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Friday 20 July 2018

The Fabulous Express Elevator Lunch Menu at Oblix West

Words & Photography by Margot Carone and Luiz Hara

Name: Oblix West at The Shard

Where: 31 St. Thomas Street, Level 32, The Shard, London SE1 9RY

Cost: The Express Elevator Lunch Menu is priced at £40pp for 2 courses – starter, main (or main and dessert), a side and mineral water. For a 3rd course, desserts can be added at £7 each. The menu also offers the option of unlimited white or red wine for £20pp or Chandon sparkling wine for £25pp. The menu is available Monday to Friday, from 12:00 to 2:45pm.

About: Oblix West has been a notable feature of the London dining scene since 2013, when it was opened by the chef and restaurateur Rainer Becker (of Zuma and Roka fame). It’s a regular destination for City folk and the occasional celebrity. Regular readers of The London Foodie will know that we are fans of both Zuma and Roka, as you can read here and here.

On the 32nd floor of The Shard, arriving at Oblix West is an experience in itself. Security staff, state of the art lifts, and hostesses to bid us welcome give a real sense of occasion and anticipation. As the name suggests, the restaurant is on the west side, while on the east is Oblix East, a bar with a more casual menu, and live music in the evenings.

Oblix West is a spacious, sleek restaurant, with a buzzing open-plan kitchen, presiding over magnificent views of the London skyline.

The Express Elevator Lunch Menu (go up, dine and down in an hour) has been designed for those who like to dine out for lunch but are time-pressured.  It is aimed at those heading out for a lunch meeting, as well as those visiting the capital and seeking to lunch in style, enjoying delicious dishes and incredible views across the city. However, the unlimited sparkling wine option (see What We Drank) as well as the tempting desserts meant that there was nothing express about our visit!

What We Ate: We started with the truffle flatbread, pancetta and ricotta. With a heady scent of summer truffles, the shavings were sitting delicately on top of the ruffled ricotta and pea-shoots. The flatbread was crunchy and still warm. If you like truffles, you will love this.

Next up was the sculptural iceberg lettuce (a signature dish of the restaurant I tried on an earlier visit) with caramelized walnut, candied cranberry, pickled onions and crumbled Stilton, sprinkled with pancetta and pan-roasted fresh rosemary leaves. This is the poshest iceberg lettuce wedge I have come across, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first main course was pork chops with feta cheese, olives and pancetta served with freshly-made apple sauce. The pork was tender, richly marbled with fat, and very well flavoured. What a rare joy to find pork of this quality in the UK. The triple-cooked hand-cut chips were the perfect accompaniment.

The 200g beef sirloin (supplement of £4.50) was served with a light, freshly-whipped Béarnaise sauce. The meat was tender, flavoursome and perfectly cooked just as ordered, while the side dish was a well-made Macaroni cheese.

For dessert, the light and crunchy strawberry pistachio éclair had great textures. It was served with a refreshing raspberry sorbet, and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves that added an herbaceous lift.

Even better though was the toffee banana & crème brûlée tart with coffee ice-cream. The light pastry and crispy oats were dreamy. This dessert made us gasp with pleasure. I would go back to West Oblix for that dessert alone.

What We Drank: Cocktails are not included in the Elevator menu, but proved irresistible on this glorious London summer day. We had a refreshing Melon Spritz (£14.50) - a mix of gin, Aperol, bergamot, cantaloupe melon and Champagne.

The menu offers the option of unlimited white or red wine for £20pp or sparkling wine for £25pp by Chandon. We opted for the latter, and had a few glasses of the excellent Chandon Rosé – created by Moet Chandon, using native Champagne varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and produced in Argentina. This is perfect for summer days, with its fine bubbles, delicate flavours and soothing light peachy hue.

Likes: Spectacular setting and views, that banana dessert was the best thing I have eaten in months. Both the pork and the beef mains were fantastic, and it was great to have the option of unlimited, good quality bubbly. 

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: With great food, spectacular views and very fine bubbles, the newly launched Oblix West Express Elevator menu has it all, and at £40 per person (excluding drinks), it’s excellent value too.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Temper Soho - Wondrous Meat, Fearless Seasoning and Great 90s Soundtrack

Name: Temper Soho

Where: 25 Broadwick Street, London W1F 0DF, http://temperrestaurant.com/

Cost: A meal at Temper will cost on average £45 per person not including drinks or service. Small-eats (all tacos) are priced between £5 and £11.50, larger-eats (meat on flatbread) cost from £8.50 to £11, with sides at £3.50 to £7 and desserts from £6 to £12.

