Gourmet Pizza, Gabriel’s Wharf, London

Set Menu:

  • Location: Gourmet Pizza, 56 Upper Ground, Unit 20, London SE1 9PP (nearest tube station is Waterloo or Southwark)
  • Date of Visit: Tuesday 17th October 2017
  • Time of Table: 6.15pm
  • Deal Bought From: Groupon
  • Deal Price: £24 for two people
  • Dinner Companion: Good friend Charlotte

Getting more for your money?

This dinner deal includes:

  • Starter each from a selection
  • Main course each from a selection
  • Glass of house wine each

What I ate:

  • Starter: Garlic Bread
  • Main Course: Vegetarian Pizza

What I drank:

  • A glass of house white wine

What did we think?

Heading to the Southbank always feels trendy, but especially so when I was visiting Gourmet Pizza in October. I had never before stumbled across Gabriel’s Wharf, and I found it to be an intriguing cul-de-sac of random bars and quirky shops, the venues framing a roomy central space scattered with picnic-style benches. Certainly more of a hot-spot in the summer, I was here to meet my friend Charlotte for dinner at Gourmet Pizza, which scenically faced the river Thames. The restaurant looked like it would be more at home propped up over a pier, with its black wooden plank structure and tent-like extension, heated lamps keeping the clear plastic add-on section nice and toasty. Despite looking a bit out of place, the aromas wafting out of the restaurant were alluring to say the least, and since we both love pizza, when this voucher cropped up on Groupon, we thought it would make the ideal cheap friend date. The voucher was £24 for two people, which equated to £12 each. For this, we would get a two course meal and a glass of wine.

When I arrived, the restaurant was already packed, despite it still being early evening on a random Tuesday. Luckily I had pre-booked a table, so I was shown to a tiny table to two immediately, in the plastic tent extension section. Here, there wasn’t really any decoration to speak of, but the tables and hard dining chairs were all dark wood to match the black exterior. Charlotte joined me at the table when she arrived, and we eagerly awaited someone to give us the food and drink options that were applicable for our voucher.

When we bought the deal from Groupon, part of the online description listed the menu we would be able to choose from. It gave a selection of starters and main courses and also named a few desserts too, therefore both Charlotte and I already had inklings of what we wanted to pick for our meals. We also both wanted to do a main course and dessert rather than a main course and starter. However, we were thwarted before we had even begun, as when a waiter arrived to explain what we could choose from, he said that they had changed the available voucher options after we had purchased the deal, and we now had literally half the choice that we had previously. We had only three starters to pick from, pretty much a salad and a couple of pizzas for mains, and we were also told that the offer did not apply to desserts, but just for starters and main courses. As you can imagine, this left us feeling rather hard-done by as it wasn’t what we had signed up and paid for, and we would have preferred to have what was actually advertised. However we decided not to make a fuss and to try and enjoy our now limited meal as much as we could. We started by ordering our house wine options; I went for the white while Charlotte selected the red.

Since I didn’t fancy soup, I could either choose bruschetta like Charlotte or go for the garlic bread. I decided to pick the garlic bread, and to be fair, it was lovely. It came as an individual, thick oval of soft and doughy bread, a dent in the middle of the portion pooling the melted garlic butter. The top of the garlic bread had a lovely buttery golden sheen that added a bit of bite to the bread overall, although it was satisfyingly soft and also very tasty. Let’s face it though, it’s hard to go wrong with a decent garlic bread! A nice way to whet the appetite, it was a good size and a lovely bread.

For main course, I thought it was only natural to pick a pizza sent we were at a pizza restaurant, however we only had two pizza options to pick from. Charlotte went for the pepperoni pizza, however I decided to venture away from my usual meat-fest and instead pick a vegetarian option. My pizza therefore featured red and yellow peppers, olives, artichokes and spinach for a Mediterranean vibe. When the pizza arrived, it was pretty standard fare to be honest with you. The crust and base was nice and thin, it wasn’t burnt or too brown at all and the crust still had a doughy yield in the centre which I like. The tomato sauce base was very vibrant, hallmarking the use of fresh tomatoes, while both the cheese and toppings were generously scattered over the top. The cheese had melted gorgeously and was speckled with grilled brown flecks; the toppings were colourful and plentiful to cover the top of the pizza. It was a yummy pizza and a nice size for one person, filling me up but not leaving me uncomfortable. The veggies were all tasty too, with a lightly grilled tone.

