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Friday 29 September 2017

Estiatorio Milos - Exquisite Greek Fine-Dining on No.1 Regent Street London

Name: Estiatorio Milos

Where: 1 Regent Street, St James, London SW1Y 4NR, http://milos.ca/

Cost: A 3-course meal at Estiatorio Milos will cost around £75 per person not including drinks or service charge. Dishes from the fish and seafood counter are priced per kilo for example lobster at £85/kg. Main courses are priced from £32 to £50 per person, with side dishes priced at £6. 

There is a weekday lunch-time menu of 3 courses for £29 (midday to 3pm). For solo diners, there is the "One and Only" priced at £79 for a tasting selection of all the Milos specials, thought this was not displayed on the menu. There is also a pre- and post- theatre menu of 3 courses for £49 available Monday-Saturday from 5.30pm-7pm and 10pm-11pm.

About: Estiatorio Milos is decked out like something out of Miami Vice - all white marble, white tablecloths, the chairs featuring the softest, cream coloured leather seats, clearly no expense has been spared in the construction of this stunning London restaurant taking up two floors on swanky no.1 Regent Street.

With branches in North America and Europe, Estiatorio Milos first opened its doors 40 years ago in Montreal, Canada followed by the New York restaurant 20 years later. There are also branches in Las Vegas, Miami, Athens and now London.

Unsurprisingly, the diners in the London restaurant are a well-heeled international crowd, many of whom visiting from Canada and the USA where Estiatorio Milos has a strong following.

The visual centre-piece of the restaurant, apart from the cool cocktail bar, is the huge, raw fish and seafood counter. Featuring local and diver-caught Greek oysters, tuna, salmon and a vast selection of raw fish flown in from Greece daily, it is surely one of the most impressive in London. 

Diners make their choice of fish and seafood, these are weighed there and then and cooked as requested.

The menu is 90% fish and seafood, and includes some classic Greek dishes, executed with great finesse and artistry and using excellent Greek produce. Beyond the fish and seafood, noteworthy on our visit were the tomatoes – these are also flown in from Greece daily, and were so sweet and flavoursome as only Greek tomatoes can be.

Estiatorio is the Greek word for a restaurant that is more upmarket than a family-run taverna.

What We Ate: After some freshly baked bread with Greek extra-virgin olive oil and fresh oregano, we kicked off with the simple but stunning-looking Milos Special, made from lightly battered, fried slices of courgette and aubergine, served with tzatziki (cre and Kafalograviera cheese (£29). Light, crunchy and delicious, this was a centre-piece dish.

The Greek Ceviche (£32) had seabass and a selection of  Mediterranean flavours beautifully presented - wild herbs, Kastoria white beans, tomato, cucumber, red chillies and feta cheese. This was zingy, refreshing and a great start to our dinner.

Next up was the langoustine sashimi from the Raw Bar - with yuzu kosho (a Japanese condiment made with yuzu rind, green chillies and salt), olive oil, lemon juice and red amaranth, this was fresh and delicately flavoured with a hint of chilli from the yuzu kosho.

The raw oysters were from Lindisfarne, they were rich, creamy and ultra-fresh.

Mediterranean cuttlefish came simply grilled, dressed with aromatic olive oil, micro basil and coriander, and served with blank ink risotto (£29).

Our Greek salad (£18) came dressed traditionally - just in Greek olive oil and sea salt. A staple Greek salad, combining feta cheese with the sweetest Greek tomatoes, cucumber, raw onion and parsley, this was without a doubt, the best Greek Salad I have eaten. 

The Carabinieros (£149 per kg) were huge Spanish red prawns, served with vintage sherry. The way to enjoy these is to pour the sherry into the head of the prawns and suck their content, which we did with gusto. The prawns were so creamy and delicious, I still think about them to this day!

For our main course we shared a grilled red snapper, and a platter of griddled vegetables and cheese. This was a superbly meaty fish, served simply with lemon, parsley and capers, the best way to appreciate its flavour and freshness. 

