Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Ivy Kensington Brasserie


Well, this was a pretty excellent way to kickstart 2016. An invitation to check out the brand spanking new Ivy Kensington Brasserie. I love it when I get to review a place where literally everything was brilliant. So, here goes...



From the moment my friend and I arrived, we knew it was going to be a great evening. We were greeted at the fresh flower-laden reception (yes, it's a mini florist - the gorgeous bouquets are all for sale) and shown through to the antique pewter-topped bar, where we enjoyed some rather spectacular cocktails, including the signature julep cocktail, The Exhibitionist. Although good, this was in fact our least favourite compared to the zingy Thirst for Knowledge (variation on a mule) and the sublime and tres jolie Camomile Luxe (gin infused with camomile tea and other secrets). The bartender knew his stuff, was a dab-hand with a shaker and had a friendly manner. It was the most perfect welcome.


We then took our seats for dinner at a cosy corner table with a great view for people-watching and soaking up the buzzing ambience. The impeccable interior design at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie includes classic elements of the original Ivy restaurant, with dark warm wood; statement lighting; beautiful flooring; elegant wall-panel art and stylish green leather banquettes. Crisp white table cloths and smartly dressed waiters added to the timeless quality of this fine establishment, as it really felt as if it had been there forever. Not just a matter of weeks.


The extensive menu is one where you simply can't decide what to have, literally wanting to try everything. After much contemplation, we eventually chose a classic prawn cocktail and some killer crunchy king prawns served with a wasabi mayo. So far, so excellent! Next, my friend opted for the grilled swordfish served with a chimichurri dressing, lemon and rocket. That got a big thumbs-up, as did my perfectly cooked fillet steak served with a red wine, rosemary & shallot sauce. For sides, we went for the zucchini fritti, minted peas with baby onions, and truffle & parmesan chips. All amazing. We just about had enough room for pud and tried the lemon meringue alaska and the signature chocolate bombe. The alaska was almost too beautiful to eat, resembling a meringue beehive, baked with lemon ice cream, lemon curd sauce and baby basil. Who knew the marriage of lemon meringue and baby basil could be so exquisite. That's definitely a combo to recreate at home! As for the bombe, this was presented as a shiny chocolate ball in a pool of milk foam, before the waiter proceeded to pour over a hot caramel sauce which reduced it to a melting pot of chocolate, honeycomb and vanilla ice cream heaven. To accompany this feast, we enjoyed a fantastic bottle of 2013 Bodega Cantena Malbec, which slipped down a treat (as you can tell from my particularly red cheeks). Nikki finished off with a cappuccino, and being her birthday, they kindly presented her with a homemade macaron and a birthday message hand-written in chocolate.


As for the service, it was simply faultless. Everyone from beginning to end was friendly, helpful and un-pushy. And even though the waiters were super-attentive, it was discreet, professional and not at all invasive, unlike so many restaurants who feel it necessary to interrupt you every five minutes to see if everything is okay. (If it's not, believe me, we'll let you know.) Our entire evening was fun, relaxed, delicious and certainly memorable. In fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much, we were the last punters to leave, practically turning the lights off on our way out!


The Ivy Kensington Brasserie is exactly what the neighbourhood needs and is ideal for local residents and visitors alike. The great thing as well is that they keep 40% of their tables free for walk-in customers, which means diners can just pop in for a spontaneous meal when they're feeling peckish, so avoiding the elitist sense of having to book months in advance. And with such a fantastic and affordable menu (yes, you may think that given how great the food, service and decor is, that it's going to be extortionate, but it really isn't), The Ivy Kensington Brasserie is somewhere worth frequenting on a regular basis. Whether it's a breakfast meeting with your colleague, a ladies (or gents) lunch with your best pal, a romantic dinner with your lover, or afternoon tea with your aunt. So, as you can tell, I thought it was a total delight and I can't wait to go back.


Miss Immy was a guest of The Ivy Kensington Brasserie

The Ivy Kensington Brasserie
96 Kensington High Street
London W8 4SG
Tel: 020 3301 0500

@theivybrasserie

Open 7 days
Nearest station: High St Kensington tube

(3 course a la carte dinner for 2 diners with wine, approx £135)


Monday, 7 December 2015

Ferdie's Food Lab


What better way to spend a chilly winter's evening, than enjoying a 6 course gourmet feast and lots of vin rouge. Well, that's exactly what my friend and I thought, so we headed off to Ferdie's Food Lab on Saturday, to do just that. The Chef Extraordinaire behind Ferdie's is Simon Fernandez, who I've known for several years, as he and his partner at the time did the catering for a special party I hosted. And to this day, it's a menu I will never forget. Simon is an adventurous and imaginative cook with a flair for new ideas, as well as creating interesting twists on old favourites. So dinner at his Battersea-based supper club was just the ticket.


