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SixtyOne restaurant review: French meets British in this relaxed, fine dining Marylebone establishment

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Chow down: Lake District Beef Shoulder with Onion Emulsion and Sea Vegetables

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Fashionable: SixtyOne is located on Upper Berkeley Street in South Marylebone

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts this year, Marylebone has become the hot new postcode in town with many budding restaurateurs choosing the area to set up shop. One such new establishment is Sixtyone in south Marylebone, one of the latest additions to the Searcys brand, which opened at the end of 2013. Headed by Chef Patron Arnaud Stevens, the cuisine is described as ‘old world French cooking and flavours with the very best English ingredients’. Within its first year, Sixtyone achieved three AA Rosettes so I had high hopes for my meal.

A group of five of us booked a Saturday evening meal through OpenTable to celebrate my sister’s birthday in October. As we booked quite last-minute, we found there wasn’t much availability – always a good sign if a place is in hot demand – so we opted for an early seating at 6pm. Upon arrival, the waiter politely informed us the restaurant was fully booked so we couldn’t have the table too long which is fair enough on a Saturday.

The dining room is fairly small, with just over 60 covers, providing an intimate and cosy space. Crisp white table cloths cover round tables with beige leather seats providing a comfortable place to rest. We had opted for the set menu deal of 3 courses for £29, but there is an option to go à la carte. Opened in partnership with Searcys, there is  – as you would expect – a comprehensive and high-quality wine list, including champagnes and cocktails. In a somewhat controversial move, we ordered a bottle of the Prosecco Porte Leone (£38) as the birthday girl prefers the Italian bubbly over its French rival.

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‘Pig on Toast’ – a pork pate served with walnuts on toast and a bed of picked pears

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The bread basket was particularly varied, creative and fresh

I rarely mention bread baskets when I write reviews, but I must make an exception for Sixtyone. We were presented with an unusual mix of breads in different flavours and patterns, served with a light and airy slab of butter on stone. The bread was exquisite and we had to restrain ourselves for the fear of ruining the rest of our meal by filling ourselves with it. For starters I opted for the Mussel Chowder, a thick, creamy comfort food with a subtle flavour. However, the popular dish amongst my party appeared to be the ‘Pig on Toast’ – a pork pâté served with walnuts on toast and a bed of pickled pear, which was an unusual mix of flavours, but tasted succulent and more-ish.

For our mains, I ordered the Roast Cod, Coco Bean, Bisque and Terrine. The cod was cooked perfectly with the white meat nice and light and the flavours really meshing well together. Meanwhile, many of my companions opted for the Lake District Beef Shoulder with Onion Emulsion and Sea Vegetables, which was rich and juicy and deemed delicious all round.

Despite our filling initial courses, we all had room for dessert. I chose the Raspberry and Cinnamon Tart served with sorbet. The pastry had a hint of moistness and a good crunch, while the fruit and sorbet were delicious. The cinnamon was incredibly subtle, which suited given its accompanying fruit. One of my party opted for Caramelised Braeburn and Specaloos (spiced shortcrust biscuit), which they said was a light and homely dessert.

Overall, the food was good and the unusual mix of flavours worked well. The service was attentive and speedy, although never in a way to disrupt the relaxing vibe of the restaurant. I would definitely recommend for a nice evening out for a couple or group.

  • Sixtyone, 61 Upper Berkeley Street, Marylebone, W1H 7PP. Nearest station: Marble Arch. For more information and booking, visit the Sixtyone website.
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And to finish: Raspberry and Cinnamon Tart served with sorbet


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Metro Girl’s Must Do Series – Part 2: Borough Market

Welcome to part 2 of ‘Metro Girl’s Must Do’ series, a guide to my essential sights or activities to do during your visit to London. Many tourists may only spend a few days in the capital before escaping to the likes of Oxford or Bath or jumping over the English Channel to see the continent. So if time is of the essence and you’re torn between where to go, this is my opinion on London’s top attractions.

