Ethos

Meal courtesy of ETHOS

Attended and written by Verna Gao

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While you all indulge on Christmas and wishing all the Christmas calories didn’t count, I’m here to attempt to lure you away from all the mince pies and pigs in blankets with my night of eating well at the stylish veggie/vegan heaven, located centrally and tucked away behind Oxford Street.

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Upon arrival, you are greeted by some very cosy interior design, which in this day and age, is a big selling point for just about anything. #totallyinstagrammable! And since ETHOS is dedicated to a plant-based diet, the place is full of trees and plants, reflecting fully on the nature scene.

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Let’s move onto the main focus – the food. I don’t even know where to begin. In truth, I was a little overwhelmed with all the variety of food on offer. Everything looked vibrant, fresh and nothing like the salads you usually see in supermarkets! The combinations were also nothing I usually have in mind when I think about vegan / veggie dining. There were flavour influences from Asia, the Middle East and also the Medittereanan.

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If you were wondering what I ended up going for, well, take a good look. I absolutely piled my plate with just about everything I could fit on it, and more (with it hanging from the edge!). Honestly, everything on this plate was so flavoursome and tasty, I did not for a second miss meat – I almost forgot that this was a meat-free restaurant, and that is a major thing for me, for I am a meat-lover.

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One of my favourite mains from ETHOS, which I keep telling all my friends about, is the scotch egg. That runny yolk. Say no more! The butternut squash salad, the cauliflower salad, the veggie chilli con carne, the sweet potato chips –  everything was perfect. It even had me picking up some inspiration for my future meal prepping and January detox.

Dessert wise, there was also a lot of choices on offer. Aside from the usual carrot cakes, flapjacks, brownies, cupcakes, there were also a few very interesting offerings, such as matcha protein bars, and also “unicorn” squares.

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Personally, I could not resist “the Unicorn” – I mean how could you? The layers of raw blueberry and coconut was perfectly balanced, not too sweet, with a smooth texture for the berry layers and a little bite with the coconut at the base. The matcha protein bar, as well as its berry flavoured sibling, were also interesting items that I enjoyed, though the texture is slightly dry.

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Aside from food, ETHOS was also very kind in offering the chance to try their juices and cocktails, which are also healthy and virtuous for you. Of the drinks that I tried, the cucumber G&T was definitely my favourite – super refreshing and highly recommended!

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Overall, my experience at ETHOS was way above my expectations. The staff were friendly, giving me lots of information on what the dishes were and advising me on what desserts would be good for my taste buds etc. Additionally, ETHOS operates on a self-service and pay-by-weight system, allowing diners full control of what goes on their plates and into the stomachs, at the same time minimising wastage. I must say, this is a dangerous thing for someone like me, who has eyes bigger than her stomach. Then again, everything here is healthy and wholesome and good for you, so who cares if I accidentally slipped a little too much roasted aubergine onto my plate?

Est India

Meal courtesy of Est India

Eaten and written by Ed @onehungryasian

dsc_3754A sister restaurant to the more refined Mango Indian around the corner, Est India serves more “rustic” Indian dishes but with plenty of flavour attention to detail. It’s a classy restaurant but still with an intimate feel, with booths for small groups and just enough lighting in there to make you feel welcome but not dazzled by bright lights.

I came in with high expectations, with my meal at Mango Indian last month being pretty impressive with its use of fresh ingredients and attention to detail. Est India does not disappoint. The focus here is on street food, with dosas, naan rolls and small plates making up a significant portion of the menu, with other regional specialities in the curry section that deserve as much attention as the street food.

dsc_3764We kicked things off with their mixed grill, with tender lamb chops, punchy flavours and plenty of an addictive mint sauce we joyfully slathered over the meat. Tender cuts of chicken tikka and kebab also accompanied, plus 2 small naans to mop up the juices. Highly recommended! A massive highlight of the entire meal was also the keema pav: minced lamb served with pomegranate seeds along with a buttered pav bun. Probably one of the best keema pav’s I’ve had in London, and while I’m no expert, is a very good dish and the stand out item of the night!

dsc_3772dsc_3767We followed up with a mixture of curries including a classic chicken tikka, a railway lamb, a Bengal prawn curry and a North Indian fish kari. Each curry was unlike the others, and we frequently passed our bowls around to try different flavours. The chicken tikka was sweet but still well balanced, and was a big favourite of the group with it effectively being licked clean by the end. The fish kari had large chunks of fresh fish, delicately cooked but still carrying through some punchy flavours. The railway lamb was a proper hearty dish with bags of meaty flavour and a thick sauce to match, and the Bengal prawn curry was superbly cooked and spiced.

dsc_3775dsc_3781Throw in some cracking paratha and naan bread (of the more crispy variety than doughy), and Est India is a fantastic Indian restaurant that I personally prefer to their sister restaurant Mango Indian. They have the same care over the cooking of food and same fresh ingredients, but don’t pull their punches with the spicing, providing a brilliant meal at more than fair prices. I didn’t get a chance to try their dosas or rolled naans, foods more typical of their street food origins, but I’ll definitely be back again soon to check it out!

