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Moro

22nd September 2013
It was my birthday this week and because I am always planning everything, I gave TBH a list of restaurants I wanted to try and told him to surprise me. The list was varied and in the end he had to get help from a colleague who is just as into food as I am. Lucky me, as had it not been for her, he would probably have gone for one of the safe options on the list.  
Moro is located in Exmouth Market, a really cool little pedestrianised street a short walk from Angel tube station. Specialising in Moorish/Spanish cuisine, it celebrates its 17thbirthday this year, which in restaurant years is an absolute lifetime, but that just tells you how special this place is!  TBH booked a late lunch table and when we arrived at 2pm, every table was occupied and the place was buzzing with the sound of people having a good time. I loved it as soon as I walked in. There is a long bar spanning the breadth of the restaurant where you can sit and have tapas and an open kitchen at the back. Next door, they have a separate restaurant specialising in tapas called Morito – much smaller, but I hear, just as good as Moro. 
Once seated, a basket of gorgeous chunks of bread and a bowl of very good olive oil was left for us while we pondered on the menu. A real mix of Middle Eastern and Spanish flavours, it was difficult to choose. In the end I went for the Charcoal grilled quail with aubergine and spiced labneh (£8.50) to start. It arrived as a whole spatchcock quail with a beautifully creamy labneh and little flecks of piquillo pepper scattered over the dish. A little awkward to eat with a knife and fork, I eventually downed tools and ate it with my hands. The bird was moist and spiced so delicately that you could taste each and every flavour coming through. 
TBH, a much braver soul than I am, went for the seared ox heart with fresh fig and sultana grape tabouleh (£8.00). He first asked the waitress how this was served and when she confirmed that it came thinly sliced, he proceeded with ordering it. His theory is that he doesn’t know he won’t like it until he tries it. As you would expect with an ox heart, it was big! The slices not as thin as he would’ve liked, but if you did not know what it was, you could easily be mistaken for thinking it was a piece of steak. It was delicious and I would consider ordering it if I saw it on a menu again. 
For my main dish, I ordered wood roasted pork with piquillo pepper sauce and patatas alinadas (£18.50). The waitress warned me that this was a slightly fatty cut, but what is a good pork chop without a decent layer of crispy fat? It has to be rendered properly though so that it melts in your mouth and doesn’t taste chewy and I am happy to report that it was all of those things. Crispy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! The portion was ginormous though and I could’ve done with only one pork chop instead of the two that were served. The patatas alinadas blew my mind! I had never heard of them before and was told that they are a very common potato dish in the Southern areas of Spain. Laden with olive oil, 3 different types of vinegars, green peppers and onions; it was an absolute flavour sensation and I could’ve easily eaten a bowl of that on its own. The piquillo sauce I would’ve liked to be a little fiery, but tasted more like a romesco sauce to me. Surprisingly, looking at the sheer size of the dish, it was light and I didn’t feel uncomfortably full afterwards. (But that could be because I only ate one of the chops!)
TBH ordered the wood roasted chicken with cucumber chips, dill yoghurt, red chilli and grilled aubergine (£18.50). He has a thing about not ordering the same as I do and he would’ve gone for the pork dish that I ordered, but I got dibs on it as it was my birthday. Yay me! Never the less, he was served a quarter piece of chicken that was soft and juicy. The cucumber crisps had been battered with a tempura-like batter and added a nice texture. I expected these to be soggy and limp pieces of cucumber, but they were very good. A nice dish, but I think I won this round with my choice. 
Now most people will know that I am not one for desserts, but TBH insisted that I choose something. (Suspicions aroused!) So I chose the cheese platter that consisted of Carpuelo, Picos de Europa and Torta cheeses with membrillo (£9.00) I didn’t have a clue what any of it would be, but it turned out to be a hard, soft and blue cheese with a quince jelly; all of which were delicious. The little birthday candle propped into one of the cheeses was a nice touch too. 
For his dessert, TBH ordered the chocolate and apricot tart (£7.00). This looked like it had a mousse-type consistency on top with a layer of apricot jam underneath. It looked gorgeous and I am told that it was. 
The wine list is extensive and almost entirely Spanish. I asked the waitress to recommend a bottle and she recommended the Pasion de Bobal Bodega Sierra Norte. (26.00) I don’t usually comment on the wine, but this was really smooth and I drank almost the entire bottle on my own! I liked the fact that she didn’t take my asking as an open invitation to choose the most expensive wine on the list. She listened to what I liked and recommended a bottle based on that. 
Service was charming and totally relaxed. Our waitress, Ruth, was able to talk us through any questions knowledgeably and with real passion. She clearly loves her job and the restaurant and it shows. 
Our total bill came to £122.63 including a bottle of wine, 2 beers and service. Such great value for a truly wonderful meal. I can’t believe we have never been to Moro before, but believe me, it won’t be our last visit!
 
Until we eat again!
 
