Tag Archives: restaurant

Vegetarian special: The Gate

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We have been wanted to try The Gate in Islington for such a long time so when I called my gal pal Elena one Sunday afternoon for a luncheon well we had no excuse but to explore this gorgeous place. It is tucked away in the corner of Angel so is easy to miss but now we have been it is the first thing we will mention to our friends when they ask about best eats in the area.

The Gate is a vegetarian restaurant and we often find our friends shying away from the idea of vegetarian as they assume that it can’t be filling or might be plain and boring. However, The Gate defiantly remove all these stereotypes. We walked in as two starving beings and came out stuffed and gob smacked after only two mains and a side.

We asked the waitress what she would recommend and well her rationale behind each recommendation was admirable so we had to go with them. Normally when you ask a waitress or waiter what they think you should get they just name a dish without reason but this waitress spoke of tastes, textures and emotions so how could we argue. Naturally to avoid disappointment we got two dishes and shared them ūüôā

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We ordered a Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake and an Aubergine Schnitzel. The Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake was topped with rocket leaves which had been dressed with lemon juice and further topped with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese. Now I always thought that Elena made the best mushroom risotto however once I tried this unusual take on mushroom risotto I was in heaven. I had to immediately tell Elena of course that she was now sitting at second place of the best risottos ever but once she tried the risotto she too agreed. The risotto was served like a little cake. It was crunchy on the outside and yet it fell apart when you broke into it. It was creamy and soft and so well seasoned that I just wanted more. The lemon juice drenched rocket was a contrast in taste and texture but really worked with the creaminess of the mushrooms and risotto. A truly stunning dish and but far the best risotto we have EVER tasted.

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The Aubergine Schnitzel was very similar to a vegetable lasagne, with the replacement of pasta for the aubergine and the filling was a mixture of cheese, tomatoes and peppers. There was a crispy coating of bread crumbs which locked it all together. It was served with abundance of sautéed kale and potato dauphanoise. The Aubergine Schnitzel was a party of strong flavours and textures, from sweet to tangy, from crispy to soft. The potato dauphanoise were different from your regular gooey messy, the layers of thin potatoes were packed tight and just crumbled in your mouth. The best dauphanoise I have tasted by far.

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We also ordered a side of polenta chips. They were huge, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were seasoned and infused with herbs so they actually tasted of something (ok, polenta is often rather bland). It was served with the most amazing garlic aioli which I smothered all over them. Delightful!

I feel robbed of time really. I cannot believe that we hadn’t tried this place earlier and we would have been here a million times over. This is by far the best vegetarian restaurant we have ever eaten in and for carnivores like Elena and I that’s a big thing!!!

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This is going to be our new go to place when ever we want a guaranteed happy meal.

Please try this place out and tell us what you think.

The Gate
370 St John Street
London
EC1V 4NN
http://thegaterestaurants.com

El Nivel

Friday night¬†after work my friend asked me to meet her in one of the most exciting Mexican spots in Covent Garden. It was a little tricky to find it, disguised above La Perla bar, accessed through a narrow door. If you don’t have a booking, you must be feeling lucky – place is so small, you will feel like you’ve won a lottery if the hostess lets you go upstairs.

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The size of this restaurant is one of the charms. It felt like you walk into someone’s living room decorated with a massive chandelier and stunning paintings. Being a Mexican restaurant, there was no cactus in sight, which was nice for change. Restaurant was fully booked so we perched by the tapas bar, which was perfect for a girlie catch up with my friend.

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El Nivel is famous for agave spirits. In fact Tomas Estes, ambassador to Europe for tequila and owner of this establishment, was drinking with friends next to us. Unfortunately we didn’t get to try the tequila but settled for some very fancy frozen fruit cocktails.

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So about 15 minutes into our time there the food started coming. We decided to sample a few dishes from every section – meats, seafood and vegetarian.

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Food is Mexican with an Asian touch. You will find your usual tortilla is replaced by Chinese pancake. Which makes it a refreshing dish!

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We also ate pork belly chicharones which were amazing, scallops were even better and garlic and creme potatoes were fabulous.¬†Every dish was delicious, I just wish we didn’t pretend to be classy ladies but rolled our sleeves up and tucked in properly.

