Kuala Lumpur is a sometimes overlooked gem. It’s
overshadowed by its glitzy cousin, Singapore, but this city has
its own vibrancy and a unique character that deserves to be promoted.
It’s not just a stop-over en route to some rather nice beaches, it can
be an exciting and exotic destination in its own right.
It’s the federal capital and most populous city in Malaysia with an
area of 243 sprawling square kilometres (94 sq mi) and has an estimated
population of 1.6 million. It’s the official residence of the Malaysian
King and has played host to many international, sporting and cultural
events over the years including the Commonwealth Games and the Formula
One Grand Prix. Even those of us who have not the slightest interest in
excellence on the track for either man or machine will surely know that
Kuala Lumpur is home to the spectacular Petronas Twin Towers.
The ground floor entrance to the Grand Hyatt is imposing, spacious and
airy and what one would hope for in this standard of Asian hotel. Its
sweeping staircase, pond and a crescent-shaped sculpture which is
symbolic of Brunei and Malaysia, is the centrepiece. A circular
coloured glass art feature inscribed with a classic welcoming verse
from the Quran, “A thousand dinar,” stands near the entrance to the
ground floor restaurant.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur is a 39-storey hotel that officially opened on
August 24, 2012. Its location is superb in every regard. Those towers
decorate the view in the most impressive fashion from the hotel lobby -
that is the Sky lobby for check-in, on the top floor. One has a sense
of height and space when one looks towards the towers.
This well-appointed hotel has spacious accommodation that includes 370
regular rooms and 42 suites. Those suites are remarkable in both style
and facilities, and equal, in this traveller’s opinion, to the best you
will find anywhere. The floor-to-ceiling windows give views over the
city or to the Towers, making the panorama quite memorable when
appreciated from the vantage point of a roomy, round, marble bathtub.
It’s a pampering and sensual experience.
The hotel is aware that many of its guests must work. Its proximity to
the Convention Centre assures many business visitors who would,
doubtless, much rather be lounging in the bath-with-a-view than
working. The desk is substantial with every connection for
entertainment and communication that a budding executive might need.
Kuala Lumpur has a wealth of dining options and luckily one of the best
can be found on the ground floor of this very
hotel. JP teres showcases the most iconic of Malaysian dishes in a
contemporary restaurant and terrace. The open kitchen adds to the
atmosphere, which attracts both hotel guests and locals alike.
JP teres features some of the most traditional of Malaysian dishes.
There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas set amongst lush
greenery and trickling water. The ambiance is tranquil and cool but the
food is vibrant and exotic.
I love Asian food in general and I find that Malaysian cuisine offers
so much that is exciting in this culinary region. The food ranges from
the spicy and addictive to the mild and comforting. Desserts are not
forgotten and they take advantage of local ingredients to produce
confections that will gladden the heart of anyone with a sweet craving.
Samosa - Potato, peas, Indian spices are familiar to every lover of
Indian food but they are a popular snack or starter in Malaysia, which
is a country of ethnic diversity, and that has added to the complexity
of cuisine and breadth of dishes on offer. Indian food is well
represented at JP teres, which has an imported tandoor, and the Chef de
Cuisine Azman Ahmad, although a local lad, draws upon his
Pilihan aneka satay - barbecued skewers – must be the
national dish. In Malaysia those flavourful kebabs are served with
cucumber, onion and compressed rice cake, along with the peanut sauce.
Otak otak is one of my favourite dishes from the Malay peninsula. It’s
a peranakan dish and is made by mixing fish paste (most often mackerel)
with spices. The resulting fish mousse is usually wrapped in a banana
leaf and cooked. It’s a must-try for any visitor.
Curry laksa - Yellow noodles, tofu, shrimp, fishcake, beansprouts, mint
and chicken in a curry broth is a classic and ubiquitous dish …and
Nasi lemak – Coconut rice, fried chicken, egg, crispy whitebait,
cucumber, peanuts, sambal – is a leaf-wrapped parcel that is often
consumed for breakfast but is popular at any time of the day
Murgh makhani – tandoor-oven roasted chicken, tomato and kashmiri
chilli – is a dish from India and is one of the most popular across the
Rendang daging - Braised beef, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric leaf,
spices and coconut combine to make one of the most delightful dishes in
the region. The meat is cooked to tender perfection in an aromatic
Carrot cake - White radish, shrimp, chilli paste, pickled vegetables,
sweet soy sauce make this unique dish. That white radish is in fact
mooli or dikon that cooks with rice flour to give a type of vegetable
pasta. Don’t miss this one.
Pandan Chiffon Cake is beautifully impressive. It has the texture of an
American Angel Food Cake but that pandan is the key ingredient. It’s a
leaf that is used extensively in this region and it gives an
unmistakable flavour and colour. A light cake to enjoy with a cup of
Chendol is a refreshing dessert of shaved ice, coconut milk, pandan
jelly and gula melaka (palm sugar). I find this far lighter than
regular ice cream and it’s difficult to replicate at home as the ice
shavings are very fine, so try it here. The gula melaka is an essential
part of the dessert and brings an almost caramel sweetness.
Pineapple tarts – bite-size shortbread-style cookies (biscuits) that
are topped with pineapple jam. The fruit is cooked down to a soft paste
with a golden hue, with a sweet and mellow flavour.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur offers accessible luxury laced with Asian
charm and attention to detail. The staff are professional and friendly
and will make any weary traveller feel at home. The hotel location
makes this one of the world’s greats.
Daily, 11:30am – 11:00pm
For more information phone: +60 3 2182 1234 extension 2333
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dress: Smart casual
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
12 Jalan Pinang
Phone: +60 3 2182 1234
Fax: +60 3 2182 1288
Visit Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur here
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
Restaurant – Covent Garden
Covent Garden takes its name from the convent garden which
was in this area back in the Middle Ages. The garden
belonged to Westminster Abbey and in the sixteenth century this land
was acquired by Henry VIII and then granted to John Russell, 1st Earl
The existing Piazza was planned in 1631 by Inigo Jones and shows his
passion for the classic piazzas in Italy. Some of the original street
names still exist in the neighbourhood - King Street, Charles Street,
Henrietta Street were named in honour of Charles I and his wife, Queen
Covent Garden was famed as a fruit and vegetable market for around 150
years till it closed in the mid 1970s. I remember the porters
exchanging merry banter with other stallholders, and not so merry
banter with those who got in the way of their barrows. They are
immortalised in a 2m bronze relief plaque which shows one of their
number carrying baskets of produce on his head. There is also a rather
fine restaurant bearing the name Porters and I suspect the bill of fare
here would meet with their approval.
Porters English Restaurant is, as I mentioned, a fine
restaurant. Let’s be clear, this isn’t what one would think of as a
‘fine dining’ establishment but the food is fine in a traditional
English rustic and comforting way. It’s been producing those hearty
dishes since 1979 and it’s easy to see why it endures.
It’s got the ambiance of a real pub with etched glass and dark wood and
light humour – there are little tongue-in-cheek mottos and bons mots
pinned up throughout the hostelry. They are serious about the food at
Porters but they evidently enjoy life and their diners. A trip to the
rest rooms will have you serenaded by traditional English nursery
rhymes that took this reviewer-of-a-certain-age right back to Listen
With Mother on the wireless. (If you are too young to know what a
wireless was, then you are very lucky.)
The food here offers classic British dishes and some with a twist. My
guest ordered the The London Particular (Pea and Smoked Bacon Soup).
It’s so named because of the thick, 'peasouper' London fogs that lasted
right up to the 1950s. It’s a good old-fashioned soup with a velvety
texture. This was served with slices of crusty bread.
I was taken with the Warm Scotch Egg. It would seem a simple dish and
it is if you don’t mind an over-hard-boiled egg as a bullet-like core.
I was looking for a creamy and runny-yolky centre to that sausage crust
and that’s what I got. It takes practice to do this ‘simple’ dish so
well. The Piccalilli is the essential condiment, giving a pleasing
vinegar tang to balance the richness of the Scotch Egg.
Shepherd’s Pie at Porters is rumoured to be made with real shepherds.
No, dear children and those with a sensitive
nature, that is just one of management’s little jokes. It’s a classic
family dish of minced lamb (cottage pie has minced beef) with red wine,
tomatoes, carrots and peas, with a mashed potato topping. Porters
serves this in individual dishes – that crockery can be purchased and I
can’t think of a better souvenir than one that will keep giving in such
a delicious fashion.
My main course was Lamb and Apricot Pie and it was memorable. Seldom
have I had such a well-flavoured pie, and pies are my passion. We in
Britain, in my opinion, lead the way with pies. Porters offers a
selection of traditional favourites but also some innovations and this
Lamb and Apricot fills those ranks. There is a little hint of mint in
the filling which adds freshness to the well-seasoned meat. This is a
must-try in my book …and speaking of books, Porters English Cookery
Bible penned by founder Richard, Earl of Bedford, and Carol Wilson is
on sale behind the counter, and the aforementioned pie is found within
Porters truly is an English restaurant so it’s no surprise that puds
are so well represented. Treacle Tart will be my choice on my next
visit, for next visit there surely will be, but I was intrigued by Lady
Bradford's Sticky Ginger Pudding and it’s a winner, with all the
attributes which gave puddings their deserved position high in the
pantheon of desserts. It’s sweet and syrupy and absolutely moreish.
I have long wanted to visit Porters and it delivered in every regard.
The location is iconic, and after all these years the restaurant can be
called the same. It’s not flashy but it’s deliciously solid, comforting
and great fun.
Mayfair isn’t ashamed of its style and quality. It shows
it along every boutique-trimmed street, it flaunts leafy squares and is
bejewelled with Blue Plaques celebrating the famous who have called
this neighbourhood home. The likes of King Charles X of France lived
here; Jimi Hendrix, who will be remembered for plucking guitar with his
teeth, played and laid his head in these environs; and Sir Alexander
Korda had a place in Mayfair, and he is held practically as a saint by
any lover of fine films.
has long been smart and international and that trend continues with a
Japanese restaurant that is worthy of its location. It’s particularly
appropriate to enjoy Japanese food just now as this year sees the
celebration of Japan 400. We have been associated with that land of
magnificent mystery, refinement and elegance for four centuries and the
bond is stronger than ever.
UMU flies the culinary flag for Japan and sets the bar
very high for other Japanese restaurants to follow. It’s truly an
unfair competition as UMU sports the accolade of being the only
traditional Kaiseki restaurant in the UK. This is as far from a typical
high street sushi bar as one could get. It pays attention to detail in
UMU demands thought. Yes, it is undoubtedly a pricier
dining option that most London restaurants of any hue but one is paying
for a memorable experience. Anyone truly passionate about food,
presentation and even ethical sustainability will never have the
impression of being short-changed.
Bruton Place is a side street off Berkeley Square. It was evidently
once a mews with shops and boutiques taking the place of stables. UMU
has a discreet entrance that could easily have the virgin visitor
baffled. My advice is to look for an unassuming wooden door and search
for the touch pad on the wall. It will save lots of loitering and
unseemly tapping on restaurant windows. It’s easy when you know.
Once across that discreet threshold one is welcomed into a cosy
restaurant of dark wood and upholstery in muted earth tones. It’s not a
themed restaurant – the receptionist isn’t masquerading as a geisha and
nor are napkins origami-ed into bullet trains. UMU is just solid and
correct. A restaurant for discerning restaurant-goers.
Chef Yoshinori Ishii has had a couple of decades of experience in the
most renowned of Japanese restaurants, not only in his homeland but
also in New York – and that is a city that has long appreciated good
Japanese food. He entered Tsuji culinary school in 1989 and that is
where he first learned the traditions and philosophy of kaiseki.
This most cultivated style of cuisine is a meal that epitomizes
Japanese gastronomic culture. The menu continually changes with the
seasons and availability of the best ingredients. Local produce is
paramount in Japan and Chef Ishii continues that ethos here where
possible. He is an avid angler and has formed alliances with British
fishermen to assure that the fish he receives is of a quality worthy of
both his restaurant and his reputation.
