Xquisite, Caribbean restaurant, Tulse Hill

We visited this new Caribbean restaurant just after Christmas when we had no money and the January blues were in full swing, but the warming food (and welcome) at Xquisite was just the ray of sunshine we needed!

Xquisite Oxtail Meat, marinated and cooked with butter beans until tender falling off the bone, served with plantains and basmati rice

Xquisite Oxtail Meat, marinated and cooked with butter beans until tender falling off the bone

Xquisite Golden Fried Chicken seasoned with Caribbean herbs and spices, tossed in batter, then deep fried till golden. Served with plantains and brown rice and peas.

Xquisite Golden Fried Chicken chicken seasoned with Caribbean herbs and spices, tossed in batter, then deep fried till golden

xquisiterestaurant.com

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Chapter One, Locksbottom

Regular readers will know my love of all things roast. So when mine and the bf’s five year anniversary meal landed on a Sunday and the crucial question of ‘lunch or dinner?’ was posed, the only option for me was Sunday roast at Chapter One

This Michelin starred restaurant on the outskirts of Bromley in Kent, ran by chef Andrew McLeish, is one of the premier eateries outside of London. You’ll find super attentive staff, clean & crisp decor, and a lounge-bar – order the Cherry and Rhubarb Bellini – which is worth visiting on its own.

The food is super fresh, modern European, with ingredients sourced locally where possible. My starter of chilled pea espuma (no, I hadn’t heard of it either!) was a wonderful surprise, the richness of the egg against the salty pancetta and sweet peas was divine. And Andrew’s dessert of walnut coffee panacotta, which had a real deepness of flavour which you wouldn’t expect from such a light and creamy dish, combined with the ice-cold sweet and tart maple syrup sorbet was really special. As for our mains, I can’t even begin to describe the sheer quality of the beef – ‘melts in the mouth’ would be an understatement. I don’t think either of us has tried a roast beef or steak quite as good – that’s even after I wrote about “the best steak of my life” from alec’s in Essex. 

The wine list was not to be sniffed at either, with an extensive selection of grapes, prices, and bottle sizes (important when one of you is driving) we had a tough choice deciding what to go for, in the end the Cotes du Rhone won.

So next time you’re thinking of treating yourself to a special meal, don’t go for dinner in London, try lunch in Locksbottom.

Chilled pea espuma, warm poached hen's egg, pancetta & pea cress

I ordered: Chilled pea espuma, warm poached hen’s egg, pancetta & pea cress

Ham hock terrine, black pudding & apple puree

Andrew had: Ham hock terrine, black pudding & apple puree

Roast air hung sirloin of beef, roast potatoes, red cabbage, green beans & red win jus

Holly: Roast air hung sirloin of beef, roast potatoes, red cabbage, green beans & red wine jus

Josper grilled USDA rib eye steak, chips & bearnaise sauce

Andrew: Josper grilled USDA rib eye steak, chips & bearnaise sauce

Strawberry mille-feuille with wild strawberrysorbet

Holly: Strawberry mille-feuille with wild strawberry sorbet

Walnut coffee panacotta, blueberry gel & fresh blueberries, blueberry & maple syrup sorbet

Andrew: Walnut coffee panacotta, blueberry gel & fresh blueberries, blueberry & maple syrup sorbet

Coq d’Argent, No.1 Poultry

The week before my 24th birthday, at the end of a shit, shit day, my lover whisked me away for a surprise night out to a place above the clouds of the big smoke…

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The discreet lift in  No.1 Poultry didn’t do my boyfriend any favours when he did the big reveal, and I had NOT spotted the small sign for Coq d’Argent, and instead thought he was taking me to Whetherspoons… my powers of observation are always needing to be improved, I’ll admit.

Coq d’Argent was still a mystery to me. But I was eager to find out more. 

The lift sweeps you up the roof-top garden terrace (which would be magical in the Winter) that leads you into the warm, elegant French restaurant and lounge-bar over-looking the CityWe’re greeted at the door by the very attentive staff, who really made sure that we had a fabulous night.

As we settled into our candle-lit table by the window with the best view of Central London, our server brought over a bottle of ice-cold bubbly which Andrew had ordered for me. Bottoms-up is always a fantastic way to start a night.

Over Champagne and warm fresh bread we chatted about our weeks and tried to use our year 9 French to decipher the name of our venue. We arrived at Money Chicken. Or as I preferred, Secret Agent Coq (ok, I’ll admit that I just thought of that now). I’ve since been reliably informed that it is actually The Silver Cockerel. Clearly.

ANYWAY – getting to the food.

To begin…

Ox Cheek and Fois Gras pate with vegetables, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew ordered: Ox Cheek and Fois Gras with pickled vegetables

Mixed game with spaghetti celeriac in a honey and mustard dressing with red currant and port chutney, at Coq d'Argent

I had: Mixed game terrine with celeriac ‘”spaghetti'” in a honey and mustard dressing with red currant and port chutney.

Onto the mains…

Roast rump of beef with watercress aioli, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew: Roast rump of beef with watercress aioli. Sides: Crispy, chunky chips and rocket with Parmesan and a balsamic reduction.

Partridge, bubble&squeak, hand-cooked crisps, fois gras, at Coq d'Argent

Holly: Pan fried partridge breast, with partridge leg and fois gras white pudding, hand-cut potato chips (a.k.a homemade crisps), and bubble & squeak, with a juniper jus.

