Riding House Café

Brunch, it seems, has become a quintessential feature of modern, urban life. Charming though it undoubtedly is, I can’t help but feel a certain sense of surprise in both it’s popularity and it’s sheer staying power; I think we all expected it to be a trend of the late nineties that would firmly be left behind along with the girls of Sex and the City and centre-parting bowl cuts. It’s not only that fact that brunch is just about the only meal that can get away will being hideously overpriced (everyone is either too hungover or in such a Sunday morning zen that they don’t care) but also that it seems rather inconvenient on a practical level; does brunch mean we only two meals in that day? Is the consumption of a pre-brunch breakfast socially unacceptable? What do we eat to fill the culinary void between brunch and dinner? The questions that have been unanswered for over a decade seem never-ending.

Despite all this, I do remain very much partial to the occasional brunch. One place that is doing brunch right is The Riding House Café found in West Fitzrovia. Restaurants like this one can either seem suffocatingly tired and heavy on a Sunday morning or else awkwardly over-smart, but the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and it was incredibly refreshing that a London restaurant wasn’t trying to cram as many punters into the space as possible. The meal was subsequently more peaceful, more private, and we felt decidedly less like cattle. Elegant and light, the dining room was styled around a classic bistro and featured beautiful ochre leather booths and potentially the most kitsch light fittings I’ve ever seen, featuring taxidermy squirrels climbing up the wood-panelled walls to the bulb.

The brunch menu itself was the best I’ve seen in terms of both variety and balancing the traditional and the novel; the conventional eggs benedict was in good company with both a modern twist on the classic, starring the achingly fashionable avocado, along with a shmancy lobster edition. Both of my dining partners were lured by the brioche French toast, a dish that achieved outstanding levels of decadence with its accompaniments of clotted cream and lashings of maple syrup.

IMG_2217
Brioche French Toast
IMG_1976
Chorizo Hash Brown

Having slaked my thirst with Riding House’s freshly squeezed orange juice – the ambrosia of Sunday mornings – I opted for the chorizo hash brown, which I gleefully remarked was served in the crockery du jour; the skillet, inside of which was a divine amalgamation of charred peppers with fluffy, buttery potatoes, soft caramelised onions, all studded with morsels of salty, smoky chorizo. At the bottom of the pan was just enough crispy kale for me to kid myself that I was dutifully consuming a portion of greens and one of my five a day before noon. My only grumble is that, disappointingly, the egg yolks weren’t runny, which was fairly upsetting on a personal level.

Warning – make sure to book here in advance for weekends to avoid scrabbling for antisocial meal times and/or queuing all the way down the street .

 

Duck and Waffle

I wish I could tell you that my sister and I had spontaneously been walking down Bishopgate and then spontaneously swanned into the Duck and Waffle restaurant at the top of the Heron Tower to enjoy a spontaneous supper. But we didn’t. In fact, it was after several attempts to make a booking that, three weeks in advance, my sister managed to book a table for two at 5:30 on a Monday afternoon – the only available slot. Our journey to the Duck and Waffle was a struggle – but it’s safe to say that it was worth it.

We began by taking an [unsettlingly rapid] glass lift to the 40th floor of the Heron tower. Something about it made us feel quite glamorous. One of the best things about the restaurant is undoubtedly the location – the views of London are virtually unparalleled. We were very lucky to be given a table by the window where we could admire the city skyline and watch the dusk fade into nighttime.

IMG_9312 IMG_9328 IMG_9329_2

The dining room was smaller than I expected, but very stylish all the same. The marble tables were smart without having the intimidation factor of white table cloths; I suppose it was a little like an upmarket bistro. Having smugly sat down by our executive view, I was manipulated into ordering an extortionately priced cocktail by my sister, which was, just to spite me, absolutely divine and (dare I admit it) just about worth the £14 I grudgingly spent on it. The most irksome thing about the cocktails was the fact that they didn’t actually arrive until half way through our main course, which I suppose sort of defeated the object. Although, other than that, it’s worth mentioning that the service was excellent (even if our waiter was a rather flirtatious).

