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Rick’s Café 122 Mitcham Road, Tooting, London
May 17th, 2009 by Olivier

Rick’s Café
122 Mitcham Road, Tooting
London SW17 9NH

Rick’s Café

Reviewed on Sunday 17 May 2009 lunch time

Rick's Café

Rick's Café

Rick’s Café is located close to Tooting Broadway tube station, between Pizza Domino and a shoe repairs store. The first feeling is not that great but when you get inside, things are different. It has a kind of nice rustic feeling (see the big table on the photo below) but with some unfortunate mistakes like our small two people table that looks like it came from Ikea and our knives were from Ikea. The restaurant is not big, maybe around 25 seats maximum.
On the Sunday lunch menu, the wines of the week were two French wine (Château Haut du Puy Medoc 2000 – £22.50 and Henry Marionette Touraine Gamay 2007 – £18.95) and one Argentinian wine Alfredo Roca Pinot noir. We wanted the Medoc but it was out of stock so we chose the Gamay upon suggestion.
The choice for the first course is fairly large, with interesting meals like steamed razor clams in garlic and white wine (£6.50),  chicken liver parfait with gherkins, onion marmalade and toast (£6.50), roasted artichoke with red pesto (£5.50) or English asparagus, fried egg and parmesan (£6). We ordered the clams and the chicken liver.
As main course the choice is pretty interesting too, beside the traditional roast beef for Sunday lunch (including a glass of wine – £10), there are  cornish crab, jersey royal potatoes and aioli (£12.50), seared squid, grilled polenta, wild rocket and red chilli (£10.75), pan fried lemon sole, green beans and red wine dressing (£13.75), sauté veal kidneys, gratin dauphinois and grain mustard sauce (£9) per example. We decided on the lemon sole and the cornish crab.
For dessert we had a passion fruit jelly, berries and ice cream (£5.25) and a pot-au-chocolate with biscotti (£6.50).

The chicken liver parfait was good, not as good as Chez Linday in Richmond (where the toast was excellent) but as good as the County Arms in Wandsworth Common or the Tide End Cottage in Teddington and both places had good chicken liver parfait. The steamed razor clams were good (but unfortunately some sand in one of them ruined an otherwise good experience).

The crab was decent but I needed to fight with my fork and knife to get the flesh out and they did not provide the tool for crushing the shell of the crab legs. It was only after a while that I got a bowl of water with lemon so I could rinse my fingers. I have to say the service, whilst friendly, was not really attentive. The aioli was fine and the jersey royal potaoes excellent, warm and perfectly cooked.
The pan fried lemon sole with the red wine dressing was beautifully cooked, and very nicely presented too. The flesh was firm and tender, whilst remaining very moist and with a very nice flavour. I would certainly take that again. The accompanying green beans were nicely cooked – again firm, well flavoured, and not over-seasoned. The dish as a whole could perhaps have benefited from an additional side, such as dauphinois potato, but overall was very good.

The passion fruit jelly was really good, not over sweet at all, and the berries with the vanilla ice cream were a good mix. The pot au chocolat was nicely rich without being over sweet, and had a nice firm texture. Its accompanying biscotti was excellent.
 

Inside Rick's Café

Inside Rick's Café

Easy to drink Henry Marionette Touraine Gamay 2007

Easy to drink Henry Marionette Touraine Gamay 2007

Steamed razor clams in garlic and white wine

Steamed razor clams in garlic and white wine

Chicken liver parfait, gherkins, onion marmalade and toast

Chicken liver parfait, gherkins, onion marmalade and toast

Pan fried lemon sole, green beans and red wine dressing

Pan fried lemon sole, green beans and red wine dressing

Cornish crab, jersey royal potatoes and aioli

Cornish crab, jersey royal potatoes and aioli

Front view of the crab

Front view of the crab

Pot-au-chocolat with biscotti

Pot-au-chocolat with biscotti

Passion fruit jelly, berries and ice cream

Passion fruit jelly, berries and ice cream

Cost and conclusion: it was £78.69 including the “optional” 12.5% service charge added automatically to the bill. The 3 course lunch was good, same for the wine but we feel the total cost is overpriced, especially if you consider the surrounding. For the same amount, you can eat very well at the French restaurant Bellevue Rendez-vous (was Mini Mundus) next to Wandsworth Common or at Chez Lindsay in Richmond. In the same area you have Limoncello if you are into Italian food. Now, if you stick just to the Sunday’s roast beef, served with yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, root vegetables, spring green and a glass of wine it only costs £10, which is an excellent value for money.