The caramelisation on the vegetables left a wonderful charred flavour, this was a great accompaniment to the fish.

For dessert, we shared a deliciously creamy Greek yoghurt, served with thyme-honey from Kythira and black cherries (£15), and some seasonal fresh fruit including blackcherries, the sweetest chilled black grapes, melon and peach. This was a sublime end to our dinner.

What We Drank: The wine menu has a strong focus on Greek wines, but has also a wide range of French, American and international wines. There is a good selection of wines by the glass. 

The entry level white is a Tinaktorogos, Brintziki, Ilias 2014 at £45 while the entry level red is an Agiorgitiko Driopi from Nemea 2013, priced at £39. Prices head north steeply, with the majority costing three figures, but sommelier Alexandros was luckily on hand to advise. 

We started with a couple of the special martinis on the menu. The cucumber martini (£17) was gin-based, with fresh cucumber and lemon juice. The Ginger Martini (£17) was vodka-based, with ginger, honey and lemon juice. They were both well made, strong and very refreshing.

With our meal, we shared a bottle of Museum Collection 2014 (£85), Gerovassiliou, Epanomi, a blend of 5 varieties made especially for Milos in London with a total production of 2,500 per year. It is a blend of 2 Greek (Malagousia, Assyrtiko) and 3 French (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) varietals. The winery is at 450 metres altitude, near Mount Olympus, and has cooling winds from the sea, with steeply sloping vineyards. An elegant, well made wine, this was rich in tropical and stone fruit flavours - pineapple, mango, apricot, nectarine, peach and mineral. Complex and with a long finish, this was superb with our selection of fish and seafood dishes.

As a digestif, we had a glass of Mastika (a very traditional Greed drink, they even flavour ice cream with it), made from sap of the tree from which chewing gum was first made - herbaceous and gently aniseed flavoured, this was a great digestif.

Likes: The Milos Special is a wonder to behold, the Lindisfarn oysters were magnificent, as was the grilled snapper. The tomatoes, the fresh fruit were so sweet and delicious. Excellent, friendly and well informed service-staff.

Dislikes: Prices quoted by kilo, at the fish and seafood counter, are frighteningly expensive (£99/kg for white fish); perhaps, prices should be quoted by 100g? The restaurant should have tasting menus available for groups of 2 or more.

Verdict: For some of the most exquisite Greek food in London and North America, there is a great deal to like about Estiatorio Milos. The Greek produce and wine are of outstanding quality. Highly recommended but be ready to crack open that wallet!  

Wednesday 27 September 2017

The Golden Week Menu – A Unique Collaboration Between Chefs Tong (Hakkasan) and David Muñoz (StreetXO)

Name: The Golden Week Menu Reviewed

Where: Hakkasan Mayfair and Hakkasan Hanway Place, 

Cost: Priced at £88 per person available for parties of two or more, this limited edition menu is only available until 22nd October 2017 and must be pre-booked (reservations on 020 7927 7000 or emailing mayfairreservation@hakkasan.com).

About: The Golden Week menu is a unique collaboration between Chef Tong Chee Hwee, Executive Chef at Hakkasan, and Chef David Muñoz, owner and Executive Chef at StreetXO in Mayfair. Priced at £88 per person, the menu offers 5 small eats followed by 5 more substantial main dishes plus a dessert. 

Madrid-born Muñoz cut his skills working at a number of Asian restaurants in London, including Hakkasan where he worked as a Commis-Chef with Chef Tong when he first came to London. He returned to his home city in 2007 to open DiverXO and by 2013 it had won 3 Michelin stars. In 2012 Muñoz opened StreetXO atop a Madrid department store, offering a more affordable dining experience. London’s StreetXO is a direct offshoot of Madrid’s, with a very similar decor and menu.

