Sunday, 23 February 2014

Bread Street Kitchen - St Paul's

On one corner of the modern, sleek One New change shopping and dining complex, Bread Street Kitchen is one of an ever growing list of restaurants under the Gordon Ramsey banner.  On a weekday this area is bustling with City boys and girls and breakfast is served from 7-11am according to the website.  On the weekend it is all a little bit quieter; in fact when we arrived at about twenty five past eleven on Saturday morning, for our 11.30 booking, we couldn’t get in because it doesn’t open until bang on that time it would seem.  So we were first into the huge dining area upstairs.  Luckily it soon filled up, although it was probably only 60% full the whole time we were there.

The website describes the style of the restaurant as “A stunning mix of vintage and modern”.  I’m not sure about that, but the floor to ceiling windows, and warehouse feel make for a great vibe when the place is lively (and not so good when it is quiet).  The tens of desk lamps scattered around can either be interrupted as quirky and fun or unnecessarily kitsch.  

We were served by a rather wackily dressed waiter, ordered some coffee and it arrived with some freshly baked mini baguettes, which were delicious; it is a bread kitchen after all.  But be warned this is a restaurant that does a fry-up not a café; there is a £2 cover charge for that mini flute!  The coffee was excellent and the service overall was good. Our water was constantly being topped up, but there was too much of the “how is the food” and “can I get you anything else” malarkey.

So onto the food – the weekend brunch menu is only served until 1pm, so it is only a short window if you're ever after a fry-up here on a Saturday or Sunday.  Other brunchy type things like eggs benedict and buttermilk pancakes were available, but let’s not dwell on those.  The fry was priced at £11.95 and for that you get two eggs cooked the way you want (I choose poached), bacon, a sausage, mushroom and grilled tomato, served with white and brown toast. The eggs were absolutely perfect, they say the fresher the eggs the better they poach so I can only assume these were straight from the farm that morning.  The sausage had great flavour and the bacon was sweetcured and soft.  However, it wasn’t all perfect – The flat mushroom was heavily and unnecessarily peppered, which overpowered the plate a little.  The toast was fine, but I had expected more after the fresh bread we had beforehand.  And overall it was a bit on the small side when you consider you have shelled out 12 quid for it.

The verdict
High quality ingredients in a nice setting, but not cheap.  Shame about the mushroom.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

J + A Cafe - Clerkenwell

J + A Cafe - Clerkenwell
On a Sunday morning, this cafe just off Clerkenwell road feels a bit in the middle of nowhere. We had walked up through the Farringdon/Smithfield area of city, past many new, highly rated restaurants and a few very fashionable chain eateries (most of which were shut because it was Sunday and very quiet). Then, we went through a passage into a small courtyard we found J + A café and I half expected us to be the only people in there! But I was very wrong; downstairs was packed and we were taken upstairs which was also busy. The exposed brick, minimalist look with school chairs and mismatch tables allows for a relaxed atmosphere.

The menu has a distinct Irish feel to it and the fry-up was no exception as it included boxty (an Irish potato pancake) and Clonikilty black pudding. For £9.50 you also got a sausage, 2 rashers of bacon, two fried eggs, half a large flat mushroom, grilled tomato and sourdough toast.

The quality of the ingredients really defines what this place is about. It appears they have put a lot of effort into sourcing from small suppliers as it evident from their website, which lists out where the ingredients come from. Even down to the Tiptree brown sauce (which is much sweeter than HP and pairs extremely well with the black pudding), it seems everything has been researched and considered.

So if I was to find fault, the eggs were well cooked, but maybe a little small, the bacon could have been crispier to bring out the flavour and I would always want beans on the plate. But overall I was very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed it!

This is set up to be a brunch spot at the weekend, with a broad breakfast/brunch menu serving until 3pm. I was dining with friends who had a variety of dishes, all of which received high praise.

The verdict
A quality Irish fry up, which is no secret judging by the fact this place was packed out!