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Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Autumn Leaves Menu at Sake no Hana

Name: Sake no Hana

Where: 23 St James, London SW1A 1HA, http://sakenohana.com/

Cost: The Autumn Leaves menu is priced at £40 per person, with the option of a cocktail flight at £23 to share between two.  

About: Sake no Hana is the leading Japanese restaurant of the Hakkasan group which includes the eponymous Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, as well as the fabulous Yauatcha, where you can find some of the best dim sum and patisserie in London, at any of their two branches in Soho and the City.  The London Foodie is a huge fan of the group, and I am always on the lookout for new menus. So I was intrigued to hear Sake no Hana was serving a seasonal menu, namely the Autumn Leaves.

We arrived on a Monday evening at 9pm to find the restaurant packed.  I had a great meal here (The Cherry Blossom Menu) not so long ago, you can read the review here.  The building is Grade II listed, dating back to the 1960s.

The entrance to the restaurant is odd, with a narrow entrance leading to even narrower up and down escalators.  But the restaurant, reached after passing through a sushi counter with a gaggle of chefs, is on the first floor and is spacious, elegant with a zen Japanese decor of cyprus wall and roof panels designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

The Autumn Leaves menu is available until the end of November, when the restaurant is adorned with autumn maple leaves, with a menu from Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi and a cocktail flight created in partnership with Belvedere vodka and Ruinart Champagne.

What We Ate: The meal started with an exemplary, heart-warming cup of miso soup.

A mixed platter of four starters followed, with an excellent combination of textures and flavours.  This included Maguro sashimi (tuna sashimi with black pepper ponzu); crispy truffle rice balls (fried truffle rice with seasonal mushrooms); shiitake tofu (shiitake mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce) and Autumnal crisps (sweet potato and beetroot crisps with soba noodles).

From four main-course options, we chose the salmon and chicken dishes. Salmon kurumi miso yaki – pan-fried Loch Duart salmon with Kyoto Saikyo miso was delicious, with crisp, aromatic skin, and the combination with walnuts was a revelation.

The tori sumiyaki - char-grilled miso chicken with sesame chilli miso and padron pepper - was tender and succulent.

The other two options on the menu, which we did not get to try, were the Kisetsu tempura moriawase (prawn and seasonal vegetable tempura) and the Tofu Shanshu Sukiyaki (three kinds of tofu with seasonal mushrooms and a soy mirin broth)

Best of all, by far though, was the sushi course that followed the main.  The Gunma seared wagyu A5 beef maki, with asparagus, caramelised onion and kizami wasabi, was immensely concentrated, with the kind of complex flavours that I would expect from a slow-cooked oxtail dish.

The spicy chirashi maki was also excellent – this combined tuna and white fish with avocado and cucumber.

I'm a big fan of inari sushi - deep-fried tofu pockets filled with sushi rice. But Sake-no-hana's version, served with pickled mooli, shiso and kanpyo (dried gourd), and a  home-made soy sauce, was nothing short of superb.

For dessert, we had the Autumn leaf - hazelnut feuilletine, hazelnut chocolate parfait with chocolate and maple syrup soup, mascarpone mousse and fresh yuzu. This showed off the skill of the pastry chef, and was both rich and light, a difficult combination to bring off.

What We Drank: We shared a bottle of Albarino Marinero, Terras Gauda, Rias Baixas, Spain 2017 (£45). This was a crisp and well-made wine, with fresh citrus acidity and greengage fruit on the finish.  

Likes: The sushi and the dessert were the excellent. 

Dislikes: I could have done with some rice, vegetables or some other starch or carbs to be served with the mains, I was still a tad hungry after eating this meal.

Verdict: For good quality Japanese cooking, fantastic sushi and French-Japanese patisserie desserts, the £40 for the Autumnal Leaves menu at Sake-no-Hana represents great value for money and quality.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

Words and Photography by Su-Lin Ong

A heady night of feasting in a boudoir-like salon; then that moment you half expect Adam Ant to leap up and stride down the long table to shake up the conventional.  Such was the mood when Berry Bros. & Rudd released its latest limited-edition label for its perennially popular Good Ordinary Claret.

It was natural genius to show off its fine and dandy label by artist Kate Boxer, matched up with her son Jackson Boxer’s modern cooking at the flamboyant Brunswick House – the Georgian mansion crammed with antiques and salvage to covet and buy.

This night of hospitality with gusto and intensely rich flavours cast all meekness aside.  Befitting a first full-blown feast of Autumn, it was a textured setting of draped swags and the patina of old satin polished wood, with a tumble of flora from the mantlepieces.

