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Monday 30 November 2009

London Restaurant Reviews - Tsuru


I was recently invited by Chris (Tikichris from Qype) to participate in Tsuru’s Sake Cocktails and Japanese Tapas Evening alongside other 9 Qypers and food bloggers. Situated on Canvey Street, in the new Bankside development behind Tate Modern, Tsuru is a sleek restaurant, with a trendy but unpretentious interior, serving one of the best Katsu Curries in Central London.

Assisted by Wakana, a delightful Japanese sommelier from Akashi-Tai Brewery, the proprietor, Emma Reynolds gave us the low-down on the evening’s four cocktails and accompanying dishes.

We started off with a glass of “Kappa Saketini” – a Japanese version of the classic dry martini which replaces the usual vodka and vermouth with Japanese Shochu and Sake. Served very chilled with a fine cucumber slice, this was a refreshing and elegant cocktail.

To accompany our Saketini, we were served a platter of their free range Chicken Yakitori. The chicken was succulent, sweetened by the subtle teriyaki sauce; it complemented our Saketini perfectly.

The “Tokiwa Honeytini” (Tokiwa Shochu with Drambuie and Honey) was served next. The combination of flavours was amazing and a little reminiscent of a Rusty Nail (whisky and Drambuie).

The “Agedashi Tofu” was good – the delicate batter soaked up the “dashi” stock well while remaining slightly crispy on the outside. I normally make this at home, and find it an excellent introductory dish to serve to friends who are still not madly keen on tofu.

The “Tempura Prawns” were also faultless. With a crisp and light batter, the tempura batter was not overly greasy. They had been cooked perfectly for the prawn meat was succulent and not rubbery as some overcooked tempura prawns can be.

Our next dish was the “Fried Gyoza Dumplings” – Tsuru makes its Gyoza dumplings from scratch, which is impressive. I normally cook these from frozen, buying them already made from Asian supermarkets. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare and they taste nearly as good as Tsuru’s.

Next on the list was “Nippon-Fashioned” – a delightful cocktail made of Japanese whisky from Nikka and clementine peel. I had never tried Japanese whisky before but was pleasantly surprised by the lightness and subtle flavours which partnered well with the clementine.

Tsuru’s “Chicken Katsu Curry” was sensational and I simply cannot praise it enough – I am a Katsu Curry Fanatic, and have it for lunch at least once or twice per week. I have tried every outlet in the City of London selling Katsu Curry but have been mostly disappointed until now. Tsuru makes its own curry sauce from scratch, a task that takes 24 hours to perfect, and very successful it is. The curry sauce was packed with flavour but was delicate and not overly flavoured or pungent with MSG and curry spices as so often seen with SB cubes.

“Tsuru’s Sushi Moriawase” platter had a good selection of different fish – these were very fresh, as raw fish used for sushi should be, and the rice was perfectly cooked. Tsuru uses yellow fin line-caught tuna for their sushi.

To wrap up the evening, we had what I felt was the best dish – “Chocolate Brownies topped with Green Tea Ice Cream”. Rich chocolate served with green tea ice cream is a heavenly combination and in my opinion is the best Japanese dessert for the Western palate.

My favourite cocktail of the evening was the “Ume Hot Toddy” made of hot umeshu plum sake and Tokiwa shochu, served with a slice of lemon studded with cloves. This was incredibly warming and delicious and I will now hope to try and replicate this at home – very seasonal, this is perfect for a good Xmas tipple or any other cold night.

Verdict – Uncomplicated, good quality Japanese food in Central London at reasonable prices. The cocktails are priced between £6 and £7, and are a MUST on any visit to Tsuru. Highly recommended, I will certainly return.

Tsuru on Urbanspoon

Friday 13 November 2009

London Supper Club – Pierre Koffmann Restaurant on the Roof

Pierre Koffmann Restaurant on the Roof

The “ultimate” in what is now a well known trend in London’s restaurant scene, Pierre Koffman’s pop-up restaurant on the roof of Selfridges is one of those foodie experiences that I simply could not miss. After reading an excellent review by fellow food blogger Kavey from Kavey Eats, I called Selfridges and was placed in their waiting list – a couple of days later and due to a very welcome cancellation, Dr G and I were finally booked in.

The marquee that was specially built looks good – not tent-like as I feared but sturdy and rather spacious. The décor is elegant and quirky, with those striking chandeliers made of large interspaced deer antlers also used in The Reindeer at The Truman Brewery (another pop-up restaurant set up by the Bistrotheque team for Xmas 06), and various bowler hats reminiscent of Rene Magritte.

Dr G and I made our choices, deciding to share all dishes. To start the evening we were served an amuse bouche of “Carrot and Orange Soup with Potato Foam” – the soup was full of flavour, and the potato foam made it rich without the heaviness of the more usual double cream.

Our first starter was the “Fricasse of Wild Mushrooms and Snails with Bone Marrow” – having just had some wonderful roasted bone marrow at Pizza East the week earlier, I was very keen to try this dish.

It was creatively presented as the marrow had been scrapped off the bone, made into two small white spheres and placed on thinly sliced toast. The marrow cavity was then filled up with wild mushrooms flavoured with a concentrated and delicious reduction.

The second starter “Cocktail of Scottish Lobster with Avocado Guacamole and Lemon Jelly” was served in a martini glass, and the flavour combination was spot on – the meaty chunks of lobster, apples, avocado, and lemon jelly tasted and looked sensational together – it was fresh and zingy but also creamy due to the avocados.