Apart from the celebrated kaiseki menu UMU offers a very
reasonably-priced lunch menu and an à la carte selection of
starters, the ubiquitous sushi, and main courses. But UMU takes pride
in that kaiseki menu with many courses of foods offering an array of
textures and utilising various cooking techniques to present a taste
tapestry that will excite all the senses. One eats with one’s eyes even
before the first bite is taken. Chef Ishii is so appreciative of that
notion that he uses his skills as a ceramicist to provide canvasses for
these edible landscapes. He is a man of many parts. (Interview to
UMU dishes will likely change with each visit, but will never
disappoint. The sashimi will be cool and fresh, the soups clean and
well-balanced. Every dish with be tastefully plated and striking, but I
have my favourite. Kabayaki, charcoal-grilled eel basted with sweet soy
sauce is a simple preparation and should surely be a signature dish.
The service here is attentive yet understated, with staff who are
thankfully well-trained and enthusiastic. The wine and sake list is a
credit to the restaurant, and any sake sipper will want to pick several
of UMU’s selections to savour, in the knowledge that it’s unlikely they
will fall upon them in other London establishments.
I am a fan of sparkling sake and UMU suggests Bijofu Mai Usunigori
Junmai Ginjo, from Kochi Prefecture; my choice for a still sake would
be Kamoizumi Nigori from Hiroshima, a well-priced star. Yes, it’s a
rustic sake but I think it’s a particularly interesting pairing choice.
This is unfiltered and is therefore white-opaque due to the suspended
sediment. That might not sound appealing but it is a
deliciously-flavoured sake with classic aromatic characteristics.
‘Charamisu’ Japanese tiramisu is a charming fusion dessert
that will be a fitting end to a meal that marries Japanese dedication
to perfection and local ingredients that need no apology. Perhaps that
truly does give a nod in the direction of Japan400.
14 - 16 Bruton Place
London W1J 6LX.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7499 8881
Fax: +44 (0)20 7016 5120
Visit UMU here
Visit Japan400 here
It’s a new Italian restaurant but even though the gloss
has not yet worn from the green upholstery I have the sense
that Primo has a bright future.
This is an airy and contemporary restaurant that seats around 70 in the
main area. Yes, OK, so that’s larger than your regular side-street
pasta and pizza eatery but it does still have some of those cherished
characteristics of smaller establishments.
A restaurant isn’t just about the food on the plate. If that was the
case then many people would stay home for dinner. It has to do with
location, staff and ambiance. Primo couldn’t be better placed, having
Leicester Square station just around the corner and fleets of buses and
shoals of taxis (or is that flocks of taxis?) just outside the door on
Shaftesbury Avenue. The staff all seem to be Italian and they know
about the dishes on the menu – a refreshing change from experiences in
some other restaurants. The ambiance mellows with the passage of hours:
there is the expectant buzz of pre-theatre groups but then the intimacy
of later evening when quiet corners can be found in which to enjoy good
conversation along with delicious food.
Primo has only been open a matter of months but it has a menu that is
pure old-school comfort, with the addition of a few fashionable retro
items that will gladden the heart of any right-thinking epicurean who
glows at the prospect of well-loved but now regrettably scarce dishes.
Stracciatella is Roman-style egg-drop soup. The name comes from the
Italian stracciato, "torn", the beaten eggs producing light strands in
the broth. It’s a classic Italian family soup and it’s rare on
restaurant menus in the UK, where rustic dishes are often considered
inappropriate offerings from a professional kitchen.
Carpaccio of Sea Bass, rocket salad, and lemon dressing
was my light starter. It’s a simple preparation but freshness of fish
is key to its success. It’s not a dish to be made long in advance as
the acid from the dressing acts as a cooking agent. Sea bass works
particularly well as it is a mild-flavoured and delicate fish.
Tagliatelle al Ragu makes a hearty starter for cool days or a
traditional main course. A ragu is a slow-cooked and flavourful meat
sauce and is the basis for many celebrated dishes. Here it is served
simply over pasta with a grating of cheese as garnish.
But what of the aforementioned retro dish? Well, it’s Pollo Sorpresa.
That might not sound familiar but think of Chicken Kiev and you, if you
are of a certain age, will recollect the anticipation of gingerly
cutting into a breaded chicken breast stuffed with garlic butter. I
have no idea why this has fallen out of favour. Yes, that’s exactly the
problem: we consider food as fashionable but how can that be? If food
was good last week then it’s good this week. This is one to try, as
many diners attest. It said to be one of the most popular menu items at
Veal Osso Bucco served with creamy saffron risotto has long been an
Italian restaurant classic. It’s a Milanese speciality
of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, wine and stock. The
name is Italian for "bone with a hole", and those bones are evident in
this rich dish of tender meat. Some crusty bread and a glass of house
red made this a perfect late evening dinner on a cold,
Apricot Cake with Ricotta cheese is an individual presentation of
Italian baking. Ricotta cakes in various guises fill pages of many
Italian family cookbooks. It’s not an intricately decorated confection
but more on the lines of a proper pud. Not perhaps in the retro
category but another dish that illustrates the timeless qualities of
good Italian food.
Primo is smart and unfussy. Its menu relies on fresh ingredients
treated with respect rather than being fiddled with. One has the
impression of home cooking rather than of cheffy posing. Chef Claudio
Barchieri trained in Milan before coming to London. His culinary
pedigree is impeccable – he was previously head chef at San Carlo in
Highgate, and Primo now showcases his solid skills to best advantage.
Monday - Saturday: Midday - 11pm
117 Shaftesbury Avenue
Phone: +44 20 7836 8889
Visit Primo here
JW Steakhouse - Grosvenor House
The restaurant is as big as the portions for which it is
famed. JW Steakhouse at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane is
characterful. Those visiting for lunch will appreciate views over sunny
(if one is lucky) Hyde Park. Night brings a city ambiance of passing
headlights and restaurant low-lights.
It’s difficult to make a vast space seem intimate for dinner but the
designers of JW Steakhouse have achieved this by artful use of dark
wood, tiled floors and blackboards that serve both to decorate and
edify. The high ceiling which could have given the space all the charm
of an aircraft hanger has been used to advantage with impressive shaded
lights making quite a decor statement.
JW Steakhouse has the air of an authentic US steakhouse. The
rich-coloured carpentry, bar and well-spaced tables would not be out of
place in Manhattan, although there the ceiling would likely be lower
and clad in zinc. The menu at JW would be appreciated each side of the
Atlantic and beyond: steak as the main feature but lots of classic
American items as supporting cast.
Seafood is prized in the US and their Atlantic and Pacific coasts
provide the best of both fish and shellfish. Maryland Style Lump Crab
Cake was my choice of starter. This is a traditional dish from a region
famed for its crabs. These cakes are remarkable for their texture –
light and flaky and that is due to the amount of pure crab and merciful
lack of the bready filler that creates a much more dense and heavy
patty. This must surely be a signature starter here.
Americans take their beef seriously. It’s not just about quantity
(although JW caters for dedicated eaters) but quality
and in this case that’s provided by US Department of
Agriculture-certified Creekstone Kansas Black Angus Beef. They
specialise at JW Steakhouse in hand-cut selections of prime beef,
grilled to order. The steaks are seared under a 650°C grill
(broiler). I think beef of this quality is best enjoyed rare or medium
We tried one of the smaller cuts and it was striking. The Filet was
cooked to medium rare and was a cliché. You would doubtless have
heard the phrases ‘you could cut it with a spoon’ and ‘as soft as
butter’: well, we conducted a gastronomic experiment and, with very
little effort, cut through this steak with the side of a fork. This
meat needed nothing more than a little sauce (Béarnaise didn’t
mask the natural beef flavour) and a bowl of fries. The adventurous
Brit might also like to try Bourbon Sweet Potato Mash with a
marshmallow crust. This is probably the only spot in London that has
this unique and very sweet side dish.
Vegetarians are not forgotten. I can recommend the JW Chopped Salad
which is a classic preparation of vegetables (in this case a healthy
nine of them), feta cheese for tang, avocado for richness and
then a topping of crispy fried onions, all dressed with a citrus
Another pure vegetarian choice would be Butternut Squash Gnocchi filled
with porcini mushrooms, chicory and toasted hazelnuts. Fish lovers
could order Crispy Skinned Scottish Salmon, Seared Tuna Steak au
Poivre, or Grilled Jumbo Shrimps in garlic butter, which are bound to
So it’s dessert time, although if you ordered those marshmallowy sweet
potatoes you might feel you have eaten dessert with the steak. There is
the ubiquitous Warm Apple Pie but there are some other more adventurous
yet truly American options such as Whoopie Pies with Bailey's Milk
Shake, or Pecan Pie with Honey Bourbon Ice Cream, but a hotel staff
member had mentioned, with a glint in his eye, that we should try the
It’s proclaimed on one of those aforementioned blackboards as ‘The best
Cheesecake this side of the Pond’. If you investigate still further
then you will have the sense that this might be on the large side: ‘You
may not want to share but you should’ gives you the lie of the culinary
land – or just consider it as a warning.
We ordered just one portion of cheesecake which is in
fact one cheesecake. Yes, a whole individual biscuit-crumb-based
cheesecake that was too big for any individual of my acquaintance. This
could serve 4 and those diners wouldn’t feel short-changed. You’ll be
grateful when your waiter asks ‘Want a box for that?’
At the end of the evening you will realise that those well-spaced
tables are not just a design feature but a consideration for diners’
comfort. Those folks will want to push chairs back and bless elastic
waistbands, and consider that booking a room for a doze at Grosvenor
House Hotel might have been a good idea.
Grosvenor House Hotel
JW Steakhouse London
86 Park Lane
London W1K 7TL
This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful hotels
in London, a city that has some of the most beautiful hotels in
the world. It’s a boutique hotel set in a Victorian townhouse but its
red brick and ornate stonework make this a jewel in an already
glittering city crown.
St James’s Hotel and Club has a superb location: just yards from
St.James’s Palace, Mayfair and Green Park it has an enviable plot at
the end of a cul-de-sac, which offers both convenience and quiet. Rare
The original club was at another location and was established by the
Earl Granville and Marchese d’Azeglio, a Sardinian Minister, After an
altercation at the Travellers Club they decided to found a competing
club for travelling diplomats and in April 1859 Francis Cavendish sent
invitations from the Foreign Office to every British Embassy and
legation in order to recruit the first members for the St James’s Club.
From the start the club attracted the great and the good (and some not
so good). They came from the nobility and included Lord Randolph
Churchill (Winston’s dad), writers such as Charles Dickens (who
documented lives of Londoners who could never have become members), and
Arthur Sullivan, the composer (partner of W. S. Gilbert), was also a
member. All those wanting to join had to be elected but those
working in the British diplomatic service and the Foreign Office were
usually admitted with no questions asked. The subscription was eleven
guineas and the entrance fee twenty-five guineas (a guinea was £1
and 1 shilling) which was a considerable sum.
During the early 70s financial difficulties resulted in
the closure of the
James’s Club which reopened at its present location thanks to Peter
de Savary. He is a celebrated international businessman who has a wide
repertoire of interests. He has been involved in the petroleum
industry, shipping, property, import/export and of course clubs and
This present building at 7-8 Park Place was originally built in 1892 as
apartments for Gentlemen. The façade is imposing and the
uniformed doorman confirms your assumption of formality, although this
hotel isn’t at all stiff, starchy or formal. It’s become a spot
renowned for good food and good times, laced with a sparkling array of
St James’s Hotel and Club was recently refurbished by the famous German
designer Anne Maria Jagdfeld and is now a contemporary space that
retains the comfortable and intimate aspects of a club – that’s a
private club, not a nightclub. There are hundreds of paintings
illustrating Expressionist and Cubist work from all over Europe. They
add to the smart-casual air of a hotel that ‘does it well’.
