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Entries in Arjun Waney (4)



There were several factors that put a lot of pressure on my visit to Massimo. First and foremost, this opening was the one that I had most been looking forward to out of all the other restaurant openings this year. Whilst Dinner and Pollen Street Social (PSS) were what most people were excited about, this one was my baby. Why? Because, I love Italian food and there's a startling lack of decent Italian places that I have found, especially given my issues with Il Baretto. Secondly, because the chef is from Zuma and I love Zuma. This in itself would have been enough pressure to potentially ruin my weekend if it was a bad experience. In addition to this, a combination of factors meant I had not been out to a restaurant in two weeks. The fact that the last time I ate out was at Pollen Street Social,  which set such a high bar didn't help either. And finally, in the same time span, I had been reading Heat by Bill Buford, (I highly recommend you do, too), which has not only increased my knowledge about Italian food, but also has basically had me drooling, so much so that the pages are all a bit crinkly.

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La Petite Maison

Valentine’s day. Two words that strike fear into the heart of every male in a relationship and every relationship-less female. Even as a girl in a relationship I think it’s the most pointless of holidays. No one sums up my dislike of the holiday then my friend Tracy in a very entertaining article you should all read hereAs much as we want to, The Boyfriend and I have not been able to escape the pressure forcing us to celebrate. The furthest we have managed to is going out for dinner on the 15th rather than the 14th. Some rebellion, eh? But, at least it is easier to get a dinner reservation and romantic themed set menus aren't involved.

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Roka Canary Wharf - Third Time's A Charm


I've had bad experiences every time I've been to Roka. Nothing to do with the food, mind. Just for some reason every time I go it immediately triggers a crisis at The Boyfriend's work. The first time we went he was two hours late for dinner, which meant that I actually ate alone. The second time, I had to sit and watch him talk on, not one, but two conference calls at the same time, (a phone at each ear) throughout our lunch. Surprisingly, each time I stil enjoyed myself because the food is so good I don't think I would even have been capable of talking. I'm pretty sure anything could happen in the restaurant around me and I would still be a supremely happy bunny. Which is why I will jump at any chance to go. My only real problem with Roka, (bar the Bank world collapsing every time I go) is that its too popular for its own good. It takes at least a week to get a table, and inside they've tried to squeeze too many people in, which also has consequences on the service, which suffers as a result.



I'd never really considered Canary Wharf as a place to go to dinner, (as I'm sure most people haven't, unless you work in the vicinity) but for the Boyfriend and I, starving at 7.30 pm on a Monday night, craving sushi and tired, Roka Canary Wharf seemed like a perfect choice. They had space last minute, (finally a good restaurant in London with space!) and on public transport took me only ten minutes longer than walking to Charlotte Street, and this way didn't involve any rain. Sold. 

The restaurant itself is basically a larger version of the Charlotte Street venue, except they probably have similar numbers of tables as these were evenly spaced. It was half empty but the atmosphere didn't feel as empty as it was.

We started with a Age Wari Gan roll - Soft shell Crab, cucumber, Kim Chi and Chilli Mayonnaise. The soft shell crab was crunchy but still soft and and the mayonnaise provided a bit of spice to the roll. However, the Kim Chi and cucumber flavours were lost due to the strength of the mayonnaise. Still, easily the best soft shell crab roll in London. My only criticism is the fact that they are five rolls instead of the traditional six which makes splitting them difficult especially when they are so good. Playing the " If you really loved me card" here is advisable.

We then had Fried Baby Squid, Schichimi and Lime - which was the low point of the meal. It wasn't that it was bad, it's that relative to the other things we ordered it wasnt as exciting. Poor ordering on our part. The lime flavour really dominated in this dish, which was a nice change to the usual plain calamari, again the Schichimi (a japanese spice mixture) flavour was either non existent or destroyed by the other flavours. They were nicely cooked though and not too greasy.

My highlight of the meal, actually scratch that, highlight of my life were the ribs. They were amazing. Sticky and spicy, in a barbecue sauce type glaze, but not smothered in sauce like your typical ribs. Crunchy cashews nuts and spring onion added an extra uumph. They were so good I didn't care that I looked revolting stuffing my face with the ribs  and ended up being covered in the glaze. None of it mattered because they were so damn good.

The Seabass arrived shortly after the ribs, luckily as after I started eating those I wasnt about to stop to take a photo of some vegetables, so I managed to get a quick shot of it. The Seabass is good. Its about the same standard as Nobu and the rest. I have never felt the need to touch the yellow sauce that accompanies it (no clue what it is) as the seabass is flavoured enough to make it redundant. It was perfectly cooked, as always, and fell away in flakes after a gentle poke with a chopstick. Lovely, but second fiddle to the ribs.