The main issue however was the length of the service. It was absolutely appalling. We waited an age for whatever we ordered, whether it was our wine at the beginning or our pizzas for our main meal. Everything was coming out of the kitchen and bar with an absolute snail’s pace, which quite frankly is ridiculous considering that pizza is a typically fast food to cook and serve. We waited so long for absolutely everything that we didn’t even attempt to buy over and above our voucher by having dessert; we weren’t even offered the menu After our pizzas, we literally waited and waited, then decided to just stand up and leave since all we’d consumed so far was included as part of our voucher. If the service had been better, we most likely would have had dessert and another round of drinks, but the service was slow, generally poor and definitely not worth the wait since the food is just average anyway. The bad service certainly cast a negative shadow over the evening; we even saw other couples nearby receive pizzas that were burnt or stone cold. With raised eyebrows, we decided to quit while we were ahead and go and get a concluding drink elsewhere.

Although our meal at Gourmet Pizza was enjoyable, it wasn’t out of this world, and you could definitely go to other Italians venues for the same food but better service. It’s a shame really as such a prime river-side spot could be a real money-spinner, however I also was not impressed that they changed the voucher details halfway through its stint on Groupon. Surely you would wait until afterwards and maybe do it for the next time you run a deal rather than halfway through a current offer? We didn’t get what was advertised and the food did not make up for the bad service. The best bit of the evening was getting to catch up with my friend for a thankfully cheap price. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy my meal and I delivered clean plates each time, but for waiting times are really not worth the hassle.

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Eating Around: Cookhouse Joe, Soho, London

An after-work catch up dinner with friends who happen to work nearby is a sure-fire way to ensure that the working day whizzes by, especially if it happens to be a Friday. As I work off Oxford Street, and a pal of mine is based near Bond Street, we arranged a tete-a-tete dinner date in Soho so we could put the world to rights while enjoying a, hopefully, delicious meal. I decided to nab us a table at Cookhouse Joe for our meal; a couple of my colleagues had sung its praises and I was determined to see what all the fuss was about.

Cookhouse Joe might look poky and dark from the outside, however its got a great rustic vibe that simply sings the laid back cool that Soho is famous for. Specialising in Lebanese dishes and rotisserie chicken, as soon as you enter your nostrils are assaulted by the most marvellous chicken scents that soon have you salivating; you can practically see the juices dripping from the golden chickens as they cook their way to tender perfection. The décor is almost nautical, with plenty of chunky wood, a bottle-bursting bar, and bar bulb lighting on the down-low for a dimly lit atmospheric setting.

Squeezed onto a slightly small table for two next to the bar, complete with flickering candlelight, my friend and I ordered glasses of fruity, golden sauvignon blanc to keep us going while we perused the menu. Although the menu is small, it is mighty; the smells from the kitchen a testament to the fact that Cookhouse Joe excels in executing simple dishes to the highest quality. We decided to order a couple of sides to have as starters-come-sides, and then get a main course each to boot. Since chicken is clearly a specialty, we had to sample the chicken wings, paired with sour cream dip and chunky lemon wedges for a fresh slice. Since we love cheese almost as much as each other, we also opted for halloumi, which came in large oval doorstops, neatly griddled with uniform tell-tale black lines and served with generous triangles of a thin flat bread.

Tucking into the chicken, we could now understand where Cookhouse Joe gets its acclaim from. Although there isn’t much meat on chicken wings generally, these ones were juicy, tender and full of flavour yet not drenched in marinade or sauces. It was simple, classic, wholesome wings just cooked incredibly well and dished up. The chargrilled flavour coating the chicken skin gave them some added crunch and enhanced the flavour. The sour cream dip was a nice light note to have with the chicken. It was very thick and fluffy so a total texture contrast to the slick, messy –to-eat chicken. I also loved the presentation in a silver roasting tin style container; it felt very cantina. Cookhouse Joe even gave us a separate silver dish to deposit our used chicken bones in, which felt very thoughtful!

