Hotel Reviews Archives - Two Senoritas

adminApril 14, 2020
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4min2170

Wild Honey opened earlier this year, following in the footsteps of its acclaimed elder sister Arbutus, which now has a Michelin star. Situated in Mayfair, in contrast to Arbutus’ Soho location, the formula is nevertheless similar. Wild Honey offers the same set lunch and dinner menus, and the quirky but clever initiative of selling all their wines by the carafe (250ml), which allows diners to sample the more expensive ones on the list. The formula clearly works for Arbutus, so my friend and I headed off to Wild Honey to see why it’s been doing so well.

The dining room is long and quite narrow, with oak walls and banquette seating down one side of the room. It’s more intimate than Arbutus, which is a bit too stark for my liking. Service was friendly too, to the extent that the waiter gave me the menus and wine lists to take away with me, to save me from frantically scribbling down everything. Both Wild Honey and Arbutus pride themselves on simplicity and seasonality, so unsurprisingly, the menus were not that dissimilar. Of course, the dishes were different, but not the style and presentation.

What we ordered:

Neither my friend nor I were that hungry, which was a shame, as we only had a main course each. Scanning the mains quickly, I inevitably chose the roast Scottish beef (Buccleugh), baked onion, autumn vegetable puree (£14.95), while my friend tried to decide between two fish dishes – the piece of plaice, nut brown butter with shrimps (£16.95) and the halibut, mushroom risotto, braised celery (£14.95), eventually settling for the latter. Another option for me would have been the roast black leg chicken, glazed salsify, brussel tops (£16.95). We also had the Wild Honey cocktail – prosecco with Braeburn apple puree (£8.50), which was rather nice!

My beef came medium/medium-rare, which was perfect for me. Not too tender, not too tough, it had a nice texture and the two pieces were a generous size. It also came with a portion of gratin dauphinoise, which was a nice surprise. Although it was a tiny bit too salty for me, it was neverthless eaten up. The halibut was incredibly fresh too. None of the desserts appealed, particularly as we really weren’t hungry to start off with. Looking at the menu from home though, I could easily have the classic baked egg custard tart with clementine marmalade (£5.95) or the Wild honey ice cream, with crushed honeycomb (£5.95).

The verdict?

Based on just two main dishes, I’m loathe to make a rounded judgement on Wild Honey. But the other choices on the menu sounded very tempting. I also like simple menus. With 7 starters, 7 mains and 5 desserts, the diner isn’t left confused. The bill came to £62, with two mains, cocktails, water and one coffee. I think I’d return on a very empty stomach to enjoy a three course meal and then reach a proper decision about Wild Honey. Additionally, breakfast is also served here, including a Full English Breakfast (eggs, sausages, bacon, tomato, mushroom and black pudding) for £13.25.


adminFebruary 11, 2020
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5min1780

Haozhan means ‘a good place to eat’, according to its menu. This description does not usually apply to many of the restaurants in London’s Chinatown, and being both Chinese and the child of a successful restaurant owner, I should know. This new kid on the block, however, has decided to be a bit of a rebel. The service is not just efficient, it’s actually friendly. Charming, in fact. The decor is upmarket. And most crucially, the food stands head and shoulders above that of most of its neighbours. It’s not Cantonese, but more of a fusion of various regional cuisines, with a modern twist. As a result, it has attracted rave reviews from the national press. World Foodie Guide had to check it out.

For my dining companions, I chose Indian novelist Jaishree Misra and her husband Ashe, and my vegetarian husband. Our friends had eaten here just three days ago, so I tried to avoid ordering what they had already sampled. They enjoyed the chilli soft shell crab starter and the coffee ribs, but found the signature dish of champagne cod (£18.80) disappointingly soggy (unlike Matthew Norman of The Guardian, who loved it).

