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Sunday, 27 February 2011
One of the more exciting aspects of running a food blog is that I sometimes get invited to restaurants and hotels in and around London, and have the opportunity to meet and chat with their chefs and owners. Such visits may not always reflect what a paying customer might encounter but they do offer a revealing insight into what these businesses are about and what they can offer.
I have cycled past the Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street for years on my way to work without giving it much thought, possibly because it is a hotel, and I have always thought of hotel restaurants as options purely for tourists or business travellers. This common held view is now being challenged by a number of excellent hotel restaurants, such as Bar Boulud (Mandarin Oriental), Bistrot Bruno Loubert (Zetter Hotel), and The Petersham Hotel Restaurant to name just a few. The 1901 Restaurant at The Andaz Hotel is my latest find.
The Andaz Hotels are the boutique arm of the giant Hyatt Group. The London branch occupies the premises of the former Great Eastern Hotel, adjacent to Liverpool Street Station. Arriving 15 minutes early, I had some time as I waited in the lobby to soak up the atmosphere, people watch and see how the staff went about their business. With no formal reception area, the same member of staff would greet, check in, and take guests to their rooms. It felt like a much more personal experience than is usual in hotels of this size.
To start, I was given a tour of the hotel, shown a few rooms and some of the other amenities. The rooms were modern and elegant, mostly decorated in sober white, black, and red colours, with dark wood and leather. The biggest pull for me however was to learn that the hotel had a series of restaurants and bars, through most of which we would pass during the evening!
After the quick tour, The Champagne Bar was our first stop. Here we had some fine Perrier Jouet Champagne, and a selection of scrumptious sushi and sashimi platters specially made by the hotel's Miyako Restaurant. I seldom have the pleasure of drinking Champagne together with Sushi, but felt the combination worked extremely well. The fine biscuit and brioche aromas of the Champagne were the perfect accompaniment to the fish and sweet sushi rice.
The sashimi platters had some ultra-fresh and creamy pieces of salmon, seabass, tuna, prawn and mackerel @ £17.00. We also had California, Prawn Tempura, and Salmon and Avocado inside-out rolls all priced @ £7.
Our next stop was Catch - the seafood restaurant.
Here, we had a delicious starter of South Devon Crab Cake and Consommé @£10, followed by Steamed Norwegian Cod @ £22. These were cooked by Head Chef Martin Scholz, who came out to greet us.
The food was beautifully matched with a 2008 Margaret River Viognier, (Stella Bella, Western Australia), and a 2008 Chablis Premier Cru Montmain from Louis Michel et Fils. These were excellent examples of their type, expressing the fruit and terriors characteristics of these grapes and regions.
To finish, we headed for the hotel's fine dining option, the 1901 Restaurant. Here, we had a course of cheese and wine tasting (starts from £45 per person).
Of the many fine wines we had for this course, some of the more outstanding were in my opinion the Ma Mas Amiel Prestige, 15 Ans d'Age, and a 2008 Toscano Rosso IGT "Tuttobene" from Tenimenti Angelini.
The dessert was an exquisite mille-feuille with pear, red currants and spun sugar, served with an excellent 2008 Coteaux du Layon, from Domaine Phillippe Delesvaux at Saint-Aubin.
The two other locations which I had the chance to visit were the George Pub, traditionally English with oak panelling and a fine selection of ales, and the Eastway brasserie where diners can have a casual bite to eat.
I was pleased to have been invited to the Andaz Hotel, and to discover what a beautiful place it is, and explore its range of restaurants and bars. I would not hesitate in recommending it to family or friends who want to stay in the area. Its proximity to Brick Lane, Hoxton, Columbia Road and Spitalfields makes it an interesting alternative for visitors wanting something beyond the West End experience.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of the Andaz Hotel Liverpool Street. The hotel has 5 restaurants/bars to accommodate a range of budgets, although prices reflect location and the high standard of service, food and wine.
Likes: Great sushi, Champagne bar, and an outstanding wine list. The cheese and wine tasting course will certainly get me back. Personable service, convenient location for a drink after work in the Square Mile, and an alternative to the madness of the West End.
Dislikes: The City corporate types which the hotel may attract might not make for the best environment for a relaxed or romantic evening out.
Verdict: Cool elegant hotel in a central location, with a range of good restaurants and bars. Good quality sushi, Champagne bar and wine list. Highly recommended.
Friday, 25 February 2011
I would like to take one reader of The London Foodie every month for a joint review as my guest.
1. I have been thinking hard about how to keep the restaurant reviews up-to-date on my site.
2. Being invited to review some of the restaurants I write about makes me question sometimes whether readers are getting as good a service or food as I do.
3. A great opportunity to meet some of my readers and give something back for your support.
1. If you decide to visit a restaurant previously reviewed by me, let the restaurant know that you heard about them from The London Foodie when you make your booking.
2. E-mail me some feedback on your experience (a paragraph or two) and I will, with your permission, update my restaurant review with your thoughts.