The halloumi was also divine, and served on a round wooden chopping board. The slices were actually quite large for halloumi, and they had been griddled to a really even golden hue for some serious outer crunch. This worked so well with the squidgy soft, salty cheese hiding in this golden, seared shell. Halloumi has a great flavour anyway and in general I love the saltiness. It worked really nicely with the flat breads too; you could almost make Lebanese style cheese sandwiches!

Our main courses arrived while we were still doing damage to our starter-sides, so it was certainly a bit of a squeeze on the table to get everything on! We had both ordered the lamb kofta burger, which came with fries on the side in one of those neat silver baby buckets, lined with paper. The burger looked very imposing, sat in the centre of a sapphire blue plate, its towering layers speared through the centre with a wooden skewer, a whole pale green chilli pierced on top for some added kick. The burger patty itself was really lovely, and again fresh as a daisy. It was a decent thickness, very succulent and the lamb meat used was very tasty. The murmur of spices and herbs used in the patty really accented that typical Lebanese vibe to add a different spin on the traditional burger, and helped to differentiate the dish as a whole in my opinion. The burger patty was topped with red onion, lettuce and the usual suspects, which all worked together really well. The chips as well were certainly floating my boat. I don’t usually opt for chips, but these were a medium thickness, just the right amount of crunch on the outside without boarding into roasted territory and they were lovely and fluffy on the inside. Served alongside the burger and chips was a small tomato sauce-come-dip. It looked like a salsa or a relish, but wow did this have some fire! It was a little too hot for me so I could only do tiny dips of the ends of my chips, but I could still appreciate the nice flavour combination.

Dessert was also a classic option when enjoying this style of food; baklava. This was served again on the round wooden chopping boards, with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream as the centre piece, the small baklava squares orbiting the ice cream; the whole thing dusted with icing sugar. There were five bite-sized pieces of baklava in total and they did differ slightly, although on the whole they maintained what you would expect from a traditional baklava; that wonderful honey-drenched nuttiness that fills your mouth with a filo encased, syrupy sweetness that is all crunch and goo at the same time. Lovely! We then finished our meal with a couple of cappuccinos, which were also nice.

On the whole, I was impressed by Cookhouse Joe. The quality of the food was really noticeable, and I really enjoyed all the different components of my meal. The portions were also a very decent size, so I left full to the brim as well – there is nothing more disappointing than still being hungry after a dinner out. The service was fair I would say, pretty average on the whole, and we paid about £30 each for our rather extensive dinner.

It was a bit tricky getting a table. I had tried to book a table the day before, but I was told that due to a few large bookings, I wasn’t able to. They hold three tables for walk-ins, so I was advised to arrive before 6.30pm, which is when their peak time starts, so that I could nab one of these. The thing is, they don’t seat you until all members of your group arrive, so I sat at the bar sipping me pre-dinner glass of wine, counting the tables while I waited for my friend to arrive. It was a little bit of faff, but luckily it all worked out well in the end. I believe they also have seating upstairs so there was a bit more space than I probably realised.

The menu is also very small, so it probably also depends who you are dining with and whether they would be happy with the choices available. Although the food is relatively simple, the lack of choices may befuddle a fussy eater, but I imagine you can’t go wrong with a reliable rotisserie chicken.

A very enjoyable meal with a very lovely friend, I certainly visit Cookhouse Joe again although next time, I’d definitely book a table to play it safe.

Holiday Munchies: The London Inn, St Neot, Cornwall

When visiting my mother-in-law’s tiny rural village in Cornwall, it’s interesting to draw comparisons with my London-based lifestyle. For example, the concept of ‘your local’ is different in the village of St Neot. Unlike my base in Essex, where an abundance of pubs are pound a penny along the majority of hustling streets, The London Inn is the one and only pub-come-restaurant-come-inn situated in the centre of the little community, making it a mini hub of activity in its location next the large church building next door.

