Sunday brunch @ Jackson + Rye, Soho

Sunday brunch following a uni reunion the day before is an absolute must and a bit of a life saver, as they are always pretty heavy affairs!! Staying in Soho we had the choice of a few brunch places close by, so I left it to my friend to decide and because they had pancakes on the menu Jackson + Rye came out on top.

Found on Wardour Street it enjoys a prime spot any time of the day, so turning up on spec I was a touch worried we’d be out of luck and would need a back-up. Fortunately for us there was a free corner booth perfect for our group and it was ours as long as we’d be finished within a set time – that worked for us and we gratefully sat our weary bodies down. Immediately when it comes to brunch, I think brunch cocktails…it’s a cheeky luxury to indulge in, but my bubble was quickly burst when told they don’t serve them until 12pm, so instead I was sensible and opted for a pomegranate juice instead.

Pomegranate, orange and pink grapefruit juice

The place has a good atmosphere, busy with people having similar ideas to us – in need of sustenance to get the body back onto an even keel. Service was friendly, drink and food orders were taken quickly and good job too, as we were ravenous and I was personally a little jealous seeing other customers get their food before us. When our plates arrived the general consensus was that portion sizes looked good, in particular the full vegetarian which was massive, however the lads wanted a more meat and got extra sausage patty and maple cured bacon. 

Desperately ravenous and patiently waiting for food!
Avocado ‘Benedict’ – maple cured bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise, country style potatoes, watercress and granary toast
Bacon and blueberry pancakes with crispy bacon, blueberries and maple syrup
The full vegetarian – fried eggs, grilled halloumi, curly kale, baby spinach, grilled mushrooms, roast tomato, butter beans in tomato sauce, country style potatoes and granary toast
Farmer’s – maple slab bacon, fried eggs, sausage patty, country style potatoes, spring onions, granary toast  
Avocado ‘Royale’ – oak smoked salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise, country style potatoes, watercress and granny toast
Angler’s – smoked salmon, scrambled eggs with country style potatoes and granary toast

It’s very easy to like Jackson + Rye – good atmosphere, service is friendly and efficient, decent portions that hit all the right notes and pricing doesn’t break the bank. My only minor winge was the bread being far too thick, making it a real chore to cut through the crust, also not serving cocktails until 12pm, please say it on the menu to save disappoint for anyone else! 

Jackson + Rye

56 Wardour Street

London

W1D 4JG

http://www.jacksonrye.com

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Tapas Brindisa, Soho

Last weekend was a VERY long overdue reunion with our uni mates, my old friend Sarah and I always try to get everyone together, with all of us being married and most with children now it gets harder every time, but nevertheless ten of us managed to make it last Saturday. Nights out with these lot are well known for being excessive is many ways, the hilarity resulting from these reunions would mean absolutely nothing to anyone else, but have become folklore amongst us. Stories which have become embellished as the years have passed being included at weddings in the grooms speech and business meetings, go figure?! I’m sure you all have these types of memories with your friends too. 

We weren’t all meeting until later that afternoon so knowing from experience how the day would play out, doing a good job of lining the stomachs was imperative, otherwise the consequences weren’t worth entertaining!! So after a full breakfast at ours we hot footed it on the quick line to Waterloo and soon settled into Soho, where we’d be based for the night.  A few early drinks and it was time for a late lunch, we all wanted something to graze on that wouldn’t be too heavy, so I thought tapas – possibly the ultimate in grazing food. I knew there was Tapas Brindisa nearby and we were soon ordering more wine and perusing the menu.

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It’s somewhere I’ve been a couple of times before because the staff are really friendly and the food is reliably good. To be honest, this is a pretty easy review to write – the other half and I order six dishes to share and when there’s hardly a noise coming from a group of diners faced with a table full of food, that can only be a great sign. All of the plates resonated very positively, my favourites being the generous wedge of tortilla with chorizo – came with all the qualities I hoped for; served warm, good ratio of potato/egg/chorizo so there was a delicate meaty smokiness going on and very importantly it’s texture was squidgy and lovingly soft. The buñuelos de bacalao or salt cod fritters were perfect and quickly demolished; a delicately crisp exterior giving way to a gorgeously light filling, the right level of saltiness and rich, unctuous aioli to go with it. Another favourite was the ox cheek – the beautiful giving meat which just pulled apart with the lightest of touches, deep in flavour and matched by a butternut squash puree and silverskin onions. The one that caught me off guard was The Meatball (my husband’s choice) – I’m normally a goat cheese hater and avoid it all costs, but this has done a lot to converting me…maybe it was helped by the fact there was a combination of rump steak and their Iberico pork morcilla surrounding the cheese, who knows?!