3. Every month I will randomly pick one reader who has e-mailed me some feedback to accompany me for a FREE meal at one of my restaurant reviews.
Look forward to reading your thoughts!
Luiz @ The
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
I have been following Rachel McCormack's progress with her Catalan Cooking School with great interest from its very beginning, and was pleased to hear that she had decided to start a series of supper club nights at various venues. I was lucky to have been invited along to one of these events at Bea's of Bloomsbury in Holborn in association with Codorníu.
Rachel will be hosting these evenings at various locations across London, including Bea's of Bloomsbury in Holborn's Theobald Road. Her next event will be as part of our London Cooking Club series at my home in Islington on 26th February 2011, where she will be doing a cookery demonstration of several of her Catalan dishes.
To start the evening, we had a selection of Tapas dishes, including olives, Iberico ham and cheese, potato tortilla among other items, served with a delicious chunky bread. A good start to the evening as these tasted authentic and of high quality.
To follow, we had an intensely flavoured "Sopa de Carn d'Olla" - a lovely chicken broth served with fresh parsley.
Rachel served a selection of main courses buffet-style. In my opinion, the stand-out dishes were the "Calamar farcit de Alberginia" (squid stuffed with aubergine), and the delicious "Conill amb Ceba" (rabbit cooked with onion).
I would not claim to be an expert on Catalan cooking, but the dishes were flavoursome and hearty, and I enjoyed them a great deal. This was an introduction to a cuisine I look forward to learning more about from Rachel.
For dessert, we had "Crema Catalana" (Catalan cream) which was a delicious vanilla custard with a burnt sugar crust, followed by Bunyols del Emporda" (Catalan doughnuts) similar to Spanish Churros, and "Sopa d'avelianes amb el seu Cruixent" (hazelnut soup with crocanti and ice-cream) which was rich and nutty. The best hazelnuts in the world are said to come from Tarragona, the southern province of Catalunya.
One of the interesting areas we learned about at the WSET Advanced Certificate Course was the various methods of production of sparkling wine. For example, the traditional method perfected in Champagne is also used by some other good quality sparkling wines in France (the Crémants), and also by law in Spain for the production of Cava.
Other well known sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Asti Spumante, while often delicious, are produced by a completely different method and are not a substitute for Champagne or Cava as they present other flavour characteristics. Traditionally, Cava is made from three indigenous Catalunyan grape varieties - Parrellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo. More recently, Champagne grape varieties are being incorporated into the blend such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for extra complexity and elegance.
All the wines for this supper club were provided by Codorníu. I was surprised to learn that Codorníu has been making wine since 1551, and for Rachel's supper club evening, we were offered four sparkling wines from its range.
On arrival, we were served a glass of "Anna de Codorníu Brut" @ £9.99. This was a delicate and fruity wine and the first in Spain to have Chardonnnay as a varietal in its blend. This was a good accompaniment to our selection of tapas.
The "Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut" @ £9.99 was served next with the "Sopa de Carn d'Olla". Coming from selected vineyards, this wine had slightly more intense fruit aromas than the first offering, with hints of citrus and stone fruit.
For our main courses, we had the "Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2008" @ £17.99. Just released in 2011, this is Spain's first ever Blanc de Noirs (a white sparkling wine made from black grapes). By far the star of the evening, this wine had unmistakeable Pinot Noir characteristics including red fruit with excellent structure and length, as well as some toasty notes akin to Champagne.
"Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé" @ £10.99 was served with desserts. Also made entirely from Pinot Noir, this wine had an attractive pale pink colour and good fruit intensity.
Originally from Scotland, Rachel McCormack spent most of her 20s living in Spain, mostly Barcelona. She runs fortnightly Catalan Cooking classes at Bea's of Bloomsbury on Theobald's Road.
For the supper club, Rachel works with Franz Schinagl the former executive chef of Asia de Cuba who also runs his own Austrian supper club at Bea's.
In addition to her participation in our forthcoming London Cooking Club in Islington on the 26th February 2011, Rachel's next Supper Club Evening will be on the 20th March 2011. Her next Catalan Cooking Classes will be on the 8th and 22nd March 2011. For more information on her classes, visit the Catalan Cooking blog here.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Catalan Cooking and Codorníu. Prices for Rachel's supper clubs vary between £30 and £35 depending on the menu offered.
Likes: introduction to an exciting regional Spanish cuisine which is novel to London, flavoursome and hearty dishes, great wine matches.
Dislikes: in my opinion, the elongated café setting made the evening feel more like a pop-up restaurant than a homely, more intimate supper club.
Verdict: Homely and very delicious Catalunyan cooking by Rachel, expertly partnered with a range of Cavas by Codorníu. The evening was a great introduction to a cuisine I would like to learn more about, and the wines (especially the Blanc de Noirs) opened my eyes to a whole new range of exciting Cavas to be enjoyed. Highly recommended.