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Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

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Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Flat Three's *Exquisite* Japanese, Korean & British Inspired 5-Course Menu

 Name: Flat Three

Address: 120-122, Holland Park Ave, Notting Hill, London, W11 4UA, https://flatthree.london/

Cost: 5-course tasting menu (with 2 additional appetiser courses) at £59pp with an optional sake and wine pairing for £49pp. There is a lunch menu priced at £33pp on Fridays and Saturdays (when you are welcome to bring your dog(s) with you).

About: Opened in 2015 by Juliana Moustakas, a Korean-American and former London City banker, Flat Three is a restaurant that is tricky to label – think top notch British produce with touches of Japan, Korea and Scandinavia and you are in the right direction, but Flat Three is much more than just a label.

Flat Three refers to Juliana’s home in Holland Park where she used to host her supper club. It was here that Juliana developed her ideas and recipes and hatched her plan to open Flat Three a year after leaving investment banking. Today, Head Chef Joseph Timarchi, a Peruvian who grew up in the USA, leads the kitchen while Juliana oversees the front of house and the wine and sake offerings. More on the exceptional wine and sake pairing in the What We Drank section below.

Timarchi is an avid forager and is the man responsible for much of the fermentation taking place at Flat Three – they make their own miso, natto, garum (fish sauce) and vinegars and countless number of pickles. In fact, Kathrin, the restaurant manager, tells me that there was little if any wastage of ingredients as lockdown was announced – mushrooms were dehydrated, vegetables were fermented into pickles, vinegars were created and aged. Incredible.

The food at Flat Three is innovative and thought-provoking – I love Timarchi’s lightness of touch, and how he incorporates Japanese and Korean ingredients into his non-Asian cooking where nothing seems forced or out of place. Though the ingredients are the real star here - they take pride in sourcing some of the best produce available in the UK, and rightly so, as the quality really shines through.

If you are one of those culinary purists who think everything should taste like your granny’s cooking, perhaps Flat Three is not for you. But if you have an interest in knowing about your shoyu from your Italian garum or your Korean kimchi from your Japanese dashi in dishes that combine them in perfect harmony, you will be in for a treat at Flat Three.

What We Ate: We opted for the 5-course tasting menu with the wine and sake pairing. Menus change seasonally and most of the below dishes plus many others are also available a la carte.

We started with a delightful tartlet made of Japanese kombu and buckwheat flour topped with a brunoise of raw yuzu-marinated courgette, marigold dressing and Shungiku leaves (edible chrysanthemum). The pastry was crisp, toasty and delicate, the yuzu marinating subtle.

Next up was the bread course in the form of grilled ‘mochi’ flat bread with house-cured salmon and wild garlic capers foraged by the chef (during lockdown). A kind of Japanese blini or crumpet, it was made from glutinous rice flour, wheat flour and yeast. It had a lovely toasty, caramelized outer layer and a creamy, chewy interior. This was a great dish.

Heritage tomato and gooseberries came dressed in homemade Tosazu (a Japanese dressing of fermented rice vinegar, bonito flakes and kombu, here enriched with roasted tomato skins) topped with wafer thin toasted rice crackers and Shungiku petals (edible chrysanthemum). A flavour and texture explosion, this was my favourite dish until I tried the octopus below.

Timarchi’s charred octopus and courgettes glazed with smoked pork fat in a kimchi dashi, with fennel flowers and wild garlic was one of the most exquisite dishes I have eaten for quite a while – the dashi and the plump, soft octopus pieces were bursting with intense umami flavours, the sourness and refreshing acidity of the kimchi offsetting the richness of the lardo so
exquisitely. Perfection on a plate.

Wild seabass cured for 2 days in salt, was firm and well textured, served with Kabu (Japanese radish leaf) and Shiso (one of the most popular of Japanese herbs, similar to a cross between basil and mint), in a rich creamy dashi flavoured with chilli and garlic.

Equally good was the Sussex chicken, cooked sous vide, served with charred Kabu (Japanese radish leaves), brown butter and chicken fat. The chicken was plump and succulent, the jus rich and full of savoury flavour, I could not help using my spoon to lap up every last drop of this heavenly sauce. An excellently judged dish.

Dessert was milk ice cream made with pokeweed custard (a native American plant from which the berries are used for their red colour and flavour), with whey caramel and a tahini-like sunflower seed sauce. With flavours of Ovaltine, and a light, refreshing texture, this was an original dessert to end a well-accomplished dinner.

