Brunch at Bandol, Chelsea

Having recently read there was a new restaurant in my neighbourhood with a brunch worth investigating coming from the husband and wife team behind popular Chelsea restaurant Margaux I was hopeful to discover a new place to revive myself on a Sunday afternoon.

The restaurant is named Bandol after the charming wine region in France’s South West I once visited as a boy and they specialise in Niçoise and Provençale sharing dishes but more importantly, could Bandol be a new destination for those acceptably late Sunday breakfasts and the prerequisite caffeine, I wondered curiously.

I was also keen to see how such a tiny space, formerly a bar I frequented serving good cocktails (including picklebacks; a Bourbon and pickle juice shot drunk back to back) and rather poor Americana food, could be transformed into a neighbourhood restaurant.

Having visited Margaux before I felt safe to assume there would be a significant upgrade but I wasn’t expecting the transformation to be quite so brilliant. The restaurant is quite literally gleaming with bronze and rather tastefully furnished indeed. The masterful interior designer deserves great credit for making the best use of the limited space, the restaurant floor now looks three times the size and even offers space for two additional private dining areas.

Our waitress proudly informed us that we were their very first brunch customers which I suppose made us the inevitable guinea pigs so we put our new role to effect immediately ordering with haste two lattes, a tapenade and anchoïade dip to share followed by eggs benedict and eggs royal.

We also chose two freshly squeezed juices of pink grapefruit and apple-orange-ginger. Admittedly these are simple brunch items but also very easy to ruin and I have almost more often than not been disappointed with eggs benedict, quite amazing how many people don’t know what hollandaise sauce is, mine however was excellent and future Sunday afternoon visits are all but guaranteed.

Bandol Brunch
Eggs Benedict

Cost of brunch with one coffee and a fresh juice:
£20 per person

Food:
7 out of 10 – good selection of brunch items, presented nicely and well cooked

Atmosphere:
7 out of 10 – hard to tell being the first customers but the dining room is a really pleasant space to dwell

Service:
8 out of 10 – friendly greeting and the staff were very attentive

Overall:
7 out of 10 – attractive in both menu prices and decor this is a great choice for a casual brunch and dinner

Summary in seven:
The perfect spot for brunch in Chelsea

Details:
60 Hollywood Road,
London,
SW10 9HU

Monday to Friday: Lunch 12:00 – 15:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 23:00
Saturday: Lunch 12:00 – 16:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 23:00
Sunday: Lunch 12:00 – 16:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 22:00

Website: barbandol.co.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 207 351 1322
Email: contact@barbandol.co.uk

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GT’s Best Of 2015

Best Of 2015 is a retrospective look back at my favourite items and experiences of 2015, an excellent year in which has seen much exploring as well as the opportunities to brush up on sailing, golfing and fishing.

Best Hotel Experience

The Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire Scotland. Quite possibly best place in the UK to learn to play golf with excellent rooms and faultless service.

Best Dining Experience

Dinner on the beach at Four Seasons, Koh Samui. An evening of spectacular entertainment including fire dancers and superb seafood and Thai cuisine.

Best Experiences

Catching my first Grayling on the river Itchen in Hampshire. Boating on The Norfolk Broads. Sailing from Athens through the Corinth canal to Kefalonia.

Favourite Clothing Brand

Our Legacy. Yet another Scandinavian clothing brand which consistently produces great quality casual clothing. I particularly like their Oxford Shirts which are near perfect.

Favourite Destination Visited

Kefalonia, Greece. A beautiful island with many hidden charms and lots of sailing opportunities.

Favourite Album

Alabama Shakes ‘Sound & Colour’. I first saw the Alabama Shakes on The Jools Holland show a few years ago and was impressed but didn’t get around to following it up. This year was a different story with another live performance and their latest album ‘Sound & Colour’ which is often on my stereo.

Favourite Single

Glass Animals ‘Gooey’. A dreamlike song which best captures the bands unique sound and lingers in your memory.

