Benihana

Meal courtesy of Benihana UK

Event attended and written by @onehungryasian and published by Steph

Benihana is one of those iconic restaurants that you often see pop up in movies or cartoons, with chefs spinning spatulas, fires being lit across the table top and showmanship all around as the chefs attempt to spin bowls filled with rice. I’d always assumed it was something only to be seen in movies, until I was invited to their Chelsea branch for their birthday party to celebrate 30 years in London. And guess what? It’s as crazy and fun as it looks!

Benihana are launching a special £30 menu called Rocky’s Choice, available all of September and packed with some of their classics. It’s a brand that embraces its retro appeal and menu, and unashamedly puts the theatre of the dinner on an equal pegging with its food, if not higher! From the moment you walk into the restaurant and are greeting enthusiastically from the door staff with Japanese phrases, to sitting down at a cosy but comfortable table for 8, Benihana clearly takes its service and care seriously. There are multiple rooms available for private functions, birthdays are BIG events for the whole restaurant to get involved, and if you need it, they also have a room where your bodyguards can relax while you eat!

The meal: 
In true fashion with their retro theme, the £30 menu kicks off with an onion soup that’s got a slight Japanese twist to it, with spring onions, mushrooms and dried onions added at the last minute for that extra onion kick. Next up is the salad with ginger dressing, and while totally serviceable, won’t set any fires alight. But don’t worry, because next up is when your table chef will join you and introduce themselves, and quite literally, set the table on fire.
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This is where the fun begins, as the chef demonstrates his skill with his spatula as he spins, balances, juggles and throws food all over the place. Nothing will land on you as a diner, don’t worry about that, and you’re encouraged to sit back and relax as the chef cooks up the rest of your meal on the teppan (grill surface). Hibachi vegetables gave the chef a chance to show off the famous onion volcano which may singe your eyebrows unless you sit back like you’re told, and keeps it plain and simple (in a good way) with some grilled vegetables.
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Next up is grilled prawns which our chef took the tails off within several seconds through some flashy knife work, and then proceeded to play handball with his spatula on, before landing it in his pocket. These are accompanied by ginger and horseradish dips that I’d recommend taking full advantage of! Fried rice gets shaped into a heart and a spatula underneath to imitate it beating is a somewhat surreal but fun experience, and we’re still not finished with the meal!

Next up comes teriyaki chicken that is sweet and tender, cooked extremely well on the grill in front of you. And finally, steak is grilled and sliced into pieces in front of you, and highly encouraged to be dipped into the horseradish sauce.
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Overall, Benihana is a great fun night out for anyone, and especially for any kids (though cocktails here are punchy and delicious!). You can’t beat the theatre of the whole affair, especially when the lights are dimmed and the chefs light their teppans on fire one by one. If you’re looking for something a bit different this month and for a good show, you can’t go too wrong with Benihana! The food is filling and good, but the experience is definitely not one to miss!

Las Iguanas

Meal courtesy of Las Iguanas

Written by Bisma and Justin, published by Steph

We were invited to sample the Olympics themed Rio menu at Las Iguanas and as usual we were not disappointed! The standard Las Iguanas menu is so extensive and with the Brazilian themed additions we were completely spoilt for choice. After much deliberation we chose the carioca platter and a range of tapas dishes.

Las Iguanas (6 of 12)The albondigas were simply scrumptious. Albondigas are lamb and apple meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce that originate from a region along the Argentinian/Chilean border. Several different flavours (apple, parmesan, mint, nutmeg, chilli) meshed together to tantalise our tastebuds. The meatballs were deliciously tender and the seasoning was complemented by the rich tomato sauce – which we couldn’t resist finishing off by using it as a dipping sauce with bread form the platter.

Las Iguanas (1 of 12)The chicken wings are offered three tempting marinades: honey peri-peri, BBQ jerk and flaming hot. We opted for the BBQ sauce – as wings were supposed to be! – and enjoyed the slight citrusy taste, which balanced nicely with the stickiness of the barbecue flavour. The wings paired well with the crispy nachos, the only drawback being that the nachos were not nearly cheesy enough.

Las Iguanas (3 of 12)These tapas dishes are available all year round on the standard menu but what we came to test was the platter from the Olympics menu. Pão de queijo was one of the highlights here. They are pretty simple; cheese dough balls complemented by a creamy, chipotle butter – what’s not to like?!

A all-round favourite was the dadinhos. Dadinhos are crispy, deep-fried cubes of cheese served with a chilli jam (yes, we clearly love cheese!). The jam wasn’t necessary as the dadinhos were delicious enough on their own. Nice and crispy on the outside with a smooth, gentle, cheesy centre. The plate could have used a few more, given the size of them. I would definitely order these again, and would definitely recommend these!