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From the first bite El Nivel made it on my list of one of the best restaurants in central and I look forward to bringing all my friends here one by one.

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El Nivel
28 Alto Maiden Lane WC2E 7JS
http://www.elnivel.co.uk

Spice Society

Who doesn’t love a good Indian on a Saturday night?

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If you ever find yourself in Elmers End, Beckenham then head straight to Spice Society. It’s one of the best asian¬†restaurants in the area. Quite large establishment with ambient decor and extremely polite staff. I have been there a number of times and have never have been disappointed.

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Now my partner in crime would probably give you a lecture how ‘Indian’ restaurants in England are all actually Bangladeshi owned and what you are eating is not Indian at all. But since I am no expert on originality of these dishes I go by taste alone.

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They have a very extensive menu, whether you feel like prawn or lamb there is something for every craving. All dishes are so fresh, you get overwhelmed by fragrance when they serve them on your table.

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Some of the dishes we ordered were lamb biriani served with vegetarian curry, chicken masala and paneer. What a feast! All plates were heaped, which meant my lunch next day was sorted. Sweet!

Spice Society
139 Croydon Road, Beckenham BR3 3RB

Jamie’s Italian

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Yum, yum, yum are the words that spring to mind when we think of Jamie’s Italian in Kingston. From the starters to the drinks to the main courses, every ingredient is sourced from the finest producer and for very little cost. We have been to a number of Jamie’s Italians and the quality and service is pretty much the same. The average spend here for two with two starters, mains and drinks works out at ¬£25 per head.

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The decor is trendy yet very comfortable. A disorganised mess just like the owner. The clientele is very eclectic. Jamie’s Italian is a place for everyone, large groups, intimate dates, family occasions, the young, the old, the posh, the trendy, well hopefully you get my drift.

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Now to our favourites at Jamie’s Italian. First thing, eat the bread, I will leave it at that about the bread, tell us what you think. Elena and I can not ever go without the super sized juicy and fresh olives on ice. They are BIG with lots of flesh and probably the best olives I have ever tasted. They have not been marinated or stuff in brine but are the freshest olives we have ever tasted. Enough about the olives.

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My favourite main is the famous prawn linguine. It comes piled high with fresh rocket which gives it that fresh crunch and the peppery taste of the rocket which sings well with the hint of chilli in the pasta sauce. The whole dish is popping with flavour, pepper from the rocket, meaty from the prawns, sweetness of the tomatoes and the hint of chilli which I can only imagine is from the fresh chillis in the sauce.

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Elena is your meat girl so naturally when she sees the word ragu and sausage meat it’s like a siren has gone off and there is no need for her to contemplate any other dish. It’s a simple meaty pasta dish with no frills. The pasta hasn’t been drenched in sauce and there is a high concentration of spicy sausage meat in the dish. It’s what we class as ‘hug’ food.

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Going to Jamie’s Italian is like going to a celebration of food. There are platters of everything you can imagine with the idea that the whole table tucks into the platter, a concept I love coming from an Asian up bringing where everything is about sharing your love of food.

Jamie’s Italian has a fabulous bar area which is only available in some outlets, we can defiantly recommend trying the bar in London Bridge and Angel. Very lively with some excellent mixologists.

You really wouldn’t know that Jamie Oliver isn’t Italian when trying these dishes. We will defiantly be going again and again. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Star Rating: *****

Jamie’s Italian
www.jamieoliver.com/italian/

Lisbon, Portugal: Cervejaria Ramiro

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When our hotel porter informed us that there would be a long wait for this seafood extravaganza we thought he was exaggerating a tad. However, he insisted that if we were in Lisbon we had to try Cervejaria Ramiroo which was according to him and other recommendation the best place for seafood in the whole of Portugal.

When we arrived on the street for the restaurant we saw the queue and growled a tad but never the less attached ourselves to the end and watched the tank of langoustines they had placed in the window for the ques entertainment. We waited for 45mins in total and we can confirm it was worth it.

