Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Bounce Bounce Bouncing Bubbles - Boba Jam, Shaftesbury

Boba Jam, Shaftesbury Avenue

Bubble tea - love or hate 'em? Chewy deliciousness or little bouncy health hazards?

I'm totally on the fence on this one. It's always a case of:
  • Suck the bubbles up too weakly through the mega bubble tea straw and they simply get stuck halfway up.
  • Suck too hard (which trust me will happen when a line of bubbles get stuck) and without fail at least one bloody ball will go shooting to the back of the throat blocking the airway.

    Boba Jam, Shaftesbury Avenue

It's such a no win situation but yet people love them. Hey, even I got excited when I heard that there was a new bubble tea place in town - Boba Jam on Shaftesbury Avenue. For all my sitting on the fence I've been back twice in the space of a week and bought a total of 3 drinks -heck starting from about 4 quid each (depending on the "extras" you might decide to go for) they don't even have the decency to be cheap! Truthfully, I only went for the bubble that first time in ice blended lemon green tea with an extra serve of aloe vera. Next time it was ice blended peach green tea with nata de coco and a ice blended honey lemon green tea with nata de coco. Yes, I know ... my theme is the ice blended bit. The bubbles I'll happily flick away.

Boba Jam
102 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D5EJ

Boba Jam on Urbanspoon

Strawberries in a Bottle

Strawberries in a Bottle

There isn't much reason to why I'm blogging about this lovely bottle of beer other than I had it on a deliciously warm day last week and got rather tipsy (I swear I've become such a lightweight recently!). It's like strawberries in a bottle and it's local - produced on the green, green shores of England - we like (but seriously who am I to fuss about local ingredients when this girl ain't even local herself).

But what really caught my eye was the proud small print proclamation that it's vegan. A random thought later (no, actually I'm still holding on to that random thought) ... can vegans eat yeast? Well, I know they do since I've seen more than one vegan munch down on a slice of toast and gulp down a beer but doesn't that defeat the whole purpose veganism or don't yeast forms count? Go on, shoot me down.

Monday, 18 April 2011

An Evening at The Dorchester - The Grill and The Bar

Amuse Bouche - The Grill, The Dorchester
Amuse bouche - smoked trout pate with cucumber jelly and breadcrumbs. Love, love, love!Lightly smoked fish, crunchy breadcrumbs and cool, cucumber jelly.

I had an absolutely lovely time at The Dorchester recently and though I would never have thought to say this about somewhere as associated with the phrase 'hoity toity' as The Dorchester it was a really chilled out, relaxed evening. I've been to a smattering of fancy restaurants around London (One-O-One, Pearl by Jun Tanaka to name a few) and I have never failed to be impressed by the pompousness that drip off the staff like a melting glacier. One-O-One was a particularly horrible experience (lovely food but such bad, bad, BAD service) but I was so horrified at the merciless post that I wrote on it I never got round to publishing it. Why? Because I was racked with guilt (stupid softy that I am sometimes) and because I had such a bad time I didn't think it was a particularly fair piece of writing. But I do stand by the fact that my evening was abominable.Moving on, back to The Dorchester.
Bread - The Grill, The DorchesterButter - The Grill, The Dorchester
Warm bread and butter (warmed to a spreadable consistency)

Every couple months or so NS and I meet up. That's when I turn to my trusty Toptable account and start rustling around. A little oo-ing and ahh-ing later a table for 2 at The Grill was booked was booked for 7.45 PM. Giving us just enough time for a drink at The Bar, as all good meals start (and end) with a drink. I whet my apatite with a Milky Way (sounds terribly childish but terribly refreshing with lemon grass, lychee and lemon juice, rose cordial and soda water) - yes, non-alcoholic as age has taught me that it is either food or alcohol with my tummy. Mix them together and suffer the consequences. NS goes down the alcoholic route (it's the Scottish blood in her and she heartily agrees!) with a G&T. Lovely service and with added deliciousness of warm canapés that make the rounds every half an hour or so (we were served dauphinoise potatoes on a Chinese spoon - so freakin' good! Or maybe I was just hungry).

