Category Archives: RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Hixter Bankside

I’m a big fan of Hix in Soho, which is probably why Mark Hix just opened up a whole new Hix right next to my office. For those of you that don’t stalk me regularly, that’s near Borough Market (London Bridge). It’s called Hixter though, not Hix.

 

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The restaurant has only just opened – it’s housed within an old metal box factory, and it’s a bit of a tardis, as it happens. Walk through a huge bar and there’s a big, light restaurant where you can see the chefs bustling about. There’s also, of course, much fancy looking artwork (Hix’s other restaurants include pieces by masters like Damian Hirst).

 

The idea is simple: it’s chicken or steak to share.

 

You can order bits of meat in various sizes, all sourced with perfect precision from (mostly) Great British producers. There’s mighty-marbled Himalayan salt dry-aged steak from hand-selected cows and barn-reared chicken from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire.

 

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There is also another Mark’s Bar in the basement, but it’s much bigger than the Soho version. This one’s even got table football and a tiny tube carriage you can get drunk in! There’s a market for that now, what with actual drinking on the tube being banned in a terrible oversight a few years ago.

 

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The restaurant currently does a lunch menu for a perfectly reasonable £9.95, with quite a big selection of dishes (sandwiches, burgers, salads etc.)

 

We tried a few of the sandwiches – the Cock ‘n’ Bull – that’s a half chicken, half steak sandwich, the Swainson Farm chicken sandwich and a chicken, Sillfield Farm bacon and summer vegetable salad. All came accompanied with more chips than four people could possibly eat, which is never a bad thing.

 

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The food was, on the whole, a little underwhelming. The sandwiches were cold (we didn’t think they were supposed to be) and the chicken in the salad was a bit dry, but on the whole it wasn’t bad. If Hix’s other restaurants are anything to go by I’m sure things will improve…

 

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££

 

6/10

 

Gluten Free? Yes – quite a few options.

 

Hixter Bankside
16 Great Guildford Street,
SE1 0HS

http://www.hixterbankside.co.uk/

 

 

Hixter Bankside on Urbanspoon

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Tonight: The Launch of Carnival Del Kerb

Kerb’s bringing the zing and the hurgh back to Friday nights with a brand new event – Carnival Del Kerb. The new night market takes place at The Paperworks, 48-50 Newington Causeway in the heart of grisly Elephant & Castle.

 

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What is it? 

There’ll be Kerb’s spiciest traders, brilliant music collaborations and a load of South London drink choices.

 

Think Herne Hill hero, Baba G, doing his Biryani Bar, street food’s magic man (and of nomadic status), Angus of The Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express, pedalling the Kolkata zing or Kimchinary adding an extra K-Town kick to those famous burritos.

 

Also ready to sizzle is new trader BBQ DREAMZ and his fearless Fillipino BBQ, South Norwood-er, Pitmaster G of Miss P’s Barbecue firing up his #BadBoyBeefRibs and our first ever jerk trader to hit the KERB. It’s taken a while but we’ve finally found the one that works a scotch bonnet like no one else – introducing Boxed Freshstraight out of Croydon and with jerk pork galore, done on the drum.

 

Then it’s Sri Lankan heat from Kothu Kothu and family, Vietnamese twists from Bill or Beak and London’s most tropical doughnuts brought to you by the always inventive You Doughnut  girls.

 

If this isn’t making your face sweat then try the sauces on the counter of Vinn Goute‘s mobile creole kitchen – or taste how far award-winning Crabbie Shack has ramped up the heat on his soft-shell crab burgers. And at the back there, turning to his favourite repose of rogue, is the old KERB does Peckham mucker, Fleisch Mob with his flame-cooked menu: shoulder of pork, sea bream, chuck-eye steak. (Stray beyond him to the apex of The Paperworks and you’re in for an edenic treat, FYI).

 

Then if you just need to sit the hell down with a drink and some tapas, there is no one better suited than the Donostia Social Club and his pintxos bar on wheels for making this happen.

 
The music:

To warm everyone up for Carnival weekend and Carnival del KERB, it’s Love Glove and their attic full of 45s – disco, funk, motown, reggae.

 

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The drinks: 

Four bars serving cocktails, London beers, wine, prosecco, shots – all designed to help you eat and then dance better.

 

When? 

Starts Friday 22nd August then the following three Fridays – 5pm-11pm

 

FREE ENTRY! Bring cash for food. Bars take cards.

The Delaunay, Strand

The Delaunay opened its doors in 2012, the latest glitzy London restaurant from two of the nation’s most accomplished restauranteurs, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin.