What We Drank: A wine connoisseur, Juliana put together a wine and sake pairing for us that was exceptional on many levels – classic French wines, alongside American and other New World bottles all interspaced by some excellent Japanese Junmai sakes. Juliana knows many of the wine producers personally and had always some interesting anecdote to tell about each of their wines. It was evident that much thought that had gone into those pairings. The wine pairing is priced at £49pp.

There is a wide range of wines and sakes available by the glass and bottle, apart from the wine and sake flight. On Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it is BYOB with £15 corkage per bottle, maximum 2 bottles per table.

With our tartlet amuse bouche with started with a sake aperitif - a floral Junmai from Miyazaki prefecture, this was aromatic and with a rich, creamy finish.

This was followed by Chanin, a Chardonnay from Santa Maria vineyard, Rita Hills in California, made by Gavin Chanin, who paints his own labels. Oaked, rich and aromatic with citrus and stone fruit flavours, it had a very long finish.

Next up was a biodynamic orange wine - Gut Oggau Timotheus Weiss 2015 from Austria, a blend of Grüner Veltliner and Weissbergunder. A cloudy, unfiltered orange wine, this had a savoury quality.

Our 2nd sake of the evening was Akitabare Daiginjo, “Moonstone” – a rich and aromatic yet pure and light sake.

With our chicken main, we had a Southern Burgundy Ruilly 1er Cru from Jean-Baptiste Ponceau. Rich, complex with well integrated oak, flint, and cedar, this was a fine example of a top white Burgundy.

Dessert was served with a 3rd and final sake - a Koshi no Kanbai, Sai “Blue River” from Niigata. Enjoyed as a Spring drink to celebrate plum blossom season in Japan, this sake had notes of caramel and a rich, savoury finish though refreshing and clean on the palate. This was a great pairing to the lightness and not overly sweet dessert by Timarchi.

: wonderful, thought-provoking food, dog-friendly restaurant (on Fridays and Saturdays at lunchtime only), BYO on Tue, Wed and Thu (max 2 bottles at £15 corkage/bottle), fantastic wine pairing, super friendly and knowledgeable service, loved how the 5-course menu turned out to be a 7-course menu and at £59 for that quality of cooking and ingredients, it is a real steal!

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: Exquisite Japanese, Korean and British inspired dishes that are packed with umami flavour and gorgeously presented. I truly cannot fault a single one, Flat Three’s tasting menu just got better and better after each course. Probably one of my favourite London restaurants right now, I cannot wait to return and try the other dishes on their menu. Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Angelina - Exquisite Italian-Japanese Cooking in East London

Name: Angelina

Where: 56 Dalston Lane, London E8 3AH, http://www.angelina.london/

Cost: £39 for 5-course tasting menu with an optional £35 Italian wine pairing, or £9 for the dish of the day with an optional £3 for a beer or glass of wine.

About: Few London restaurants have excited me as much as Italian-Japanese @Angelina.dalston - and glad to report that our experience there was nothing short of outstanding.

Owner and General Manager Joshua Owens-Baigler @joshuabaigler, a Japanophile at heart who lived in Umbria, trained at the River Café and cut his teeth with the Bistroteque Group,  Hix, and Bocca di Lupo. And this is where he met Roman Head Chef, Daniele Ceforo (former Café Murano and Enoteca Turi), now heading the kitchen at Angelina.

Joshua’s knowledge of Italian and Japanese ingredients is encyclopaedic, but better still is how he brings these two cuisines so beautifully together, nothing is forced or out of place, and every ingredient, be it moromi miso, extra virgin olive oil or fatty tuna, matters and complements his harmonious Italian-Japanese creations.

Angelina, a bright 40-cover restaurant, was designed by Jason's mother, an award winning interior designer and founder of Anna Owens Designs. Angelina is heavily inspired by Japanese minimalism and monochromatic aesthetic combined with high-quality Italian materials including a gorgeous Italian marble bar overlooking the open kitchen. 

We also loved the use of gorgeous green foliage scattered around the restaurant which brought freshness and warmth to the elegant decor.

What We Ate: We went for their 5-course tasting menu, a real steal at £39pp, opting for an additional cheese and miso course (£10 supplement).

