80 Tastes at St James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

80 Tastes at St James Court (4 of 45)
Champagne and canapes at St James’ Courtyard

History and background:

Event courtesy of Zomato

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.

The meal:

80 Tastes at St James Court (5 of 45)
Upon arrival to St James’ Courtyard, we’re met with champagne and canapes for a bit of what you would call al-fresco dining.
80 Tastes at St James Court (6 of 45)
Laurent-Perrier champagne flight was complemented with 3 canapes – smoked salmon,
80 Tastes at St James Court (8 of 45)
scallop and avocado ceviche
80 Tastes at St James Court (10 of 45)
ratatouille on toast
80 Tastes at St James Court (15 of 45)
Subtle wasabi taste topped with some light greens

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.

80 Tastes at St James Court (16 of 45)
Tuna steak

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.

80 Tastes at St James Court (23 of 45)
Highlight of the night starring Quilon

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.

80 Tastes at St James Court (27 of 45)
malabar pratha bread
80 Tastes at St James Court (29 of 45)
Scallops are my weakness – grilled to perfection
80 Tastes at St James Court (34 of 45)
Bloggers aren’t bloggers if we don’t have lighting… or 2 cameras! @AKBoogie @alittlelusciousness
80 Tastes at St James Court (38 of 45)
Restaurant Kona was next, serving Modern European cuisine

Kona balances luxurious indulgence with delightfully fresh simplicity.

80 Tastes at St James Court (40 of 45)
Cheese crusted chicken and red poblano, tuscan panzanella salad

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.

80 Tastes at St James Court (42 of 45)
The final course for the night of course ends with desserts

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!)

80 Tastes at St James Court (45 of 45)
Manjari parfait with chocolate ganache and chocolate sorbet

Price: ££

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HKK

HKK (1 of 45)
eatwithsteph tries HKK, situated between Shoreditch and Liverpool Street, part of the Hakkasan Group

HKK (17 of 45)
The chef preparing our Peking Duck, where the room revolves around a rectangular centered table.
Background and history:

awarded a Michelin star in September 2013

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 TwitterFacebook 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.

The meal:

HKK (3 of 45)
Non alcoholic Cocktails £7.00
Eden – grapes, rose syrup, lychee juice and soda water
Green Nile – kiwi, ginger, coriander, lychee and apple juice

HKK (5 of 45)
Marinated Berkshire Pork and Osmanthus Wine Jelly (黑魚子醬水晶肴肉)
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.

HKK (8 of 45)
Dim Sum Trilogy (斋点心三部曲)
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.

HKK (13 of 45)
King crab puff; Chicken and truffle dumpling; Prawn and Goji berry dumpling;

HKK (14 of 45)
HKK Supreme seafood soup (桂花鱼米野菌汤)

HKK (16 of 45)
Scampi (New Zealand), Chilean sea bass, shiitake mushroom and Italian black truffle

HKK (19 of 45)
Cherry wood-roasted Peking duck (樱桃果木北京填鴨)
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.

HKK (20 of 45)
Cut with professionalism, soft to the core, with crispy skin lining

HKK (24 of 45)
Garlic shoot, lily bulb and water chestnut in XO Sauce ( XO酱百合马蹄炒蒜心)

HKK (25 of 45)
Of course, a second shot of this is needed, given the size of the plate!

HKK (27 of 45)
Australian green abalone in royal sauce served with egg noodle (鲍鱼汁捞面)

HKK (29 of 45)
One of my favourite dishes of the night!
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.

HKK (30 of 45)
Seared Wagyu beef with coffee barbeque sauce (日本神牛白露荀)

HKK (33 of 45)
Probably one of the plainer dishes of the night, wagyu beef, something that’s becoming more mainstream and common, despite it being a ‘specialty’

HKK (36 of 45)
Spiced cumin Rhug farm organic lamb (鼔油皇子然羊粒)
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.

HKK (39 of 45)
Passion fruit jelly and lychee tapioca served with Lychee milk sorbet

HKK (41 of 45)
Chocolate and line mousse served with sesame ice-cream

HKK (42 of 45)
and that’s my 10 courses!
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.

Price: ££££

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[TKY] Tonkatsu Shotaro

Tonkatsu Shotaro (2 of 13)
Midori’s recommendation, Tonkatsu Shotaro, ‘the best in Harajuku’
Background and Taste:

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 Shotaro (1 of 13)
Amy and I met up with our old secondary school friend Midori who happened to be in Japan at the same time for a catch up in Harajuku.
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.