What we ordered:

After some deliberation, and avoiding bizarre dishes like Marmite prawns and cheese lobster, the decision was made: wasabi prawns (deep fried king prawns tossed in a wasabi-infused mayonnaise sauce topped with vegetable seeds and tobiko – £9.80), Sanpei chicken (authentic Taiwan-style chicken claypot with sweet basil, peppers, chilli and spring onion – £9.50), Szechuan duck (stir-fried sliced duck Szechuan-style – £8.80) and Thai Gai Lan (Thai-style stir-fried Chinese broccoli with minced salted fish – £8.50). And plain white rice of course.

My vegetarian husband chose the Szechuan Vegetables (yam bean, asparagus, brown beech mushrooms, celery and tofu stir-fried in a Szechuan sauce and sprinkled with almond flakes – £8.00) and Ka Heung Ramen (stir-fried Japanese ramen with brown beech mushrooms and bean sprouts. Unfortunately, even though Haozhan makes its own tofu, none of the four tofu dishes on the menu were vegetarian!

The verdict? Neither the duck nor the chicken were attention-grabbing. But I absolutely loved the Thai Gai Lan. The minced salted fish turned these tender vegetables into a stunning dish. I grew up on salted fish as an accompaniment to rice or congee and love the taste of it, but have rarely come across it in restaurants. I wasn’t sure about the wasabi prawns though. The prawns were fresh and crunchy, but I didn’t like the mayonnaise. These were Jaishree’s favourite however, while Ashe liked both these and the coffee ribs from his last meal. My husband thought his food was tasty, but expensive for what they were – small dishes.

The dessert, recommended by Jaishree and Ashe, was the other highlight – Cream of Pumpkin (chilled pumpkin and cream puree with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream served with steamed black rice and cocoa powder – £4.50). I could have eaten several portions of this glorious combination of flavours.

The verdict?

I like what Haozhan is trying to do. It’s a bold statement to make in the heart of Chinatown. Some of the dishes are a bit hit-and-miss, but I’m sure they’ll improve over time. Perhaps I also made a mistake with a couple of the dishes. There are stunners here though. And I’m willing to return to see if these include the chilli quail, XO black cod, Haozhan tofu (pan-fried homemade tofu topped with chipped spinach and scallop with a supreme sauce) and the coffee pork ribs.

The bill came to £80.00 for lunch for four, minus alcohol.

10 – Perfection, 9.5 – Sensational, 9 – Outstanding, 8.5 – Superb, 8 – Excellent, 7.5 – Very Good, 7 – Good, 6.5 – Above Average, 6 – Average

All the London restaurant reviews on World Foodie Guide

Contact Details: Haozhan 8 Gerrard Street London W1D 5PJ Tel: 020 7434 3838 mail@haozhan.co.uk www.haozhan.co.uk


adminJanuary 9, 2020
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6min1080

Background:

I was recently invited by gastropub Fox & Anchor to enjoy a complimentary dinner. Located opposite Smithfield Market, this traditional Victorian pub (with six bedrooms upstairs) has been serving customers for over a hundred years. It’s an intimate and narrow space, and you have to practically hold your breath in to squeeze past the drinkers standing at the bar. We headed towards the back of the pub, past various tables here and there, to find three wood-panelled snugs, two larger ones and one cosy one for two people. My brother and I spent the evening in comfortable armchairs in the smallest snug.

Menu:

The menu is simple, with Maldon oysters and prawns, plus a few starters including pressed ox tongue, celeriac remoulade and wild garlic. There are four options on toast, such as the ham toastie with fried duck egg and fish finger buttie. The mains include a choice of four types of pie, five specials and eight other dishes, plus the ‘carving trolley’ option. It’s a meat and fish-heavy menu, with rather limited options for vegetarians unfortunately. I was glad not to have to sit next to a grumpy vegetarian husband, but rather my brother, who eats anything and in vast quantities, or so I thought.

