»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Joe Allen restaurant – 13 Exeter Street, Covent Garden, London
Oct 16th, 2009 by Olivier

Joe Allen restaurant
13 Exeter Street, covent Garden
WC2E 7DT London

Joe Allen restaurant

Inside Joe Allen restaurant

Inside Joe Allen restaurant

There were four of us for lunch at Joe Allen. I had been to this place once, about 4 years ago, and my recollection was that it was not too bad (or rather, my recollection of their duck liver was that it wasn’t bad – I couldn’t recall much else). So despite some misgivings about an American chain restaurant, off we went.

The restaurant is located on Exeter Street, moments from the Covent Garden. It is a basement restaurant, so quite dark inside, but they use this to their advantage with the decor. We hadn’t booked, but were quickly shown to a central table.

Three of the four of us ordered starters – which were 2 black pudding served on a bed of steamed spinach and topped by a poached egg and hollandaise sauce (£13.00) and a pumpkin soup (£5.50). As main courses, we took a half lobster served with pasta (£19.50), 2 spinach salads (£19.00) and a chicken caesar salad (£15.00). As drinks, we just took two bottles of still water (£7.00) as we had a lot of work to get through after lunch.

Black pudding with spinach and poached egg

Black pudding with spinach and poached egg

My starter was the black pudding with spinach and poached egg. This dish could have been quite decent, but for the amount of salt the chef had seasoned it with. I’msure I had a week’s worth of salt in this single meal!  Even the spinach had not simply been steamed, but boiled in salt water. Really, I have no idea what any of it actually tasted like (texture was fine – I could tell that much) as I couldn’t taste anything much beyond the salt. Really, a ruined meal. I ate the egg, and a little bit of the black pudding, but 90% of the spinach returned to the kitchen to take its rightful place in the trash. One of my companions had the same dish – and the same problem (albeit I think her tolerance level was slightly higher than mine – she ate at least half of hers). The soup was reported by its recipient to be fine.

Chicken caesar salad

Chicken caesar salad

As main course, I had a chicken caesar salad. Once again though, it was too salty. Who puts salt in a salad? The chicken was a grilled and sliced breast – which thankfully had not had the salt treatment – and was edible but a bit too dry. The recipients of the spinach salads reported those to be OK. I’m not so sure about the lobster though – it looked a rather miserable dish (no photo, sorry). Its recipient did say it was fine, but I have a suspicion that he was just being polite (since I was paying). In any case, going on looks alone, its not something I’d be in any great hurry to order for myself.

Cost & conclusion: The final bill came to £88.90 for the four of us (including 9.90 already added as gratuity – no pretence even in this case that it was “optional”). Actually the service was fine, notwithstanding that a waitress spilled a bottle of water into the lap of one of my guests (for which she was very apologetic). Even so though, whether or not to tip, and how much, should be left to the discretion of the customer. As for the food, I don’t think I’ll be back. Sorry for the poor Blackberry Curve photos!

Joe Allen on Urbanspoon

Bedford & Strand Bistro and wine bar, Covent Garden, WC2E 9HH London
Oct 13th, 2009 by Olivier

Bedford & Strand bistro and wine bar
1A Bedford Street, Covent Garden – the Strand
WC2E 9HH London

Bedford & Strand

Inside Bedford & Strand

Inside Bedford & Strand

There were three of us for a quick lunch at the Bedford & Strand. It is a well-hidden basement restaurant, on Bedford street just a few metres from the corner of the Strand, not far from Charing Cross tube station. The interior is quite attractive, despite the lack of natural light, and it has well defined eating and bar areas.

We ordered lemon sole (£16), steak & chips (£18.75) and a shepherd’s pie (£11.50). As drinks, we just took a bottle of water (£2.95) as we had meetings planned for the afternoon and we are in London, not in France 😉

Lemon sole

Lemon sole

Steak and chips

Steak and chips

Shepherd's pie

Shepherd's pie

Mine was the lemon sole, which was OK, but did not come with any accompaniments, so was a bit of a stingy lunch for its price. It tasted OK, but didn’t smell terribly appetising, which was rather a turn off. My companions reported the cottage pie to be distinctly average-poor, and the Steak/chips to be no better than OK. We ended the meal with 2 double espresso (£5.50) and a cappuccino (£3.25) – these were fine, but nothing special.
 
Cost & conclusion : The bill came to £63.75 which include the (already added) “optional” service charge of £5.80. The service was OK, but extremely slow – and there were only a handful of people in the restaurant – so I think probably more than deserved. As for the food, it’s not great and rather overpriced for the quality. The surroundings are pleasant, but that’s not a good enough reason to return.