Borough Market © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Feast for foodies: Head to Borough Market for a culinary adventure

Borough Market portico © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The South Portico from Covent Garden was installed in 2004

Many visitors to London these days may find they are not coming into contact with the ‘real London’. One of pitfalls of tourism – in many cities not just London – is you end up following the usual checklist of sights and sharing them with other non-Londoners.

However, one of the long-running places that has always attracted Londoners in the city is the traditional market. There’s something special about the capital’s markets that make them differ from those abroad. Now of course there are many markets I can highly recommend to visitors – Brick Lane, Portobello and Camden. However, this post is on my favourite, Borough Market. Known as the city’s foodies destination, it draws chefs, amateur cooks, restaurateurs… or just people (like me) with a healthy appetite.

Now located a stone’s throw from London Bridge train and tube station, Borough Market has existed in the area since as far back as the 11th century. The original market lay closer to the actual bridge – then the only river crossing in London – and sold fish, vegetables, grain and livestock. In the 13th century, the market then moved to Borough High Street, just south of St Margaret’s Church. Despite being located on the south of the River – and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the City of London – the boy King Edward VI (1537–1553) changed all this in 1550 when he extended the City’s power to Southwark’s markets.

Bread Borough Market © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

For the carb lovers: A bakery stand was a big draw

Borough Market Market Hall © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Market Hall was opened in 2013

The market thrived until 1755 when it was closed by an Act of Parliament, as politicians were unimpressed with the congestion in the area. However, some proactive locals in Southwark clubbed together to raise £6,000 to buy a patch of land, then known as The Triangle, in the hope of re-opening the market. In 1756, it reopened on the new site which still forms part of the market today (where Furness Fish & Game is located on Middle Road).

Borough Market © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The market is made of predominantly Victorian metal and glass

By the 19th century, the market was thriving – no doubt to its location close to the ‘Pool of London’, where most of the wharves were situated. The current building you see today was designed by architect Henry Rose and erected in the 1850s, with the Art Deco entrance at Southwark Street added in 1932. In 2004, the South Portico from Covent Garden’s Floral Hall was installed at the market’s Stoney Street entrance after the Royal Opera House was redeveloped. The market was further enhanced in 2013 with the opening of the Market Hall, a glass structure opening on to Borough High Street which provides a place for shoppers to relax and sample their purchases. Columns reaching up to the roof house pots with growing hops, fruits, flowers, herbs, olives and salad leaves. There also features a demonstration kitchen, with various events taking place throughout the week.

Today, there are over 100 stalls featuring most kinds of food from the UK and further afield. Weekends are particularly busy so it’s worth trying to get there early on a Saturday. As well as a wide range of stalls, the market also contains several restaurants and pubs, including Tapas Brindisa, The Globe, The Rake and Elliot’s Café. On Beadale Street in the market, there is also the old school-style Hobbs Barbers for men in need of a trim.

  • Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TL. Nearest station: London Bridge. Open for lunch from Monday-Tuesday 10am-5pm, or the full market is open Wednesday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Fridays 10am-6pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm. Closed on Sundays. For more information, visit the Borough Market website.
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Decisions, decisions: More types of Cheesecake than you can shake a fork at

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Sweet tooth: It looked like every flavour going was at the Turkish Delight stand, while cooks were perusing some of the fruit and vegetable stands for ingredients


For Part 1 of Metro Girl’s Must Do series on the London Eye, click here.

Or to read about Metro Girl’s trip up to the nearby View From The Shard, click here.

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The Cavendish review: European cuisine in a members club-style restaurant comes to trendy Marylebone

© The Cavendish

Enjoy modern, European-style cuisine at this members’ club-style restaurant in trendy Marylebone
© The Cavendish

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Mix of flavours: Starter of Scallops with Smoked Cauliflower Puree

Thanks to the recent addition of celeb-magnet Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone is the hottest part of central London right now, with diners and drinkers being lured across the Oxford and Regent Street borders from their usual enclaves of Mayfair and Fitzrovia. I confess, I don’t know Marylebone as well as the aforementioned areas, but that’s all set to change with the growing amount of top eating and drinking venues.

