Eating Around: The Mug House, London Bridge, London

Quintessentially British, The Mug House is a pub restaurant within the popular Davy’s chain that smacks of good old fashioned Englishness from centuries ago whilst also being bang up to date with a gourmet menu of classic dishes. Hidden in the domed alcoves of London Bridge, opposite the tourist-trap of the London Dungeons, this hideaway is a real treasure trove.

Bursting at the seams with character, I adored the atmosphere as soon as I stepped foot in the place. I felt as if I had gone back in time thanks to the classically whitewashed walls, multitude of dark wooden beams clustering the ceiling, and large polished beer barrels acting as quirky drinks tables by the entryway bar area.

Already impressed by The Mug House’s traditional yet polished take on a London ale house, my family and I walked around to the restaurant part of the pub, where we would be enjoying our dinner. Luxury labelled wine bottles sat proudly on each table, white taper candles speared into the makeshift holders and wax decadently dribbling down the side of the bottles. The blush red toned walls were in keeping with the abundance of wooden furniture, while more wine bottles lined shelves along the walls. Due to its location, natural sunlight is a no go; however the candlelight and numerous wall fixture lights maintained a lovely ambience under the rounded ceilings, creating an intimate and cosy vibe. Blackboards listed specials for both food and drink options, adding to the traditional feel of the place. Having a soft spot for this style of décor that has a nod to times gone by meant that my first impressions were gleeful to say the least. Now all that was left was to see whether the food and drink matched the opening standards set by this impressively presented pub.

We ordered the house red to share with our meal and very nice it was too. A deep blood red in colour, it was surprisingly fruity and medium weighted, making it very easy to drink throughout our meal. To start, my husband Dan and I shared, opting for the lemon and herb flavoured hummus, which was served with sliced up and grilled flatbreads. As hummus fans in general, it was great to get such a citrus and fresh twist on a classic, with the lemon adding a vibrant zing to the luxuriously thick and smooth dipping sauce. The flatbread was soft to bite yet held its shape when dunking and catching the hummus, which as we all know, is of vital importance. It was easily enough for one person, but the portion size was still generous enough to accommodate two so that we could have a graze before our main meal to whet the appetite.

For my main course, I decided to have a ploughman’s. I thoroughly enjoy a good British ploughman’s; however they very rarely feature on restaurant menus, despite being a pub classic in my mind. The Mug House’s version however had certainly been given the gastro pub makeover as it was a classy and sophisticated offering, presented on a round wooden cheeseboard. The slices of ham were cut generously thick, the meat both lean and light. Two long triangles of yellow cheddar came up next, balanced on top of each other, while a small pile of salad leaves acted as a bed for a black pudding scotch egg. A recent convert to black pudding, this scotch egg was dreamy. The egg was soft boiled so had that wonderfully opulent gooey and oozy centre that pools everywhere with each bite. The crust of the egg was perfectly cooked for crunch factor, while the black pudding element really enhanced the flavoursome meat within to give a richer and deeper taste. Armed with four decent sized triangles of chargrilled white bread, I tucked in with gusto, making sure to sample the caramelised onion chutney and sunset orange relish that sat in small white ramekins next to my little butter dish. Every component was simple, yet simply delicious, and I could tell the ingredients were of a high quality. Pairing the separate elements together is part of the fun of a ploughman’s, so I wrapped salad in my ham before dunking it in relish, piled the bread with cheese and chutney. Fun food at its finest.

Dessert also left me a happy bunny as I chose the traditional sticky toffee pudding for my afters. Served with a large jug of wonderful custard, there was even enough for me to drench my pudding just how I like it. The sauce had a fiery whiskey kick that was great soaked up into the caramel toned cake, with the dessert being moist, soft and full of flavour all round.

