Posts

,

Albert Adria’s Cakes and Bubbles Review at Hotel Cafe Royal – London

By a stroke of luck, we found out recently that Albert Adria was opening his first restaurant outside of Spain, after watching Top 50 best restaurants in the world on Netflix.

We watched the episode on Albert and how he went from being awarded the best pastry chef in the world, working alongside his older brother at the now closed El Buli. You’ve guessed it, also voted the best restaurant in the world, during it’s heyday.

It then went on to document Albert’s own journey, with the creation of the totally bonkers “Tickets” restaurant in Barcelona. After a quick look on the tickets website, we saw a banner mentioning the launch of a new collaboration in London, with the luxury hotel Cafe Royal on Regent Street.

I was due to travel to London on the 17th, to judge in the People’s Drinks awards to find the public’s favourite gin, at the Colonel Fawcett bar in Camden. My star’s must of aligned that day because they had an availability at 7pm on that exact date. This meant I could work my way through 24 gins, go grab some food to sober up, then try some of the best cakes on the planet, before my train journey back to the land of song.

The Venue

I’m not sure what to call the venture as it’s not quite a restaurant as they only do cakes and not quite a bar because they only do bubbles, so lets just call it a very high end Cafe. Being located on the ground floor of the luxurious 5* Hotel Cafe Royal, it seems quite fitting anyway.

The cafe is located within the hotel, but with it’s own entrance a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus. Located on the outermost wall of the hotel and surrounded in big glass windows, the marbled and gold interior really grabs your attention when you walk past.

Inside Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal London

There was a mixture of tables for large groups, tables for two and a couple of bar stools next to the bar, that could be used for customers going solo.

The decor was classy yet not too pompous, for the location and being in such a luxury hotel, that demands around £700 a night for a room. A tall Japanese Fasuma esque door, acts as a partition between the cafe and the hotel. I did sneak out to have a look, on the way to the little boys room and the reception area was beautiful, especially with the Christmas decorations and huge chandelier.

Shelf of The Cheesecake by Albert Adria London

The Drinks

As the name suggests, they not only specialise in desserts, but they had the most comprehensive list of vintage carbonated wines I’ve ever seen. Prices started around £9 for the house Champagne, with a few other glasses available by the glass up to around £100 per bottle. Anything higher, and it was by the bottle.

There wasn’t just Champagne available, but Cava’s and sparkling wines from around the world, including Essex right here in blighty. I opted for something a bit different in a sparkling sake, at £16 a glass or just shy of £100 for the bottle.

If you’re off the booze, fair play to you, they have a selection of freshly made juices on offer.

The Cakes

Back to what this place is all about, and that’s the desserts. You have a choice of a few appetisers, to get you in the mood, some fruit bowls and then the main course.

Albert Adria's Dessert Menu at Cakes and Bubbles - London

We opted for the chocolate eclair with praline to start, coming in two finger sized portions served in a gold vessel, for around £8. Other options included a carrot cake, that was another strong contender and a strawberry and chocolate marshmallow after eight.

Chocolate and praline eclair at Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal Review London

Albert sets out to deceive throughout the cake menu and this was the start of things to come. It looked like a stodgy chocolate bar but was so light, with a crisp white, airy nougat inside. This was laced with swathes of praline and nuts. Oh, and lets not forget the little shard of gold leaf, on top of the dark chocolate casing, for extra bling.

Onto Albert’s most famous creation, The Cheesecake priced at £12. Using a play on words, the cheesecake was in fact made to look like a little round of cheese. With the outer casing mimicking the rind of an aged cheese in colour and texture.

Albert Adria's The Cheesecake at Cakes and Bubbles London

It looked hard to touch, but just gave way to a a gooey almost molten Camembert inside. The outside was made from white chocolate and you were smacked in the face by the strength of the cheese used inside. This was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

It played mind games with you as it was made to look like a savoury object, was made of chocolate yet still had an explosion of savoury from the pungent cheese. It wasn’t sweet at all though, which is probably why it forked so well.

Biscuit base for The Cheesecake at Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal

The cheesecake was served with mini biscuits, that served as the standard crunch base of a cheese cake. I slathered the soft cheesy core onto the biscuits and ate together for a much needed contrast of crunch.

Last but not least, we had the frozen caramel and lemon cake (£12). Again this was different to any dessert I’ve tried previously and was a cross between a cake and a sorbet.

