San Carlo, Regent Street, St James’s

Having been aware of the San Carlo group for quite some time (due to how many of our most favourite footballers eat at their restaurant in Manchester), it was an absolute delight to be invited along to their very new, very shiny Regent Street, St James’s restaurant.

Fronted by a beautiful, yet modest terrace, you walk inside to the classiest of eateries once inside. Soft lights (yet not dim), spotless surfaces, and an array of friendly, smiling, Italian culinary experts to look after you, what more could you ask for?

We chose to sit outside, mostly because London is gripped by a monster of a heatwave, and being early evening, some respite could be found in the shade of surrounding regency architecture.

An aperitivo each to refresh ourselves, and some olives were quickly served up, and we were then immersed into the wonderful menu. “This is going to be hard” I thought, as we meandered through dish after dish of Italian goodness.

We chose the buratta and the carpaccio to start. Each was wonderful (the carpaccio here being the first to beat my favourite Parisian restaurant in Montparnasse). Sipping our negroni, and Apperol spritz, we knew we were in for something special.

We opted for the ‘small plates’ as there were just too many options to pick from. Not a single dish could have been improved, each was fresh, well presented, and enjoyed thoroughly.

Dorset crab, linguine with black clams, pasta with guinea-fowl ragu, lamb cutlets, scallops, mixed fried fish & shellfish, were all delectable, delicious, and delightful. You can always tell when a chef has not only put the work into making the food, but has also made a point of buying exceptional ingredients, and at San Carlo, the chef has excelled himself (of herself!)

I have to admit, one of my favourite parts of the whole meal was the incredible zucchine fritte. I’ve had many vegetables fried over the years, but these were unforgettable! I’d go back to San Carlo just for this amazing treat.

We enjoyed a delicious bottle of Barolo (a favourite when it comes to red wine), and being looked after by Livio (who makes his own wine, and is an expert sommelier) made us feel we’d picked the most suitable bottle. The richness, and the hint of tomatoes was just sublime.

To finish up, we enjoyed an exciting, refreshing take on an Italian classic, tiramisu, which is adorned with gelatine instead of coffee. It’s very unusual at first, but truly delicious. We also tried the chocolate and amaretti bonnet, again, sublime! All this was happily washed down with a cleansing limoncello.

Due to the phenomenal food, the impeccable service, and the splendid interior, San Carlo Regent Street, St James’s, is our ‘Restaurant of the Month’ for July!

Our rating? Our first ever 10/10

Find San Carlo here

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Suvlaki, Shoreditch

On approaching the exterior of Suvlaki, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d approached a long closed down establishment. Rustic? More like dilapidated (or so it seems). Situated next door to the famous Beigel Bake 24 hour bagel shop, there’s no shortage of footfall passing the restaurant.

Yet, Suvlaki doesn’t need a fancy exterior. This Greek eatery also doesn’t need flashing lights, neon signs, or a person outside trying to coax you in. Suvlaki lets the food do the talking, (and it speaks very well).

Once inside, you have a nice mix of trendy, East end restaurant, mixed with Greek tradition and Athenian themed decor. The staff are polite, and very informative on how this food is intended to be enjoyed, “it’s kind of a Greek tapas, you should order around 3 to 5 plates each, depending on how hungry you are” (we were hungry!)

We started with the traditional appetiser for any Greek meal; Tzatziki, olives and pitta bread. Straight away, we were both impressed with how authentic, and clearly well made the traditional yogurt dip was. I’ve been to Greek restaurants before where you were confronted with nothing more than dips out of a pot from a local supermarket. This, however, was the real deal. Chunky, creamy, tasty. The pitta was very tasty too.

We sampled several tasty “small plates”, including the very zesty Prawn Saganaki. The prawns were not only fresh, they were very ‘meaty’ too. Always nice to be served good prawns, and these were outstanding.

The taramasalata, and the courgette fritters were superb.

The fritters were hot, and very filling. The tarama’ was (wonderfully) topped with anchovies, served on crostini.

Next up, we moved onto the meat dishes. Mount Olympus Wild Boar, Corn Fed Chicken, and the most wonderful Angus Scottish Texel Lamb.

All 3 were served on the skewer, and all tasted like they’d just come off a grill straight out of Athens. Again, authentic, filling, not over facing, and very tasty. The boar was especially delicious. I’ve always liked grilled Greek meat, and this boar was thick, firm, and full of flavour.

