IMG_20150919_194715-pWe hadn’t been to Charlotte’s Place, Ealing, in a while, and given that we had a good cause for celebration, we went and enjoyed a lovely evening.

We started with a glass of Prosecco and ordered our starters.

The good wife received a starter of Smoked Sea Trout, which was very nice yet served in a laughably tiny portion, sprinkled across a plate with Frisee salad tops – a bad joke of a presentation.

I enjoyed Terrine of Duck, which hadn’t set and made me wonder how on earth they managed to cut and plate it. It tasted very nice but lacked texture; the dish was a mush with the very soft terrine, a bland liver mousse and an equally unexciting apricot and gin mousse.

For the main, we enjoyed fillet of pork (she) and quail (he), and all was very well with that, accompanied by a very nice bottle of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France.

We bot chose the same pudding, Blackberry and port jelly with compressed greengages and juniper ice cream. I scream! The jelly wasn’t set and contained whole fruit, so was a compote, not jelly. We found it nice, and thought it worked better as a compote as it would have in form of a jelly, but it’s still mislabeled. The compressed greengages didn’t give much and their compressed nature completely eluded us, but we found the juniper ice cream intriguing and delicious with the blackberry compote.

A cup of stale and fairly disgusting coffee, made a long time ago and slowly reduced on the hot plate, and a rather nice Grappa concluded our meal. Even though we thought there was much room of improvement, it still made for a lovely meal, over average for the area as we know it but under average for our previous experiences at Charlotte’s.

The evening was certainly rescued by their brilliant service. Absolutely spot-on. Attentive but not invasive, courteous but not grovelling, just right. Ten out of ten for the service, no doubt.



DSC_0859A lovely meal was being had at Charlotte’s Place in Ealing yesterday night to mark a special occasion: our 30th!

30 years of food-related memories (and others), so here’s the latest memory added:

For starters, we enjoyed a pork and fennel sausage with Sauce Gribiche (him) and Foie Gras, ham hock and artichoke terrine with a fruit chutney (her).

For the main, we enjoyed hake with octopus and Salsa Verde (her) and cod with fennel and Sauce Vierge (him), followed by a cherry Panna Cotta (her) and a cheese board (him). All enjoyed with nice bread (good), plenty of free water (excellent) and a passable Pinot Grigio.

The very subtle difference between Sauce Gribiche and a fine remoulade was lost on me, but it was as nice as any mayonnaise-based sauce ever will be. The Salsa Verde proofed popular thanks to an unexpected punch of mint. The Cornish Cod was cooked well enough to make me envious, but the dish lacked a small highlight; maybe a little more of the tiny, tiny, tiny portion of Walnut pesto would have done the trick (which was really lovely actually). The wilted Gem Lettuce underneath was a little overcooked but still acceptable. The cherry flavour in the Panna Cotta was lost against the accompanying blackberry compote, but all in all, Charlotte’s continues to be the best restaurant in Ealing that we know of. Not cheap but not expensive either, and the whole balance between price, ambience, food and service is very good indeed.

It’s well worth a visit more than once in thirty years.


Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week, I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

DSC_0346Roasted loin of pork in the popular Mol Annerschd style: butterflied, filled with woody mushrooms, chard and courgettes, served with spiced rice. Not the worst of my experiments, but it takes some real effort to bring out and enhance the flavour of supermarket mushrooms.

French onion soup, followed by a nice medium-rare Sirloin steak with all the trimmings (mushrooms, garlic butter and onion marmalade), served with chip potatoes (variety Elfe). Followed by a tangy raspberry and redcurrant cake made by friend S; thank you, friend S!

A goats cheese, Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes savoury clafoutis. (click)

Grilled kippers, a mixed seafood platter, Scottish hake with cherry tomato and chilly salsa and new potatoes at Loch Fyne, Twickenham. (Even though everything was very nice, they (again) used too much butter (on the grilled hake! please!). The place was busy, thus unpleasantly loud, and service struggled. Nevertheless, Loch Fyne makes one of the better alternatives to Curry Houses or other common West London restaurant fare.)

And finally, inspired by the previous day’s kippers, a French new potato salad with kippers, boiled egg, radish, green asparagus and garden herbs.

(Today’s picture shows salt, pepper and celery squid, served with salsa maro, a poached egg, summer radish, du’kah and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and chilly oil. Ahh, that’s lovely, too!)

Enhanced by Zemanta


DSC_1126We recently went for a quick noodle soup lunch into the Asian Market Eating experience at Tuk-Cho, Ealing Broadway. We’ve been next door at the Thai Canteen before and weren’t impressed there (on account of bland food), so all advance credit to Tuk-Cho.

Oh dear. We shouldn’t have. We’d been a lot better off making our own.

The place was mostly empty when we arrived in the early lunch time hours, and filling to about 50% capacity during our stay. When we came, serving staff was already at 150% capacity though. Noodle soup bars and Asian market eating tends to be fast and furious (just try out wagamama if you don’t know what I mean). At Tuk-Cho, they took their time to take our orders and then again to deliver our meals. The single waitress (later joint by a colleague) was just not on top of things, there’s no two ways about it. Experienced waiting staff can easily handle the number of guests they had at the time, but at Tuk-Cho, they didn’t feel like rushing. A slow approach to fast food, fair enough.