Earlier this month, I was invited to the soft launch of The Cavendish, the latest new culinary destination in W1. Located upstairs with its accompanying bar on the ground floor, The Cavendish feels like a vintage members’ club with a mixture of plush leather booths and sleek wooden armchairs. My friend and I were shown to a cosy table in the corner so were privy to all the action and got a chance to look at some of the dishes enjoyed by our fellow diners.

Overseen by Spanish chef Alfonso Lillo Fas, the menu takes its inspiration from predominantly Italian, Spanish and French cuisine. It features a ‘Raw Bar’ for fans of Ceviche, Caviar, Oysters and the like. The menu is predominantly red meat and fish, so vegetarians may struggle. For those who wish, the knowledgeable waiters can match your wine to your dish. However, as we ordered our wine before deciding on our food, I opted for a glass of SV Dillons Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which was fruity and refreshing.

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Pan-Fried Dover Sole served with desiree potatoes, spinach and a lemon and saffron sauce

To start, I ordered the Scallops with Smoked Cauliflower Purée, served with Pickled Baby Courgette and Fig Balsamic. The scallops were cooked perfectly – not too chewy, and the mix of ingredients really worked well together. My companion opted for the Yellowfin Tuna Tartar, which was given a kick by the accompanying Wasabi, which she loved.

For mains, I was unprepared for the sheer size of my Pan-Fried Dover Sole. The waiter brought it on the bone so I could survey the presentation, before stripping it for me to eat. It was cooked to perfection with the lemon and saffron sauce really sinking into the white meat and bringing out a lovely flavour. It was served with creamy desiree potatoes and spinach, which are two of my favourite vegetables so I was pretty happy. My friend was in a more carnivorous mood and opted for the Fillet Steak served with Watercress and Béarnaise Sauce, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She ordered sides of Green Beans and Zucchini Fries – the latter being heralded as absolutely delicious and quite unique as a sides option in restaurants.

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Fillet Steak served with watercress and Béarnaise sauce with sides of green beans (top left) and zucchini fries (top right)

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Delicious! Caramel panna cotta served with chocolate sauce and edible flowers

Although I must confess I struggled to eat sll of my large portion of Dover Sole (despite how gorgeous it was), I did find a tiny bit of room for dessert. As I was pretty full, I opted for the lighter of the options – the Caramel Panna Cotta. Without exaggerating, it was absolutely heavenly. It was served on a bed of chocolate sauce with edible flowers with a slice of white chocolate as a topping. It was light, creamy and very moreish.

Throughout the meal, we were served by attentive and knowledgeable waiters, who provided old-fashioned service. Our glasses of water were always topped up and we were given all the information we needed when querying the dishes. The setting was comfortable and relaxing and it would certainly fit either a business dinner or romantic meal. If you wish to carry on the evening, you can always head to the bar downstairs to sample the extensive drinks menu. Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal and the setting and service gave a feeling of subtle luxury.

  • The Cavendish, 35 New Cavendish Street, Marylebone, W1G 9TR. Nearest station: Bond Street. Tel: 020 7487 3030. For more information, visit the The Cavendish website.

Disclaimer: Metro Girl was a guest of The Cavendish for this review. However, my opinions are, as ever, my own.

For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.

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Kouzu review: Upmarket dining comes to Belgravia with authentic Japanese cuisine

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Delicious: The chef’s selection of fish sashimi at Kouzu

With the re-development of Victoria station and the surrounding area, Belgravia is the next hot postcode. Although long renowned as an upmarket residential and business area of the capital, SW1 has been lacking in choice of nightlife and restaurants.

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Fruity: A Momo Awa (left) and Bellini

Located at the prestigious address of Grosvenor Gardens opposite the Goring Hotel, Kouzu is a new contemporary Japanese restaurant and bar. The restaurant encompasses two floors in the Grade II-listed former National Bank Belgravia branch, which closed in 1970. Overseen by head chef Kyoichi Kai (formerly of the Arts Club and Zuma), the kitchen is staffed by an all-Japanese crew, ensuring authentic cuisine.

