Sunday, 20 November 2016

RISTORANTE FRESCOBALDI X AURORA CAPRI

After a much enjoyable Winemaker's Dinner at Frescobaldi a few months back, I was very much excited to return for a special lunch by Guest Chef Franco Aversa, the A-list Head Chef from Aurora, Capri's most exclusive restaurant.

Aurora, the critically-acclaimed restaurant on the island of Capri in Italy's bay of Naples, is a family business owned by Mia D'Alessio; the kitchen led by her husband, Head Chef Franco. Known as one of Capri's oldest restaurants, it specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and traditional Neapolitan and Caprese cuisine, with Head Chef Franco's personal twist. 

Hungry with anticipation after browsing through the menu, we left our choices in the safe hands of the lovely Mia, who brought us a delightful selection of tasting dishes.
 We started with some tasty, crisp arancini balls and moreish courgette fries, followed by some seafood dishes such as the octopus salad with green beans, and grilled squid with a creamy potato velouté. The fish fillet was cooked beautifully, topped with a golden, crunchy potato crust.
I was really craving for some pasta that day, and my favourite dish was undoubtedly the Pappardelle with cheese, pepper and black truffle - sometimes the simple things in life can bring great joy and comfort.
I had a mouthful of the Cannelloncino of Magro with ragu Napoletana sauce, which was also very good. 




La Tradizione: Mozzarella in Carrozza, Involtino di Melanzane, Arancino, Zucchini Scapece

Insalata di Polpo Croccante con Patate e Fagiolini


Calamaretti Grigliati su crema di patate

Pappardelle con Cacio, Pepe e Tartufo Nero


Filetto di Pesce in crosta di Patate con verdura



Cannelloncino di Magro con Ragout alla Napoletana




There was a surprise chocolatey dessert for all of us at the end, each topped with a candle just for that special touch - I'm sure that it must be someone's birthday in the world somewhere ...

Ristorante  Frescobaldi hosts regular Guest Chefs from around the world throughout the year, for a period of upto two weeks at a time.
This current Guest Chef event runs for just over a week, until Saturday 26th November 2016, so book yourself in whilst you still can for an exclusive taste of Capri.
And whilst you're there, don't forget to pair your meal with their extensive and exclusive range of Italian wines.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

SHIKUMEN FINCHLEY ROAD

Shikumen first opened in 2014, their large flagship located in the Dorsett Hotel on Shepherd's Bush Green, which was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2015. A restaurant offering Chinese fine dining, Shikumen is so called after the traditional Shanghai stone house architecture of the 1940's whose stone gatehouses were influenced by Western traders as they made their was to the gateway to the East. 

When it comes to dim sum, I tend to have a handful of regular/dependable places that come to mind: Royal China, A. Wong, Pheonix Palace, Imperial China, Yauatcha ... and of course there are plenty more others that I have yet to try when I find the motivation to make an +1hour journey across London ...
I've been wanting to try out Shikumen for a while having read and heard good things about it, and was happy to be informed about their latest branch that opened in Finchley Road within the O2 Centre - conveniently located only 15 minutes away from home (!)
I visited on a late Monday afternoon for lunch (a nice time to visit if you're looking for some peace and quiet), looking forward to some dim sum to refuel in between my dance classes - dim sum isn't just for weekends after all ...



We started with the steamed Dim Sum Platter, a combination of har gau, pumpkin seafood dumplings, Chinese chive pork dumplings, and crabmeat and prawn dumplings - a nice variety of delicately made dumplings, and each one was a tasty mouthful of goodness. 
There is some chilli oil and sweet chilli on the side as dips, but I tend to have mine plain to get the most out of the flavours.

 The skewers of beef with jasmine tea from the appetizer section, was tender, and the flavours of the jasmine tea was pleasant and came through really well.

I do love cheung fun, usually with either prawn of char siu, but we were intrigued to try the one with crispy grilled eel and seaweed, which has now been made a permanent dish on the menu following it's success as a temporary special in their Shepherd's Bush branch. 
Lovely, soft translucent cheung fun, silky with a slight sticky texture, wrapped around the flavoursome crisp eel that was grilled perfectly.
Definitely a must-order dish if you love eel as much as I do - cheung fun will never taste the same again ...

