Review: Fish Market

A javelin’s throw from Liverpool St Station, new city restaurant Fish Market was the plaice to be last night. Amid the gleam of spring sunshine, the eatery celebrated the launch of its new terrace with an informal cocktail and canapé party.

Fish Market Underneath clusters of lantern lights, cheery waiters danced around the restaurant floor handing out seaside-inspired snacks. Miniature fish and chips lathered in tartare sauce were wrapped neatly in newspaper cones; scallops, placed in shells, paddled in olive oil; full-flavoured crabs were pushed into pasties.

The food worked with poetic smoothness and unequivocally floated the epicurean boat. Causing notable grabbing from the guests were the crisp coated Scotch eggs. Perfectly battered, the bantam-sized eggs boasted bold coloured orange yolks, which were equally powerful in flavour. Further richness docked at tables in the form of broad bean and pea risotto, awash with an oil slick of cheese – delicious.

Sinking the dregs of the dairy-laden dish, guests took aboard rum cocktails and flutes of prosecco, before turning their attention to pudding. Served in crunchy wafer turrets, the creamiest of vanilla ice cream delightfully topped slices of strawberry. This fantastic dessert was then rounded off with a goody-bag filled with chocolate treasures.

Fish Market knows how to throw a party, has a team of great waiters and waitresses, serves a cleverly crafted menu and – with the sun finally out of hibernation – will undoubtedly be a hit this summer. Whether you’re a commuter, a Londoner, or just an avid Kooks fan, this restaurant is definitely worth a visit.

Alice Audley

Food: 16/20
Drinks: 16/20
Service: 17/20
Fish Market: 49/60                                                                                                   

To book a table at Fish Market, 16B New Street, London EC2M 4TR, call 020 3503 0790 or visit here.

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/02/fish-market-in-ec2-restaurant-review/

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Fish Market

At last I was back in my own territory, back in the comfort zone – reviewing a restaurant! Or, at least, I thought I was reviewing a restaurant, but on arrival to EC2 last night with younger sister in tow, I discovered that I was in actual fact reviewing a party. A restaurant’s party. More specifically, Fish Market‘s ‘we’ve opened a terrace’ party.

The review of the shindig is written, but it’s currently in the claws of one of The Upcoming‘s sub-editors, so until it is published there, I can’t publish it here. But what I can do, is to give you a sneak peek at some of the seaside snacks we munched upon.

Feast your eyes on these:

fish market - scotch eggScotch Egg

fish market - goujonsMini Fish & Chips

scallops fish marketScallops

IMG_2191Calamari

IMG_2210Crab Pasty

IMG_2218Pea & Broad Bean Risotto

claudYounger sis tucking into some red

Make sure to get down to:

Fish Market Photo

16 New St, London, EC2M 4TR

020 3503 0790

Sketch

If the best bit about the restaurant are the loos; then surely the restaurant must be awful? Normally, I would agree with this principle, but that was before I embarked upon a voyage last week to Oxford Circus, to 9 Conduit Street and to a lunch date at Sketch.

With a snowy slush leaking from the sky and a bitterly cold wind causing a break-out of goosebumps, it was with a sigh of relief that I entered the warm hall-way of this establishment and found my companion waiting in the Parlour. We had opted for this territory to dine in as our finances didn’t quite entertain a dalliance with the two Michelin star restaurant that rests at the back of the building (The Lecture Room), where one course can set you back as much as £55.

The Parlour came with a rather less extravagantly priced menu, with the most expensive main coming in at a more modest £19. With the weather outside giving no signs of letting up, we decided to stage a sit-in – and to have a long lunch. Three courses long. The setting made this decision all the more easy – velvet sofas, arty lamps, colourful contemporary artwork and antique tables surround you in an Alice in Wonderland-esque design.

sketch - interior

The Parlour

Sadly, this decision was made progressively less easy due to the brash, stand-offish and pretentious waitresses. Specifically the bra-less, shaved head, front of house female, who constantly looked as if she’d just trodden in dog excrement. Yes, I’m in my 20s, yes I was wearing Topshop, not vintage, but that doesn’t entitle you to treat me like you’d rather I wasn’t there, Alright?

