange, parsley and rosemary that sings of summer. Granita made on the premise is superlative: try pistachio, lemon or watermelon: refreshing and sophisticated. Save room too for cannoli (divine fried rolls of pastry with goat’s cheese ricotta) served with tiny bowls of pistachio, chocolate from Modica and almonds. There’s a mostly Sicilian wine list. Decor is blue and orange to encapsulate the sea and sun with tables made from Etna lava and tiled, copper lamps and masses of pictures of the Aeolian islands. It makes one want to book a flight straightaway.
44 Harrington Rd, SW7 3ND 0207 589 1991

Why not all great coffee shops are in Shoreditch

Quinoa pancakes with baked apple and whipped ricotta
Quinoa pancakes with baked apple and whipped ricotta
Exceptional coffee defines Story Coffee, Sof Alam’s first venture and exemplifies the discerning attention to detail of what could be my blueprint for a perfect coffee shop. “Everything we offer has its own story and absolute transparency, hence the name,” says Alam. The wonderfully fruity cappucino is an Ethiopian blend by Square Meal roastery and there are guest roasters such as Berlin’s The Barn for fashionable Aeropress. Unusually milk is organic from Goodwood Farm. For the summer there’s affogato too (espresso and ice-cream) plus Silverleaf Green tea from Lalani. Smoky baked eggs with deep flavour, a punchy innovative mix with cavelo nero, tomato and chickpeas devised by guest caterer is wonderfully sustaining. Even more deletable are quinoa pancakes with roasted apple, wild flowers honey from Oliveology, whipped ricotta and toasted coconut. The plates are gorgeous, pale blue and handcrafted. The whole design of Story is appealingly Scandi with warmth and lovely touches including the wooden crates of pastries by Comptoir Gourmand. I can’t wait to return.
115 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ 0207998 3303

Why I keep going back to The Dairy

My fourth visit to The Dairy and as great as ever.  The combination of  utterly delicious, zingy fresh flavours, much from their roof top, and such laid-back service makes for really relaxed dining that is always more than the sum of its parts.

I can’t get enough of the bone marrow butter and am cool about it being perched on a pebble, unlike some critics.  The sourdough is fabulous too.  And a little pot of ultra rich chicken liver and apple mousse goes down a treat.

After snacks of deep fried anchovy and lettuce cups with sorrel granita, barely cooked cuttlefish with black garlic butter is sensational and tangy.   Most enjoyable among “sea” dishes is monkfish with miso, samphire, peas and broad beans (pictured).   Utterly moreish is aged, smoked beef served rare with ember cooked artichokes.   Besides the favourite caramel chocolate dessert, I adore rhubarb mini doughnuts.

Next time, a visit to the deli is a must to pick up some terrines, charcuterie and pickles to take home.

From Elena Arzak to Trine Hahnemann – my week in food with some of the top female chefs & more

Week started on a high with a Cava wine dinner tasting some of best Spanish cava in the world paired with dishes created by Elena Arzak at Ametsa with Arzak instruction.   My favourite course was the pigeon prepared with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and grape must – sensational.  Wonderful to taste again the cromlech made with manioc dipped in foie gras.  Favourite cava was Recaredo 2006 Brut Nature Gran Reserva – aged 30 months+ a revelation.   Also intrigued by Cava with Malvesia – subtly sweet and served with a chocolate pancake.

Lunch at Newman Street Tavern as excellent as ever with chef Peter Weedon excelling in thoughtfully produced food using the best producers.  Incredible shrimp fritters with whole  crustacea and sublime Galloway beef tartare were absolute joy.  Fish cakes made with pouting showed Peter’s commitment to using all the catch from his favourite fisherman.

Meeting with lovely publisher Muna Reyal of Headline at suitably foodie Honey & Co over luscious rhubarb cheesecake.

Amused by cheese brand Castello’s invention of smorging as a new way of defining smorgasbord.  Creatively brought to life by my favourite Scandi chef Trine Hahnemann who came up with some great matches enlivened by unusual drink combinations too.

The idea to combine a range of tastes including salty, sweet, sour and umami with balance of soft and crunchy textures.  My favourites were Castello blue cheese & asparagus tart on spelt crust with Glebe Farm Spelt beer,  Castello creamy blue with radishes and chives on crisp bread served with Bloody Bloody Mary beetroot and tomato juice, Castello Tickler with crisp parma ham and green tapenade or salami and green pea puree with an intriguing Earl Grey tea, lime and cucumber cordial.  We finished with profiteroles filled with pineapple cheese with a ginger glaze matched with an intrigued egg coffee with a foam of condensed milk and egg.  A really different treat.



E5 Bakehouse

Loved meeting Ben Mackinnon founder of E5 Bakehouse E5 Bakehousetoday with Vanessa Kimbell (of  Ben started out preparing dough at home and borrowing a wood-fired oven from a pizzeria each night to bake.  Now prepares Hackney Wild sourdough in batches of 30 kilo dough with 72 hour fermentation of wild yeast.  Bakes up to 1000 loaves a week.   Fascinating too tasting their sourdough made with British heritage wheat milled by Gilchester’s Organics in Northumbria – far more moist dough with real bite and distinct flavour.  Sets the bar for  properly sustainable loaf with high mineral content and low food miles. Delicious chickpea & kale stew with British sheep’s cheese too for lunch in cafe.