 Square Meal Moro on Urbanspoon

Roux at Parliament Square

11th October 2015


I’ve been following a new eating and exercise plan, which means that I have been keeping the eating out to a minimum. But it was my birthday recently and if you can’t celebrate your birthday with a fantastic dinner, then when can you? Life is for living and all of that… So I tasked The Better Half (TBH) with choosing where he would take me and after a quick peruse of my bucket list  – it can’t get any easier than that, right? He chose Roux at Parliament Square.

Operated by Restaurant Association with the world-renowned Michel Roux Junior as executive chef and Steve Groves – Masterchef Professionals winner in 2009 – at the helm in the kitchen, I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time so TBH picked a good ‘un. Located in the same building as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and just around the corner from Westminster Cathedral, its a grand and historic building. Walking into the main dining room, I felt as though I was in someone’s living room.  It was warm, cosy and very welcoming. Having been seated at a gorgeous window seat, we were left with menus and as we’d had drinks elsewhere before arriving, went straight ahead with the meal.

To start I had the langoustine with prawn tortellini and coastal vegetables (£18.00). The langoustine was beautifully meaty and sweet piece of shellfish, but it was the tortellini that really got me. I’ve just started making my own pasta and was totally amazed at just how thin they managed to get this little parcel. I can only hope in my wildest dreams to make tortellini that good! The broth it was served in was rich and tasted of the sea, a perfectly balanced dish.


TBH had the quail, golden raisin parfait and dandelion (£16.00) for his starter. The quail was succulent and cooked to perfection, the raisin bringing sweetness and the dandelion a little sharpness. Another extremely well balanced dish. The parfait came as a side dish on a little wedge of brioche (not pictured) and was so smooth and deliciously rich, that he would’ve been happy with just that dish as his starter.


Iberico pork chop with romesco sauce, grilled onions and peppers (£29.00) is what I went for the main event. This isn’t a dish that I would’ve expected to find on a Michel Roux menu, but it was another winner. Funnily enough I had a very similar dish on a previous birthday lunch at Moro!  (Clearly not as adventurous as I think I am!) The sweet romesco and grilled onions were perfect partners for the slightly fatty pork. A really hearty and delicious choice.


TBH had the Lakeland lamb, smoked Isle of Wight tomato, courgettes and rosemary (£32.00) I remember Steve Groves doing that courgette ‘fretwork’ during his time on Masterchef and marvelling at the intricacy of it, and here TBH was getting to eat it!


Dessert for me was a cheeseboard naturally (£14.00) I can’t remember what they all were, but I asked for the stronger end of the spectrum. Let me know if you can identify any of them – they were all really good!


TBH had the blackberry soufflé with apple sorbet, oat crumble and vanilla cream (£13.00). Risen majestically, this was a perfect example of a soufflé.  The tartness of the apple sorbet cut through the richness of the blackberry. It was a great combination.

As a nice little treat,I also received the obligatory ‘Happy Birthday’ dessert. This one was like a giant Rolo except it had oozy chocolate in the centre. For someone who isn’t a great dessert lover, I really enjoyed it.

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Remember in my Michelin Star Experiment conclusion, I talked about that feeling?  Well service at Roux, gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  TBH and I left there feeling like we were part of the family, it was just such an immense pleasure to celebrate my birthday there! The total bill came to £200 including drinks and service, which for me is incredible value for the experience that we had. This is one of our favourite meals we’ve had this year!

Next time you’re looking for somewhere special to celebrate, then I highly recommend Roux at Parliament Square.

Until we eat again!

Square MealRoux at Parliament Square Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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My gastronomic highlights of 2013

29th December 2013
When I was thinking about writing this post, I really thought that it had been a quiet year. It was only when I looked through my calendar that I realised just how many fantastic experiences I have had this year. Granted, some months were a lot more interesting than others but I think all in all 2013 was a pretty good year for Sam the Food Fan. Here are some of my highlights:
January
On the first Saturday of the new year, when most people are detoxing, The Better Half (TBH) and I had a lunch booked at Roganic. This was a two year pop-up by chef Simon Rogan, who has since gone on to open a much lauded restaurant in Manchester called The French and he has also just been named as the chef to take over the kitchen at the renowned hotel Claridges.
January is also TBH’s birthday. I’m always dragging him to all the restaurants that I want to go to, so when he mentioned in passing that he would like to go to Duck & Waffle, I booked it for his birthday. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about this one. Restaurants with views tend to treat the food as an afterthought but how wrong I was. Duck & Waffle was my surprise of the year and one of my favourite meals of 2013.

Duck & Waffle

February

Pitt Cue Co. was my highlight for February. An absolutely teeny restaurant that was renowned as much for the incredible BBQ meats they served as they were for the queues to get a table. We were fortunate enough to visit on a cold February day when the wait was minimal but however long the wait would’ve been, it was worth it. A lesson on how meat should be treated!

Pitt Cue Co – Pulled Pork with mash and bone marrow gravy

March

March was an incredibly busy month which included a 3 week holiday back to the homeland and some pretty fantastic meals! First I celebrated a friend’s birthday at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, a really wonderful meal and a restaurant I would like to get back to in the near future. March also saw the opening of Jason Atherton’s second restaurant Little Social. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview and to meet the man himself.