Rick's Café on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Franco Manca 4, Market Row, Electric Lane, Brixton, London
May 16th, 2009 by Olivier

Pizzeria Franco Manca
4, Market Row, Electric Lane, Brixton
London SW9 8LD

Pizzeria Franco Manca

Reviewed on Saturday 16 May 2009 lunch time

Pizzeria Franco Manca

Pizzeria Franco Manca

This was the third attempt to get a lunch at Franco Manca and we were finally successful! The first time we tried to go there was on a Sunday and this place is closed on Sunday because it is within Brixton Market (closed on Sunday). We managed to eat at the Ship Tavern then. The second time we went on a Saturday for 12:30 pm and the queue was so long that we did not have the patience to wait and instead discovered a new Japanese restaurant called Ukai Sushi which was good. This time we decided to camp there Friday night go there early on Saturday to be sure to avoid the queue so we managed to get there for 11:20 am. The pizzeria was already open and doing preparation, but not yet ready to accept clients. They told us to come at 12 when they formally open. We walked around the market area (watch your wallet…) and came back to the restaurant at 11:40 where we saw people seated! We jumped quickly on the few available seats to be certain to get one. We had to wait until 12 when they formally took everyone’s order. If you wish to avoid the queue, come early too because at 12 there was already a queue. When we left at 1, the queue was long enough to go to the street (see photos below).

The menu is quite simple: you have the choice between 6 pizzas and there is also a pizza of the day. We asked for the pizza of the day and a calzone. As drink we had the beer (Hepworth organic 330ml – £1.90) and a glass of red wine (Organic Dolcetto – £1.40 for 125ml but I think it was more 250ml than 125ml!). Franco Manca is known for their sourdough pizza base: “The pizza is made from slow-rising sourdough (minimum 20 hours) and is baked in a wood burning ‘Tufac’ brick oven made in Naples by a specialist artisan. This oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees c (930 degrees f). The slow levitation and blast-cooking process lock in the flours natural aroma and moisture giving it a soft and easily digestible crust. As a result, the edge (cornicione) is excellent and shouldn’t be discarded” as they explain on their menu.

Franco Manca is not your typical restaurant: in fact, it is more canteen than restaurant. Think paper serviettes, long tables, seating according to how many will fit (and you might have to get up partway to let someone in or out), and choose-your-own cuttlery from a tin in the centre of the table. One glass tumbler per person, to hold whichever drink you choose. So its as basic as you can get.  Then there is the setting to consider – France Manca is inside Brixton market. In fact, it occupies small sites on both sides of the main alley, so there is a constant stream of people passing through. 2 metres away is a fishmarket – and yes, you do smell it. Sitting in the aisle of a market, you’re open to all the sights, smells and temperatures (no heating here). So is it worth coming? Read on and decide for yourself.

The pizzas were excellent! I really like when the base is crispy on the outside and slightly burnt while being still soft inside. For the Calzone the sour taste was a little strong but with the pizza of the day it was fine. We were not too keen on the drink. The beer was ok, but it could have been cooler. On the bottle they say to serve it at 5° and I believe it was warmer than that. As for the glass of wine, it tasted a little like cheese at the beginning and then it was ok (and there is no such thing as a wine glass here). It would be nicer to have more choice even if it would be more expensive. After the pizzas we got two espressos (£1 each). They were really tiny but excellent. One downside is the proximity of a fishmonger next door and we could smell fish from time to time depending on the direction of the wind. Since the restaurant is on both sides of the main alley in the covered part of Brixton market, it might be better to choose the side opposite the fish store – if you can.