Albert Adria's Frozen Caramel and lemon cake - Cakes and Bubbles London

A zingy frozen centre with an added kick of gin to lift the citrus flavours and just make it extra naughty. A thin creme brulee like layer of caramelised sugar topped the dessert, which I gave a little smash with my fork and spooned in equal measures with the frozen, lemony core.

The Verdict

I’ve never been to Barcelona, so it was great to get to try some of Albert Adria’s desserts on home turf, even if it was over two hours on the train.

The eclair’s were good, not stand out for me but they were totally different in appearance and taste to what I was expecting. Not too bad at £4 a piece for the pair though.

I wish I’d opted for the carrot cake to start, instead of the eclair or just gone for both. The starter courses all seemed to come out in bite sized portions.

For those torn between a dessert or cheese board, then The Cheesecake is the ultimate crossover, for a hit of both. The strong, pungent cheese paired with the only lightly sweetened chocolate was indulgent and addictive.

I noticed a few dishes coming out with an egg in an egg cup, which looked very peculiar. It wasn’t evident from the menu what it was, but I’m guessing it was the egg flan, which mussed of been served inside an egg shell. Again thinking outside the box or outside the shell with this one.

The venue is situated inside a very high end hotel but the vibe here is much more relaxed. Everyone we spoke to from the team were very friendly but I think there wasn’t much in the way of organisation. I think they should of had one waiter / waitress between a couple of tables, who just looked after those tables. Instead it was a bit of a free for all, where we were approached by 3 or 4 people during between ordering and having our drinks, which was a bit confusing.

We got everything we ordered and we really enjoyed the experience, but a bit more thought or planning on the service would of meant it wasn’t like organised chaos.

I’d definitely recommend Cakes and Bubbles for some decadent, mind bending desserts if you are ever in London. We were lucky to get a table when we did by pre-booking two weeks in advance, but it was the first week of opening and it should die down slightly.

The bill for cakes and bubbles - hotel cafe royal london

We had a starter course to share, two desserts, a glass of Champagne sparkling Sake, which came to around £65. Not exactly cheap but then, you get what you pay for.

If you want a soft serve ice cream, with a few sprinkles and a plastic cup of coke for less than £5 for two, then there’s McDonalds. Albert has worked in the best restaurant in the world and been crowned best pastry chef in the world for a reason and you will pay for the constant experimentation to get desserts of this standard.

Smoking Goat Restaurant Review Shoreditch London

I’d stumbled on Smoking Goat the week before in London when coming out of Dishoom for an afternoon beer and didn’t have chance to see what they did there.As we were in the neighbourhood walking back from training and with no prior plans we thought we would pop in and see what they had cooking for supper.

This was around 8pm on a Tuesday evening, which if it was Cardiff that’s all you would see was tumbleweed. This however was London and Tuesday or not it was packed out. We asked for a table but were told it would be 45 minute wait.

We put our name down and wandered around the corner to see if we would have anymore luck at Dishoom but that was even worse with them qeueuing to get in outside. Beer o’clock it was then till our table was ready so we nipped across the road for a swift pint at Shoreditch Box park.

kitchen smoking goat bar shoreditch

Time was up and we headed back to the restaurant and were swiftly seated. The restaurant was shrouded in darkness illuminated by beacons of light from the hot coal fired stoves along with dimly lit lights dotted around the venue. Not having had a chance to ponder over the menu, I ordered a Scooner of Beavertown Neck Oil to quence my thirst whilst giving the menu a once over.

The Food

The menu is a take on Thai Street Food with a drinking food section for snacking on with a you’re favourite hopped beverage.

The list included:

  • Chicken heart skewer
  • Barbecue Tamworth skewer
  • Cornish Octopus skewer
  • Northern Thai beef sausage
  • Steamed Menai Oyster
  • Roasted Chilli
  • Northern Thai Beef Sausage
  • Cornish Cockles Naam Jim
  • Chilli Fish Sauce Wings
  • Cured Monkfish, Young Ginger
  • Northern Duck Laab

I would of gone all out on at least half the items on the above menu but I was out with work so I pretended to be normal for the outing so we only went for the Northern Thai Beef Sausage and the Northern Duck Laab.

Having visited Thailand a few years back on the way home from Oz I was stupid enough to travel without my jabs so I was gutted I couldn’t make the most of the street food found on the side of the road out there although I did try one thing and that was a garlic sausage.