Upon arrival, we were given a Japanese greeting by all the staff, which was a nice touch. We were seated on a cosy table for two, under the window and near the bar, providing an intimate dining experience. Aside from the wine list, there is an extensive cocktail list full of many original creations alongside traditional favourites. We started with a Bellini with a twist – with a peach liqueur espuma on top and mist of peach bitters, which was light and fluffy and a Momo Awa, a red fruity concoction. The cocktail menu looked so good, we decided to forgo our usual wine accompaniment for the meal and went on to order Sakura Ume and Passion Victoria cocktails for our mains.

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Full of flavour: Spinach cooked in sesame oil

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Fish nigiri
© Kouzu

The menu features a wide range of sushi, sashimi, salads, small plates and grills. We were in the mood to mix things up so decided to try a mix of sushi, nigiri and hot dishes. To start with I ordered the Blanched Spinach, Sesame Sauce and Sesame Seeds. Although a simple dish, it will certainly please spinach-lovers such as myself. I loved the two flavours of the sesame sauce and seeds with the spinach. My friend opted for the Prawn Tempura, served on a salad, which I was able to try. The tempura was light and not oily at all – a welcome contrast to often greasy tempura I have eaten at other restaurants.

For main, I ordered a mix of sushi and Nigiri – Cucumber rolls with salmon, mackerel and scallop, with homemade Wasabi on the side. The fish nigiri tasted fresh and rich in flavour, with the beds of rice cooked to perfection, just sticky enough to remain intact between the chopsticks. My friend opted for the grilled salmon, which was well cooked and served with crunchy vegetables. With the manageable size of our first mains, we continued with the Chef’s Selection of sashimi, a fine spread of raw fish including toro, salmon, yellow tail, scallop and tuna, which was delicious and filling.

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Sweet tooth: Dacquoise and fig cake

As we were pretty indecisive with the mouth-watering dessert menu, we ended up sharing a selection between us. The Crème Brulee had a Japanese twist as it was served with Maccha (powder green tea), which gave it a lovely savoury hint. The Dacquoise and Fig cake was an appetising light dish, perfect for after such a filling meal. The desserts were accompanied by various flavours of ice cream, but I particularly enjoyed the sesame, yuzu (Asian citrus fruit) and salted caramel flavours. The sesame ice cream admittedly sounded strange, but was delicious. It was an unusual combination of sweet and savoury, and took a few bites before I was able to process the taste and realise I liked it.

Overall, all the dishes were brilliant. With Kouzu’s contemporary twist on traditional Japanese dishes, it was quite the culinary adventure. The service was attentive and fast, while the setting proved for a relaxing environment. I would definitely recommend for Japanese food connoisseurs or those looking for a special venue for a birthday or other occasion.

  • Kouzu, 19 – 20 Grosvenor Gardens, Belgravia, SW1W 0BD. Tel: 020 7730 7043. Nearest station: Victoria. For more information, visit the Kouzu restaurant website.
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Kouzu is located in a Grade II-listed former bank
© Kouzu


Disclaimer: Metro Girl was a guest of Kouzu restaurant for this review.

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Vapiano Soho review: Watch your dinner being cooked in this relaxed Italian eating experience

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Laidback dining: Order your food and grab a table wherever you want at Vapiano

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Death By Chocolate is one of the delicious ‘Dolci’ on offer

There’s a new style of dining standing out amongst the chain restaurants, posh eateries and greasy spoons in Soho. Having already won over many fans in mainland Europe, Vapiano has set up shop in Wardour Street providing a relaxed and speedy dining experience. Italian is one of my favourite foods and is responsible for my genuine love of carbs. However, when it comes to eating the cuisine, I find many venues can be overpriced so was pleased to discover Vapiano is serving good quality Italian fare at reasonable prices.

Vapiano is an expansive venue covering two levels with different open kitchens lining the back wall. While it doesn’t take reservations, the high turnover of diners just looking to eat and go means there won’t be a long wait at peak times. Upon arrival, you are given an electronic card which you swipe Oyster-style at the various counters when you order your dishes or the waiters use when serving drinks at your table. You then present the card at the exit to settle your bill. I found this system easy and convenient and makes splitting the bill with your friends simple.

