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Friday 14 June 2019

Yauatcha City's New Weekend Yum Cha & Champagne Menu Reviewed

Name: Yauatcha City Weekend Yum Cha Menu

Where: 1 Broadgate Circus, London EC2M 2QS, https://www.yauatcha.com/city/

Cost: As of June 2019, from 12 to 4pm, Yauatcha City is opening on Sundays and offering a Weekend (Sat and Sun) Yum Cha brunch menu.  The menu includes a selection of steamed dim sum, Peking duck three ways, two bao buns, a main course and dessert. The menu is priced at £47 per person with oolong or Taiwanese teas, £49 with a half bottle of wine, or £58 with a half bottle of Henriot Champagne per person or a full-bottle for two people (priced at £82 if ordered a la carte). All options come with an introductory cocktail included in the price. There are vegetarian and vegan menus.

About: Yauatcha City is one of my favourite dim sum restaurants in town, we were there a couple of years ago when they launched their Saturday Supreme menu (reviewed here and now sadly no longer available), so when I heard about their new Weekend Yum Cha menu, I hurried along to try it. Much of the City is quiet at the weekend, but this special menu aims to lure in the increasing weekend brunch clientele, and it seems to be working as the place was buzzing when we got there at 3pm last Sunday afternoon. 

What We Ate: After a refreshing cold brewed tea palate cleanser, we had a selection of steamed dim sum - scallop shiu mai, king crab dumpling, seafood black truffle dumpling (our favourite) and wild mushroom dumpling. These were exquisite - freshly made, with fine pastry casing and delectable fillings.

Peking duck was served three ways - the first was in the more familiar form of a pancake, with admirably crispy skin over plum sauce, cucumber and spring onion. Next had a topping of black caviar - though equally delicious, I would suggest eating the caviar first then the rest of the dish, as I could not taste much of the caviar given all the other ingredients.  Between these two, Peking duck was served as a crunchy, refreshing wrap on a lettuce leaf, with tender cubes of pumpkin and pine nuts. 

Bao buns came two ways.  The steamed chicken bun with mushroom, water chestnut and salted egg was light and delicate, and who can resist a chicken-and-egg dish?  It was outgunned though by a magnificent bun of Berkshire pork belly, succulent and unctuous in the extreme, balanced by crunchy pickled cucumber and mini cubes of fresh almond.

For main course, there was a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options, though some of these sounded a tad pedestrian (sweet and sour pork?). The kung pao chicken, a favourite Sichuanese dish with peanuts, dried peppers, was served here over crispy rice noodles.  I enjoyed this almost every day during my recent trip to Chengdu in Sichuan, but sadly Yauatcha's version bore little resemblance. Sweet and gloopy, with very little chilli heat, it was more like the takeaway staple of chicken and cashew nuts than kung pao chicken.

Better was the stir-fry rib eye beef in black bean sauce, with very tender beef, sautéed with sliced peppers in a delectable, umami-rich black bean sauce. It was also a very generous portion

Stir-fried baby pak choi and steamed jasmine rice were served with the main course.

For dessert, there is a choice of petit gateau, yuzu chocolate bun, or Belvedere espresso with macaron.

We opted for the petit gateau (on this occasion a praline and pecan nut concoction), and a well-made single citron macaron with espresso-martini.

What We Drank: From the cocktail menu, we chose the Chun Tian - a blend of Cinzano Bianco vermouth, with Hennessy Fine de Cognac, limoncello, cinnamon, passionfruit, ginger bitters and peppermint bitters. This had delicious tropical fruit flavours and alcohol in perfect balance. 

The Sencha Negroni had Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, sencha green tea infusion, Antica Formula vermouth, Mondino Amaro and chamomile bitters. I'm a huge fan of Negronis, and this version was an Oriental, delectably aromatic variation on a much-loved theme.  

With our meal we shared a bottle of Henriot Champagne. Henriot is one of the last independent and family-owned houses in Champagne, and its NV product, served as part of the Weekend Yum Cha menu, is light golden in colour, with fine persistent bubbles and a citrus aroma. 

Likes: The dim sum is always outstanding at Yauatcha. The Berkshire pork bun was a superb, and I also enjoyed the variations on the theme of Peking duck. 

Dislikes: For me, the main course options are the weakest link on the menu, the kung pao chicken was very sweet and lacking in heat, the dessert options are limited (only 3 desserts available).

Verdict: We loved the new Yum Cha Weekend Menu at Yauatcha City. Available every Saturday and Sunday from midday to 4pm, it is a perfect combination of outstanding dim sum, bubbles and cocktails. Can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoons.... Recommended.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Tamarind Restaurant - Gorgeous Revamp and Michelin-Starred Indian Tasting Menu

Name: Tamarind Restaurant (Former Tamarind of Mayfair)

Where: 20 Queen Street, London W1J 5PR, https://www.tamarindrestaurant.com/.

Cost: The tasting menu is priced at £69 with an optional wine pairing of £45. The restaurant also offers great value 2 and 3-course lunch and pre-theatre set menus at £25 and £30 respectively  from 12pm to 14:30 and from 17:30 to 18:30 everyday of the week (Monday to Sunday).

