Restaurants


Work brought me to the Fitzroria area one weekday and as it was around lunchtime when I got out, I started looking at Google maps to see where was good to eat nearby. I found one restaurant I’d marked just a 5 minute walk away…. and it was really a canteen. The canteen of the Indian YMCA. Yes, I’d finally get to try it!

The canteen is just that… a canteen. And yes, it’s part of the Indian YMCA, which also offers short and long term lodgings. The food served is supposed to be very authentically Indian, very homestyle, and judging from that lunchtime, it’s very popular with both Indian and non-Indian people working in the area.

To get your food, you first queue at the back where you grab a tray and the dishes that interest you, before continuing in the queue to pay at the till. I loaded my tray with pilau rice, fish curry, daal, and a poppadom. Everything is priced individually and the more you pile on your tray, the more you’ll pay. Other things on offer were white rice, chapatis, chicken curry, lamb curry, a couple of other vegetable curries and dishes, yogurt, salad, chutneys, pickles. I was too late for the bhaji – that ran out. There was mango lassi on offer as well.

Lunch at the Indian YMCA

If I remember correctly, all this came to about £7.50. And it was fantastic! I couldn’t even finish that very generous portion of fish curry and the daal was excellent – highly drinkable. Everything was very fresh and I really wish it was located much closer to my regular workplace.

I’m definitely planning on making a visit on a weekend, when the lunches and dinners are served as a fixed price buffet (£8). Do check their website for opening times as they’re quite specific.

Indian YMCA
41 Fitzroy Square
London W1T 6AQ

We spent our wedding anniversary in Paris! Yeah, it sounds romantic but I forgot about it until late in the day – haha! Luckily, I had planned ahead and already booked a table for dinner at La Régalade Conservatoire, the third and newest location of La Régalade under chef Bruno Doucet. TimeOut Paris even called it one of the most romantic restaurants in Paris; I was sold.

We arrived to a warm welcome with excellent service throughout the entire meal. There’s a menu for dinner – 3 courses for €37, with supplements for some of the specials of the day.

We started with a huge (and delicious) pork terrine that was plonked onto our table. We were to help ourselves to as much as we desired.

Terrine

There was some excellent bread to go alongside…

A Little Starter

…and a crock of equally excellent cornichons. It’s too easy to fill up on all of this but we did have to keep room for the dishes we actually ordered!

Cornichons

Starters. Makis de maquereau, concombre et poivron, mayonnaise citron vert et avocat. This was a refreshing salad with rolls of mackerel and cucumber.

Makis de maquereau, concombre et poivron, mayonnaise citron vert et avocat

Risotto crémeux à l’encre de seiche, gambas rôties à l’ail, émulsion de vache qui rit. Rice, seafood, garlic – what’s not to like?

Risotto cremeux a l'encre de seiche, gambas roties a l'ail, emulsion de vache qui rit

Just look at the fabulous colour of that risotto! There was even a bit of dried cuttlefish or something similar on top that had a great salty chewiness. And a foam of vache qui rit cheese? Genius.

The risotto was a fabulous colour

Main courses. Veau en deux cuissons, caillette au jus de veau et quasi rôti, légumes verts de printemps. Here we had veal in two styles – a roasted cut akin to a lean loin and a caillette (kind of like a forcemeat ball). It was all gorgeous. This was served with lots of spring vegetables – peas, mangetout, peashoots, onions.

Veau en deux cuissons, caillette au jus de veau et quasi roti, legumes d'ete

Onglet de bœuf rôti aux cinq baies, carottes et navets nouveaux, champignons de Paris et cresson sauvage. Again, perfectly cooked meat served with lots of fresh vegetables.

Let's see the beef!

Desserts had to be ordered right at the beginning but as the portion sizes had been well thought through, we were feeling very comfortable and were looking forward to our sweets. Soufflé chaud Grand-Marnier seemed to be one of the favourites with our neighbouring tables as everyone seemed to have one. And yes, it was glorious – all hot and fluffy and with a strong hint of Grand Marnier.

Souffle Chaud Grand Marnier

Pêche plate du Lot-et-Garonne cuite au four, émulsion de verveine et sorbet pêche. Oh gee, this was swell. What a fabulously gently cooked flat peach, topped with the peachiest of peach sorbets and a hint of lemon verbena.

Peche Plate du Lot-et-Garonne cuite au four, emulsion de verveine et sorbet peche

With our post-dinner teas came warm madeleines, served in the tiniest basket you ever did see. Teas were from Le Palais des Thés in Paris – and they were fantastic.

Madeleines

Portion sizes were very well thought out and we only realised afterwards that there were no extra carbohydrates on the plates – there was only bread on the side. And there were plenty of vegetables too – and we loved it all. It’s definitely a lovely restaurant to spend a special occasion (or even a not very special one!).

La Régalade Conservatoire
9 Rue du Conservatoire
75009 Paris
France

We stopped for tea that first afternoon after our time in the Musée Picasso in the 3eme and as we were nearby, I dragged Blai to Jacques Genin’s shop. The one on rue de Turenne has a small salon de thé where you can taste his famous chocolates and caramels as well as pastries. His other shop on the other side of the river is just that – a shop.

Untitled

We settled into a sofa in the lovely air conditioned room. There’s a menu but the waitress also rattled off the various flavours and other pastries also available (and I believe they are made in the laboratory upstairs). We chose a chocolate millefeille that would be put together a la minute. This was one excellent millefeuille.

Millefeuille de Chocolat

Coffee for me and a citron pressé for Blai. The chocolates they provided with the drinks were utterly amazing. Seriously, just get them.

Chocolates

We bought a couple of his caramels to takeaway (look at the cute little bags they have for small numbers of sweets) and ate them about an hour later. By that time, they’d softened in the heat in my bag to possibly a perfect texture – they were utterly luscious.

Caramels

I only wish I could have brought back more but the very hot weather prevented all of that. Here’s a good tip: this salon de thé is open on Sundays.

Jacques Genin
133 rue de Turenne
Paris
France

We finally made it to Breizh Cafe on this Paris trip; this restaurant specialises in the galettes and crepes from Brittany and is probably on everyone’s list of places to eat in Paris. I’d recommend getting there soon after their opening time for lunch if you’re trying to get a table without a reservation; and even if you have a reservation, don’t be surprised if you’re seated in their shop next door (it’s perfectly normal though we saw some tourists leave in a huff when presented with that option). We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and got a prime table on the sidewalk; soon after, the entire restaurant was full.

It took us a while to choose the fillings for our savoury buckwheat galettes – everything on the menu looked incredible. I knew that everything would be good – the restaurant is known for the quality of the ingredients it uses. A Galette Bretonne was filled with creamy mushrooms with cheese and smoked ham and the buckwheat galette was fabulous, all flavourful and crisp at the corners. (A neighbouring couple who left their “galette crusts” made me quite upset.)

Galette Bretonne

A Galette Artichaut was the classic complète – ham, cheese and egg – with the addition of artichoke hearts. Perfect.

Galette Artichaut

Of course, we couldn’t leave without a sweet crepe. After a long deliberation, we finally decided to split a Crepe Quimperone – a crepe filled with apple puree, drizzled with the cafe’s salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.

Crepe Quimperone

I see now why there’s always a crowd here! We’ll be back.

Breizh Cafe
109 rue Vieille du Temple
75005 Paris
France

We spent last weekend in Paris – it was a much needed break from work though it did feel like we traded one city full of tourists for another. That said, I love the change of culture, of language, of scenery. On Friday evening, we caught a Eurostar train to Paris, checked into our hotel in the 11eme and then headed straight out to find the nearby Les Niçois, a bar/restaurant that brings the French Riviera to Paris.

It was crowded on that Friday night but we just managed to find the last two seats in the place. We also managed to order food just before the kitchen closed and we dined on an Assiette Nissard, featuring a variety of Niçoise specialties: pissaladiere, pizza nissarde, panisses, tapenades noire et verte, anchoiade. With a basket of bread, this was a perfectly sized sampler of fantastic treats from the south for one person.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

But we were two and we needed a couple other light dishes. Croquettes were filled with a vegetable mixture similar to ratatouille, the flavour of which was very reminiscent of the south of France.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

I couldn’t leave without an order of grilled sardines. These little oily fish were perfect. Just perfect.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

As it was close by to our hotel, we even dropped by for a drink on our last day, prior to picking up our luggage and heading to the train station. It was quiet on a Sunday afternoon and they were preparing for the barbecue they hold every Sunday evening.

Untitled

I’m leaving what’s possibly the best for last! They have a games room in the basement, complete with a petanque court!

Basement Petanque

It’s a seriously fun place!

Les Niçois
7 Rue Lacharrière
75011 Paris
France

I wish I could say that my pre-birthday lunch at Gymkhana was outstanding but that would be a lie. In a weird way I’ve been wanting to write up the meal and yet at the same time I’ve felt entirely unmotivated to do so due to our overall general experience.

I’ll start with the good. Good: the food.

We booked for lunch last Saturday – I’d been really looking forward to trying this restaurant but as they close on Sundays, finding a day that would work for both me and Blai had been a bit of a challenge. Anyway, this opportunity arose and we went for their lunch menu: 3 courses for £30.

Drinks! Our Angoor Sharbat was the better of our two nonalcoholic cocktails, being more unique, made of homemade spiced grape juice and seltzer. The Lemon Teaser was a lemon (and lemon thyme!) fizzy drink. I really liked their nonalcoholic offerings – all were interesting and there were plenty from which to choose.

Lemon Teaser and Angoor Sharbat

Our meal started (or was supposed to start with as you’ll soon read) Cassava, Lentil & Potato Papads, Shrimp Chutney & Mango Chutney. I didn’t entirely understand until we received the basket that there would be two kinds of poppadoms here, with two distinctly different textures. I loved both.

Cassava, Lentil & Potato Papads

And both chutneys served were mind blowing. The mango chutney was the finest I’d ever had while the shrimp one was an intensely savoury and unique condiment.

Shrimp Chutney & Mango Chutney

For our starters, we chose the Soft Shell Crab Jhalmuri, Samphire

Soft Shell Crab Jhalmuri, Samphire

… and the Dosa, Chettinad Duck, Coconut Chutney. Both were excellent though the dosa just pipped the crab to the post. The crab was well spiced and tasty but that duck and dosa was really something.

Dosa, Chettinad Duck, Coconut Chutney

Dosa, Chettinad Duck, Coconut Chutney

Our main courses were the megastars of our lunch. Our Tandoori Chicken Chop, Mango Ginger, Leg Chat was amazing, easily the best tandoori chicken I’ve ever had. The chicken was just perfect, perfectly spiced, perfectly grilled, perfectly tender. And I must mention that ‘leg chat’, which was a tandoori spiced mixture of cooked and chopped chicken leg topped with crispy potato bits.

Tandoori Chicken Chop, Mango Ginger, Leg Chat

Our Hariyali Bream, Tomato Kachumber was also brilliant. This incredibly tender bream had been schmeared with a coriander paste and grilled and served with a fresh tomato relish; I’ve found the recipe online and hope to replicate at home one day!

Hariyali Bream, Tomato Kachumber

To go with our main courses, our set lunches also included a side each of Dal Maharani (creamy lentils) and Saag Makkai (spinach and corn). I loved these additions, rounding out our Indian meal.

Dal Maharani

Saag Makkai

For carbs we were given a bread basket with a naan and roti and also a large bowl of basmati rice. They were particularly generous with the rice and we didn’t manage to finish that!

Bread Basket

Desserts were very good indeed. A Rose & Rhubarb Kulfi Falooda was a ball of rose kulfi with rose petal jam, braised rhubarb, jelly bits, basil seeds and vermicelli, all served with a small pitcher of sweetened reduced milk for pouring over.

Ras Malai, Tandoori Peach Chutney

Ras Malai, Tandoori Peach Chutney was probably the finest ras malai I’ve ever had (clearly a theme throughout this meal) but I only wish that they’d been a little more generous with the fabulous chutney.

Rose & Rhubarb Kulfi Falooda

Overall, this was some of the finest Indian food we both had ever had and for that we were glad we tried the restaurant. The meal ended with these excellent passionfruit and chilli jellies but we almost didn’t get these as I mention below.

Passionfruit and Chilli Jellies

Now, the bad. Bad: the service. I’m not sure what it was about us but we were clearly getting shoddy service compared to those around us. I could see everything go flawlessly around us which really rubbed salt in the wound.