When choosing from the menu, we liked the fact that Tuk-Cho tries to cover the whole of South-east Asia: a Malaysian Laksa, a Vietnamese Pho, a Thai Tim Yam Kung, a Cambodian K’tiao. Nice, we thought, and ordered one Laksa, one K’tiao. Both arrived after quite some waiting and were lame in terms of heat, and flavourless in terms of general aroma. A lame and bland Laksa, really? How hard can it be? Same goes to the K’tiao, which I will admit is a little harder to get right. I don’t think this one was even close. None of it was bad, but it was a far cry from being good enough – certainly not for a premium price of £8.40 (K’tiao) and £9.90 (Laksa), service not included.

These places come and these places go. We’ll be back when the name on the front changes again.

I made a Cambodian noodle soup myself just a few nights ago, as I begun getting worried that I might have leaned out of the window a little too far but – No, I shouldn’t have worried. All is well, and my mouth sung of flavours for a long time after the last drop was spooned out of my bowl. Not at Tuk-Cho though.


Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week, I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

Athens-Acropolis…this week, I’ve been mostly eating lunches with friends from work, and hotel room cuisine.

The lunches are actually great; there’s an abundance of places in the area, offering complete lunches, often for less than $10. Cambodian, Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, Thai (and Thai, and Thai again), some American diner-style places, Indian, you name it, and it is within minutes’ driving. So, lunches in Silicon Valley are great. Hotel room cuisine mostly features variations of salads with greens, poached eggs, ham, cheese, tomato – always nice, and I particularly enjoy the lighter option, given that we eat out for lunch every day.

Here are two highlights that stand out from the rest of this past week’s meals:

Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with a satay sauce, followed by slow-roasted Duck with sticky rice and salad, crowned with an American classic: pineapple upside-down cake. Thanks, Linda!

We also went to dine at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, which appears to have gotten its first Michelin star last year. I have never had Greek food as delicious, and as appealingly presented, as this. Bravo!

My friend had the most beautiful Spanakotiropita, a variation of the classic Greek spinach tarte, for starters: little crispy filo pastry cones, filled with feta cheese, goats cheese and nuts, served on top of baby spinach. For myself, I couldn’t resist the Glykadakia, “chicken fried” lamb sweetbreads with a spicy breadcrumb, jalapeno pepper and lemon zest crust, served with a spicy feta dip. I couldn’t determine what “chicken fried” meant, but they were delicious.

For the main course, my friend enjoyed a stunning and delicious portion of Solomos, a wafer-thin slice of Ouzo-cured wild salmon, dressed with a spring garden made from fresh beans, radishes, wild fennel, and creme fraiche. I ate the most delicious portion of baby Kalamari that I ever tasted – not coated in batter, but touched with a hint of batter just enough to crisp the squid, and served with a delicious salsa maro, pickled ramps, sea beans and fava beans. I could only work out some of those ingredients, but I shall be trying. This was really delicious.

Washed down with a Sauvignon Blanc, and no room left for puddings.

I can’t recall having dined at a Michelin starred restaurant before. The last time we were at Dio Deka, a few years back, it wasn’t half as good and twice as arrogant. A superb move through and through, and I surely plan to come back.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sleeping Beauty

DSC_0713Happy Easter, everyone. Our wishes arrive late because we took a couple of days off to relax in the Norfolk Broads for canoeing, cycling, walking and chilling out over a good meal.

While the weather wasn’t as good as we had hoped, it certainly was much better than we feared, and we could enjoy all these activities while mostly staying dry, and with only moderate frost bite on fingers, cheeks and toes.

I have always liked the Broads. It’s just so nice to have water everywhere, and given that the area is predominately flat (or flat-ish, as any cyclist will quickly discover), any view is also full of sky, blue if you’re lucky, or leaden otherwise. It’s quite a sight.

Not so much of a sight is the local gastronomy though. I guess we just didn’t discover the highlights, but since we were staying right in the middle of one of the touristic hot-spots, Wroxham, I think the state of the local gastronomy draws a clear picture: several Fish & Chip shops, and a very large McDonald’s. A decent Thai restaurant and an equally decent Indian curry house. Some more take-away places, and two hotel pubs offering Sunday Carvery all day, every day, and two other restaurants. All are either take-away places, or restaurant with varying degrees of aspiration but a delivery that might please an early 1970s customer in terms of menu, attitude, decor – everything except the prices, which were definitely up-to-date.

You’d want to shake the Norfolk tourism officials and entrepreneurs awake, really hard. It’s such a waste!

Here’s one of England’s prime tourist locations, well within the London catchment area for short and long stays. It has everything you’d want: the rural setting, the coast, the relatively stable weather of England’s south-east, water, wildlife, nature, even a bit of culture and history here and there.

