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Entries in French (16)


The Balcon - As chic as Chanel?

Thistime last year, The Boyfriend and I headed to Brasserie Roux, as apre-Nutcracker pit stop, and ate a selection of rather uninspiring food intheir grand but empty dining room. This time, we headed back to visit their newversion – The Balcon, as a pre-Nutcracker pit stop and found it to be a verydifferent experience. They've clearly tried to make the place cool - it'sinspired by "Coco Chanel's 1920's Paris apartment". Theyare possibly under the misguided view that if they throw the words "CocoChanel" in a restaurant blurb, the place will automatically become the new"scene" place. Last time I checked Ms. Chanel was known for the2.55, the LBD and tweed suits but not her interior design skills.

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I had high hopes for Vinoteca. Its near to my new place of work and I had hoped this would be my "Dear God, I need a drink and some fattening food" place.  Sadly, I don't think this is it. It wasn't that it was bad, it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination, it was just very familiar.

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La Cave a Fromage

La Cave a Fromage may not seem like the obvious choice for breakfast,  given it is essentially a glorified cheese shop that serves wine, but what a wonderful brunch I had there last week. Most people can't handle wine and cheese first thing in the morning and by first thing I mean noon, luckily my new brunch buddy could. 

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When I heard Laduree was opening in Covent Garden I almost jumped up and down. It was proof that God does listen to me when I ask for things.  So a Saturday or two after it opened, The Boyfriend and I rolled in to check it out.

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Coq D'argent

Finally Britain is warming up and so, The Boyfriend and I are determined to make the most of this weather by eating and drinking outside as much as possible. Sadly, London is a city that makes this a pretty difficult challenge. My list for outdoor restaurants is a small one; 
The Chelsea farmers Market - is the obvious place for sunny weekends, if you can be bothered to queue, but gets cold and quiet at night. The Boundary - again if you can face the queue, is a good option but really slows down past nine pm. 

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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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Androuet - When is a fondue not a fondue?


For those who don’t know, Androuet is a Parisian cheese shop/restaurant that has been brought over to Spitalfields market. The place itself is tiny, just accommodating 12 people snuggly. Given their space shortage, they have done a lot to make the place feel lively. I was really excited to try Androuet. I was so excited I spent the day preparing. I managed to survive ten waking hours on smoothies, olives and dried fruit. By the time I rolled up to Androuet, I was ready, and willing, to eat the whole shop. We ordered a fondue for two to share, wanting to get straight on to the good stuff - although I was tempted by the truffle grilled cheese (if I worked in the vicinity I think that I would be here every day and at least 50lbs heavier).


Now, my main experience with fondue is limited to the most amazing restaurant in the world - a half falling down, 16th century farmhouse in the middle of the French alps, where everything you order comes with something that resembles a torture device to cook your food. This is a place, where if you order a Raclette, you get a quarter wheel of cheese - not just little slices with mini frying pans. Androuet, sadly is not one of these places. In fact when I asked which method they used, the waiter scoffed. He also told me that Raclette is only served outside and that yes, you only get slices. This should have been an indication that my fondue was perhaps not going to be as authentic as I had hoped.

So, when is a fondue not a fondue? When it is heated by a candle. In my opinion, it is the equivalent of eating at a bakery and watching your brownie bake in an Easy Bake Oven. It is toy food. Luckily, the cheese itself and the charcuterie were both lovely, and whilst the contraption may not have been authentic, the important part was.

My preparation actually let me down as in my eagerness I managed to stab my hand with my fondue fork. Equally, the Boyfriend and I were unsatisfied by just the first fondue, so we ordered another. To be honest, I think even if I hadn’t been starving before I arrived we probably would have ordered another, making this place not quite the bargain it appears.

It was a fun night out, for a casual midweek dinner, and it was different. It didn't cost any more than my previous night out at Jamie's, as it came to £40.00 (fondue plus a lot of wine) and it was a lot more enjoyable. This would be a great post work, lets grab a bite to eat venue or lunch time, I so want to try that grilled cheese, or a really great first midweek date place. However, if I want real Savoyarde fare - I think it prefer to test out L'art du Fromage, or L'Cave du Fromage. 

Androuet (Old Spitalfields Market) on Urbanspoon



Baranis - I'll take you to the South of France

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, describes Pétanque as "a form of boules where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally "piglet") or jack."

Sounds fun, right? It conjures up images of the South of France, wine, sunshine, beaches... ahh. Oh wait, it’s February. Its cold. It’s London. But fear not, if you think a taste of the South of France is what you need in these depressing months, Baranis will help you out.

