Devastatingly Dabbous

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There’s a new bar in town and it means business! Hidden down a side street in trendy Noho, is Dabbous – the new venture from michelin-starred Ollie Dabbous and cocktail impressario Oskar Kinberg. The fusion of low-lit, fine dining with an industrial-chic basement cocktail bar is the work of these two master craftsmen and as such, is receiving rave reviews around town at present!

The unassuming exterior at first looks as though it’s a stylish lighting shop or gallery. Indeed those of us working nearby, never really clicked it was a restaurant at all. But this is half of the charm and in some ways very au courant – take Spuntino or 10 Greek Street as current examples of this.

Upon entering the dimly lit restaurant, you are met with industrial cantina styling serving up modern british cuisine. However, skip that and head straight to the basement which is a concrete playground with exposed brickwork, wooden trestles and plenty of swagger (the barmen that is!) Cocktails are good – and as you’d expect, there are a number of ‘game changers‘ to get excited about. Take one of the ‘beer-based’ cocktails, such as Giddy Up which contains tequila, elderflower, honey and is topped off with Sierra Navada IPA – impressive!

The bathrooms are unisex and discreetly labelled – in fact it’s almost luck if you can see them at all in the almost pitch-black interior! All in all a good place for cocktails – suitable for impressing clients, entertaining your friends or just a great date. Word of warning though, booking a table is virtually impossible at present due to the popularity of this place, so you may have to settle with a trip to the bar this time! You won’t be disappointed..

Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 2SF.

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Dining at The Depot

This weekend, I went to a fab bistro which goes by the name of The Depot. Overlooking the river Thames in beautiful Barnes, this gem of a restaurant offers fine cuisine at reasonable prices and the menu is something to behold!! For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Barnes is located in South London, but well-worth the trek (you could even watch the boat race here!) as it provides a welcome break from city-life.

Where else do you get a soft-boiled egg, on a bed of serrano ham, with pesto oil, fennel and french beans, pork crackling & sherry vinaigrette?! And this was just a starter – AMAZING! This really sets the tone for the entire menu – fantastic combinations of flavours and textures which all culminate in foodie heaven. My main course was even more impressive; fillet of grey mullet with scallops on a bed of crayfish and baby spinach risotto. You can imagine how good that was!?!

The rest of the options on the menu were just as impressive – I cannot wait to head back and taste their steak. (Surely you have to try and steak everywhere at least once?) Oh and for the chocaholics out there, they have plenty of naughty puddings.. My choice was the dark chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, pistachio ice-cream and raspberries. Visually it was incredible, but the flavours – well..I need say no more. This place just kept on impressing us!!! GO.

I’m looking forward to heading back in the Summer for an evening meal as the sun sets..this is dining heaven!!

(The Depot, Tideway Yard, Mortlake High Street, Barnes, London, SW14 8SN.)

Arthur and the apples

Avalon – apparently it was a legendary island in the tales of King Arthur. It was also meant to be abundant in apples. I quite like these explanations, but far more than that, I like going to the pub – The Avalon in Balham. Refined and elegant, the name more than suits it..and so it was again I found myself heading there for a sunny Sunday lunch yesterday.

The Avalon was revamped a few years ago and now boasts a fantastic dining area reminiscent of a Victorian bath-house with its beautiful while tile brickwork and airy space. There is also a large beer garden at the back which is a favourite spot for post-work spritzers in the summer. All in all, it’s certainly one of South London’s finest gastro-pubs. It’s also part of the Renaissance pub group (there’s 6 in all) – all of which are worth investigating.

We plumped for ciders and roast beef all round. (It was a blazing sunny day afterall!) Arriving within 10 minutes, the plate consisted of a giant yorkshire pudding, lashings of rare roast beef with plenty of gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables. A perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday!

(The Avalon, 16 Balham Hill, London, SW12 9EB)

A little bird told me

Sometimes you stumble across a place that strikes a chord with everyone; atmosphere, food, location – rarely do they all come together to make dining heaven possible. However, this is what Bluebird does in abundance and why it’s my favourite place to dine in London with the girls from school!

Bluebird, set on the Kings Road is part of the D&D restaurant group so you can expect a certain standard, but what’s nice about it is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the food here. We’ve dined here on the Evening Standard menu many a time – £10 for the courtyard cafe or £15 in the main restaurant buys you 2 courses and a glass of wine – what a bargain!

