Hawksmoor Knightsbridge

Let me set the scene. A beautiful Sunday afternoon in Knightsbridge. Sat outside a neighbourhood pub sipping Rose waiting for our Sunday lunch companion to arrive. The sun just a little too hot for us but we sit in full sun nonetheless.

Perfect pre lunch drinks before we head off to Hawksmoor Knightsbridge.

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I’ve been to the Spitalfields Hawksmoor but the newest in the mini chain is the Knightsbridge restaurant. The basement room is all swanky splendour and low key lighting, the staff are superb and on this late Sunday afternoon, the room is not full. We like the attention that brings from the staff I have to say and our French waiter is all charm.

A free glass of champagne later, we order the Sunday roast special with some oysters for me and Gwil with J opting for the crab salad. The oysters come with cheeky hot sausages which are epic, given their diminutive size.

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The roast is the best I’ve had in London without a  doubt (although we haven’t been to lots of places for Sunday lunch I have to be honest). That said, the beef was an honest slab of rump, impeccably cooked medium rare and perched majestically on a stack of roast potatoes and perfectly cooked veg. The Yorkshire pudding was very good too, crisp and light. At £19.95 for the special Sunday lunch we though this was excellent value for Knightsbridge—not particularly famous for value for obvious reasons.

Unusually for a lunch with Gwil we didn’t go hell for leather on the wine and only had two bottles (only) of a very serviceable Picpoul. The waiter did his best to talk us into a dessert but we let him down badly and his disappointment was palpable—we were really stuffed and couldn’t get near it.

I love Hawksmoor because it loves meat more than I do.

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Shoreditch Sunday Lunch

The Princess of Shoreditch

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Since we moved to London we haven’t had a proper Sunday lunch. Having moved into an open plan flat, we certainly haven’t tried to cook a roast dinner yet and those of you who live in a similar space will understand our reluctance to make everything smell of Sunday dinner. The weather has been so nice too and when the weather is good, roast dinners go down our food agenda for more lighter fare.

But we had a hankering for a roast dinner recently, so I went on the hunt for somewhere local that would deliver the goods. Just a short walk from where we live is The Princess of Shoreditch is a cool, airy gastro pub ( I hate that term but it I can’t think of any other way to describe it) just off Old Street right in the heart of hipsterville Shoreditch. It’s a busy and unpretentious pub with bare wood floors, white walls, mix and match furniture, vintage prints and a kind of cookie cutter cool vibe (beards, check shirts etc), but in a good way.

I booked a table as last time it was rammed when I passed and we were ushered upstairs to a light and airy room. The Sunday lunch menu was our main focus so ordering was easy: we both went for the three roast dinner. Yes, three roasts on one plate: beef, pork and chicken. Greed knows no bounds I realise, so I ordered a starter too. And a bloody Mary!

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The bloody Mary was nicely spiced and packed a punch served pretentiously in a dimple glass (I get it, it’s a pub) . The cod cheek scampi starter was a bit of a let down: it was hard and tasted blandly of deep fried frozen fish but the aioli lifted it.

But as far as restaurant Sunday lunches go, it was up there with all the key elements excellently done. The roast meat was tender and melting, the beef served nicely pink. The Yorkshire was a delight, wafer thin and puffed up — enough to bring a tear to the eye of any Yorkshireman. Sitting atop a pool of unctuous gravy were crisp and not crucially not overcooked vegetables. The duck fat roasts were the only let down: not like the ones I make at home but I challenge any commercial kitchen to top the TLC I afford my roasties.

All in all, just what the doctor ordered. Price point was fairly reasonable, £16.95 for the full mashings roast dinner washed down a half carafe of the sensibly priced house red. We toddled home, satisfied that our Sunday lunch appetite has been sated for at least another week.

 

Bank Holiday Sunday

Cafe Murano

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Those three words are the most wonderful combination to us Brits. They are the signpost to those of us who work long hours midweek that a long weekend of chilled activities lie ahead and the most delicious thing of all: a Sunday where there are no Monday morning blues to worry about.

May in particular is joyous with a whopping two long weekends to enjoy and we thought we’d make the most of the first one since the weather was so lovely and our dear friends D&G were in town for their first visit to our new home.

Home made asparagus and duck eggs got the day off to a cracking start. The quality of the early, delicate Yorkshire asparagus from our favourite farm in Sand Hutton was a delight and the titanium-shelled duck eggs poached a treat, although our electric hob (that I’ve not got quite to grips with yet) gave me a scare or two re overcooked eggs.

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We had a lunch booking at Cafe Murano, the little sister to Angela Hartnett’s impressive Michelin-starred mother ship in Mayfair. We’d carefully timed our day to allow a leisurely mooch along the South Bank, although the manic tourist bank holiday crowds and a well attended Spanish food festival meant it was reasonably stressful for my crowd averse outlook. But we rocked up early for our table and, joy of joys, we got seated early and the natural order of things was resumed.

We’d eaten here before on a very busy Valentine’s night and really enjoyed ourselves in the  busy Friday night hubbub but the Sunday afternoon vibe was quite chilled and very enjoyable. Our late booking meant we were unrushed and the service was good (not that it wasn’t last time).