All in all, I was very impressed with The Mug House. Granted we went at a quiet time for our family meal; 5.30pm on a Saturday, so it was a lot quieter and more peaceful than I imagine it would be later on in the evening. I really loved both the décor and the atmosphere, and it presented the perfect environment for us to have a tasty family catch up. Due to its location, it is going to be more costly all round, however the quality of our meals is testament that it was worth every penny, and I would certainly eat there again.

Advertisements

Eating Around: Shane’s On Canalside, Stratford, London

Shane’s On Canalside is one of those restaurants that just oozes East London cool, a sort of thrumming undercurrent of pure trendy that instantly makes me feel partly out of place yet also like I’ve finally made it. When my sister landed her dream medical training post, it was only natural that a dinner would ensue as a celebration, and since she lives in the equally cool East Village, it made sense that our culinary treat would also be Stratford based. A short 15 minute walk from her flat alongside the scenic canal I didn’t even know was there, and we had arrived.

All industrial grey, twinkling fairy lights and squashed in seating, Shane’s On Canalside was an unusual hodgepodge of belongings wedged into a fairly roomy restaurant; the open kitchen emitting glorious smells that was making my tummy gurgle in appreciation. Interestingly, we happened to be visiting on ‘hygge night’ in celebration of a Nordic artist whose work was being displayed in the restaurant as if it were a gallery. Our kindly waiter informed us the pieces were available to buy from £500 and the artist was about if we wanted to ask any questions.

As a nod to the restaurant’s dual purpose that evening, the menu was also slightly adjusted to reflect Swedish-style specialties, so it wasn’t the menu I had been pouring over online all day. However the restaurant was maintaining its usual Thursday steak night, so that was still a feature.

We were sat on a rectangular table, four of us really rather squashed onto a bench style seat, with three places set opposite us with dining chairs. As a couple of people ordered soft drinks, we also got two bottles of white wine for the alcohol drinkers among us. The wine was drier than I perhaps would have ordered, with a more pungent flavour, however it was still rather refreshing and went down a treat after a long day at work and the pre-meal Prosecco Jess had already provided at her flat.

To start, we decided to go tapas style, and share a few small plates among all of us. Granted, the plates were very small portions indeed so you could only have a couple of bites each, if that, but at least it ensured that you were still hungry for your main course. My pick for starters was the venison stew with potato dumplings, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. The meat was literally falling apart it was so tender, yet the sauce of the stew was rich and vibrant, enhancing the game flavour of the meat. The potato dumplings were small squishes of tastiness that soaked up the sauce a dream. The salt pork cheek we ordered was also impossibly tender with quite a steak like taste that I rather enjoyed. I skipped the goat’s cheese as I’m really not a lover, however I did spear a forkful of the ham hock croquettes, which were soft and cheesy, although I couldn’t hugely taste the ham. All the plates were presented very prettily, so definitely good for the Instagrammers.

We polished those off pretty quickly to get to the main course. I had decided to forgo Thursday’s steak speciality and instead go for something not usually featured on local menus; rabbit. You know the meat quality is good when the waiter warns you that bullet remains may still be in your food, however it didn’t deter me in the slightest from getting stuck in. My rabbit didn’t come up as I expected; it was more in the style of a terrine of flaked meat chunks rather that say a breast of rabbit meat, however it had that typical game flavour and was well, if simply, cooked. The carrot puree it was served with was deliciously sweet and the wine based sauce was great for lapping up the meat and really enriching the flavour. My main meal also came with a side dish of new potatoes and these were probably some of the best new potatoes I have ever experienced. I think they were roasted with some herb mixture or garlic, but they were light and fluffy on the inside with a nice, wrinkly crunch on the outside. I did get sneered at for asking for tomato sauce to have with them, but I don’t care. All food connoisseurs have their guilty pleasure.

