Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sydney Fish Market

If you are in Australia and love seafood then the Sydney Fish Market is a 'must-visit' venue which provides a feast for your eyes and for your stomach ! Here is a pictorial record from my recent visit ….
Mud Crab
Rock Lobster
King Crab

Spanner Crab
Blue Swimmer Crab
Razor Clams

King Salmon
Stone Crab

Seafood Mix
Eagle Ray Wings
Sushi Bar
Grilled Barramundi

Slurping Oysters
Sydney Fish Market
Seafood Platters

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Garfish Restaurant - Manly Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Manly Beach
Described as Sydney's favourite beachside mecca, who could fail to love the swathes of golden sandy beach and the sparkling turquoise sea. We were lucky enough to visit this area over Christmas when visiting our daughter and her partner.  They have been living in Sydney for over 2 years now and are totally enraptured by this beautiful city and all that his has to offer. On a clear and sunny hot day in mid-December we were guided by Louise and Dean on an 8Km walk from Spit Bridge to Manly Harbour.  This well maintained coastal path follows the contours of North Harbour and offers magnificent views of the coastline, wooded areas and elegant properties. Manly Harbour is a tranquil wharf location with views towards Sydney Harbour but just a few minutes walk through the bustling promenade brings you to Manly Beach with its ocean surf.

For lunch we had booked to eat at Garfish, an award winning restaurant on the East Esplanade. This restaurant is all about fresh fish and first impressions were good with the light airy space, modern furnishings and friendly staff.  The restaurant was packed with a mix of tourists, locals and business people all there with one thing in mind - great seafood.  The menu was presented on a simple brown paper format (bit like a paper bag with writing on) and presented a problem - how could we choose when everything looked amazing?

King Prawn & Avocado
Snapper Pie
Sydney Rock Oysters
Our helpful waitress was well informed and offered plenty of sound advice to help with our choices.  The menu items were carefully presented to offer something for everyone.  For instance, oysters could be 'natural', 'crisp fried with ginger and mirin', 'as a shot with Bloody Mary, 'wood roasted with bacon and Worcestershire sauce' or a mixed plate of them all.  Always the oyster purist, I opted for the 'natural' which were delicious.  They were Sydney Rock Oysters from the central coast area of Lemon Tree Passage and they were creamy with a mild mineral finish.  Absolute heaven with  a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Other shellfish on offer included Moreton Bay Bugs (a speciality of the restaurant), Live Rock Lobster and New Zealand Scampi.  Mains ranged from Crisp Fried Whole Baby Barramundi to King Prawn with Avocado.  I opted for the Snapper Pie.  Combining the Australian penchant for good pies and, in my opinion, one of the best white fish, there were large pieces of Snapper in a creamy Soubise  sauce (Bechamel with onion puree) topped with a light flaky pastry. Wholesome and delicious ! 

Following our meal we enjoyed what is generally known as the 'best commute in the world' by catching the ferry from Manly Harbour to Sydney Harbour, a picturesque journey of about 1/2 hour in the warm afternoon sunshine.  Now I am back in London I think I may be working in the wrong place !

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Masterchef Popup Restaurant, London

Many of us probably have a restaurant where we know the chef well enough at least to exchange greetings and comment on the food.  But how about going to a smart restaurant in central London for the first time and feeling that you know so much about the chefs and their lives that they feel like part of your family.  Such is the power of television.  Masterchef exposes every facet of the contestants character as they prepare dishes, under pressure, for close scrutiny not only by the judges, Greg Wallace (@greggawallace ) and John Torode (@johntorode1), but also by viewers, many of whom will voice their opinion via social media.  So, arriving at the Blue Fin Building in London for lunch last Sunday at the Masterchef Restaurant, everyone must have felt that they already knew the chefs. This was enhanced by their presence in the dining room where they enthusiastically shared views and ideas with the diners. One big happy family !

The Masterchef Restaurant is a 'popup' which brings together champions and finalists from the past 10 years to create bespoke menus for a five week period.  We booked for lunch on the first Sunday ( 7th Sept) and our chefs were the 2014 winner Ping Coombes ( @wanpingcoombes ) and finalists Jack Lucas ( @jacklucas1) and Luke Owen ( @master chef_luke ).  The popup is located on the South Bank in the Blue Fin Building, so called because it is covered in 2,000 blue aluminium fins, each with a metallic finish that changes the building’s appearance from different positions. 

On arrival we were directed to the 11th floor roof terrace to enjoy a glass of champagne and to take in the stunning view of the Thames and London skyline which includes iconic buildings such as St. Pauls, The Shard and The Gherkin. The restaurant on the 10th floor was very contemporary with clean lines and lots of glass which allowed us to enjoy the views throughout the meal. The menu comprised 3 courses with a choice of two items per course each of which was attributed to the chef.  We opted for one of each so we could taste them all and we were not disappointed. Not all were seafood of course but they are each worth a mention. 