Favourite Photograph

Banks of the river Tweed in October. A stunning Autumn shot with the rusty, orange and yellow leaves at their most magnificent. Pictured Above.

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Learning How To Fly Fish in London

Having been a coarse fishing fan throughout my life I have only recently caught the fly fishing bug

Fly fishing has always been something that held a certain unattainable charm, particularly fly fishing on rivers, but the opportunity to go with friends hadn’t arrived until recently. This is partly due to limited opportunities in my home county of Norfolk which is a coarse fishing paradise but not so well catered for the fly fisherman.

Fishing is a particularly friendly sport and I find it is usually necessary to have somebody to exchange ideas with before attempting a new discipline of fishing, thankfully that opportunity came along and I have now been on a few successful Salmon fishing trips in the Highlands on the river Oykel where I have so far managed to catch five Salmon and two Brown Trout, along with less successful trips to the Tweed in the Scottish Borders where I’m sad to say I have as yet only drawn blank days.

My appetite for fly fishing has been tempered somewhat by my casting technique which was quite frankly in need of some professional help. Fortunately again this opportunity was presented to me by Orvis who invited me as a guest to their recent fly fishing 101 event ‘fun on the fly’ on Green Park. The event was designed as an introduction to their rather generous free beginners fly fishing courses and their company that has been making rods in the same factory in Vermont since 1856.

As you can see from the link above there are some wonderful opportunities for Londoner’s to learn fly fishing either for free or for a very reasonable fee throughout the year including courses such as: Free Beginners Course, Beginner’s Schools, Chalk Stream Schools, Stillwater Schools, On-the-Water Course and Adventures Abroad. There is a huge range of tackle, flies, gadgets and outdoor clothing at their flagship store on Regent St which I was pleasantly surprised to find offers a huge range of items for simply being outdoors not only fishing.

My suggestion to anybody in my position who has desired to go fly fishing but not quite made the jump would be to pop into the Orvis store and talk to one of their knowledgeable staff who will be able to advise you, rather than wait for an opportunity to arrive like I had.

Since attending the ‘fun on the fly’ event with Orvis I have purchased a copy of John Bailey’s ‘Where to Fly Fish In Britain and Ireland‘ and found a great place to test my new improved casting skills. This being the grounds of Syon Park, the Duke of Northumberlands London residence where there is a fishing stillwater shaped like a small stretch of river that was originally created by ‘England’s Greatest Gardener’ Capability Brown in the 1760’s, unbelievably this is only seven miles and a 30 minute journey from my doorstep so I really have no excuses now.

Having relied on borrowed tackle until now the next step for me is to get tackled up and start giving it a go. I shall be putting together an informative article with expert recommendations on that soon.

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The Icelandic Pantry at Borough Market, 7-10 Oct

Ever wondered what kind of cuisine Iceland has to offer? I was pleased to preview ‘The Icelandic Pantry’ at Borough Market; an Icelandic invasion which is bringing the best of Iceland’s cuisine to London.

This is the very first time Borough Market has hosted an Icelandic guest so it will be a unique opportunity to speak with and purchase directly from the Icelandic producers from Reykjavik’s largest farmers market. I can assure you they are all very pleasant and speak excellent English so you won’t need an Icelandic phrasebook to get involved!

According to the producers we met, what makes Iceland a bit different is that their food and production methods are shaped by a harsh climate which makes Icelandic food traditions rather inspirational. There was plenty of evidence of this on the evening from blueberry-cured Lamb to artisan pastries, the world’s only geothermally produced sea salt to an eco-whey drink blended with wild Iceland moss and Arctic thyme.

Iceland’s different regions are represented with organic lambs fed on Angelica to give it a special flavour from West Iceland, hot-smoked mackerel from the East and artisan rhubarb brittle from South Iceland. Some foods also give an insight into Iceland’s rich history, such as a special flatbread dating from the settlement in the 9th century.