If you’re here for lunch – I suggest sitting out in the courtyard and grabbing a burger in the sunshine while enjoying a glass of crisp white wine. Alternatively, if you’re dining upstairs, my favourite thing to do is grab a bottle of red from the bar post-meal and settle into one of the cosy areas by the bar and unwind.

For the shoppers amongst us, The Shop at Bluebird (beneath the restaurant) is a designer haven. Far too tempting after a few drinks! The only pitfall is that the crowd can be a little snooty at times – this is the KR afterall! But go armed with your designer handbag and at least you can clobber them with it if it all gets too much!

(Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, London SW3 5UU.)

Japanese in Geneva?

I recently visited Geneva on business and finding ourselves exhausted and weary after a long day travelling, we opted to dine at our hotel, which some may say is a risky business.

Not so much at the Movenpick, for their Japanese restaurant Kamome is ‘the best in the region‘ according to the front desk, but as it turns out this isn’t far from the truth and we tasted some of the best sushi any of us had ever had.

Seated at the sushi bar, we had a prime view of the expert chefs making an incredible amount of sushi at breakneck speeds. All were beautifully presented on platters made of ships or accessorized with fans of leaves which had been cut out in doily-style patterns.

We started with a range of sushi including california, spicy tuna & avocado and plenty of pickled ginger. It was fresh and delicious – basically everything you could ask for from Japanese! Next course we opted for teppan yaki meat – duck for two of us and beef for the other. All beautifully cooked (pink at our request) with stir-fried vegetables and rice, the dish was light and full of flavour.

Definitely recommended for those staying in Geneva on business, especially if you happen to be situated near the airport! Take note though, this is Geneva, so NOTHING is cheap. You can expect for spend around £60 per person for a meal such as this which includes a couple of glasses of wine! Ouch.

(Kamome, Route de Pré-Bois 20, 1215 Genève, Switzerland)

Head east for Vietnamese

These days, there are certain areas of London which are synonymous with particular cuisines. Take Stockwell, did you know it was a haven for Portuguese cafes? There are some brilliant ones. Likewise, the Kingsland Road in East London have a plethora of Vietnamese restaurants within a one mile radius. Here’s where you’ll find Song Que.

Having tried more than a few in this area, I can safely say that Song Que is the best. The beauty of Vietnamese is that it has really clean undertones. Where Chinese is heavy and gloopy, Vietnamese capitalises on fresh flavours from simple ingredients and good seasoning. Song Que has got this down to a T and as such delivers a delicious feast in exchange for a small amount of cash. (Under £10 for plenty.)

All green and white decor, the sparse interior doesn’t offer you much comfort (and the loos are REALLY basic) but if you want good food with a big group of friends, you can’t go far wrong here! Be sure to try one of the hot and sour noodle soups – these epitomise Vietnamese cooking, but watch out for the chillis. There are also some delicious stir-fry options and crispy pancakes which you should taste. Now I’m hungry!

(Song Que, 134 Kingsland Road  London E2 8DY) 

Lunchtime heaven

Looking for a way to treat yourself this Monday? Head to the incredible Princi on Wardour Street for fine Italian treats at seriously affordable prices.

Princi is an Italian fast-food restaurant, but in typical Italian style, it’s all class – think upmarket deli, rather than greasy chip shop. The fact that half the customers are Italian is a good sign. On entering the shop, you are met with row upon row of mouth-watering cakes. Be sure to try the dark chocolate and bitter lemon slice – decadence epitomized.

For the main event, there are some lovely salads; ricotta and beetroot, caprese (tomato, basil & mozzarella) and a selection of oven-roasted vegetables. You can also grab slices of crispy pizza, pasta, lasagne, canneloni, melanzane parmigiana (baked aubergine) and much much more. Half the problem is deciding what to choose..it’s all beautifully presented and completely delicious!

What’s great about this place is that it opens late (midnight) so you can grab dinner on the go (they serve wine) or go continental and enjoy an espresso and a slice of one of their cakes before heading home. It can be quite frenetic in there around lunchtime, but the turnover is quick so you’ll be sure to get a table. Alternatively, pick up a box of goodies and take them with you – YUM!

