Tuesday, 29 March 2016

CAFE ROUGE, KEW BRIDGE

So it has been years since I last visited a Cafe Rouge, back in the days of my thrifty university life, when dining out was more of an occasional treat - how many years ago, we shan't go into too much detail...

Opened since 1989, Cafe Rouge in Kew Bridge has recently reopened after undergoing an extensive refurbishment, and is described as its most romantic restaurant to date. 
A family-friendly restaurant with a charming view of the River Thames, the new designs are an ode to the famous Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, affectionately known as 'Love Lock Bridge'.

Walking though the dramatic rouge red curtains at the entrance, the restaurant has a rather warm and intimate feel, with black and white framed artwork depicting Paris's famous bridges and romantic scenes.     








We were sat on the upper floor which had also received a makeover, with its own bar and riverside views. Marble table tops, vintage tassled lighting, banquette seating and a gold ceiling help to complete the authentic Parisian bistro feel. Rays of sunshine penetrate through the glass doors that lead out to the balcony, which would be an excellent spot to dine and relax when the weather warms up in the summer.

Having explored 26 years of Cafe Rouge dishes and French cuisine, from their debut recipes in 1989 right through to current French food trends, the menu has been revamped to include classic Paris snails, Confit de Canard, Poulet Breton and Seabass en Papillote, amongst others.  

We were greeted with a welcoming bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc whilst we nibbled on house olives and baguettes with d'Isigny butter.




For my starter, I had the king prawns in garlic and smoked chilli butter, served with baguettes - the prawns were fresh and juicy and the sauce was really flavourful. I also tried Marie's warm breaded Camembert which was really creamy and indulgent, with a sweet cranberry and redcurrant sauce.




I had the Confit de Canard as my main - slow-cooked Normandy duck leg with dauphinoise potatoes, french beans and cherry sauce. The meat was really tender and delicious although I would have preferred the skin to be slightly crispier. Marie had the classic Boeuf Bourguinon served with green beans, carrots and herb mash. The meat was really soft and tender, and definitely a hearty meat-lovers dish.






For dessert, we shared a small selection of mini desserts: tarte au citron, fondant aux chocolats and tarte tatin. I think that I might have to start veering away from my tendency of ordering mini selections which often tend not to be as satisfying as having a whole dessert...
I might go for the creme brulee or a whole fondant aux chocolats next time.





Overall we had a lovely experience, and the menu definitely looks more enticing now compared to the Cafe Rouge that I visited in the past. The venue itself is charming, situated in a good location and very family-friendly, which is great if you're a local in the neighbourhood.

The Cheekster, signing out x


Square Meal
The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

GALLEY, ISLINGTON

Going for a bit of a low-key birthday celebration this year, the girls and I had dinner at Galley in Islington, founded by brother and sister team Marcel Grzyb and Oriona Robb. The menu at Galley is described as contemporary in nature, taking inspiration from seasonal ingredients and international cooking styles and flavours.  
I'm never quite sure how to interpret or define 'contemporary' - which is probably the same issue I have when trying to describe to non-dancers about contemporary dance, but I digress...
 So, moving on to the food. 

There were various types of seatings in the restaurant, including counter seats for those looking for more of an interactive experience. I had requested for the upholstered booth which looked more comfortable and gave us a bit more privacy.

Opting for a bit of bubbly for this celebratory occasion (any excuse for some bubbles), I ordered the Volcano cocktail (prosecco, blood orange sorbet, peach bitters, orange bitters), which was like a prosecco float - a good option if you can't decide on a cocktail or dessert. 


I haven't had oysters for quite a while, so we tried all three of the oysters: Fine de Claire, Jersey Royal, and Crispy Tempura. All of them really fresh, and the tempura one had a light, crispy batter with an Asian-style dressing.




The menu was categorised into a selection of small and large plates, including a couple of seafood platters if you're looking for something a bit more extravagant.
I do love scallops, and the hand-dived Scottish scallops were juicy and nicely seared, served with a creamy carrot and cardamom puree, with toasted hazelnuts that gave it a bit of crunch. The octopus and chorizo a la plancha was another one of my favourites, with a creamy white bean puree and smoked garlic pesto, which was really flavoursome. We weren't too fond of the Cornish squid, which was slightly rubbery and not quite as crispy as we were expecting.