The Kate Boxer label is the third limited-edition design by BBR, and follows its commissioned Paul Smith label for its 2013 GOC and the 2014 GOC by design wonder Luke Edward Hall. The depicted dandy and his dog - modelled by Kate’s dog Figgy - is a chap on a mission.  He’s firing his pistol to proclaim, ‘Let the feasting begin’.

The wine is a bright and modern Bordeaux red, with notes of deep cherry and bramble.  You sense swathes of country mists and goblets filled and re-filled to the brim. It’s a wine to be generous with; an everyday indulgence.  When a designer designs, the inspiration usually comes from relishing the product and its aura.  As Kate describes her creation, you figure how much she enjoys this kind of feasting on a regular basis; she is very much part of the Boxer lineage of gourmets and chefs.

To reflect the flavours of the claret, Jackson styled a menu of jewelled beets with gutsy charcuterie, followed by succulent slices of rare, full fat roast beef – all plattered up for guests to convivially serve each other.  Even the dessert of richest, darkest chocolate and brandy infused prune loved this wine.

And yes, the dandy himself lent his full-size presence to the feast.  Kate Boxer’s original dry point etching with carborundum seemed so completely at home in the deep shadows and candlelight.

The new Kate Boxer-labelled Berry Bros. & Rudd Ordinary Claret is available from 25 October 2018.  £9.95 for a bottle.  And when the 7,000 bottles are gone, they’re gone.  www.bbr.com

The dinner:
Prosciutto, bresaola, fennel salami, mortadella, olive, cornichon and caperberry
Heritage beetroot, goat curd, pistachio dukkah and puntarella
Rare roast sirloin of beef with horseradish, Cornish potatoes, roast carrots and pound farm leaves
Chocolate pot with boozy prune, cultured cream and almond
* * *
Champagne Berry Bros. & Rudd Grand Cru by Mailly
Negroni cocktails
White Burgundy 2017 Berry Bros. & Rudd by Collovray & Terrier
Red Bordeaux 2016 Berry Bros. & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret by Dourthe

Su-Lin Ong attended as a guest of Berry Bros. & Rudd.
Twitter: @sloLondon

Saturday 3 November 2018

Santo Remedio's Delicious Mexican Sunday Brunch

Name: Santo Remedio

Where: Santo Remedio, 152 Tooley Street, London , SE1 2TU, https://www.santoremedio.co.uk/

Cost: Starters are £4.50-£6.50, mains £11-£15, with sweet pancakes or filled doughnuts  at £4-£8.50.  Brunch cocktails are £8.50-£11.50. 

About: Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes set up Santo Remedio in Shoreditch in 2016, opening their second branch in London Bridge's Tooley Street in 2017, serving up a menu of modern Mexican food.

The menu focuses on dishes from Mexico City, Oaxaca and the Yucatan peninsula.

Santo Remedio uses a blend of imported Mexican ingredients and fresh local produce (for example, their Mexican-style Cotija cheese is made by Gringa Diary in nearby Peckham), to create fresh, vibrant Mexican flavours, and the dishes I have tried before were among the best in London. All the salsas are made on the premises.

From October 2018, they are serving a Mexican Sunday Brunch menu, and I made my way over to give it a try.

What We Ate: A classic guacamole, with smashed avocado, onion, tomato and tortilla chips (£6), with grasshoppers (£1.50) was fresh, vibrant and delicious.

Tetela - was a delectable corn masa parcel filled with black beans served over a glossy mole negro, finished with Cotija cheese and crema (£5.50).

Equally good were the Motuleños - corn tostadas with black beans, topped with 2 free range fried eggs, salsa roja with morita and ancho chillies, Cotija cheese, grilled bacon and plantains (£14). This is a regional dish from the Yucatan peninsula, and was Edson's favourite brekkie while he lived in that part of the country.

But the dish that really made me want to visit Santa Remedio was their Torta Ahogada, which I had tried a couple of weeks earlier at a one-off collaboration they ran with Bubbledogs (reviewed here).

This is a sourdough baguette filled with crispy fried pork belly, dunked (ahogada translates as drowned) in a magnificent salsa roja made from a blend of chillies including morita, which gives a fantastic smokiness, grilled tomatoes and other seasonings, dotted with pink pickled onions (£12.5). The sandwich was punchy, vibrant and so delicious.