“Excuse me,” she drawled and pointed to our table, “this is a table for four people not two, can you move.” This, I accept, would have been a fair point – if, if the place was busy. As it was, there were four, I repeat four other diners – and it was 1.30 p.m.

If she had been more becoming then I wouldn’t have had an issue with her request, but she hadn’t, so I did. I told her that we would when it filled up. She stalked off.

A waitress came over, and was slightly less rude, please don’t misinterpret me to mean polite, oh no, she wasn’t polite, but she wasn’t, like her predecessor, unbearable. We ordered. My companion went for the Haddock  Soufflé (Twice baked haddock soufflé, crunchy white cabbage salad), followed by the Beef tartare (Beef fillet with mustard, spring onion, capers, egg mollet, potato “fondant”) and I decided upon the – surprise, surprise – Foie Gras (Foie gras terrine, girolles in vinegar, cranberry chutney, quince paste and pistachio), followed by the Burger (Beef burger, sketchup sauce, red cabbage and Xeres jelly).    

A different waitress returned, with the wrong dishes. She left. Another waitress approached with the right dishes, hurrah! At this point of proceedings, I had made up my mind that I didn’t like the place, I didn’t like it one bit. But then, then I tried my foie gras, followed by a bite of the souffle – and all my anger subsided as I was lifted onto a foody cloud of ecstasy. Wow, it was good – especially the Haddock (no foie gras terrine, pate or mousse can stand a chance to overly impress me after Balthazar).

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 Haddock Soufflé

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And again…

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Foie Gras

Next came the mains (served correctly first time). The presentation of both dishes were carefully crafted by what can only be attributed to a true artists’ eye. What’s more, it too, was delectable. The beef tartare was soft, rich and seasoned with just the right amount of horseradish – so that it gave a kick, but didn’t render you a weeping wreck. It was also accompanied by a small tumbler of Bloody Mary – a thumb’s up here for attention to detail.
My burger – its bap was crisp and the meat medium rare (as I’d requested), and among its garnishes was a particularly tasty spinach mayonnaise. It also wasn’t too large; no Big Mac-esque montrosity – you know the ones that soared to popularity last year (2012 seemed the year for grease) – the ones that had your gut trailing on the floor by the time you left the restaurant – those ones.

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Beef tartare

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Bloody Mary

sketch - burger

Burger

I licked the plate clean, and polished off the Bloody Mary, before heading to the loo. Now, the loo isn’t normally a staple to my reviews. But these, well these weren’t ordinary loos. Oh no, these loos were extraordinary – the loos I imagine that, if Lady Gaga went into the Water Closet industry, would design. They were individual eggs! About 8ft tall and peppered around a massive white-washed room, I had to take a double take – was my drink spiked with LSD? They were bizarre, beautiful and uber, uber cool. I don’t think I’ve ever come back from the bathroom with a bigger grin on my face!

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The Eggs (loos)

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And a close up…

In conclusion, though it frustrates me to say it, the food at Sketch is very good; very good indeed. But with two Michelin stars, the chefs aren’t going to be bad, are they? The point is, if the service had matched the quality of food, I would have given this restaurant my highest recommendation. As it is, there are other places that serve just as good a quality of food, but without the snooty staff. The only reason I do suggest going, is to check out the loos – they are awesome.

Food: **** Wine: ** Experience: * Price (The Parlour): £££
9 Conduit St
London
020 7659 4500

Blackhouse

Nowadays going to a restaurant and not being the one reviewing it, is very rare. However, this is exactly what happened on Wednesday night. I accompanied an old acquaintance to West Smithfield and to the freshly opened steak house – Blackhouse.

“Are you sure it’s a restaurant love?” my taxi driver chirped as we sped through EC4. “I’m sure 3-4 West Smithfield is that karaoke bar Pure Groove.”

“Well that’s the address he gave me,” I replied, while thinking, ‘if he has tricked me into going to some dubiously named Grease-themed club, there will be consequences.’

Fortunately it was my dining companion’s knowledge that proved superior, 3-4 West Smithfield was indeed a newly renovated, converted restaurant. I paid my £4 fare and went in.

For those of you that know me, my biggest pet hate is being late. I despise being late and am without doubt, if meeting someone, always on time. I find people who are late inconsiderate, rude and arrogant. What gives them the right to keep me waiting? Do they think that I have nothing better to do with my time?

Bearing this in mind, as I hadn’t been to the restaurant before, I arrived at 7.20 p.m with 10 minutes to spare. To my surprise and delight, my acquaintance was already there. We went straight to the table.

As we made our way through the restaurant, past the leather cushioned booths and smooth beams, I had a sense of deja vu. I’d been to this place before. But it had just opened? Then it clicked. Blackhouse is a chain and I’d been to the one in Leeds – on the night of my graduation no less.

The waiter, who used to work as a mixologist, came over and asked us what we’d like to drink. Cocktails seemed like a good call.

“What’s your favourite drink?” He asked me eagerly.

“Hmmmn, well probably, at the moment, a passion fruit martini.”

“Ah a pornstar.”

“Excuse me?” I said and flushed slightly.

“Oh, sorry. That drink is called a pornstar.”

Well, that broke the ice. As it so happened, I hadn’t ever had a proper conversation with my supper partner – and there I go ordering pornstars! He ordered a Vodka (Chase Vodka) Martini.

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 The Pornstar (which also came with a shot of Champagne)

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Chase Vodka Martini

Clinking our glasses to a ‘reconnecting’ toast, we chatted freely and without awkwardness, which considering it was our first proper conversation, we both agreed was rather impressive. He explained the website he works for, its success and the dramatic increases in traffic each month. I talked about the online magazine, the restaurant and more alternative reviews. It was fun, interesting and easy.

We decided to test out some starters before moving on to our steaks. Between us we shared Chicken Liver pâté with Cumberland jelly and toast, Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad and Duck Spring Rolls with hoi sin dip.

blackhouse - pateChicken Liver pâté with Cumberland jelly and toast

blackhouse - scallops

Baby Scallop, Garlic and Bacon Salad

blackhouse - duck rollsDuck Spring Rolls with hoi sin dip.

The baby scallops were so small they would have been better labelled as embryonic scallops, but despite their stature, they were tender and tasty. The pâté had been kept in the fridge a smidgen too long and proved rather a battle to break into. Once room temperature had done its job, it became much more agreeable. The duck rolls were weak. They’d tasted as though they’d been made the day before and their insides didn’t have that crisp, fresh flavour that you want from this dish. There’s prepping and there’s over-prepping, and these rolls were an example of the latter.

The next course was where the restaurant came into its own – meat. He ordered the Rib Eye, I ordered the Fillet – both medium rare.

 Blackhouse - Rib-eyeRib Eye

Blackhouse - filletFillet

We also ordered a trio of mustards, field mushrooms, green beans and asparagus.

The Fillet was good, but the Rib Eye was great. Juicy and moist, it had been cooked at just the right temperature to melt its fat but not lose its flavour. After a little lesson on steaks from my companion, who was taught by the head chef of Gauchos, I shall henceforth be ordering Rib Eyes. The cow’s life is manifested in this bit of meat – and when cooked right, no other cut can compare.

Pudding was a Crème brûlée each. Sadly the chef had gone a bit overboard with the blow torch, which resulted in a crust as hard as the earth’s – buried under which was a pool of crème, which had the consistency of actual cream.

So, in conclusion, if you’re after a good steak then I’d suggest a visit to Blackhouse, but I’d stick to the mains to avoid disappointment.

Overall Food: ** Steak: **** Wine: *** Price: £££ Experience: ****

2-3 WEST SMITHFIELD, CITY OF LONDON, EC1A 9JX
020 7246 0900

Restaurant: South Bank’s Skylon

The unfortunate dilemma diners have when frequenting London’s South Bank, is that in exchange for the view you receive below average food. The cultural hub, perched just outside the City, is packed with people throughout the year and the multitude of stomachs that walk past the limited amount of restaurants results in one thing: culinary cockiness. That terrible phenomenon where eateries don’t need to provide good food because they’re guaranteed customers anyway. They cut costs on ingredients, cut costs on waitresses, cut costs on top chefs and the result is – even higher profits.

Skylon is no exception to this rule. I have been meaning to blog about it for a while, but keep getting distracted by more exciting openings or more disastrous dinners; which are always rather fun to write about. Skylon rests just by the Waterloo Bridge on the first floor of the South Bank Centre. Right by the commuters’ station, the restaurant is popular with businessmen and women, not for its menu but for its geography. Americans also seem to like it here. That may just be relative though – there are probably more Americans on South Bank than there are English.

Anyway, I’ve been there twice. Twice? I hear you say. Yes, twice. I too live on the South Bank and have been monopolised by this arrogant restaurant. Sometimes you want to eat out, but you don’t want to get on the tube. You don’t want to go to a chain (South Bank is full of them: Strada, Giraffe, Wagamama, Eat), you get lured in by bright lights and people in the window, and before you know it you’re shelling out £70 for two courses and half a bottle of wine – in Skylon. Oh, and a Bellini.

On the most recent and – I hasten to add – my last visit, I had Chicken liver foie gras parfait with apricot and fig chutney followed by Mushroom tortelloni with confit shallots, pine nuts, shaved pecorino. The parfait was clumpy and dried out my mouth. The tortelloni lacked inventiveness and was bland.

My dining companion had the Skylon burger with onion rings, chips, bloody mary ketchup and was equally unimpressed.

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 Chicken liver foie gras parfait with apricot and fig chutney

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 Mushroom tortelloni with confit shallots, pine nuts, shaved pecorino.

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Skylon burger with onion rings, chips, bloody mary ketchup

It’s frustrating: you’ve got the enviable location, the great space and the fantastic view, but you don’t get the quality of food. I left Skylon the first time feeling cheated and the second time feeling like a mug. Don’t fall for the allure of its trimmings – the core of this place doesn’t make the crack.

Food: ** Wine: *** Experience: ** Cost: ££££

Duck + Waffle

You know that you’ve arrived somewhere rather swanky when the front of house is nonchalant. In the uber-swanky they are polite, in the run-of-the-mill they are polite, but in the upper-middle class restaurant they are stuck up. They give you that look – once they’ve scanned the list with their beady eyes – the ‘oh yes, well you might have a reservation but that doesn’t mean that you belong here, you are punching well above your culinary class,’ look.

This is what me and friend Sophie were met with last night as we made our way up to the 40th floor of the Heron Tower – to our 9.30 pm reservation at the ‘Duck + Waffle’. Sophie and I are in the midst of rekindling our friendship. We were inseparable for five years – growing up together in the wings of our boarding house in rural Northamptonshire, but alas once we had packed our trunks for the final time and embarked upon the journey into adulthood, our lives drifted apart. In fact, before August this year I hadn’t seen Sophie since the 15th August 2007.

Our journey to re-build the lost years has resulted in a fair few suppers out. From a pizza night in Gabriel’s Wharf, to Sophie treating to me to a foie gras extravaganza at South Bank’s ‘Skylong’, to my treat last night – a trip to the most sought after restaurant of the moment – the ‘Duck + Waffle’.

Once passed the haughty blonde front of house, we walked through into the cocktail bar/waiting area. Glimmering chandeliers hung overhead and outside the lights of London glinted like an army of disturbed fireflies. The view challenged Centre Point’s and transported us to the likes of Tokyo and Hong Kong – to sky scrapers and modernity.

Two cocktail waiters got to work on our orders and soon the view was accompanied with a ‘dark and stormy,’ and a ‘whisky girdle.’ The latter was Sophie’s choice and came in a pewter tumbler, elegantly topped with orange peel, mint and whipped cream. Mine came not so elegantly in a bottle wrapped up in a brown paper bag – tramp chic perhaps…

photo (19) - 2

The blonde returned and took us into the main dining area. As we walked through to our table, the panoramic of the city again stole our breath. And our seats, our seats were right by the window. Bubbly chat from the neighboring table lured us into reminiscing of our school years – the night of fun had begun.

A Mario look-alike waiter came over and gave us his suggestions – two small plates each and then one large plate to share. Looking over the menu and spying a £55 steak, I felt rather queasy but looking down this quickly passed – the signature dish of Duck + Waffle was attached to a price tag of £15.

“I definitely think we should go for the Duck, don’t you?” I said.