For starters, I had the Shellfish Arancini with prawn cocktail garnish which was the only dish designed by Luke. The crusted ball of risotto rice was packed with flavour and garnished with prawns and cocktail sauce.  I admit I had slight worries by the thought of the seventies-style sauce but Luke had given it a spicy lift with chilli which worked perfectly.  He explained to me later that the intensity of flavour in the rice resulted from the shellfish stock which he had prepared from prawn shells, celery, sherry and wine. The other starter was the Pork Sandwich designed by Ping. This was braised pork belly in a bao with crackling and sesame salad. The light steamed bun combined perfectly with the succulent meat and oriental sauce.  

For main the Prawn Laksa was also one of Ping's creations. Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup which is combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. The aromatic, spicy broth was prepared with lemongrass, galangal (a root from the ginger family), coconut and shrimps.  This was served with soft noodles, tiger prawns and garnish. A perfect combination and with Ping's 'special spices' the dish was light, flavoursome and satisfying. 

The main course designed by Jack was Cannon of Lamb with a breaded shoulder croquette, pea and mint puree, mashed potatoes, anchovy vinaigrette and redcurrant sauce.  The melt-in-your-mouth lamb was flavoursome and cooked to perfection with smooth creamy mash and intense pea puree…..delicious…... and that is from a seafood fanatic !

Ping's Pudding was Coconut and Pandan Panna Cotta  with chargrilled pineapple, compressed mango, lime and lemongrass granite. Great depth of flavour here from the fruit together with delicate panna cotta reminded us of Ping's skill in creating successful combinations with all types of food.

 Jack's pudding was Indulgent Chocolate Tart with orange yoghurt ice-cream, candied orange and popping candy crumb with an indulgent addition of edible gold leaf. All presented on the almost obligatory 'buttery biscuit base'. 

All in all this was a great event with good service and excellent food.  The atmosphere was convivial with no rush or panic (at least not at front of house) and we could take our time to enjoy it all.  All three chefs took the time to engage with the diners in a very relaxed and friendly way despite the fact that they had just prepared lunch for 150  having already prepared brunch earlier and had dinner to come.  So 'hats off' to the chefs but also to the organisers and support staff who created a very pleasant experience which in no way felt contrived. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Galleria Restaurant in Rome

On a recent 5-day visit to Rome we sampled the cuisine of a range of restaurants. The best by far was Galleria which is situated in a small but stylish shopping gallery on Via dei Sabini.

Galleria Restaurant in Rome
Its elegant interior with clean lines has a contemporary feel even though the restaurant has been in operation for over 6 years.  When we had lunch here, the restaurant was fairly busy with well dressed business people and savvy tourists.  At dinner the restaurant was quieter, not least because the shopping gallery was closed and the only access was from a side-street.  I am sure that outside the holiday period the restaurant is full of local people who are 'in-the-know' and return time and time again for the high quality food and service.

Great service from the pleasant staff and extra attention from the owner, Guido Anastasio Pugliese, enhanced the dining experience.  Guido took the time to come over and explain in detail some of the excellent wine choices and to offer samples of a delicious olive oil from L'Aquila in Abruzzo.

On arrival we were greeted with a complimentary glass of Prosecco before proceeding to the Chef's Amuse Bouche of Roman Sweet Pepper.

Raw fresh fish and Shellfish
For starters we shared the Grande Crudo di Pesce e Crostacei which comprised a range of raw fish and shellfish including Amberjack Carpaccio (from Sicily), Scampi (Adriatic), Red Prawns (Sicily), Salmon (Scotland) and a large Rock Oyster (France).  All beautifully fresh and garnished with redcurrants, blackberry and a homemade Tomato Sorbet, it was a delight on the eye and 100% pleasure on the palate !  

Farfalle with Prawns
Red Prawns on a stick

To follow we had Farfalle pasta with grilled red prawns, pea puree and Tuna Borttaga (salted roe).  Also, grilled Red Prawns on a skewer with sliced radish and a balsamic and orange reduction.  Both dishes were superb.

The cuisine is elegant and refined but not in any way pretentious. All the food is prepared with care using the finest fresh ingredients.  

Eating at the Gallery has a sense of style and occasion, which is reflected in the tremendous quality of the food and service.  All of this comes at a very affordable price and it will definitely be on the top of our restaurant list next time we are in Rome.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bilbao Berria - London

Pintxos on the bar at Bilbao Berria
Just opened in Lower Regent Street, Bilbao Berria is a Basque influenced restaurant which offers an extensive menu of Spanish cuisine and wines. We chanced upon this bar/restaurant on Saturday evening just 2 days after its official opening and were intrigued by the sight of a veritable forest of sticks, each attached to a tasty snack. These were the traditional Pintxos which accompany the wines. We were enticed inside (it didn't take much) by the friendly encouragement of Alex who kindly gave us a potted history and a tour of the restaurant. We then stayed to enjoy a couple of superb Spanish wines and a range of the delicious Pintxos.