 

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Other than a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, The Delaunay is almost identical to its King and Corbin predecessor, The Wolseley. Decor is once again inspired by Grand European cafés of Vienna, Zurich and Budapest, cafes which I can only assume are infinitely more glamorous than our shoddy greasy spoons.

 

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The end result is a David Collins-designed wonder – dark green leather seating, many a piece of polished brass, antique mirrors and acres upon acres of marble so shiny you could eat your dinner off of it.

 

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The menu here is an all-day one, but a posh all-day one, you understand. There’s Soups, Starters, Eggs, Weiners, Crustacea and Caviar, Plats du Jours, Fish, Schnizels, Entrées, Savouries, Cakes and Coupés. There’s also Afternoon Tea. And breakfast! That’s what we came for…

 

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The breakfast menu is a piece of parchment almost a mile long, complete with almost every kind of breakfast you could possibly want or need. These range from more traditional choices like the good old full English to pancakes, waffles, granola and viennoiserie.

 

Then of course there are slightly more unusual options such as the Viennese breakfast, a kind of all you can eat breakfast buffet inspired dish of cold meat, egg and a big old pretzel. You can also have eggs cooked in any way you can dream up, so go on… be creative.

 

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They also serve bowls of coffee. This, one assumes, is how people drink coffee in Europe. The burns must be appalling.

 

Almost the entire table opted for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, presumably reassured by the alliteration – always the sign of a good meal, I find.

 

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I, being a rebel, went with a fresh fruit salad, accompanied by camomile tea and Champagne. We were celebrating, I’d like to add. I don’t breakfast on Champagne every day, much as I’d like to.

 

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The fruit salad was delicious, and came in a small bucket you could probably swim in, if you felt like it.

 

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs received much applause from the table, its deliciousness apparently accentuated by the many gallons of butter used in the eggs.

 

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If you do visit beyond the realms of breakfast time take a look at the Coupé menu and you’ll find the most delectable little tribute to Lucian Freud – The Wolseley’s biggest fan. He ate there every night. I kid you not. Every single night. He had his own table. And what did he get in return? An ice cream. It’s a threesome of hazelnut, almond and pistachio ice-cream on a Freudian couch with whipped cream and butterscotch sauce. Eat it.

 

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The Verdict: A brilliant breakfast spot in a great central location. Almost as good as The Wolseley, but in terms of atmosphere and service The Wolseley just about wins.

 

8/10

£££

 

The Delaunay Website: thedelaunay.com

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon

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Le Deuxieme, Covent Garden

A strangely calm European brasserie in the middle of Covent Garden, Le Deuxieme is one of the smarter restaurants in the area. A sort of pushing the boat out type of place, you know. For special occasions. And pay days. And theatre trips.

 

The dining room is understated. Bijou. White. Not all white everything, but mostly. Each table has a tiny plant too, so you know that this is a fancy kind of place. No one is under any illusions. Plants = fancy.

 

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The menu isn’t quite as French as the name initially suggests, although there are of course snails with lashings of garlic butter available, if you’re so inclined. (The wine list is very French-biased, though).

 

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To start we chose the Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Chorizo (£8.50). The scallops were excellent – perfectly cooked and great with the Cauliflower Puree and Chorizo… but is £8.50 a bit expensive for two scallops and two slices of chorizo? I think it may be…

 

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Our other choice was a Warm Salad of Smoked Bacon, Black Pudding and Potato with a Soft Boiled Egg (£8.50)The warm salad was an odd one, kind of a fry up in salad form, something for the furiously unhealthy salad-eater. Strangely tasty, but a little greasy.

 

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A main course of Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Courgette Tempura, Pineapple and Mango Salsa (£17.50) was chosen mostly because it sounded completely different to anything else on the menu, and it was quite an unusual thing, really. It scores points for presentation – pretty isn’t it?

 

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The Pineapple and Mango Salsa tasted like summer, if summer had tiny bits of chilli floating about in it. The dish was let down slightly by tempura that didn’t quite have the required crunch, though.

 

Boy opted for Roasted Rump of Lamb with Gratin Dauphinois, Mint and Port Jus (£19.50), and was presented with a huge serving of perfectly cooked melt-in-the-mouth lamb and perfect Dauphinois. It didn’t taste at ALL like summer, but I’ll be honest, I was a bit jealous of this one.