The platter also included several more tasty titbits which we devoured including cassava fries, sweet plantain chunks with pink pickles, and crab and prawn croquettes. Despite being a group not overly fond of fish, the croquettes were a surprisingly tasty! The potato stuffing in these was soft and delicately seasoned and the shellfish added a lovely bite without be overpowering and the entire thing was encased in a golden, crispy breadcrumb coating. The Las Iguanas chefs did an amazing job of ensuring nothing felt too greasy despite most of the items being deep-fried.

All the varied tastes and textures of the platter complemented each other delightfully with each component coming together to create an eclectic mix that transported us right into the heart of Rio.

Las Iguanas (7 of 12)As usual, the cocktails were great with generous measures. The range of ciders and beers available was also impressive; I went for a mango and raspberry cider which was delicious. The sweetness worked well with the spicy flavours and really complemented the meal nicely.Las Iguanas (12 of 12)

Hands down, our most favourite dish of the evening, which elicited many foodgasm noises from around the table was the Dulce de leche cheesecake. The cheese topping was creamy, smooth and rich, the biscuit base was crunchy enough to provide the necessary ‘bite’ to the dessert, and the caramel sauce was so perfectly made that my mouth is watering just reminiscing about it! This sinfully delicious dessert perfectly rounded off our meal and this alone is worth the trip to Las Iggies!Las Iguanas (10 of 12)

Bocconcino

Meal courtesy of Bocconcino

Attended and written by Vicky Dalton-Banks, published by Steph

History and Background: 
Bocconcino is a chic Italian restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. Located on Berkeley Street, in what looks like a small spot from the outside houses a large, spacious restaurant inside. I have a real love for Italian food and I love this little corner of Mayfair so I was definitely looking forward to see what Bocconcino had to offer.
Obviously I’d had a sneak peek at the menu before arriving and I was very happy to see so many fish options.
On arrival we were led through the restaurant, deciding to dine in the room at the back where there are some cosy booths with skylights above. These are great seats to people watch from!
The Meal
Whilst we got comfy in our little booth and started to peruse the menu the sommelier arrived with two chilled glasses of Prosecco, the perfect Italian aperitif.
We sipped on our bubbles trying to narrow down our choices for dinner. The menu at Bocconcino is rather vast and it all sounded delicious! The menu is split into Antipasti, Primi piatti, Pizza, Salads, Secondi dalla cusina, from the wood oven and desserts.
I love pizza, but I felt this restaurant had more to offer so these were quickly taken off the list of options. We decided to share our starters meaning we could try more, always the best plan!
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Having eaten some great tuna and octopus whilst in Barcelona we opted to try some other dishes. The scallops served with a cauliflower purée and bottarga was the perfect start to our meal. These delicate, juicy scallops tasted beautifully sweet against the earthy puree and salty bottarga (salted, cured fish roe).
The other dish we ordered to start was a gamble and unfortunately it didn’t really pay off. We ordered the thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce because we were intrigued… The veal had a lovely delicate flavour but the tuna sauce – which really did taste like liquidised tuna mayo – completely overpowered the veal. I didn’t dislike the dish, it just didn’t quite work in my opinion.
But it was soon forgotten when our main courses arrived!
D ordered the monkfish with cannellini beans and clams, and although he thought it could have had more flavour I really liked this dish. There was almost a light broth the beans came in which was delicate in flavour and let the monkfish shine – it’s a meaty fish but the dish was kept fresh and light.
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However, I do think I ordered the absolute winner of the night. If you dine at Bocconcino and do not order the lobster linguine you are crazy!
The wonderful al-dente linguine with large pieces of Scottish lobster and cherry tomato had such a deep, rich flavour. I could have licked the plate clean it was that good! The sommelier also paired the dish with a lovely rose wine (sadly I forgot to note down the name!).
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Having enjoyed too much of the bread at the beginning of the meal (when will I learn) and a lovely large bowl of pasta I was feeling quite full. However I really do believe I have a separate stomach for sweet treats as I always seem to find space…
I kept it classic and ordered the chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. I find many restaurants now serve this rich, luxurious dessert in massive portions whereby at the end you almost feel sick. But at Bocconcino they keep it petite and perfectly formed. I didn’t get a photo of the oozy centre because I gobbled it up too fast so you’ll just have to believe me!
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D ordered another classic, the apple tart with vanilla ice cream. This was also a great choice. Who doesn’t love sweet, sticky apples and buttery pastry!?
The Service: You can enjoy the buzzier dinning area just below street level or take a table in the more intimate dinning room towards the back. The staff are knowledgable and friendly too.
Overall: Bocconcino serves great Italian food; the menu is a mix of classic dishes and more modern flavours, which I love. It is definitely not cheap, but you are in Mayfair… The food though is fresh and delicious and they serve very generous portions too, which the husband loved.
Bocconcino is a great spot for dinner in Mayfair. This is luxury dining where the food, prices and location match.
The Price: £££