Aubergine and asparagus accompanied these two. The aubergine was baked in its skin and served with a little spoon with which to scrape it out. Covered in yet another sauce so good I couldn't believe that this could possibly be healthy. (To be honest, god knows what they put on it to make it taste like this, but it was a vegetable so I assume it has to be just a little bit healthy).The asparagus had been grilled on the Robata and was still satisfyingly crunchy. It tasted just like asparagus should which was refreshing after the rich glazes/sauces on everything else we had ordered.

All of this was accompanied by a nice carafe of some wine which, I liked as always but about which The Boyfriend seemed fairly apathetic. The service was perfect, the waiters really didnt miss a beat (probably helped by the fact the restaurant was half empty).

The total came to 50 a head, not cheap by any means, but when considered relative to the competition around it, (I'm thinking about you, Barbecoa) and given Roka is also an "it" restaurant, its a pretty good deal. I challenge anyone to find better Japanese in London for the same price. The Canary Wharf venue has none of the problems its older sibling does and comes off as less pretentious too. It seems to be more about the food. But maybe I'm just biased because for once at Roka I wasn't a Blackberry widow.

Roka Canary Wharf on Urbanspoon



Il Baretto

Il Baretto has long been my favourite italian in London. However, this isnt to say the food is mind blowingly good. In fact, its just good. The real thing is that I have yet to find a  better alternative for Italian food. Locatelli is of the same quality but more expensive and I found the atmosphere a bit stiff. Cipriani the food terrible and more expensive. The River Cafe, I had a bad experience both food and service wise which was especially disappointing after the long trek to Hammersmith. Bocca Di Lupo I liked but not enough to book six weeks in advance again.  Tinello, was easily the worst food I've had in a while and was easily " the Biggest let down of 2010."

Saying that there are a few still left on my Eat List - Cecconi's (which I've heard is much like Il Baretto), Zafferano and Apsleys (saving that for the day I win the lottery) so maybe I have misjudged London's italian restaurants. Thus far however, Il Baretto is the winner.

The food is better than most and some dishes stand out as truly outstanding - Hello, Maccheroni with Black Truffle ( I should say that so far this is easily the best Truffle pasta dish I have ever tasted.If you go to this restaurant you must order this dish.)

Sadly, I'm one of those people who rarely follows their own advice. Especially in the post-Christmas days when eating a plate of pasta that probably has the same calorific content as several sticks of butter, may just clog my arteries for good. So The Boyfriend and I went healthier than usual.

We arrived 20 minutes late, a pretty standard time for the two of us, to find our table had been given away. Luckily, this worked out okay as they had space in the gorgeous wine bar. I prefer the wine bar section personally. Its more relaxed, there is none of the "table back in two hours nonsense" and there is great people watching (count the designer handbag game) plus the music makes it a pretty up beat place.

Sadly, things started badly with Spiced Baby Octopus and New Potato Salad - £12.00. Uh oh, it was just like being back at Comptoir Gascon - far too much salt. So much salt that the Boyfriend's immediate reaction was to call over the waiter and order a bottle of water. I am not sure what in this dish makes it constitute a salad as in reality its more like a stew and not a particularly nice one. Looking around the saltiness the sauce, too much and far too watery, had a fairly unpleasant flavour.

We then moved on to Linguine with lobster, sweet chilli, garlic & white wine sauce - £19.00. Which was better but still on the bland side. It was missing something, im not sure what but definitely something. The portions were generous, especially the amount of Lobster which was encouraging. Another dish unfinished.

The Seabass baked in salt - £30.00 with Roast Potatoes - £3.50 came next and finally the cooking returned to the standard I have been used to. The Seabass was wonderfully cooked and moist with a delicate flavouring and a nice hint of rosemary. Simple, light and perfect. The Roast potatoes were incredibly moreish and it took about three minutes until they were all gone. In fact, it was probably a good thing the other dishes had been left unfinished as it meant The Boyfriend and I had the ability to devour the whole thing.

The service was good, as relaxing as the atmosphere and they didn't push us to leave, just let us continue drinking our lovely dessert wine.In total, the bill came to £180.00 which seems expensive but that factors in £90.00 for alcohol, largely thanks to The Boyfriends taste in wine.

All in all, despite the let down in food, I challenge anyone to find a better Italian in London. I feel its apparent upon eating here that Il Baretto is the sister restaurant of La Petite Maison, my all time favourite.

It has the same atmosphere of a high end yet relaxed restaurant no stiffness or pretentiousness just good simple food.Sadly, trying to get a table here is becoming increasingly more difficult which is sad as it used to be my " lets just go to.. " restaurant. Although, they do do takeaway.

Il Baretto on Urbanspoon