Multi-award winning chef William Drabble has a coveted Michelin star so
I knew that an afternoon tea here would be well-executed and delicious.
I wasn’t disappointed. It has a traditional format and an amazing
price. It was served in an area sporting many of the aforementioned
paintings, and was a copious and delicious introduction to the style of
this polished yet accessible hotel.
There were the usual selection of sandwiches and they were the expected
savoury start to the mound of baked goods that not only filled the
3-tier stand but occupied the table alongside as well. There rested the
scones and they were remarkable in every regard. They had a classic
flaky texture, buttery flavour and were generously proportioned. A couple
these irresistible homemade scones served with clotted cream and
homemade strawberry jam would render the rest of the top tier redundant
to all but the most dedicated grazer.
I know it’s all a matter of taste but I think the
here are the most appropriate of any London Tea I have
recently enjoyed. Yes, I still say ‘enjoy’ as those others have been
excellent, imaginative and beautiful, but the pastries are often
elaborate confections that would not seem out of place in Paris or
Milan. I want a top tier that gives a nod to Victorian drawing rooms,
and some nice fruit cake. The pastries here were familiar in miniature
form and all that I would have wanted to complete this charming event.
St James’s Hotel and Club also offers a very popular Gluten-Free
Afternoon Tea: Selection of sandwiches on gluten-free bread; homemade
gluten-free scones served with clotted cream and homemade strawberry
jam; gluten-free pastries: macaroon with raspberries, almond and
chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake, Financier with seasonal berries,
chocolate mousse cake, apple and almond cake.
£19.00 per person
Both menus are seasonal and subject to change. The gluten-free
afternoon tea is available every day and must be booked in advance;
this can be done on the same day but before 12 noon.
For reservations please call +44 20 7316 1615 or e-mail
St James’s Hotel and Club
7-8 Park Place
London SW1A 1LS
Phone: +44 20 7316 1615
London! What do we think of? Historic continuity,
elegance, refinement – and tea. So much of what visitors seek in this
capital city includes one or several of these qualities, and there are
a few places that will enable tourist and local alike to enjoy all of
them. Fortnum & Mason is just such an establishment.
Just as Elvis Presley was affectionately known as ‘Elvis’,
Diana will always be ‘Diana’, and the Singer Formally Known as
Prince is still ‘Prince’, so ‘Fortnum’s’ will only ever be associated
with Fortnum & Mason. It’s been around long enough to enjoy its own
The story of this magnificent shop is illuminating. That is to say it
started with candles. William Fortnum was a footman in the Royal Palace
of Queen Anne and moonlighted as a grocer. He earned a little extra
money by selling the Queen’s candle stubs to the ladies of the Queen’s
retinue. He persuaded Hugh Mason, his landlord at the time, that here
could be a new business and so in 1707 Fortnum & Mason opened its
doors for the first time.
In 1761, William Fortnum's grandson Charles revived the palace
connection when he went into the service of Queen Charlotte, and that
association did the business no harm at all. The store flourished and
attracted the very best class of shopper and has held Royal Warrants
for the past 150 years. It’s now a ‘department store’ but its core
business remains food.
For over 300 years Fortnum & Mason has been a
purveyor of quality loose teas, and in 1926 the store added a
restaurant that offered afternoon tea as well, and this tradition has
remained. In 2012 the refurbished St James’s Restaurant was
opened by HM the Queen and renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
Fortnum & Mason offers a collection of afternoon teas to
accommodate every taste and appetite. Each one is copious and, as one
would expect, beautifully presented. One can take advantage of a tea
tasting while considering which tea to settle upon for one’s event, for
taking tea here is indeed an event. There will be four teas to try and
they will be brewed and served as if you were a professional taster.
Leaves are first steeped and brewed in white beakers, and then strained
when the tea has infused sufficiently to give the drinker the optimum
benefit of colour, aroma and flavour.
Chose your tea and your preferred sweets and savouries,
and relax in this striking salon. The tables are well-spaced,
linen crisp, the cutlery gleaming. This was everything this
reviewer had hoped, wanted, expected from Fortnum’s. The décor
is classic with hints of light Regency creams and
greens, and a scattering of iconic black and white photographs
including a striking profile of Audrey Hepburn.
Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea is available from 12 noon and includes the
expected finger sandwiches of cucumber but with the addition of mint
butter, Coronation Chicken (which was appropriate for the setting),
Ploughman’s (cheese), Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, and
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter.
Fortnum’s scones are rumoured to be made with strong flour, which is
generally what one would use when making bread. Well the departure is
inspired, as these scones were light and fluffy and well-flavoured.
They were served with generous pots of Somerset Clotted Cream and
Fortnum & Mason Preserves.
The top tier of the traditional 3-plate stand held the individual cakes
and patisseries and these showed the skill and the artistic flair of
the pastry chef. They are airy fancies and perfectly formed but the
purist will be eager to inspect the sweet bounty of the Coronation Cake
Carriage. This offers the visitor a slice of Victoriana, as a cake to
cut was always part of the afternoon spread enjoyed in front of a
blazing fire with ladies in crinolines and men in moustaches. There
will probably be a Bakewell tart, a chocolate cake and several other
typically English confections. Have a glance at this display when you
arrive: it’s a good idea to pace oneself!
Those of us with a less-than-sweet tooth are not forgotten at
Fortnum’s. I can highly recommend the Savoury Afternoon Tea with
Fortnum’s Savoury Scones of Ham and Cheese accompanied by an English
Mustard Butter which was outstanding: saffron-coloured with real adult
The top tier, that more usually contains the éclairs and
miniature sweet pastries, now displayed Smoked Salmon Blini with
Cucumber and Herb Dressing, and Mushroom and Chicken Pie with Tarragon.
This was an individual single-crust creation of delicate pastry and
moreish filling. A triumph!
Rosary Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot, and
Millefeuille of Tomato with Black Olive, Mascarpone and
Marinated White Anchovy all looked too good to eat but I was glad I
made the effort. The combinations of taste, texture and imagination
made this savoury tea a memorable meal, for that is indeed what
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason offers.
London is blessed with many good venues for afternoon tea, which is
enjoying something of a revival. Fortnum & Mason presents one of
the most thoughtfully constructed menus in a salon that, although newly
refurbished, is bound to retain regular visitors and attract more.
Tea Salon Savouries & English Afternoon Tea
Monday to Saturday 12 noon to 9pm.
Sunday 12noon to 8pm.
Bank Holidays: The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is open as usual.
Reservations: For weekdays 1 week in advance is recommended and for
Saturdays, 6 weeks are advised to ensure availability.
To reserve a table please contact our Reservations Team on 0845 602
5694 between 9am and 6pm Monday to Saturday
Fortnum & Mason plc
Phone: 0845 300 1707
FAX: 020 7437 3278
Visit Fortnum and Mason here
Clockjack Oven for
A roasting jack was a machine popular in Tudor times. It
was a mechanism for rotating meat on a skewer or spit.
Often it was a kitchen menial who had the sweaty job of slowly turning
the meat in front of a roaring fire, and sometimes it was even a dog on
a treadmill that kept the joints turning. A Clockjack was a rotisserie
powered by falling weights or springs just as one would find in a
Grandfather clock. They were commonly called Spit Engines in Europe but
Clock Jack was the name in North America.
We have all seen rotisseries in markets in France. We buy those
succulent and well-flavoured chickens that have enticed with their
savoury aroma all the way from the car park. We pronounce that ‘we
can’t do it like that in London’ and on our return we wax lyrical to a
drooling audience about the flavour and the texture of ‘chicken like it
used to be’.
But here is that same old-fashioned quality in a thoroughly
contemporary setting. There is no need for that trip across La Manche,
as free-range chickens from Brittany are bronzing in the heart of the
capital. You won’t be negotiating a path through flocks of French
ladies with baskets of artichokes (no, I don’t know what they do with
them, either), nor mapping a route past stalls selling big knickers and
‘designer’ watches for 3 Euros. Clockjack Oven is conveniently situated
much nearer home for easy access by red bus, black cab or Underground.
It’s only been open a few months but it’s celebrated by critic and
regular diner alike and it’s easy to see why. Clockjack
Oven is tasteful in every regard. Plenty of light wood (the colour of
one of their splendid birds about ¾ of the way to being cooked),
attentive and vivacious staff, and then there is the food – and that’s
the element that will assure the restaurant’s continued success.
One can sit at the ‘bar’ which in reality can be considered as ‘chef’s
table’ as it’s right in front of the vertical rotisseries, or one can
sit at conventional benches or raised banquettes and stools. It’s an
attractive and light space and thankfully the management have not been
tempted to go with the rustic look with faux chimney, copper pots and a
taxidermised rooster. The only stuffing will be on the plate.
The menu isn’t extensive as Clockjack Oven is remaining faithful to its
signature ingredient, with a few other items for vegetarians. Chicken
is simply showcased here. The main dishes offer well-seasoned flavour
from the skin, and both white and dark meats are moist with equally
We ordered Crispy Chicken Bites to nibble while considering the rest of
the menu. These morsels are marinated in buttermilk, coated in
seasoned gram flour (chickpea flour) and they are as far from a
‘nugget’ as you would want them to be. This is food worth fighting for.
Yes, OK, so it’s fried but one isn’t eating Bites every day, the
chicken is free-range and, cooked at the right temperature, isn’t oily.
We enjoyed these with the house sauces and in particular Chilli for
some spice and tangy Caesar.
The birds are marinated in a ‘secret recipe’.
They are then cooked and jointed and offered in various sized servings
- 3 Pieces (peckish), 4 Pieces (hungry), Whole (10 pieces to share). My
guest ordered the hungry portion along with some double-cooked chips
and house coleslaw, and that constituted a delightful lunch.
Perhaps ridden by misplaced guilt over those Crispy Chicken Bites I
ordered the Chicken House Salad. This was a substantial bowlful of
crunchy romaine lettuce with slices of green apples and much more
chicken than I had expected. The crispy sage and onion balls added an
almost festive note on this wintery day. This wasn’t the ‘I’m not a big
eater so I’ll just have the salad’ class of dish. The Clockjack Oven
Chicken Salad is a meal!
You will pace yourself if you want to make it through to dessert here.
Granted it’s not a huge sweet selection but Lemon Tart with clotted
cream ice cream will make a perfect end to your substantial repast. The
ice cream is outstanding, rich with the flavour of childhood holidays
in Devon. It’s déjà vu all over again at Clockjack Oven.
14 Denman Street
London W1D 7HJ
One could easily miss Naga and that would be a shame. It’s
tucked down a side road off Kensington High Street and its entrance
doesn’t give much of a clue to the style of restaurant within; but it’s
a bijou revelation.
The bar is at the front and at street level but the business-end of
this restaurant is at the back and up …and down. This is a contemporary
and airy split-level conservatory with an ambiance that changes as the
sun (yes, I had to look that word up) sets. There are some tables on
the top deck and the floor of that provides the ceiling for one side of
the restaurant below. It’s intimate and cosy under there, with a
striking red wall decorated with calligraphy. A red parasol is the only
other design nod in an Easterly direction. Yes, Naga is a pan-Asian
restaurant but it introduces its diners to that continent via its
outstanding cuisine rather than flights of dragons. The ladies waiting
on table are traditionally dressed in cheongsams and that is much more
attractive than the ubiquitous black and white.
The character here is provided just as much by co-owner Tri Van Dang as
by the menu. He is fun, animated, friendly and dedicated. He isn’t a
chef but is passionate about the food served here. He will assure that
your evening is deliciously entertaining, and it’s obviously
appreciated as I noted several diners who were evidently regulars, and
that fact is an accolade for a relatively new restaurant. Naga was
doing very well on a freezing winter (spring is missing this year)
Owners Eddy Lim, celebrated
restaurateur with thirty years experience and Tri
along with chef Syarief (awarded
Best Pan Asian Chef 2011) have impeccable credentials for running a pan-Asian
restaurant. Tri is from Vietnam and Fachri Syarief is from Indonesia. I
think the secret to their success is not only the skill
of preparation but also the choice of dishes. Yes, Asian (with a few
fusion notes), but they offer harmonious culinary
insights into recipes using similar spice palettes. One can order an
array of starters, salads, meats and fish, and nothing will overpower.