( Sorry, random people in this photo. I wasn't aiming for you)
I really hate February, as I have described in previous postsMy credit card statement is a testimony to this. As the only way I find to get me through this month is internet shopping. I mean, think about it. January, there are new presents to play with and resolutions to keep. March, it’s almost April and April has Easter, which means more sunshine and a potential holidays. May is practically Summer.  June/July/August/September its warm enough to justify drinking outside so what could be bad? October, I spend a lot of time winter wardrobe shopping so that’s not so bad. November is leading up to Christmas and December has Christmas.
Basically, my visit to Baranis could not have come at a better time. Baranis is a relatively new addition to the scene, arriving around Christmas time to the outskirts of Bankerland. It’s the bar of Cigalon (the life changing-ly good restaurant I visited last month). I had high hopes. No pressure or anything, Baranis. Anyway, back to Petanque. They have a court here. In fact, they have the only indoor court in the UK. (Please note – Petanque is not a sport for heels unless you’re particularly apt at walking on gravel in those Louboutins)

Baranis is located beneath Cigalon, in the basement area. The décor is adorable. Arches everywhere, little nooks and crannies, lime green pillars, you might as well be in the South of France. There is low lighting and mismatching chairs. It’s gorgeous. Even the waitresses are in cute and nautical, white and blue striped tops. It's weird - there is something about the atmosphere that seems to make all troubles melt away. Even better, The Boyfriend's blackberry didnt get reception so our meal went uninterupted by world collapsing/phonecalls/emails etc.
Starving, The Boyfriend and I started with a Charcuterie plate for £9.50.  I had an issue with the presentation. Maybe its my OCD/love of organization but I kind of wanted to take this, and line up all the different dried meats in columns, instead of having to poke around to find them. I liked the charcuterie but didn’t love it – I think the one at Comptoir Gascon (the Piggy Treats) is actually better and it pales in comparison to the one at Tom’s Kitchen, although it is half the price.  
We also had Bread for £1.50, which is a bargain for what we received. Normally, I don’t think you should have to pay for bread in a restaurant, but as this is really a bar/wine bar this was more than reasonable, especially when you consider how wonderful the bread was. It was warm and the lovely butter they served with it just melted away into it.
We then moved on to a selection of cheeses, which were artfully presented and another good bargain at £8.00. The cheeses were lovely and organized from mildest to strongest. The first 4 I adored, but the last 2 I found too strong. Overall? Lovely.
We then moved on to our only hot dish of the evening a squid dish with caponata for £8.00. It was again, great. The squid was perfectly cook and melded well with the aubergine and roasted peppers. Perhaps, there could have been more squid but that was my only complaint.

I have to say at this point, I normally love short menus. I hate too much choice but with Baranis I kind of felt the menu was a bit too short. Perhaps this really isn’t meant to be used as a dinner alternative, which would be a waste if that were the case. Or maybe i'm just being too picky.
We moved on to dessert where we had a citrus crème brulee for £3.00, which was perfect. Nice crunchy top, lovely smooth texture underneath and cute candied limes on top.

I didn’t love the dessert wines we had with this, which says something if I actually manage to pick up on something about the wine.  We tried 2 and I found them too bitter and aggressive to work well with the Crème Brulee but oh well. The wine list itself is pretty good. They have and impressively large section of wines from Southern France and prices start at £3.50 for a glass and £19 for a bottle. Another bargain. The cocktails also looked good.

There’s one major problem with this place however. You know when your holiday is coming to an end and you have to start packing/ hoarding the free toiletries and you start talking about what time you need to be at the airport and how you’re going to get there and suddenly you’re heart just sinks because its suddenly hits you - its over. It wasn’t real life, it was fantasy. At the risk of sounding over the top, I kind of felt like that leaving Baranis.

But eventually, we had to leave as it closes at 11. At least, my credit card issues maybe saved. It came to £60.00 most of which was booze related. Not only was this pretty good value but the experience left me so happy I probably won't be online shopping for at least a week. Its truly a wonderful place. I can't wait to come back. I just hope they like me as much as I like them, because I intend to make Baranis my every Thursday place.

115 Chancery Lane,
Baranis on Urbanspoon


L'atelier - Heaven


Im deliriously happy. I think I might be in heaven.  I've never felt so wholly satisfied after eating a meal. Rewind 5 hours. 

I've heard a lot about L'atelier de Joel Robuchon. How could I not? The guy has about a zillion michelin stars and unlike the other oh-so-glamorous chefs,(ahem *Gordon Ramsey*) all of Mr Robuchon's restaurants, bar 1, have Stars. Thats 26 stars between 11 restaurants. Some achievement. Mr Robuchon has more star's than any other chef on the planet and his London restaurant is the proud holder of two.

So not only did I eat a meal that boosts the name of, arguably, the best chef on the face of the Earth ,which was possibly one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, but better, it cost me £35.00.  Thats the equivalent of a topshop shirt, or a manicure, or 17 one way bus tickets, or a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. 


By my calculations, this makes this meal one of the cheapest I have reviewed on this blog so far, its not that I don't eat at cheaper restaurants, its that The Boyfriend's taste in wine automatically skews the cost upwards, (clearly time to start getting dinner without him), but anyway this meal was the clear winner in a price to satisfaction competition.

This was my second trip to a 2* Michelin Star restaurant after my first, disastrous experience at Le Gavroche. How is this place is superior to Le Gavroche? Let me count the ways - 

Firstly, this place is cool. Its all dark, red, shiny and mirrors, low lighting. If you're trying to impress a date this is the place. Theres a bar you can watch the chefs and a wall of plants (yes, it should be tacky but its not). 

