Polpo, Soho

Searching for a decent, but reasonable, eatery last week for dinner with a client, I remembered Polpo in Soho; an immensely popular Italian tapas restaurant.

If you head that way (Beak Street) on a Thursday or Friday after 7pm, you can expect to wait no less than an hour for a table but most likely, two. Pretty standard for must-have eateries in London where you can’t book. But I was surprised to find that, at 7pm on a Wednesday, there was already a queue (someone must have opened their big mouth about the place…). We were about to join the rest of the ravenous crowd around the bar when two bar seats became available so we plonked ourselves down and ordered in the G&Ts (slimline tonic but full-fat gin ta very much).

Although the service was a bit rubbish to begin with, the bar kept us entertained (great place to sit by the way in case you think it’s a poor relative to the main restaurant) and we were soon tucking in to goats cheese bruscetta with roasted grapes honey and walnuts (a MUST), cuttlefish and ink risotto (hummm…questionable), grilled flank steak (yum), calamari (good) and roast potatoes….ok, I know the last one sounds like sacrilege but we needed a vegetable and they were delicious sautéed ones sprinkled with rosemary for an earthy Italian-esk taste! And all washed down with a lovely bottle of Barbera, Riva Leone 2008.

The vibe is busy but chilled, friendly and above-all, it feels like you could be in the middle of the Mediterranean. A definite must-visit for a relaxed but entertaining meal.

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L’Art Du Fromage

No joke. A restaurant dedicated to the king of dairy. A cheese restaurant. Why has no one thought of this before? Who cares but I’m glad the French did in the end.

Now, if like me you’re on the verge of booking but intrigue gets the better of you and you decide to read Jay Rayner’s review of this place, please don’t. As with most of his reviews, he is firmly talking from between his arse cheeks. It saddens me that my adoration of cheese, and the sheer pant-wetting delight of finding a restaurant dedicated to this delightful little morsel, was almost ruined by his monotonous, banal banter.

It’s just a little place and, if you don’t like the smell of strong cheese, let alone sweaty four-day old gym kits, this one’s not for you. However, if, like me, your nose hairs have been frazzled by many of year of hard core cheese-abuse, you won’t notice a thing.

We sat on the ground floor (second floor is a mezzanine) and there can only have been four other tables on our level so nice and cosy without feeling like the other guests could smell our reeking, cheesy breath.

As I mentioned, it’s run by a couple of French guys so it felt rude not to have the Foie Gras terrine to start. The portion was large enough to clog my entire vascular system sufficiently but my mother always taught me it was rude to leave food. So I didn’t. At least I could empathise with the geese that had made my delectable starter possible.

I then moved on to raclette – delicious – and finished off with the cheese board. Ha! As if! I couldn’t…I’d have created a cheese fondue all of my own on their bathroom floor. Nope, I had le crepe…yum.

We finally left (they were cashing-up…we had to) the restaurant suitably pissed, drunk on cheese and red wine. The perfect end to a glorious meal.

And if you needed further accreditation of L’Art’s credentials, it was full of French people so it MUST be good.

Just one word of caution; prepare yourself for some almighty crazy dreaming and for goodness sake, make sure that, if you wake up next to someone, you’ve known them for long enough that the stench of your breath won’t put them at risk of breaking their neck as they run, blinded by the tears, down the stairs and out the door.


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The Harwood Arms

As I slurp my way through a can of Chicken Broth (January savings and weight-loss plans are still intact despite it being the 20th), there’s only one thing for it to resist the bag of Cadbury Wishes that have just been deposited on my desk. To keep my hands busy writing this.

So where do I start with my restaurant summaries? (I’m not ‘reviewing’ because that’s already well-handled by the professionals and whilst I’d love to see the catastrophic demise of Mr Winner and Mr Coren, I’m not entirely sure that I’m quite there yet.)

Well, why not start with the crème de la crème, Laura?

Ok, I will!

One of my all time favourite finds so far is the unassuming Harwood Arms pub in Fulham. As all the reviews say, it really is down the road, round the corner and at the end of a residential street. So whilst it might be tricky to find, it means that the Chelsea fans have not discovered this little gem and thus its honour – not to mention sanitation and cleanliness – has not (yet) been sullied.

I don’t wish to humble this place by referring to it as a Gastropub. M&S do a Gastropub range that you can cook in 20 minutes at home. The Harwood Arms is a Pub. It’s also got a Michelin star making it the first pub in London to be awarded the accolade. So whilst the quality of its food may have reached the dizzy heights of stardom, its foundations are still firmly rooted in the simple pleasures that make a good English pub the only plausible venue for a cosy Sunday afternoon. Cue the hearty fire, the light and airy interior, the cosy sofas and the lovely staff.

I’ve been twice in the last six months; once on a Friday night and the latest, for Sunday lunch. From the moment you step through the door, the rest of the world evaporates and you become consumed by, what can only be described as, a gastronomic heaven.

(Bollocks…the Cadbury Wishes just got it)

The food on offer has the quality, creativity, variety and sheer balls that Michelin food should have, but without any unnecessary pretentiousness. I can’t recall in enough detail what I had when I went (cucumber soup with cheese curd croutons, oyster fritters, bone marrow was definitely in there somewhere and a cheese plate) but that’s not because it wasn’t memorable, more so because of the inappropriate amounts of (bloody) brilliant red wine I was also drinking at the time.

And the prices are pub prices. Not Gastropub prices. Pub prices. Starters are £6-7 and mains are around £16 each. Ok, ok, I can hear all those of you that live outside the M25 scoffing that those aren’t proper pub prices. Fair enough, but this is London and we’re not in Whetherspoons. If we were, we would be half way through our battered sausage by now and eyeing-up the deep-fried Mars Bar for dessert.

If you hadn’t guessed yet, I am in utter awe of this place. How they manage to produce such incredible food and maintain such low prices is beyond me. But, whatever they are doing, they shouldn’t stop.

A definite must-visit.

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Amuse Bouche

Hello one and all! I must admit, I’m not entirely sure I’m not just talking to myself. But hey ho, everyone’s got to start somewhere and if that means continuing to discuss my unrelenting desire and passion for all things edible for years to come, so be it. Atleast it will give my friends and family a well deserved break.

The purpose of this blog is to catalogue the many amazing foodie experiences that I so very fortunately get to embark upon, not least because of my (wonderful) job and the need to regularly take food journalists to the latests restuarants but also because I am surrounded by friends and family who share my passion and I also happen to live in the capital of fine catering; London.

With each post, I don’t intend (important word that) to waffle on and leave you with that ‘wafer thin mint’ feeling. Rather, present an honest, one-woman opinion of the establishments I visit. If nothing more, it will simply become a reference tool for me in a few years time once I’ve left my glamorous London lifestyle behind me and moved to the suburbs to settle-down where they have a choice of Indian (mild kormas and onion bhajis), Chinese (sweet and sour anyone?) or Pizza (that’ll be Hut, not Express) and the car parks are full of white Volvo estates. Urgh.

So here goes…

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