From the Large Plate selection, we share the Lobster Pappardelle and Pan-fried Sea Bass. The pappardelle sauce with heritage tomatoes and chunks of Jeruselam artichoke was quite light and fragrant topped with a lobster tail. The sea bass had a crisp skin and I liked the gnocchi which soaked up the delicious sauce of peas, courgettes, wild mushrooms and fragrant truffle oil.
We also had a couple of sides: chargrilled purple sprouting broccoli with crispy onions and lemon oil, and buttered heirloom carrots with an orange and parsley dressing.





The highlight of our meal was most definitely the dessert part. Not wanting to miss out on any, we ordered all of the sweet desserts, apart from the selection of cheeses. The white chocolate panna cotta had a nice wobble to it,  topped with a sweet passion fruit sauce and crunchy bits of honeycomb and blackberries around the sides. The amaretto and Verona chocolate fondant was warm with a soft, gooey centre, topped with a fruity cherry compote, and some mascarpone ice cream on the side.
The lavender and raspberry crème brûlée had a rich and smooth centre, and a crispy caramelised top. The floral taste was maybe a tad too perfume-y for me, but otherwise a lovely dessert, and topped with a cute mini raspberry macaron.
I enjoyed all of the desserts, but my favourite was probably the salted caramel tart which was sweet with a buttery crust. Unfortunately there was no green tea ice cream available that evening, but the chocolate and honeycomb ice cream was still quite satisfying. 
Each and every dessert was beautifully presentedand I loved the little flowers scattered about - I'm such a girly girl, I know...







Overall it was a pleasant and enjoyable birthday dinner. Thank you girls for celebrating my birthday with me and for the lovely gifts. 
And thank you to the lovely staff that sang happy birthday to me - I look forward to returning next time, maybe for that seafood platter...
And more dessert, obviously. 

The Cheekster, signing out x


Square MealGalley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 20 March 2016

PRE-BIRTHDAY DAY TRIP TO CAMBRIDGE

Birthdays seem to come along so fast these days, it didn't seem that long ago since my last one - March, you seemed so far away, before you pounced on me from the shadows (!)
So here I am, turning a year older (at rather turn-ED a year older as of the 15th of March...), and being a bit of a last-minute planner, we decided to hop on a train to Cambridge for a day trip, because sometimes it's nice to travel local. 

The walk from the station to the town centre was a bit longer than we expected, which definitely worked up an appetite, so we stopped by at Stickybeaks on Hobson Street for some brunch, which seemed to be a popular spot. Set up in 2010, this local cafe takes its name from the Australian term 'to stickybeak' which means to have a bit of a nosey. They serve an all-day brunch menu on Sundays, from which we ordered a hearty potato hash with chorizo and egg, and a bacon and egg muffin.







We were later roped in to go on a punting tour along the River Cam, which I hadn't been on since a few years back on my last visit. Considering that the weather was sunny and it wasn't too crowded, we joined in at the promotional 'student price' of £15 (which I'm pretty sure they offer to mostly everyone...)
We sat on a larger 12-seater punt, which was more spacious than the 6-seater one I sat in last time (although my derriere was still slightly numb by the end of it), and the 'traffic' along the river was much less congested as opposed to the summer months, which can be quite manic. 
A smooth and relaxing ride, led by our knowledgeable chauffeur guide who had 6 years of experience in punting.



















 We had a quick stopover at Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street for lunch, an old-school bakery and cafe, known to be famous for their sticky chelsea buns which have been made and sold on the premises since 1921. I tried their sausage roll which they have been making in-house to the original recipe since they opened, served with Baker's potatoes, their own fruit ketchup and green salad.
And of course I grabbed a couple of sticky chelsea buns and cake for the journey home.























It was definitely a fun day out, and a nice little escape from the city. I should probably start doing more local trips like this on the weekend...
Thank you Lili for making the effort and spending some quality time for me before my birthday - I look forward to our next mini-adventure!

The Cheekster, signing out x