Brunch at Bandol, Chelsea

Having recently read there was a new restaurant in my neighbourhood with a brunch worth investigating coming from the husband and wife team behind popular Chelsea restaurant Margaux I was hopeful to discover a new place to revive myself on a Sunday afternoon.

The restaurant is named Bandol after the charming wine region in France’s South West I once visited as a boy and they specialise in Niçoise and Provençale sharing dishes but more importantly, could Bandol be a new destination for those acceptably late Sunday breakfasts and the prerequisite caffeine, I wondered curiously.

I was also keen to see how such a tiny space, formerly a bar I frequented serving good cocktails (including picklebacks; a Bourbon and pickle juice shot drunk back to back) and rather poor Americana food, could be transformed into a neighbourhood restaurant.

Having visited Margaux before I felt safe to assume there would be a significant upgrade but I wasn’t expecting the transformation to be quite so brilliant. The restaurant is quite literally gleaming with bronze and rather tastefully furnished indeed. The masterful interior designer deserves great credit for making the best use of the limited space, the restaurant floor now looks three times the size and even offers space for two additional private dining areas.

Our waitress proudly informed us that we were their very first brunch customers which I suppose made us the inevitable guinea pigs so we put our new role to effect immediately ordering with haste two lattes, a tapenade and anchoïade dip to share followed by eggs benedict and eggs royal.

We also chose two freshly squeezed juices of pink grapefruit and apple-orange-ginger. Admittedly these are simple brunch items but also very easy to ruin and I have almost more often than not been disappointed with eggs benedict, quite amazing how many people don’t know what hollandaise sauce is, mine however was excellent and future Sunday afternoon visits are all but guaranteed.

Bandol Brunch
Eggs Benedict

Cost of brunch with one coffee and a fresh juice:
£20 per person

7 out of 10 – good selection of brunch items, presented nicely and well cooked

7 out of 10 – hard to tell being the first customers but the dining room is a really pleasant space to dwell

8 out of 10 – friendly greeting and the staff were very attentive

7 out of 10 – attractive in both menu prices and decor this is a great choice for a casual brunch and dinner

Summary in seven:
The perfect spot for brunch in Chelsea

60 Hollywood Road,
SW10 9HU

Monday to Friday: Lunch 12:00 – 15:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 23:00
Saturday: Lunch 12:00 – 16:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 23:00
Sunday: Lunch 12:00 – 16:00 / Dinner 18:00 – 22:00

Phone: +44 (0) 207 351 1322

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LOBOS, Borough High Street

It’s rare that I immediately look forward to returning to a restaurant in London with so many exciting new openings and old favourites to choose from in our Capital but last week that’s exactly what happened and I now feel compelled to share this exciting new Spanish tapas restaurant with you. Hopefully it won’t become so popular I can never get a table but I suspect it may well happen.

Lobos resides in the shadows beneath a railway arch on Borough High Street with an unassuming entrance which peaks your curiosity and beckons you in. Once inside you are immediately greeted by a bustling restaurant and uplifting soundtrack that helps to quickly dispel any work-related thoughts.

When inside you do feel like you are in the wolf’s lair (lobo meaning wolf in Spanish) as the menu is seriously carnivorous as you would expect from the name. This menu is described by the owners as “focusing on the prime cuts of Iberico pig: Secreto Iberico (‘hidden’ cut between the shoulder and the loin), Presa Iberico (the top shoulder) and Solomillo Iberico (fillet), cooked simply and allowing the quality of the offering to shine through”.

Service here is attentive and fun. I am not sure I have ever described service as ‘fun’ before but the staff all seem to know each other really well and enjoy working together which makes for a very convivial atmosphere. Lobos operates on two floors with a small kitchen upstairs and a bar downstairs and small tables and booths utilising the limited spaces perfectly. The feature my guests admired the most were the neat plate holders hanging from the walls beside the tables, these allow for a small banquet to be served at your table without too much clutter.

Having lived in Spain for a while it is safe to say that the small things like Pan Con Tomate are a good barometer by which to judge a tapas restaurant and Lobos have the best I have tasted in London, a good start, and I couldn’t wait to try the rest of the menu. We also shared other classic small plates of Manchego & Quince (£7.50), Padrones Peppers (£5.50), Octopus in Vinegar (£5.50) and notably the Croquettas of Ham, Chorizo and Smoked Bacon (£7.00) that were as good as any I have tasted in Madrid.

The meat we were advised is rather conveniently sourced fresh and daily from the nearby Borough Market, we shared Chuleton Sirloin Steak (£30.00) and Iberico Pork Selection (£26.50) as you can see from images below these are beautifully cooked, perfectly rare in the middle with just the right balance of char from the grill. Our dear friend Mr Foie makes an appearance and who can resist a slice of entière as a wobbly lid to a Rib Eye. Not I! Especially cut so generously for such a respectable price (£14.95).

Octopus In Vinegar

The Octopus In Vinegar

Iberico Pork Selection

The Iberico Pork Selection

We did also try a Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cake (£5) from the menu however by this time the full bodied Uruguayan red wine we had been recommended (£30) had begun to erase my memory. I’m quite sure it was very good!

My advice is to book a table with a few close friends after work before the restaurant becomes too busy.