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Verdure pizza (Roasted vegetables, mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella)

The venue is light and airy with contemporary furnishings and artworks. The street-art style design above the different pasta, pizza and salad counters certainly caught the eye. After one of the hostesses on the door explained the concept to us, we headed to a table to check over the menu before deciding what to order. Although you essentially carry your own food to the table, there are also waiters taking orders for drinks. One thing that immediately struck my friend and I was the wide range of wines, beers and cocktails for sale and what good value they were. I ended up treating myself to a Strawberry Bellini for only £5.

The open kitchens feature different sections for pasta, pizza and salad so you can order directly from the chef cooking it and specify exactly what you want and how you like it. While my friend opted for pizza, I headed to the pasta kitchen and chatted to the friendly and speedy chef as he made my dish. The freshness of the ingredients before me were clear to see and I was impressed with my choice of 11 types of fresh pasta. It only took a few minutes before my dish Scampi E Spinaci (King prawns, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, spinach, light cream sauce on fusilli) was ready and needless to say, it wasn’t long before I had eaten it. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the rich flavour of the ingredients really came through. I’m hungry for another one just now writing about it! Meanwhile, my friend opted for the Verdure pizza (Roasted vegetables, mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella) which she praised as one of the best pizzas she’d had in a long time. She also accompanied her meal with a salad with the choice to design your own if you want to go off menu. The open dialogue directly with the chefs mean you have the option to go off piste from the typical salad recipes.

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Scampi E Spinaci (King prawns, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, spinach, light cream sauce on fusilli)

Finally, we just about had room for dessert. These are pre-prepared and very good value with most around £2.25 to £4. I opted for a small Panna Cotta (Blend of vanilla and cream topped with strawberry sauce) which was delicious and a perfect size after stuffing myself with carbs, while my companion opted for the very naughty Death By Chocolate cake, which was creamy, but not too rich.

While the concept may sound like a food court, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. The low lighting, contemporary interiors and friendly staff make for a relaxing environment. I loved the idea of being so involved in the preparation of your meal. Every dish we had was tasty, fresh and rich in flavour, while the brilliant value of drinks were an added appeal. Whether you need a quick lunch or catch up with friends over dinner, I would highly recommend Vapiano. I think this place will be my new Soho hotspot.

  • Vapiano Soho, 84 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 0TQ. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus or Tottenham Court Road. There are two further branches in Great Portland Street and Bankside. For more information, visit the Vapiano website.
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How do you like your pasta? Talk directly to the chefs about your requests while your food is prepared


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Thai Corner Cafe review: Good value, tasty Thai food in no frills venue

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Popular: Prawn pad Thai

Thai Corner Café is a low-key, relaxed Thai restaurant in the Highbury/Islington area. A pregnant friend and I went for an early dinner on a Friday night and arrived without a reservation. Fortunately, there was a table free. Being named a café, the venue is quite small and intimate as you would expect with around seven or eight tables so wouldn’t be suitable for large groups. We ended up with a table by the glass doors opening out to the garden – which is open for alfresco dining during the warmer months. Being a cold November night, we were quite happily staying inside! Unfortunately, the toilets for the café were located downstairs – meaning you had to go via the garden so it was quite chilly sitting by the door whenever anyone was en route to the WC.

The menu is extensive and it took my friend and I a long time to choose what we wanted. As we were a bit chilly, we ordered pots of Jasmine Tea to warm us up, which had a lovely subtle flavour so as not to overpower our food. To start we ordered Vegetable Tempura and Fish Cakes, which we shared. The vegetables were a bit too crunchy for my liking, I would have preferred them cooked a bit more. However, the fish cakes were delicious – not too spicy and the cod was a perfect texture.

