7.23.2014

APULIA / IL BOTEGLIO / ATTILIO / POLPO

If you walk around Smithfield market, it is surrounded by Italian restaurants: Amico Bio, Apulia, Il Botteglio, Polpo, Attilio's… 
As I live around here, I have tried most of them. The only one I haven't been yet is Amico Bio (vegetarian restaurant)but it is my next project.

Apulia is by far my favourite (previous review HERE), it is my plan B when I have nothing in the fridge or when I am too lazy to cook. They have nice fresh products, the food is fantastic and pizzas are very good. Waiters and waitresses are always nice and welcoming. It always feels like being at home when I dine there. 
Buffalina: Tomato, buffalo mozzarella, parma ham and rocket
Capurso: Tomato, mozzarella, capers, spicy salami, sun dried tomatoes


Apulia is the best local Italian restaurant, but they have been victim of their success...some nights it is impossible to get a table. However, there is other Italian option around but there are not as good. 

9/10
Apulia Restaurant
50 Long Lane
London EC1A 9EJ
Twitter: @ApuliaLondon
Click to add a blog post for Apulia on Zomato
Everyday I walk past Il Boteglio. I always wonder if the place serves nice food. From outside the restaurant look quite traditional, they have a lot of Italian products by the window which makes it looks like a shop more than a restaurant. As soon as you enter, there is no decoration, the place is simple. 
My friend and I ordered one  pizza each as the rest of the menu was a bit boring and didn't look very appetising. 
While we were waiting,they offered bread with olive oil. Bread was the one you find in Tesco, the one you use to do your triangle sandwich before a road trip! I would have expect a least a slice of Italian bread instead of this one.

Because there was not many people in the restaurant on that night and the place didn't have any music, the atmosphere was very quiet and it felt a bit awkward. 
Both pizzas arrived, on that night there was a special offer, Margherita was £5, my pizza was £11.95 (normal price). 
They were not the best looking pizzas but they tasted okay. I left the crust as the dough was heavy and it tasted more like eating bread than a nice pizza crust.  
Margherita: cheese, tomato, organo
Il Boteglio: Cheese, tomato, ham, peppers, olives e salcicce italiana

Il Boteglio has a very nice location, prices are correct, but the food and presentation could be so much better. Menu is a bit boring and could be improved with original dishes. 
Waitresses were nice but they didn't look very happy to be there, the atmosphere was cold and quiet. I remembered my friend and I were thinking during all meal how to improve this place, so many ideas came to mind. Maybe a project for Gordon Ramsey..... 

3/10 
60 Long Lane
London EC1A 9EJ
Il Boteglio on UrbanspoonSquare Meal



Attilio's is on Cowcross street, next to Polpo. I have been twice to this restaurant. First time was 2 years ago when I moved to London, there was no table available at Polpo so I went to have a quick meal, it was okay. Kind of the same story happened recently, Apulia was packed and Polpo too so I went there with my friend. 

We both ordered the set dinner, which includes one starter, one main course, bread and olive oil and an Amaretto liqueur at the end of the meal. Set menu is around £15.
Grissini, olives and olive oil
Grissini is not what I call bread but at least it was a better option than the bread we had at Il Boteglio. 
Starters arrived a few minutes after we ordered. 
My avocado and prawn was the most disgusting starter I ever had, half of it was frozen ! It had no taste and was hardly edible.
Compared to my dish my friends starter was alright, but calamari wasn't very crispy, bit soggy but at least they were not frozen!
Avocada vinaigrette and prawns
Calamari Fritti
Roma: cheese, tomato, capers, salami, sweetcorn (I requested mine without sweetcorn)

After our starters, we waited a long time for our pizza... the restaurant was packed on that night so we didn't say anything while we were waiting, until I noticed that a table which arrived after us had their main before us. At this time we already wait 30 minutes. 
I called a waitress to asked her where was our pizza. She didn't know and seemed to have totally forgot our order. I told her what we ordered 40 minutes ago again, and without any apology she went to the kitchen and placed our order.
Our pizza finally arrived 50 minutes after finishing our starters. Time was very long for me as I didn't eat my starter. 
Pizzas were fine apart from mine was a bit burnt and tasted like it. 
Pasmigiana: cheese, tomato, rugola and parma ham

When it came to the bill, the waitress didn't arrange anything considering the wait and the fact she forgot our table during her service. I considered the service on that night to be awful, my starter was disgusting and my pizza was burnt. It is the last time I will consider going to Attilio's as a option if other restaurant are packed. Next time I would rather order a take away online. 

1/10 

Attilio's
1 Cowcross St
London EC1M 6DR
Attilio on Urbanspoon 

Polpo is one of the most difficult restaurants  to go around Smithfield on a week night as it is always packed. My secret to avoid the queue is to go there on Sunday late lunch. Smithfield market is a dead but nice area on Sundays. 
If you are lucky too, you could probably get a table straight outside to enjoy the sun while having lunch.
Last time I went with my sister, we shared a potato and parmesan crocchette. They were as good as the one I had a year ago (Review HERE). 

