Along with 9 other bloggers, (to name a few, I had the lovely chance to meet – Miho from wandertowander, Radio and TV presenter @Anushka_Arora, Jaklien from passportandtoothbrush, Jo from 60before30, Chef and blogger Rosie from alittlelusciousness) together, we had the opportunity to take a first look at the ’80 tastes’ pop-up due to roll out at St James’ Court, A Taj Hotel. Devised to guide diners to a culinary journey within the vicinity of St James’ Court, a tranquil and upscale dining community, minutes away from Buckingham Palace.
‘Around the world with 80 tastes’ introduces us to 4 of these restaurants, cuisines and dining styles differ in each eatery, from Southern European cuisine to South Western Sri-Lankan.
History with A Taj Hotel starts from 1902, constructed with discretion and perfection, guests of Buckingham Palace would frequent here, to witness the sound architectural design that surrounds it.
Following our ‘amuse bouches’ at the Courtyard, we were led onto Bistro51 for our starters, seared tuna steak with potato cubes in wasabi, and a side salad.
An eye-opening start to the private dining room at Quilon for our mains, rated 1 Michelin star and led by Head Chef Sriram Aylur. Spices and flavours are brought out by using the freshest of British ingredients to create a blend of South West Indian cuisine.
Neat leaf plating with a range of seafood, including peppered shrimp, grilled scallop, crab cake and fish curry flavoured with Sri Lankan influences, cocunut, chilli and raw mango.
Kona balances luxurious indulgence with delightfully fresh simplicity.
The chicken was slightly dry for me, but the salad and condiments helped bring up the flavour. Crusted with parmesan meant you can smell the cheesy aroma as you bite into the chicken, pretty mouth-watering.
Not sure about the red plates here, certainly beautiful crockery, but I’m not so sure it colour co-ordinates well with the chocolate! (Primary, secondary and tertiary colours or whatnot!)
HKK boasts a compelling dining experience from traditional Chinese dishes to high-end quality courses of fine calibre. Opened in 2012, it was the latest of the Hakkasan Group but was very quick to impress, with its culinary string of tasting courses.
Differentiating itself from the other Michelin restaurants, with social media threads of impressive food photography, I’m a fan of its Instagram page! Follow HKK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
A very corporate feel upon arrival, you instantly enter a spacious, sparse, square room decorated with subtle sophistication.
Described as innovative, their menu consists of a 12 course tasting menu priced at £98. There is also a vegetarian option, but unfortunately that’s all there is to the dinner menus, tasting menus are typically rigid in nature.
Eden – grapes, rose syrup, lychee juice and soda water
Green Nile – kiwi, ginger, coriander, lychee and apple juice
Wasn’t too sure of this starter course, since I’m not a fan of gelatine, but you can’t doubt its presentation. Constituents are roasted bacon (joint), water chestnut, osmanthus wine, caviars, coriander and fish gelatine with Goji berry sauce.
Presentation was the key feature here, making this course look like something from an art gallery. The dim-sum becomes a bit of a plaything, using the paintbrush as an intermediary between the soy sauce dip and the dumplings, I gave up and just used my chopsticks the normal way! The turnip pastry was so finely constructed and delicate. Was pretty reluctant to squeeze the puff pastry between my chopsticks.
Instructed by the chef to eat this chronologically starting with the skin dipped in sugar and hoisin sauce, duck breast, and lastly the pancake. There is a subtle sweet taste to the duck, given that there is a small hill of what I think is sugar, mounted between the Peking duck skin and pancake. This adds to the already aromatic taste of finely roasted duck, its tender and moist flesh.
Certain people see abalone as a Cantonese delicacy, prices can exceed expectations in Hong Kong, and its no surprise that its made its way into HKK menus. The abalone came soft and tender, and accompanied well with egg noodle in black truffle ‘royal’ sauce.
Of course we can’t forget about the pre-desserts and desserts can we? I love lychee, you can probably tell by mine and Daisy’s choice of cocktails. Pre-dessert though, is something that is meant to be a cleansing palette, but tastes came out too strong, and was almost like a really sweet smoothie.
Service: The waiters are pretty quick in getting the plates out to you, observant as to when you finish your meal. At the end of the meal, you get given the menu with the chef’s stamp on it handed out personally by the chef. 12.5% service charge
Bits and bobs:
If you’re going for longer course menus like the 15 course, I highly recommend you start your dinner early, say 6, otherwise it will take you hours
It’s quite a walk from Liverpool Street, plan your route.
I do have an abundance of Japanese posts on my blog, and this won’t be the last one. Having taken up Japanese more seriously with an aim to become fluent, my 6 day trip to Japan last December will be the first of many!
So Midori recommended Tonkatsu Shotaro, an easy find on Takeshita Street, minutes away from Harajuku Station. Tonkatsu Shotaro has been serving thick and tender tonkatsu for at least 40 years, and quite a tranquil restaurant given the noise from such a busy street. It has an extensive menu even though the size of the restaurant is small.
Tonkatsu is breaded and deep fried pork cutlets usually served with some form of sauce. Takeshita street is known for its shopping outlet and funky fashion scene, so its a great stop for a meal if you get tired of walking.
Prices are also exceedingly cheap compared to London, see below using Oanda exchange rate 07.06.15:
See the full meal review on Flesh and Buns here. Once I saw the Kinako doughnuts on the menu I knew I had to return and try, I’m not a fan of doughnuts but anything to do with roasted soybean (kinako)….I’m there.
Below is a breakdown of the desserts you can get at F&B, (less the Yuzu tart, and Black Sesame Creme Brulee)
Their signature dish, a small bonfire is placed in front of you while you make it a bit of a plaything and make s’mores. It’s overpriced for what it is, but you should try at least once!
Nothing can go wrong with a matcha sundae, lthough it can get a bit fiddly with the shape of the glass being so tall.
The inside of the kinako doughnuts were warm, and you can smell, and taste, the strong kinako aroma as the custard oozes into your mouth…The doughnuts were coated with too much sugar though I think!
Service: 12.5% service charge
Bits and bobs:
Do visit restrooms – you’re in for a treat
£15 corkage fee if you want to bring cake
No signal as it’s below ground level, but they have wifi!
Along with Kikuchi, Ikeda is one of eatwithsteph’s favourite Japanese restaurants – for when payday comes that is.
A small but elegant restaurant with a tranquil backdrop, Ikeda has served fine Japanese food since 1978. Food and setting have often been described as exquisite and exclusive, and being near the Japanese Embassy often results amass of business men and client meetings taking place here.
Prices are high no doubt, but you’ll get your moneys worth, choose carefully as your bill can mount to as high as £100 per person including drinks. (I spent £60.)
Family-run, traditional formalities and waitresses in Kimonos, it’s like being back in Japan again!
There were 5 of us, so I did not try everything in the retrospective sets, but the otoro (fatty tuna) was so good we ordered 3 more so everyone could try one each! The sliced octopus was also a pleasant surprise, with the added lemon it gave a very refreshing feel.
Mackerel was soft and tender, but it wasn’t anything particularly special. I also tend to stay away from food in batter, or fried, but the tempura moriawase, i.e. assortment of tempura (fish, prawns, and vegetables) was surprisingly light, and crispy. The batter was thin, but thick enough to give you that crunch.
My parents at home call me a ‘soup queen’ because I love all kinds of soup, and dobin-mushi was no different! With mushrooms in abundance, the condiments combined together made it a very aromatic dish.
When pictures speak a thousand words, I’ll let you try sushi set A for yourself!
We were too full for dessert but they have a selection of traditional ice-cream (red bean, green tea, tempura and even earl grey.)
Service: 12.5% service charge
Bits and bobs:
For dinner there is a minimum spend of £30 per person
Gelatorino knows how to keep high quality gelato fresh by having them scooped straight from pozzettis (lidded steel tubs).
Centrally located, at the heart of West End, with some of the top theatres within walking distance, Gelatorino pulls people in with their signature gelatos such as the coffee-flavoured ‘Breakfast in Turin‘ and ‘Dark chocolate and Gianduja‘.
It may be another Gelateria who boasts premium, top-quality gelatos, but it’s another one to add to my recommended list!
They use authentic traditional gelato machines and ingredients sourced from different regions of Italy. The way Gelatorino make their gelatos are by the traditional method of ‘mantecazione’, a churning and freezing process absorbing much less air as a result, creating a more velvety texture.
Bits and bobs:
Prices are similar to all other dessert cafes, flavours differ daily with specials. (Popular ones remain of course)
(I’ve talked about Flesh and Buns which is also under Ross Shonhan here)
It was first introduced as a Bone Daddies pop-up meaning that its not here to stay for long (12 months in fact), with the name of the restaurant deriving from ‘Shack’, I guess, meaning a ‘Shack’ and fuyu which translates to ‘winter’ in Japanese. (It opened during Winter of 2014.)
Can I first, please mention that you can definitely come in just for desserts. I highly recommend you to.
The first visit (with Winnie and Allan), we just about ordered nearly everything on the menu, but dishes were over-seasoned, salty, and simply not up to par. You can actually smell the oil and salt in the air from the bibimbap ordered from next door…
Take-out green tea ice-cream can be ordered for £3.50, and it’s a very generous pot of serving. So if you are craving some soft serve you know where to go!
Bits and bobs:
You’ll probably have no problem coming in during weekdays, come Friday and the weekend, expect a queue. Most recent visit was actually Friday evening (05/06/2015) and it was a half hour queue.
Queuing – you will receive a buzzer, be brought down to the far back of the restaurant to its downstairs bar where you wait… (we chose to stand outside)