What We Ate: The menu kicks off with a selection of 5 small eats, starting with the hot and sour soup with foie gras - this had refreshing acidity and included Chinese black fungus, angel hair pasta and pieces of tender foie gras, topped with foie gras foam and red chilli oil. Warming and rich, this was a great start to the dinner.

Next up was lamb dumpling, chocolate and mint served as a dim sum, in a smoke-filled turquoise ceramic pot. With a potent smoky aroma, the rather unusual though creative combination of flavours really worked a treat here.

The chilli crab dumpling with black sesame sponge, and soft shell crab was next. We enjoyed the Chinese concept of this dish, the varying textures (sesame sponge, deep-fried soft shell crab against the soft steamed dumpling) and the marked Spanish flavours like smoked paprika and tomatoes.

The Spanish tortilla dim sum was topped with a perfectly fried little quail egg. On the palate, the familiar Spanish tortilla flavours were presented as dim sum but with the heady addition of black-truffle. We found this inventive and delicious.

The last small eat was Peking duck served with beetroot pancake, kimchee sauce, lychee and rose. With the taste of unctuous duck with the crispiest skin, and a luscious Turkish delight-quality from the rose water, this was Peking duck like no other I have tried before – sweet, savoury and highly aromatic.

And then on to the mains. The first dish to be served was grilled octopus, tomatillo ketchup and shacha sauce. The octopus was expertly cooked and delicious. The bright red tomatillo ketchup was classically Spanish, while the rich brown shacha sauce was full of Asian flavours including five spices, dried shrimps and chilli. 

Stir-fry rib eye beef was ridiculously yielding, served with potato gnocchi, shiimeji mushroom, black and edamame beans, lotus root, and lily bulb. This was a richly flavoured dish with a range of textures, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Chinese black laksa of sea bass came with meltingly tender fish, caramelised skin and a delectable lemongrass infused sauce.

Enoki mushroom noodle was, as the name suggests, noodles made up of stringy enoki mushrooms. I enjoyed the creative use of this vegetable, paired with a good crunch from the deep fried lotus root slices.

Three ways crispy egg-fried rice was served with a runny egg yolk, this had jasmine rice, crispy fried rice and paprika rice. Well-textured and delicious, as with other dishes on the menu, this was an imaginative elision of Iberian and Chinese influences.

For dessert, the Naranja Cheng combined citrus flavours with a false orange made from orange cream, a strong hit of alcohol from Pedro Ximenez and deep-fried tarragon.

What We Drank: The Golden Week menu offers the Oriental Frontera cocktail for an additional £13.50. Served in a dinky metal tankard, the Oriental Frontera is a blend of Belvedere vodka, plum sauce infused fino Sherry, pink grapefruit, chilli and Hakkasan sweet and sour.

Likes: there is so much to like about the Golden Week menu at Hakkasan – the hot and sour soup with foie gras was a highlight as were the rib eye beef with gnocchi and the Peking duck with beetroot pancake.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: The Golden Week Menu at Hakkasan is a unique collaboration of two highly accomplished chefs at the very top of their game. At £88 per person this is also an opportunity to experience the faultless blend of Chinese and Spanish fine-dining that is playful and fun. Highly recommended.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Le Garrick - Unbeatable Pre- and Post-Theatre Menu Deals in Covent Garden

Name: Le Garrick 

Where: 10-12 Garrick Street, London WC2E 9BH, http://www.legarrick.co.uk

Cost: The average price of a three-course dinner is around £30 not including drinks or service. Starters from the a la carte menu cost from £5.50 to £9.50, main courses range from £11.95 to £24.95, side dishes are £4.00 to £4.50, and desserts are £6.50. There is a cheese board of three French cheeses with baguette, priced at £10. The restaurant offers a pre- and post-theatre menu available from noon until 6.30pm and after 10.00pm, at £13.50 for 2 courses or £16.45 for 3.  