The Green Room SE1 Shoots of Hope for a Greener Future

Grilled Squid & Winter Roast Veg
Grilled Squid & Winter Roast Veg

How refreshing to visit a restaurant in first week of January that delivers far more than expected.   I was impressed by the depth of The Green RoomSE1 sustainable commitment in every aspect of the restaurant from construction through to aprons (made from used hessian coffee sacks from Mozzo).  It’s a collaboration between The National Theatre and Coin Street Community Builders.  The service was incredibly knowledgeable and sweet (roll call for Canadian waitress Alison).  Best of all the food is delicious, earthy, seasonal and impeccably cooked especially the fish dishes and pitch perfect al dente pumpkin risotto.  Though choice beyond is limited to ribs and burgers.  Desserts are indulgent and made from scratch too, even the jelly for Knickerbocker Glory and equally nostalgic Baked Alaska devoured with alacrity by my son.  I was most impressed by the recommendation of Brew by Numbers elderflower and lime wheat beer too.  Designed by a recent graduate Benjamin Marks, it is a transparent box with views to The National Theatre, its columns are made from repurposed paving stones, its tables from Unto This Last from FSC certified forest birch plywood, crockery by Dudson who have the lowest carbon emissions of any ceramic hospitality tableware and use lead-free glazes, green glassware is made from recycled wine bottles, even the menu is printed on up cycled National Theatre menus.  Such attention to detail is truly admirable.  And, we checked waste food is taken by Paper Round and compressed into compost or used as fuel and 25p per package of food donated to Fareshare.  True care in the community.

Mackerel Bruschetta
Mackerel Bruschetta






What Sudi Sampled This Week

This week Sudi sampled:

Far too many juices from Press. Though, I enjoyed the green juice especially: kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger and more, an all liquid diet is not for me. I missed masticating far too much, though managed 36 hours and really did feel good, clear and energised from it.

A memorable mouthful of melt-in-the-mouth authentic Japanese kobe beef 10 ** rating, the highest quality ever imported to Europe by Martin Williams of ambitious, new city restaurant M. My USDA rib-eye was juicily superlative too, especially with buttermilk potato puree.

Appreciated the steaks and starters/accompaniments from six countries menu approach devised with Mike also of Vue de Monde. February 3 I will be hosting a Sudi Food Quiz Mistress event at M Restaurant based on their global menu and current culinary trends.

Breakfasted with the private bankers and owners of Caudelie at Cecconi’s. Eagerly anticipating the opening of their newest hotel, a complete re-design of The Royal Champagne

Squid & black ink gnocchi
Squid & black ink gnocchi

Tickled by marmite and eclair and other bites at Rabbit on King’s Road which offers the kind of creative, yet affordable eating the area has long needed. Squid and black ink gnocchi with wood sorrel especially impressed me. Nutbourne wines especially sparkling notably good.

Beetroot, curd & horseradish
Beetroot, curd & horseradish

Wowed by soft opening lunch at The Manor Clapham which delivered a hugely enjoyable and palate tantalising menu with tremendous depth and complexity of flavour and technique yet delivered with no pretence. Roast cauliflower has never tasted so special. Winning dish daringly pink pigeon breast with powerful sauce of black pudding, spice and tomato with parsnip. Exceptionally moreish bread in hessian bags made by chef-proprietor Robin Gill’s mother with chicken skin whipped butter. Loved my birthday dessert of iced chocolate fondant with milk snow ice cream and chocolate soil. Former Fera and Murano dessert chef, Guila is exceptionally talented.

Iced chocolaté fondant with milk snow

Sipped Perrier-Jouet Rose Champagne with unerringly charming Chinese culinary legend Ken Hom and discussed his book on truffles, his latest restaurant in Rio, Brazil and his zen approach to life.

Created canapes for my birthday party: baked wonton skins with celeriac slaw with soy/mirin, Lancashire smoked duck from Brompton Food Market and Asma (@DarjeelingExpress) Khan’s tamarind sauce a delectable hit as were ricotta and spinanch boreks even though my triangles a bit dodgy and my salted brownie with pecan birthday cake from Gail’s Kitchen recipe was divine. Maria Elia’s winter bellini idea of pears (tinned) pureed with fresh lychee was considered wonderfully exotic even though it did fizz everywhere dramatically.

The sheer artistic brilliance and creativity of Massimo Bottura

Oops I dropped the lemon tartMassimo Bottura is simply unlike any other chef I’ve ever met.  He effervesces with creativity and talks quickly and passionately mixing art, jazz, memories , families and humour in a way that is utterly mesmerising.  So I knew I was in for a treat when he cooked  lunch for lucky press last Monday before doing a one-off dinner in the evening too. It could never quite capture the magic of eating at Osteria Franciscana among their incredible collection of modern art with Massimo darting out of the kitchen and Lara Gilmore, Massimo’s brilliantly incisive wife interpreting the dishes, though it came close…. Highlights were my favourite An Eel Swimming Up the River Po – lacquered with the most incredible grape must and the delectable Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart with the zing of Sorrento lemon off-set with the saltiness of capers from Pantelleria, hot pepper, bergamot and oregano plus sheer decadence of croccantino of foie served with a glass of Sauternes mixed with Massimo’s Villa Mandori balsamico traditionale.

Cambridge, Sunday 26 October 2014

In search of a new treat whilst visiting my son in Cambridge as an alternative to Fitzbillie’s and The Anchor (and Midsummer House strictly for birthdays), we ventured to d’Arry’s – a sound move. Creative dishes in good-sized portions: a sizeable hunk of salmon cured in vodka with horseradish and beetroot prettily arranged, preceded mains of black bass with mussels, squid and samphire and sea bass with smoked cauliflower and shallot. Fresh from gin tonic obsessed San Sebastian, I enjoyed too a cardamom and orange Plymouth gin & tonic.