Bloody hell was it intense! I can still taste the overpowering roundhouse kick of garlic now but this Thai sausage cut into bitesized slices was a bit less punchy on the garlic side but god damn delicious none the less. We ordered two for the table of 4 where I’d wished I’d had one for myself.

northern duck laab smoking goat bar shoreditch

The Northern Duck Laab came with a health warning when ordering. Well not so much a health warning but I was made aware that it was the hottest thing on the menu and not for the faint hearted. A few of the other group seemed keen to try as they said they liked spicy food so we took a punt. I’d never heard of a Laab before but seemed to consist of ground meat with what i could only describe as half and half with sliced chillies, it was ferocious!

On the first bite you have a hit of fragrant meaty nuggets, crunchy texture and quite nutty flavour. I couldn’t work out if it was ground rice or chilli seeds I was chewing on but it didn’t take long for the powerful heat to tear through from my shoulders and up the back of my head and then came the sweats and sniffles. It came with a side bowl of spiced vinegar from what I could gather, so I gave a little dousing over the rice to try and tame it as best I could.

Everyone else bowed out after a spoonfull or two so I took one for the team and went at it alone putting on a brave face. Don’t get me wrong the dish was tasty as hell but it didn’t half pack a punch on the spice-o-meter.

Up next was the mains and not been here before we thought we would order one main each and share a couple of bowls of rice. How wrong were we. The waitress laughed when we read out the 5 mains between 4 of us. Fair play to her though she could of just taken the order but she assured us that the portions were very generous, which saved us a couple of quid.

barbeque goat massaman smoking goat shoreditch london

We went for one of the Barbecue Goat Turmeric Massaman as a couple of the group had never tried goat and seeing that it was in the name of the restaurant how could you not. We opted for 2 portions of the smoked brisket drunken noodles and some bowls of jasmine rice and lardo fried rice.

I grabbed the goat dish as soon as it hit the table, which gave absolutely no resistance to my fork when pulling at it. The flesh was so tender. Sadly in a rush I forgot to spoon some of the curry sauce it was steeped in and by the time the others had finished sharing it out there wasn’t any left. The curry flavoured with fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass, tamarind and a kick from thai spices. The goat was soft and gently spiced and on the other end of the spectrum compared to the lab in terms of heat but was very welcomed. Even though it had been cooked low and slow judging by the texture but it could of been a tad warmer when it was served as it was a little cold by the time it reached us.

smoked brisket drunken noodles smoking goat shoreditch

As it was pretty dark in the restaurant I couldn’t quite see what I was spooning onto my plate when it came to the brisket drunken noodles. I’d bagged myself a decent portion it seemed but I don’t think I managed to  get a single shred of the beef but what I did have was spot on with lingering flavours of holy basil and wild ginger.

I struggled on with the plate of Duck laab into the mains so sprinkled the remnants on my lardo fried rice not to waste it. The lardo rice was a healthy portion of fried rice with chunks of house cured back and belly of Tamworth pig fat nestled amongst the the fragrant rice with side of hot nam prik chilli dip. This was packed full of flavour and liked the dip so you could season to taste. The left over laab added an extra kick of heat too.

empty plates at smoking goat bar shoreditch

The Verdict

I really enjoyed my first visit to Smoking Goat as I love a bit of Thai but it was unlike anything you would or what i’ve found in and around Cardiff with more of a street food late night Thai canteen vibe to it. I couldn’t get over how cheap it was not only for London considering I’d had a takeaway in Cardiff for two for more than we spent per person here and I was still hungry with that. The portion sizes are very generous and mains only around £13 and more than enough for one person. We shared 3 mains and that was plenty with some rice.

I’d definitely have a stab at a few more starters or the drinking food if i went again.

Would I go again? Too right! It was a welcome change to what I’d been eating at the time and everything was fragrant, tender and a good kick of heat if you like that. With a drink each a couple of starters, 3 mains and rice it came to just £20 each for 4 of us. I’d spend more than that on a takeaway for myself at my local Indian or Thai takeaway let alone dine in and eat.

Address: 64 Shoreditch High St, London, E1 6JJ

The Savoy Grill Restaurant Review – London

Most people have probably heard of the Savoy Hotel on the Strand in London and equally most are probably aware of the Savoy Grill Restaurant at the hotel. It wasn’t exactly on my radar of places to try when in London as I thought it would be a bit over my budget but I was lucky enough to get a Red Letter Day gift for lunch for 2 with a glass of bubbly for Christmas just gone.

