Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Lodge - Balham

The Lodge is Balham’s newest breakfast destination. In fact its Balham’s newest restaurant, it only opened on Friday! The 6 month residency on recently pedestrianised Hildreth Street is the brainchild of London’s King of the ‘pop-up’ – Jimmy Garcia.
The concept is a taste of the Alpine – specialising in fondues and game in the evenings and ‘slow down’ roasts on Sunday afternoons. My main interest is what is on offer on Saturday and Sunday mornings: a small but well thought out brunch menu.
The wood panelled walls and skiing artefacts dotted around give the small dining room a warm and welcoming feeling. As we move into the winter months it will make a great place to escape the cold weather.

The service from Jimmy and his team is excellent. I started with a well-made latte and then had a decision to make: The Full English breakfast or the Huntsman breakfast? I plumped for the Huntsman, which differs from the more traditional option by trading a pork sausage for a couple of wild boar sausages, a hen’s egg for a duck egg and regular fried mushrooms or wild mushrooms. They are both served with bacon, black pudding, tomatoes and toast.

I think I made the right choice if only for the wild boar sausages. They were probably the best sausages I have ever had! The intense, rich meaty flavour is fantastic, how will I ever go back to regular pork sausages ever again!

High quality ingredients are part of the philosophy here; the bacon was extreme good and cooked perfectly with crispy fat without being overdone. The big yellow yolk of the Clarence court duck egg showed how fresh it was and the black pudding was delicious also. A big hunk of toasted bread is also worth a mention, it was excellent.

The mushrooms were a mix of chopped field mushrooms, along with Oyster and Enoki (the long thin stemmed ones with tiny caps) varieties. For me the delicate flavours of the Oyster and Enoki mushrooms were a bit misplaced on this meaty plate, a Portobello or perhaps the more powerful flavour of Shitake may have been a better match.

The verdict
Get down to Balham are sample the Huntsman brekkie while you can, it won’t be here forever!


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Proud Archivist - Haggerston

The last Sunday in September represented a milestone for me. It marked the fact that I had survived a month of attending 3 stag do's and a wedding. Naturally, after all of that I required some sustenance - a full fry I here you say. Well actually no, cue a health kick (kinda!).

Proud Archivist is down by the regent’s canal, which looked great in the late summer sunshine. This gallery come cafe restaurant has a weekend brunch menu, but no fry up. With my new found yearning for something green, I opted for the summer eggs. More precisely that is ‘Proud Archivist English muffins’ topped with asparagus, two poached eggs and hollandaise.

The decor look like a 14 year olds tech project combine with things found in local skips, but that can be forgiven because of the huge glass front that looks out to the canal making a great brunch backdrop.

And so onto the food; the asparagus was served slightly differently to how I had expected, chopped and lightly stewed, on top of two chunky English muffins. I would have probably preferred whole stems of asparagus, but this different take on the very British vegetable probably makes more sense when serving out of season. The eggs were poached very well and the hollandaise sauce was freshly made but the muffins were a bit thick and doughy for my liking. All in all, for £7.50 it was a bit on the small side, but was well prepared.

The service wasn't fantastic; we had to put up more of a fight than should have been required when a soya latte turned up with lumps in it. The regular latte I had was good, if a little small for the £3 price tag.

A quick word on the gallery which appears to be an ever changing collection; when we visited the focus was on paper craft with incredibly intricate models and sculpture. In fact if you have a couple of G spare, you can take some art home with you.

The verdict
Small but well-made brunches, why there is no fry up on the weekend brunch menu is beyond me.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Villandry - Great Portland Street

Villandry is a small chain of sell proclaimed ‘Grand cafes’. The Great Portland street outlet that we visited boasts 4 rooms of dining. It was pretty busy when we arrived, but despite spending a full 5 minutes on the phone the day before booking a table (the amount of details that were taken was definitely excessive), it turned out we didn’t actually have a reservation! Fortunately they managed to find somewhere for us to sit and from that point on we were bombarded with staff wanting to talk out order. I don’t mind people wanting check if you’re OK and being attentive, but this was very much a scene of unorganised chaos rather than over-hospitality.

We did manage to order and I was in need of a hearty start to my Saturday. A friend’s stag do that would continue into the early hours lay ahead. So the only choice was the English breakfast.

The décor here is as you might expect of a ‘grand café’, a French feel, with brass table tops and wicker chairs. The vibe on this Saturday morning screamed (sometimes literally) of young families and groups of friends with young children.

£11.50 = 2 organic eggs, Cumberland sausage, Portobello mushroom, roasted vine tomato, sweet cured bacon & toast. When it arrived my friend and I concurred that if we were to some up our first impressions in one word it would be ‘sparse’. I think is this partly because of the massive plate it was served on and partly because of the way they chose to present it.

Now it might sound like I’m moaning a bit here, but let me tell you, there were good things about this breakfast. The curly Cumberland was meaty and had great flavour, the eggs cooked perfectly. The tomatoes pleased me most, they well cooked and were sweet and juicy or sharp and tangy as I had feared they may be. Overall though I just wanted a bit more, some beans perhaps, black pudding maybe?

The verdict
Good quality ingredients but not the perfect fry up. Atmosphere wasn’t my bag.