About: Tamarind (formerly Tamarind of Mayfair), the first Indian restaurant in the UK to be awarded a Michelin Star, re-opened in December 2018 after an eight-month long re-build.

Designed by David D’ Almada, Tamarind is set over two floors. The lower ground floor restaurant revolves around a striking open-plan kitchen and tandoor ovens, while the first floor dining room has doubled the restaurant’s capacity to a total of 152 covers. 

Following this multi-million pound refit, the interior is stunning, with a subtle colour scheme of distressed gold, pale grey, pink and cream. The soft off-white leather seating, and marble and wood flooring all make for a very elegant setting.

Executive Group Head Chef, Karunesh Khanna and Tamarind Mayfair Head Chef, Manav Tuli lead the kitchen, and their menu is a contemporary take on authentic Indian cooking with dishes, many of which are prepared on a charcoal grill or in the tandoor. 

With its sister restaurants Tamarind Kitchen in Soho’s Wardour Street, and Zaika in High Street Kensington, Tamarind Mayfair is the flagship of the Tamarind Group. 

What We Ate: There is a well thought-out à la carte menu, and two tasting menus. We opted for the signature tasting menu (£69 per person), although there is also a vegetarian tasting menu (£59 per person). 

The curly kale salad was as delicious as it looked, combining a number of ingredients including kale, mangetout, yellow cherry tomatoes, dates, almonds, cabbage and broad beans, the whole tasting far greater than the sum of its parts thanks to the delectable dressing made with kokum - a southern Indian sour fruit.

Equally good were the griddled Scottish scallops, served with a delicately spiced red lentil, coconut, curry leaf and fennel sauce, topped with a refreshing green apple salsa.

The yoghurt and corn kebab, encrusted in panko and almond, had a deliciously creamy mouth-feel and nutty flavour.

The Konkan prawns were wonderful – huge, succulent wild prawns, tender, deftly spiced and aromatic from the tandoor.

Chicken Tikka Hasnu came perfectly grilled and flavoured with complex spice mix including a whack of cardamom.

The char-grilled lamb chops were outstanding, served French-trimmed, pink and tender, with a pistachio crust and spicy marinade, accompanied by baby peppers with lentil and herb cheese stuffing.

Chettinad chicken biryani came flavoured with curry leaf, and a refreshing beetroot raita.

Marwari bhindi (okra) was served with onion and tomato, topped with black and white sesame. 

The Hyderabad goat chop curry (£24) was not on the tasting menu, but it sounded so good I had to give it a try.  Slow-cooked goat chops with whole garam masala and coconut were beautifully presented in a tin-lined copper pan. Naturally more intense and fibrous than the lamb, this really packed a flavour punch, served with a steaming naan, freshly baked in the tandoor oven.

Again venturing off the tasting menu, for dessert we were tempted by the coconut rice (£10), baked with cinnamon and lime, black rice, candy cashew, roast coconut, coconut rolls and guava sorbet.  The combination of creamy cardamom rice pudding with fresh coconut rolls was irresistible, and the guava sorbet was silky smooth.

The Gajar Halwa  (carrot and cardamom) soufflé (£12) was served with a fresh carrot jam centre, with bayleaf ice cream.  This was absurdly good, with a marmalade quality to the carrot jam, and the soufflé had an unexpected lightness of texture and finesse.

What We Drank: We kicked off with a couple of cocktails. The Zaffran Gin Fizz (£15) combined saffron, pistachio orgeat syrup, cardamom, orange flower, lassi and lemon soda.

The Himalayan Sour (£15) had a base of Amrut Indian peated whisky blended with Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, coriander seed, vetiver (an Indian fragrant grass), lemon, egg white and Ayurveda bitters.

These were truly well-made, original and interesting cocktails.  Carole Brown, previously Bar Manager for eight years at Hakkasan and four at Park Chinois, is responsible for the extensive list of innovative cocktails, many featuring Indian ingredients and flavours to complement the cooking, garnished with petals, blossoms and bursts of coloured powders. 

The wine list has some great wines from France, Italy and Spain, as well as the best regions of the USA, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. There are relatively few options below £50 per bottle. 

We moved on from cocktails to the wine pairing option of the tasting menu, priced at £45 per person, starting with a glass of Northern Rhone Saint Joseph, from Domaine Culleron Les Pieres Seches (£16 per glass, £89 per bottle).  This had soft red berry fruit, gentle tannins, and was surprisingly long on the finish.

Next up was the Pago de los Capellanes Crianza 2016 (£14 per glass, £80 per bottle), from Ribeiro del Duero, Spain, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes, matured for one year in oak.  Well structured, with black berry fruit, leather and tannin, this was more than a match for the spicy food. A glass of Sierra Cantabria Rioja Reserva 2012 (£72  per bottle) was softer, with luscious cherry and damson fruit , mint and eucalyptus, with gentle tannins reflecting its long oak ageing.   

Likes: There wasn’t a bad dish on the menu, but the prawns and lamb chops were outstanding.  The desserts were truly exceptional, and if you don’t leave room for them, you will be missing out. The wine pairing option at £45pp was excellent value for money.

Dislikes: None

Verdict: We loved the revamped Tamarind Restaurant for its exquisite Indian cooking, the gorgeous new décor and great service. The tasting menu and wine pairing are also excellent value for money. Highly recommended.

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