Jason Atherton & I at Little Social

On holiday, we ate at the number one restaurant in South Africa in 2012, The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale Roberts. One word – sensational. We also took a tour of the wine region Franschoek and ate at the restaurant on the farm La-Motte. I remember it being an absolutely gorgeous day in Cape Town that day. We were with great friends, eating great food and drinking great wine. What more could you ask for?


La-Motte – Karoo Lamb
The Test Kitchen – Cape Hake

April

Looking at my April calendar, there were a few cracking meals in there, it’s no wonder my waist line expanded so much over the course of the year! First up was The Delaunay – my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the size of the Holstein schnitzel I had, but I ate the whole lot because it was just so delicious! And I still can’t forget about the fabulous banana split TBH and I shared.

The Delaunay – Banana Split

Another firm favourite this year was Ceviche. A Peruvian restaurant serving fantastically fresh and interesting dishes.  I loved the vibe and I really loved the food.

April also saw Jason Atherton opened his third London restaurant, Social Eating House. I was invited along to the soft launch and have decided that this is my favourite of all of Jason’s restaurants in London. From the quirky presentation of cocktails, to the interesting take on classic dishes; I just love everything about this restaurant.

Pollen 58 Cocktail at Social Eating House

 

May
In May, TBH and I took our first ever ‘stay-cation’. We went to The Pig Hotel in the New Forest and while the food is nothing to get excited about, the hotel is absolutely gorgeous and we felt at home from the minute we walked in.
The Pig Hotel, Brockenhurst

The king of the BBQ, chef Neil Rankin moved from Pitt Cue Co to John Salt in Islington earlier this year and the Sunday roast here at John Salt was another highlight for me in May.

John Salt – Roast Beef

June

Story was one of the most hyped openings this year, I would say. And the hype wasn’t misguided! Truly exciting cooking coming from young chef Tom Sellers.

Story – Beetroot, Raspberry and Horseradish

 

Later in June, I went to my first food festival. Organised by Margot Henderson and held in a churchyard right in the middle of Soho. The Soho Food Feast was incredible value and we got to experience food from some of the finest restaurants and chefs in the area – The Ivy, MEATLiquor, Quo Vadis and many more. TBH and I took it in turns to choose a dish and share it, that way we got to try far more than if we were each having the same dish. A food festival that I will make sure to get tickets for in 2014!
July
For the first time in a very long while, the UK had an excellent summer. Three months of absolutely glorious weather! Every single day! In July I went to the Athenaeum Hotel to enjoy a spa day and lunch for one of my friend’s hen party. Old school elegance at its best.
August
Lots of highlights in August – The buttermilk fried chicken from The Clove Club. Flesh & Buns and their amazing Hirata buns. We also went roller skating at Skate Kings Cross – but more so to try the outstanding burgers from Disco Bistro.

Disco Bistro at Skate Kings Cross

Street Feast have become well known for hosting some of the best street food festivals in London. I’ve only managed to get to one this year (poor show!) and that was Truckstop at Canary Wharf. I loved sitting on the grass with the towers of Canary Wharf looming over us and trying some of the best street food there is.



Truck stop by Street Feast
September
In September I celebrate my birthday. I gave TBH a list of restaurants that I wanted to try to choose from and he chose an absolute corker – Moro in Exmouth Market.

Moro – Wood roasted pork with piquilo pepper sauce

I was also invited by a friend to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Two Michelin stars for a reason! My absolute stand out meal of 2013.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Meat Fruit

October

My mom arrived for a holiday in October, so not much eating out. Instead, I created a list of childhood favourite meals for her to cook for me.  Spaghetti carbonara, lasagne, Portuguese salt cod with cream (Bacalhao com natas) to name a few. Every one of those as delicious as I remember them.
November
In November I was invited to dine at AD12 at T42. A pop up by chef Anthony Demetre at Tower 42 in the City of London. A really enjoyable meal, such a pity that the pop up is now over. I have to make a visit to one of his other restaurants a priority for next year.

AD12 at T42 – Warm Chocolate soup

 

This month I also met some lovely ladies that I chat to regularly on Twitter (@geniecooks,@pasion4fish and @gremkoska) at Le Relais de Venise in the City. It’s always nerve-wracking meeting new people, but I needn’t have worried! Great food, good wine and brilliant company made for an enjoyable evening.
December
Silly season and lots of over indulging, but my highlight this month was Vivat Bacchus and in particular the cheese room. Probably the best cheese board I have ever had and a restaurant that I think will definitely become a regular haunt going forward!

Vivat Bacchus – Cheese Room

 

So there you have it, my highlights for 2013. There are so many more fantastic meals that I haven’t mentioned for fear of turning this into ‘War and Peace’. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog this year as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!  I can’t wait to tick more fabulous restaurants off my bucket list….
Until we eat again!