Mackerel - The Grill, The Dorchester
Incredibly fresh Mackerel starter

Leaving our coats with the staff at The Bar, we made our way across the gallery to The Grill (love how it's all The around here) with all it's Scottish pride furnishings - think head to toe tartan and paintings of long gone Scottish heroes in their kilted finery. It's absolutely dotty but incredibly comfortable at the same time. Greeted and seated in no time - so quiet mid week. The one dip in the evening came at this point. We were left drink-less, menu-less and all round service-less for a good 10 minutes. Just when the restaurant was sinking rapidly in my estimation, the restaurant manager made his way round to us and introduced our server to us and told us that our menus would be with us shortly. Right after that service perked straight up and kept on a steady high. So what was that dip all about? I told you they were a little dotty in this place. It probably doesn't help with all those ashen faced, long dead Scottish dudes staring down on you all day from those walls.

Chicken Livers - The Grill, Dorchester
Chicken livers with mango. I imagined this to be a parfait. A little surprised when this arrived. Pleasantly so. The mango could have done with a little more punch. Livers were well cooked.

Salmon - The Bar, The Dorchester
Main of salmon with spinach, puy lentils, celeriac mash and scallop foam. Crispy skin salmon, creamy mash. The sauce that accompanied the lentils were a little too strong and meaty for this dish.

Pork Belly - The Grill, The Dorchester
Main of roasted pork belly with mash and kale. This was one humongous portion. I was very nearly jealous when I saw this. If only I liked roast pork a bit more. And that crackling .. it had big roar of a crackle. The only trouble with this size a portion of pork belly is that some bits are whole lot more tender than other

Petit Fours - The Bar, The Dorchester
Petit Fours - The Bar, The DorchesterPetit Fours - The Bar, The Dorchester
Petit fours - (left to right from the top photo) salted caramel chocolate truffle (runny oozy salted caramel centre), apple tart (buttery with sweet/tart fruit), fruity macaron (indecipherable fruit flavour with a very soft marshmallow-y shell - not my favourite), rum baba (interestingly not drenched in alcohol like others I have, very nice it was), fruit jelly pastille (generally I heartily dislike fruit pastilles but this was fruity, soft and wobbly - delicious) and a sugar encrusted marshmallow (marshmallows, argh!)

Filled to the brim, we signaled for the bill and proceeded to wobble our way back to The Bar. The bill was heartily reasonable - £25 for 2 courses and a glass of bubbly (or £29 for 3 courses with the bubbly) from the set menu. The à la carte menu has the usual blow your blow your purse away.

Milky Way - The Bar, The Dorchester

Back at The bar, we perched ourselves at the bar (ah hemm..) and prettily asked the bartender for him to mix up a couple of post dinner cocktails for us. He obliged by shaking up a as yet unlisted on the menu gin based cocktail for NS - my one sip reminded me of English summer breezes in the sunshine. No idea what went into his shaker other than the obvious gin and cucumber. It was one heck of a cocktail that came with a pretty big price tag. Boozy cocktails start from £15. NS reckons she paid about £30 .... but I have my suspicions that she might have misread the bill after her 3rd glass ;)

Thai Lemonade - The Bar, The Dorchester

I wuss(iciously) kept off the booze for the evening with a 2nd Milky Way (more than a little too tart and not as good as the first) and ventured down the menu with a not so great Thai Lemonade (coriander, lime, orgeat, and ginger beer). Boo! Next time I'll have to keep off the food and stick to the booze :) A big thank you to NS for settling the bar bill. The next time it'll be on me (Starbucks does great chocolate milkshake like drink =)

The Grill
The Dorchester, Park Lane, London W1K 1QA

The Grill at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pineapple with Mint Sugar

Pineapple with Mint Sugar

A little warm sunshine and I've gone into summer mode (between you and me I think the British weather optimism has finally rubbed off on me). I have Jaime Oliver for the inspiration for this dish - pieces of pineapple sprinkled with mint sugar. Oh so freshing. So very, very summery.

Mint Sugar
About 20 mint leaves
4 tbs golden caster sugar (or white is fine ... but I like the slight caramel flavour)
Zest of 1/2 a lime
  • Put the mint leaves, lime zest and sugar into a food processor. Blitz. It's done once the sugar has turned green, is the texture of fine sand and there are no large pieces of mint leaves.
  • Sprinkle over large slices of pineapple. Tuck in and feel (imagine) the summer sun on your face.