Dessert, to me, seemed like a challenge when I spotted something that had been labelled ‘the best cake in the world’. Really? Was it really? I just had to find out. An added plus point was that this was one of the speciality Nordic dishes of the evening, so something a bit different which I always like, even if I couldn’t pronounce the name of the dish. Although I wouldn’t call it a cake, it was certainly a pretty amazing dessert. The base was a dense almond crumb, packed together to form a hard square. On top of these was a generous swash of sweet and sugary meringue, topped with shards of flaked and toasted almonds. In addition, it was served with a satisfying splodge of thick custard that had a lovely vanilla tone and yellow colour. A thoroughly lovely dessert.

A few members of the group paid less due to not drinking alcohol, however the majority of us paid around £33 each, so not too extortionate in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I think Stratford can be a bit more affordable then central London, yet still have some great hotspots. The waiter was very informative and friendly, and they even brought us over two card machines when we were paying for extra efficiency and time-saving. The atmosphere was chatty yet relaxed and the food was classy yet not pretentious, despite the weird and wonderful menu items. It made a very suitable venue for a celebratory night out.

Eating Around: Duck and Rice, Soho, London

img_0515Since my mum’s favourite cuisine is Asian, I am always on the lookout for new venues we can try. When we were looking for a suitable restaurant to chow down on dinner before a theatre trip in London, I managed to hunt down the Duck and Rice, a stone’s throw from my Soho based office and a further five minutes from the theatre. Seeming to tick all of the required boxes, we promptly booked a table and looked forward to what we would eat.

Firstly, I loved the design and layout of Duck and Rice. Both the upstairs and downstairs areas have a bar, although downstairs has more stool style seating and upstairs has that more distinct restaurant feel. Large copper water tank heaters are an unusual centre piece for the dark, oriental themed wallpapered rooms, a black cast iron spiral staircase leading scenically to the upper floor. The patterned black and white tiled floor added to the elegant, overdone feel of the restaurant, although the main thing I loved was our table.

img_0518Uniquely, the upstairs dining area had what I would call a half balcony. Instead of a solid wall facing the small side street outside, it was a foldaway surface, meaning that the cosy sofa style seating hemmed in between the wall and the back of the sofa actually looked out scenically across the street as if you were sitting on a balcony. Since we visited on a particularly humid day, being able to sit in the shade of the restaurant yet with fresh air slowly breezing in was really lovely, and this quirky touch further endeared the restaurant in my eyes.

With the opulent décor receiving top marks for classy elegance, it was now time to see whether the menu was up to par. Starters had to be dim sums, and my mouth was watering at the prospect of fluffy Chinese style puffs and the squidgy dumpling style gyoza. Conveniently, each dim sum came with three pieces, so since there were three of us, we chose three dishes and sampled one piece of each. The mooli puff was served in its traditional woven steamer, the exterior of the puffs a solid white in colour, looking exactly the way I would envision a cloud. It was light, soft, fluffy and melted like butter in the mouth, sheer heaven, especially with the flavourful and saucy centre. I think I could have just eaten those! I love the texture of these, they are just incomparable with any other food.img_0519

The venison puffs on the other hand cam encased in a crispy, flaky pastry style cover, the tops glistening thanks to a sheen of egg yolk no doubt, the sprinkling of sesame seeds ample décor. The chunky, meaty filling was rich with a lovely depth of flavour, the sauce oozing nicely into the pastry exterior. The gyoza were once again a different texture for us to sample, the pork filling a bit lighter, especially when paired with the Chinese leaves. Soft and boiled I think, the hand crimped edges were easy to bite into, and while they might not look the most appetising, they sure did taste good.

