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Friday 5 May 2017

Seymour Place - Restaurant Hopping at London's New Foodie Destination

Words & photography by Caroline Ghera and Luiz Hara

Situated in trendy Marylebone, Seymour Place is home to a small collection of shops, cafes and restaurants, between Seymour Street and Upper Berkeley Street, that have transformed the area into an attractive destination for foodies. I was thrilled to be invited and join a group of food writers on a food safari at Seymour Place, and here I present some of the highlights of that evening.

At the very start of Seymour Place, at the elegant Italian restaurant Bernardi’s, we kicked off proceedings (62 Seymour Street, www.bernardis.co.uk) with a selection of antipasti. Created by brothers Gabriel and Marcello Bernardi, from Melbourne, the restaurant has an outdoor terrace, a casual dining room on the ground floor and a stylish cocktail and cicchetti bar in the basement. Focusing on prime produce from Italy and the UK, head chef Sabrina Gidda presented a fine spread to illustrate some of the specialities of her kitchen.

We enjoyed two well-made pizzettas (£8.00-£9.50), the first topped with prosciutto de Parma and rocket; the second, an unusual but successful combination of Taleggio cheese, sweet confit leek and crunchy celery. The pizzetta base was feather-light with pillowy edges.

Another highlight was the creamy Burratina with finely chopped sweet Marinda tomatoes and tasty Taggiasche black olives – this was a simple and delectable dish with high quality ingredients that could not be faulted (£9.50).

Equally good was the squid served in a flavourful sauce of chunky pieces of tomato, garlic, parsley and a good measure of pepperoncino (chilli), altogether vibrant in flavour and heat (£12.50).

However, the star antipasti was the suppli all' Amatriciana (£4.50 for 2 pieces). A speciality from Rome, and smaller than Sicilian arancini (small fried rice balls), the suppli were made with creamy rice grains, filled with four cheeses and had a delicious thin crisp skin - they were truly moreish - a must at Bernardi's!

Moving on to our second stop, we were introduced to Sandy's, a small and cozy Corsican pizzeria and restaurant where we sampled a board of Corsican charcuterie, bread sticks and flavoursome house-made fig jam (£10.50).

Sandy's uses French T45 flour for their pizza dough and Gruyère cheese for all their toppings. Their pizza base was thin and crisp, but without the raised and charred edges of their Italian Neapolitan counterparts. I enjoyed the French-inspired “Pizza Oignon” with tomato, Gruyère and caramelised onions (£10.25) and the flavourful Pizza Ajaccio with tomato, Gruyère, red onions, oregano and chicken (£12.75).

Across the street, we next entered the elegant, minimalist interior of Basque cuisine restaurant Lurra. With its white walls, pale woodwork and brass fittings, the cool decor contrasted with the open kitchen right at the centre of the restaurant which specialises in charcoal and wood grills - known as "Erretegia" in the Basque Country.

We were served a glass of refreshing Agerre Txakoli 2015, Getaria (£6), a lightly sparkling, dry white wine which was, in the traditional Basque manner, theatrically poured from a height into our glasses to produce extra bubbles.

We also tried two types of croquettas - the cheese variety were made with Basque Ossau-Iraty and Idiazabal cheeses, black onion seeds and béchamel sauce, and were exceptionally creamy in the centre with a very light and crisp golden exterior. Similarly good were the jamon croquettas but for the addition of tiny specks of ham.

Our main course was the house specialty: 14-year Rubia Gallega "Gallician Blond" Txuleta (£65.00 for 2 people). This was a generous serving of 800 grams of beef aged 25 to 45 days. Lurra's owners, Nemanja Borjanovik and Melody Adams import the Galician Blond beef to supply not only their restaurants (they also own Donostia at 10 Seymour Place) but other top spots in the London too. 

The beef comes from rare breed Basque cattle, slaughtered not at the usual age of under 3, but at a minimum of 14 years old and up to 18 years old.  During their lengthy growth, the cattle produces meat finely speckled with droplets of fat. At Lurra, the Txuleta is grilled on the charcoals and sprinkled with rock salt to emphasize the full flavour of the meat. Served rare and with an intensely rich and complex flavour, this was exceptional and worth every penny of its price tag. For me, this dish was the highlight of the whole evening of Seymour Place.

Our final stop was the third and newest branch of The Gate. Following the success of its Notting Hill and Islington restaurants, Adrian and Michael Daniel took over the site previously occupied by The Lockhart and converted it into a modern and beautiful restaurant with white walls, dark wood flooring, black-painted metalwork and wood tables and chairs, paired with mustard-green banquettes. The basement has also gained a stylish bar and a wine cellar. 

Our by now somewhat jaded palates were lifted by a Jalapeno Margarita (£9.00) made with jalapeno-infused tequila, Cointreau and lime. Extremely refreshing, citric and very spicy, this was the perfect way to revive the senses. 

The Gate is a vegetarian restaurant influenced by the Indo-Iraqi Jewish background of its owners and therefore, the cuisine fuses Middle-Eastern, Western Asian and European ingredients and techniques. We completed our evening of tastings with The Gate's take on potato dauphinoise: a generous butternut rotolo (£15) was shaped with thyme-infused thin slices of potatoes wrapped around a filling of butternut squash, celery, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, sitting on a bed of maple parsnip purée, and topped with a cep sauce and thin strips of pumpkin fries. This was a carbohydrate-loaded feast, warm and comforting on a wintry evening.

Verdict: Only a few minutes from Marble Arch tube station, Seymour Place is a hidden gem in the London gastronomic map. Both Bernardi's and The Gate have stylish cocktail bars that are worth a visit in their own right. Bernardi's impressed with simple but masterful execution of Italian classics, while The Gate will appeal to vegetarians seeking dishes that go past the current trend for quinoa salad or avocado on toast. However, the star of the evening for me was Lurra with its outstanding 14 year Rubia Galegga Txuleta, for me arguably some of the best beef in London right now, which I highly recommend.

Find out more:

62 Seymour Street, W1H 5BN
tel 020 3826 7940

14 Seymour Place, W1H 7NF
tel 020 7723 8833

9 Seymour Place, W1H 5BA
tel 020 7724 4545

The Gate
22-24 Seymour Place, W1H 7NL
tel. 020 7724 6656

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