On the last day of my husband and I’s last visit to countryside Cornwall, we visited The London Inn as a family for a friendly final meal before hitting the road the next day. It certainly looks the part of a rural pub, with its whitewashed exterior, swinging pub sign above the door, and umbrella shaded picnic benches propped outside next to a wall planted with blooming red flowers. Heading inside, the rural stereotype continues with wonderfully quaint charm; the white ceilings are not only low in true country cottage style, but they also come adorned with black painted wooden beams that also structure the walls too. A sage green colour on the walls lightens the room considerably, while an odd assortment of knick-knacks, such as white china figurines and colourful Chinese patterned tankards cluster across random surfaces for a kitsch and homely feel.

The tables and chairs are all dark and polished wood, reminding you of the universal furniture that all grandparents seemed to have at some point. The natural beams of the cottage seemed to form walls to segregate different sections of the inn, providing plenty of peaceful and not overlooked nooks and grannies where you could sit to eat. We chose a large round table near the main door, the centre of the table decorated with a simple glass jar filled with a pink rose and accompanying white floral as well as a small vegetable box style holder which contained cutlery and condiments. The menus, presented in old school leather bound holders, was a simple A4 printed Word document, with a limited selection of British grub to whet the appetite. Although it was traditional and homely, it was also oddly eclectic, and I rather liked this mish-mash of home comforts.

After ordering a glass of sauvignon blanc at the bar, one of the owners came to the table to take our food order. As I was pretty hungry and the choices were sparse, I opted for the traditional beef burger. I never used to really eat burgers out, but I’ve gotten quite into them of late, and where better to sample a British beefburger than at a classic country pub? When it arrived at the table, I was soon gawking with anticipation, as it looked absolutely epic. The beefburger itself was absolutely huge; you could tell it was a  lovingly prepared handmade job that was made with a great thickness and flavour in mind rather than any notion about fitting into a bun. Stacked on top of this colossal meat patty was grated cheddar and slices of bacon, as well as three squashed together onion rings. A soft white bun top balanced precariously on top, the skewer through the centre of the burger attempting to keep it together mirroring Pisa.

Also on my stylishly rectangular plate was a pile of skin-on fries, a simple salad of leaves, tomatoes and cucumber, as well as a splodge of creamy coleslaw. By this point, my mouth was absolutely watering, and I couldn’t wait to dive in to this vastly satisfying-looking dish. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. The burger itself was delicious and really let the beef sing. It was juicy, succulent and full of flavour; and I also loved the chunky thickness and meaty mouthfuls. Soft and tasty, it paired well with the salty bacon which livened up the beef flavour, as well as the mature cheese, which melted into the hot juices of the burger rather nicely. The onion rings were tasty too, being just the right amount of crispy to add a contrasting texture and crunch alongside the burger, but in no way overshadowing. Plus, onions and beef is probably one of the most well-loved flavour combos too, and it will always taste lovely together. The burger bun suited me too; the soft white roll held together better than I anticipated and was sturdy enough to act as a burger bun but not too crusty, which I liked.

The skin-on fries were very moreish, the salad pretty standard, and the coleslaw a nice creamy addition to provide some silky crunch. Dunking the chips in the coleslaw worked well in my book. All in all, the dish worked well altogether and was really well executed. The burger really was all-singing and all-dancing, proving that all those fancy burger chains in the city sometimes just can’t compete with something a little more rustic and substantial.

Dessert was also a very small choice, so I went for the chocolate fudge cake. It wasn’t the best in the world to be honest, and I imagine desserts are more shop-bought to compensate maybe for the extra TLC that clearly goes into the main courses. The cake itself was a little drier than I would have liked, although getting two scoops of vanilla ice cream instead of the usual one was a nice perk. The chocolate sauce was drizzled in layered circles around the edge of the plate, which looked very nice too. Dessert was just average really.

I enjoyed my evening in The London Inn, and the hospitality is what you would expect from the countryside too, with one of the owners soon divulging in conversation with us while taking our orders. Dogs were roaming in and out as well, which meant it would be a suitable location for any ramblers passing through, and we also had a child in our group, so it was certainly agreeable for a family with mixed age ranges. Although the choice is very limited compared to modern menus, it was a delicious meal and I still daydream about that burger. Although dessert was a little non-plussed, for me the burger can drown out any niggles I might have had by its sheer epic-ness. I also loved the quirky, home-grown décor. Certainly worth popping in if you are passing through.