What I wasn’t aware about the Savoy became the first luxury hotel in the whole of Britain when it opened in 1889. Built by Richard D’Oyly Carte next to the Savoy Theatre, which opened in 1881 it was the first hotel to be run completely on electricity. Frequented by many a famous patron over the years since then including serving Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill who often held lunch meetings at the restaurant, Royal Families and musical royalty with the likes of Jimmi Hendrix, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

Savoy Grill Restaurant decor

The hotels first manager also happened to be CÈsar Ritz. Don’t know who he is? Neither did I but he went on to open his own hotel some years later, The Ritz.

With the hotel staying in the family until the passing of the final link in the bloodline who failed to bear any children in 1985 nearly 100 years after opening. The Savoy Hotel has changed hands a couple of times since then but has been under the direction of Fairmont Hotels since 2004. Closing in 2007 for a massive refurbishment originally estimated at around £100m, it finally opened back up in 2010 having passed the £200m mark.

This goes some way in evidencing the elegance and grandiuer art Deco styling of the Grade II listed Savoy Hotel and it’s adjoining restaurants and theatre.

The Food

The Savoy Grill serves mainly French affair with several different menus whether dinning for lunch, a la carte, pre theatre, tasting menu and they’ve even recently launched the Escoffier Signature Dishes menu in homage to the original chef in 1889 Auguste Escoffier.

As I was in receipt of a lunch offer our options were limited to the lunch set menu, which included a choice of starter, main, dessert and glass of champagne priced at £100 with Virgin Experience. What they do is take off the price of the lunch fixed menu and the champagne (at a cost of £90 if you just go direct with the restaurant) then you pay for any extras including service charge of 12.5% of the whole bill, this also happens to include the £90 they’ve already wiped out with the voucher.

Champagne and menu at Savoy Grill Restaurant

We were given the most amazing basked of bread to nibble whilst we pondered over the menu and found it very endearing that a waiter pushed a cart showing off the special of the day like a prized possession to each table. The special on the day, which was a Friday was a sort of seafood wellington containing Salmon instead of the usual beef, scallops and all mater of herbs and seasoning that I would of snapped up had it not had Salmon as I’m really not a fan sadly but the rest of the dish sounded amazing.

The lunch menu did seem pretty limited compared to the other menu’s and not exactly something I would of pictured on a Michelin Star restaurant but then it was probably half the price of the other menu’s and it’s more for the experience I told myself.

 

Starters

As always myself and Mwsh deliberated over who would have what so we could do a sharsies so she went for the smoked ham hock. Not one for soup and because I’ve got a slight obsession with goats cheese of late I opted for the goats curd with beetroot, hazelnut, lemon and dill.

Goats curd and beetroot starter at Savoy Grill Restaurant

As expected my starter didn’t have me clutching at my trouser waist band with the portion size with 4 little goblets of goats curd speared with micro dill stalks, dainty beets and little droplets of beetroot puree.

It tasted ok but I wasn’t bowled over really and didn’t leave me overly impressed. The goats curd wasn’t all that flavoursome and could of done with a bit of seasoning. The beets were just beets, you can’t really go too far wrong cooking them but overall I was hoping for something a bit more tantalising on the taste buds.

Mwsh’s ham hock terrine starter was a bit more generous with a healthy slab of meaty goodness to chomp with crispy bread, pickled carrot and extra hit of protein with the quails egg. A lot better seasoning with the terrine and tanginess of the pickles. This was definitely the better dish of the two.

Mains

With the limited options for mains and not taking a fancy to the special of the day I opted for the pan fried cod, purple sprouting broccoli, coco bean puree and smoked bacon veloute. Pre-empting the micro portions I thought ahead and decided to pad my dish out with dauphinoise potatoes at £6 and cauliflower cheese gratin for £5.50.

Fish main dauphinois potato and cauliflower cheese gratin at Savoy Grill Restaurant-2

This course definitely made up for the average starter. As expected the portion size of fish was fit for a child although cooked perfectly and flaked under the most gentle of pressure from my fork. The veloute added a nice saltiness to the fish from the bacon too. The coco bean puree just added a bit of substance to the small dish but the saving grace was the dauphinoise and gratin.

The dish had a thumbs up anyway but do not make the mistake of not ordering side dishes because you will be heading for the first burger joint on the way home as you’d be famished soon after. Dauphinoise being my favourite potato dish this did not disappoint. Ample portion between two with it being so rich although I think I might of just held it together to fight through and polish it off on my lonesome. The Cauliflower cheese gratin was made with a good powerful cheese and had me licking the spoon after dolloping each portion on our plates. Both came in their roasting dishes, which I thought was a nice touch too.