Borough Market’s David Matchett describes the occasion as such: “The Icelandic Pantry event is an opportunity for the city’s food lovers to sample and learn about Icelandic cuisine, as well as a chance for local and small scale producers from the country to showcase and talk about what’s special about what they eat to a new UK audience. Icelandic people are among the healthiest on earth and are also one of the most resourceful, living in a harsh and unforgiving environment. They also have a focus on sustainability, which is a way of life rather than an aspiration, so as a market we have a lot of shared values and are excited to welcome them here.”

Icelandic Pantry Dishes

Two Icelandic Dishes: Beautiful Rich Salmon & Surprisingly Good Barley Canape

To whet your appetite, here are the artisan producers who are taking part:

OmNom – Bean to Bar chocolate producers. I have tried these already from the excellent Cocoa Runners and they make some of the very best chocolate money can buy. Well worth picking up a few bars.

Saltverk – The world’s only geothermally produced sea salt. A very impressive feat and truly eco-friendly as a machine free business.

Sandholt Artisan Bakery – traditional pastry (Kleinur) and rye bread.

Modir Jord – Organic farmers from the East with barley products and lactofermented root vegetables. Organic vegetable-based products and cereals, crispbread, jams, chutneys and more. I would never have guessed simple barley on a cracker could be quite so tasty.

Burid – Angelica products: jelly, chutney, jam and tea all made from the plant.

Ytri Fagridalur – Fresh Organic lamb which has grazed on Angelica Archangelica. I really enjoyed this lamb which has a distinctive taste.

Seglbudir – Fresh lamb and cured lamb, apparently the first Icelandic farm to set up production directly from their farm.

Solsker – Omar a giant Icelandic fisherman is bringing smoked and hot smoked Arctic char, mackerel and smoked cod roe to Borough Market.

Islandus Kruss – Whey soft drink with hand picked berries and wild herbs. This was a delicious burst of berries well worth trying.

Rabarbia – Rhubarb caramels and other rhubarb goodies. Sadly we missed these.

Bjarteyjarsandur – Award winning blueberry cured lamb. This was one of the stand out products and definitely worth buying at Borough Market.

Ican – Arctic Fois Gras, fresh cod liver smoked with beech. We all really enjoyed this served on a cracker, makes a great canape.

Osnes – herring with different marinades, including mustard and curry.

If you fancy exploring some interesting new culinary delicacies I heartily recommend you take a visit to Borough Market by the 10th of October.

Icelandic Seaweed

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LOBOS, Borough High Street

It’s rare that I immediately look forward to returning to a restaurant in London with so many exciting new openings and old favourites to choose from in our Capital but last week that’s exactly what happened and I now feel compelled to share this exciting new Spanish tapas restaurant with you. Hopefully it won’t become so popular I can never get a table but I suspect it may well happen.

Lobos resides in the shadows beneath a railway arch on Borough High Street with an unassuming entrance which peaks your curiosity and beckons you in. Once inside you are immediately greeted by a bustling restaurant and uplifting soundtrack that helps to quickly dispel any work-related thoughts.

When inside you do feel like you are in the wolf’s lair (lobo meaning wolf in Spanish) as the menu is seriously carnivorous as you would expect from the name. This menu is described by the owners as “focusing on the prime cuts of Iberico pig: Secreto Iberico (‘hidden’ cut between the shoulder and the loin), Presa Iberico (the top shoulder) and Solomillo Iberico (fillet), cooked simply and allowing the quality of the offering to shine through”.

Service here is attentive and fun. I am not sure I have ever described service as ‘fun’ before but the staff all seem to know each other really well and enjoy working together which makes for a very convivial atmosphere. Lobos operates on two floors with a small kitchen upstairs and a bar downstairs and small tables and booths utilising the limited spaces perfectly. The feature my guests admired the most were the neat plate holders hanging from the walls beside the tables, these allow for a small banquet to be served at your table without too much clutter.

