Thursday, 25 August 2011

Bistro du Vin - the Soho Sister

A while back I was invited along with Kavey Eats, Gourmet Chick, Bitten Written and Food For Think to try out Bistro du Vin, Dean Street - another addition to Soho's growing culinary delights.

Just a few weeks before I'd been to their Clerkenwell branch and was impressed - my expectations were high.

On entering there was a similar sleek, chic feel to the place - although without the central bar feature in the Soho branch this seemed far more spacious. We met in the back of the restaurant - the chill-out area which had a back wall filled with shelves of books and orange interiors.

It was a warm, summer evening and we were greeted with the signature opening cocktail - a Chase Vodka Summer Fruit Punch. This was a long drink and frankly a thing of beauty - filled with berries, rose petals and with elderflower, borage and lemon peel in the mix - it was delicious and refreshing too.

I was determined to try something different from when I'd been at the Clerkenwell establishment, and being with fellow food-lovers I knew the opportunity to try other things would be a certainty.

Once seated at our round table, close to the ever-fashionable Josper Grill, I chose the Lobster Bisque to begin. This arrived in a gorgeous earthenwear terracotta dish on a wodden board with some sourdough bread on the side. The bisque was a vivid orange hue, piping hot and had an immense flavour running through it. It was truly delicious - and surprisingly filling for such a thin soup. The flavour had a very strong fishy taste to it - perfect for me, but maybe not for the faint-hearted seafood lover.

We all decided on our main courses and were promised an array of side dishes to share. After suffering food envy the last time when the boy had chosen a steak off of the Josper Grill - I took our attentive waiter's advice and chose the 500g Bone in Sirloin.

I had no food envy this time. The steak was rare, juicy, red and cooked to absolute perfection. The flavour and seasoning was spot on and although I'd asked for an accompanying Bearnaise sauce, this could have easily been demolished without it.

Generously we were given a couple of all of the sides available and personal favourites were the purple potatoes which had a gorgeous earthy flavour, creamy potato puree and the tomato salad which had gorgeous tomatoes of all hues and sweet, ripe flavouring.

Another star side was the additional bone marrow which was an afterthought as a few of us were having steak. Scraped out and eat with a mouthful of steak this added a gorgeous intensity. A very enjoyable course.

One person had the Wild Mushroom, ricotta and spinach crepe which came up with salad on top. This looked nice enough, but as the only vegetarian option available on the menu I thought this lacked imagination on a menu filled with so many good meat and fish options.

Kavey chose the Hot Roasted Shells - which looked simply fantastic and I will be sure to have that when I return. This included lobster, razor clams, Queenie scallops, crayfish, mussels and crab and it looked a picture. We were informed the flavour matched up to the appearance.

After having such a filling, yet enjoyable meal it would have been easy to have a coffee and roll home. However we were urged to try a dessert and never one to let people down, I quickly opted for the Lemon, ricotta and pine nut tart. It was lovely and refreshing, and once again, as in the Clerkenwell restaurant, I marvelled at the pastry expertise.

One of the key features of Bistro du Vin is their 'La Cave a Fromage' or their cheese cave - a walk in treasure chest of over 70 cheeses, many of which are artisan and chosen for their seasonality. We were treated in pairs to a discussion with legendary cheese expert Eric Charriaux within the (freezing cold) cave and were made up a board of cheeses according to those we liked after trying several. Eric's chat was fascinating and I learned a lot more about cheese. I'm not going to go into too much detail as am planning on visiting La Cave in the next fortnight and making the most of their Unlimited Cheese for £12.50 offer. I will share this experience with readers, but I will say the stand out cheese during this meal for me was the goats cheese which had an accompaniment of honey and saffron - perfect partners.

The meal was fantastic overall and it was great to put faces to some other bloggers that I've long followed.

Soho's game has been rising more and more over the past couple of years thanks to people like Russell Norman, and Bistro du Vin, is another gem which is a very welcome newbie in what feels like the hippest part of London Town right now. Long may it reign.
Bistro du Vin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Spuntino - better late than never

It would appear that every premises Russell Norman touches turns to gourmet gold, if not instantly, then certainly over time. It's taken me until August to finally persevere with the dreaded queue at the Rupert Street sister of Polpo, Da Polpo and Polpetto - Spuntino and I have to say I wish I'd been more patient on previous attempts - the olives alone are worth the wait.