With only a veggie pasta dish or having to opt for paying a £12 supplement for a steak the only other option left on the lunch menu was the cottage pie for Mwsh with cheddar mash and horseradish. Also being wise the inevitable portions of the main she also topped it up with roast field mushrooms in garlic butter for an additional £4.50.

I was a bit surprised at the portion size of the cottage pie to be fair. Ok it wasn’t massive and wouldn’t of filled me on it’s own but it was bigger than I though. Then again you are paying £30 for it with a starter and dessert.

Taste wise I knew this wouldn’t be your average Whetherspoon popty ping cottage pie being the Savoy and it was deeply rich with the gravy and meat filling with an equally as moreish potato topping. Mwsh isn’t the biggest fan of horseradish but she was left with little option to go for this on the menu with the small selection of mains but it was faint if not at all made out on it’s own against the other flavours of the dish. Lovely garlicky mushrooms, now who doesn’t like those?

Desserts

As had been the feeling for the whole menu, the starter really didn’t get me all that excited considering the venue, history and grandeur of the surroundings. They sounded more like pub grub that Michelin Star lunch menu but I had a dessert in with the fixed menu and I was going to eat one.

Having already opted for one course I didn’t fancy another and the buttermilk yogurt, blueberry jam with oat and seed granola sounded a bit like my breakfast overnight oats so those were out. That left just two options so we both took a stab and one each to compare. I went for the old favourite sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Sticky toffee pudding dessert at Savoy Grill Restaurant-2

Moist, sticky, spongy and moreish sponge topped with healthy slathers of toffee you can’t deny it wasn’t a decadent dish and I wolfed every morsel down but you can have sticky toffee pudding anywhere and I wanted something that would wow me on this occasion.

Being the only option left Mwsh went for the chocolate mouse with polenta shortbread. Rich and chocolaty with nice crisp shortbread. Again it tasted fine just nothing to write home about or put a big massive smile on my face after discovering something new.

We also got the softest most intense chocolate truffle and a meringue after we had finished our 3 courses on the house too.

Chocolate Truffle and meringe at Savoy Grill Restaurant

The Verdict

Apart from my beet and goats curd starter everything oozed flavour and richness but there was nothing in the dish I couldn’t have knocked up at home. You’re paying for the experience of dinning in such an historic hotel in a stones throw from Trafalgar Square.

Ok it is a lunch menu and it is cheaper than the a la carte but don’t be fooled by the original price of the set menu if you’ve had it as a gift. We had the 3 courses and glass of champagne at a cost of £100 but going direct with the restaurant you would have saved £10 costing £90 instead.

That champagne isn’t going to last you 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours so you’re going to order a bottle of something else too. We opted for a Marlborough Sauv Blanc around £43 and the enthusiasm of the waiters that won’t sit long in the ice bucket before they keep topping up the glass. We opted for 3 sides, which I’d thoroughly recommend because what comes with the menu will not fill you up unless you stock up on bread at the start and the waiter was happy enough to ask us if we required more after the first basket. We had a 2nd and they would of given us a third but we kindly declined. It was a bloody good selection of bread mind.

Savoy Grill lunch menu bill

So the sides added another £16 to the bill making it about £60 on top so far and then when you get the bill don’t be surprised to have 12.5% of the whole bill added to the cost of the gift voucher. So what started as a gift voucher for a free 3 courses and glass of champagne came to a total of £167, subtract the voucher value of £90 and we had to stump up nearly £80 extra. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty expensive lunch.

So would I recommend the Savoy Grill? Just to say you’ve tried the first luxury hotel in Britain’s restaurant and the chance to sample a restaurant under the guidance of love or hate him Gordon Ramsey then yes I would. I can’t see me rushing back for lunch there but I’m glad I tried it and would say the same to anyone else thinking about it but just bear in mind of the extra or other hidden costs you might encounter if you see a 3 course lunch for £30 that’s all.

The lunch will set you back £30 direct and the glass of bubbly was about £15 making it £45 each but we had it for £100 for two with Virgin Experience. Even though it’s £10 more than direct it does make a good present for a foodie lover as it lasts between 6-12 months and can be booked as and when they wish to dine there. I had mine for Christmas but waited till just after my birthday in May so they can keep it for a more suitable time rather than just booking the restaurant and offering to pay.

The dishes although most of them full of flavour I think they could come up with a few new and more exciting dishes if I’m being honest.