What we ordered:

 

pint of prawns

(£8.95) – I was looking forward to these, and they didn’t disappoint. When I was shown the pint tankard, I wasn’t sure a pint would be enough, but it’s more than plentiful for two. They were lovely and fresh and came with mayonnaise (which wasn’t needed)

deep fried white bait, spicy mayonnaise

(£6.20) – I don’t usually like fish deep fried, and the batter on these delicate little things overwhelmed them somewhat. However, we did manage to demolish the entire serving!

Welsh rarebit (aka rabbit)

(£4.95) – I only had a small bite of this, so I can’t really comment on it, but as with the other starters, it was consumed with relish

Lancashire lamb hotpot, mash potato lid

(£9.95) – this looked lovely, but the brother was surprisingly starting to flag at this point, and wasn’t able to finish it

rabbit & cider pie with thyme and bacon dumplings

(£13.50) – for me, the absolute star of the evening and highly recommended. The pie crust was thick but flaky and the rabbit was deliciously tender and flavoursome. I had to leave the dumplings though as I was also starting to flag by now

goose fat chips

(£3.00) – heavenly thick-cut chips! If I hadn’t been feeling so full, I would have eaten the entire portion

duck fat roast potatoes

(£3.00) – compared to the chips, these were a little disappointing and not as fluffy inside as they could have been

lightly spiced plum fool

(£5.50) – it was a struggle to get beyond the piece of plum on the top of the fool and I admitted defeat soon after…

The verdict:

Our extremely hearty meal was served by two very friendly waitresses, who stopped by our snug just enough times to serve us efficiently without being overly intrusive. I really enjoyed my evening at the Fox & Anchor, mostly because I was ensconced in our snug. Generally, I don’t like pubs much, whether normal or gastro. I hate to shout over my food and be surrounded by too much noise (and in the old days, sit in clouds of smoke!). So if you’re a delicate flower like me, ask for a snug when you reserve a table. I think they’re great for hanging out with friends and you still get some of the pub atmosphere without being overwhelmed by it.

Had we paid for this meal, it would have cost approximately £60.00 without service charge, tip or alcohol.

10 – Perfection, 9.5 – Sensational, 9 – Outstanding, 8.5 – Superb, 8 – Excellent, 7.5 – Very Good, 7 – Good, 6.5 – Above Average, 6 – Average


adminNovember 4, 2019
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10min1070

Background:

I was recently invited to have dinner at The Butcher’s Block, a private dining room at the Malmaison London Brasserie, and write a review about it. Even though the meal was complimentary, I was nevertheless very conscious of the need to treat it exactly like any other meal that I would have paid for myself. I looked upon it as an interesting experiment to see if I was still able to write a fair and balanced review. I think I was successful. I also took along with me the vegetarian husband, who is my toughest critic and whom I thought would present a challenge to the chef and his meaty menu!

First impressions:

Being located just round the corner from Smithfield Market (meat suppliers to the Brasserie), it is only appropriate, I suppose, to have a huge, solid Butcher’s Block located in a cosy and dimly lit vault, set aside from the main Brasserie. It seats up to eight diners around it, perched on high stools, and has its own separate menu. There are striking portraits of butchers on the walls, meat hooks lining one wall and a hurricane lamp hanging from the ceiling. And you can still see out into the main dining area through the floor to ceiling glass, but at the same time, be cut off from the noise. After having been seated for no more than five minutes, I was already contemplating which of my friends could join me for my birthday dinner there…

Recently promoted manager Helen Gibbons looked after us from start to finish. She was extremely knowledgeable about the menu, especially the cheeses, about which she is evidently passionate. I have to point out that even had we not been at Malmaison on invitation, I am sure she would still have looked after us very well, as I observed her with the other guests and she spent just as much time with them.

You don’t have to pay any extra to reserve the Butcher’s Block, and on a quiet evening with no other bookings, even two people could be seated there, although ideally it’s best to have at least six diners to enjoy the space to the fullest extent and dine from the special Butcher’s Block menu.