No sooner had we finished our three ‘suvlaki’, before our ‘signature’ dish (Spicy Lamb Chops) was presented. 3 large, well marinated, and expertly grilled chops made sure our appetites wouldn’t fail us yet. These weren’t only enjoyed, they were truly savoured. Cooked perfectly, just rare enough to have a flash of pink, but cooked to flavour on the outside. A splash of lemon really accentuates that Mediterranean taste, and these are very much worth ordering.

Despite not being sure if there was any room left for dessert, we still ordered the scrummy Chocolate Biscuit Cake. Accompanied by Greek coffee ice cream, and a shot of Mastiha each, we were more than fulfilled. We were stuffed like a Greek olive (and gladly so).

I have to recommend the lovely Nissos Pilsner served at Suvlaki. A really smooth drink, with lovely hoppy aftertaste’s. Try it!

Our rating? 7/10

Find Suvlaki here

Franco Manca, Ealing Broadway

I have to start with a confession; I’m not a huge pizza fan. That said, a lot of friends had told me “you’ve got to try Franco Manca! Their pizza is fantastic”. Having seen their posts on Instagram, and having looked at their menu, I decided I should be more open minded, and give them a go.

The restaurant is large, quite spacious, has lovely mood lighting, (but isn’t dark), and there’s enough footfall to assure you that the restaurant is good enough to stay busy all evening. The service was excellent. Friendly, courteous, attentive staff complement the interior perfectly.

To begin with, we shared a very tasty sharer platter. Meats, some cheese, sourdough bread, and a sprinkle of leaves, make this attractive, and plentiful platter a wonderful way to start.

On to the pizza, I am now a true convert! Not only did I love my ‘straight from the special board’ meaty pizza (to which I also added extra wild pig fennel salami), I actually could have had another one for breakfast the following morning.

My date this evening enjoyed smashing down her ‘number 6’ (tomato, cured chorizo, and mozzarella). The size of the pizza is good, but without being over-facing. You’re going to be bordering on “can I take some home?”, but chances are, if you haven’t eaten a huge amount before hand, you’ll happily smash through a whole pizza. We also had a mixed leaves salad, and shared a pesto, and a blue cheese dip. All of this food was wonderful, and I genuinely can’t wait to go back. A bottle of Francesco Cirelli organic red wine helped wash down this sourdough delight.

Finally, for dessert, we shared a tiramisu. Creamy, tasty, without being overpowering, the best way to describe this firm Italian favourite would be “modest”. To say the accompanying limoncello we ordered was tasty, would be unfair on this zesty little number.

We absolutely loved Franco Manca, and have got it to say that not only is the food tasty, not only are portion sizes plentiful, but the price of the food is more than reasonable. An affordable date, in very romantic surroundings can be enjoyed here, and we can’t wait to go again. I’m also led to believe you can order Franco Manca pizza for takeaway. You can’t go wrong.

Our rating, 7.5/10

Find Franco Manca here

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

Steak, a firm dinner favourite for many people, can be very hit or miss (depending on who’s cooking the meat, and the quality of the cut being cooked.

The Jones Family Project haven’t just got it right, they’ve absolutely smashed it.

Mixing a classy interior, with extremely good food, and a lively atmosphere, is where this Shoreditch steak house excels. Upstairs has a lovely atmosphere. A bar, with trees, and subtle music playing. Downstairs, is lively, but by no means noisy. It’s buzzing, but not distracting. It works well, and definitely gives a slightly more “upmarket” vibe. That said, there’s nothing pretentious about the restaurant, and everyone seems welcome.

The service here is good. Without being “in your face”, the staff are attentive and helpful. The winning start came with a glass of cold prosecco each which was served before we’d even sat down.

To the food… we started with a absolutely beautiful steak tartare (zesty, rich, and very tasty)

We also enjoyed sharing a creamy buratta. We decided to share both starters, and given how good they both were, it certainly prevented any unfortunate ‘food envy’. Accompanying them, we had a cocktail each; an Old Diplomat, and a very tasty Lost Negroni. There is a certain chain of steak houses all over the country that offer (very weak) cocktails, one place where TJFP excels is the fact their cocktails are strong, tasty, and have great individual characteristics.

“We’d like a rare ribeye please, and a medium rare fillet steak”. The steak here is cooked in the restaurant’s Josper Charcoal Oven, and it gives a very tasty, grilled exterior. You’d be forgiven for thinking your steak had been near-cremated, but trust the chef, slice the meat and be surprised at just how perfectly cooked your beef is. Thick, no gristle, perfect marbling, and just taste in abundance. Accompanied by fries, truffles mac & cheese, and a zesty mixed leaves salad, the meal was just utterly fantastic. I also added 4 very tasty, very meaty prawns to my steak. The prawns were very fresh, and seasoned perfectly.