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Jasmine tea and Vegetable Tempura

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Delicious: Tad Mun Pla (Thai fish cakes)

For once, I didn’t order my usual Pad Thai (my favourite Thai dish) – although my friend did and I ended up eating some of hers anyway! I decided on the Pad Gratiam Prig Thai (stir-fried garlic, pepper and coriander with prawn). Although I was unsure after ordering it, once it arrived it was more than I hoped for. I’m not a huge fan of spicy food, but this dish was full of flavour, the three spices complimenting each other perfectly and the prawn was cooked just right. My friend ordered the Prawn Pad Thai, which was a good size. Lashings of noodles, dried shrimps, egg, turnips in tamarind sauce, bean sprouts, spring onion and crushed peanut.

While the food was tasty and authentic, the service wasn’t up to expectation. It took us ages to get the waitress’ attention when we wanted some water or the bill. The café could have been a bit warmer – but I would expect in the spring or summer, or perhaps in a different seat (not by the door), this wouldn’t be an issue. However, I enjoyed the food enough to return should I be in the area.

  • Thai Corner Café, 236 St Paul’s Road, Islington, N1 2LJ. Tel: 0207 7048227. Nearest tube: Highbury & Islington. For more information, visit the Thai Corner Café website.
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Pad Gratiam Prig Thai (stir-fried garlic, pepper and coriander with prawn)


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Donde review: Eat tapas the way it’s supposed to be eaten in this relaxed restaurant

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Donde features low lighting, wall murals and simple furnishings

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To start: Sourdough bread, olives and aioli

Honor Oak in South East London may not be your first thought of a location for a great tapas restaurant. However, Donde is a wonderful new addition to local culinary scene, bringing a relaxed and enjoyable eating experience. Opened in September 2013 on the site of a former Tapas restaurant, Donde features a bar and restaurant in two adjoining rooms. The restaurant is simple and modern – leaving the focus on the food and atmosphere. Wood chip tables are dotted around with orange and blue chairs against a colourful backdrop of a wall mural featuring Spanish scenes.

Upon arrival, our group of six were shown to a table by the arch separating the bar from the dining area. As it was a Tuesday, we opted for the ‘two Tapas for £7’ offer for many of our dishes (this offer applies daily within different time slots). The menu is split into straightforward sub-sections of meat, fish, vegetarian, cured meat, cheese, patatas (potato) and salad. Although it took us a while to choose what we wanted, we eventually remembered the beauty of tapas is you can just order more as you go along – something not so easy to do in other cuisines. We ordered a bottle of Codorniu Cava, a dry and refreshing bubbly. As well as beer on taps and a selection of spirits, there is also a small, but good value list of cocktails and mocktails.

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Sautéed king prawns marinated in garlic, olive and lemon

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Vegetarian platter, featuring briam, pisto empanadilla, manchego & quince, marinated peppers & feta, olives, fine bean, shallot salad, salmorejo and bread

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Dry and refreshing: Codorniu Cava

To start with we ordered bread, olives and aioli. The bread was locally sourced sourdough which was light and tasty – perfect as you never want to eat heavy bread which will fill you up before your mains arrive. The aioli was really good, with the garlic a more subtle flavour than other aiolis I’ve eaten so less detrimental to your breath! We ordered roughly 3 tapas per person to be shared amongst us, as well as the vegetarian platter (briam, pisto empanadilla, manchego & quince, marinated peppers & feta, olives, fine bean, shallot salad, salmorejo and freshly baked local bread). Among my favourite dishes were the sautéed king prawns, marinated in garlic, olive and lemon. They come in their shells so be prepared to make some effort for your food, but were cooked to perfection and were really delicious. The patatas bravas were good, with the spice milder than usual which I actually prefer. The meatballs in a rosemary tomato fritada also went down well with the group. Overall, the experience was good. The service was friendly and the restaurant was a lot more relaxed venue than most. After our meal, we ended up staying to drink another bottle. The food was tasty, well cooked and very good value. I’ll definitely be back.