Whilst supping on our pick and mix starter, my sister and I shared what was called a cup of Pimms. This was served in a large glass chalice, with a wavy fluted edge. The Pimms was filled with an abundance of mixed fruits, including oranges, lemons and strawberries; the cup presented with two glasses and a wooden spoon so we could divide the delicious drink and capture the alcohol laden fruit.

img_0520For main course, I had to go for the restaurant’s trademark dish of duck and rice. It’s very simple, very straightforward but makes for a nice, light and even vaguely healthy looking meal. Presented in a deep blue and white patterned china bowl, the plain white boiled rice forms the base of the dish, a juicy chunk of duck breast sliced generously on top, the skin intact and crispy, full of the wonderful, aromatic duck meat juices with a gooey hoi sin style sauce smeared briefly on top. Peeled and rustically chopped stumps of cucumber also graced the plate, but I soon palmed them off onto someone else – cucumber isn’t my scene. There wasn’t enough sauce for me, so I used some of the remaining dip from our dim sums to pour over my rice to give me enough sauce, although the flavour of the duck was superb. It was tender with that lovely game-like taste, succulent to eat; you just can’t beat that juxtaposition of the melt in the mouth duck meat paired with the crispy tear of the fatty skin. It’s a match made in heaven. The rice was a mere platter for the duck. The portion size looks small, but after our starters, this was fine and I was full afterwards, although if we hadn’t had been going to the theatre, I probably would have needed dessert as well. Asian restaurants never seem to do large portions when you select individual meals.img_0513

All in all, I really enjoyed Duck and Rice. We paid about £30 each for our drinks and two course meal, and the waiting staff were really lovely. Our waiter patiently answered all our questions about what the dishes were actually like as the menu is not descriptive in the slightest, and he even gave his recommendations on what he thought was best. He was the one who highlighted the glorious Pimms cups, so kudos for that. The atmosphere of the restaurant is a fantastic cross of London city slick with the modern copper aspects, crossed with the slightly fusty oriental intricate patterning, the black and gold tones maintained throughout the restaurant. A great spot and we loved our unique table too, I think I may have to visit again soon!

Holiday Munchies: Coast to Coast, Birmingham

P1050240The arrival of birthday month simply means one thing – I get to indulge in an array of deliciously decadent food, using getting another year older as an excuse to visit restaurants that have long been on my hit list. When my husband whisked me off to Birmingham to watch the Yonex All England Badminton Championships as my birthday present, not only was I eagerly awaiting being glued to my favourite sport all day, but I was also secretly excited to tuck into fancy dinners during our two night stay. Based near Broad Street, we were ideally located to hunt up some of central Birmingham’s tastiest venues, so for our first treat out we decided to check out American bar and grill Coast to Coast.

The Saturday night vibe was in full swing when we arrived on the Saturday night for our 8.15pm table. The music was slightly too loud for intimate conversation, however the upbeat retro classics soon had me singing along instead, with constant exclamations of ‘I haven’t heard this in ages!’ followed by enthusiastic head nods to the beat. Needless to say, the other half soon buried his head in the menu! Coast to Coast provides a unique cross over between a sports bar, an exclusive members club and a music lounge – decked out with dark wood, the tables are in the majority booth style seating, or the seats P1050245that utilise a sofa on one side. With deep forest green cushioning, each table had a great amount of privacy – our table was an intimate one for two, tucked near the bar. We had large armchair style dining seats with plush green cushioning, a retro styled golden wall lamp illuminating our table atmospherically. Although I loved the fact that us customers weren’t all sat on top of each other, I do feel that our out of the way table did mean the waiting staff ignored us too, and we ended up waiting an age to place any form of order. Waiting for drinks was also thirsty work. Despite this problem, I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the relaxed party mood of Coast to Coast. It was absolutely buzzing.

Flicking through the book of menu, I was very impressed with the range of dishes on offer. There were burgers, steaks, grills, classics, fish, salads, pizzas and calzones too however they weren’t just your bog standard offerings. Although there were options for the fussy eaters out there, the restaurant had also provided plenty of choice for those who wanted to mix up their meals and try their favourite dishes with a new spin or flavour combination. It all sounded delicious and I had real trouble narrowing down my top picks. I even had the same problem with the drinks menu, as I soon spied a cocktail menu, wonderfully broken down into an array of sections – a sure sign they mean business. I started off with a fruity number, selecting the French martini – raspberry vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice. Presented in a classic martini glass this was refreshing and zingy, reminding me slightly of a Cosmopolitan.