Holiday Munchies: Black Rock, Clacton-On-Sea, Essex

The evening before a half marathon is always slightly trickier when you are staying away from home, and therefore having to negotiate your carb loading with a menu that hasn’t been self-concocted in your kitchen to optimise your performance the following day. Knowing my body and my pre-event food preferences rather well by now, I figured that I would be fine visiting steak restaurant Black Rock the evening before I took on the Clacton Half Marathon. After all, protein is essential for us athletes.

Although Dan and I have been to Clacton before, we did not spot Black Rock, snuggled down a narrow stairwell between two large and imposing outdoor seating terraces of the restaurants either side of it. With an American style black sign signalling steak and an arrow down the stairs, this whet our curiosity to check out the menu, and then to make arrangements to come for dinner in a few hours’ time.

At the bottom of the stairs, Black Rock has a really cool vibe that is centred around home-grown friendship and community. The focal point is undoubtedly the very chunky and long wooden tables, that are set up to accommodate large groups with ease. With such lengthy tables aligned down the centre of the room, it almost gave the restaurant the feel of an old school banqueting hall, with dining chairs tucked neatly under the centrepiece tables. Despite this nod to the communal eating scene of days gone past, Black Rock is actually rather trendy. Mottled wooden flooring that matches the tables is juxtaposed against crisp white walls, small spotlights studding the ceiling to add to the decorative tools of the trade for creating space. The plain walls were the ideal backdrop for kitsch black and white prints of famed actors and actresses, such as Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn, which gave an almost hipster vibe to the modernly clean-cut space. The atmosphere was relaxed, and since we went early for food, it was still nice and quiet, although the frown when we said we hadn’t booked a table was a wee bit off-putting.

The main reason we wanted to come to Black Rock was to try their specialty steak dish, called ‘Steak on the Stone’. This is basically an impressively sized hunk of 10z of sirloin steak that is served pretty much raw on a sizzling rock plate. Following the trend for cooking at the table, us diners then finish cooking our steak by cutting slices off the main slab of meat and cooking it on the hot black rock embedded in a wooden chopping board style plate in front of us at the table. Having done this type of dish together at Steak and Co in London, and also wanting a lot of protein for my run the next day, this seemed to hit the nail on the head in more than one way.

I ordered a glass of refreshing sauvignon blanc with my meal, while I waited for the steak to arrive. When it came to the table, the edges of the meat had barely brushed the base of a frying pan, patchy very pale grey-brown streaks indicating that it had seen an attempt at searing, however the bulk of the cooking would be left to me at the table. The steak itself looked in good nick; it was very large, rather thick, and I couldn’t see too much fat or grizzle to put me off either. It really was a complete hunk of pure meat. Served alongside it on the rectangular chopping board was a portion of skinny fries on a white rectangular plate next to the hot stone, and then in three little indents at  the back of the chopping board were little white dip dishes, containing garlic oil, peppercorn sauce, and a mushroom sauce. A side salad also shared room with the chips.

I tailored my dish by swapping normal fries for sweet potato fries, however both Dan and I found that our chips were cold anyway, so it didn’t make much difference. Dan attempted to heat his up alongside his steak on the hot plate, but I’m not sure of his success rate there. The generously-sized steak was delicious; you really cannot go wrong when you have a slab of good-quality meat for a beef steak. I was cooking my steak slices to medium-rare pinkness, and I absolutely loved generously dunking my beef into the garlic oil. I am a big garlic fan at the best of times, and I loved how the oil absorbed into the meat to really enhance its succulent flavour with that beautiful garlic warmth and the smoothness of the oil coating the meat and adding to it, rather than drenching it like some thicker sauces. I’m not a mushroom fan, so I avoided that sauce dish, although I did dip in the peppercorn a couple of times too. It was pretty standard in that respect, with a few token peppercorns bobbing around in the coffee coloured, thin-ish sauce, there’s no hiding from the kick and back-of-the-mouth-burn a peppercorn sauce will always bring. The side salad was very simple, just a few dressed leaves and veg really.