Tortilla de chorizo
Ox cheeks
The Meatball
Buñuelos de bacalao
Crispy pork belly

If I was to fault any one of the dishes it’d be the pork belly, don’t get me wrong the flavours were there, the sweetness from the meat and the crackling was crisp and salty, but the layers of fat were very thick and the only thing left on any of the plates. All in all – a pretty awesome lunch for us and also our friends who’s corn fed chicken, croquettes and salad got polished off very easily too.

Patatas alioli

Corn fed chicken leg

Croquetas de jamon

Traditional potato tortilla

Yes, the area’s spoilt for choice with great places to eat, but you won’t go far wrong with Tapas Brindisa.

Tapas Brindisa Soho

46 Broadwick St

London

W1F 7AF

http://www.brindisatapaskitchens.com/tapas-brindisa-soho/

Charterhouse Arms, Godalming

There are pros and cons to being down South, as much as I miss Leeds it does being much closer to people who we’ve not been able to see as often as we’d like, so for that it’s all good. A couple of Saturdays ago a catch-up was planned with relatives in Farncombe, for anyone who hasn’t heard of the place or know where it is, it’s basically a village in Surrey. We were crashing a 40th birthday party later that evening and were in need of a quick feed to line the stomach, readying ourselves for the inevitable. A local pub called the Charterhouse Arms in Godalming had been talked about as a stop-off for a bite to eat, once well known in the area for a being a decent boozer serving curries, but a few months ago the team behind the curries decided to move and open their own place elsewhere. It’s since taken on new management, undergone a makeover and brought in a new evening menu serving tapas. The pub’s found on the corner of a fairly busy road that runs along the edge of Godalming and knowing it was a popular spot, took up one of their outdoor tables  – perfect on what was a lovely sunny evening.

The menu offers a decent number of small tapas plates, ranging from £3.25 – £5.25, a couple of sharing platters, plenty for both carnivores and veg lovers. Orders were taken at the bar and after a reasonable length of time we were brought a steady stream of dishes.

NB: apologies for the quality of the photos – all taken on my iPhone.

Selection of cured meats, tortilla and braised pork cheeks
Gambas Pil
Crispy squid with aioli
Albondigas, patatas bravas and chorizo in red wine

Of the eight dishes my favourites were the seafood – think beautifully cooked prawns, all the better for being messy and juicy with loads of garlic and a little background heat from chilli. Also a generous portion of soft squid, lightly covered in a crisp batter with a large dollop of garlicky aioli to dunk them, the meaty, smokey chorizo was a bit of a winner and the patatas bravas were decent, but could’ve been a bit chunkier. For me, the other dishes were a little hit and miss and would’ve been helped along with more accurate seasoning – both the Spanish omelette and the pork cheek could’ve done with a pinch of salt, the omelette’s texture didn’t live up to others I’ve had and I wished the pork cheek had been left whole, so we could find out for ourselves how tender it was rather than being served already shredded up. A sauce would’ve brought it to life more too.

Overall I liked the Charterhouse Arms – the staff were lovely and we got really friendly service, the menu isn’t too pricey and the place has a relaxed setting. They’ve been open since June and even though it certainly wasn’t perfect, I’d go again and would love to see how it improves.

Charterhouse Arms

Deanery Rd

Godalming

GU7 2PQ

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Charterhouse-Arms/129686450415449

So’s Kitchen, Woking

I’m very slowly working my way around Woking, trying to find tasty independents to get fed and wondered if there was a decent Chinese in the area. I’d seen a Chinese restaurant called So’s Kitchen near Woking train station and after a little research that was wholly positive I suggested going for lunch. Stepping inside it was kinda refreshing not seeing the traditional red and gold interiors and was quite modest in comparison. The menu had classic dim sum, a lunch menu with both rice and noodle dishes then an a la carte menu, no surprises to catch you out and all pretty standard stuff.

Lunch started really well with dumplings – tasty pot stickers filled with pork and prawn, nicely charred on the bottom and polished off in a couple of minutes. The ha gau dumplings were juicy, lovely and translucent, however I’ve had plumper ones with more filling.

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Off the lunch menu there was a pork and rice dish that my husband fancied, the pork was of the char sui variety and tasty, however the rice was very very dry, I may be wrong but it’s like the rice was precooked, left to go cold so it loses moisture then used for the dish. I know this is often a method used to keep the grains separate but it did seem overly dry. I was, as always completely predictable with my choice – beef ho fun noodles! If I’m honest unless it’s a full on dim sum affair, being a creature of habit it’s what I ALWAYS order; they were ok, no more than that.  For me, a great beef ho fun has a delicate balancing act between soy and oiliness – too much oil makes it messy, too little makes it bland and dry. Finally the beef should be tender and soft. I love the oiliness of the dish, but these rice noodles didn’t have the glossiness, were a touch dryer and not as moreish.  It wasn’t saved by the seasoning either as it was lacking, the beef was bland and had lost tenderness.