Having lived in Spain for a while it is safe to say that the small things like Pan Con Tomate are a good barometer by which to judge a tapas restaurant and Lobos have the best I have tasted in London, a good start, and I couldn’t wait to try the rest of the menu. We also shared other classic small plates of Manchego & Quince (£7.50), Padrones Peppers (£5.50), Octopus in Vinegar (£5.50) and notably the Croquettas of Ham, Chorizo and Smoked Bacon (£7.00) that were as good as any I have tasted in Madrid.

The meat we were advised is rather conveniently sourced fresh and daily from the nearby Borough Market, we shared Chuleton Sirloin Steak (£30.00) and Iberico Pork Selection (£26.50) as you can see from images below these are beautifully cooked, perfectly rare in the middle with just the right balance of char from the grill. Our dear friend Mr Foie makes an appearance and who can resist a slice of entière as a wobbly lid to a Rib Eye. Not I! Especially cut so generously for such a respectable price (£14.95).

Octopus In Vinegar

The Octopus In Vinegar

Iberico Pork Selection

The Iberico Pork Selection

We did also try a Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cake (£5) from the menu however by this time the full bodied Uruguayan red wine we had been recommended (£30) had begun to erase my memory. I’m quite sure it was very good!

My advice is to book a table with a few close friends after work before the restaurant becomes too busy.

Cost of meal with 1 bottle of Wine and a glass of Cava:
£35 per person

Food:
8 out of 10 – hard to give Tapas a 10 rating but difficult to find better in London

Atmosphere:
10 out of 10 – best atmosphere GT has encountered in 2015

Service:
9 out of 10 – fun, friendly and fast

Overall:
9 out of 10 – already looking forward to returning. Sod it, I’m going tonight!

Summary in seven:
GT’s new favourite Spanish restaurant in London

Details:
LOBOS Tapas
14 Borough High St, London, SE1 9QG
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 12pm to 3:30pm and 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Tel: 020 7407 5361

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Knife Skills for Gentlemen

I was introduced to Leiths School Of Food And Wine through a work colleague and I was suitably impressed to book one of their courses for myself.

They offer a range of enthusiast courses of which I chose ‘Knife Skills Chicken and Fish’, mostly because I love gadgets and have recently invested in a decent set of knives after being lured in by the stunning Blok Knives, partly by finding it uninspiring buying packaged fish in supermarkets, also as I often go salmon fishing and would love to put my skills to use when I catch the occasional sea trout.

I really enjoy learning new skills and the opportunity to use my new knives to correctly joint chicken, game and fillet and skin both flat and round fish seemed like a good way to spend a spare Saturday in April so I decided to take part and share my experience on GT.

The course was much easier to follow than I had anticipated and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was far better with a knife than I had imagined. With my original fears of showing myself up out of the way I started to really enjoy the course and was very impressed with our tutor Corrine an experienced chef who has worked at Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair and a charming host.

The course started with some basic knife holding skills and tips to avoid losing your grip, we then learned how to perfectly joint a whole corn fed chicken which we were able to take home with us. Following this was my favourite part of the course as we were shown two fish techniques, how to fillet a flat fish which was lemon sole and a round fish which was sea bass. We were advised how to check if the fish was fresh but most importantly how to fillet the fish without wasting any flesh or leaving any bones and skin behind. We were also shown how to butterfly a fish which is a technique I will be practising on my forthcoming sailing trip from Athens to Kefalonia.

Butterflying Fish

A Live Demonstration On Butterflying A Fish

At the end of the course our small group ate a light lunch together of our freshly filleted sea bass with a salad and glass of wine, it was a pleasant way to finish off a successful course in which everybody seemed happy and conversation was flowing.

I would definitely recommend a quick course like this to anyone who wants to gain some much needed kitchen confidence and skills. It will certainly provoke more frequent trips to butchers and fishmongers for me where the provenance and quality of produce is undoubtedly far better than supermarkets. The course cost just £150 and can be booked online here.

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GT’s Best Of 2014

Best Of 2014 is a retrospective look back at my favourite items and experiences of 2014, a year which firmly reignited my childhood passion for fishing and included perhaps the best beach holiday I have ever had.