  • Donde, 37–39 Honor Oak Park, Honor Oak, SE23 1DZ. Nearest train: Honor Oak (overground and National Rail). For more information, visit the Donde website.
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After your meal, retire to the adjoining bar for wine, cocktails or beer on tap


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The Stonhouse review: Hearty British fare in this cosy gastropub

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Pub fare: Sirloin steak and chips at The Stonhouse

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Apple Pie cocktail

Clapham covers a huge area, and within that area, a huge wealth of eating choices. However, for those looking for a more laid-back culinary experience, or a seamless fusion from eating to drinking, a gastropub is always a good option. While a lot of Clapham’s restaurants stand on busy thoroughfares such as the High Street or Northcote Road, The Stonhouse stands on a quiet side street off the High Street, just a few minutes walk from Clapham Common tube station. The Stonhouse includes a variety of tabled seating areas, long bar and an all-weather pub garden. I had booked a table for two for a Saturday night through TopTable, but you can also book direct through their website.

The pub is light, contemporary and bright, featuring a mix of leather and wooden seating. We were given a table by the windows with comfortable leather armchairs – which I’m sure prompted us to stay in the pub drinking longer than we anticipated. Given it was a cold November night, the pub was warm and cosy immediately upon entering. The clientele was a mix of young professionals in their 20s and 30s, mostly groups of friends, giving the venue a relaxed vibe.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Fish pie and seasonal greens

As I arrived earlier than my friend, I ordered a cocktail from the extensive and original menu to enjoy while I waited for her. I started with the Apple Pie – Zumbrowka vodka, fresh muddled apple, fresh lemon juice, soda and cinnamon sprinkles to garnish. The drink was refreshing with subtle flavours, meaning it was a good accompaniment to a meal.

As we were both opting for a hearty mains, we decided against having a starter as well. I ordered a Halibut, Salmon & Prawn pie, which was served with a mashed potato topping with a side order of seasonal greens. The pie was a perfect size for me – was filling, hearty and tasty – but didn’t leave me feeling heavy afterwards. The side vegetables were incredibly fresh and rich in flavour, but got cold on the side plate incredibly quickly. My friend ordered Sirloin Steak and Chips, nicely presented on a chopping board with a side salad. It was an impressive 10z slab and my friend said it was rich and delicious.

Overall, we had a leisurely, relaxed dinner. The service was friendly and fast. There was no pressure to leave after we finished so we stayed on and enjoyed some more cocktails. It was a comfortable place to spend the evening with both good food and a place to drink. I could easily see The Stonhouse becoming a regular spot for me.

  • 165 Stonhouse Street, Clapham, SW4 6BJ.  Tel: 020 7819 9312. Nearest tube: Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Stonhouse website.

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The Montagu review: Watch your food being cooked in this bustling, upmarket restaurant

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Something’s fishy: Cod in batter with chips at The Montagu

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

A peach and a strawberry Bellini

A lot of London’s top restaurants happen to be located in the capital’s best hotels. Although Locanda Locatelli in The Hyatt Regency’s The Churchill hotel tends to get more attention because of its A-list clientele (Madonna, Victoria Beckham and George Clooney are among its previous diners), The Montagu offers another upmarket eating experience within the building. The Churchill is a five-star hotel in Portman Square, Marylebone – just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street and Selfridges department store. Although being named after one of our finest Prime Ministers may suggest old world, the hotel is a light, airy space featuring unusual and contemporary art works dotted around the lobby and The Montagu restaurant.

I booked a table for four at The Montagu earlier this month through TopTable to celebrate a relative’s birthday. The Montagu is an open-plan restaurant which features an open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work. This makes for a bustling atmosphere, which is complemented by the laidback bar/lounge area running alongside the dining area where guests can sip hot drinks, cocktail and peruse the cake selection. Wide windows look out on to Portman Square, while the interior walls feature an eclectic art collection. We were shown to a circular table surrounded with comfortable wide seating. There is also a small bar area as you come in so there’s a place for early arrivals to wait for your dining party. We were presented with the full menu which also incorporated applicable dishes on the TopTable set menu so you had the options of both. Our deal was three courses plus a Bellini for £25 which was incredibly good value.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Ham Hock and Duck Liver Terrine with Victoria Plum Chutney and Grilled Sourdough Bread (left) and Butternut Squash Soup with Seared Scallop