Bibao Berria London
The interior is impressive. Dominated by rich colours and lighting it has an upmarket Spanish atmosphere. The widespread use of copper tube, flattened and twisted into complex shapes on the ceiling gives a feeling that you are sitting inside a modern sculpture. Other natural materials including wood and stone add to the natural, arty feel. Bilbao Berria is located on two floors. At street level is the stylish bar with Pintxos and Spanish wines. On the lower ground floor, a more formal dining area offers a range of classic and modern Basque and Spanish dishes. The chef is the Australian, Ash Mair, winner of U.K. Masterchef Professional in 2011. He has had an interest in Basque cuisine for many years. 

Cod and Tuna Pintxos
Anchovies with Tomato
It was all too tempting to resist so we settled at a table in the bar and were greeted by our waitress Andrea who explained that all of the Pintxos were priced at £1.85 each and to grab a plate and help ourselves. She then enquired of our wine-type preference and recommended a couple, one of which we tasted first. We opted for the Pequenos Santos, a Galician wine made from Albarino grapes, which Andrea described as dry and slightly salty. A good description and very palatable. We collected about 5 Pintxos each and enjoyed the variety of flavours on offer. The range is extensive and it would be all to easy to just keep grazing but we managed some self-discipline until Andrea brought over grilled Chorizo on bread which was amazing. To follow, we tried a couple of desserts, a mini creme caramel and a chocolate brownie, complemented perfectly with a sweet Riojan wine called Seduccion, made from Muscat (50%) and Vivra (50%) grapes.

All-in-all a terrific experience combining tasty foods, beautiful wines and friendly service. Already successful in Bilbao and Barcelona, this latest London outpost is destined to succeed. So go and enjoy Bilbao Berria, we certainly will again!Square Meal

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Brittens Restaurant in Guildford, Surrey

Britten's logoDaniel Britten reached the quarter-final of BBC Masterchef in 2008 and now operates Brittens restaurant in the Tunsgate area of Guildford, Surrey.  Offering Modern British cuisine Daniel aims to bring 'foodie' dishes with an emphasis on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. Since opening last November it is attracting a lot of attention and very positive reviews.
I had lunch there last Thursday and found the food to be high quality, the service friendly and the pricing good value.  Surprisingly there were only a few customers on this particular Thursday lunchtime but maybe that is a sign of the times.
Pan Fried Scallops with Morcilla
The lunch menu comprised Small Plates (£7 each), Large Plates (£13 each ) and Sweet Shop (£5 each) all with plenty of choice and thankfully no supplements on any of the dishes. So diners can mix and match depending on mood and appetite.  I opted for one small and one large plate which essentially amounts to a two-course lunch for £20.  Perfectly reasonable considering the careful preparation and quality of the food.

My Small Plate starter was Pan-fried Scallops with Morcilla and Apple.  The king scallops were cooked to perfection with pieces of morcilla (Spanish black pudding) and pureed apple.  A classic dish expertly prepared. My Large Plate main course was Pan-fried Sea Bream, Crushed New Potatoes, Brown Shrimp Butter and Parsley Sauce. Beautifully presented and a great combination of flavours this dish worked perfectly.  The brown shrimp butter melted over the top of the crispy skin ( how did he do that ?)  bream fillet was flavoursome and enhanced by the fresh green parsley sauce.  Accompanied by the freshest steamed curly kale this was a delightful meal.  
All-in-all I enjoyed this two course meal with a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc and an espresso afterwards for around £30 per person which for the quality was incredibly good value.  The simple surroundings were elegant and relaxing and the service was good.  This is a 'London quality' restaurant in Guildford - long may it continue.

Brittens Restaurant, 1c Sydenham Road, Guildford GU1 3RT, 01483 302888

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Slow Cooked Octopus at Andrew Edmunds

I have only written the title and already must own up to a mistruth.  I wasn't actually eating at Andrew Edmunds but was meeting a colleague for lunch in The Academy Club above the restaurant.  The food however, comes from the same kitchen so it's a fair assumption that the restaurant version is the same.

I chose the Slow Cooked Octopus with Tomatoes, Choritzo, Capers and Olives, starter size, as a light lunch with a plate of French bread to soak up the delicious juices.  I have cooked and eaten octopus many times and the secret of success for this flavoursome dish is the method of tenderising the meat. When I owned The Good Fish Shop, one of my customers who is Spanish, telephoned his mum (in Spain) for advice on tenderising octopus.  I was expecting a lot of bashing, stretching and sun-drying to be offered but no, her simple reply was 'freeze it for 24 hours'.  Andrew offered the same recommendation with one important addition 'thaw it out very slowly' i.e. 24 hours in the 'fridge.  The result was superb - generous portions of octopus (I'm sure the slow cooking helped too) in a rich hearty sauce with juicy pieces of chorizo and aromatic dark olives. I look forward to visiting Andrew Edmunds (the restaurant) for a full meal in the near future.

Square Meal