The meal kicked off with a selection of 7 primi (small dishes), a mix of ‘Fritto Misto’ and ‘Crudo’ raw fish to share:

1. Deep-fried, Panko coated Taleggio cheese with pancetta and pickled cucumber served with tonkatsu sauce (made in-house):

2. Red snapper Carpaccio with truffle soy and furikaki seasoning:

3. Japanese Shishito peppers (akin to Padron Peppers) served ‘kushiage’ style (though no skewers), coated in Panko and deep fried - an Izakaya staple:

4. Vitelo Tonnato - a classic from Piedmont - thin slices of cooked veal in a rich tuna mayo - though at @angelina.dalston a katsuoboshi mayo (air dried bonito flakes used to make dashi stock) was used instead with great results:

5. Light as feather Cime di Rapa tempura:

6. Exquisite fatty toro (tuna belly sashimi) with moromi miso & extra virgin olive oil and crispy pancetta:

7. Sliced sourdough bread - top image in What We Ate section.

And then onto the pasta course - raviolo filled with soy marinated egg yolk, and served with oyster mushroom, baby yucca, nasturtium leaves and shavings of Perigord truffle in a light dashi of kombu and dried porcini - exquisite!

Secondo (main) was a delectable dish of red mullet and burnt soy butter served with Tema artichoke.

Cheese and miso platter included wakame (Japanese seaweed), aged tofu in moromi miso, and robiola piemonte cheese, Gorgonzola naturale, tastuno al Barolo, served with Sardinian Carasau bread (paper thin and crispy), and a glass of sweet Passito wine (Sagrentino Montefalco).

Dolci (dessert) of black sesame Castella cake, chocolate langues de chat, and an ultra-refreshing blood orange sorbet ended our meal in a high note.

If you don’t fancy a full-blown 5-course meal, the restaurant offers a daily changing plate (katsu curry on the day we were there) for £9, with the option of adding a glass of wine or beer for £3.

What We Drank: A fantastic Italian wine pairing for the 5-course tasting menu is available for £35. Though as we were there at lunchtime, we decided to play safe and had a glass of Zabibbo, Curatolo Arini 2018 from Sicily, a luscious, muscat-like wine with tropical fruit.

Likes: the toro with moromi miso and extra virgin olive oil was sensational, as was the red snapper carpaccio with truffle soy and furikake, and the deep fried taleggio! We loved the selection of Piemontese cheeses and aged tofu, I would recommend it for the £10 supplement. The optional £35 wine pairing is excellent value and features some unusual, niche Italian wines. We loved the Sicilian Zabbido wine (and grape), it was our first time trying it (similar to a Moscatel).

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: One of my favourite restaurants in London right now - there is so much to love about Angelina - harmonious, creative Italian-Japanese cooking with great quality ingredients, in a very beautiful setting and at £39, their 5-course tasting menu is also a real steal. I cannot wait to return! Very highly recommended.

Friday, 4 October 2019

The London Foodie Goes to Northern Ireland - The Fabulous Shola Coach House Boutique B&B in Portrush

A very good morning from the fabulous Shola Coach House Boutique B&B in Portrush, our lovely "home" during our Northern Ireland travels.

And no better way to get the day started than with Sharon's Full Ulster Fry with all the trimmings including traditional local family Ethersons Butchers' reared bacon and sausages, my favourite Clonakilty Black Pudding, soda farls and potato bread. We also had freshly cut fruit salad, yoghurts, and more homemade breads, what a feast!

Sharon and David set up Shola B&B in 2013 and since then they have been garnering a number of awards - in 2015 they were voted the 2nd B&B in the World by the Travellers' Choice Awards.

Sharon and David run their B&B single-handedly - they deal with all booking enquiries, and with no hired help they make the beds, do the cleaning, fry our breakfasts, make guests' restaurant reservations, and with their incredible wealth of local knowledge, advise us on the best places to visit and places to eat.

We were lucky to share breakfast with a number of different people during our stay - surprisingly most of them were from Northern Ireland, they were regular guests who stay at Shola's several times a year!

Shola Coach House Boutique B&B is in Portrush, one of the most popular seaside towns of Northern Ireland - there is so much to explore in the area including the incredible Giants Causeway, Portstewart (great golfing), Bushmills town and distillery (great Irish whisky), and miles after miles of the most stunning seaside scenery - think rugged landscape, high cliffs overlooking the blue Irish sea and plenty of greenery, a fantastic place for long-distance walking.