You’d want to shake the Norfolk sleepy heads awake and tell them to take advantage of their surroundings, offering waterside cafes and restaurants, and to go after those sitting in their self-catering cottages with local farmers’ markets, artisan produce, a local fish monger and a butcher selling local rare breed pork and beef. A local micro brewery doesn’t seem a far-fetched idea (here’s at least one), and a posh river-side high tea wouldn’t go amiss either.

But no. It’s Tesco (or Roys, who seems to own Norfolk), it’s McDonalds, its Fish and Chip take-away shops. It’s frustrating.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Saigon, Saigon

DSC_0940I promised a friend and member of the Sunday Night Curry Club to tell about our trying out of Saigon, Saigon, a Vietnamese Restaurant in Hammersmith’s King Street, so here goes:

We loved it.

We arrived at 7pm on a Saturday evening to a pre-booked table for four, and it quickly turned out that pre-booking seems essential: the place was packed, and the downside was that we had a slot from 7 to 9pm.

Staff was friendly and efficient though, and overall noise levels were pleasantly low, inspite of the many diners in the room.

For starters, we enjoyed fresh salad rolls with sliced shrimp & pork in soft rice paper, char-grilled quails marinated with honey, minced garlic & five spices and a sliced beef steak salad (medium-rare) with mixed herbs in fresh lime juice. All three dishes were so nice that none of us could pick a favourite.

For the mains, we had stir-fried spicy beef with morning glory, stir-fried chicken in a fruity tamarind sauce, shredded pork with lemon grass and black mushrooms, served in a clay pot, and seafood “on fire,” all accompanied by fried rice, sparkling water and a Sauvignon Blanc.

Maybe one of quieter nights will allow for more time. While we didn’t feel rushed through the meal and our 2 hour slot, in the end we were declined a coffee and asked to vacate the table for the 9pm batch. I think this is just acceptable given the overall quality to price ratio; they’d probably have to raise prices across a magical threshold in order to run the place at a single seating per table. Maybe 2 1/2 hour slots would be clever compromise move though.

The food was great. Prices are very reasonable for the area; we paid approximately £30 per person, which included a bottle of wine shared between four. The only downside is the two hour table slot business.  We’ll be back for sure, but maybe not on a Saturday night.


Enhanced by Zemanta

This Week, I’ve Been Mostly Eating…

DSC_0084Over the extended Christmas season, we’ve been eating at other people’s houses more than usually, so I thought this week’s I’ve Been Mostly Eating might list some of the meals we enjoyed on those occasions:

A winter warmer, consisting of a Spanish-style chicken, chorizo and beans hotpot, served with baked potatoes, and finished with a fruity Pavlova.

A beautiful and traditional roasted fore rip of beef, served with all the trimmings and Yorkshire Puds, and a lovely apple ice cream with caramelized apples for pudding.

An orange-infused chicken liver pate with mixed herbal salad, followed by a roasted cured rack of pork, served with Sauerkraut and pommes dauphinoise, and a rice pudding tartlet with tropical fruits for dessert.

Last week, we also went to explore the Persian cuisine of West Ealing at long last. There are two (three?) Persian restaurants, always very busy, and we have always wanted to go. We ended up in the Shalizaar, and enjoyed that the Persian cuisine appears to be right in the middle between Greece and India. Interesting. We loved the grilled Aubergine starter (Mirza Ghasemi), and a green pepper stuffed with spiced-up rice. For the mains, we received a heap of rice sufficient to feed a family of four (each!), and a nicely done lamb kebab, accompanied by a disappointingly burnt tomato. The second mains was a braised lamb shank, served in a pomegranate sauce – not quite my cup of tea, but nice and worth a try. Quite oily though. Not licensed (also nice), serving Doogh, a minted yoghurt drink similar, but more flavoursome, than Indian Lassi.

(This post’s picture: a hotpot of lentils, Swiss chard and wilted salads, served with smoked duck breast, one of my own making and very much one to my own liking. T’is yummy!)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Restaurant Overkill

football I am ashamed of myself, for lacking the courage necessary to make my point right there and then. Very sad, I know. Eventually, I’ll be a grumpy old man, and nothing will hold me back.

For example, I would stand up in the middle of the restaurant, and deliver an impromptu lecture on table manners to the waiting staff. Do not, I would say, do not start clearing the table while half of my company are still eating. Do not say “Finished?” when I haven’t even replaced my fork back onto the plate. Oh, I would add, and don’t ask “How would you like it cooked” when the customer orders liver.

How they expect to deliver a civilized dining experience is beyond me.

I would also want to stand up and deliver an impromptu lecture on table manners to some of the guests. Do not, I would say, do not stand up and walk around the restaurant during the meal. Do not eat with your elbows on the table or your hands on your knees, and don’t start until everyone has his or her serving. Use knife and fork for eating. Do not consider eating a burger fine dining.

Arrrrg. I guess I just had enough restaurant food for a while. America might make this experience even more special, but the bottom line is that I am glad to be back home.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]