Other restaurants I reviewed in the area: Côte restaurant, pizzeria Fire and Stone, Hazuki, Loch Fyne, Marquess of Anglesey, Terroirs, Wahaca, Zizzi and a little further: Albannach, Akasiro, Prix Fixe, Tokyo Diner.

Bedford & Strand on Urbanspoon

Antibes restaurant Le Vauban, French riviera
Oct 11th, 2009 by Olivier

Restaurant Le Vauban
7 bis rue Thuret 06600 Antibes
France

Le Vauban

Le Vauban

Le Vauban

Le Vauban seemed to be the perfect place for enjoying the last evening in the French riviera before going back to London after almost a month of vacation. The restaurant has already been reviewed (first long review here) at the end of June so this review will be shorter.

We ordered 3 menus at 27 euros plus a 37.5 ml bottle of red wine (an excellent Bouverie – 13 euros) and a bottle of sparkling water (4.50 euros). The menu at 27 euros gives you the choice between 3 starters, 3 main courses and 3 desserts.
They also have a menu découverte (discovery menu) with a first starter, a second starter, a fish, a meat and a dessert for 39 euros or 58 euros with 4 matching glasses of wine. It is fully a discovery menu as they do not tell you what you are going to eat. Of course you can tell them what you do not want, like if you have some restriction on foods you can eat. I will try that menu next time if I feel brave.

Melon and  tapenade as pre-starters

Melon and tapenade as pre-starters

Pieces of melon in its juice

Pieces of melon in its juice

Before the starters arrived, we were served a little glass of pieces of water melon in their juice. It was quite good and a refreshing way of starting the dinner after being out in the heat (still around 27 degrees) during the day.

Cream of potato with oysters & saffron

Cream of potato with oysters & saffron

Tartare of salmon

Tartare of salmon

Foie gras

Foie gras

My friends had a cold soup of potato cream with oysters and saffron, and a tartare of salmon. Both were good and nicely presented. I had  foie gras which was excellent. The slice does not look big in the picture above but actually it is quite a large piece. It was smooth and nicely seasoned. It came with a little glass of strawberry mousse (at the left) and a ball of icecream (at the right).

Fish meal

Fish meal

Scallops with cream

Scallops with cream

Close-up of the scallops

Close-up of the scallops

Magret de canard

Magret de canard

The main meals got great feedback as well. I do not remember the kind of fish as I was busy with my own plate of magret de canard. I will have to ask. The magret tasted very good and was perfectly cooked, being slightly red while the fat outside was crispy. The mashed potato between the slices was mixed with truffles. The sauce was a little sweet (not oversweet), making this dish light. I did not have the scallops but I wish I ordered them! They were served with a very creamy sauce, almost too creamy for my friend. For me, it would not have been a problem since I like anything creamy or buttery, well I am into the typical classical French cuisine :-)

Panna cotta

Panna cotta

Between the main course and the dessert we all got a little cup of panna cotta. It was a small and rich, with a nice texture. A good pre-dessert.

Cooked apple

Cooked apple

Chocolate biscuit

Chocolate biscuit

The desserts were great, especially the chocolate biscuit which two of us chose. It was a kind of light and smooth chocolate mousse between thin and crispy biscuit. I am not really into chocolate but this dessert was truly fantastic. The other dessert was a cooked apple but looked a little like Mickey mouse with its biscuits stuck on it. I did not pay much attention to it since my dessert desserved all my attention 😉

Cost and conclusion: it was 98.50 euros. An excellent value for money, a good dinner and a nice surrounding. The service was attentive and discret. What else to ask? Highly recommended!

Next to the walls in Antibes

Next to the walls in Antibes

Restaurant San Cezari Saint-Cézaire-sur-Siagne, France
Oct 8th, 2009 by Olivier

Restaurant San Cezari
4 Place de la Tour
06530 Saint Cézaire sur Siagne
France

Restaurant San Cezari

Henri the boxer

Henri the boxer

Watching a stick in the river

Watching a stick in the river

We might be well into October but it feels like summer with around 27 degrees during the day and the sun still hits hard when gardening or hiking, especially for the dog, Henri the boxer, who’s enjoying the village of Saint Cézaire, mostly its river la Siagne. The river is the only way for him to cope with this heat. Just as well he loves to swim!

San Cezari

San Cezari

This is a “revisit” (actually I went there often when I lived in this village while working at Mougins/Sophia-Antipolis, but it has been reviewed only once since I started the blog) of the restaurant San Cezari located in Saint Cézaire as its name suggests. There are several restaurants in the village but this is the most central, next to the church.

They cover a wide range of dishes from meat to pizza but considering the hot weather, pizza looked good so we ordered two pizzas, a Provençale made of mozarella, aubergine, tomato, garlic (11 euros) and a Calzone 4 fromages  (folded pizza with 4 cheeses – 14 euros). As drinks we had two Perrier (5 euros).