And for dessert…

creme brulee with madelines, at Coq d'Argent

Andrew: crème brûlée with lemon madeleines

caramelised pear tart, at coq d'argent

Holly: Caramelized pear tart, served with praline ice cream and crème fraîche… and a special message!

prailine ice cream

Our starters at Coq d’Argent were so tasty and wholesome, and ordering pate was a perfect excuse to try some more of the mouth-watering selection from the bread basket.

Andrew’s beef main was cooked to perfection and the fresh green flavours really elevated the rump from its usual heavy Sunday roast accompaniments.

My partridge was a revelation – it was the first time I had tried this game bird (HA!) and the first time I had been served poultry medium-rare – the meat was tender and so, so flavourful, it had a smoky note which complimented the juniper jus tremendously. I’m not sure that the crisps were wholly necessary, as the bubble and squeak was carb enough for me. They would have made a better pre-dinner snack, although I’ll admit that the crunch was a nice surprise with the softness of the rare meat.

These dishes were divine, but it was my dessert that I keep replaying in my head (total food porn). Normally I’m not much of a pudding person – half to do with the fact that I’m over stuffed mid-main, and also because I find dessert menus a little tired (no, I don’t want poncy deconstructed Eton Mess thank you, nor do I want a Harvester-style chocolate challenge) – but my caramelised pear tart was by far the best after-dinner treat I have ever had. I will go as far as saying that it was the best thing I have ever had in my mouth. FACT. The gooey caramel with the buttery pastry was just to-die-for. The praline ice cream and crème fraîche provided a nutty and slightly sour contrast to the rich pears, which I only discovered half way through devouring my tart, the combination was just genius.

Drinks and dinner  in the heart of London with my beau is truly the best way to spend an evening, let alone a birthday.

coqdargent.co.uk

Caravaggio, Leadenhall Market

We stumbled across Caravaggio by chance, when on a night out I decided it was time to try the infamous Mother Mash, just outside Leadenhall Market; when I saw that it was closed at half past six (!) – heartbroken doesn’t even cover it. That’s where Caravaggio came in, as my restaurant in edible armor, if you will. The beautiful, classic Italian restaurant, just next door to Mother Mash, provided an unexpected night of foodie decadent delights…

My roast venison with walnut mash more than made up for the night’s long-forgotten disappointing start. The meat was perfectly seasoned and succulent, the mash was super-smooth and rich in earthy flavour – a star accompaniment to English game.

Andrew’s steak was so good that he couldn’t wait to get started (hence his half-eaten photo!), and the thick cut chips were to die for.

Going back to the starters, these simple British ingredients created fantastic Italian flavour – light, fresh and oh so moreish. Much the same can be said for our desserts. The zesty Key Lime pie and my English raspberries with home-made shortbread biscuits and thick clotted cream provided the perfect finishing touch to a truly great meal.

Caravaggio will not be a back-up option next time.

Find out more about Caravaggio.

Café Des Amis, Covent Garden

Celebrating our anniversary is always an excuse for a decadent meal, and this time we decided to go French.

Café Des Amis is tucked away at the quiet end of Covent Garden, and boats a modern french menu of rich and luxuriant dishes. 

If you’re thinking of a meal there, make sure you spend the rest of the night enjoying the free entertainment in the square over a glass of wine.

cafedesamis.co.uk

The best steak of my life…

You may not think that a fish restaurant would be the place to serve the best steak I have ever eaten – but my god, how wrong you are…

beef steak at alec's restaurant essex

alec’s restaurant is famous for its fish, serving only the finest steak as a meat option. This means that all the chef’s care and attention goes into cooking the steak to perfection. The seasoning was so simple, but delicious, and the quality of the beef was superb. Also this is one of the largest steaks I’ve ever been served – but every mouthful was a delight and too good to waste. I ordered wilted spinach and creamed cabbage with pancetta on the side – which were also delicious. I can’t recommend this restaurant enough – it’s just fantastic.

alecsrestaurant.co.uk

Grace Bar, Soho

Grace is a gorgeous bar and restaurant situated  just off of Piccadilly Circus, which makes it the perfect location for a pre-show dinner, and a post-show cocktail! Grace was refurbished in September and the interior is absolutely stunning, from crystals to butterflies Grace is the epitome of girlie elegance. Designed as a bar, restaurant and club  – yet Grace feels extremely spacious.

Grace Bar
The bar has a huge selection of Champagne and other delectable drinks just waiting to be shaken or stirred into one of Grace’s classic cocktails.

Grace bar

For lunch I ordered the Shredded Duck Salad with Fresh Mango, Spring Onions, Croutons, and Hoi Sin Sauce with Sesame Seeds. I can never resist a side of crispy cooked fries, so it’s lucky Grace offer you the salad in small! Both my main and side were lipsmackingly good, with crispy duck was especially moreish.

grace lunch

I just about had enough space for dessert and chose a Strawberry and Cream Eton Mess Sunday with Shortbread Butter Biscuits, which was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it,  well, almost!

If you haven’t made plans for New Year’s Eve yet, be sure to book your self in for dinner at Grace, they’re offering a five course dinner and entry for only £50, how fabulous is that?

www.grace-bar.co.uk

grace pudding