All dishes are cooked to order so they are fresh and vibrant.
Silken Tofu with Ginger Dressing was light, indeed silken and
beautifully presented. A mild-tasting starter that will be sought by
both vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Crisp Chilli Salt Squid and Garlic French Beans are grazing dishes to
enjoy with a glass of fizz while considering the
rest of the menu. Once again the presentation was first-class.
Duck and Watermelon Salad was outstanding and a must-try:
plenty of meaty shreds on a herby salad; the fruit was
cooling and sweet.
Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Crackling and Asian Mash is
a tempting dish, and your reward for ordering it will likely be
delicious addiction. It’s everything one would want from a traditional
pork roast – moist, flavourful meat and that band of crunchy crackling.
Black cod is always good but I could never understand the extreme
popularity - pleasant but not exciting. However, Naga Black Cod is the
best I have tried and now I can see the attraction. This dish was,
well, attractive and had lots of flavour. It flaked into glistening
saffron-coloured drifts that were aromatic and tender.
Asia isn’t famed for its desserts but if you have room
then I would suggest you try anything flavoured with pandan here. We
tasted the crème brulée topped with an emerald layer of
distinctly-flavoured pandan. For those who have visited
Singapore or Malaysia it will instantly revive memories. Linger over
this with a cup of jasmine tea and be transported far from High Street
I had not been keen on pan-Asian restaurants in the past but Naga has a
carefully chosen menu. The dishes all work, in
combination and alone. Strong Indian curries would not be appropriate
here but Naga’s subtle palette with sparks of chilli and garlic create
a delightful melange.
Tue - Sat: 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch
Mon - Sat: 6.30pm to 12.30am for dinner
(Last orders 11pm)
Sun: 12.30pm to 3pm for lunch, 6pm to 10pm for dinner
(Last orders 9:30pm)
Putney has been a bit of a culinary wasteland, with a
couple of exceptions – Ma Goa for Indian, for instance. But now it has
a restaurant and speakeasy for late-night revellers, as well as those
looking for lunch outside the office or for a break from shopping.
Now I had reservations about making a reservation. The name ‘House of
Roxy’ conjures a vision of a seedy spot filled with slot machines,
perhaps with a corner marked ‘Adults Only’. I knew about the speakeasy
and that, I felt sure, would have a solid graffiti-garnished door
partnered with a big bouncer with cauliflower-ear and intermittent
teeth. The reality, I found to my relief, was a lot different.
Perhaps I should qualify ‘a lot different’. The graffiti was there but
it was bespoke, classy and striking. Nobody seems sure how House of
Roxy got its name – although it’s said perhaps to be from the Roxy
Theatre in California – but it’s a nice romantic notion to believe that
the painted lady on the wall might be Roxy, and she welcomes diners
to the ground-floor restaurant as well as cocktail-sippers to the
The menu here isn’t long but there are plenty of hot lunch choices and
a well-crafted tapas selection during the evening. Yes, they do larger
plates as well but the small dishes have, it seems, caught the
imagination of the evening clientele. The House of Roxy has only been
open a few months but a freezing Tuesday didn’t put off diners, who
filled the restaurant to near-capacity from 7.30 onwards.
There are some stars on this menu, simple dishes that take advantage of
yes, that cauliflower puts in an appearance but in the form of a
purée rather than ears. Pan-fried scallops served with
cauliflower purée and a sun-blushed tomato vinaigrette. That
shellfish was delicately treated and just introduced to the hotplate
rather than taking up residence above the flames.
Grilled lamb cutlets with aioli and rocket salad were a delight – moist
and simply seasoned and as tender as I have had in any restaurant.
Grilled asparagus with parmesan shavings is a classic. The
spears sported grill marks and that filled me with dread. So often
asparagus is tough and fibrous when cooked on the barbecue, but Roxy
has employed a deft chef called Angelo Ottis. Those spears were almost
buttery in texture, not watery or over-cooked.
The House of Roxy is relatively new and I am sure that
their reputation will grow as will their menu. A conveniently located
spot for an evening with friends, a few drinks and some light bites.
Monday - Thursday 12 noon till midnight
Friday: 12 noon till 02:30am
Saturday: 5pm till 02:30am
House of Roxy
141 Upper Richmond Road
London SW15 2TX
Phone: 020 8785 9203
Kaiseki Yoshiyuki - Singapore
Ignatius Chan is unique, a quiet and gentle man who is sparked into
animation when talking about food and drink. He is celebrated and
respected in Asia but not as a chef: he is Asia’s sommelier.
Singapore is considered by many (this writer included) as one of the
finest of food capitals, not just in Asia but the whole world. Ignatius
has contributed to that reputation with his eponymous restaurant
‘Iggy’s’. It’s high-end, polished, with outstanding dishes, and
unsurprisingly a striking wine list. Its location in the Hilton makes
this eminently accessible to international visitors and locals alike.
But Ignatius has other culinary ventures and Kaiseki Yoshiyuki exudes
the same quality as ‘Iggy’s’ but it’s discreetly tucked away in the
basement of a shopping mall next to the Hilton, on Orchard Road. One
might not find this by accident but it’s worth seeking out. The
entrance is unobtrusive with just
a grey and white banner covering the door and a light-box displaying
the restaurant name in flowing calligraphy.
Kaiseki is a style of Japanese cuisine. With many courses that
represent both simplicity and complexity, it is becoming
more popular outside Japan with those who are looking for the very
essence of classic Japanese food preparation and
Kaiseki is still to be found in ryokan (traditional inns)
in Japan, but it is also served in small restaurants, as it would
be impossible to produce such refined dishes for large numbers. Kyoto
is well known as the home of Kaiseki and outside Japan these
restaurants are sometimes called Kyoto Kaiseki restaurants.
Kaiseki’s origins can be traced back to traditions of elaborate
feasting at the imperial court and the formalised Japanese tea
ceremony, along with the customs of Zen monks of the 17th century. The
dishes are characterised by not only their elaborate presentation but
the use of seasonal ingredients. The meal should be a homage to taste,
texture and visual appeal.
Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates and trays that are
chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonality of the fresh
ingredients. Dishes are thoughtfully placed and garnished with
vegetables sometimes carved to represent plants, birds or animals.
Kaiseki meals have a traditional order of serving with consideration of
cooking techniques, but an experienced chef will
introduce or admit dishes to help emphasise the theme of the meal. It’s
the highest form of culinary artistry, and chef
Yoshiyuki wields his knife to form epicurean tableaux.
Ignatius Chan and two partners opened this US$1.6m restaurant which is
named after its head chef, Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, who has impeccable
culinary credentials. He spent seven years as the personal chef to the Japanese
ambassadors in San Francisco and Singapore. Chef Yoshiyuki honed his
Kaiseki skills at the respected Kyoryori Hosoi in Tokyo, where he
joined as a trainee and eventually headed the kitchen team. Yoshiyuki
now has his own venue to showcase the very best of Kaiseki cuisine.
This restaurant is instantly recognisable as part of the Chan empire.
Its design is thoughtful, inspired and a perfect vehicle for this
talented chef. There are no overt trappings of Japan but it contrives
to exude that distinct minimalist charm in contemporary fashion.
Shelves of tactile wooden book spines, and cases of illuminated
origami show imagination and flair but the décor doesn’t
overshadow the food. Nothing here offends the senses.
A meal at Kaiseki Yoshiyuki is memorable. The presentation is classic
with each of the many courses being offered to the guest as a complete
set on their personal tray. Every dish is beautiful, light and
delicious, and there are even elements of culinary whimsy. Yes, the
impression is of timeless formality, but enjoy the food and the event.
This is as far from one’s usual fast sushi outlet as one could imagine.
Sit at the counter and savour the ambiance.
Iggy Chan never disappoints. Kaiseki Yoshiyuki is a credit to both
Ignatius and this worthy chef who takes advantage of Singapore’s access
to the best ingredients from across the globe. This must surely be on
the must-visit restaurant list of any local or tourist.
Monday - Friday
12:00 noon - 1:30 pm for lunch
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm for dinner
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm for dinner
Forum the Shopping Mall
583 Orchard Road,
For years it was referred to as Mei Ren Wu (Mei Ren Wo) or
“den of beauties” in Chinese, as many rich men housed their mistresses
in this rather stylish 1930’s estate.
This is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore. It was the
first project undertaken by the Singapore Improvement Trust and is made
up of about 30 apartment blocks containing 900 or so flats of various
sizes; but it’s the architecture that is noteworthy.
The buildings have Streamline Moderne curves and local Straits
Settlements shop-house characteristics. The overall effect is
attractive, iconic and in harmony with the tropics. The construction
was very much in keeping with the favoured Deco design of those pre-war
Tiong Bahru Market, built in 1955, was the first modern
market for hawkers built in a housing area. The neighbourhood
has become celebrated for its food sellers: it is
rumoured to have some of the finest hawker stalls in Singapore. The
competition is fierce, and to be so well respected is an achievement.
Ex-pats and monied locals have been rediscovering this unique
neighbourhood which is now revitalised with smart boutiques and the
very French Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier, which maintains
that eclectic thread.
Gontran Cherrier is himself French and looks every inch the part, with
designer-ruffled hair and Gallic good looks. His pastries are equally
as tempting and cover the whole spectrum of baked goods that one would
expect to find on the streets of Paris, but with a few Asian twists to
remind us where we are.
The window display looks authentically French and the selection of
coffees on offer would do credit to even the most popular tax-avoiding
Western coffee-shop chain. One can sip a refreshing tea and nibble a
flaky fruit tart or
linger over a latte partnered by a Pandan Croissant. This is Singapore,
so take advantage of some sweet Asian innovation.
There is seating both inside and out but this is a popular spot so be
prepared to wait. Take your time and seek out a little something
different. Join the sophisticated regulars and enjoy what is bound to
become a Tiong Bahru institution.
Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier
56 Eng Hoon Street
Phone: +65 6220 3430
8am - 8pm
Closed on Tues
Raffles Hotel - Raffles
Courtyard for a taste of Italy
Tell anyone that you have just returned from Singapore and
the question on their lips is bound to be ‘Did you visit Raffles?’ They
don’t have to dignify that name with any appendage: everyone knows that
there is only one Raffles and that’s the hotel.
One walks down Beach Road and there is only one thing missing. The
beach. First opened in 1887 Raffles Hotel did indeed have a sea view
but years of much-needed local land reclamation has left this iconic
hotel around 500 metres from the sea.
It doesn’t need to have its name prominently displayed for one to
notice Raffles. It’s gleaming, ornate, imposing and there is that very
human and charming trademark – the Sikh doorman, who does command
respect even from the hotel’s well-heeled guests.
The hotel was established by two Armenian brothers
from Persia and it was remarkable, in those days, for accepting guests
of all races. Singapore was occupied by the Japanese during the Second
World War, and at the end of the conflict the hotel was used as a
transit camp for prisoners of war. In 1987 the Singapore government
declared the hotel a National Monument.
Raffles has been around long enough to have legend embroidered into its
very fabric. It’s reputedly where the last surviving wild tiger in
Singapore was shot, under the billiard table. In fact the probable
truth is that the tiger had escaped from a nearby circus and the poor
unfortunate was dispatched under the building that housed the billiard
table. That was back in 1902.
Another call to fame from this most iconic of Singapore institutions is
a much less violent event. That’s the invention of the Singapore Sling.
This cocktail was devised by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and
1915 and has remained a favourite ever since.
There are fifteen restaurants and bars at Raffles and all of them have
their own personalities and histories. The latest is
Raffles Courtyard and it provides an al fresco venue for casual Italian
meals at a very reasonable price. Tourists will be surprised to learn
that they can afford a meal at Raffles and enjoy at least some of what
the hotel guests are offered.
