Tag Archives: restaurant

Truth, Love & Clean CutleryNovember 26, 2018

Times restaurant critic Giles Coren describes his recently-published Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery, as “a guide to the truly good restaurants and food experiences of the UK.”  But what – apart from stonking food and wine – constitutes a “good” restaurant? Is it Michelin stars? A chef with celebrity status? Designer decor on both walls and plates? Or what?

The answer, according to Giles, is a restaurant whose food does good as well as tastes good. In recent years a growing number of chefs and restaurants have been emphasising local and seasonal produce, reducing carbon emissions, minimising waste, supporting sustainable practice by farmers, producers and wine-makers, and being an active part of their communities. Helpfully, Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery tells you which they are.

“This is a new kind of restaurant guide for a new kind of restaurant world,” says Giles. “In the year that Blue Planet II brought home the oceanic catastrophe wrought by single-use plastic and all but killed off the disposable drinking straw in a single evening, it is just not tenable to buy food and drink anywhere now without an assurance that every possible effort has been made to – in the words of the Hippocratic Oath – “do no harm.””

Giles’ first principle of selection for the guide was, naturally, divine food. “No one crosses town for dinner because the restaurant recycles its grey water to feed the tomatoes on its roof, or makes its furniture from old plastic bottles,” says Giles. “We go for the crispy, gooey pizza, slightly charred at the edges and blobbed with nduja and sage… But with that assured, don’t we want to know that what they are doing in this place is good?”

By Giles’ own admission, the selection is far from exhaustive and definitive, just a first attempt. We will all know places that deserve to be in the guide, but are not (yet), and I know Giles and his associate editor Jules Mercer would be delighted to hear from you with any suggestions for the next edition.

Buy this guide as a Christmas present for every foodie you know, and you’ll be helping both the restaurants who care about the world they live in – and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which helped Giles compite his list and to whom ten percent of the book’s revenues will go.

“With this guide people can vote with their forks and use the power of their appetites wisely,” says Andrew Stephen, the Chief Executive of the SRA which helps food-service businesses work towards sustainability.

Well done Giles, Thames&Hudson, and all the restaurants in this brilliant book. No longer do you need to leave your conscience at home when you eat out. I’m afraid it’s no secret what my friends and family are getting for Christmas!

Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery, A Guide to the Truly Good Restaurants and Food Experiences of the UK, Edited by Giles Coren, is published by Thames & Hudson, RRP £19.99  truthloveandcleancutlery.com

Here are a few of the restaurants which Giles has selected for inclusion in his book:

Sorella

Sorella, 148 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4   sorellarestaurant.co.uk

“Dishes of an incredible quality, so focused, so well balanced, so adventurous and hearty. One of the most promising openings of 2018.”

 

Cafe Murano

Cafe Murano, 33 St James’s Street, London SW1   cafemurano.co.uk

“Angela Hartnett calls this a cafe, but the level of attention to detail, the skill in the cooking, the beauty of the presentation, and the professionalism of the staff bespeak far higher things – but without all the tosspottery of fine dining. Cafe Murano is Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery to the max!”

 

The Bookshop

The Bookshop, 33 Aubrey Street, Hereford   aruleoftum.com

“Thursday to Friday it’s cuts of dry-aged Herefordshire beef and other seasonal, local specialities. On Sundays it’s a roast they say is “better than your mum’s”, which we will gladly believe. Our mum mostly opens tins.”

 

The Whitehouse Restaurant                                           Image by Clare Hargreaves

The Whitehouse Restaurant, Lochaline, Morvern, Scotland  thewhitehouserestaurant.co.uk

“For delicious, fresh and exciting fare that aids the community and does its bit to help the environment, a visit to The Whitehouse hits the spot.”

 

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, London       petershamnurseries.com

“We particularly admire their attention to waste management and recycling, which are by no means the most glamorous or visible aspects of the business… They are also committed to reducing food waste from their kitchens, prep from entire carcasses, and are committed to composting. They use imitation greaseproof paper made from sustainable forest paper and havde swapped from clingfilm to compostable bio-film.”