A single slight point of disappointment was our sides coming 10 minutes after our steak, but in fairness, we were apologised to twice in that time. No explanation for the delay was offered, but it wasn’t a big deal, and the steak hadn’t cooled too badly by the time they arrived. The food was delicious, and we both enjoyed immensely. A nice bottle of house red helped wash down the meaty goodness, and again, it just complemented the food perfectly.

Finally, for dessert, we enjoyed Anna’s Triple Chocolate Brownie, and a lovely slice of delicious cake. Soft on the inside, but crunchy on the top, the brownie won the battle of desserts, and comes accompanied by a lovely scoop of sorbet.

All in all, we absolutely loved The Jones Family Project, and genuinely recommend it. Truly tasty food, made with a high level of ingredients, mixed with a lively, but classy atmosphere. This Shoreditch eatery makes a brilliant date environment, but would also be great for a special occasion, or just a tasty meal with friends.

Our rating, 8/10

Find The Jones Family Project here

Feature: Microbarbox.com

We recently received a wonderful parcel from the brilliant folk at Microbarbox

What was in the sleek, black, mysterious box? A treat beyond compare; everything we needed to make five (yes, you read that right, five) delicious cocktails. Microbarbox is a wonderful idea. A one stop shop that supplies boxed goodies to create an array of tasty cocktails. We couldn’t believe our luck, and we’ve patiently waited all week to crack these tasty treats open.

Firstly, we had a very refreshing Elderflower Collins. Gin, courtesy of Mermaid Gin, some (very) tasty elderflower liqueur, a dash of soda from the good people at Folkington Juices, and a little squeeze of lemon juice. What you’re left with is a zesty, refreshing cocktail that would be great to relax with on a Sunday afternoon after a day of eating hearty food, and whilst watching an ITV drama.

Next up, a simple short, Scotch on the Rocks. A little early for Burn’s Night, but this classic is a great beverage to sip & savour with a film or listening to some mellow music. On this occasion, Microbarbox have sent a lovely Grant’s. Chuck the whiskey over a few cubes of ice, and it’s a relaxing night in front of the box with the lights down low.

Post-whiskey, and it‘s back to the gin. Staying simple, and staying classic, it’s the turn of a standard ‘gin & slim’. Again, it’s Mermaid Gin who supply this delicious gin, and Folkington’s with the tonic water. A slice of lemon, and off we go. I’d say this is perfect for a warm, balmy night in the garden, but it’s mid-January, so it’s just a good drink for any time of the year.

Back to whiskey, and a very zesty, very tasty whiskey sour. Again, our Grant’s have supplied the “good stuff”, and all we’ve had to do is grab some ice, (and try not to get lemon juice everywhere whilst we squeeze). Don’t forget a little pinch of caster sugar, (and a tiny dash of water) to take the edge off. Sweet and sour, good for any hour.

The final drink we enjoyed? My personal favourite, a long, spicy, strong Bloody Mary. I have to confess, I threw the whole bottle of the delicious Rock Sea vodka in, and despite having the best (in my opinion) pre-mixed tomato juice going, I also added the entire (very cute) mini bottle of Tabasco in (just because I really do like a kick to my ‘Mary’). Spicy, zesty with a squeeze of lemon, my favourite cocktail went down extremely well.

Our thoughts on January’s Cocktail Box? Absolutely brilliant (and that’s being modest). A plethora of real classics, really good spirits, and they even throw in a fresh lemon. The idea isn’t just novel, it’s absolute genius.

So how do you get one? It’s simple, go over to Microbarbox and just become a customer. And if our thoughts and photos haven’t tempted you enough, how about £5 off your first 3 monthly boxes! Just enter our exclusive code EADLDN5x3 and start getting your monthly box now!

Annie’s, Chiswick

Annie’s, Chiswick

Wow. Please allow 2 to 3 working days to mentally, (and physically), digest that meal… in the meantime? Again, wow.

Annie’s in Chiswick claims to be your ‘home away from home’, and it’s very easy to see why. Homely is the very best word to describe this charming, almost boutique-like wonder of a restaurant. Hidden away, just a stones throw from Kew Bridge, Annie’s is busy, not crowded, not noisy, just busy. The best thing about the constant footfall? They’re busy with regulars. Customers not only seem to know the staff, they also seem to know each other. It’s almost like a massive gathering for Sunday dinner with your neighbours, and despite living away from the area, we also felt very at home. The staff are polite, professional, and very efficient. They’re well presented, but not stuffy, they really seem to be part of what makes Annie’s so “comfortable”, and so unique.