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This place is not about the frills but truly about the freshest seafood Portugal has to offer at a ridiculously cheap price. The restaurant is cramped and the service is manic but you soon forget these things once you finally taste the fresh seafood.

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We ordered clams in garlic sauce, edible crab, oysters and garlic bread. Cervejaria Ramiro¬†blew our minds and souls, the crab was the juiciest crab we have ever tasted and fellow customers didn’t mind my crab shells flying onto them, it was a whole lot of fun. You may start your meal trying to be dainty but five minutes in you are up to your elbows in ripping meat and deshelling, DEFINATELY not a sexy dine but a fun experience with friends or if you don’t mind getting down and dirty with a loved one.

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I originally thought garlic bread could only be made well by an Italian but boy were we wrong. Cervejaria Ramiro had the best garlic bread we have ever tasted. An odd combination as it sounds with seafood but it worked really well with the flavours.

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For the first meal we had on our trip to Portugal it was fun and fabulous. Well being us we then had to find places to beat it.

Star Rating: *****

Cervejaria Ramiro
Av. Almirante Reis n¬ļ1 – H, 1150-007 Lisboa, Portugal
www.cervejariaramiro.pt

The Art of Dining: Pop-Up Dining Experience

Elena had decided to surprise me with this place for my birthday and I mean surprise. So as I followed her around the side streets of Baker St starving as we arrived at this door which looked nothing like a restaurant all I could think is ‘I am starving and it’s my birthday and this bxxxh has brought me to look at art’. We were greeted by a gentlemen who ticked us off the list, I look around and there are candles heading to a basement (brain wakes up, she is making me join the illuminati). We walk down the stairs and she continues with the sheepish smile I have received for the past 30 mins which has now turned to nervousness, geez she clearly didn’t know what was happening. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-9 We got to the bottom of the stairs and then as I furiously scanned the place I realised that this was a pop up restaurant. My heart settled as I realised there was to be no mass slaughter on my birthday. We were greeted with a cocktail, very ketch and in a jar with a store, the ‘in thing’ to do these days. We were seated on a long trestle table with a whole bunch of strangers who were equally as clueless as we were but it was the perfect seating arrangement for this setting as we all got to know our neighbor which was fun. Any other time, no way. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-2Slowly the clues were coming together, we were settling down for a five course meal linked to a colour. The food it’s self was lovely. Our first course was green. The room was filled with green lighting and three potted plants which were nothing in a room of about 80-100 diners. The paper table covering was also green and there was ‘green’ music in the back. This was the extent of execution for the theme which was rather disappointing as for each course the lighting would change and three plant would be replaced with other object but it didn’t really matter as it’s not like you would see then in the sea of people anyway. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-8The most enjoyable part of the process bar the food was the changing of the table cover process between courses. Diners were expected to rip off the table cover to reveal the new colour and the best part……you could throw it on the floor. I got so into it that when I got home that night I continued to throw my clothes around my room and when I got to work the next day I was throwing exercise books at children. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-4The food was lovely I must say. A truly section of fine ingredients. My particular favourites were course green which was quail wrapped in vine leaves with a freekheh salad. It was small yet exquisite, a lot of zesty and fresh flavours, not something I would have thought when thinking of quail. My next favourite course is the black course which particularly fun when eating in the dark. It was roasted aubergines with wild mushroom and onions. The aubergine had the most amazingly soft texture and the skin was cooked to perfection of it just melted in the mouth, the mushroom and onions as a sweet yet salty flavour, I’m salivating just writing about it. We adored the final orange course which was a lovely piece of orange polenta cake which was soft and juicy and even though in theory it looked tiny on the plate it was just enough as your tummy is already full with four courses. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-10Now I must mention Elena’s rant about the white course and I do agree. The almond ???? Soup was not which at all and pretty much looked like puss in a bowl. The favours were so subtle that they could be missed. All in all the food was lovely and I did appreciate sharing the experience with strangers but the execution of what they were trying to communicate was poor. Do we think it was worth the ¬£50 per head, hmmmmm I suppose it is based on the different experience and the fun and laughter along the way.

 

Star Rating: ***

The Art of Dining
http://www.theartofdining.co.uk