Galway’s gourmet revolutionJune 14, 2018

Quietly, Galway, on Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, has been witnessing a gastronomic explosion, leading it to this year be awarded European Region of Gastronomy status. Among the chefs igniting this gourmet revolution is flame-haired JP McMahon, who runs tiny, Michelin-starred, Aniar (Gaelic for “From the West”, pronounced “An Ear”), so named as its dishes are inspired solely by County Galway’s fields and rugged Atlantic coast. So imported lemons and black pepper are out. Instead, its chefs craft vinegars to provide acidity, and to spice things up, powders from seaweeds or plants. To extend flavours and seasons, they draw on age-old traditions of salting, fermenting and pickling.

When I visit, dinner starts, predictably enough perhaps, with homemade soda bread, moist and dark as an Irish peat bog, served with a choice of cultured butters. But then I’m served a slip of paper bearing an Ode to Bread that starts “Someone else cut off my head in a golden field”. An academic by background and self-taught as a chef, JP doesn’t do anything the ordinary way.

The nibbles (pictured) set the tone: a garlicky chicken heart on a stick, a baby parsnip sprinkled with dehydrated onion crumb, an eel and kohlrabi spring roll, and kelp and sea radish soup – all humble, unfussily presented, ingredients that JP lifts to fabulous flavour-packed heights. Presentation of both food and restaurant are pleasingly uncluttered, allowing you to savour the essence of each glorious ingredient.

Subsequent dishes push the boundaries with equal dexterity, such as the fermented potato (we’re in Ireland, after all) with smoked cod roe and cured egg yolk, snuggled inside an eggshell. Or the Atlantic cod that’s topped with foraged pepper pulse and pickled pine needles. The second of two desserts is candied beetroot with a yoghurt cream, topped with a beetroot leather like a floppy sombrero. This is contemporary Irish food at its pared-down best – and some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere. Get to Aniar when you can.

I visited Aniar while researching a feature on the food of Galway for Olive Magazine. To read more about Aniar, and other eateries in Galway, read my feature in the June issue of Olive magazine.

Aniar Restaurant. Nibbles.

Aniar Restaurant. Atlantic cod with dulse, potato, egg and a pine cone powder.

Aniar restaurant. Beetroot and yoghurt dessert.

Aniar and Dela restaurants.

Bistro on the BridgeJune 2, 2018

All too often, British beach cafes mean soggy chips, cardboard panini and mass-produced ice-cream at rip-off prices. There’s precious little actual cooking. But Bridge Cottage Bistro, in little Sandsend, on the coast just north of Whitby, happily breaks the mould. Here, in a cottage next to the beck that flows onto the beach,  young chef Alexander Perkins draws on his rich local Yorkshire larder to do some very proper cooking. Pop in for elevenses and try his classy pistachio and rose cake or super-sized chocolate brownies. Lunchtime menus are dominated by East Coast seafood, much of it sourced directly from the fishermen who caught it. I kicked off with scallops accompanied with parsley root puree (if you’ve not tried parsley root, it’s fabulous) and pomegranate, and for main went for a lemon sole with nut brown butter, capers and lemon, that was utterly delicious. Also very popular are Alex’s twice-baked Northumbrian cheese soufflé and his fish stew. The restaurant also opens in the evening from Thursday to Saturday. Thursdays are often themed evenings, while on Fridays the restaurant does an East Coast Tasting menu (6 to 9 courses for £38, booking required). To finish, I had a lemon posset topped with poached damsons. It’s all sensibly priced and served in a friendly, gently contemporary space. Just the kind of place that the Yorkshire coast needs.

I visited Bridge Cottage Bistro while researching a feature on the food of the North York Moors for Olive Magazine. To read more about Bridge Cottage, and other eateries on the North York Moors, read my feature here.

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Beefing up the beetroot with Tommy BanksMay 2, 2018

I must have first visited the Black Swan at Olstead, on the southwestern fringes of the North York Moors, six or seven years ago. It was a comfy country pub in the middle of nowhere (nearest landmark Byland Abbey) serving elaborate variations on a theme of meat and two veg. But its special point of difference was that it was run by Mum and Dad Banks and their two sons James and Tommy. Tommy was working in the kitchen with its head chef Adam Jackson, while Mum and Dad served in the bar and kept food journos like me entertained. The village was silent as a morgue as I crept outside to the room next door they’d just converted into swanky B&B accommodation.

What a change when I returned to the Black Swan in October for Olive magazine. Tommy, the Banks’ youngest son, now 28, had not only won himself a Michelin star (four years earlier) and  triumphed twice on the BBC’s Great British Menu (2016 and 2017) but a few weeks before I arrived, the inn had been named the best restaurant in the world by TripAdvisor (I know, what do they know about food? But hey, being named best in the world is a pretty cool accolade anyway). The car park was packed with BMWs, and my single room had now turned into nine, several inside the house that used to be Tommy’s grandmothers. Mum and Dad had been substituted by younger staff at the bar.