P1050242Dan chose starters, going for the sesame salted pretzels that we could share. Served in a small silver bucket on a rectangular plate, the pretzels were the wonderfully doughy bread variety that are so traditional across the pond. Tied in neat figure of eights and scattered with both poppy and sesame seeds, these were so soft and squidgy with a subtly buttery coating that added a note of luxury to the flavour. Dunked in a generous dip bowl of sour cream, these didn’t last long!

To go with my main course, I needed a refill on my cocktail. Sticking with my martini theme, I this time chose a Tiramisu version made with Kahlua, dark rum, coffee liqueur and chocolate. I love a creamy cocktail and this one really hit my spot, delicately decorated with cocoa powder yet hiding a seductively silky coffee creamy punch. Happy with my drinks choice, it was time to consider my food. Knowing my penchant for pizza, I had to go for a calzone, naturally the Meat Feast which was packed with pulled beef brisket, pulled pork, diced chorizo and red onion, all drenched in BBQ sauce and enclosed in a wonderfully soft pizza dough. Although the portion size came up rather a lot smaller than I was expecting, paired with a red cabbage and rocket based salad garnish / side, the actual flavours were divine. The pulled meats were so tender and had absorbed that gooey and sticky BBQ nuance perfectly. The chorizo added an P1050243element of spice to further tie together the flavours as well as provide a slightly different texture. The red onion gave a fresh and pungent slice to the taste. I am pleased to report that my calzone had plenty of filling and that it really was delicious, with lots of sauce too. The dough itself was soft and rip-able, providing a fantastic case to showcase the punchy flavours within. I really enjoyed this meal and would certainly recommend it. Dan went for his usual burger, however I am proud to say he went for a new taste combo, opting for the chilli cheese version. This basically was a beef burger paired with streaky bacon and a chilli cheese sauce, dished up with classic fries. Having a sneaky munch, the burger was gorgeous and I would very much be tempted by their triple decker version next time we were in town. Totally reckon I could down that.

P1050244No meal is complete with satisfying my sweet tooth, so this meant yet another cocktail also. For round three, I continued working my way down the martini menu, this time selecting the intriguing sounding Peanut Butter martini. This one contained vodka, smooth peanut butter, chocolate syrup and honey, for a sweet yet nutty taste. The vodka really laced the flavours together and gave it a firm kick too. What I loved most however was that instead of dusting the rim of the triangular glass with the typical sugar crystals, this drink used digestive biscuit crumbs instead to better match the drink. I loved how unique this cocktail was and I so pleased I got to try it.

As for dessert itself, I decided to pick something different, going for the Millionaires Waffle. With Dan choosing the same, we couldn’t wait to devour this impressive sounding treat. The waffle was made fresh, so we did have a little more of a wait here, but it was definitely worth it in my book. By far our biggest portion size, the waffle was huge, with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream plopped plum in the centre. Drizzles of dark chocolate and salted caramel sauce zig zagged across the plate energetically while a suggestive scatter of chocolate coated honeycomb pieces added an extra element of crunch to P1050247the dish. The waffle was beautiful, really soft and quite doughy but I liked this texture. Dan mentioned that he prefers his waffles with a more crisp crunch on the outside, so they didn’t really tick his boxes – clearly waffles are a more personal thing than I anticipated! At the end of the day however, you can’t go wrong with a chocolate and caramel based combo, so using these flavours on a traditional and popular dessert such as the waffle was always going to be a winner.

On the whole, I had a fantastic evening at Coast to Coast. I thought the atmosphere was brilliant and really enlivened that Saturday night feel of excitement. The choice on the menu was great and there was definitely plenty to pick from no matter was foods you like or dislike. The cocktail menu is quite simply a work of art, and priced at just under £7 per drink, it’s not completely out of reach either although I wish I had known about the earlier happy hour that I missed! Getting served and noticed was problematic and I had to hail down our waiter numerous times to try and get his attention – we waiting far too long just to place our first order of drinks. Despite the waiting time being excruciatingly long, the staff themselves were chatty and pleasant, so when they actually arrived, they were rather nice! I would return to Coast to Coast in a heartbeat – wink wink nudge nudge, birthday for next year hubby?