It was held at the London Cooking Project (formerly London Kitchen Project) in Battersea, which is a well-equipped space for cookery classes; resident chefs; supper clubs; venue hire and community gatherings. The front part of the venue is the dining area with a long table and chairs all set up for the diners. Whilst the rear of the venue is where all the cooking action and magic takes place. The only downside of the venue from a dining point of view, was it felt quite soulless and cold, both physically and atmospherically. And being December, I would have liked to have seen a nod towards something more festive. Maybe the warm glow of a Christmas tree in the corner. Or a token cracker. But the most important thing is we were there for the food. And that certainly didn't disappoint.



We took our seats and chatted to our friendly, fellow diners whilst enjoying a feast of lamb cubes, tarts, green Haggis bombs, curious sauces, cucumber spaghetti with a real kick, a cracking roast rib eye and some delectable sweet treats. Even though a couple of courses looked quite similar, they were worlds apart and everything was delicious! Surprisingly, the veggie Haggis with spicy cucumber was probably my favourite. But then again the beef was excellent. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate peanut butter cups...


Ferdie's is a BYO event, and he does attach some suggested wine-pairings on the menu, which were also included in the booking info for you to buy in advance, but this wasn't very apparent, so I'm not sure how many people did attempt the wine pairing. But we took a couple of bottles of red which seemed to go well with everything! If you enjoy food and like the unusual setting of a supper club, then I highly recommend you check out Ferdie's Food Lab. Gather some friends, some wine and if you're going in winter, you may want to wrap up warm. And check out his website which he regularly updates with interesting recipes.


 MENU

Pulled Roast Lamb Cubes in Breadcrumbs with Sauce Verde & Garlic Turkish Bread

Morcilla & Apple Tart with a Champagne, Vanilla & Orange Sauce

Green Bomb (Vegetarian Haggis) with Hot & Sour Cucumber Spaghetti

Roast Ribeye of Beef with Liquorice Salt, Roasties & Caramelised Carrots

Pistachio Olive Oil Cake with Almond Gelato & Black Olive Chocolate Sauce

Petit Fours -  Salted Caramel & Peanut Butter Temptations & Cocoa Almonds

* * * * *


at London Cooking Project
1 Ethelburga Street
London SW11 4AG
@theferdie

£45 per head for 6 courses & a welcome glass of Prosecco

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Cahoots Bar



I met a friend up West the other week and as we ventured off Regent Street into the buzzing vibe of Kingly Court, we headed through a discreet doorway where we descended a staircase deep underground into a tube station. As we entered the Ticket Office, we suddenly found ourselves in 1940's post-war Britain. We had arrived at Cahoots. And the beginning of a rather splendid evening...


Cahoots is an elegant cocktail bar with a hint of speakeasy about it. Located in what was a genuine air raid shelter beneath the heart of London's West End, the space is now a 'disused' underground station complete with a tube carriage where you can sit and sip cocktails amongst the very authentic sand bags, posters and war-time decor. Despite being a 'theme' bar, this is a class act from the off. The attention to detail is magnificent, as are the extensive array of cocktails (and other beverages), all printed in the local Cahoots rag - 'The Kingly Court Herald'. Whether it's a refreshing 'Vera Lynn', a classic 'Gracie Fields', a peculiar 'Boiled Beef & Carrots' or a creative 'White Cloves of Dover' which tickles your cocktail tastebuds, with prices starting at a reasonable £8 a pop, there's no reason not to try a few!



If it's food you're after, then let's not forget you are now in Post-War Britain, so it's only fair to expect nothing more than rations. But when your ration tin comes filled with such creations as 'Crisp and Salad Cream' and 'Spam and Cheese' sandwiches, or 'Marmalade Crumpets', it's hard not to smile with childish delight.



The service at Cahoots was exceptional. Despite it being fully booked and busy pretty much all the time, everyone from the 'Station Guard' and 'Ticket Man' to the 'Train Staff' were courteous, friendly and accommodating. We had a particularly lovely table waitress who not only looked the part with her pinned-up hair, red lips and 1940's flair, but even her name, Phaedra, was fitting. As for the music, there's a whole lot of swing, jazz, lindy hop and late night electro-swing going on. Cahoots is a den of high spirits, snappy dressers, naughty scoundrels and elegant damsels. Whether you're enjoying jolly japes with friends in a tube carriage, or re-enacting 'Brief Encounter' in a cosy snug with your sweetheart, you'll find yourself oblivious to the world and era going on above ground. 



I totally loved Cahoots and it was so refreshing to find a unique place in the heart of W1 rather than having to venture to deepest Shoreditch for the quirk-factor. Although I bet the very convincing underground signs confuse the tourists no end. Which is probably part of the fun! It's a brilliant place. I loved it. Just go! Oh, and remember. It don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that... table booked in advance. Ha!


Cahoots
13 Kingly Court (somewhere beneath)
London W1B 5PG
020 7352 6200
@CahootsLondon

Open 7 days a week from 5pm till late
Book in advance! (Strictly over 21's only)
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