An eight-course tasting menu was the only option on offer, many of its ingredients happily sourced from the kitchen garden behind the inn and, in the case of foraged ingredients, the Yorkshire hedgerows. (The hogweed seed, honey and elderflower custard served with sheep’s yoghurt ice cream for dessert was spectacular). The jars lining the shelves in the smart first-floor restaurant were filled with fat jars of leaves and fruits that Tommy pickles and preserves to extend their season.

The highlight, though, and the dish that can never come off the menu, is the Crapaudine beetroot, an ancient French variety of beetroot that’s the size and shape of a very large turnip, and gets its name from its warty skin (crapaud being French for toad). It’s grown on the farm by Tommy’s dad, and once pulled is stored in straw which means it’s available all year round. Tommy slow-cooks slices of it in Dexter beef fat for around four hours – not in the oven as you might imagine, but on the top of the stove. The chunky beetroot slices are crowned  with creamy clouds of cod’s roe and horseradish, interspersed with delicate linseed wafers. As I eat the dish, I can almost imagine the Crapaudine’s robust flesh is meat. No wonder the chefs dub it ‘meat root.’

Beetroot may be the simplest ingredient, but the Banks’ genius is that they’ve chosen a variety you won’t find anywhere else and as they grow it themselves on the farm they don’t depend on erratic suppliers. Working on this same principle, they also grow delicately flavoured Alpine strawberries which greet you at breakfast. “They taste best when minutes after being picked, ” Tommy’s dad tells me. “So we grow our own in the garden next to the pub.”  So it’s no surprise, perhaps, that Tommy’s first book, just published, is called Roots. For roots is what the Banks family are all about – even if the place they’re serving them in is now up-scale restaurant rather than gourmet village boozer.

To read more about The Black Swan, and other eateries on the North York Moors, read my feature in the April issue of Olive Magazine.

The Black Swan at Oldstead © Clare Hargreaves

Tommy Banks’ sig dish of crapaudine beetroot slow-cooked in beef fat © Clare Hargreaves

Crapaudine beetroot grown on the Banks’ farm in Oldstead © Clare Hargreaves

The Wright kind of foodMarch 13, 2018

Wright’s Emporium is in the middle of Welsh nowhere, and from the outside looks like a ramshackle pub that the modern world forgot. But inside, what a find! Its Emporium designation, suggesting an Aladdin’s Cave of gourmet surprises that evokes shrieks of childish delight, is spot on. The Wrights part refers to its food-writer owner, Simon Wright and his wife Maryann, who runs the kitchen.

At the far end of its comforting warren-like interior is a wine store (pictured below) offering mostly biodynamic wines that are sourced direct from their European producers. If you like, bring your own bottles and fill them up yourself – sustainability is very much part of this place’s ethic. The heart of the place is a deli crammed with local goodies, from cured meats from Charcutier, to Hafod Cheddar (one of my favourite cheeses) and Wright’s own tomato Catsup (a variant on ketchup) (pictured). There’s freshly baked bread (pictured), and local meats, fruit and veg too.

The highlight, though, is the daytime cafe (open evenings on Fridays and Saturdays), where you can kick off the day with a bubble and squeak made from kale, and topped with a poached egg  (pictured). With its mismatched bare tables, bookshelves, and spreads of just-baked cakes, it’s a deliciously relaxed spot in which to enjoy Maryann’s European-influenced rustic cooking. Dishes might include a Tartiflette, a Rare roast beef tonnato, or Fried aubergine with labneh. Or if you’re in a hurry, the Pork belly cubano (£8) will set you up for the day, and don’t leave without one of their brownies, as big as bricks. Upstairs there’s even a bijou apartment which you can rent. Its location, the village of Llanarthne, is a perfect spot from where to explore Carmarthenshire.

You can read more about Wrights in my article on Carmarthenshire’s food for Olive magazine here.

The wine store, run by Simon and Maryann’s son Dan © Clare Hargreaves

Breakfast bubble & squeak © Clare Hargreaves

Wrights tomato catsup © Clare Hargreaves

Waitress Sammi Jones bringing sourdough breads fresh from the oven © Clare Hargreaves