IMG_9326
The Rhubarb Spritz – DWΣ english rhubarb cordial and prosecco (my tooth for cocktails is pitifully sweet). In the background is my sister’s Pink Peppercorn Lemonade – Bombay Sapphire gin, distilled grapefruit, wild elderflower, pink peppercorn distillate. They were both very prettily garnished.

When it came to ordering our food, I did feel there was a sense of moral obligation to choose the signature dish; the duck and waffle.  Plus, the kitchen could cater to my inconvenient dietary needs and make me a gluten-free waffle, something that I had never eaten before. I know it’s a revoltingly predictable choice but I couldn’t help myself. Minna went slightly left-field and ordered the Jerusalem artichoke ravioli.

IMG_9316_2

IMG_9320

The dish is essentially quite simple and comprises of four elements, each executed brilliantly; a waffle, confit duck leg, fried egg and miniature jug of mustard maple syrup. The waffle was perfect (which, in all honesty, it really should be if the restaurant is named after it) – slightly crisp on the outside but light and fluffy within. Similarly, the duck was rich and tender with crisp skin, and the amber egg yolk was perfectly runny. Let me be plain; eaten all together, it was bizarre, but in the best way. Maple syrup with waffles is practically a necessity, and with the duck it also worked really well, as does all game with a little sweetness – duck is literally crying to be paired with sugar (duck à l’orange, Chinese duck with plum). I surprised myself with how much I actually enjoyed the syrup-y waffle with the egg (I half expected sensations of nausea to follow). Personally, I would have liked there to be more mustard seed in the syrup because it is quite a sweet dish, which is perhaps better suited to brunch than dinner, although admittedly I would devour this at any time of the day. Regardless of the food, the crockery itself was beautiful. I love the free form of the plate, along with the dappled colouring, and fossil detailing.

IMG_9334_2
Roasted corn & buttermilk mousse
IMG_9335
Dark chocolate brownie sundae

The main course was both filling and rich, and my purse was alarmingly light, but I have always struggled to say no to a pudding – my sweet tooth is too mighty and my will power is too weak. My sister devoured the dark chocolate brownie sundae – fudge brownie pieces, chocolate and peanut ice cream, peanut crunch, salted caramel – which boasted such richness that even she struggled to finish it. I chose the roasted corn & buttermilk mousse through sheer intrigue, and it was absolutely divine. The main element of the dish was [obviously] the mousse, which was the lightest and fluffiest I have ever tasted, almost like an Aero bar in mousse form. The flavour was very unusual; there was a subtle corn flavour, but also a tang from the buttermilk, and saltiness from the salted caramel drizzle. It was served with a creamy, rich dark chocolate ice cream that had a genuine, deep chocolatey flavour, which I was pleased about since I really don’t like those pale chocolate ice creams that taste like weak hot chocolate and not much else. Crumbled pistachio praline (!) and caramel popcorn brought both texture and colour to the plate. The popcorn in particular impressed me since I’m really not a fan of the stuff – however this one was the opposite to sickly sweet Butterkist and was coated in crunchy, homemade caramel which was slightly bitter. The pieces of ‘crispy milk’ were peculiar things and whilst they didn’t bring much flavour to the party (they literally tasted like milk in crumbly, solid form) they were certainly a welcome novelty. It was such an original and interesting pudding, which, much like my main course, forced me to re-evaluate my misconceptions on which foods ‘go’ together.

With such a glamorous location paired with stunning views and innovative food, our evening at Duck and Waffle really did feel like a special occasion. And, I think it’s safe to say that the sense of occasion was truly reflected in the bill…

Restaurant Review: Honest Burger

IMG_7430
The Honest Burger. I really love the metal, blue-rimmed plates.

I know this is a bold (and potentially controversial) statement, but a burger from Honest Burger will be the best burger that you have ever eaten. Let me tell you about them.