Tonkatsu Shotaro (4 of 13)
Pork was thick, and panko crumbing was crispy, the pork cutlets are usually accompanied with miso soup and a generous bowl of rice.
Prices are also exceedingly cheap compared to London, see below using Oanda exchange rate 07.06.15:

  • Katsudon (980 yen) £5.11
  • Tonkatsu (880 yen) £4.60

Tonkatsu Shotaro (12 of 13)
I chose my tonkatsu to have cheese with it… and it was so so good…topped with tangy Japanese BBQ sauce 
Tonkatsu Shotaro (6 of 13)
Midori’s oyakodon
Tonkatsu Shotaro (8 of 13)
Amy’s katsu curry, really generous servings

Service: A small cosy interior, friendly staff.

Price: £

A: 1-6-12, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, TokyoHarajuku Station, Takeshita-dori
T: +81 3 6804 3834

Flesh & Buns (desserts only)

Flesh and Buns  (1 of 12)
You can come to  Flesh & Buns for desserts only, just let them know before sitting down
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)

Desserts:

Flesh and Buns  (2 of 12)
S’MORES – passionfruit marshmallows, biscuits, almond chocolate £8
Flesh and Buns  (5 of 12)
2 pieces of marshmallows, 2 slabs of green tea/ or almond chocolate of your choice, and 4 slices of biscuits
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!

Flesh and Buns  (7 of 12)
BONE DADDIES SUNDAE – matcha ice cream, blueberries, honeycomb £6
Nothing can go wrong with a matcha sundae, lthough it can get a bit fiddly with the shape of the glass being so tall.

Flesh and Buns  (8 of 12)
Vanessa and I eating our way into Covent Garden
Flesh and Buns  (11 of 12)
Kinako Doughnuts – (with roasted soybean custard filling) £6
Flesh and Buns  (12 of 12)
Warm and oozy
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!

DSC08111
CHOCOLATE FONDANT and matcha ice cream £6
DSC08134
A repost from my previous visit with Grace
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!

Price: ££

Flesh and Buns on Urbanspoon

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Ikeda

ikeda (20 of 37)
The lucky diners who witness the chefs first hand at the robata counter
History and Background:

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!

The meal:

ikeda (1 of 37)
Soft-shell crab £12.50
ikeda (2 of 37)
Sashimi A £45.00
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.

ikeda (27 of 37)
酢だこ Sudako Sliced octupus, marinated with rice vinegar served with fresh grated ginger, £13.00
ikeda (21 of 37)
さばの塩焼き Saba Shioyaki – Grilled fillet mackerel £16.00
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.

ikeda (22 of 37)
Tempura Moriawase £18.50
ikeda (11 of 37)
Iberico Tonkatsu served with home made mayonnaise salad £26.00
ikeda (30 of 37)
Dobin-mushi £18.00
ikeda (33 of 37)
Steamed clear soup with mushrooms, prawns, chicken and white fish
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.

ikeda (36 of 37)
Eringi mushrooms grilled in a foil parcel served with Ponzu sauce £15.00
ikeda (14 of 37)
Nigiri Set A £42.00
ikeda (15 of 37)
This was absolute heaven, unagi (eel) completely melts in your mouth. Healthy rice to sashimi ratio too.
ikeda (17 of 37)
Amaebi (sweet prawn), ikura (salmon roe), unagi (BBQ eel), toro (tuna belly), sake (salmon), hotate (scallop), maguro (tuna)…
When pictures speak a thousand words, I’ll let you try sushi set A for yourself!

ikeda (24 of 37)
Abalone £12.00
ikeda (5 of 37)
Kani Zosui £20.00
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
  • Daily specials board you should check out
  • Cover charge of £1 per person added on bill
  • Booking highly recommended

Price: £££

Ikeda on Urbanspoon

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Gelatorino

Gelatorino (7 of 13)
Steph is happy after discovering a new favourite crepe place with Gelatorino!
History and Background:

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.

The desserts:

Gelatorino (2 of 13)
One thing to note though. They’re not great ‘scoopers’ look at our gelatos…

Gelatorino (9 of 13)
Nutella filled crepe with Hazelnut ice-cream…oh yes

Gelatorino (11 of 13)
Definitely another crepe worth getting, crepe is thicker than its competitor Amorinos, and the nutella is served in abundance

Gelatorino (5 of 13)
So Pete was served by the gentleman, who seemed to be much more experienced in scooping out gelato, allowing Pete to get his moneys worth!
Bits and bobs:

  • Prices are similar to all other dessert cafes, flavours differ daily with specials. (Popular ones remain of course)

Price: £

Gelatorino on Urbanspoon

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Shackfuyu (Desserts only)

Shackfuyu (2 of 4)
A MUST TRY
History and Background:

(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.)

Desserts:

Shackfuyu (1 of 4)
(There is actually only one dessert option)
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!

Shackfuyu (3 of 4)
Kinako, Japanese for roasted soybean, french toast, and green tea ice-cream….nothing can go wrong with this (£6.00)
Shackfuyu (4 of 4)
French toast is thick, and sweet, topped with Kinako powder, accompanied with a massive soft serve of green tea…I’m already salivating
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)

Price: £

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