About: Temper Restaurant is Chef Neil Rankin's latest venture with three London branches in Soho, City and Covent Garden, which opened in May 2018.

I recently visited Temper Soho on Broadwick Street. The restaurant is a raucous affair in the basement of what seems a wine shop. As you walk down the stairs, the loud 90s music, the BBQ smoke, mezcal fumes, and charred meat odours welcome you with a bang.

Temper Soho is cavernous, with booths and tables filling every corner, but if you want a piece of the real action, grab a counter seat around the open kitchen where tacos are hand-pressed, flatbreads are blistered and chefs busily go about finishing off their dishes.

The focus point of the kitchen though is the central charcoal grill where whole carcasses of lamb and goat are roasted over glowing coals.

There is also a cedar wood oven, as well as charcoal and oak grilling areas depending on the dish being cooked.

The menu at Temper Soho is centred on BBQ with South American influences - the meat dishes are designed from every bit of the animal, so everything is used (Temper buys the entire animal) including their fat – think beef fat potatoes, grilled corn in lamb fat, and chilli and bone marrow just three of the dishes which give you a flavour of the food on offer.

Temper City, opened in July 2017, focuses on Indian cooking, with a tandoor oven, offerings of curry and freshly made paratha whereas Broadwick Street has a more Mexican theme with corn tortillas, flatbreads and mezcal-based drinks. Temper Covent Garden has an Italian angle, and serves wood fired pizzas, ragu, charcuterie, wine and vermouth.

What We Ate: From the small-eats menu, we chose the taco of aged cheeseburger (£8.50) - this was excellent, with intense flavours of cheese and corn, and a tender beef patty.

We also enjoyed the crab, dill, pickled onion and pork skin (£9) served on tacos, this was fresh and well seasoned although I could not detect the pork skin.

From the meat course menu, we chose the smoked beef (£10 per 100g) - this is cold smoked for 8 hours over charcoal or wood. Deliciously tender, with yellow fat and a wonderfully smoky flavour, this was simplicity itself and magnificent.

Smoked goat (£11 per 100g) was slightly less smoky than the beef, but surprisingly for such a wiry beast was just as tender.

The weakest link for me was the lamb belly masala (£8.50), with an anemic sauce and shredded meat lacking interest or texture.

Chipotle miso chicken half (£25), was smoked and grilled with paprika, then served with a herb salad of fresh mint, coriander, green chilli, radicchio and burnt lemons. The meat was succulent and tender, and had a great depth of flavour and heat from the miso and chipotle, a great combination of ingredients.

We enjoyed the ‘burnt-end’ Thai larb (£5) with lamb knuckle meat, ground toasted rice, and plenty of heat from the diced fresh red chillies. The larb was fresh, zingy and incredibly flavoursome.

The grilled corn with lamb fat béarnaise and mint (£4) was equally delicious, leavened by the surprising but very effective addition of popcorn. So novel and wonderful.

For dessert, we had the deep dish brigadeiro cookie with fior di latte ice cream (£6). With a sweet and buttery cookie and a neutral ice cream, this was a nice pudding but bore little resemblance to the Brazilian brigadeiro I grew up eating in São Paulo.

Sadly the signature butterscotch kouign-amann with dulce de leche ice cream (£6) was sold out, so instead we opted for the gin and tonic sorbet with honeycomb, grapefruit and a shot of Caperitif (£7). An adult dessert with some astringently bitter flavours, this was a refreshing and light dessert that ended our meal on a high note.

What We Drank: Cocktails are all priced at £10, with wines mostly from the New World, starting at £31 for a Pinot Noir Valle del Maule 2015, with most of the wines priced upwards of £50.  

To kick off, we had a brace of cocktails - Mr Faulty is a blend of rum, basil, rice wine vinegar and lime. Essentially a basil daiquiri, this was refreshing and full of citrus freshness.

Neil's Negroni is a modification of the classic blend of gin, vermouth and Campari, substituting gin with mezcal. The Negroni had a smoky note from the agave, which in this version is burned before being fermented to alcohol.  

With our meal, we shared a bottle of Quinta de Falorca, from Dao, Portugal 2011 (£42). A blend of Touriga Nacional, Rufete, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz, this was a straightforward wine, with plenty of red berry fruit flavours and some structure, with soft tannins.

Likes: Bold flavours, excellent meats and fearless seasoning. Catchy 90s soundtrack (Prince, Blondie), lots of seating around the central barbecue pit, reasonable prices, what's not to like?!

Dislikes: None

Verdict: If you like good quality meat, fearless seasoning and a great atmosphere, you will love Temper Soho. Grab a seat at the counter to watch the action (though not for the squeamish). I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Temper Soho and highly recommend it.

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