P1050248

P1050246

Homeward Bound: Ginger Spice, Romford, Essex

IMG_3290It’s not often I get to enjoy one of my favourite cuisines – Indian food – as my husband dislikes it, but when one of my besties came to stay the night recently, I saw it as the ideal excuse to test out a new Indian restaurant that had opened down the road from me. Granted, it’s been around for nearly a year now, but that still counts as relatively new to me! Ginger Spice, situated on Brentwood Road, looked decadent and inviting, and I couldn’t wait to test out the food.

Upon entering, it was like going into an opulent and expensive city lounge. Decorated in tones of caramel like gold, cream and a dark, glossy brown, the restaurant was much larger than I anticipated, reaching quite far back to house numerous tables and booths. At the front of the restaurant was a bar area with squidgy sofa seating – no doubt for the takeaway side of the business – however this led into the main seating area. With dripping chandeliers cascading scenic and atmospheric lighting, each table had a great amount of privacy. The ones situated in the centre of the room were housed in large, circular booths, the seats richly furnished in gold cushioning. The tables near the edges had one side utilising soft sofa seating, the other usual dining chairs. What I liked however was that the tables were separated by a curtains of hanging clear beads. This not only allowed you to still enjoy the buzz of the restaurant, but it meant you still felt like you had plenty of space and light without any of it being invaded by nearby diners. I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely and lush the interior was, and I instantly felt like I had stepped into the lap of luxury.IMG_3291

No Indian dining experience is complete without crunching your way through numerous papadums before you place your order. Although papadums are much of a muchness, I was rather impressed with the selection of dips that accompanied them, some of which I hadn’t tried before. There was the usual raw onion mix and everyone’s favourite the mango chutney. There was also the spicy lime pickle, the fresh zing of lime a complete juxtaposition to the fiery heat in the after burn. As well as the soothing, creamy mint sauce, there was also a new flavour that seemed to be based on desiccated coconut and was a vibrant red colour. With a grainy texture and a sweet flavour, I enjoyed it despite not being a coconut fan.

IMG_3294Selecting a bottle of Granfort Chardonnay to enjoy with our meal, we began by picking our starters. Being the indecisive bean that I am, I chose the Three Way Starter for £3.65, which consisted of a chicken kebab, meat samosa and a paneer bite, garnished with salad and a wedge of zingy lemon. The chicken kebab was like a mini sheek kebab, the flavour peppered with the gentle hue of spices, while the meat samosa was a small, flaky pastry triangle that was filled with minced lamb, flavoured with vegetables and spices. The paneer bite was a new one on me – this was a fresh chilli stuffed with the classic Indian cheese, covered in breadcrumbs and then fried. The different textures of each bite were lovely and the flavour combo really worked too. I really liked the pick and mix style of this starter, that allowed me to sample a few different bits off the menu without filling me up too much. It was an ideal size and great to whet the appetite.

IMG_3296Main course was definitely a tough choice. Not having Indian food often means I get in to greedy mode whenever I am confronted by an Indian menu! I decided that since I was somewhere new, I would also try something rather than my usual chicken tikka masala, so I instead opted for the Ginger Special, from their Signature Dishes selection. Exclusive to the restaurant, this was basically chicken breast, stuffed with minced meat and then charcoal grilled. The meat was then topped with a thick sauce made from garlic, ginger, cumin, green chilli peppers and onions, as well as almond and coconut. One of my favourite parts of Indian food is the abundant sauce to dunk my naan bread in, so I made sure to ask the waiter how much sauce came with the dish – he said I could order it ‘extra saucy’ so I did, and it turned out to be the perfect amount of sauce. I really loved this dish – the flavours married together beautifully. I would say the onion is a prominent texture of the sauce, as it was sliced into IMG_3299strips, however the taste the onion blended nicely in the sauce. It did taste quite similar to a tikka masala sauce and was the same vivid orange in colour, but I confess I loved the originality of stuffing the chicken with mince – this meant my meat was served in thick, cylindrical cigars and drenched in sauce, just how I like it. The chicken was nicely looked so it was juicy and tender, while the mince had a great flavour to it that worked so well with the chicken.