Menu:

You can see from the standard à la carte menu that the simple dishes are prepared with an emphasis on local ingredients. Malmaison also do a simple Homegrown & Local set menu (£14.50 for two courses, £17.50 for three courses), which changes weekly. The Butcher’s Block menu is different in that the idea is to share a ‘family meal’, so one starter, one main and one pudding for the whole table to share are selected from a choice of five starters, four mains and five puddings including a cheese selection (costing £45 a head, minimum six people).

Being the Butcher’s Block, meat naturally dominates the menu, with the mains consisting of four bone rib of naturally reared, grass fed beef; roast sirloin of Aberdeen Angus beef; four bone rack of Herdwick lamb and Pugh’s suckling pig. However, if you’re a vegetarian, the chef will come up with something suitably delicious for you, so don’t worry.

What We Had:

Starters consisted of Maldon hot & smoked salmon with capers & toasted sour dough and chicken liver & foie gras parfait, served with grape chutney and toasted brioche. I didn’t like the salmon quite so much, but the husband (who occasionally eats fish) enjoyed it served with sliced shallots and capers.

However, I fell in love with the chicken liver & foie gras parfait, which came as an alarmingly large block. It was so light and heavenly that I wanted to take the rest home with me and share it with friends. If you ever eat here, you must absolutely order it. If I hadn’t been conscious that there was a lot more food to come, I would have happily eaten nothing else but this.

As the husband isn’t a meat eater, he was served a wild mushroom risotto with plenty of fresh black truffle shavings. It came in a copper pan, the correct way to serve risotto, and was pronounced ‘perfect’ by the fussiest eater I know. I, on the other hand, had to eat the Donald Russell 28 day rib of beef (which serves 4) on my own, which also came with an obscene amount of black truffle shavings, two pieces of roast marrow and salad. Carved at the block, this was a succulent piece of meat, but I personally would have preferred it without the black truffle shavings, the pungent smell of which somewhat distracted me from enjoying the meat more.

A little about the three sides – the signature zucchini frites, pommes dauphinoise and creamed spinach. The zucchini frites, served with grated Parmesan in a cone like very thin fries, were delicious (if slightly greasy, but that’s to be expected). I loved the pommes dauphinoise too. But I didn’t like the creamed spinach, which was too rich. I think the third side needed to be something a little more simple and less strongly flavoured to balance out the other two.

Then came five cheeses, all personally selected by Helen – Tomme Marc Raisin – tangy cheese coated with marc (seeds, skins and stems after making wine), Mimolette – which reminded me of Chinese pork jerky I used to eat as a child, while the husband described it as Parmesan with carrot, Fleur de Marquis – a sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica with sage and rosemary, Vacherin Mont d’Or and Barkham Blue, the only English cheese and yet also very good.

Finally came the two puddings. I wasn’t expecting pudding, let alone two puddings, after five cheeses so it was a struggle. Pear tarte tatin and apple crumble were both served with vanilla ice cream. The apple crumble was served in a shallow cast iron dish, but was rather bland when compared to the more magnificent pear tarte tatin.

The verdict: 8.5/10

I would certainly return to the Butcher’s Block, because it is a intimate and cosy space and I don’t think I could bear to be seated in the main dining room after having experienced it. But I would have to choose a small group of meat-eating friends in order to make the most out of the meaty menu. It’s not cheap though, and alcohol and service charge have to be factored in too. So the Butcher’s Block is more of a special occasion place for a small group for birthdays and other celebrations, rather than a romantic dinner for two.

10 – Perfection, 9.5 – Sensational, 9 – Outstanding, 8.5 – Superb, 8 – Excellent, 7.5 – Very Good, 7 – Good, 6.5 – Above Average, 6 – Average All the London restaurant reviews on World Foodie Guide Contact details: Malmaison London 18-21 Charterhouse Square London EC1M 6AH T: 020 7012 3700 www.malmaison.com Helen Yuet Ling Pang @ World Foodie Guide Tags: dining out, food, London, Malmaison, meat, restaurant review, restaurants