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Airy: The dining room features lots of light and contemporary artwork

To start, the birthday girl and I both opted for the Butternut Squash Soup with Seared Scallop. The lone scallop in the middle of the soup was an interesting and contrasting flavour with the soup, but tasted good. The rest of our party opted for Ham Hock and Duck Liver Terrine with Victoria Plum Chutney and Grilled Sourdough Bread, a multi-layered dish rich in flavour. For my main meal, I decided on the Beer Battered Cod and Chips with Tartar Sauce. I particularly liked the presentation of the chips in a Jenga-style tower. The batter was thin and light as I prefer it, but the cod didn’t have as much flavour as I hoped and I ended up adding seasoning to it. Finally, to finish I decided on my old favourite, Cox’s Orange and Apple Crumble with Vanilla Custard. The crumble was thin and biscuity and the fruit was incredibly fresh and tasty. Overall, the food didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The service and presentation were good and the atmosphere was upmarket, but relaxed. I particularly thought the open kitchen was an unusual, but good addition for this standard of restaurant. However, the food didn’t have as much flavour as I hoped. Despite my experience not being as I hoped, I would probably return for lunch or drinks and give it another try.

  • The Montagu, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, 30 Portman Square, Marylebone, W1H 7BH. Nearest tube: Marble Arch or Bond Street. For more information and bookings, visit The Churchill website.

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Square Meal

Tinseltown, Farringdon review: Classic American fast food until the early hours

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Veggie burger with cheese, mashed potato and BBQ sauce at Tinseltown, Farringdon

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The milkshakes are definitely worth returning for

American burger bars appear to be the ‘thing’ in London right now. Successful restaurants are fast expanding into chains, with Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron and Honest Burgers just a few examples. In between the expensive gourmet eateries and the budget, fast food likes of McDonald’s and Burger King is – in my opinion – Tinseltown. A Hollywood-inspired (hence the name!), good value chain, with branches in Farringdon, Hampstead, Baywater, Gants Hill, Great Portland Street and Wood Green.

The Farringdon branch is open until 3/4/5am (depending on the night) so is a much better alternative than a greasy kebab shop if you’ve got the late night munchies. A friend and I visit the branch on July 4 (US Independence Day rather appropriately!) for a late lunch, which was just a couple of minutes from Farringdon tube and located in a basement near the newest branch of Burger & Lobster. Billed as an ‘American Diner and Milkshake Bar’, it offers a wide range of grilled meats, burgers, wraps and burritos. Some of the burgers are eye-wateringly huge – 20 oz for those with a big appetite – while there are also normal 5oz if you don’t want to go too crazy. The menu also offers Bollywood chicken burgers and vegetarian burgers too.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Subtle entrance: Tinseltown is located on St John Street

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who showed us to a green booth. As it is located in a basement there are no windows, but the venue is decked out in TV screens, posters of Hollywood stars and features a mix of booths and regular tables. Being a late night venue, I’m sure the restaurant gets a bit of wear and tear by drunken partygoers so I did think the decor looks a little tired.

The hardest part of ordering for me was deciding on which flavour milkshake. I have never seen such an extensive milkshake menu in my life. I started off with a Twix chocolate shake, then a banana and chocolate one. They were divine and great value at £3.33. For my lunch, I ordered a veggie burger with cheese – a pattie served with a side of your choice (I chose mashed potato) for £7.49. Although I was expecting more from the venue’s interior, the service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty and good value. During the day, it was mostly students so I did feel slightly older, but I’m sure there is probably a very different clientele at 1am. Overall, I though it was fairly good, but I have other burger bars I prefer so not sure how often I would return. Would be a great choice for late night munchies though (particularly if you’re at Fabric around the corner) as the alternatives are not great. However, the milkshake choice and taste were brilliant.

  • Tinseltown, 44-46 St John St, Farringdon, EC1M 4DF. Nearest tube: Farringdon. Open Mon-Thu midday-5am, Fri-Sat midday-4am, Sun midday-3am. For more information and menus, visit Tinseltown’s website.

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© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The American style diner features a mix of booths and regular tables

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