With our steak, we ordered a side of onion rings, as Dan loves a decent onion ring. Unfortunately, these did not get the husband’s seal of approval, as they were also pretty cold. The rings were thin and the batter was light, however they came up slightly soggy, and with barely there onion inside and such a thin coating of batter on the outside, they really were pretty non-descript, which is a shame as a gourmet onion ring done well can be a massive win in encouraging return custom. Let’s face it, everyone loves an onion ring. They were served in a napkin laid basket for easy sharing, but flavour and texture wise, they were a let-down.

After polishing off our steaks, we thought we might share a dessert (read: I wanted dessert, we pretended to share). The dessert menu was rather small, so I soon zoned in on the chocolate fudge cake; a very traditional offering that can usually be found on any British menu worth its salt. Served with a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce drizzled wafer, it came to the table quite quickly. There was plenty of dark chocolate sauce drizzled all over which I liked, and the cake slice itself was ok as well; small desserts are life’s biggest disappointments. The cake itself was very chocolately yet not overly heavy, although it did have a slight brownie-like tinge to it in my opinion, where it was very chocolately and a little dense around the ganache frosting sections, which was luxuriously thick and gooey. Certainly a decadent chocolate-overload, it was a simple dessert that ticked the box for something sweet and chocolate to finish the meal.

All in all, I liked Black Rock as a restaurant. The service was ok, if not full of dazzling personality, and I liked the décor and vibe of the place. It has been put together well and presents itself nicely. The steak is undoubtedly their big winner and where they put all their chips behind; it was certainly a lovely piece of meat and we enjoyed the drama of cooking it ourselves at the table. I guess it also saves effort for the chefs too. However, the sides massively let the dish down which is a bit disappointing really, as the potential for them to enhance the meal is huge. Considering the chefs don’t actually have to do anything with the meat – there was no marinades, rubs or salts at all, it was plain meat – you would have thought they could have put a bit more time and effort into delivering sides that are worthy of sitting alongside the steal showpiece. Price wise, it’s not shabby at all being in little old Clacton, and at the end of the day, it was a lovely place to unwind.

Homeward Bound: Beefeater Liberty Bell, Romford, Essex

The Liberty Bell has always been a reliable source of British pub grub, a mere 15 minute walk from my flat, making it an ideal date night location where both my husband and I can enjoy a few drinks yet still get home with ease. Partnered with Romford’s Premier Inn, the gastro pub used to be part of the Table Table chain, yet a recent renovation has seen it transform into a Beefeater. Although I know the differences are probably quite subtle and more nuanced – after all, it still serves British pub fodder – I was still keen to see what they had done to the place.

As you walk in, the most striking difference is the new décor. Beefeater have really overhauled and updated the interior to give the restaurant a really open feel, featuring plenty of large rectangular and circular tables, large mustard or coffee coloured leather sofa style seating, and quirky red or brown upholstered dining chairs. Wood panelling provides a barn-like vibe. Fun cow-related sayings perch on the walls, as well as other themed art, such as a multi-coloured cow cut out labelling the relevant joints of meat. It’s a light, bright space, and it has a really fun and casual atmosphere; perfect for kicking back after a long week at work. The nooks and grannies that previously hid seating when Table Table was in management have all disappeared, and Beefeater has embraced a much more homely yet classy vibe.

My husband and I were sat on an end table by the wall, providing an element of privacy. I nabbed the dining chair as Dan slid onto the mustard sofa opposite me, behind our wooden, square table. As he ordered a berry flavoured cider, I checked out the wine menu. I decided to try something a little different – my usual favourites are also naturally the most expensive on most menus, so I was trying to be savvy too! One of the cheaper white wines, it was pale in colour and vaguely fruity. It didn’t pack the fruity punch I was expecting and while it was delicate and light, it wasn’t the best wine in the world. Kudos for trying something new though, right?

As Dan enjoys a starter, I was cohered into sharing some garlic flatbread strips. This came up a lot bigger than either of us expected, despite it being on the sharer menu. So many starters are designed to share yet they come up minuscule, so this was incredibly refreshing. The large flatbread was cut into three vertical strips and served with a little ramekin of melted garlic butter for us to dunk the bread in. It was an ideal thickness, with a soft and plump edge, yet a crisp and crunchy garlic infused centre with a thin base. We dove in with a rip and pull tactic to divide the bread as we chatted.