From the baked/fried selection, we ordered the Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puffs, which were shaped like cute mini pumpkins, crunchy on the outside with a hot, steamy filling. 









The Yakitori Platter gets you six different skewers: mixed vegetables, bacon wrapped asparagus, chicken with spring onion, chicken meatballs, miso marinated salmon, and beef with crunchy chilli, garlic and sesame seed. My favourite amongst them were the chicken meatballs and chicken with spring onion which had a nice marinade.

Other Robata grilled dishes that weren't part of the platter included the lamb chop with miso herb butter and scallop wrapped in herb bacon that both sound equally good - I will be keeping them in mind for next time.






Finishing off with something sweet, we had the steamed cream custard buns, and black sesame balls in ginger tea. Both simple and satisfying, although I would have liked the custard to be a bit creamier and more runny ...




Overall, the food was enjoyable and the menu has a good variety of dishes to choose from - great for a quick solo meal or larger groups. 
There is only so much that one (or two) can consume in one visit, so I'll be sure to pop back in again to try more from the menu, particularly the Shanghai Xiao Long Bao (can't believe I forgot to order this), Crispy Aromatic Duck, and more of that Crispy Grilled Eel Cheung Fun ...
You can find out more about Shikumen on their websiterelaxing ambience, good quality food, and one more to add to my list of dim sum favourites.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

THE AUTUMN EDITION MENU AT CAFE ROUGE

It didn't seem that long ago since I last visited Cafe Rouge Hays Galleria to try out their Summer Edition menu. This time, The Autumn Edition menu is filled with warmer, heartier dishes as we move on into the cooler months,

You'd think that we would be tucking into some healthy (sad) salad/smoothie after yoga, but we just skipped that and went straight for the good stuff: warmly welcomed with glasses of Rose Champagne before starting off with the Tarte Flambée, a savoury flat bread with cream cheese, sliced onion and bacon.
Comfortingly warm and crisp, it is also available as a sharing board  which can be shared between 3-4 people.

Moving on to the starters, I have always liked their soupe à l'oignon, but decided to go for something different and instead had one of the new additions to the menu - the Salmon Rillettes, served with pickled fennel and chargrilled sourdough bread. Emma had the twice-baked Brie soufflé which was light, airy and delicious, topped with melted butter and toasted hazelnuts, served on a bed of salad with fresh apple slices.







Sticking to my seafood theme that evening, I ordered the salmon fillet as my main, which had a nice, crunchy skin. It's usually served with buttered spinach but they had unfortunately run out of it. The manager was however nice enough to replace it with french beans which I was happy with, drizzled with lemon and beurre noisette. I had this alongside a glass of chilled Muscadet.
The Steak Frites, using premium Charolais breed, British beef, was tender and pink on the inside, served with garlic butter and frites. There was also a a selection of sauces to add on: both the Bordelaise gravy with bone marrow, and the beef dripping Merlot gravy sounded equally tempting.

For those of you who are in the mood for some meatier dishes, another new addition to the menu is the classic Bœuf Bourguignon that would be perfect for chillier autumn/winter days. And I've also been told that the Poulet Breton is pretty good too ... you'll definitely be spoilt for choice.







They have a good selection of sweet desserts, but we narrowed our choices down to the Rum Baba , a light sponge cake soaked in rum sauce, and the Tarte aux Pommes, a scrumptious warm apple tart with tarte tatin ice cream.
Both of them were really tasty, but if I had to choose, then the tart was definitely my favourite.



This was my second visit to the Hays Galleria branch which is a lovely central venue situated on the bank of the River Thames. Service is good and they also have relaxing outdoor seating that would be great on warmer days, or maybe whilst sipping away on a warm glass of mulled wine - it's not too early to get excited about Christmas, right?

Feel free to read my previous posts about Cafe Rouge Hays Galleria and Cafe Rouge Kew Bridge

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Café Rouge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato