Bellevue Rendezvous

Yes I have been getting out and about a lot lately. This review will be up on Huffington Post soon too but I thought I would give you a sneak preview.

Bellevue Rendezvous is a charming little French restaurant on the corner of Wandsworth Common. When you don’t feel like parting with the entire contents of your wallet to eat at Chez Bruce, but want to eat somewhere in the neighbourhood, this is your answer. Run by a French couple (who seem to be the only waiting staff), you will be treated to French classics like Coq au Vin, Bavette Steak and Duck Confit. There is nothing overworked about the dishes here, it is unpretentious, rustic, very good French cooking for a very good price.

The menu is short but offers a range of different types of meals, from fish to duck to stews. I started with the traditional French Onion Soup (£7), which had a blob of cheese floating in its centre (as it rightly should!). The cheese was nothing to write home about, and truthfully neither was the soup, but there was nothing wrong with it either. If anything (and how often can you say this with French cooking) it needed more salt.

Fellow diners at my table chose the roast goats cheese and beetroot salad (£6.50) which had delightfully tangy beetroot and a large round of hot, astonishingly good goats cheese. Men at the table made ridiculous happy food sounds while devouring their ‘home-made’ foie gras terrine with onion jam (£9). I don’t do foie gras, so didn’t sample it, but given the speed with which they inhaled it, and the slightly licked-looking plates they left behind, I can only deduce that it was entirely fabulous.

Foie Gras

To follow, I ordered the bavette steak with shallots and sauteed potatoes, but part way through our evening I saw something else being delivered to a nearby diner and got a serious case of food envy. The staff were very accommodating and let me change my order to the dish I had seen, guinea fowl with carrot mash and ceps (£15). It was a good trade, and I was very happy with my food when it arrived; the guinea fowl was tender and juicy with a very rich but tasty carrot mash beneath. The ceps were a little too buttery for my palate, but we are dealing with French cooking here, so it is not a criticism of the restaurant, more a comment on what is manageable for my personal taste. (It is important to add, I ate them all anyway because the flavour was excellent). I got to try the steak, and although it was very good (and an extremely large portion of thick-cut steak for £14!!), it had clearly been cooked in butter, which slightly overwhelmed the taste of the meat.

Guinea Fowl

The coq au vin (dish of the day at £18) was very basic, but hearty and good.  Venison filet with roast vegetables and caramelized apples marked the most expensive menu item at £21.50. The venison was beautifully cooked, and the zing in the caramelized apple provided just the required freshness to the dish to complement the rich sauce.

After two rather fabulous bottles of 2008 Chataeau Tour de Calens (at a reasonable £30 per bottle) I was ready to get the party started. Three chocolate fondant for the table please and a bottle of the 2009 Sauternes (at £20 a bottle…a total steal). The fondant took some time to cook, and one of the three broke open in the kitchen apparently, so they remade it and presented it a little later than the first two. This was no issue, however, as they compensated by pouring us more of the Sauternes, a sure way to keep any diner happy while they wait. Perfectly cooked, incredibly tasty fondant with a small round of vanilla bean icecream makes for a great finale at Bellevue Rendezvous, although I recommend getting one each, otherwise marital problems could ensue.

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There was no possible way I could stuff in anything else, but the elaborate selection of cheese (which you can sample any of with the cheese plate) was winking at me before we got the bill. Not this time, but one of many reasons to go back.

At £50 per person for a 3-course meal with copious amounts of excellent French wine, Bellevue Rendezvous makes an excellent choice for a fun night out with friends, or a romantic dinner for two. You could easily get out the door having enjoyed a bottle of wine and two courses for £30-£35 per person. A clear favourite with the locals, and you can see why.

Bellevue Rendezvous, 218 Trinity Road, SW177HP, 02087675810

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Kiwi Local – Manuka Kitchen

What Fulham has needed for some time now is an independent restaurant that is charming, tasty and affordable. Finally, with the arrival of Manuka Kitchen, it has just that.

Manuka is the name of a native New Zealand tree that is now famous for producing honey with high naturally occurring antibiotics. Manuka Kitchen is a European Brasserie and the passion-child of Tyler, a kiwi chef, and Joseph, his business partner, who has worked in high end hotels and restaurants for the past 15 years. This restaurant is a labour of love from start to finish. The boys have done everything from choosing the light fittings to painting the walls. They are there every day and while Tyler cooks Joseph serves and hosts.  Photos_0

You cannot help but become immersed in their genuine desire to have people love the place, with attentive personal service and a very relaxed, almost home-style atmosphere.  The tables are rustic and simple wood with little candles blinking away on each one. The restaurant only seats about 20, which makes for a cozy, intimate setting.

House-baked complimentary foccacia bread turns up at your table while it is still warm, and is best smothered in the salted butter that accompanies it. The Veal Meatballs with tomato sauce were delicious, not too ‘meaty’ tasting as so many meatballs are, and topped with a little parmesan cheese. Crispy Squid was perfectly crispy but soft in the middle. The nam jim sauce accompanying was a little too intense for me without the kick I was hoping for, but nonetheless this was a starter that was well done.

Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid

The Rabbit, Venison sausage and thyme Rigatoni was a moderate portion for a pasta main, but at £10.00 who can complain?  My market fish with orange vegetables and samphire aoli was truly delicious and cooked perfectly. The orange sauce was glorious with the fish, albeit a little too rich for my palate.

Market FishRabbit Rigatoni

A huge round of applause please for a Bistro that serves excellent wine at excellent prices. Only a short list is on offer but when it encompasses such fine choices it only serves to make my job easier in selection  New Zealand features heavily on the wine list, and the Momo Pinot Noir at £23.50 a bottle is not only entirely affordable, but far too easy to drink! The Seresin Organic Sauvignon would be my choice of white at £22.50, or just head straight for party with Tattinger Champagne at £36.

Joseph was eager for us to try the Seresin with our crispy squid starter as it was a better food-match than the pinot, so he poured two little glasses for us to enjoy. There is nothing more inspiring in hospitality than a little generosity and a genuine passion for presenting fine wine and tasty food to happy customers.

Tyler and Joseph’s Manuka Kitchen deserves to be busy, and I have no doubt that this new bistro will thrive. Note that it is a cash-only establishment at present. There are many more items on their menu I would be eager to sample so I, for one, will be back to support this adorable little local.

Manuka Kitchen510 Fulham Road, SW65NJ bookings@manukakitchen.co.uk  02073849774  10:00am-11:00pm Tuesday to Sunday

Stories of Salmon

Last week alone I ate salmon four times. One new recipe for dinner (coming soon), wild tinned red salmon for lunch and plenty of Salmon at Sushi Samba London! It did get me pondering ways to reinvent and re-inspire recipes for this favourite fish.

I have been quite into the Great British Chef’s Website lately. They promote some of the UK’s top culinary talent and their chef’s have parted with some incredible recipes which are listed on the site. They also list recipes by collection, and here I point you to their Collection on Salmon.

It provides a wide range of salmon recipes with everything from utterly gourmet and fine-dining fancy to entirely mid-week manageable. The photography on their site is beautiful in itself, and we all know how much I love a good dose of Food Porn.

From the collection my picks would be the Salmon en Papillote from Josh Eggleton, it looks so quick and light but the flavours would be perfect together. The Boullibasse from Tom Aikens, which would require more attention but particularly in these colder months would make a wonderful weekend meal for entertaining. And for all my readers in warmer climates, the Lemon & Herb Marinated Salmon Skewers from Marcello Tully would be perfect on the BBQ. Oh to be in a BBQ climate!!

While many of the recipes in this collection look michellin-star worthy (and if that is what you are after this is a pretty amazing resource for elegant recipes) but as always for my palate, I prefer the clean and simpler flavours like the recipes mentioned above. The other dish that caught my attention was for poached salmon, because it made me realise I had never poached fish…WOAH! Immediate rectification necessary.

If you haven’t read it previously, you may like to see the article I wrote on Wild versus Farmed salmon. The difference in flavour, texture and nutritional value is enormous…and yes while we are at it, so is the cost. It is better to be armed with the facts so we can make an informed decision though no?

Nobu

Monday marked the last night in town for some family who were staying so we thought we should take them somewhere special. They love Japanese food as do we so we booked Nobu. It is Nobu Matsuhisa’s famous restaurant that started in New York in the early 90’s and has since become synonymous with  innovative Japanese cuisine around the world.

Underwhelmed…yes I was totally underwhelmed. I had heard that it had minimalist decor but really, the barren surroundings looked more like a stark cafe  from 1997 than a top ranking restaurant in Mayfair. We were almost embarrassed.

The two bottles of Saint Clair Reserve Sauvignon that I managed to dent certainly softened my critical eye throughout the evening, but I will not be going back to Nobu in London.  I found it overpriced for what it was, and while many of the dishes were  delicious, I have had better versions of all of them in the past, for a fraction of the price!

Tuna tataki with ponzu dressing is usually one of my favourite starters…but the tuna was not delicate enough here, and the ponzu sauce was too sweet for my palate. The  miso soup was great, as was Nasu Miso (eggplant with miso paste on top) and the Beef Toban Yaki. The enoki mushrooms that were served with the beef were sublime (although the taste of butter is not really Japanese…nonetheless..yummy!).

Another favourite that I like to order in Japanese (or Japanese fusion) restaurants is Black Cod with Miso. This is a signature dish of Nobu’s so I was expecting miracles in my mouth. Sadly there were none. And for £44.00….??

We also shared a sashimi plate, which was OK, but not amazing. The spicy tuna roll and salmon and avocado rolls were also fine, but you don’t go to Nobu and part with that much money for ‘fine’. You want brilliance, and food that makes you unable to speak and only mumble your pleasure with nods while you are chewing! Or at least I do. Harsh review? Yes, but fair.

Nobu Website

 

 

Los Angeles

Hello!!!

Sincere apologies for the extreme hiatus! I have been traveling like a mad woman, and am in fact, still not at home, so not really cooking! I had 10 days in Tuscany and now am in LA for nearly a month. What I can do in this time is write restaurant reviews so look out!

This morning I had breakfast at Figaro, on Vermont in Los Feliz. It is a trendy little spot with simple, but charming decor. The coffee is excellent, and this, for LA, is saying something. As it was brunch I ordered the poached eggs with parmesan and asparagus. Delicious!! Poached to perfection on stems on asparagus that had clearly been cooked in butter…naughty but oh so nice! Sadly I did not have my camera with me so there are no photos. If you are in West LA it is worth a visit. Casual, french-bistro meets LA sidewalk.

http://www.figarobistrot.com/

Got a great dinner booking for tomorrow in Venice beach, more on that soon, and this time I’ll be armed with the lens.

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