For my main course, I looked to the seasonal menu. I wanted to try the beef rib wellington, however this happened to be the one and only dish that the restaurant had run out of! Cursing my bad luck, I scanned the menu and ordered my second choice, also on the seasonal menu. I ordered the beef fillet stack, naturally medium rare. The 8oz steak would be topped with a slice of streaky bacon, a slice of Somerset brie and a slow roasted tomato. Sides wise, the dish came with creamed spinach and crispy potato slices. I love a good steak, and at a venue called Beefeater, you kind of expect the beef to be pretty top notch.

I wasn’t wrong. The steak was perfectly cooked, and although I have had more tender steaks in fancier restaurants, there was nothing wrong with this piece of meat. It was just the right level of pinkness and it cut very easily, with a great, slightly chargrilled flavour. Lovely and thick, it was a tasty chunk of meat. I also liked the fact that the toppings provided me with enough juicy options to eat with my steak, so Dan watched in horror as my tomato ketchup dish remained largely untouched. Granted, the brie came up as a rather shrivelled and small slice, although it was nicely melted over the meat. The bacon was the smallest and skinniest slice I have ever had the misfortune to glance upon, however as a component of the whole dish, it was still ok. The tomato was nice and big, the roasting process really drawing out the flavour and giving it a lovely soft texture too. Each element worked really nicely together. If the dish had had less components, then I would have been disappointed, however all together, it was very nice indeed. The crispy potato slices were thin and rather nice. The creamed spinach was more like a sauce than a vegetable in my opinion as it was so liquid. I’m not sure that is entirely a good thing, however it tasted nice and I was able to use it to dunk my potatoes in so it wasn’t too shabby. Although the dish wasn’t entirely perfect, or as I expected, weirdly, it still worked, and I still enjoyed it.

Dan ordered a mixed grill and then promptly got the meat sweats. Each piece of meat on his plate was very generously sized and of good quality, leading him to say it was one of the best mixed grills that he had ever had. He struggled to finish, yet he still delivered a clean plate to earn a thumbs up.

For dessert, I went back to the seasonal menu to order a gin and tonic lemon trifle. I love trifle and I love gin and tonic, so this was very much a must-try for me. Served in glass straight-sided dessert bowl, the base of the trifle was very much like a sponge pudding with the gin and tonic soaked sponge fingers at the bottom. The gin was a main flavour which was great, as so often the alcohol can get hidden among other ingredients. The lemon curd that was meant to top the sponge was rather non-existent, however there was more than enough of the light and silky whipped cream on top to compensate, so pairing this with the moreish sponge was really lovely. It was a nice sized dessert and not too heavy after my main meal, so I’m really glad I got to try this one.

I couldn’t leave without ordering a Bailey’s milkshake too. Served in a traditional tall glass and garnished with chocolate shavings, it was basically a vanilla based ice cream, blended with Bailey’s. As with the gin, the Bailey’s was certainly present and correct, although not dominant throughout the whole drink so I’m not sure what the balance of the blend was exactly. It was creamy, cool and very nice indeed. An extra treat!

The Beefeater menu has a great choice and range to pick from, and we both enjoyed our meal there. Oddly enough, although I had little niggles about a couple of the dishes, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the food, and I’m still pleased with the food choices I made. I’ve even picked out a few dishes I’d like to try from the seasonal menu for next time! The portion sizes are really good, which is definitely something I value, and the waiting staff were chatty and polite. We spent just over £60 on our meal which is pretty much par for the course, so I’m happy with the price range too. All in all, we had a lovely date night, and I’m looking forward to going to my new Beefeater again soon!

Eating Around: Santi, Stratford, London

Based in Stratford’s up and coming East Village, Santi officially opened its doors in July 2016, offering lucky nearby residents an array of traditional Italian fodder, including thin-based pizza, seafood-drenched pasta, and more mozzarella than you can shake a stick at. When looking for a convenient and cosy restaurant to base a birthday meal with friends, Santi quickly cropped up as the ideal choice; in part because it is round the corner from my sister’s flat, partly because it’s on my way home back to Romford, and thirdly, because the food is absolutely delicious.