What we do not tend to expect from a one Michelin starred restaurant:

  • Waiting ages to be served. Having to ask for menus.
  • Receiving the first opening dish (the poppodoms and chutneys) after the second.
  • Watching the waitpeople roll their eyes above the heads of diners.
  • Waitpeople who try to clear our dishes about 2 minutes after we received them (yes, they were still half full).
  • Waiting 15 minutes for a single espresso, especially when we have a time limit on the table.
  • Being denied petit-fours, despite every table around us getting some. I only got them (the jellies above) after asking for them (and simultaneously making a complaint about service).
  • Waitpeople who, in general, avoid you.

Now, each event taken in isolation could have been considered an honest oversight but taken all together, it was increasing clear that we had been judged for some reason and judged to be lacking in some way and thus treated differently from everyone else. I made a complaint to our waiter but his response left me feeling very uncomfortable and I perhaps regret not speaking directly to management.

The day after our meal, a generic “we value your feedback” email popped into my inbox. I took the opportunity to send detailed email feedback to the restaurant and to their credit, they apologised and said they’d spoken to the waitstaff mentioned. But the fact that it even happened in the first place….not on, Gymkhana. While the food was spectacular, the whole lunch left a distinctly bad taste in our mouths.

Gymkhana
42 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4JH

Like the title says, this was a much needed weekend away. It was a girls’ trip and it was going to be all about food and shopping, a proper escape from the working weekends we’d all been having recently. We met at St Pancras after work on the Friday night and caught the last Eurostar train to Lille, arriving a little after 10pm. If you’re familiar with Lille, you’ll know that there’s not much open in the centre past 10 or 11pm but we did just manage to dump our bags at our hotel and then go straight to Flam’s for a flammekueche dinner.

We sat outside and dined on two of the flams and a warm salad. I loved the thinness of the tartes and how light it all felt (yeah, sure, there was cheese on top and plenty of lardons on everything but, look, salad!).

Untitled

And we couldn’t help it and shared a chocolate banana flam for dessert as well. With drinks, it came to only €30 total for all three of us. An excellent late night eat.

Chocolat-Banane

Flam’s
8 Rue Pas

On Saturday mornings, Lille has a small local food market around the Theatre Sébastopol and the stalls all looked excellent. We only bought some cherries and they were very good indeed. We didn’t find the breakfast we were looking for though, finding patisserie and not viennoiserie.

Cherries

Marché Sébastopol
Place Sébastopol

And so we stopped at a random cafe close to the market and fed ourselves with cafe cremes, croissants, …

Cafe Creme et Croissants

… and giggled at the cappuccino that came with whipped cream! Definitely more luxurious than your bog-standard one!

A "Cappuccino"

Then the shopping began in earnest… and I’ll spare you the details. Well, other than to say that the sales at this time of the year were fantastic and prices were already at their third markdown.

Lunch! I couldn’t get a dinner booking at Bloempot, run by Florent Ladeyn of French Top Chef fame, for any time in July and instead we tried to get a walk in table for the midday meal… and we succeeded! By going a little early (12:30) we had our pick of tables in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it restaurant down the end if a narrow alley; by 14:00 the whole restaurant was packed.

Bloempot

On weekends, they serve the same menus as weekday evenings. There’s a choice of three menus which differ on the number of courses you get and we went with the cheapest at €34, getting us a starter, main, cheese and dessert. Drink pairings are also available. It’s a surprise menu based on what’s good at the market at that time of the year, though they do take allergies and dietary restrictions into consideration.

The little extras were more generous than I was expecting. Prior to our starter, we received a mound of fresh radishes with plenty of salt, butter and a soft fresh cheese. Very good bread too, in a paper bag.

Radishes, Butter and Fresh Cheese

Our starter was a beautiful roulade of thinly sliced kohlrabi with a quenelle of a fresh drained cheese topped with tarragon.

Kohlrabi and Fresh Cheese

Our main course was fish. A perfect piece of skate was served with sliced razor clams, mangetout and the loveliest little potatoes.

Skate, Mangetout and Potatoes

Then came what we originally thought was our cheese course. This was a massive bowl of maroilles foam topped with lardons and parsley crumbs, served with a big hunk of toasted bread crust for dipping. (Maroilles is the famous odoriferous cheese of the region) It was insanely good and we requested spoons to hasten its transfer into our mouths.

Maroilles Foam Dip with Lardons and Parsley Crumbs

Our waiter then came around with three small glasses half filled with a yellow-green liquid. He explained that we were being served a limonade made using their homemade sorrel syrup and topped up the glass with fizzy water. It was a lovely and necessary touch to clear our palates after that cheese onslaught.

Limonade d'Oseille

Our actual cheese course then arrived – yes, the Maroilles foam was an extra. This was thin slices of tomme de sec bois topped with fresh raspberries, rose petals and a drizzle of syrup.

Tomme with Raspberries and Rose Petals

Dessert was a dream. Fresh perfect berries, sorrel sorbet, langues de chat and a milk custard ladled on the side – I could have had another few bowls!

Berries, Sorrel Sorbert, Langues de Chat, Custard

Bloempot is highly recommended!

Bloempot
22 Rue des Bouchers

Then it was back to shopping. When the shops finally did us in, we headed straight to Meert for refreshments.

Untitled

Thé Glacé

The cakes were all excellent as usual (and that waffle!) and the iced tea was exactly what I needed.

Meert
27 Rue Esquermoise

We swung by the hypermarket next to the train station and picked up goodies for home before finally taking a break at the hotel before dinner. Can you tell that we were trying to cram all the shopping in on Saturday? Like most other places in France, 99% of Lille shuts down on Sundays.

Our night was going to be spent on Rue de Gand, a street lined with restaurants and wine bars. I had made a booking at Chez la Vieille, a highly regarded Lillois estaminet (and one in which we couldn’t get a table the last time I was in Lille). They served large portions of hearty northern French food and we struggled to finish it all.

Croquettes aux crevettes were excellent and full of little brown shrimps.

Croquettes aux Crevettes

My friend’s Coeur des Flandres was a fantastic homemade tart filled with minced pork, onion and apple.

Le Coeur des Flandres

My Gratin de la Vieille was insane. An entire cooked endive (and a fat one at that) had been wrapped in ham and then drowned in plenty of bechamel and topped with maroilles cheese before being grilled on top. With frites!

Gratin de la Vieille

Estaminet Chez la Vieille
60 Rue de Gand

And then we crashed back at the hotel…and I think all the day’s cheese affected the others as they awoke around me recounting strange dreams the next morning. Haha!

We checked out, dumped our now overflowing bags, and headed straight to the Marché de Wazemmes. The walk along the way was through a deserted city but as we got nearer to the market, it became exceedingly clear that the entire city was there. The first thing I did was find the lady who was selling Tunisian bricks – this was the brick that got away the last time I was in Lille!

Brick!

Brick!

It hit the spot. This one was filled with minced lamb and onions and the essential egg.

After walking once around the market (and perhaps I’ll mention here that not everything was peachy – we had coffee at a specialist place where they treated us badly), we noticed there was a bar (L’Oxford) at one corner with plenty of outdoor seating and everyone sitting there had ordered drinks at the bar and were tucking into food purchased at the market. Yeah, we wanted in on that! We surveyed all the rotisserie chicken vans (there were a few) before choosing our favourite and for the grand sum of €9, we received one roast chicken, plenty of potatoes that had been cooked in the drippings, and a giant spiced potato and lamb patty.

Preparing our Lunch

Lunch!

That poor chicken never stood a chance.

Marché de Wazemmes
Place Nouvelle Aventure

The afternoon was spent in the Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille and when we emerged, it was raining (not in the original weather forecast!). We had a couple hours to kill before our train back and headed out to the Quai du Wault in search of a hotel that used to be a convent, hoping to wait out the weather. That was the Alliance Couvent des Minimes and we sat in their bar eating pastries…

Cafe Gourmand

… and ice cream.

Ice Cream!

Alliance Couvent des Minimes
Quai du Wault

And then it was time to catch the Eurostar back to London. Back to reality. I highly recommend Lille for a short break. It’s easy to get there and prices at restaurants are lower than similar restaurants in Paris. And if you’re there during the sales… well, I take no responsibility for that.

All my photos from Lille can be found in this Flickr album.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,500 other followers