Best Hotel Experience

Four Seasons, Koh Samui. More small mountain village than hotel we were surrounded by forest overlooking a white sand beach in the Gulf of Thailand.

Best Dining Experience

Korobuta, Chelsea. Had a really memorable meal here reunited with friends in great spirits aided by a really well selected sake menu and their excellent Tuna Sashimi Pizza dish.

Best Experiences

Leaving a cold British January behind to attend a beach wedding in Koh Samui Thailand. Catching my first Salmon on the fly from the River Oykel in the Scottish Highlands.

Favourite Clothing Brand

Norse Projects. This Copenhagen based company creates seasonal collections which blend streetwear and classical workwear with high-end fashion.

Favourite Destination Visited

Benmore, Lairg, Scottish Highlands.

Favourite Album

Wild Beasts ‘Present Tense’. The bands fourth album is a masterpiece and you must listen to it. I will say no more on the matter.

Favourite Single

Rae & Christian ‘Happy’. Great new material from my favourite music production duo and an upbeat song that always lifts the spirits featuring vocals by Mark Foster.

Favourite Photograph

Benmore Lodge catching the sun over Loch Ailsh.
Pictured Above.

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Dinner at The Punchbowl, Mayfair

Popular Mayfair based pub The Punchbowl has recently had a bit of a makeover after being purchased recently by The Epicurean an attractive collection of Inns who look like they know their stuff. Having heard about this along with their new chef, GT decided to investigate and find out what’s on offer.

You may well know this place as the pub formerly owned by Guy Ritchie and therefore a favourite haunt of celebrities. Not having ventured in myself before I don’t have anything to compare it with for the makeover but what I discovered on arrival was a bustling pub full of happy customers and a newly refurbished modern restaurant upstairs. Above this on the second and top floor is a large space “The Club” used for private parties which despite my curiosity I didn’t venture into as it sounded like there was a private party in full swing.

I appreciated the restaurant on first impressions, it is a well furnished affair of around 30 covers, most noticeably the roof was painted gold with the effect of dripping down the walls upon which are hung several striking oil on canvas portraits of fashion models. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the modelling world but the waitress kindly told me who they were – aside from the ubiquitous Ms Moss I still have no idea!

The restaurant is quite open and looks into the kitchen area which also serves “The Club”, at first I really liked this and remarked that it feels like being in a very well decorated living room but at the end of the evening I would have perhaps preferred a degree more separation such as the use of a screen to give that bit of extra separation from the inner workings of a restaurant – that’s the atmosphere – the food on the other hand would be hard to critique.

The Punchbowl Interior

The restaurant Interior with gold ceiling

The menu is very well set out offering a good selection of honest traditional British dishes, in fact there is probably nothing I wouldn’t have been happy to order off it which is quite rare.

The food was very well cooked indeed, in fact it was near perfect, so I am sure that new chef Nathan Andrews who has experience from working in restaurants such as Petrus will be appreciated by customers new and old.

I had roasted scallops with slow cooked bacon to start with, the combination of flavours on the plate was very good and they were cooked perfectly. This was followed by beef shin and rump which came with truffle mash and a delicious bone marrow and red wine sauce, the beef really was fantastic quality and this was in my mind as faultless a beef main course as you can get. What is really clear is that the sourcing is excellent and Andrews real skill is allowing the ingredients to shine.

I will be sure to visit again.

Scallop Starter

Roasted hand-dived south coast scallops with slow cooked bacon, apple £13.50

Cost of two courses with a bottle of wine:
£50 per person

Food:
9 out of 10 – strong British menu cooked very well

Atmosphere:
6 out of 10 – can feel a bit like the overspill of the staff room when the restaurant is quiet

Service:
8 out of 10 – pleasant, chatty

Overall:
7 out of 10 – a good dining experience worth repeating

Summary in seven:
British dishes cooked as they should be!