 

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The service (from our waiter) was faultless on our visit, although I have heard a few grumbles about surly staff when dining later in the evening (particularly post-theatre dining). However there was something a little troubling about the place, service-wise, and that, I’m afraid to say, was down to the scruffy chap I presumed to be the manager.

 

Although the restaurant was half empty, this silver haired monsieur insisted on standing bizarrely close to our table and staring at us for much of the meal. Off-putting, to say the least. Perhaps he thought we were attempting some kind of upmarket dine and run. A great injustice! I was far too full to run, anyway.

 

Tip: Try it out for a fraction of the cost with the fixed price menu, £14.50/16.50 for two/three courses. Le Deuxieme is also suitable for pre and post theatre dining.

 

The Verdict: Although pricey (really very pricey) the food at Le Deuxieme is fantastic, and the location is good. It was all let down slightly by the manager, though. Please would someone tell him it’s rude to stare.

 

 

7/10 

 

££££

 

ledeuxieme.com

Le Deuxieme on Urbanspoon

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The Rum Kitchen, Soho

Located in Carnaby Street’s shiny Kingly Court, this is the second Rum Kitchen in London town. The first one’s been open for a year or so and has already attracted His Royal Highness of Wonderment Mr Prince Harry.

 

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Less a restaurant, more a beach shack bar that screams unashamedly of its love for rum and sunshine, this place is all about fun, food and good times.

 

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The bright brains behind the Rum Kitchen have brought the Bahamas to the city, with blue and white pastel beach hut planks, random patches of sun-faded corrugated metal and odd little trinkets that *might* have been picked up on the beach. The music’s great too, it’s like a party… with dinner.

 

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The cocktail menu is a hefty book of a thing, filled with some of the loveliest cocktails in town, most of which are under a tenner. Definitely try the Grog, a deadly concoction of lime, ginger beer and plenty of rum. Served in a little enamel mug this one’s guaranteed to bring out the Jack Sparrow in you. Whether or not that’ll be a good thing, though, remains to be seen.

 

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Whilst it’s not technically Caribbean, the Rum Kitchen’s Mojito is one of the best I’ve ever had – and I suppose that’s down to the quality of the rum. It’s so good it’s likely to turn your brain into marshmallow and leave you a slurring, stuttering mess before the night’s out.

 

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Want something more authentic? Mama’s Guinness Punch should do the trick – over-proof rum, condensed milk and Guinness mixed with spices, chocolate bitters and served over ice.

 

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The menu is a sort of Anglicised take on Caribbean classics – apparently London palates can’t handle the real deal. But before you get all outraged and angry about this try the ‘toned-down’ swamp sauce. I did, and immediately accepted my palate’s fate as an absolute wuss. This bottle of scotch bonnet LAVA lulls you into a false sense of security, looking just like our good friend Mr Ketchup. But don’t trust it. A tiny dab onto my tongue and I lost all sensation for the duration of the evening. A whole mouthful could likely kill a man.

 

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Anyway, warning over and done with, we’ll move onto the food. We tried the shack’s signature Jerk Chicken Thighs (£8.50) – crispy, crunchy and moist with a bit of bite… but not too much bite! Served with extra jerk sauce for those braver than me, and pineapple slaw, which is like cole slaw but more exotic.

 

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We also had a Jerk Chicken Supreme (£13.50) – grilled chicken breast, sweet potato and yam mash served with jerk gravy.

 

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The Soft Shell Crab Burger (£11.50) was a monster of thing, towering several feet into the air. The spicy tamarind sauce, ginger aïloi and guava-lime relish added to its gravity-defying brilliance.

 

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The final choice was a Jerk Fried Chicken Burger, served with scotch bonnet garlic mayo. And the world’s BEST sweet potato fries (£3), served in a small bucket.

 

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Several cocktails later we stumbled out onto the streets of Soho, feeling like we’d just spent a week on a desert island.

 

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The Verdict: The only bad thing about the Rum Kitchen is having to emerge into the real world afterwards. Seriously, it’s that good.

 

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10/10

 

The Rum Kitchen, Soho website: therumkitchen.com

The Rum Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Brazilian BBQ at Cabana

Cabana is to Brazilian food what Wahaca is to Mexican. The Covent Garden restaurant may look like it belongs in a shopping centre, but it’s been painstakingly decorated so that it *sort of* conjures up images of Rio – if you squeeze your eyes really shut and drink a fair bit of that Caçaha stuff.

 

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There’s plank flooring, poster-lined walls and banquettes upholstered with recycled jeans which apparently come from São Paulo favelas… (that’s slum to you and me). It’s a fun, relaxed place perfect for families or groups of friends.