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Overall it was ok, saved by the dumplings which was the highlight and I couldn’t fault the friendly and efficient staff. It was a bit of a shame, especially after reading lots of positive stuff on the web, I should probably revisit at some point, probably for the dim sum.

So’s Kitchen

1 White Rose Lane

Woking

Surrey

GU22 7AA

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sos-Kitchen/127966857252270

Fire Lake Grill House, Leeds

The Radisson Blu hotel isn’t one that springs to mind as a destination for a meal, since the unveiling of their multi million refurb I’d read some reviews and got a free invitation to try the place out, so thought why the hell not?! From the outside there’s not much to give the impression it’s got a brand spanking new restaurant, there’s just one of those folding display thingamebobs indicating the existence of their new Fire Lake restaurant and cocktail bar. 

They’ve obviously spent money on interiors going for more of a boutique hotel vibe. I used to walk passed, peer inside and think it looked nice enough for a business meeting perhaps, but nothing really drew me in. The new cocktail bar on the left of the entrance is a bit of a draw and it’s a good strategic move putting it there, luring in a steady stream of well dressed customers to the plush bar.

The rest of the space is divided into comfortable seating areas with statement hanging fire pit, cosy dining areas, plush semicircular booths with a view towards the kitchen, in particular the pass and Josper grill. I was certainly impressed by the design they’d gone for and seems like they’ve spent their money well.

We were seated at one of their semicircular booth type affairs, so we could see the chefs at work and given a few minutes to look over the menuOn first impressions it looked a little try-hard and over complicated – definitely requiring some early explanation, such as calling starters ‘mingling platters’ – what’s that supposed to mean, also ‘bundles’ which are basically set meals shown on display boards, one of which was a 3-course bundle with ‘no bills wines’?! A short time was spent trying to decipher the menu, then a few questions were asked – some answered more successfully than others. I now know that the ‘no bills wines’ are glasses of medium house wine, however I’m still none the wiser what the hand held pulled pork item is – is it a sandwich, a wrap, a bao? Your guess is as good as mine!

I felt a little sorry that the waitress was put in a situation where she had to explain the random terminology to us, but I suppose if they’re there, it’s simpler to clarify things from the start.

On the plus side we had no complaints about drinks, we were recommended a fantastic bottle of wine to go with our meal; a Brazilian Miolo Tannat which was quite full bodied, very smooth and drank very well. 

From the starters (or mingling platters) I chose crab croquettes, deep fried breadcrumbed stuff I couldn’t go wrong with, whilst my friend went for mussels. The croquettes were lovely and golden, but were let down by the contents which I found cloying and lacking in crab. The tomato and wild garlic chutney it came with was tasty, but I didn’t get much of the wild garlic and the addition of charred spring onions was surplus to requirements. The mussels weren’t particularly big but were well cooked, with some lemon focaccia to dunk into the liquor delicately laced with Sam Smiths bitter.  The focaccia itself was lovely and soft, however I would’ve preferred it minus the lemon. 

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For the main course I went straight to the ‘cooked on coal’ section which listed a few fish and seafood dishes then the rest meat, such as fillet steak, the fashionable onglet (hangar) steak, also corn-fed chicken and sausages. The menu mentions the use of cooking on charcoal, so it would’ve been nice if staff spoke about it, considering it’s an important aspect to their food. It all arrived nicely presented, however it was off putting having a thick piece of string still tied around the meat (on both plates). Personally I also could’ve done without the paraphernalia – the silver buckets and gravy in glass jars (brought on the same plate as the food) weren’t doing anything for me either.

Food-wise the fillet was perfectly cooked, but I didn’t really get the smokiness I expected. The chips and intense gravy (their title not mine) were both good, in particular the gravy which was glossy, rich and full of meatiness and the tomato and mushroom were nice enough accompaniments. Alongside me the rib was also well cooked, however the béarnaise needed more sharpness and punch. One thing on the menu that we were intrigued by were the Bradford onion bhajis, we were told the menu tried to have a link to the local area…. fair enough but I found it bizarre to have them on the menu then have nothing else to really go with them. We ordered a portion to check them out and I was disappointed – the thickness of the batter was ok, but they didn’t hit the mark in spice and were a little bland. 

For desserts we went for the selection to share, the best bits were the moist ginger cake and the liquorice ice cream which was excellent, the worst bit the warm doughnuts which were heavy.  

Overall our experience was a little hit and miss, I think the menu tries too hard to impress and would be better keeping things a little simpler. It isn’t the cheapest of places to eat and therefore the quality needs to match this. The restaurant has only recently reopened so maybe still finding its feet, the staff were lovely so I hope they iron out any niggles.

Fire Lake

Radisson Blu Hotel

No 1 The Light

The Headrow

Leeds

LS1 8TL