Details:
The Punchbowl London
41 Farm Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5RP.
Open: Mon to Sat: 12:00 to 23:00 / Sunday 12:00 to 22:30.
Tel: 0207 493 6841
Email: reservations@punchbowllondon.com

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Afternoon Drinks At The Rib Room Bar

On two occasions recently I have found myself enjoying the surroundings of the Rib Room Bar on the ground floor of Jumeriah Carlton Tower hotel.

The bar may be somewhat under appreciated therefore I feel obliged to recommend it for afternoon drinks whatever the day. It is often tricky to find a good venue that fills THAT space for a few drinks during the day or similarly before you head on for the evening and The Rib Room fits the bill quite nicely.

Why should you go? What awaits you is a relaxed environment where you will more often than not be able to find a space for yourself or friends at the bar or at a table and if you are lucky somewhere on the small terrace.

Let’s start with the drinks. The 10 metre long bar itself dominates the room creating an attractive marble alter paying homage to fine gins and whiskies.

Gin fans are particularly in luck. On my last visit I took the time to chat to the barman Vicenco who proudly showed me their range of 19 gins and 10 bitters.

Initially I visited the bar on recommendation from a friend who raved about their cocktails and I do agree they are particularly good however if you don’t drink the virgin cocktails are also worth ordering. I tried an Orchard Breeze (apple juice, pear purée, soda water, ginger & cinnamon) (£8) purely because it sounded great, it was, and perhaps the best virgin cocktail I have tasted.

I shared a range of bar snacks including crispy boneless chicken wings with mango and black pepper caramel (£11), tiger prawns with soy, ginger and chilli (£14) and the extravagant and rather delicious crab and lobster burger (£22).

Rib Room Bar Burger

The Rib Room Bar’s Crab & Lobster Burger

Typical cost of three cocktails and snacks at the bar:
£65 per person

Food & Drink:
7 out of 10 – good bar food and excellent drinks

Atmosphere:
6 out of 10 – a bit too quiet for the room size (why GT is recommending)

Service:
9 out of 10 – polite and very helpful

Overall:
7 out of 10 – worth revisiting for excellent drinks and good bar food

Summary in seven:
Under appreciated destination perfect for afternoon drinks

Details
The Rib Room Bar
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
2 Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY.
Dress Code: Smart casual
Telephone: +44 20 7858 7250
Email: reservations@theribroom.co.uk

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Lunch at The Wolseley, Piccadilly

I have wanted to visit The Wolseley ever since I heard that my great grandfather once bought a car from the building back when it was a prominent car dealership called Wolseley Motors.

One can only imagine just how different London must have been then for a car dealership to take up such a prime central London location. Luckily for me I didn’t have to try too hard as the walls are adorned with past images helping to illustrate the buildings automotive past.

The Wolseley first opened as a restaurant in November 2003 by J. Sheekey, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King and was described back then as an “all-day Grand European café”.

Having booked a week in advance we were looking forward to our lunch and on arrival at 1pm the restaurant was absolutely buzzing without a spare seat in sight. The main features of the restaurant are large marble columns, indoor balconies, polished brass fittings and a cavernous roof above. It is a very intriguing space indeed attracting a real mix of clientele.

As expected the menu consisted of a well constructed bistro style selection of classic French and European dishes. Our table shared some beautiful Jersey Rock Oysters. I chose the classic bistro starter of Escargots followed by their Classic Hamburger, both as refined as they can be, while my guest was very impressed with their Steak Tartare. We shared a bottle of Sancerre.

Interior

The Wolseley restaurant interior

Cost of lunch with a bottle of wine:
£45 per person

Food:
7 out of 10 – great quality bistro style food

Atmosphere:
9 out of 10 – a buzzing floor with eye catching surroundings

Service:
8 out of 10 – pleasant, helpful

Overall:
7 out of 10 – a really enjoyable experience

Summary in seven:
Perfect destination for a long lazy lunch

Hamburger

The Wolseley Hamburger

Details:
The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB
Open: Mon-Fri 7am til midnight / Saturday 8am til midnight / Sunday 8am til 11pm.
Tel: 020 7499 6996
Email: reservations@thewolseley.com

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