About: Le Garrick is a French bistro-restaurant which is celebrating its 30th year of existence in Covent Garden. An independent, family-run business by restauraters Dominika and Charles Lepelletier, it is situated opposite the Garrick Club, and over the road from hip Peruvian restaurant Lima Floral.

The ground floor level has a few window tables, while the main restaurant is situated in the basement, an atmospheric candle-lit spot. I personally prefer the airier and brighter ground floor level

Ground Level

Ground Level
The offering from head chef Rocco Ahoune is unmistakably French, with a small menu of classic dishes like moules mariniere, Burgundian snails, steak frites and confit de canard.

Basement Level

Basement Level
What We Ate: From the specials menu, we started with the cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs £7). Pan-fried and served with chopped onions, red pepper, ginger, lemongrass and coriander, these were zingy and delicious.

From the regular menu, we chose the cassolette de calamars a la plancha au piment d'Espelette (grilled squid rings with Espelette pepper £7.50). Served in a rich, peppery and garlicky sauce, these were also good and well seasoned.

The escargots de Bourgogne (snails Burgundy-style £8.25), though tiny, they were deliciously tender, served with a maitre-d'hote butter with garlic and parsley.

For main course, the Entrecote grillee (£24.95) featured a 14 oz (400g) chargrilled 28-day aged rib-eye steak on the bone. The steak was cooked medium rare as requested, it was soft and tender, but it lacked caramelisation and depth of flavour.

The steak was not helped by its accompanying Béarnaise sauce, which sadly was not freshly made. It was disappointing to be served ready-made Bearnaise out of a bottle. Similarly the chips were dry and tasteless like they had been cooked from frozen - I'm happy to have these at home as a quick side in a rushed mid-week meal, but in a restaurant I expect chips to be hand cut and freshly made.   

The daily special main course was a whole grilled plaice (carrelet entier - £18.95), served with chopped black olives and a balsamic glaze, with boiled potatoes glazed in butter.  This was an uninspiring dish, pleasant enough to eat but a tad dry.

Side orders were the lovely petit pois Grand-Mere (£4.50), made with peas, bacon and whole baby-onions, and the haricots verts or green bean (£4.00), simply tossed in butter, with hints of fresh mint, salt and pepper.

We finished with a fondue to share (£13.50). Made with a whole cheese from Fromager des Clarines, Jean Perrin, from Franche-Comte, this was actually not a Vacherin as described on the menu but still pretty decent and a very adequate cheese course.

To finish, the crème brulee was a simple but classic dish, well made and flavoured with vanilla seeds (£6.50).

What We Drank: The wine list is exclusively French, with a good range of wines and Champagnes by the glass. The entry level wines, both priced at £19.50 per bottle, are the white wine from Pays de Cote de Gascogne at £19.50, and the red is a Pays de Vaucluse.

A glass of Viognier 2016, from Domain de Vedilhan, Pays d'Oc (£4.65) was rich, off-dry, buttery and soft.  

The Clos du Colombier 2014, a Cahors Malbec (£5.70 per glass) was well balanced and rich in berry fruit. The Roncier Rouge, a Pinot Noir - Gamay blend from Burgundy (£4.50), was light with very little tannin, and was a good match for the grilled fish. 

With the cheese, we had a glass of Bordeaux AOC Chateau Grimard 2015 (£5.40 per glass) - with a good weight of red and black berry fruit, soft tannins and satisfying length, this has enough richness to stand up to the rich creamy cheese. 

Likes: a classic French menu with good starters but disappointing mains. Excellent pricing for pre- or post theatre menus. We loved the whole cheese fondue.

Dislikes: Both our mains were disappointing and the fact that they serve bottled Bearnaise and frozen chips is not great. I found the basement dining room a little oppressive. I recommend reserving one of the 5 tables on the ground floor.

Verdict: At £16.45 for a 3-course pre- or post-theatre menu, few Central London restaurants can beat Le Garrick on price. Good selection of starters, great cheese fondue, and a range of French wines by the glass warrant a return visit!

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