Best of all though was finding a number of great restaurants in the area too including Harry's Shack in Portstewart, The Mermaid, one of the four Ramore Restaurants in Portrush and Billy Andys pub in Larne. I will post about these fabulous places on a separate entry.

This was no press trip, and this is no #ad, we were on our own dollar on this trip and we loved Shola Coach House Boutique B&B. This gem of a place is our top recommendation in Northern Ireland. But make sure to book well in advance, with only 4 bedrooms, Shola is always in high demand, and we can see why this is!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Returning to Berners Tavern & a Fabulous Wine Masterclass with Matteo Montone - 6 Years On and Still Amazing!

Name: Berners Tavern

Where: The London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NP, 020 7908 7979, 

Cost: a 3-course meal will cost around £50 per person on average (not including drinks or service)

About: The London restaurant scene moves SO fast, so it is rare for me to visit the same place twice -  Berners Tavern is however one of the few restaurants I’ve been returning to over the years.

Another good reason for my recent return visit was to attend a fabulous Wine Masterclass with Matteo Montone, Berners Tavern’s Director of Wine, and possibly the best dressed sommelier I ever met!

But besides his uncanny resemblance to Jude Law, Matteo is not an actor - he is in fact about to become one of a very select group of fewer than 300 Masters of Wine worldwide as he finalises his Master Sommelier Diploma this year. In 2019, he was named GQ Best Sommelier and the Young Sommelier of the Year by the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. So we can say, the man knows a thing or two about wine!

Held in one of the most glamorous London restaurants, at @bernerstavern’s private dining room, these intimate sessions held during September are a great opportunity to learn about the art of wine tasting and discover some of the 800 wines from the restaurant’s wine list.

Priced at £45 per person, the classes will have 12 spaces available per session, and there will be 2 sessions per month. Guests who choose to dine at Berners Tavern following the class will also receive 15% off the total bill.

Charming and knowledgeable, Matteo is leading a number of fantastic wine tastings in the coming months - what a great opportunity to meet the man himself, try some amazing vino and dine at one of the most glam restaurants in London!

Berners Tavern is still one of the most glam restaurants in London, I wrote about it in The London Foodie 6 years ago when it first opened (see review here). Berners Tavern is where you take your hottest date, your mum, or your family when they are in town, it is a place where you take folk you want to impress!

And 6 years on, on the Tuesday evening we attended, the place was jam packed - so what is the secret? The menu features some comfort British classics, exquisite British produce which is immaculately delivered, and a fabulous list of 800 wines. 

What We Ate: *OUTSTANDING DISHES* were the HUGE Buccleuch Estate Côte de Boeuf served with Berners Tavern’s BLT, a bacon, tomato & lettuce wedge drizzled with a delectable buttermilk dressing (£90 for 2). 

Sides of Berners Tavern’s signature MAC N’CHEESE with pulled beef blade (£10) and TRIPLED COOKED CHIPS were nothing short of PERFECTION, I was told the mac n’cheese can also be ordered as a main dish, another reason to return!

Hand-chopped, aged Buccleuch Estate BEEF TARTARE, English mustard mayo and sourdough crouton (£15) and chargrilled octopus, smoked cod’s roe, treviso and chicory salad (£17) made for magnificent starters.

Dessert came in a trio – Peach Triffle with Nyetimber jelly, peach sorbet and deep-fried jam donut was light and refreshing (£9) as was the Gin & Tonic flaming Alaska (£18 for 2) with cucumber, hibiscus and juniper. But best of all was Peanut & Chocolate Ganache with toasted peanut mousse and salted caramel ice cream – rich and so comforting.

What We Drank: With 800 wines to choose from, we were lucky to have Matteo Montone, Berners Tavern’s Director of Wine guide us – his choice of super Tuscan’s Il Fauno, an IGG blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot was a perfect match to the Côte de Boeuf.

Likes: *THAT* Mac n' Cheese with pulled beef blade! Possibly the best wine menu in London. Fabulous decor.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: To date, this was one of our best meals of 2019 – if you haven’t tried Berners Tavern’s outstanding British fare yet, you are missing out. If anything, *THAT* Mac n’ Cheese is to die for and worth a visit in its own right.

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