Cost of meal with 1 bottle of Wine and a glass of Cava:
£35 per person

8 out of 10 – hard to give Tapas a 10 rating but difficult to find better in London

10 out of 10 – best atmosphere GT has encountered in 2015

9 out of 10 – fun, friendly and fast

9 out of 10 – already looking forward to returning. Sod it, I’m going tonight!

Summary in seven:
GT’s new favourite Spanish restaurant in London

14 Borough High St, London, SE1 9QG
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 12pm to 3:30pm and 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Tel: 020 7407 5361

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Dinner at The Punchbowl, Mayfair

Popular Mayfair based pub The Punchbowl has recently had a bit of a makeover after being purchased recently by The Epicurean an attractive collection of Inns who look like they know their stuff. Having heard about this along with their new chef, GT decided to investigate and find out what’s on offer.

You may well know this place as the pub formerly owned by Guy Ritchie and therefore a favourite haunt of celebrities. Not having ventured in myself before I don’t have anything to compare it with for the makeover but what I discovered on arrival was a bustling pub full of happy customers and a newly refurbished modern restaurant upstairs. Above this on the second and top floor is a large space “The Club” used for private parties which despite my curiosity I didn’t venture into as it sounded like there was a private party in full swing.

I appreciated the restaurant on first impressions, it is a well furnished affair of around 30 covers, most noticeably the roof was painted gold with the effect of dripping down the walls upon which are hung several striking oil on canvas portraits of fashion models. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the modelling world but the waitress kindly told me who they were – aside from the ubiquitous Ms Moss I still have no idea!

The restaurant is quite open and looks into the kitchen area which also serves “The Club”, at first I really liked this and remarked that it feels like being in a very well decorated living room but at the end of the evening I would have perhaps preferred a degree more separation such as the use of a screen to give that bit of extra separation from the inner workings of a restaurant – that’s the atmosphere – the food on the other hand would be hard to critique.

The Punchbowl Interior

The restaurant Interior with gold ceiling

The menu is very well set out offering a good selection of honest traditional British dishes, in fact there is probably nothing I wouldn’t have been happy to order off it which is quite rare.

The food was very well cooked indeed, in fact it was near perfect, so I am sure that new chef Nathan Andrews who has experience from working in restaurants such as Petrus will be appreciated by customers new and old.

I had roasted scallops with slow cooked bacon to start with, the combination of flavours on the plate was very good and they were cooked perfectly. This was followed by beef shin and rump which came with truffle mash and a delicious bone marrow and red wine sauce, the beef really was fantastic quality and this was in my mind as faultless a beef main course as you can get. What is really clear is that the sourcing is excellent and Andrews real skill is allowing the ingredients to shine.

I will be sure to visit again.

Scallop Starter

Roasted hand-dived south coast scallops with slow cooked bacon, apple £13.50

Cost of two courses with a bottle of wine:
£50 per person

9 out of 10 – strong British menu cooked very well

6 out of 10 – can feel a bit like the overspill of the staff room when the restaurant is quiet

8 out of 10 – pleasant, chatty

7 out of 10 – a good dining experience worth repeating

Summary in seven:
British dishes cooked as they should be!

The Punchbowl London
41 Farm Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5RP.
Open: Mon to Sat: 12:00 to 23:00 / Sunday 12:00 to 22:30.
Tel: 0207 493 6841

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Afternoon Drinks At The Rib Room Bar

On two occasions recently I have found myself enjoying the surroundings of the Rib Room Bar on the ground floor of Jumeriah Carlton Tower hotel.

The bar may be somewhat under appreciated therefore I feel obliged to recommend it for afternoon drinks whatever the day. It is often tricky to find a good venue that fills THAT space for a few drinks during the day or similarly before you head on for the evening and The Rib Room fits the bill quite nicely.

Why should you go? What awaits you is a relaxed environment where you will more often than not be able to find a space for yourself or friends at the bar or at a table and if you are lucky somewhere on the small terrace.

Let’s start with the drinks. The 10 metre long bar itself dominates the room creating an attractive marble alter paying homage to fine gins and whiskies.

Gin fans are particularly in luck. On my last visit I took the time to chat to the barman Vicenco who proudly showed me their range of 19 gins and 10 bitters.

Initially I visited the bar on recommendation from a friend who raved about their cocktails and I do agree they are particularly good however if you don’t drink the virgin cocktails are also worth ordering. I tried an Orchard Breeze (apple juice, pear purée, soda water, ginger & cinnamon) (£8) purely because it sounded great, it was, and perhaps the best virgin cocktail I have tasted.

I shared a range of bar snacks including crispy boneless chicken wings with mango and black pepper caramel (£11), tiger prawns with soy, ginger and chilli (£14) and the extravagant and rather delicious crab and lobster burger (£22).

Rib Room Bar Burger

The Rib Room Bar’s Crab & Lobster Burger

Typical cost of three cocktails and snacks at the bar:
£65 per person

Food & Drink:
7 out of 10 – good bar food and excellent drinks

6 out of 10 – a bit too quiet for the room size (why GT is recommending)

9 out of 10 – polite and very helpful

7 out of 10 – worth revisiting for excellent drinks and good bar food

Summary in seven:
Under appreciated destination perfect for afternoon drinks

The Rib Room Bar
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
2 Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY.
Dress Code: Smart casual
Telephone: +44 20 7858 7250

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