The Courtyard is beautifully appointed and gleams with
tropical, colonialesque style. Mediterranean cuisine doesn’t seem
incongruous served here. One has the sense that this could be Cannes on
a fine day, although the service is guaranteed to be better here. There
is plenty that gives a nod to traditional Singapore, though. The
tropical palms and exotic plants add their own Asian ambiance, but that
ice cream vendor’s cart and the brick oven raise expectations of a very
Italian bill of fare.
The Courtyard opened on 14th January 2013. The Italian specialities
have been created by Deputy Executive Chef Nicola Canuti. He has a
creditable culinary pedigree having been Executive Chef at
Restaurant L'Albero in Moscow. I am betting he prefers the
weather in Singapore. Before that he could be found as Executive Chef
for Alain Ducasse Group at the Dorchester London and other locations.
Visitors can choose to have a light lunch and an hour or two’s quiet
during the heat of the day, or a leisurely dinner in the evening when
the Courtyard beckons those who want a memorable experience that won’t
break the bank.
The menu offers light and leafy salads, freshly made
pizzas from that aforementioned brick oven as well as classic pastas.
The dishes are authentic, delicious and create a perfect marriage of
European culinary heritage with that charming Raffles
architecture. This isn’t fusion but rather comfortable companionship.
My favourites from this Italian extravaganza are many.
The salads are well-balanced, the pasta sauces are rich and moreish,
and the pizzas are as good as you will find anywhere (including
Italy). It isn’t food to hurry but rather linger over with an
amphora (yes, they serve wine in terracotta jugs) of good red wine. Do
as the Italians do and people-watch, consider the day’s adventures, and
perhaps sample another pizza.
The must-try dishes at The Courtyard are:
Carpaccio di Carne Con Rucola e Parmigiano (beef carpaccio served with
rocket salad and Parmesan). Freshness is the key with this dish.
The beef was tender, the leaves were peppery and the cheese gave that
distinctive salty tang.
Vitello Tonnato (thin slices of loin of veal with a tuna sauce and
capers). This might sound an unlikely combination of ingredients but
they all work together marvellously in this classic preparation. The
sweetness of the meat finds a counterpoint in the fish.
All the pizzas here are light, crisp and traditional. A simple Pizza
Margherita would be delightful with perhaps a chilled prosecco but the
signature pizza must surely be Pescatore made with fresh tomatoes,
clams, shrimps, calamari with a sprinkling of vibrant green parsley.
This is a pizza for adults with discerning palates and it’s a million
miles away from anything you would have encountered at home …unless you
hail from Italy.
Pasta will be high on many an Italian dinner wish-list and The
Courtyard won’t disappoint. Linguini Con Pesto (linguini garnished with
basil pesto) is a summery plateful and this deserves a rustic red wine
alongside, but the star of the pasta selection must surely be Spaghetti
Con Vongole Zucchini E Botarga (spaghetti with clams, courgette and
botarga). Yes, I am suggesting seafood again because it is
famously good here in Singapore. The sweet clams are marvellously
complemented by the remarkable flavour of the cured fish roe. Just a
little grating of this transforms any seafood dish.
Save some space for the frozen desserts. The menu is short but none the
worse for that. These are artisanal ices that have remarkable flavour.
The sorbets in particular are outstanding. Try Sorbetto Alla Fragola
(strawberry sorbet) or Sorbetto Alla Pera (pear sorbet) for the
refreshing taste of real fruit.
The Courtyard at Raffles Hotel has something deliciously Italian for
every taste. All the dishes are reasonably priced so a meal at Raffles
is accessible to everybody.
Raffles Courtyard is open daily from 12 noon to 10pm.
Gazebo Bar Cocktails: 11:00am to 10:30pm
For reservations, contact Dining Reservations at +65 6412 1816 or email
with Executive Chef Massimo
Pasquarelli and Executive Pastry Chef Terence Pang
The Ritz-Carlton Singapore is one of my favourite comfort
destinations. It’s a delight
to stay there but also to visit and enjoy on Sundays when work is over,
or when one needs a civilised sit-down garnished with stunningly
delicious food. They are famed for their Sunday Brunch, which must be
on every traveller’s Bucket List, but they also present a seasonal
Sunday Afternoon Tea.
Spring Weekends Afternoon Tea is held in the striking Chihuly Lounge
(named after the artist whose impressive glass sculpture graces the
wall), and those seasonal teatimes are destined to become as famed as
the aforementioned copious brunch. The Ritz-Carlton does whatever it
does well, with flair, innovation and good taste.
Executive Chef Massimo Pasquarelli works with talented Executive Pastry
Chef Terence Pang to present this Cheese-themed Tea. That might conjure
images of a menu comprising a hefty selection of cheese sandwiches,
cheddar as main ingredient for cheese on toast, an individual macaroni
cheese, and perhaps a traditional cheesecake
to follow. Yes, it’s difficult to see how cheese can be incorporated
into sweet confections in any quantity. But I was expecting something
special – this is The Ritz-Carlton, after all.
This menu is evidently a melding of mind and skill. Both Chef Terence
and Chef Massimo have respect for ingredients, and an afternoon tea
allows them to show those foods to delicious advantage, introducing a
little culinary whimsy to the proceedings. They have devised thirteen
desserts that contain cheeses, such as Baked Vanilla Camembert Cheese
Cake, Cheddar Raisin Scones, Citrus Cream Cheese Rolls (tangy and
fruity and unmissable), and Coffee and Soft Guanaja Mascarpone Cheese
Cream (guanaja gives the final product a more intense chocolate
But one does need savoury to act as a warm-up for those memorable
lactic sweets, and there were plenty of canapés on offer, all of
them laced with Chef Terence Pang’s evident Asian influence. Cucumber
and Cream Cheese Sandwiches started that cheesy homage, but there was
plenty more on those non-dessert tables: Beef Pastrami with Pickled
Gherkin in a Mini Croissant; Salmon Confit with XO Sauce and Salmon Roe
was a triumph; and Scallop Sushi topped with Japanese Mayonnaise and
Tobiko was luxurious. That shellfish made a second appearance with
Steamed Scallop Siew Mai. These and a host of other ‘starters’ would
have been sufficient to fill even the most practised of post-meridian
grazers but we had strolled by those desserts at the entrance and it
would have been rude not to try a few.
I asked Chef Massimo how he devised the theme for this unique Spring
Afternoon Tea. ‘We change the theme four times a year, which follow the
seasons. For Spring, it was based on the life of the cow, sheep and
goat. In the Winter the animals stay indoors and are fed on just dry
grass. In the Spring they are let out and they start to eat fresh grass
again. I have a childhood memory of the first 15 days of March when the
flavour of the milk was
totally different. I remember two desserts: one was bread with sugar,
and the second was milk – my grandmother collected the milk in a
cast-iron pan and scooped the mousse from the top, and added sugar.’
Cheese is a traditionally European ingredient: how does Massimo
reconcile that with working with such a talented Asian pastry chef as
‘We started work on the menu in November. Terence is someone who is
very passionate and it’s been very easy to get ideas together. Before
we are able to offer this menu to the guests we need to have it clear
in our own minds. If we see that there is excitement about the theme
then it means that it makes sense.’
At the Ritz-Carlton Singapore the Sunday Brunch and the Tea have an
Asian accent. I wondered if that was a difficult step for this very
European chef. ‘I went back to basics. At the end of the day it’s all
about passion, whether the chef is French or Chinese, and even if he
doesn’t speak English, you can see it in his eyes, you can see how much
of himself he puts into his food. That’s how I got into Chinese cuisine
– I followed those Chinese master chefs, looked at their benchmarks,
and came back to the kitchen to see how we could
improve what we were doing here.’
Having planned this Spring Afternoon Tea late last year, Massimo and
Terence must now be planning the next season’s theme. ‘Yes, first of
all we have to define Summer, and come up with a new concept. After the
Cheese theme, the next one I want to present is a sunny Summer
landscape, perhaps with a corner of blue sky ...something with coconut,
maybe. Every quarter I want to come up with something different, with
the theme coming first and then the recipes.’
These two executive chefs have formed an enviable culinary partnership.
They creatively and comfortably straddle both Europe and Asia in a
fashion that transcends that rather hackneyed description ‘fusion’.
They combine the best of ingredients from across the globe and offer
their guests plates of extraordinary culinary artistry and imagination,
and the results are harmonious and memorable. Their handiwork is almost
too delightful to eat. Almost.
This cheese-themed Spring Weekend Afternoon Tea can be
enjoyed between 2.30pm and 5pm on Saturdays and
Sundays from 2 March to 26 May
Priced at $52 for adults
and $26 for children (six to twelve years).
Indian food in any country other than India would not seem
the natural choice for the food-passionate traveller, but good food
should never be overlooked and there is no reason to introduce
geographic dining prejudice into one’s Singapore eating extravaganza.
It’s a city-state famed for its quality and variety of food. It has a
neighbourhood called Little India and it does indeed seem an authentic,
vibrant and colourful corner of the transplanted sub-continent. But the
local demand for authentic and good-quality restaurants seems to have
stopped, with a few exceptions, just short of Little India. One can
find surprising culinary gems but on the whole the eateries lack polish.
Chef Javed Ahamad had invited me to his restaurant, Punjab Grill by
Jiggs Kalra, and I was expecting something special. The clue was in the
address, a million culinary miles away from Little India. Marina Bay
Sands only houses creditable food outlets and the smartest of fine
dining restaurants, and Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra counts itself in
Those outside India might not be familiar with the name Jiggs Kalra,
but anyone with a love for Indian food and cookbooks will know this
man, who has built a formidable reputation in the Indian food industry,
from writing to presenting his own eponymous small chain of Punjab
Grills across India. The Singapore branch is the first outside India,
and was an inspired choice of location.
These days son Zorawar Kalra, Founder and C.E.O of Punjab Grill, and
business partner and Chairman of LiteBite Foods, Amit Burman, oversee
the workings of the chain, and Chef Javed is the man at the sharp end
of the Singapore branch. His dedication to presenting fine dishes is
evident. He glows with both pride and enthusiasm for this smart
restaurant which does itself glow with thousands of soft lights in a
kind of man-made firmament.
Diners are welcomed by tastefully-costumed waiting staff and seated at
well-spaced tables. There is a view onto the kitchen and into the
well-stocked wine rack. Yes, the myth has finally been dispelled that
one can only drink cold beer with Indian food. The menu arrives and it
offers many dishes that have made Indian food so popular with many of
us in Europe.
Punjab Grill has taken the rich and almost addictive flavours of
Northern India and presented them in a refined restaurant.
tandoor-grilled dishes are an absolute triumph with the salmon
being possibly the best you will find anywhere. One would think that’s
a simple preparation but the skill is in the delicate touch of the
tandoor chef. Every second counts, and too many of those can render a
moist piece of fish a dry and tasteless travesty.
The grilled lamb chops were another highlight among many. How often has
one heard the phrase ‘falls off the bone’ and it always
sounds like a poetic exaggeration, but the meat was truly melting,
well-seasoned and memorable.
Try the Patiala Shahi Machchi. It is indeed a royal fish dish of moist
and flavourful white fish in a spicy sauce. It’s a recipe that takes
some care as a heavy hand with the spices can mean a final result of
overpowered fish. It’s done well here.
Butter Chicken is a standard on many an Indian restaurant bill of fare
but Chef Ahamad offers us a version that is flavourful, well-buttered
but lighter than some. It’s a must-try for those who want a classic
gravy dish. And don’t forget the indispensible daal which is a
speciality here. One might think a bowl of lentils to be dull and
ordinary but the daal at the Punjab Grill will comfort and impress the
uninitiated and delight the converted.
Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra with Chef Javed Ahamad at the helm ticked
all the epicurean boxes for this food traveller.
ingredients were fresh, the dishes were balanced and full of
flavour, the presentation was first-class and the service impeccable.