Secondly, the service is not only impeccable but also charming and subtle. You hardly notice the waiters as they glide around, in fact, I think they were gliding.

Thirdly, the food is just mind blowingly good.

Fourthly, the food could pass for art.

Fifthly, it was relaxing, not stiff, stuffy or pretentious although, I should check if there is a dress code.

Sixthly, I could actually see the prices.

Anyway, back to the experience. So I headed to what I may now refer to as Heaven,  on a Monday lunch time, sans The Boyfriend,  but plus a friend. Suprisingly, Heaven looks more like Hell, the decor I alluded to above, is all dark and red. This is the kind of restaurant where not only the food looks good but you do too. 

In order to be economical, my friend, The Moonster (childhood nickname that stuck), ordered a starter and a main course (£22.00) and I ordered a main course and a dessert (£22.00) so we could have a bite of everything. 

Bread arrived first. It was pretty good (and free, gotta love that) but butter and oil- less which struck me as a bit odd. I don't know whether it was intentional or not or they just forgot it, but either way without it, the bread was a little dry.

The Moonster and I started with a Salmon Tartare with an avocado something. Just look at the detail. Its so minute and perfect. I actually felt bad stabbing it with my fork. Luckily for me, The Moonster hated this. She said the texture was too soft. I, on the other hand, adored it. The salmon was fresh and cold but didnt overpower but didnt have an overtly fishy flavour, the raspberry and some sort of fish egg provided a salty/sour flavour to the mix ,whilst the avacado mayonnaise thing provided a softer more palate cleansing flavour. Perfect. Full marks.
My fish, the name of which I can't recall, on a bed of vegetables, which I cant recall. Eating food this good is clearly slightly intoxicating.Regardless of the components, it was as good as a starter. It was genuinely wonderful and pretty to boot.
The Moonster went for short rib of beef, with broccoli. I didn't taste it but she seemed as content as I.
For dessert, we split a selection of tarts. From left to right -  Chocolate and Cashew, Pear and Port, Coffee, Cinnamon and Lemon. Its boring to write that these were both perfect and beautiful but really, like the rest of the meal, they were.  The cinnamon one stood out particularly strongly. It tasted like a cinnamon cloud.

Overall, it was a great experience that I think I will be day dreaming about for a long time.

L'Atelier on Urbanspoon





I'm clearly a little behind in terms of the London food scene, as when all of London's food bloggers and critics have hit the East End to check out Brawn, I have only just visited Terroirs the original wine bar of the two. Terroirs seems to get mixed reviews from most bloggers and to be honest I wasn't too excited about the prospect, but it ticked all of my boxes which are; a) easy to get a last minute table b) not on the otherside of town, (unlike Brawn) and c) starts with a letter at the end of the alphabet, (also unlike Brawn).

Terroirs was bustling when The Boyfriend and I arrived last Thursday. The staff asked if we would mind waiting at the bar for five minutes until our table was ready, which we didnt. However, five minutes turned into 30 minutes. 25 minutes + 1 pair of 5 inch heels + crowded bar - any food =  2 less happy customers. Thankfully, the bar guy was cute (sorry, The Boyfriend), and charming and the wine was wine,  so it was hard to get too worked up. The wine and water (tap was immediately assumed) came in reusable glass bottles which was a nice touch.
When The Boyfriend and I finally made it to our table in the "upstairs" (does a staircase of 7 steps really make it an upstairs?) part of the restaurant, we discovered they had at least given us the best table in the house.



Starving, we started with Bread - £1.50 - lovely and fresh, but with boring, unsalted butter - and a charcuterie - £12.50. The Charcuterie included pork salami, duck rilletes and pork and pistachio terrine. The Charcuterie was a bit of a letdown, and I imagined this would be where they should have been strongest. The salami was nice, but it would have been better to have cut the portion in half and served a second type of dried meat. The duck rillette was bland, nothing particularly special and definitely not as good as the rillettes at Tom's Kitchen or 28-50. The Boyfriend liked the terrine but again, to me it was a little bland. 

Potted Shrimp - £8.00 - came next. The Boyfriend reported it was "pretty good".

The Beetroot salad - around £6.00 - was again equally unexciting. It was actually better looking than the photo implies but The Boyfriend and I ate the first half of it before remembering to take a photo.

The Clams however, were beautiful. A fairly large portion given the cost. The liquid was garlicky and spicy and I finished it in about 30 seconds flat. Finally, some success.

At roughly £70.00 the price was not that reasonable. What we ate wasn't interesting enough to make me desperate for a return visit and frankly, waiting 30 minutes is a little annoying if you've booked. Saying that, the table next to us had ordered the Vacherin Mont D'or with potatoes and a selection of meat at£ 36.00. It looked incredible and I spent the majority of the meal watching them eat it. So maybe I will go back for the Mont D'or, as they did look very happy while eating it.
Terroirs on Urbanspoon