Pierre’s signature dish “Pig’s Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbreads and Morel Mushrooms” was absolutely fantastic – I have eaten pig’s trotters before in Brazilian Feijoada (Brazil’s national dish) but was never fond of them. It takes amazing skill to make what is one of the most unappealing cuts/pieces of pork into something so utterly delicious. The skin was melting in the mouth, the meat and veal sweetbreads were incredibly soft and well complemented by the morel mushrooms. The sauce was highly concentrated and sweet, tasting of caramel and Madeira wine.

The “Royale de Lievre with Red Cabbage” also did not disappoint – various cuts of roast hare with a fine sauce reduction and buttered tagliarini. It was an intensely rich dish, and by this point in the meal, we were feeling rather sated.

For dessert we shared the “Pistachio Souffle with Pistachio Ice Cream” and the “Chocolate Fondante with Vanilla Ice Cream”. It was worth having to wait the additional 20 minutes for the souffle – it was a dazzling display of culinary technique, being light and intensely flavoured with pistachio. The chocolate fondant was dark and luxurious, and well balanced with a delicate ice cream.

To drink, we had a bottle of red Vacqueyras 2005 @ £38. It was more than what I would normally have paid, but for cooking of this quality, it seemed appropriate. The wine (a more affordable alternative to the nearby Chateauneuf du Pape) accompanied the dishes very well with the exception of the lobster. This was followed by some dainty petit fours and coffee.

The service was very friendly -  I was frantically typing all dish names on my Blackberry when one of the waiters offered to give us a couple of menus. She had them signed by Pierre Koffmann before giving them to us.

Verdict – Superb cooking, classic French dishes with a sophisticated twist. At £220 for two, including wine and service, I was pleased to have had this unique experience with a culinary legend. Although the portions were sensible, the concentration of flavour was so intense that it took some hours for my appetite to recover.

Pierre Koffmann - Restaurant on the Roof on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 3 November 2009

The Best Pizza in London - Pizza East

Pizza East

I recently came to this stylish new eatery in Shoreditch’s Tea Building, premises of the former T Bar. Pizza East has an elegant décor and subtle lighting, helping to create a warm and intimate atmosphere. 



The building’s industrial heritage has been intelligently maintained in the exposed bricks and pipes, with the large windows giving a trendy and sophisticated feel which is reinforced by the fashionable clientele.


We were greeted by the friendly front of house staff, but were asked to wait until a table became available for us as we had no booking. There is a waiting area with a large communal table by the restaurant’s bar where we sat and drank a 500ml carafe of their Prosecco on tap @ £19 and a few pints of Peroni @ £4 each.

It was a Thursday evening, the place was very busy and noisy, and it took them 50 minutes to seat us. I was pleased to see a short but eclectic menu showing some fine starters and desserts alongside the interesting pizze.

As a party of 5, we ordered a selection of starters to share and a pizza each. The “Sheep milk ricotta bruschette, lambs lettuce with honeycomb  and sea salt” @ £6 was delicious with the  ricotta and honey marrying beautifully together. The bruschetta bread was also nicely toasted and chewy.

The “Mortadella spread, pistachios, mostarda on rustic bread” @ £5 was also good, although the portion was not overly generous. Mortadella is one of the least popular of Italian cold meats in the UK but is one of my favourites. It can be rather fatty and goes very well in a simple sandwich of fresh baguette and butter.

The star of the evening however was the “Wood roasted bone marrow, radish, parsley, on rustic bread” @ £7. My last taste of bone marrow was at St John’s a few years ago, and I remember loving it then. I was not disappointed this time round either: the marrow had a deliciously concentrated meaty flavour and melted in the mouth. One of the best dishes I remember spending my £7 on.

I ordered a “Salami, tomato, mozzarella, red onion, and chilli flakes” pizza @ £10. The combination of toppings was simple but nicely put together and with good flavours. 

The most interesting aspect of the pizza however was the fine dough – the base was thin but had a great chewy consistency. It was beautifully charred giving a woody flavour to the dough. It was an excellent pizza, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The other pizze eaten by my dinner companions were “Veal meatballs, prosciutto, sage, lemon, parsley, and cream” pizza @ £12;

“Speck, tomato, mozzarella and rocket” pizza @ £11;

“Clams, tomato, oregano, garlic, chilli flakes, and pecorino” pizza @ £12 (apparently a speciality of New England, USA), it looked yummy, and I wished I had ordered that one myself!

The general opinion was that all pizze were good, toppings were simple and flavoursome although slightly ungenerous; the base was indeed the best part – chewy, fine and deliciously charred. We also felt that prices above £10 were a tad high.


We unfortunately did not have any of the desserts – although I heard that their “Hot cinnamon sugar doughnuts with Varlhona chocolate” @ £6 is to die for.

The total bill was £180 (incl. 12.5% service) among 5 people, or £36 each. In addition to the food, we also had three 500 ml carafes of Prosecco on tap @ £19 each, 5 pints of Peroni beer @ £4 each and a glass of Sauvignon blanc @ £8. This is more than I would normally feel happy spending on a mid-week evening – we spent more on drinks than we did on the delicious food. I will certainly be coming back to Pizza East for more roasted bone marrow, clam pizza and hot cinnamon doughnuts, but will stop at a local pub for a good pint beforehand!


Verdict – Trendy and beautiful decor, delicious pizza base and toppings at above average prices. The best roasted bone marrow on chunky toast in town and friendly, efficient service make Pizza East a fine place, and one to which I will definitely return.

Opening Hours
Sunday to Wednesday 12pm - Midnight
Thursday 12pm - 1am

Friday and Saturday 12pm - 2am

Pizza East on Urbanspoon

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