Bernardi’s London

Meal courtesy of Bernardi’s

bernardis-london-1-of-34Bernardi’s is relative newcomer to the London restaurant scene having established itself in September 2015 by the Bernardi brothers. At the heart of Mayfair, affluent locals flock together to catch up over the week with glasses of prosecco and fine wine without having to travel too far.

Spacious leather seating, a simplistic yet stylish interior and the availability of dining al-fresco.

The meal:

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Crispy potato, scamorza and rosemary pizzette

This must be one of the best inventions ever.

Crispy potato bits on top of pizza? Carb on carb are what Italians are best at! A great sharing starter but be conscious that this might fill you up to quick. The rosemary gave great fragrance to the pizzette.

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Grilled tiger prawns, garlic, parsley and peperoncino

Nick had this as his starter and I cheekily took a piece. Soft and well grilled.

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Burratina, roasted beetroot and basil

At the moment I currently have a thing about burratas. I love them, anything burrata related I will order. The beetroot and basil complemented the burrata, which was really fresh and cool. This was just as good as the burratas I had at Pulia. At Bernardi’s for £9.50 this is well worth the value compared to some of its competitors. If you’re a cheese person like me, then I would recommend having a try at this and let me know what you think.

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Alba truffle fettuccine

We ordered this as the first course, as suggested by their lovely staff, Italians like to dine big. Four courses is the norm!

At £21 this is rather steep given the size of the portion, but alba truffles are expensive to source and also expensive to serve, so in reality the price tag is no surprise. This was a good dish but not spectacular. Autumn truffles are now in season so there will be much to compare this month.

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Guinea Fowl, parmesan polenta, wild mushrooms and marsala

Nick had this for his main. I quite liked it, the aroma was strong from the wild mushrooms, the parmesan polenta was a nice addition. It had the milky taste but not quite as dense as mashed potato so this was a clever pairing. The guinea fowl, tender and well cooked.

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Lamb rump, braised shoulder, bagna cauda and queen kale
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Fine plating from the staff at Bernardi’s. Food is a thing of beauty…

The lamb rump was tender and a lot of meat is actually given for such a fine course. The kale balanced the strong flavour of the sauces which can be slightly overpowering after the first couple of bites. The lamb itself was fragrant and I particularly loved the more crispier parts, the edges are best.

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Fig mille-fueille with walnut ice-cream

Fine visuals, with the plating done well. The figs were fresh and the pastry was crisp, it made a light dessert along with nutty crunch from the walnut ice-cream, this made a nice ending to the meal.

All in all, the menu is generic and you will find many of your standard Italian traditional courses on there which are visually well presented. The food is good, not impressive and doesn’t stand out, but it is good.

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Berry Panna-cotta with honeycomb

Service: Staff were delightful and I was always met with smiles!

The price: £££

Square Meal

Chinese Cricket Club – Dim Sum Masterclass

Courtesy of Chinese Cricket Club

Attended and written by Ed @onehungryasian and published by Steph

DSC_3665.JPGWe’re fans of Chinese Cricket Club here at Eat With Steph. We previously checked them out for their Chelsea Flower Show menu, and they impressed us then with their fresh and flavour packed dishes, all presented beautifully and with a certain refined style similar to that you’d find at high end traditional Chinese restaurants.
I snapped up a chance to come back to take part in their dim sum masterclasses, especially as in the City area high quality Chinese restaurants (and especially dim sum ones) are hard to find!
We were presented with an introduction to Mailan, a dim sum master chef formerly from Hakkasan, who took us through how to make 3 classic dim sum items. First up was spring rolls, filled with freshly cooked vegetables and carefully rolled. Surprisingly easy to roll up once we’d learnt the technique from Mai. Next was chicken wontons, with their unique shape causing confusion amongst the group. And finally, the classic siu mai, which are served here with a scallop on top.
The chefs and Mailan are on hand to guide you through all the steps, and it’s a fun and hands on experience to introduce you to classic dim sum dishes, and earn your dinner!
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We followed this up by dining on some of the head chef’s speciality dishes including the special crispy duck and pancakes and sea bass covered in a unique garlic and ginger sauce. But the absolute stand out dish for us was the belly pork, braised for 5 hours then thinly sliced over a portion of sticky rice. That pork was SO tender, it quite literally melted in my mouth. Somehow the plate of it ended up by me for the majority of the dinner…
dsc_3671All in all, Chinese Cricket Club offers some stand out Chinese dishes in the heart of the city, and the fresh dim sum here is worth making the trip for. Get some friends together, book it in for a client dinner, but make the effort to do the dim sum workshop and try out the food here at Chinese Cricket Club!
The next dim masterclass is on the 21st November, and tickets are £35 including a glass of prossecco on arrival, a workshop including 5 dishes, unlimited tea and a goodie bag when complete. 

The Portman

Meal courtesy of The Portman, attended by Verna

Location: The location of this place is central. Just a 5 min walk behind Marble Arch Station at the end of Bond Street and next to Hyde Park.