For dessert, we had the tres leches pancakes with banana (£7.50), made with three types of 'milk' including dolce de leche, served with a Mexican chocolate de agua (£3.50), a traditional water-based drink with cinnamon and sugar. The pancakes were surprisingly light, flavoured with cinnamon and a side serving of fresh raspberry puree cut through the sweetness of the pancake and syrup.

What We Drank: We had a couple of 180 Tequila Bloody Maria's (£8.50) - made with blue agave tequila, tomato juice, Santo Remedio chilli blend and celery.

Likes: The Torta Ahogada was sublime, the Motuleños were excellent. The food tasted fresh, vibrant and full of flavour. 

Dislikes: None 

Verdict: The Mexican dishes I tried at Santo Remedio are some of the best I have had in the UK, and indeed took me back to some of the best restaurants I experienced in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Santo Remedio is my go-to place for Mexican food in London. Highly recommended.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Bubbledogs 6th Birthday Collaboration with Santo Remedio

Name: Bubbledogs and Santo Remedio

Where: Bubbledogs at 70 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QG (https://www.bubbledogs.co.uk/) and Santo Remedio at 152 Tooley St, London SE1 2TU (https://www.santoremedio.co.uk/)

Cost: A 3-course meal at Bubbledogs cost on average £25 per person, not including drinks or service.

About: Bubbledogs have been serving up their celebrated combination of hot dogs and Champagne from their Charlotte Street restaurant since 2012, when husband and wife team Sandia Chang and James Knappett (who runs the Michelin-starred restaurant Kitchen Table at the back of Bubbledogs) founded the restaurant.

To celebrate their 6th birthday, Chang and Knappett teamed up with Mexican food specialists Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes of Santo Remedio in London Bridge.

The special birthday menu had some of the most popular dishes of both restaurants, and an offer of cocktails or flights of Champagne or Mezcal.

What We Ate: From the Bubbledogs menu, we ordered a selection of their classics.  The signature Jose beef hot dog (£7.50), with a zingy tomato salsa, sour cream, jalapenos and guacamole was as good as I remembered.

Equally good was the Sloppy Joe hot dog, served with melted cheese and beef chilli (£8), was rich and very well flavoured.

To accompany our hot dogs, we ordered chipotle tots (£4) - potato croquettes and nachos with the works (£7) - beef chilli, guacamole and cheese.

Best of all though was the black bream aguachile 2 pieces (£8). A Mexican-style ceviche, here served as a deconstructed taco - with thin slices of raw black bream, salsa, guacamole, radish, all brought together with a vinegar-based dressing, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

From the Santo Remedio menu, the pork belly torta ahogada (£10), literally translated as a drowned cake or submarine sandwich, came served in a baguette, with a delectable morita salsa. This was for me the star dish of the evening - chunky pieces of fried pork belly filled the baguette, with sliced pickled onions over a spicy smoked jalapeno chilli sauce.

Also outstanding was the braised ox tongue taco (2 pieces, £10), served with with pipian rojo. This classic Mexican sauce is made from various types of chilli, pumpkin, sesame seeds, cinnamon, onions and garlic, among other ingredients. The ox tongue was soft, and combined really well with the accompanying diced raw onion, lime and micro-coriander.

To finish, we had a dessert that resulted from the collaboration between Bubbledogs and Santo Remedio  - rice pudding with green tomatillo jam and grated dark chocolate (£5).  This was luxuriously creamy, but with a lovely tartness from the green tomatillo jam.

What We Drank: We opted for the Champagne flight, sadly available for one night only. But on the menu there is a range of Champagnes and wines available by the glass or bottle. For example, the Solessence Champagne (see below) is available for £8 per glass or £45 per bottle, while the Collin-Guillaume Rose costs £10.50 by the glass or £60 for the bottle. 

We opted for the special birthday Champagne flight (£20). Jean-Marc Seleque, Solessence was a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, and had lemony fruit and a touch of toast.

The Christophe Mignon was made from 100% Pinot Meunier, and had a rich palate of pears, brioche, with good minerality while being bone-dry. 

The rose Champagne offering was Collin-Guillaume, made from all three Champagne varietals, this had lovely strawberry notes, and a touch of vanilla.

Likes: The black bream aguachile, the pork belly torta ahogada and the ox tongue taco were the outstanding highlights. I loved both Bubbledogs, and the incredibly well priced, top quality Champagne.  The staff are well informed and enthusiastic. 

Dislikes: None 

Verdict: Bubbledogs is celebrating its sixth anniversary, serving up its signature combination of hot dogs and Champagne. They still feel as innovative, fresh and vibrant as on day one. Recommended.

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