To go with my main dish, we shared a saag paneer, as who can resist cheesy spinach? I also selected pilau rice and a garlic naan. I have to say, this naan bread was probably the best naan I have every eaten – it was so doughy and soft, yet also light to eat and with a usefully crisp bottom to help scoop up your sauce. The portion sizes also get a thumbs up from me. Indian meals never usually defeat me, yet this is probably the only occasion where I couldn’t eat all my naan. Next time, it won’t be so lucky I assure you!

After our meal, we were offered complimentary drinks on the house as an added extra – a pleasant IMG_3297surprise, I ordered a Baileys to finish my meal with something sweet and creamy. Coming to just under £70 for two courses and a bottle of wine for two people, I would most definitely eat there again – the food is just too fantastic not to. We had one waiter at first who had the personality of a rock – he actually came across incredibly rude with sullen silences, performing his duties as a formality – however the other staff who waited on us were chatty, talkative and friendly, so I can only assume there is one dud in the bunch.

I enjoyed Ginger Spice so much I have actually booked one of my birthday celebratory meals there, so I am looking forward to tackling the delicious menu again soon!

IMG_3302

IMG_3298

OXO Brasserie, Southwark, London

Set Menu:P1040889

  • Location: OXO Brasserie, OXO Tower, Southwark, London
  • Date of Visit: Sunday 24th January 2016
  • Time of Table:45pm
  • Deal Bought From: Bookatable
  • Deal Price: £30 per person
  • Dinner Companion: Twin sister, Jess

Getting More for your Money?

This dinner deal includes:

  • 3 course meal from the Winter Feast Menu
  • Cocktail

What we ate…

Katie:

  • Starter: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
  • Main: Slow Cooked Duck Leg with Lentils and Winter VegetablesP1040885
  • Side: Truffle Mash (extra)
  • Dessert: Dark Chocolate Tart with Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Jess:

  • Starter: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
  • Main: Roasted Cod, Cuttlefish and Butter Bean Stew
  • Side: Chips
  • Dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Rum Sauce and Clotted Cream

 

What we drank…

  • House Cocktail Each
  • Glass of house white wine each (extra)

What did we think?

P1040887I have long wanted to eat at this imposingly iconic London statue, the OXO Tower. Situated only a 10 minute walk from Southwark tube station, the OXO Tower building spreads lavishly next to the River Thames, a stone’s throw from the Millennium Bridge, the view across the water of the breath taking St Paul’s, the sunset gathering colours behind the regally domed head. Although the lipstick red initials stacked vertically on the tower’s top have made it a signpost of London, oddly enough from the ground below you can’t even spot the trademark letters – it seems the OXO Tower contains a lot more than I thought!

