Well ain’t this a peach, I breezed through my afternoon tasks; baking a chai masala sponge cake that now has my open kitchen/living room smelling like a Starbucks! and making tonight’s dinner (bhaigan bharta aka mashed aubergine curry), so I have an open window to fill you in on my march outings.
This one is going to be brief- ish (I know you’ll believe it when you see it!) Here goes…
Roast, Borough Market
So I finally made it to Roast, above Borough market, despite living in the postcode for nearly five years. I’d previously read bad reviews and never knew anyone who had been, so it fell of my wish list some years back. That was until a friend of mine mentioned it. Said friend and I, we’ll call him blue eyes, were long due a catch up and it meant I had a short distance to hop after a long day with the toddler, so I was game to give it a go.
The evening started off well, with a beautifully made and rather too easily drunk Earl Grey Martini. In the background a live singer added to the chilled ambience of the bar. Blue eyes dashed in after a busy day running his newly created empire, and off we went to our table. Something of note, tables are pretty closely packed to make the most of the dining space, so don’t be surprised to be subconsciously dipping in and out of your neighbours conversations. Usually I don’t mind this, ‘love thy neighbour’ and all that, but as the suits of the city are a stones throw away and with my luck, our neighbour wasn’t exactly loveable!
Loud suits aside and back to the menu, there’s a good selection of land and sea and of course emphasis is on fresh produce. I always picture asparagus when I think of spring and love a bit of protein, so opted for the duck egg and asparagus – a delightful little starter. My only qualm was that the egg was a little hard boiled, a runnier yolk would have served the asparagus better. Blue eyes was happy with his garden salad incorporating red and golden beetroot. It looked a treat.
Mains were equally good, whilst my friend umm’d and aah’d between the chicken and the pork belly, I had my eyes set on the herb crusted pollack. Succulent with a pleasing crunch and a light sauce to accompany. The Pork belly, apple sauce and mash was a winner with blue eyes and it did not last long on his plate, that’s for sure. You’ll be hard pushed to make it to desserts with such generous portions, instead we opted for a fresh mint tea after a few glasses of vino. After all, it was only Monday! I’ll be back soon though, with more info and tips on the wine list :)
There’s somewhat of a buzz about this place, much like every new ‘slightly quirky yet very authentic’ Japanese place opening up these days, the gourmet fast food fad before that, and the European brasserie craze, before that. I’m not usually one to jump on the bandwagon but the menu, or should I say glossy catalogue of mouthwatering dishes that my eyes fell upon one day, put me in a bit of a trance.
The worry is, with creating this sort of expectation, there’s only one way to go. Downhill. Not so in this case. Not by the food anyway.
Service – hmmm… Could be better, we were kept waiting for our table in a sort of cattle herding area, where some of our fellow livestock were dripfed cocktails to keep them hanging in there. Our initial round of cocktails at the table took some time, so we opted for a bottle of vino for the rest of the night but the delicious Yuzu Zoo cocktail is worth at least one try.
Atmosphere – at best an upmarket Wagamamas, sans benches. Low lighting makes it more clubbier than it really needs to be. This is London not New York. We’d like to see our food. Speaking of which, the food, that was what I thought it would be. A sort of halfway point between Nobu and Itsu (though the price point cheekily veers towards the Nobu end of the spectrum).
I’m not going to bore you with a detailed essay of every dish, I think you are pretty much going to be satisfied with most of what you order, as long as your expectations are in check. And with a brochure like that, you will probably over order, so instead I’ll give you a tip; stick to the rule of 2 dishes per person, 3 if you are a right group of hungry hippos. That way everyone gets something they want to try. If you are looking for some inspiration, the Black miso cod was a winner with me (and believe me I make it my business to try this everywhere), as were the Ebi bites (shrimp) and the Tuna tartare with quails egg.
For dessert, I heavily recommend (this really translates to ‘don’t even think about ordering anything else!’) the lemon yuzu meringue that comes in a martini glass with mini marshmallows and is just so bloody sublime! I can only thank my friends who saw the meringue lust in my eyes and kept well clear, instead sampling the four taster dessert: white chocolate with sweet miso & popped rice, Vanilla crème brûlée, Chocolate fondant with caramel & hazelnut brittle, Matcha green tea ice cream with dark chocolate. This was so-so for me.
Overall, it’s worth a visit but I’d wait a little for the hype to die down (so about two weeks) and you’ll probably have a more comfortable experience.
Augustus Harris, Covent Garden
Last but by no means least, I have to mention a very quaint little wine bar, a Venetian Bacaro actually, called Augustus Harris. Foodie frappy and I stumbled upon this after our trip to see the rather weird and wonderful works of David Bailey and before our reservation at Sticks N Sushi.
We were in a wine mood and must have walked around half of covent garden before finally being saved by AH. Interiors are fresh; a combination of woody furniture and a beautiful copper bar. I’m not too hot on my Italian wines, and I’m sure there are more grape varietals besides Falanghina and Malvasia but if there was ever a place to learn about them, it’d be here. The rosé I had and the Sangiovese I recommend for foodie frappy went down a treat and if we didn’t have dinner plans, I would have happily explored the wine list further.
There are small plates to boot and a friendly team of staff to guide you through the wines. I hear they are looking into holding tastings too. I’m always in the mood for a little education when it comes in the form of a stemmed glass…
Sticks N Sushi and Augustus Harris images courtesy of friend and fellow food lover – foodie frappy, whose photography skills and smartphone are infinitely superior to mine :)