Italian small plates are the order of the day here and after much deliberation we each of decided to skip about the menu, ordering different plates of different sizes. It’s the perfect kind of menu for us: we love smaller dishes and more choices. It means more flavour and variety.

Mrs D and I went for frito misto, I added the Lobster linguine followed by the pork belly with clams. The lovely wife can’t resist a good risotto, especially one bursting with spring flavours like pea and mint. The frito misto was light as air, delicately leading the way for the Italian onslaught of flavour. Lobster linguine packed a deliciously fishy punch with an unusually generous amount of lobster meat. The pork belly with peas, clams and romanesco was sticky and comforting without being too cloying. At one point a peas stuck to the bottom of my fork and refused to move, such was the unctuous liquor in the dish. I didn’t want this dish to finish. The cime de rapa (humble turnip tops) accompaniment were bitterly beautiful, the warmth of chilli and the massive dose of iron delivering a real sense of well being — or maybe it was the perfect Gavi by the 500ml carafe doing its job.

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Other highlights from our party included warm octopus with chickpeas and pesto (‘a triumph’), pea and mint risotto with ricotta (‘fresh and lovely’) and squid ink tagliolini with crab and radicchio (‘amazing freshly made pasta’).

Desserts were were admirably resisted but G and I couldn’t resist a vin santo with cantucci biscuits, the ice cold vin santo soaking into the pistachio-peppered biscuits with glee. By now the restaurant was emptying out towards the end of service and we slurped some energy boosting espresso and paid the bill. It’s worth noting that although Cafe Murano is in one of the smartest parts of London (St James) where real estate prices are amongst the highest in London, the chef patron is a Michelin-starred TV celeb, the prices are very reasonable indeed. We averaged £75 per head — but we did have two carafes of very good Gavi — D&G noting that a meal in Leeds earlier in the week wasn’t far off this cost but not at the same quality by a long chalk.

Footnote:

People have been asking me a lot about the cost to eat out in London, since we moved here. It’s true that you can spend a fortune — if you have the money — on some of the best food in the world, after all London is one of the true global cities so it’s to be expected. But I would say that the competition at the mid range level is fierce — and even fiercer at the low end. My conclusion is that If you’re canny, eating out in London can be done at a lower price and higher quality than in cities like Leeds or Manchester.

The truth is, Cafe Murano is a truly superb central London restaurant charging what are essentially Leeds prices. I have a very clear view about who is best served, the diners of the large regional cities in their captive markets, or the diners of London with infinite choice and competition.

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The Angel Inn at Hetton

About six months ago I’d heard that The Angel at Hetton was looking for food bloggers to give complimentary vouchers to. It’s fairly common these days for restaurants, and in particular PR companies, to engage with food bloggers to spread the word about their ‘product’. It’s very much the modern way of doing things and can be a very effective way of spreading the word, especially if the bloggers have plenty of followers.

So I applied for the voucher and it arrived, worth £25. Generous, I thought, as I slipped it into my man cupboard (where I keep all my stuff).

And there the voucher sat, for quite some time, until we decided on a run out one Sunday for a spot of lunch in the Dales. Hetton is just North of Skipton – so not even an hour from Leeds – so very easy to get to. We’d booked an early 12 noon slot and by the time we’d arrived, we were ready for some snap as we say round these parts. Opting to sit in the bar (which I’d recommend if you decide to go), by the roaring log fire was the perfect location for the top-notch lunch we were about to enjoy.

Plenty of our friends had already been to The Angel so when we told them we were going it was old news. I kind of wondered if that’s why they were trying to spread the word again via food bloggers – The Angel has been very popular for a long time and these things definitely go in cycles, with newer restaurants coming on the scene and more established places becoming less in vogue.

But the relaxed, friendly country pub atmosphere at The Angel is spot on. Not even close to pretentious gastro, it wears its food credentials lightly with only the menu the giveaway that there is some serious foodie activity here. I’d say we were in Blue Lion territory here – another outstanding, unpretentious North Yorkshire inn serving outstanding food.

We both opted for the irresistible roast beef (topside) for mains and were delighted to be asked how we wanted it served (pink), I had the black pudding scotch egg to kick off and J had the ham hock terrine. Both starters were lovely. The mains were fantastic, probably the best Sunday lunch we’ve ever had in Yorkshire. The beef was perfectly cooked, the vegetables packed with flavour and the Yorkshire pudding would have floated away if it wasn’t full of red wine gravy. Admittedly we were ready for a roast dinner and it did not disappoint.

As if we weren’t full enough, the dessert menu looked too good to miss out on and we greedily hoovered up sticky toffee pudding (sublime) and pumpkin tart (different). Hardly able to move we sipped our coffee contentedly and congratulated ourselves on our superior decision-making this Sunday afternoon.

Three course Sunday lunch for two came to £62, including drinks which we though was excellent value — certainly in the price range of most places in and around Leeds. The only downside is you have to get in your car to get there, but if you pick the right day weather-wise then it’s a real Brucie Bonus to behold the fabulous Yorkshire Dales in the milky winter sunshine.

Note for vegetarians – there were lots of very good-looking veggie options on the menu, definitely not just a one option afterthought. We will definitely return.