Pizza of the day

Pizza of the day

Wood burning 'Tufac' brick oven

Wood burning 'Tufac' brick oven

Glass of wine and organic beer from Hepworth & Co

Glass of wine and organic beer from Hepworth & Co

Pizza #2

Pizza of the day

Pizza Calzone

Pizza Calzone

The two pizzas, and you can see the chilli oil

The two pizzas, and you can see the chilli oil

Getting busy...

Getting busy...

The queue going to the street at 1 pm!

The queue going to the street at 1 pm!

Cost and conclusion: for £16 (service charge not included automatically to the bill – we like that) the lunch was excellent. It is not just good value for money but it is also good in absolute. Until now our best pizzeria was the Rustica in Richmond (especially their Buffalo pizza) but Franco Manca is challenging it well. The two are pretty different by their surrounding (Rustica is in Richmond, Franco Manca is in Brixton market…) and setting which is reflected by the bill (almost half price here) but they share one thing in common: quality pizzas! The service was friendly and efficient. We will be back of course.

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

Hazuki Japanese restaurant 43, Chandos Place, London
May 15th, 2009 by Olivier

Hazuki Japanese restaurant
43, Chandos Place
London, WC2N 4HS
020 7240 2530

Hazuki

Reviewed on Friday 15 May 2009

Hazuki Japanese restaurant

Hazuki Japanese restaurant

We have been to Hazuki many times. We ordered, as usual unfortunately since there are so many other choices, the Menu A (£16) and the Menu B (£16). Both include rice and miso soup, the appetizer of the day and an assorted tempura. It is just for the last course (pork ginger, tonkatsu, chicken teriyaki, salmon teriyaki etc) that there is a difference between the two menus. We chose the chicken teriyaki and the salmon teriyaki, and two Asahi beers (£6.60).

The miso soup was good, better than at Toku, and similar to the one at Akasiro. The appetizer of the day was tuna and it was quite good. The assorted tempura had just one shrimp and the rest were vegetables. It was a little small but I think it is better that way since tempura can get you with all the fried stuff. Plus this was just the third starter after all. The salmon teriyaki was very good and surprisingly big too. Maybe it needed to be slightly more cooked to have the skin crispier but it was quite good the way it was. The chicken teriyaki came with pan fried soja. It was a little bland, and would have benefited from a more flavoursome teriyaki sauce (or just more of it).

Interior of the Hazuki on the first floor

Interior of the Hazuki on the first floor

Miso soup

Miso soup

Appetizer of the Day (tuna)

Appetizer of the Day (tuna)

Details of the tuna. I already ate one bit before taking the photo...

Details of the tuna. I already ate one bit before taking the photo...

Tempura

Tempura

Tempura

Tempura

Chicken teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki

Salmon teriyaki

Salmon teriyaki

Overview of the two meals

Overview of the two meals

Cost and conclusion: it was £42.50 including the “optional gratuity @10%” as written on the bill. I wish restaurants in London would stop pre-empting the customer with the “optional gratuity” in the total bill. It should be up to the clients to decide if the service was worth the gratuity or not, and how much too. By the way, the service was efficient here so I would have chosen to tip (I just hate being coerced).

Hazuki on Urbanspoon

Cattle Grid restaurant 1, Balham Station Road, London UK
May 14th, 2009 by Olivier

