Saturday, 16 July 2016

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Balls and Company


I love meatballs, in fact I am quite prone to cooking Polpo's spicy pork and fennel recipe at least once a month. There's something so delicious moorish about little blobs of meat and rich tomato sauce that keep me cooking the recipe time after time.

When I heard about Balls and Company, a dedicated meatball restaurant in Soho I knew I had to check out to see if anything could beat my favourite home cooked dinner.


I'm fortunate to have friends who are just as enthusiastic about food as I am. Cindy is no exception and our impromptu dinner date at Balls and Company was probably one of are more subdued evenings, but that's not to say it was any less enjoyably than previous catch up sessions.

We started with cocktails and parmesan churros. I had some sort of gin sour (standard) that was delicious, so much in fact that I drank several over the evening. The churros were just as lovely. The crispy dough melted in the mouth and tasted strongly of cheese, with the aioli helping to cut through the sharpness.


There's a few different meatball and sauce options to choose from. We decided to go for a classic combination at first; pork meatballs with a classic tomato sauce. The meatballs were succulent and perfectly sized. The sauce was  rich, thick, and delicious. An excellent combination.


The short rib meat balls were rich in flavour and paired with romesco sauce this was another great combination. We ordered a portion of chips which I forgot to take a photo of but you can see them on the side here, sort of. Lovely and crispy, this was a generously sized portion that we ended up struggling to finish because oops we ordered too much food as usual.


This was one of the creamiest burrats I've ever had, teamed with the fresh vegetables it was absolutely heavenly.


We thought it would be best to order something green and vegetable related. The asparagus and quail eggs were the special of the day and was a lovely dish this was. Perfectly cooked asparagus with perfectly runny eggs, what is not to love?

I really enjoyed our meal at Balls and Company. The restaurant is more refined that I was expecting, being a meat ball place and all. The menu is definitely geared up for sharing as the portions are quite small which means it isn't the cheapest option in Soho but it's very enjoyable nevertheless.

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Thursday, 14 July 2016

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Sardine


Continuing with the theme, new restaurants in London doing 50% off, my next mention goes out to Sardine where I enjoyed a very lovely brunch last weekend.

Sardine is situated on City Road, slap bang between Angel and Old Street, next door to the Victoria Miro gallery. It's the brainchild of former Rotorino (delicious Italian sharing plates in Haggerston) head chef Alex Jackson and you can definitely see the Mediterranean influences between both places.

The restaurant itself is beautiful with a relaxed atmosphere and strikingly colourful artwork on the otherwise white washed walls. Small wooden tables are dotted around a long, metallic sharing table slap bang in the middle of the dining room, next to the open kitchen.



Steve and I took full advantage of the 50% off offer and ordered a few different dishes. The portions sizes aren't huge so I'd definitely recommend sharing 3-4 dishes between 2 people depending on how hungry you are.

We started with the potato cakes and optional bacon. The cakes were crispy and tasty, the herby crème fraîche was a great accompanying sauce and the bacon was cooked perfectly.


The veal and pork stuffed tomato was the stand out dish for me. It was rich, flavoursome and absolutely wonderful. The buttery gravy was the perfect dip for the toast. Whilst this is a very meaty option you wouldn't want to order this on it's own as it's more of a side dish.


The fried cheese sandwich was nice but not outstanding. For £8 I'd expect something pretty special but this just didn't stand out for me especially as it wasn't that big and didn't come with anything on the side.


We finished out meal with a breakfast dessert, crepes with cherries and ice cream. This was great. A perfectly cooked crepe, sweet cherry compote and delicious vanilla ice cream. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Sardine is a lovely location for brunch with some well executed, unusual dishes. There is a definite Mediterranean vibe to the menu and the small plates makes it great for a sociable meal. I'm keen to experience the dinner menu as I think the plates will be even more impressive compared to the weekend brunch.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Picture Marylebone


July has been a great month for me when it comes to quality dinning out on a budget. I managed to grab a few reservations at newly opened restaurants in London to take advantage of their 50% off soft launches.

The first restaurant on my list is Picture in Marylebone which promises English fine dining at an affordable price. This is the second neighbourhood restaurant from Tom, Alan, and Colin with the first being found in Fitrozia. Picture had been on my radar since it opened in 2013 but I'd never been able to visit. Thanks goodness for new openings and 50% off! In the evening a 6 course tasting menu for £40 is always available and there was no way Steve and I were going to turn down this £20 bargain.




We started with a pale ale and gin cocktail alongside freshly baked bread and whipped butter. Shortly afterwards we were presented with the first course, a delicious chilled, red pepper soup. I felt a little apprehensive about cold soup but my worries were quickly subdued as I drank this rich, flavoursome liquid. This was a perfect little dish for a muggy summer day.


Next up was the charred cauliflower, accompanied with a pea and leafy salad. This was a highlight for me. The charred vegetable had a faint taste of the middle east and the salad was wonderfully light and fresh. I'm not sure what the sauce at the bottom of the plate was, but it tasted akin to a light mayonnaise that helped pull all the various elements of the dish together.


The smoked pork and potato salad tasted heavenly. The rich meat was crispy with melt in the mouth moments thanks to the fatty pork. The potatoes were perfect with the pea puree and crackling adding a wonderful contrast in texture to the salad.


The generous serving of stone bass accompanied with orzo, courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes, and peppers had a lovely Mediterranean taste.



The lambs neck and sweetbreads was designed for sharing and what a wonderful dish this was. I'm not sure I've ever had sweetbreads before but they tasted lovely nonetheless. If you're not sure what sweetbreads are, it's the thymus gland from a lamb or calf. They're tender with a crispy exterior thanks to the frying. The lamb neck was beautiful, the meat fell away from the bone with the slightest tough.


I normally skip the cheese course as it's not something I'm that interested in but given that everything was 50% off I was intrigued to try the cheddar and brie. A blue cheese was also available but alas I am not a fan. Both cheeses were lovely and creamy but it was the cheddar that really stood out for me.



A picture of Steve and myself in case you'd forgotten what we look like.


I knew I'd love the dessert, dark chocolate mousse and salted caramel crumble is my idea of heaven basically. The mousse was rick and the crumble added a much welcomed crunch. I loved this.

Our meal at Picture was wonderful and not just because there was 50% off the bill. Even with a full priced menu I'd expect to pay a lot more for the quality and flare of the dishes presented. Picture is the perfect neighbourhood restaurant and whilst it isn't cheap you'd be hard pressed to find a better value, fine dining option. At £40 the 6-course tasting menu is terrific value - with attentive service, an original cocktail menu, and a casual but refined atmosphere I could not think of a better way to spend a Friday night in London.

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