(Princi, 135 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UT)

Vodka at Baltic

A well-hidden gem on the Blackfriars Road (opposite Southwark tube) is Baltic. A Polish / Eastern-European delight which is part-restaurant, part cocktail-bar and wholly seductive. The bar area is Moroccan-inspired (a bit weird for Poland, but nevermind – it works!) and the restaurant is all white with exposed beams. This is particularly lovely when dining in the afternoon as the skylights drench the dining area in light!

Having eaten here twice in the past, I can highly recommend the cuisine. They serve simple, elegant food – such as gradvalax (dill & vodka-marinated salmon) and duck confit with red cabbage. You can’t go far wrong here…everything is delicious! Anyway, I finally returned last night to try out their extensive range of vodka. OK, so I wasn’t there exclusively to drink vodka, that would be worrying, but it is certainly a recommendation as they serve over 60 different types!

After first sampling the fabulous ‘Brazilian Mule’ (Cachaca, apple juice, ginger beer, angostura bitters) I went back to the bar for round 2. My choice was ‘A Copenhagen‘, but when I told the barman, he looked at me sternly, but with concern and said he really didn’t think that was the drink for me and was I sure? Well this certainly threw the cat amongst the pigeons, how could I choose so wrong?! What was so offensive about this cocktail?

Anyway, he politely informed me that the main spirit (Bols Genever Gin) was a cross between a whisky & gin (which sounds gross) so I reconsidered and asked him to make me something with rhubarb vodka which featured heavily on the menu. What returned to me was a fab vodka and prosecco cocktail with plenty of rhubarb flavours and a few strawberries thrown in for good measure. He was right – this was definitely my cocktail!!

(Baltic Restaurant, 74 Blackfriars Road  Greater London SE1)

Another day, another pizza

OK, this is starting to get weird. I’m not a huge pizza fan, well no more so than anyone else, however I have now visited 3 pizza places in 1 month, all of which deserve some air time..so without appearing to be ADDICTED to pizza, here’s post number 3 on the Italian favourite!

Last night, I revisited Pizza Metro in Battersea. There are 2 branches, touting themselves as the longest and most authentic Neopolitan pizzas out there. The restaurant is sketchy to look at, but don’t be put off, the food is delicious. The key selling point (or novelty rather) is that they make metre long pizzas on which you can request a range of toppings. These are then elevated on stands above your table so you can chow down and still have room on your table for drinks. Practical and entertaining!

Our pizza consisted of proscuitto & mushroom, goats cheese & caramelised onion, salami & ricotta and veggie. It was enornous – the entire length of the table, but scarily enough it proved to be remarkably easy for 5 of us to devour this within the space of about 20 minutes.

You’re looking at about £10 per head for pizza +whatever else you might spend on alcohol. (We had a good Montepulciano.) The tipping point (in terms of greed) was when the waiter marched out with a plate of puddings and pushed them confidently onto our table, before saying this was purely so we could see what was on offer. By then we were completely sold and decided puddings were essential. Manipulative, but successful marketing on their part – and the desserts were fab too!

(Visit Pizza Metro, bookings recommended on weekends)

Yum at Yalla Yalla

Why aren’t there more Lebanese restaurants in London? It seems strange that such a fabulous cuisine is somewhat overlooked. Hopefully not for much longer as Yalla Yalla is bringing it to the masses in the most delightful way.

Perfect for lunch with friends, Yalla Yalla is touted as ‘Beirut Street Food’ which instantly gives it a cool edge. There are 2 bases in Soho serving up truly scrumptious Lebanese dishes, and more to come (Kings Cross). For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I’d describe Lebanese cuisine as a cross between Moroccan and Turkish. Plenty of fresh ingredients, bursting with flavour thanks to all the herbs and spices being used.

The Fatoush salad is unreal. I’m no salad fan, but could eat this forever. Composed of toasted, crunchy pieces of pitta bread combined with fresh greens and herbs, it’s completely moorish (and healthy – bonus!) Another treat is the Samboussek (pastry stuffed with feta and halloumi) and Soujec (homemade sausages) which are suitably spicy and flavoursome. Also on offer are some unique juice combos – my particular favourite is the apple, mint and ginger. Very refreshing and wholesome.

Yalla is always full which is a real sign of success. You can expect to spend around £10-15 per head on food depending on what you choose which to me seems like a total bargain for something so fresh and tasty. I’ve been twice with the girls now..and feel another trip on the horizon! Alternatively you can get takeaway from the Winsley Street branch – working lunches will never be the same again!

(Visit Yalla Yalla for some foody goodness)