Santi is decorated very simply, letting its flamboyant food do all the talking. Stark white and dark wood form the majority of the colour theme, with the occasional flash of red to correspond with the restaurants logo dotted here and there. We were sat on a medium sized round table, ideal for nattering as a group, the table dressed with wine glasses and white linen napkins.

We ordered a couple of bottles of white wine to get the evening started, with my sister Jess taking the lead on the choice there. Our waiter presented us with a standard main menu each as well as a spring special menu, which boasted of being a whole three courses for a mere £20. We took a pick and mix approach, with some people sticking solely to the special menu – which did have a very impressive array of options for that style of menu – and some of us having two courses from the special menu and then one of the other courses from the main menu. Either way, this led to the food being very affordable all round, while still providing a pretty much entire menu to pick from. Win win if you ask me.

As we were reading the menu, a bread basket arrived at the table, alongside a dish of green and black olives, speared with cocktail sticks. Always a nice extra treat when table snacks arrive before you’ve even ordered, and so I tucked into the soft, thickly sliced bread with gusto, playing catch with the salty and small olives too.

While sipping the fresh and fruity wine, I ordered the scamorza impanata from the main menu for my starter. It sounded ideal for me, with breadcrumbed smoked mozzarella served with sautéed aubergines. This was probably one of my favourite starters that I have ever eaten to be honest with you. The mozzarella was stringy and soft, oozy out of the golden breadcrumbs when I cut the large discs on my plate. The cheese had a lovely creamy flavour that was accentuated by its sheer meltiness, the softness of the cheese working wonderfully with the crunchy breadcrumbs. The aubergines were cooked in a tomato style sauce to add a bit more variety to the texture of the dish, the squishy, earthy veg adding a hint of depth to the lighter cheese. The main components of the dish were sat on top of some decoratively scattered rocket, the edge of the plate drizzled in a balsamic glaze that I would have licked clean off the plate if manners would have permitted me to. I really loved this dish; everything worked together so well and you simply cannot go wrong with some form of melting cheese. The portion size was also more than generous with three large circles of cheese. This certainly whet the appetite healthily for what was to come.

For main course, I couldn’t resist my usual temptation treat food of Italian pizza, which I chose from the spring special menu. I went for the vesuvio, an interesting combo of salami, mozzarella and a fried egg on top. The pizza was a standard size with a generous scattering of salami spread across the circumference. The cheese on top looked a little sparing; however the wobbling fried egg on top was a thing of beauty. When I popped it’s golden yolk centre, it melted deliciously across my pizza, giving me extra to dunk my crispy yet doughy, wide crusts in. You really can’t go wrong with an Italian pizza in my view and this one was bellissimo.

I chose my dessert from the spring menu as well, opting for the cannoli siciliana to be brave and try something new. I’ve never had cannoli before, but I’ve heard the term tossed around plenty, so I was intrigued as to what it actually was and what it tasted like. I have to confess I was severely disappointed here, spending the duration of dessert jealously eyeing up Jess’s tiramisu. My cannoli featured a rolled up, thin biscuit, which had a similar taste to a brandy snap, yet it’s texture was very crisp and crunchy with real bite. It was meant to be filled with ricotta cheese, sugar and chocolate flakes, yet to me it tasted like sugar-sweet, liquid white icing sugar had just been poured inside, adding nothing to the flavour. The chocolate flakes could not be tasted in any way, shape or form. Although another decent portion size, I was really gutted by how bland and uninviting this dessert was. Next time, I’ll definitely go with my trusted dessert option.

Value for money is very apparent at Santi. There were five of us all together; we shared a couple of bottles of wine, and four of us had three courses, one person had two. Bearing in mind all that, we paid a puny £27 each. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was, considering both my starter and my main course were so tasty that I devoured them at warp speed. Our waiter was lovely as well, very polite yet chatty, efficiently serving our meal. We went on a Wednesday, so the restaurant as a whole was a bit quieter than I’m sure it would be on a weekend, however it had a very relaxed atmosphere and the food was lovely. I’d recommend a visit if you are passing by and need to put your feet up after hitting Westfields. Aperol spritz anyone?