The majority of diners were evidently local and regular visitors, and
there were a number of Indians who dropped by and enjoyed their
evening, and they know more about this cuisine than do I. The menu was
well executed and a delight to graze upon – plenty of choice of
classics as well as innovation. Return visits will definitely be booked
when I’m craving curry in Singapore.
Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra (Chef Javed Ahamad)
B1-01A, Galleria Level
The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands
2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018972
Singapore is special in so many ways. It’s many-faceted
and presents the food lover with temptations at every turn.
Opportunities for vibrant casual eating abound but there are also those
restaurants that present the visitor with delicious
memories along with unadulterated gastronomic pampering. The
Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch at Greenhouse in The
Ritz-Carlton is iconic and unmissable.
Sunday brunch is now available in every city across the
globe. One can expect a brace of egg dishes and a couple
and a fish option. There might be a nod in
the direction of vegetarians with roasted vegetables in a sauce, and
there is bound to be a dessert or two. But then there is The Ritz
Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch at Greenhouse and that puts the gilding
on brunch, and those other meagre impostors in the shade.
It’s Sunday and we want to relax with friends and family. Perhaps it’s
a celebration, although every Sunday brunch here seems festive. Folks
arrive in their Sunday best with ladies sporting floral finery, and
every shoe and child is polished. The guests bring their own touch of
charm to the occasion and they will be rewarded for their trouble from
the moment they arrive in the high-ceilinged, light and airy salon.
Sunday Brunch at The Ritz must surely rate as one of the finest of its
genre. The smart-casual event is famed. It’s not stuffy and muted. The
staff are friendly and helpful. There is a buzz of conversation from
groups of guests enjoying good company along with that unbeatable food.
It offers an excuse to dress up a little and to indulge a lot.
Younger members of the party will be eyeing the ice-cream station by
the entrance, while more mature grandparents are drawn
to another ice display which offers seafood. There are eight
types of oysters and all shucked to order and served
with red wine vinaigrette or lemon. It might be a couple of years
before the kids appreciate those but they will surely
be tempted by some prawns.
Moët & Chandon vintage Champagne fills the flutes of all those
who haven’t chosen an expertly muddled Mojito or shaken exotic cocktail
from the bar. The champagne is unlimited and
marvellously complements the aforementioned chilled
crustacea – every class of shellfish seems to put in an appearance at
this brunch. One might consider moving on to a more
robust red to pair with a traditional roast with all the trimmings. It
is Sunday, after all …but a more exciting one than usual.
Yes, it’s Sunday but this is Asia so the bill of fare here offers a
wider tapestry of taste than one might find in a European or North
American restaurant. Diners are free to mix Mediterranean tapas with
Japanese sushi, cooling leaves with spiced pork ribs. The Ritz-Carlton
Sunday Brunch contrives to represent the very best of all that
Singapore food has to offer, and that is the best available from every
continent. Diners can travel the world by stepping from one counter to
the next, from nigiri garnished with delicate green wasabi and shreds
of pink ginger (there are trays of various sushis), to slices of
traditionally roast meat with glazed orange carrots (there’s always a
choice of several roasts).
A cheese board is very much a part of any self-respecting Sunday brunch
but I confess I had not expected to find one in Asia
and more to the point, I hadn’t expected a restaurant in Singapore to
have the best selection of cheese I have ever come across on one table!
Yes, it’s true that I have found equally magnificent arrays of artisanal
in Europe but only in specialist shops. The striking
international cheese selection features over
different cheeses from Australia, England, France,
Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland and there is even Port
the bar. That’s a marriage made in heaven.
The kids may well have grazed on desserts all through brunch, but those
sweets are sophisticated enough for the most discerning palates. The
beautiful confections are created by Executive Pastry Chef Terence Pang
and they range from Kuih - a broad term which includes
Chinese cakes, dumplings, puddings and biscuits - to European pastries.
There is plenty of choice for those chocoholics as well. If cheesecake
or crème brûlée is your passion then
be disappointed. There is also fresh fruit to help you feel
noble, and ice cream if the kids haven’t finished it!
The Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch is served from 12 noon to 3 pm in a
single sitting and is priced at S$168 per adult, S$84
per child (6-12 years) or S$42 per child (3-5 years). It includes
unlimited Moët & Chandon vintage Champagne,
and white wines, selected cocktails, chilled
juices and sparkling mineral water. Prices are subject
service charge and prevailing government taxes.
For dining reservations
Call Restaurant Reservations on 6434 5288
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue
Phone: +65 6337-8888
Fax: +65 6338-0001
Visit The Ritz here
There is good food to be had all over Singapore. It’s
famed for it. One can sit with the locals and enjoy a bowl of laksa at
one of the numerous, cheap and buzzing hawker centres. There are small
side-street restaurants specialising in steaming bowls of congee for
breakfast through to hot, grilled skewers of meat after the sun goes
down. There are fusion fine-dining restaurants, and Japanese cuisine
has taken hold in a big way.
The Majestic Restaurant offers a stylish departure from the mostly
rustic options of the majority of Chinatown restaurants. It’s
Cantonese, it’s refined and it’s contemporary. There are indeed
traditional Chinese accents to the decor but they are manifested in a
memorable etched bronze sculpture and a striking geometric Chinese robe
motif on the back wall. There is a colourful trishaw parked at the
front, which adds to the eclectic mix.
The restaurant doesn’t need to persuade you of its Chineseness with
displays of red lanterns and dragons around every corner. Nothing wrong
with those traditional decorative devices but they wouldn’t work in The
Majestic with its clean lines and artful use of dark wood. Yes, The
Majestic is confident and modern and is housed in the New Majestic
Hotel which is stylish, unique, tasteful and delightfully retro.
There is a remarkable architectural feature and that’s the ceiling: it
sports holes. These are not decorating oversights. It’s not
energy-saving low-tech air conditioning. They are in fact portholes set
into the bottom of the swimming pool above. They shed a soft and
dappled light onto tables below and provide a memorable experience for
both diners and swimmers.
Opened in January 2006, this award-winning restaurant
seats 100, and has four private dining rooms, one of which
views into the kitchen. Owner/chef Yong Bing Ngen and his team
present a Cantonese fine-dining menu in an equally refined setting,
making a meal at The Majestic a treat for all the senses.
Chef Yong Bing Ngen has already had an impressive career. His
professional biography reads like a directory of must-visit spots in
Singapore: Executive Chinese Chef at Hai Tien Lo restaurant in the Pan
Pacific Hotel; Chef de Cuisine, the Empress Room, Raffles Hotel;
Executive Chef for Jade restaurant in the Fullerton Hotel. That history
will lead one to expect remarkable food. Chef Yong Bing Ngen won’t
disappoint. He has many deserved awards under his belt including one
for the Majestic Restaurant - Asian Cuisine Restaurant of the Year
(Singapore Category) at the World Gourmet Series Awards of Excellence
2012. That is a worthy accolade when one considers the standard of the
The dishes here are inspired, with a definite nod towards Cantonese.
Put aside any prejudices you may have developed through years of
over-indulgence at your local Chinese take-away – the sign over the
door might boast that the food is Cantonese but in truth it’s unlikely
to be authentic and I can guarantee that it will bear absolutely no
resemblance to the fare at The Majestic.
The subtle and aromatic dishes are plated in European style and include
signature dishes such as the combination platter of
crispy wasabi prawn and Peking duck served with pan-seared foie gras,
braised lobster in a creamy milk and lime sauce, grilled lamb chop in
Chinese honey. You’ll likely not find these on your high street. I
would also suggest that your first taste of the ‘celebrated’ durian
should be here. The chef transforms this much-maligned fruit into
confections that allow its distinctive characteristics to remain but in
a fashion that will be appreciated by nervous Westerners.
The wine list is creditable, offering a good selection from the New
World as well as Europe. There are wines by the glass for those who
would like to taste different vintages to complement each course. There
are wines here to suit every taste and every pocket.
The Majestic Restaurant should be on the Singapore restaurant list of
any traveller who wants to try some imaginative modern Chinese food
that pushes the culinary envelope, while still remaining true to its
classic flavour palate.
The Majestic Restaurant
The New Majestic Hotel
31- 37 Bukit Pasoh Road
Phone: 6511 4718
Visit The Majestic Restaurant here
Monday - Sunday
Lunch: 11.45am to 3pm. Last lunch order 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.30pm to 11pm. Last dinner order 10.30pm
Owner/Chef: Yong Bing Ngen
Café Spice Namaste
It’s an icon of Indian food. It’s a beacon of culinary
hope around the corner from The Tower of London. It’s a
haunt of discerning businessmen, stars of film and the small screen,
and indeed anyone who enjoys vibrant food and friendly service.
Chef Cyrus Todiwala and his partner in life and restaurants, wife
Pervin, have been at the helm of Café Spice Namaste for the past
17 years. It’s a restaurant that has seen other Indian eateries come
and go but Café Spice Namaste remains, and just continues to do
what it has always done: providing memorable food.
One might ask why it’s taken me so long to review Café Spice
Namaste. Well, in truth I have written about their celebrated Khaadras
Club (see review here)
and that is a frequent event that allows Parsee food aficionados to
indulge their passion for a little-known cuisine. The
eagerly-anticipated feast introduces some unique dishes that you will
not likely be offered elsewhere within these cold northern shores.
Cyrus also has his eponymous restaurant at the Terminal 5 Heathrow
Hilton (see review here);
and then there are his cookbooks; and he has recently been listed as
one of the 101 most influential Asians in the UK; and then there’s his
line of chutneys. Yes, that Mr T can keep any food journalist busy.
Those chutneys have pride of place by the entrance and the
distinctive pink labels are instantly recognised by the connoisseur.
They are such a deliciously indispensible element of the battery of
Todiwala offerings that one half expects the diners to be sporting pink
T-shirts emblazoned with the legend ‘I heart T’ or ‘Todiwala for King’.
I am sure the diners would not object to the sentiments, but it’s more
a matter of pink not suiting every complexion.
Café Spice Namaste is just yards from The Tower of London but
its clients are mostly regulars rather than passing tourists and I
guess 17 years’ worth of regulars amounts to a lot of familiar faces.
You might notice that guests are greeted by Mrs T and often by their
first name. Those guests have their favoured table and their habitual
‘curry’ (perhaps a Dhaansaak, which is a Parsee speciality and it’s
authentic here), and settle themselves for an evening of conviviality.
If you are a Café Spice virgin then start your meal with a
sharing platter which will give you a tantalising overview
of the quality of the dishes and indeed the ingredients, for Chef
Todiwala has long been a supporter of fresh British meat and produce.
One bite of the venison starter and you will see the wisdom of buying
the best. A morsel of salmon tikka and you will appreciate the skill of
the chef at the tandoor – every nibble is distinct in flavour and
texture. But save room for what’s to follow.
Murghi Ni Curry Nay Papaeto was my choice. Those aforementioned
regulars have insisted that this curry remain on the
menu. It’s a traditional Parsee-style chicken curry and one can
recognise that by the chunks of tender potatoes.
Parsees say a meal is not complete without potatoes or eggs. It’s a
rich and aromatic gravy dish made with a selection of nuts and spices
and moist chicken breast, and I can now understand the appeal. This is
comfort food that we crave on these cold wintery nights. It’s a simply
presented and flavourful curry that takes time to prepare. It’s worth
the effort, as the diners will attest.
My guest ordered Country Captain which he proclaimed remarkable. Cyrus
cooked this for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the first
Diamond Jubilee Luncheon in March 2012. Many versions of this
Anglo-Indian dish use chicken but this mutton Country Captain is richer
and more impressive. Shoulder of mutton is slow-cooked with whole
spices such as cinnamon and cracked cardamom, along with ginger and
garlic. The meat becomes meltingly tender and forms the filling for the
fusion shepherd’s pie. The topping is mashed potatoes enriched with egg
yolks. It’s a magnificent dish but it tastes like home cooking at its
The meat used for Country Captain isn’t just a bit of any old sheep.
This is mutton from rare breed sheep from the Orkney Island of North
Ronaldsay. No need to feel anxious about eating something from a rare
breed, as these animals represent the livelihood of Orkney crofters.
Their way of life and traditional culture depends on the continued
success and popularity of their particular sheep, that live just on
Cyrus is dedicated in his support for both the crofters and their
animals, but he is active in many charities as well. For every portion
of Country Captain sold, £2 will go towards supporting three of
Café Spice Namaste’s adopted charities: the Time and Talents
Association (started by Queen Victoria), Learning for Life (preventing
child labour in India) and Find Your Feet (tackling poverty in India
Café Spice Namaste prides itself on its selection of seasonal
vegetables so Parsnip Bhurta was the side dish for the Country Captain.
Now, I know it’s that jolly ‘ho ho ho’-ish time of year when our lives
are punctuated with gift-buying, tree-trimming and sprout-avoidance but
I felt sure that the banal parsnip would be at least worth a taste
here. Yes, I dragged my feet over trying this, but it was a revelation
and a delicious one. The vegetables are roasted in the tandoor then
pureed and cooked with shallots, ginger, chilli and spices to create a
moreish vegetable preparation that you will likely fight over – and it
really does contain parsnips!
Café Spice Namaste offers a tempting array of Indian desserts
that are authentic and unique to this restaurant. Their wine list
offers lots of by-the-glass options as well as bottles from Europe and
the Subcontinent. I hear their mixologist has a deft hand with a Red
Chilli Mojito and I look forward to trying one on my next visit.
There have been many ‘next visits’ over the past 17 years and it’s no
surprise. Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala have created an enduring restaurant
that’s unpretentious, welcoming, with food that will assure a return.
You can sum up Café Spice Namaste in just one word:
‘outstanding’, and you don’t need to be a food critic to know that.
Café Spice Namaste
16 Prescot Street
London E1 8AZ
Phone: 020 7488 9242
Sandwich at Andaz Liverpool Street London
There seems to be no waning of the popularity of afternoon
tea. It was, quite a while back, regarded as chintzy and stuffy but now
it is considered a real meal, rather than an event of boring obligation
for your Great Aunt Betty’s 80th birthday.
I personally love the traditional afternoon tea of sandwiches and
sweets, but if one wants to indulge on a regular basis then that,
however delightful, can become a little samey. One searches for an
afternoon tea that’s a little different. One craves a hint of delicious
innovation. One yearns for a plate of something memorable.
Celebrated international food designer Chef Linda Monique
collaborated with the Andaz Liverpool Street’s
pastry chef, Joseph Wagenaar, to present afternoon nibblers with their
classic-with-a-difference. They have invented a BLT but unlike anything
one would expect. This is a limited edition Winter Club Sandwich which
will appeal to any visitor who wants a teatime treat that is both
contemporary and designed to raise a smile. It’s a totally sweet
version of that famous savoury sandwich.
To the untutored the board is just a regular sandwich platter. There is
a small bucket of ‘fries’ with ‘ketchup’ and ‘mayo’ along with the
toasted Club Sandwich. But nothing is quite what it seems. The bread is
a sweet brioche and the fillings, although looking like bacon and
tomato, are all fruity, creamy and sweet. Those condiments on the side
are not ketchup and mayo but Earl Grey tea-flavoured cream and a plum
This Winter Club Sandwich is truly a seasonal treat. Its filling is a
layer of spiced poached pears, slow-roasted Braeburn apples, caramel
curd (be warned, this is addictive), and there is a garnish of a tangy
lemon 'fried egg' which looks remarkably convincing.
Now, I did mention that bucket of ‘fries’. It won’t surprise you to
learn that those ‘pommes frites’ have not even been on nodding terms
with a spud; but they are moreish and will likely turn the heads of
even the most committed of chip lovers. Those cinnamon-sprinkled batons
are made of deep-fried sweet dough. The salt shaker in the kitchen was
evidently replaced by a sugar sifter and a dip into those sweet sauces
will have you wishing that winter could last just a little bit longer.
The Winter Club Sandwich is available for a limited time only at 1901
Restaurant till 31st March 2013, priced at £10 per sandwich.
To book, please call reservations on 020 7618 7000 or email
Andaz Liverpool Street
40 Liverpool Street
London EC2M 7QN
Phone: +44 20 7961 1234
Fax: +44 20 7961 1235
It’s a cuisine we love. Aromatic flavours, fresh
ingredients, un-fussy and delicious dishes. It’s a mystery why there are
not more Greek restaurants and the few that we can find are not as
impressive as this rather smart spot.
As Greek As It Gets is local to the whole of London! It’s just around
the corner from Earl’s Court Underground Station so has a huge
catchment area. This must be not only the best Greek restaurant in that
postcode but likely the best restaurant of any culinary hue in the
One thinks of Greek restaurants as those folksy establishments with
shelves laden with models of blue and white fishing boats and plates
printed with pictures of the Acropolis. As Greek As It Gets sports none
of these dubious souvenirs (although the distinctive company logo is
one of those chaps in white tights with pom-poms on his shoes). You
already know it’s a Greek restaurant – the big clue is in the name. At
this wintery season the only hint of blue is found in the garland of
Christmas lights, and perhaps the flashing alert of a passing police
car. This is London, after all.
It’s a cosy oasis with contemporary charcoal-black walls. The first
floor offers views across the Earl's Court Road. Hardly a hint of its
ethnicity until one reads the menu. It’s uncompromisingly Greek with a
selection of classic dishes that you might well have tasted on your
sun-scorched Aegean holiday isle, but it’s probable that those pale in
The owner of As Greek As It Gets, Dimitri Karonis, opened the
restaurant seven years ago after a bet with YO! Sushi founder, Simon
Woodroffe, who said Dimitri wouldn’t be able to open a successful Greek
restaurant in London. Not sure what the prize was, but perhaps it’s the
undeniable success of the restaurant itself. Dimitri is deservedly
proud of his achievements, making serious Greek food accessible to
Yes, this restaurant has one of the best locations in town but 40% of
the clientele are native Greeks. Now, these folks know more about
authentic Greek food than I ever will and they choose to come here.
They appreciate the food and ambiance and that must surely be an
accolade. The reasonable prices must also contribute to the evident
This restaurant deserves several visits. One scans the menu and selects
a little of this, a dish of that, but it’s all so enticing that as soon
as the waiter disappears one wonders if perhaps that cheese pie might
have been worth a try (it would) or if that fish might have been
memorable (it would). But that’s the beauty of being a local – one can
come back and there won’t be any last-night-of-Grecian-holiday blues.
It’s that colour again.
We settled on some traditional dips to start. Tzatziki - yoghurt,
garlic and cucumber dip - is particularly thick and rich
here. Dimitri buys many of his key ingredients from Greece and even the
bread is flown in part-baked. The Romano Peppers stuffed with feta and
spinach are a speciality here. They are sweet, flavourful and the
filling is substantial and well-balanced. A worthy signature dish.
Garides Saganaki - prawns cooked in ouzo, feta and tomato sauce - is
probably one of the most moreish starters I have ever had. My advice
would be to order one portion each rather than considering sharing.
It’s bound to end in a fight or at the very least a grudging counting
of prawns and harsh words. Don’t miss this dish of succulent seafood
and tangy sauce.
For my main course I chose the delicious and attractively presented
Pork with a cheese sauce. The rounds of meat were tender and juicy and
the sauce gave a striking sharp note. A contemporary and light boardful.
The star of the meal was Arnaki lemonato - lamb in rich lemon sauce
served with mashed potatoes. Dimitri says this is a reminder of his
family dinners back in Greece when he was a child. This looks just what
it is – a plate of home cooking. It’s a dish that reminds one why Greek
cuisine is so appealing. This is traditional food and this recipe has
been enjoyed for generations.
Galaktoboureko - home made milk pie - is a classic dessert. It’s a
thick custard cooked with semolina and encased in delicate and crispy
philo pastry. It’s not an over-decorated and elaborate confection but
it’s easy to see why it’s on the menu. It’s a sweet pie of simple
ingredients but it ticks all the ‘craving’ boxes. Worth saving a little
As Greek As It Gets is remarkable in an understated fashion. It’s
subtle, tasteful in every regard, and the prices will please. It’s a
gem with dishes for every palate and you will enjoy Greek food that’s
as good as it gets and As Greek As It Gets. For my next visitI have my
eye on Tyrokafteri - spicy mixed Greek white cheese dip - and the
chicken gyros plate with pita and tzatziki, and then just a little
taste more of that Galaktoboureko; although it would be rude not to try
St Ermin's Hotel has changed. It was always a classic
hotel and the history was always evident in the very
brickwork. But in 2011 it closed for half a year and a £30
million refurbishment, and was totally transformed into the modern
4-star hotel that we see today. It retains much of its character but
it’s now contemporary and light.
It’s what you might describe as a ‘prime location’. Hard to argue with
that: it’s just a few yards (that isn’t an estate agent yard) from St
James’s Park Underground station which houses the entrance to the HQ of
London Underground, so bound to have trouble-free transport. That
iconic Art Deco ticket hall introduces the visitor to the notion of
architectural excellence, but take that short walk to St Ermin's and
you’ll finds one of the most striking red-brick hotels in London.
The Grade II listed Victorian building started life as one of the early
mansion blocks in London. The brick and stone combination is typical of
buildings of the design known as Queen Anne style. They were the
forerunner (although very high-end) of modern apartment blocks. The
apartments were converted to a hotel in the 1890s, and it went on to
enjoy a rich and intriguing history. It was a meeting place of the
British intelligence services, as well as the Cambridge Five
double-agents Kim Philby and Donald MacLean, who met their Russian
handlers at St Ermin's.
St Ermin’s is offering a delightfully seasonal afternoon tea called
Winter Wonderland. It does indeed showcase some
an option all year. It would be ideal for men, who seldom enjoy those
pretty and multi-coloured light mousses that are the norm.
Winter Wonderland has the traditional format of sweet and savoury but
the components are unique. The selection of sandwiches gives a nod to
Yuletide, including turkey on cranberry bread, ham and pickle, cheese
and onion with a garnish of chutney as an open sandwich, and smoked
salmon and cream cheese as another open rye bread sandwich. All of
these remind me of Boxing Day and delicious leftovers. The staff are
more than happy to replenish the sandwiches on demand so they are fresh.
Tuck into the warm scones next and enjoy these with the usual garnishes
of strawberry jam, clotted cream and honey. The clotted cream is thick
and rich and replaces the butter. Devon and Cornish folks have
different ways of spreading their scones. One puts jam on first and
then the cream and the other puts the cream on and then a spoon of jam
…but I can never remember who does what. If you are from the West
Country you will likely know, and if you aren’t then it won’t matter.
Mulled apple cider jelly with apple cream could be your next sweet
treat and this is truly exceptional. The jelly is bright and light and
full-flavoured. The sweet cream is an inspired topping and gives the
tall shot glasses the air of a Christmas candle.
German spiced Lebkuchen, Pumpkin passion cupcakes and Brunsli (Swiss
brownies) constitute the cake complement and are truly old-fashioned
and just right for the weather – not over-sweet but with that adult
mixed-spice flavour that goes well with some tea. And there is a good
selection of that at St Ermin’s, as well.
Call 020 7227 7777, 0800 652 1498 or email email@example.com to
book your table for tea.
St. Ermin's Hotel
2 Caxton St
London SW1H 0QW
Phone: 020 7222 7888
I guess it’s a sign of the times. We want good food but
money is tight so we look for something delicious, fun and warming in
this typical 6-month cold snap. Ramen is now available in London and
it’s easy to see why it’s exciting the attention of the dining
Ramen is a ubiquitous Japanese noodle dish (in Japan, at least),
although the noodles are believed to be a Chinese invention. The
noodles are the substantial and solid part of the dish, but it’s really
the broth in which the noodles and other ingredients float that is the
key to its success or otherwise.