Heading up to the eighth floor, I was here on one of my acclaimed twin dates, with my sister Jess. We had spotted a rather decent deal on Booktable, where you could nab a three course meal and a cocktail for a mere £30 – in central London, it seemed too much of a bargain to pass up, let alone the fact it was in a renowned location too. Arriving at the OXO Brasserie, you are instantly made to feel like a VIP, your coat swiftly disappearing into the cloakroom in exchange for a ticket, a waiter showing you to your table from a central reception desk, manned by specialist staff and swamped in scenic, atmospheric blue light. On arrival at your table, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the extensive glass wall that cover the sides of the restaurant, showcasing rooftop views of urban London, with glimpses of St Paul’s to boot. Lit up in the dark night, it’s just another reason why I love our capital.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Our deal including a three course meal, to be chosen from a set menu. There was definitely enough choice on the menu, covering vegetarian, meat and fish options for the savoury dishes, and covering either chocolate or fruit for the dessert. While we were mulling over our choices, we were presented with our cocktail – we didn’t have any say in what cocktail we were receiving so it was very lucky that it happened to be one we liked! With a dash of raspberry tones and a bit of fizz, I promptly forgot the detailed explanation from the waiter – I just enjoyed the fruity zing and fresh bubbly flavour. We also ordered a glass of the house white wine each to enjoy with our meal.

Perusing the menu, starter simply had to be the butternut squash soup. A decadently thick and creamy consistency, the soup had a spicy, paprika tone that really brought out the flavour of the autumnal butternut squash, and I really loved the juxtaposition of flavour and texture that the dollop of cream and sprinkling of pumpkin seeds encouraged. The spiced tones really made this a stand out soup for me, and I also couldn’t resist a bit of mopping with the chunky ciabatta style bread that was brought around beforehand, served from a rustic style

My duck main course

My duck main course

basket.

For my main course, I had chosen duck – a meat I love but don’t really eat that much at home. Served straight of the leg, the meat was so tender and succulent that it simply fell away at a mere prod of my fork, revealing the pink and soft meat underneath the crispy exterior of skin. The flavour was rich and similar to game, the meat left simply to cook in its own juices – an unfussy and simplistic style of cooking executed to perfection.  The duck was sat atop a layer of lentils, adding a stew like feel to the dish. The winter vegetables were rather an unequal ratio, containing one lone carrot and one shallot, although the greenery was definitely present and correct. To go alongside my main dish, I had opted for one of the optional side dishes for an extra £5 – quite a lot for a portion of mash, however the fact that it was truffle mash definitely made up for it, especially when I saw the generous portion size too. Wonderfully creamy and smooth the truffle flavouring was spot on, giving a full bodied taste yet not overpowering the dish in the slightest. Everything

Jess's fish main course

Jess’s fish main course

worked together perfectly and the portion size in general was ideal too. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and you could tell the quality was up to par.

No meal would be complete without a spot of dessert and being the chocoholic fiend that I am, I had to go for the chocolate tart. The pastry bottom was incredibly firm and buttery, providing a solid base for the rich, dark chocolate filling that was also more of a solid. Its firmness accentuated the deep chocolate flavour that was full on cocoa. To add a spot of lightness, the tart was sat on top of a decorative swirl of caramel goodness, a scoop of peanut butter ice cream snuggled next to the slice. Speared into the flesh of the tart was also a shard of crisp and crunchy peanut brittle – a really nice twist that added an unexpected layer to the texture, so you had the barely wielding squidge of the tart, the oozing chill of the ice cream and the harsh bite of the brittle, the nuts acting as the perfect accent to the chocolate. All in all, it was a lovely dessert that was well thought out and prepared.

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart

I would love to visit the OXO Brasserie again, as the food really excelled in my opinion. Despite having an early dinner at 5.45pm, the restaurant was busy and thriving, which may have contributed to our slow service, although staff were pleasant. Three courses and a cocktail for £30 sounds like a decent bargain to me, especially for central London and an iconic building to boot. The fact that the portion sizes could actually fill me up was a bonus too and the quality was superb – each dish had a simple foundation yet a magic twist and I really enjoyed the combination of flavours and texture present. The cocktail was lovely although I think it would have been nice to have been given a choice of what we were drinking – I enjoyed it but other diners may not have. It wouldn’t do any harm to add it onto the set menu more officially. All in all, delicious food, great company and a deal too! When can we next go?

Jess's Sticky Toffee Pudding

Jess’s Sticky Toffee Pudding

Our table

Our table

Our sides

Our sides