I met my friend Lianne straight from work on a Tuesday evening two weeks ago and we only had to wait a few minutes before we were seated by the door - it was stiflingly hot so we were quite happy to sit here.

Whilst we mulled over the menu some complimentary spiced popcorn was brought over which we demolished fairly quickly and we got engaged into conversation with a couple to my left who informed us the olives were an absolute must and to avoid the sliders as they'd ordered the lamb ones and were disappointed. So we were off.

We ordered a glass of house Prosecco (£5) to toast our lack of waiting time, put in our food requests and began to enjoy the food which all came up at different times.

The stuffed fried olives arrived first and I can honestly say these were one of the naughtiest yet most enjoyable little balls of deliciousness I've ever encountered. Stuffed with an anchovy, sage and thyme and fried in breadcrumbs they were an immensely satisfying little treat.

We took our new friends' advice and didn't order the sliders but I wasn't to miss out on the mac & cheese. We also ordered the duck ham, pecorino and mint salad, the zucchini, chilli and mint pizzetta, spicy sausage and cheddar grits and the eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt.

The mac & cheese was one of the best I've tried - gooey melted cheesey pasta topped with browned breadcrumbs - you just can't go wrong - this to me is indulgent hangover food. I'd hazard that there were at least three cheeses in this - with the breadcrumbs topped with Parmesan. Delicious but I dread to think of the fat content of this one dish.

The duck ham salad was actually a trifle disappointing as there were only three or four tiny (blink and you might miss them) slivvers of meat - and though the little I had was tasty - it just wasnt enough. Also with the sausage and cheese grits this wasn't particularly enjoyable - quite a mulsh of cheese and a sausage sauce - the flavours were OK but the texture put me in mind of baby food.

The eggplant chips were sensational with the fennel yoghurt - they, like the olives, had the fried yumminess of something that is oh so naughty but just tastes oh so good and the yoghurt complemented it perfectly giving it a piquant freshness.

The final dish of the 'spuntino's' (snacks) was my star dish by far - it was the Zucchini, Chilli and Mint Pizzetta and was light as a feather, crispy based with toppings that were fresh and gorgeous. This transported me to Milan's artist quarter where I've enjoyed my best ever pizzas. I'd love to know how the base was just crisped with such a gorgeous flavour to it. For me zucchini with a hit of chilli and mint were the perfect combination. Fabulous.

We both ordered a cocktail each in and amongst the eating and these deserve mention too - not least because of their potent alcohol levels - I can imagine it's very easy to leave here drunk if you had more that one of these! I had an Orange Blossom - classically gin based with lots of freshly squeezed orange juice and Lianne chose a Mint Julep - almost mojito esque but with about three times the amount of white rum!

Finally we both 'forced ourselves' into having one of their desserts despite both being slightly over full and chastising ourselves about the uncountable calorific content of half of our dishes.

I had the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich which was a very clever take on the all American classic. The peanut butter served as the bread part of the sandwich and was a rich, creamy and to-die-for ice cream and the filling - the jelly or jam was a gorgeously sweet raspberry. To top this off shavings of honeycomb were covering this to give it another texture - it was a beautiful dessert both to look at and to eat.

Lianne chose well too in her Brown Sugar Cheesecake. The base was sweet with just the right amount of crunch and bite and the filling was just delicious. Drunken cherries surrounded to complete this fantastic pudding and I'm not ashamed to say neither of us left a crumb.

As is often the way with the 'small plates' way of eating this doesn't work out cheap and came in at over £40 a head, with only two drinks.
Next time I return I will at least attempt the sliders as I saw a few other diners enjoying them around the bar and I will be returning sooner rather than later.
Spuntino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hot Product Alert

Pukka Three Ginger

The Pukka family takes it's name from the Hindi word for genuine or authentic and I have to say that I genuinely love this flavoured tea. Normally if I'm having a hot drink it'll either be a builders style cup of tea or milky coffee but since trying these I've become a little obsessed, so I thought I'd share my find with readers.

These are organic tea bags - mainly ginger in flavour but also have galangal, turmeric and liquorice running through. The aim is to 'uplift' and I have to say that after a long day at work, they do just that for me and provide an unusual, spicy tea that I adore.

I enjoy best with a slice of lemon and a little honey, to sweeten.

To buy a packet of Pukka Three Ginger teas or find out more visit the website at