“Yes, I mean it’s what the restaurant is named after, so it must be good.”

(Thank God!)

A bottle of white, full-bodied and fruity Chilean Videviso arrived and we decided that seeing as we were there, we should go for it. Mario returned and we placed orders for the scallops, octopus, lardon, anchovy and caper bread, foie gras all-day breakfast and of course, the Duck + Waffle.

photo (22) - edit

Roasted octopus

The lardon and the anchovy and caper bread were simple but perfect for filling the void that the 9.30 pm reservation had inflicted on our stomachs. The scallops were moist, tender and were brought alive by the golden raisins peppered over them. The foie gras had juicy skin and buttery interior which was rounded off wonderfully by the thick fried bread it rested on – we devoured it guiltily. The crisp octopus tentacles worked in an exciting symphony with tit-bits of salty chorizo, which cut across the palate gloriously.

And then for the main event: the confit leg of duck, the duck egg, the American waffle and the Canadian maple syrup – the Duck + Waffle. Sweet and salty, crisp and succulent, the dish was an oxymoron of flavour that battled against the norm and created a salivatory delight. Exceptional.

duck and waffle

Duck + Waffle (before)

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Duck + Waffle (after)

Delicately unbuttoning our trousers, sailing dangerously close to the ‘food coma,’ we couldn’t even be tempted by the cinnamon pear cappuccino. Looking out over the fireflies for the last time, we decided that rekindling a friendship was rather detrimental to the waist-line. It had been a fantastic evening and I can’t think of a better launching pad for another five years of friendship. The choice of ‘Duck + Waffle’ had done me proud.

Good luck beating it Sophie!

Food: ****

http://Square Meal

 

Sienna Restaurant – Dorset

Sienna Restaurant – Dorchester, Dorset.

Nestled between two shops on the Dorchester high street; Sienna’s exterior is nothing remarkable, in fact with its orange panelling and large glazed windows it looks more like an upmarket café than a Michelin starred restaurant.

Opened in the spring of 2003 by Russell and Elena Brown, Sienna offers fine dining in a simplistic setting. With questionable décor (notably the suede sofa seating which edges the perimeter) the restaurant has often been credited for its ‘total lack of pretence.’

Gourmet food and relaxation are two concepts that do not usually coincide. In fact, fine dining normally constitutes a couple of hours of being under strict human surveillance. Waiters watch your every move and an accidental wink or a slight twitch of the hand results in you suddenly being fawned upon. This is not the case in Sienna, the service is prompt but it is not invasive. The Browns have successfully managed to create an environment in which gourmet food and relaxation can work together.

Working purely on a reservation basis, Sienna covers just 15 a night, making the experience intimate though not intense. Intimacy also transcends into the kitchen where Russell and just one other chef meticulously prepare each dish. After changing to a culinary career at 27, Russell’s menu works on the concept of seasonality with ‘produce pushing the menu.’ The result is a variety of ever changing fresh flavours which currently include tender hand dived scallops and juicy St Eves strawberries.

From ethically reared veal to free range chicken; Sienna’s ingredients are all of the highest quality and the majority of them are locally sourced. With two courses for £34.50, dishes on the supper menu range from starters of pan-fried fillet of lemon sole, to Jurassic Coast rose veal, and mains of poached beef with a salted pine nut crust, to wild sea bass with crushed new potatoes.

For those of you wishing to indulge try the £41 menu; which, in addition to the mains, offers puddings that include strawberry shortcake with white chocolate mousse, strawberry sorbet and rhubarb puree and a ‘Selvatica’ chocolate tasting plate. The latter of which combines white chocolate bavarois, bitter chocolate tart, dark chocolate parfait and a milk chocolate shake and looks like it has come straight from Liliput – in size, but by no means in flavour. One sip of that miniature chocolate shake and all thoughts melt into oblivion as you float into culinary ecstasy…

If you are looking for exceptional taste, value for money and don’t want hordes of waiters buzzing around you then Sienna is definitely the place for you. A restaurant certainly well worth integrating into a weekend trip where one can visit both Hardy’s hometown and some of England’s finest countryside.

36 High West Street,Dorchester,Dorset DT1 1UP01305 250022