Amongst the handful of popular London burger chain restaurants (GBK, Five Guys, Byron, Shake Shack, Patty & Bun etc.) Honest is streaks ahead of the others on so many levels. There are 9 branches in London, but I usually go to the Soho one. Firstly, the service is outstanding; not only was it fast and efficient, but the waiters were incredibly friendly. The menu itself, whilst offering a sufficient spectrum of choice, is unfussy and pithy, and let’s face it; a burger should be simple. If I’m going to a burger restaurant I’m most likely to be feeling lethargic and hungry, which means that having to choose the burger meat, bread-type, variety of chips and any additional (expensive) fillings is the last thing I feel like doing. At Honest, you virtually only have to utter a single word and your burger is ordered, since every element is included under one title – including chips. I always order the classic Honest burger – beef, red onion relish, bacon, cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce, served with my favourite chips in the world (a crisp, skins-on affair, seasoned with rosemary salt. Divine.). The portion of chips was generous (in a good way), unlike those miniature, chichi buckets of ‘fries’ that would probably satisfy the appetite of a newborn child  (shoutout to Byron). It’s so refreshing to see the chips served alongside the burger and not offered as a side order – clearly a ploy to make money, I don’t have one friend who would order a burger without chips anyway, and if they did, I don’t think I’d really want them to be my friend after all.

When I first came to Honest I thought the burger might be a little acidic with both the red onion relish and pickled cucumber, but I was so wrong. The proportions of each component were utterly perfect; the smoky bacon was heavenly with the matured cheddar and semi-sweet sharpness of the pickles, and there was just enough lettuce to add a little crunch and elude the diner that they were consuming some level of nutritional goodness within that warm brioche bun.

IMG_7435

The burger itself is the thing that makes all the difference. I have never had a more juicy or flavourful burger patty – I seem to have become accustomed to the chokingly dry lump of greyish meat that disguises itself as a burger and plagues today’s society. The meal cost me £10, which I think is outstanding value considering the large portion and high level of deliciousness. Moreover, Honest is the only Burger restaurant that I have ever been to that has catered for coeliacs, and I was treated to a gluten-free bread bun and totally GF chips. Winning.

IMG_7429
Another bonus was the drinks menu. This homemade lemonade was delicious and I adored the Mason jar glass and straw.

There are no puddings offered, which would usually be a major problem for me, as my sweet tooth knows no bounds. However, since my burger was the epitome of satisfaction, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Borough Market

Yesterday my sister took me to Borough Market which is somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for ages. Being a major foodie, the market was such a dream. Unfortunately, since it was a Monday, there were inevitably less stalls set up, but there was nevertheless a great selection of food to buy.

donut

As soon as we arrived we made a beeline for the Bread Ahead stall, which my sister   talks about all the time on account of their doughnuts. She swears that they are the best doughnuts that she has ever eaten, and having chosen the salted caramel honeycomb one last time, she bought the vanilla, which was generously stuffed with thick, creamy vanilla custard. The blueberry doughnut was the choice of my brother, who, in a typically male style, practically inhaled the treat and grunted that it was ‘alright’ – apparently the blueberry jam was ‘strange but not unpleasant’. Mixed reviews!

IMG_7473

The first thing I bought was this cup of cherries – quite boring but I just really like cherries.

IMG_7471

One thing I really liked was the abundance of delicatessen stands – French, Spanish, Italian. Hundreds of different types of cheese were being sold; they tended to be quite expensive, but my sister and I unashamedly hunted down and tasted all of the free samples, which were really tasty.

IMG_7484

Without doubt my favourite thing about the market was the street food. There was such a wide choice of cuisines from all around the world but in the end I chose to try Ethiopian food because it was a totally new concept to me. The photo shows yellow split bean stew, red lentil stews and spinach stew (with rice underneath). It was absolutely delicious – very fragrant and quite spicy. It was sort of like a mixture between Moroccan and Indian food.

The last thing I bought at the market was some fudge, which was extravagantly priced but suitably delicious. I chose salted caramel and dark chocolate swirl,and my brother made me buy some ginger fudge as well. I couldn’t take any pictures of it because my mum and sister ate it all to themselves…

Rose xo