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Venue: Upon arrival, the place was visibly busy on a Wednesday, as downstairs was a pub set-up and had a bustling crowd of locals and white-collars enjoying an after-work beer. Upstairs was quaint, nicely decorated and had a slight feel of somewhere completely unrelated to the pub downstairs.

Service: Unfortunately I was not met by anyone upon arrival and expected a little more attention from the restaurant staff. During the meal there was also minimal contact from the waiter which might serve better for some guests if they prefer this service approach. The service in general took a while and left us feeling famished by the time anything was served.

Menu: After sitting down, the waiter provided us with the wine list and the A La Carte menu. The menu looked pretty extensive, with a good selection of starters, mains, salads, sides and desserts, designed to cater for all crowds. There was also a children’s menu, meaning that the adults will be able to dine and remain assured that the kids will be looked after too. Additionally, there was also a seasonal menu, with a handful of items featuring seasonal products.

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Drinks: The wine list was also extensive, though we were not in the mood to order any alcoholic drinks, but one refresher, which was perfect for the hot weather.

Food: To start, we went for six oysters, which were large, fresh and juicy, served with lemon, shallot vinaigrette and tabasco sauce. We also ordered some Moules Mariniere, which were marinated well and has a tasteful sauce that was creamy and well-seasoned. Additionally, we also tried the Parfait of Foie Gras, Chicken Liver & Armagnac, Pear & Tomato Chutney with Toasted Brioche. The chutney was a little bland, but the Fois Gras was seasoned well, and had a smooth texture, which went well with the toasted brioche slices, though a little greasier than we would have liked.

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When mains were served, we were more than stuffed already (due to our large appetites with the starters). While I went for the Pan-Fried Lemon Sole with Tender Stem Broccoli, Cherry Tomatoes, Capers and Butter Sauce, my guest chose the Braised Rabbit Ragout Pappardelle, Tomato Sauce & Parmesan.image014

My lemon sole, I was not hugely impressed with and felt a little let down by, as it was very oily, and there was hardly any flesh on the piece of fish. It was very thin, and I was not able to enjoy much of it, other than the butter sauce that it accompanied with, as well as the stems of broccoli and tomato.image016

With the rabbit ragout pappardelle, it was also disappointing. The pappardelle, we felt, was overcooked, hence it was too soft and lacked texture. The sauce itself was a little strange, not sure if it was because it was rabbit, so it tasted a little off to us, nothing like how we imagined rabbit to be like. The portion of the pasta was substantial, however, which is a plus as it was not cheap, at £17.95. But overall, the dish was not exciting as we would have hoped, and would probably not be on our recommended list of items to try at this place.

Mango Indian

Meal courtesy of Mango Tree, attended by Ed @onehungryasian

London Bridge isn’t exactly lacking for food options. Aside from the obvious Borough Market, there’s a wealth of restaurants tucked in and around the area, ones that you will have walked past and not paid attention to in your rush to get to the doughnuts or cheese toasties in the market!

Mango Indian is a somewhat small restaurant, tucked round the back of Borough Market and is unlike most Indians you’ll have been to before. Forget the traditional local curry houses, dimly lit with gaudy music and wallpaper; Mango Indian features sleek and refined plates of food in an equally polished environment.

The meal kicks off with papadum, but to my surprise we weren’t presented with the normal disks, but instead shards of crunchy papadum (or papad as they’re called here) served with 4 chutneys/dips, with an incredibly good lime pickle that we had to ask for seconds of.

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Mixed platters of starters for both meat and seafood demonstrated Mango Indian’s commitment to using fresh ingredients and their skill with spicing, as the chicken tikka were mouth wateringly good, and their lasooni jhinga (grilled prawns) went down a treat with a Cobra. But the standout for our group was easily the vegetable samosa, with crispy pastry and a deep and flavourful filling that we couldn’t get enough of.

mango-indian-2-of-7Curries came up next with two of their house specials, the shikandari lamb shank and jhinga allepy (king prawn with green mango). The lamb basically fell off the bone with a little shake, and was covered in a rich sauce that brought out the best of the lamb and added more. The prawn curry was also great, with the mango added a touch of sweetness but never overpowering with its fruity or sweet flavour.

mango-indian-3-of-7mango-indian-6-of-7mango-indian-5-of-7A curry wouldn’t be complete though without great side dishes, including mushroom rice, pilau rice and a garlic naan. We also ordered some great vegetarian side dishes of baby aubergine and okra, both of which were quickly wolfed down and given the thumbs up by the resident vegetarian (who also doesn’t normally like curry!).

mango-indian-4-of-7mango-indian-7-of-7All in all, Mango Indian does Indian food in a highly refined way without losing any of the impact or depth of the flavour you look for from your curries or takeaways. The fresh ingredients, from the vegetables to the meat and seafood that goes into your dishes, is abundantly clear from the first taste, and there’s little to no sign of excess grease or oil in the dishes they serve up.

The only negatives I would have to say is that the restaurant is somewhat cosy, so it can be hard to have a quiet or intimate meal here. The commitment to fresh ingredients and quality cooking means the price is slightly higher here than you’ll find at other Indians in London, but the taste and quality of the food is well worth the trip

 

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!