YO! Sushi has recently introduced Ramen to their battery of eponymous
cold fish and rice preparations. It’s a logical move and particularly
during the long northern winter when steaming foods are most appealing.
Ramen here constitute a substantial one-bowl meal that
YO! Sushi offers Ramen for every taste, and we chose the chicken and
the fish cake varieties. Both Ramen had the base stock which acts as
the perfect carrier for meat, fish or vegetables. It's described as
‘umami’ broth, which basically indicates that it has a pleasingly
The noodles were far from the thin and floury examples that one finds
in packs of instant noodles. These were hearty and didn’t turn gummy in
the bowl. Each portion of noodles and broth was garnished with half a
salted egg (ajitsuke-tamago), a strip of nori seaweed, menma (made from
dried and fermented bamboo shoots), wakame (edible seaweed used in
soups), narutomaki (a type of cured fish, each slice with a distinctive
pink swirl which is said to represent the whirlpools in the Naruto
Strait), and spring onions – an indispensible topping giving a
freshness to the soup.
The Fishcake Ramen had delicate handmade fishcakes as a topping
non-meat eaters; it certainly wouldn’t
disappoint. But the chicken Ramen was outstanding. British barn-reared
chicken is marinated in sake, miso and hoisin sauce then roasted. The
hoisin gave a striking flavour and elevated the dish from a comforting
and warming soup to an aromatic and memorable meal.
YO! Sushi is a favourite casual restaurant and famed for the conveyor
belt laden with plates of sushi; but they also serve a selection of
traditional Japanese hot dishes and Ramen is a worthy addition to that
list. A bowl of Ramen is a meal at a reasonable price but it’s the
flavour that will ensure your return …and there is always sushi as a
Think about Old London and what scene comes to mind? Fog,
intertwined alleys and hidden courtyards, probably. Iron
railings, warm brick, brass plaques. And hotels: yes, every Edwardian
writer seemed to talk about hotels. They were the acceptable places in
which to meet friends and to dine, when restaurants were less numerous
than they are today. But those hotels must surely have been swept aside
by samey modernity, by cold grey cement and sheets of plate glass.
Well, the fog has gone, but Dukes is still standing and still sports
those classic features, and it overlooks its own courtyard behind St
James’s Place, off St James’s Street. It was opened in 1908 although
the courtyard dates from the 1500s, and the hotel still retains that
authentic air of class and propriety, although this is far from a
starchy establishment. It’s celebrated for its Martini Bar and for
mixing the original James Bond cocktail – shaken, not stirred – and the
Champagne Bar is a cosy retreat from the throng of Mayfair.
Thirty Six is Dukes’ restaurant and was opened in September 2011. It
has contemporary grey walls but it fits well with the traditional feel
of the hotel as the architectural features have been retained, the
tables are well-spaced, the upholstered chairs are in muted terracotta
and there are dramatic black accents from lampshades. The silver
chargers and classic cutlery have hand-made colour-marbled glasses as a
Chef Nigel Mendham offers British cuisine but with all the charm and
flair that one would expect across the Channel. His menu takes
advantage of seasonal British ingredients and a lot of imagination. The
descriptions hardly do justice to that with which you will be served.
Nigel seems to add value at every turn with a demitasse of soup here,
some savoury spoon bites there, a pre-dessert when one thinks it is
almost over, and then there are decadent petit fours to round off the
Red Mullet and ‘All things Nicoise’ was my choice of starter and the
reality exceeded my expectations, which ran along the lines of a bit o’
fish atop a French salad. The mullet was the best I have tasted, being
moist and flavourful with a crispy skin which adds so much to the dish.
The ‘Nicoise’ elements were little vignettes of the eponymous salad and
were indispensible ‘sides’ to the mullet.
Rare-breed Pork braised Cheek, Langoustine and Granny Smith Apple was
my guest’s starter. Offal and those previously discarded cuts of meat
are appreciated these days although they often need greater care in
preparation and cooking, but it’s worth that effort. Nigel has combined
deliciously savoury pork with delicate langoustines, and apples have
always been a partner to porcine products. My companion was delighted
with his elevated ‘surf and turf’.
Goosnargh Duck, Sweet Potato, Chestnuts, Duck Samosa and Charred
Sprouts was my main course and it was substantial. The duck was
presented medium-rare and it was perfect – pink and tender. The
miniature samosa and turned potatoes added texture and sweetness to the
tapestry. The sprouts were going to be my nemesis but they were a
revelation. The charring gave flavour and the vibrant green vegetables
still had bite; there was no hint of that unpleasant sprouty taste that
has spoilt many a decent Christmas dinner.
John Dory, Aubergine, Spiced Mussels with Herb Quinoa took the fancy of
my guest. This was a wonderfully attractive plate of yellow hues. The
fish was mild and simply grilled, the aubergines were tender and smoky
and the quinoa was nutty and well-textured, and an inspired
accompaniment. It’s an ancient grain that is becoming more popular,
although it has been appreciated in South America for thousands of
Pear Savarin, Poached Pear, Almond Custard and Pear Sorbet was my
guest’s dessert – or more accurately his dessert served with two
spoons. Savarin is a yeast-sponge cake that one often finds in the
guise of over-sweet and sticky Rum Baba, but Nigel offers this cake as
a lightly soaked confection that
didn’t upstage the fruit. The poached pears had distinct flavour and
the sorbet was refreshing. That extra spoon made impressive in-roads
into the dessert.
Chef Nigel Mendham (interview shortly) has a marvellous stage for his
very evident talents. Dukes has been famed for its Martini Bar and it’s
no surprise that this restaurant, Thirty Six, offers commensurate
quality. It’s a joy!
This has become, after just one visit, a favourite
restaurant. Brompton Bar and Grill is a confident and classic
establishment with all those attributes for which we search, mostly in
vain, across the Channel. Phrases like ‘you can’t eat like that in
England’ and ‘nobody does a steak like the French’ are oft bandied
around by folks who have not taken a look at what we have in London.
After the Second World War this site was The Brompton Grill, a Greek
Cypriot-run restaurant the like of which is just a memory. It was the
haunt of the great and the good and the not-so-good and offered the
food that was in vogue at the time. After a few incarnations and a
change of hands that original restaurant has become the Brompton Bar
It has the ambiance of the best French bistros I have ever visited. It
isn’t over-themed French but it manages to combine contemporary artwork
with an imposing bar and intimate tables that will seem familiar to any
Francophile. Yes, the staff are also authentically French so the accent
The menu isn’t a mile long and that’s always reassuring. One wants to
feel that one’s dinner is fresh from the chef’s pan rather than frozen
and fiddled with. There are daily specials which are worth considering,
particularly if you are a regular, and you will likely be just that
after the first visit.
The starters are a delight with dishes that would seem at home on a
menu in the Pas de Calais. I ordered Morcilla Black Pudding - Piquant
Tomato Sauce, Fried Burford Brown Egg. This was a substantial tower of
well-seasoned black pudding atop grilled bread. The tomatoes were a
spiced foil to the rich and sunny egg yolk that bathed the whole dish.
This was a well-constructed plateful with rustic ingredients. Don’t
miss this one.
Ham Hock Croquettes served with Sauce Gribiche was my guest’s choice.
The golden croquettes were hearty and the sauce a perfect partner.
Sauce Gribiche is a classic French preparation and the sauce of choice
for tête de veau (calf's head). It’s a mayonnaise-style cold
dressing with chopped gherkin, capers and herbs, and garnished with
hard-boiled eggs. Granted it’s not a thing of beauty but it works
marvellously with the richness of the ham.
My companion chose from the Specials menu for his main course: Whole
Roast Partridge served with celeriac and apple mash and chanterelle
mushrooms. The meat was moist and not over-gamey, and the mash was a
perfect sweet and earthy accompaniment.
Remember that phrase ‘nobody does a steak like the French’? Well, you
can have one of the best steaks outside La Belle France at The Brompton
Bar & Grill. I felt sure it was going to be good before I ordered.
The restaurant is correct in every regard so they would surely excel at
the cornerstone dish of any self-respecting Grill. Ribeye steak was
simply presented and perfect. The meat was juicy, tender and
flavourful, and blessed by delicate cross-hatching from the eponymous
grill. And, yes, chips – chunky, golden, piping hot! A glass of merlot
and I was content. The waitress asks “Would you like ketchup or mustard
with that?” Appreciative guest: “Mustard please – make it ‘French’!”
Mon – Fri Lunch: 12noon – 3pm
Sat – Sun Lunch: 12noon – 3.30pm
Mon – Sat Dinner: 6pm – 10.30pm (Sunday closes at 10pm)
Open all Bank Holidays
Closed Christmas Day only
Brompton Bar & Grill
243 Brompton Road
Phone: 020 7589 8005
Visit Brompton Bar & Grill here
Balans Soho for
It’s a chain of restaurants and has branches in both
London and Miami. The menu in the UK is slightly different from that
found in Florida but the style is the same, as are the majority of
It’s situated on Old Compton Street, named after Henry Compton who
raised funds for a local parish church in 1686, although this area was
later to become known for less-godly pursuits. This corner of London is
geographically and historically a long way from those sunny
neighbourhoods of Florida; it does, however, have one common ingredient
in that it became a refuge for immigrants through the ages. The area in
general and this street in particular became home for French refugees
after Charles II gave protection to that country’s fleeing Protestants
in the early 1680s.
The ground floors of those original houses have become shops and
restaurants. Balans makes its home in one of these with a small facade
which hides a sizable restaurant stretching back in Tardis fashion,
offering different and defined dining spaces for its clients, who can
enjoy Balans for almost 24 hours a day. There are few places in London,
or indeed the UK, where one can enjoy some food and perhaps a cocktail
at almost any time.
Balans Soho was warm and welcoming on a cold and wet Sunday morning. It
has the casual air of a French bistrot with a high bar at the front and
booths with red leather, velvet curtains and that distinctive
gold-marbled mirror glass that reflects a rich light. That description
of the front section is accurate, but if it makes Balans sound rather
French-classic the staff and clients contrive to make this a truly
contemporary and animated restaurant.
The daytime menu has those comforting and substantial
dishes that Sundays deserve. A full
English Breakfast is here and will likely be the plate of choice for
those early-morning risers and for those who have not yet made it to
bed – this is Soho after all. But this is Balans and it would be a
shame to stick to the traditional British fare. Steak and eggs is a
hearty start (skirt steak, potatoes, and two free-range eggs) and
appealing if you are a truck driver, but another choice for those
craving some Americana are pancakes with either fruit or bacon; or
cinnamon-sprinkled French toast served with strawberries and banana.
It’s a rib-sticking start but the fruit will make you feel noble.
We ordered pots of tea and toasted crumpets (yes, real crumpets with
the holes on top to catch melted butter) and scanned the menu for
dishes that would set us up for a day of walking. My guest was tempted
by corned beef hash with poached eggs and fire-roasted tomatoes. The
meat was proper corned beef cut from a cured joint rather than the sort
that was ubiquitous a while back – mushy and from a square tin. Lots of
onions in this version of hash, and a manly portion.
Ham and eggs was my breakfast and it was a considerable plateful of
gammon steak cooked on the grill, Balans roast potatoes garnished with
chillies and spring onions, and two free-range eggs fried over-easy.
They don’t short-change the morning diner here, it’s quantity and
Balans offers this same bill of fare for every day but Sundays are
special. One has time to meet friends and enjoy food together but the
occasion is so much more relaxed when it’s not you doing the early
morning cooking and the inevitable washing up. Balans is an ideal place
to take guests who can choose their brekkie favourites, but Balans
could also be your regular haunt if you are looking for a cosy
banquette to nestle with the papers and perhaps some luxurious smoked
salmon and scrambled eggs.
Monday to Thursday - 7.30am to 5am
Friday to Saturday 7.30am to 6am
Sunday - 7.30am to 2am
Old Compton Street
London, W1D 4UG
Phone: 020 7439 2183