Cattle Grid restaurant
1, Balham Station Road
London SW12 9SG
Tel. 020 8673 9099

Cattle Grid

Reviewed on Thursday 14 May 2009

Cattle Grid restaurant in Balham

Cattle Grid restaurant in Balham

The Cattle Grid restaurant in Balham is located right in front of the Balham train station, you cannot miss it, especially with the big cow on the sidewalk 😉
They do not have table service so you have to order at the counter in front of the kitchen. You can actually see your steaks being cooked. We ordered a 10oz Sirloin with a green peppercorn sauce served with chips and watercress and a full rack of baby back pork ribs served with chips. Actually I wanted a 16oz T-Bone but it was not available so I had the pig instead. A little surprising to be out of stock since it was not that late, just past 8pm. Many beers from Australasia so we decided to go with the NZ Mac’s Gold which were not bad at all. The dinner was disappointing: the sirloin was good, decently cooked but the green peppercorn sauce was seriously bad to the point it had to be avoided. It was better to eat the steak with some mayonnaise than with the sauce (see the last photo, you can see a little bit of the sirloin with mayonnaise I tried). We really wondered what happened to that sauce since it is not that hard to make a pepper sauce (actually we suspected it was ‘off’…). The rack of ribs had also its share of surprise: it was not hot at all and even on the cold side, as if it was cooked an hour ago. That was a real shame since it tasted good (it was marinated in a good barbecue sauce) and the meat could be very easily detached from the bones. No need for fingers. I was very upset because this could have been an excellent meal if served normally hot. It should have been so easy to put it under the grill for a few minutes to have it warm! The fries were good, and hot at least.

NZ Mac's Gold beer!

NZ Mac's Gold beer!

cattle1

10oz Sirloin with a green peppercorn sauce served with chips and watercress

Full rack of baby back ribs served with chips

Full rack of baby back ribs served with chips

Overview of the two plates

Overview of the two plates

The meat was very easy to detach

The meat was very easy to detach

Cost and conclusion: it was a little over £33 for the sirloin, the ribs and two beers. The value for money isn’t bad but being served a room-temperature rack of ribs and running out of T-bones at 8pm for a steakhouse is not acceptable (not to mention the peppercorn sauce issue).

Cattle Grid on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Donna Margherita 183 Lavender Hill London
May 13th, 2009 by Olivier

Italian restaurant and pizzeria Donna Margherita
183 Lavender Hill
London SW11 5TE
0207 228 2660

Donna Margherita

Reviewed on Wednesday 13 May 2009

Italian restaurant Donna Margherita

Italian restaurant Donna Margherita

We noticed this restaurant on the way to Clapham Junction after going to Ukai Sushi. They had some articles saying they were the best pizzeria in London displayed on their entrance so we were curious about it. We returned to eat a couple of days later. It was too busy at that time to get seated inside so we ate in the conservatory next to the footpath. It was becoming cold (it was after 8:30pm) but they put the heaters quickly and they were quite efficient :-) We ordered two pizzas: a Capricciosa  (Tomato, mozzarella, ham, artichoke, black olives, olive oil, parmesan and fresh basil – £8.75) and a  Pizza Donna Margherita (Cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil and fresh basil – £9.10). As drink we had two beers (Moretti – £6) and ended the dinner with two Limoncello (£5).

The pizza base was amongst the best I’ve had in London – nicely crispy and light, with a very nice flavour. Donna margherita is not afraid to burn slightly the edges, producing that wonderful bubbled texture that all good pizza should have. The capricciosa topping was good – but not quite matching the best I’ve had at some other pizzeria. I put this mainly down to the ham, which came in thin strips, rather than in slices. Possibly a little heavy-handed with the artichokes also. The final result was a pizza base rivalling the best I’ve had in London, but topping not quite matching that promise. It still rates well, but has some way to go before it beats Rustica in Richmond. The pizza Donna Margherita was better, with the right amount of topping and a great tomato flavour coming from the cherry tomatoes.

Good Moretti beer

Good Moretti beer

Pizza Capricciosa

Pizza Capricciosa

Pizza Donna Margherita

Pizza Donna Margherita

The two pizzas

The two pizzas

Chilli oil

Chilli oil

Spicy oil on pizza

Spicy oil on pizza

Cost and conclusion:  it was £32.46 including a “discretionary” 12.5% service charge for the two pizzas, two beers and two Limoncello. The pizzas were good but we found the music a little too loud to be comfortable.

Donna Margherita on Urbanspoon


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