 

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The menu is also incredibly allergy-friendly. Gluten free dishes are clearly marked on the menu, and Cabana even serves up gluten free dough balls with cheese and garlic butter ‘pao de queijo’, and gluten free pulled pork sliders – music to many a gluten free ear, I’m sure.

 

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The Guaca-Molho (£3.95) did not live up to expectations – too much lime, but the national snack of Brazil, Pao de Queijo (£3.95), was wonderful bite size pieces of cheesy, buttery goodness. There are no calories in Cabana.

 

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Main courses centre around the Brazilian BBQ in the middle of the restaurant; colour-coded skewers are loaded with everything from marinated chicken thighs or chimichurri rump steak to giant portobello mushrooms with haloumi.

 

The Chicken Super Salad is served with a skewer of Spicy Malagueta Chicken (£10.95), and can be made even spicier should you wish because there’s a massive bottle of the stuff in the middle of the table. If you do you’re brave indeed.

 

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The Pulled Pork Sloppy José was also on the fiery side, thanks to another generous helping of Malagueta Sauce. We thought the portion a bit mean, but it tasted great.

 

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There is, of course, a veritable mountain of Caçaha cocktails to choose from at Cabana too. Red Tail Parrot was a strange mixture of muddled fruit purees and Prosecco which only really succeeded in tasting of sugar… like drinking the alcohol-soaked souls of a thousand gummy bears.

 

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The Classic Caipirinha (Brazil’s national drink) was much better (as it should have been!) This one’s made with muddled lime, sugar and the sugar cane based liquor that is Caçaha. Tastes sort of like a Mojito really, but more powerful. The Passion Fruit Caipirinha was great, too.

 

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The Verdict: Really good value, nice relaxed setting. Order the addictive Pao de Queijo and a Caipirinha or two.

 

Gluten Free: Gluten free dishes are all clearly marked on the menu and include things you’d never expect! Look out for this symbol here… no idea what it’s meant to be.

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7/10


££

Cabana on Urbanspoon

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Life After Masterchef – An Interview with Adam Handling of Caxton Grill

The fancy St James restaurant they call Caxton Grill has recently launched a new à la carte menu, created by their very own Masterchef Adam Handling. Since appearing on the show late last year Handling has been hard at work on the menu, which pays more than just lip service to the ‘Field to Fork’ movement.

 

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We caught up with the newly-minted celebrity chef to quiz him about the inspiration behind the new Caxton’s card – and life after Masterchef.

 

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WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE MASTERCHEF?

It’s been an absolute whirlwind since it aired late last year! There have been a number of competitions that I’ve taken part in and I’ve recently been named as British Chef of the year by the British Culinary Federation which is a huge honour. I’m currently taking part in another competition where I’ve been called through to the next round so I’m preparing for that alongside launching a new a la carte menu which equals a lot of fun but a lot of experimenting for me.

 

Venison with Cauliflower and Pear
Venison with Cauliflower and Pear

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR NEW-FOUND FAME? DOES A CAREER AS A TV CHEF BECKON?

Honestly I am overwhelmed by the positivity and the response that I’ve received to everything that I have done- everyone that I have spoken to and had contact with has wished me every success in everything that I do and are fully supportive of me which is fantastic. As for a TV chef- who knows? Never say never!

 

Scottish Salmon
Scottish Salmon

 

WHAT’S THE ETHOS BEHIND THE DISHES YOU CREATE AT CAXTON GRILL?

I love dishes that are big on flavour- I’m all about clever flavours working together and creating surprising combinations for my guests, my style is evolving and for my new menu I’m using more Asian flavours which are an absolute passion of mine. The style of cooking is having the “wow” factor for my dishes and using all of my toys in the kitchen to emphasise this.

 

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Cauliflower

 

TELL US HOW YOU WENT ABOUT CREATING CAXTON GRILL’S NEW A LA CARTE MENU

I wanted to strip back flavours and create dishes which were simple but big on flavour and visually stunning. The preparation takes a little longer but the ultimate flavour combinations are so worth it.
WHAT ARE YOUR MUST-TRIES ON THE NEW MENU?

I’m biased… but all of them! The new appetiser snacks are amazing… the perfect entrée to meal & the Chef’s G&T using dill is to die for…!

 

 

Try Adam Handling’s new menu at Caxton Grill

Caxton Grill, Bar & Terrace
2 Caxton Street
LONDON
SW1H 0QW

Tel: 0800 652 1498

caxtongrill.co.uk