Pizza Provençale

Pizza Provençale

Delicious toppings

Delicious toppings

Very thin pizza base

Very thin pizza base

The pizza Provençale was very good. I really like thin pizza base allowing you to taste all the ingredients and the toppings here were excellent. I was still feeling very light after eating it despite the size of this pizza. As said in the previous review, I like their very efficient pizza knife. More pizzerias should adopt them!

Pizza Calzone

Pizza Calzone

The pizza Calzone was also quite good. This pizzeria uses quite a strong cheese in its toppings, not just the usual mozarella. Whilst that can be nice, it can also be a little heavy so you need to be in the right mood. I was, and the pizza was very good.

Cost and conclusion:  it was 30 euros service charge included. The dinner was nice, but I find the prices high, especially 14 euros for just a pizza when for 17 euros you can get a 3 course lunch at le Vauban in Antibes. At least the service was friendly and the place quite relaxing.

Some photos of Saint-Cézaire-sur-Siagne:

The superb panoramic view

The superb panoramic view

Nice olive tree. The village is famous for its excellent olive oil.

Nice olive tree. The village is famous for its excellent olive oil.

The fountain

The fountain

Old public wash-house (lavoir)

Old public wash-house (lavoir)

Restaurant La Renaissance 83470 Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, Var, France
Oct 6th, 2009 by Olivier

Restaurant La Renaissance
6 place Malherbe, Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume
83470 France

La Renaissance

La Renaissance

La Renaissance

Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume (St Maximin to be short) is a town located in the Var département. It is close to Aix-en-Provence (35km), Marseille (45km) and Toulon (50km) where you can get from London-Stansted if you dare to fly with Ryanair. The town is famous for its old basilica (its construction begun in 1295) dedicated to Mary Magdalene. La Renaissance restaurant is in the center of the town, next to the basilica by the way, in the Place Malherbe where ruins of the Roman Villa Lata have been found beneath it.

We were five at the restaurant. We ordered one pichet de vin (6.50 euros), one salade de poulpes (échalottes, câpres, cornichons, huile d’olives – octopus salad with shallots, capers, pickles, olive oil – 12 euros), one salade de St Jacques tièdes (salade, St Jacques, noix, tomates, oeuf – salad with warm scallops, nuts, tomatoes, egg – 13.50 euros), one tagliatelles carbonara (11.50 euros), two St Jacques à la provençale (scallops with parsley, garlic, tomato – 27 euros), one coca cola (3.10 euros), one crème brûlée (5.50 euros), one profiteroles (5.50 euros), one Baba au rhum (4.90 euros) and three coffees (4.50 euros).

Other interesting meals were the magret de canard au vinaigre de vin au jus de framboise (duck breast with wine vinegar and raspberry juice), magret de canard aux morilles (duck breast with morel mushrooms), entrecôte sauce aux cèpes (steak with with mushroom sauce), tagliatelles Pistou (garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil), salade de scampis à l’indienne (salad, cherry tomatoes, fried prawns  tandoori way, pineapple, orange, grapefruit, egg), salade de melon (lettuce, melon, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, feta, egg), salade du berger (lettuce, tomatoes, eggs, fried peppers, cucumbers, goat cheese, mushrooms), andouillette sauce moutarde à l’ancienne (mild pork sausage with mustard sauce), alouette sans tête à l’ancienne (no, it is not a headless lark but rolled veal scallops with tomato, garlic), gambas grillées à l’ail et basilic (grilled prawns with garlic and basil), truite aux amandes (trout with almonds) or the cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs, if you are into them. I am not!). 

Salade de St Jacques tièdes

Salade de St Jacques tièdes

Salade de poulpes

Salade de poulpes

Tagliatelles Carbonara

Tagliatelles Carbonara

St Jacques à la provençale

St Jacques à la provençale

Everyone was happy with their meals. Good news! We were a little worried as the town gets plenty of tourists because of  the Christian pilgrimage to the basilica but the restaurant was quite good. Personally I had the salade de St Jacques tièdes (first photo). The salad was very fresh and crispy and it did not come too cold. This happens often with salads staying too long in the fridge. I believe mine was made upon request. The scallops were excellent, coming warm and nicely seasoned.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée

Profiteroles

Profiteroles

Baba au rhum

Baba au rhum

The desserts were also good. I had the rum baba/baba au rhum which was nice. It was well soaked in rum (as you can see in the photo above) so only order it if you are into alcohol!

Cost and conclusion: it was 94 euros and we were 5. Not a bad value for money considering the quality of the food and the central location of the restaurant. Highly recommended if you are in the area!

Some photos of the Sainte Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) basilica:

The entrance

The entrance

Beautiful organ

Beautiful organ


»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa
© 2010 Trusted-Gourmet.com