The food was even better than we’d heard. After being told David Tennant, Ant & Dec, and many other celeb’s can often be found enjoying the culinary delights at Annie’s, we’d also been told the food was “exceptional”. It lived up to the reputation which precedes it, but sadly, no sign of Dr Who, or PJ & Duncan (can’t win ‘em all)

We started with a cocktail each. I enjoyed a tasty Bloody Mary (Sunday morning, standard), and Sarah chose a raspberry Bellini. We also ordered a bottle of house red to accompany our food.

I confess, I had my heart set on a steak before visiting. On arrival, I noticed a family of 5, all sat happily, each enjoying a roast. I thought “one of those would do the whole table”, and with that, my heart (previously set on a steak) was immediately, and forever changed. Given that the portion size was big enough for a small army, we opted to just have one starter, the grilled halloumi salad (served with roast sweet potatoes, quinoa, and and figs). The halloumi was cooked to perfection, it had such flavour we were each compelled to comment on it. The salad was beautifully presented, and the different sparks of taste infused in just a way to ensure each mouthful was a different experience.

Onto the dinner. Have I said “wow”? I have? Well I don’t care, WOW.

Roast Pork Belly for me, the beef for Sarah.

Towered perfectly on a bed of traditional vegetables, roast potatoes, a huge Yorkshire pudding, just the right amount of (very tasty) gravy, and accompanied by a separate serving each of cauliflower cheese, we both, simultaneously vocalised our astonishment. This roast was beyond “good”. To call it “good”, would be like saying “Meryl is an overrated actress”. The pork belly fell apart, it just melted, you couldn’t get it better if you tried. The beef was delicious, cooked well, and not at all chewy. The roast potatoes, (something I find near impossible to find even remotely close to “home cooked roasties”), were genuinely spot on. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

The whole meal wasn’t just “good”, it warranted this comment from Sarah, “can I say something controversial? This might be the best roast dinner I’ve ever had”. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that. I can’t say it’s the best I’ve ever had, because my mum would probably give me a clap round the ear (but, it was the very best roast I’ve ever had away from home!)

Despite being full, and despite the fact (some) food was left, we ordered dessert (cheeky). I enjoyed a delicious, thick, rich banoffee pie (nicely topped with banana whipped cream)

Sarah chose one of her favourites; Eton Mess. Both matched up to the rest of the food in the way one would expect. Tasty, filling, and very “homely”. We finished off (and were just being greedy at this point) with an espresso martini each.

We can honestly say that this beautifully decorated, very cosy gem is fully justified in having such a good reputation. It’s no wonder it’s full of locals, (people don’t go back to a restaurant unless something really attracts them). For these (regularly) returning locals, it’s the shabby chic decor, the service, but mostly, it’s the fantastic food. ‘Just like mum used to make’, but with none of the dishes to fight over (not) cleaning.

Our rating? 8/10

Find Annie’s here

Prima, Covent Garden

Prima, Covent Garden

This is going to be a short, concise, and honest blog (and in being so, will reflect the wonderful food we just had at Prima).

The place isn’t the biggest restaurant in the locality of London’s famous Covent Garden, but it’s certainly one of the nicer establishments around. Good service is provided, a busy atmosphere is found, but it’s also the sort of place where the people at the next table will lean over and ask “what’s that you’ve got? It looks lovely!”

The exterior proudly boasts a covered eating area, and it has plenty of heat. Prima can boast that even in winter, dining al fresco isn’t an issue. The lower part of the restaurant is very warm, and this reflects the fact the cooking is happening right before your eyes.

We started our late lunch with the sharing platter, and both enjoyed (very) generous portion’s of cheeses, meats, and Mediterranean vegetables. This platter was perfect. Perfect in size, in taste, and in variety.

We each chose a different main course. I opted for the Ravioli tartufo & porcini (meat ravioli, with truffle & porcini cream sauce and Parmesan). It wasn’t huge, but it was extremely filling, very well cooked, and homely, (just like Mamma used to make)! Amanda, (today’s companion), enjoyed her Quattro formaggi. This (rather huge) pizza was covered in very tasty mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, provolone, and parmesan. Neither one of us could have found a bad word to say about our food. It wasn’t fancy, or flash. It wasn’t pretentious, and didn’t “try too hard”, it was just good, honest, fulfilling Italian food.

Neither of us left feeling like we could eat more, and we even turned down dessert. I did however enjoy a nice smoothie, but this visit was definitely all about the food.

Our rating? 7.5/10

Find more on Prima here