As a second course we shared Tuscan bread salad and heritage tomatoes. I was a bit disappointed as I forgot tomatoes in England don,t have much taste, I was just coming back from Spain where I had nice, juicy and tasty tomato. These tomatoes were a bit watery. 
 Tuscan bread salad and heritage tomatoes
One of my favourite dishes which I always order is pizzette bresaola, rocket and parmesan. I never share it so my sister ordered one too. 
 Pizzette bresaola, rocket & parmesan


As a main we shared beef and pork meatballs and spaghettini. I like the little spiciness the meatballs had. They gave a good kick into your mouth. 
Meatballs and spaghettini

If you get a chance to have a table outside on sunny days or during a warm night, I think Polpo is the best option around Smithfield market for any occasion. It is often very busy, that's why I don't go there as much as I'd like! 

9/10
Polpo
3 Cowcross Street
London EC1M 6DR
Twitter: @PolpoSoho
Polpo on UrbanspoonSquare Meal

Apulia and Polpo are by far the two best Italians around Smithfield market. It is very good because they are totally different, they don't really compete with each other apart from being Italian. Polpo is more sharing plates and trendy dishes, and Apulia is more traditional Puglian dishes of pasta and pizza. 
Polpo is nice for any occasion, while Apulia I think is better for a relaxing and friendly evening, it feels more like being home. 

Regarding the others, Il Boteglio could be better with some basic thinking. Attilio's was an 'okay' place two years ago but now after my last experience it is probably the last place I will go for a meal. 
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7.22.2014

THE PALOMAR (Second visit)

Already my second visit to The Palomar restaurant on Rupert street. This time I was seated at the back as I had a reservation. Not sure it was the best option, I think I preferred the atmosphere I had at the bar at my first visit (review HERE). 
Next time I won't try to get a nice table and I will just join the waiting list for the bar as it is better. 

This time as an apetizer and starter my friend and I shared spiced olives and pickled vegetables and Kubaneh Yemeni served with two different dips : tomato sauce (which in my opinion taste like a gazpatcho) and tahini (my favourite).
Spiced olives and pickled vegetables


Kubaneh Yemeni pot baked bread served with first harvest olive oil, tahini & freshly grated tomatoes

I heard so much about their polenta dish, I couldn't leave without trying it this time. It was the best polenta I have ever had, the texture was light and creamy. When you opened the pot it had a nice little smell of truffle and asparagus. I could have easily eaten the big pot on my own. 
Since my visit I tried to do the same recipe at home, I didn't manage to have the same texture but I was closed to it.
Polenta Jerusalem style asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan & truffle oil

My friend ordered the shakeshukit as he remembered all the good thing I said about it.
He wasn't disappointed, he really liked it. I have got the chance to try half of it, I think since their opening the food gets even better than the beginning.This time they have been more generous with the sauce and it was a little bit spicier which I really liked.

Shakeshukit deconstructed kebab with minced meat, yoghurt, tahini, the 4 tops & lafta bread

As a main I ordered the pork belly tagine, I fell in love with this dish. The pork belly was succulent, a tiny bit crispy on top and then very soft and moist, it was a real delight. The cous cous was a whole-wheat cous cous, it went well with the ras el hanout and dried figs.
Pork belly tagine with ras el hanout, dried figs & Israeli couscous

Both of my visits have been a real success at The Palomar. I discovered new flavours. My eyes have already spotted what will be my next order on my next visit: Labenah tortellini and Persian oxtail stew. I might try to go there for lunch next time. 

9/10.

The Palomar 
34 Rupert Street
London W1D 6DN
Twitter: @Palomarsoho

The Palomar on UrbanspoonSquare Meal
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7.16.2014

ATELIER DES CHEFS

La Durée and Pierre Hermé have both made the macaroon a successful cake around the world, offering different flavours and colours. I really like those sweet circular cakes and have always thought they were complicated to do until I cooked my first macaroons at l'Atelier des Chefs.

L'Atelier des Chefs UK has two school in London, one near Oxford Circus and the other one near St.Paul's. I went to the one near St.Paul's on Foster Lane for a two hour class.

I have never been to a cooking class before, it was the first time.
I really liked the place, kitchen had all the most modern tools and accessories you wish to have in your own house . 
In the school there is also a small shop that sells kitchen equipment and some food elements like food colouring (very useful in the macaroon recipe you will see below).

It was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning, learning something new. I succeeded with my macaroon so it was a total success. I look forward to reproduce the recipe pretty soon in my flat... just hope I will get the same result with my 'unprofessional' oven and my manual wisk.

On that day it was an mixed group of men and women, some of them came alone or with friends. People were all nice in this session.
I was probably the youngest one but it wasn't a problem, we all had the same level (never cooked macaroon in the past). 

The chef was nice and professional, it was very easy to understand all steps and he helped everyone for the piping method. 

On the day 12 people attended the macaroon class, 4 people per table, each table a different coloured macaroon: orange, pink and blue.  My table had orange.
The chef started the class by introducing himself, then he explained the first step we had to do to start cooking our macaroon. 

First step was to prepare the mixture:
Sift the ground almonds and the icing sugar together.
Whisk the egg whites until white are fluffy and then add the caster sugar to the the egg whites and continue whisking until you have stiff, glossy peaks.
Fold the ground almonds and icing sugar into the meringue mixture. 
Cut and fold the mixture with a spatula until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth, shiny and has reached the ribbon stage.
Carefully add the food colouring making sure not to overwork the mixture. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag.



It was so easy to do this step at l'Atelier, they had a great food processor. I think it will take more time for me to do it manually with my kitchen disk. 
Next step was probably the most complicated one of the class: to pipe the macaroon correctly to be sure they have a flat surface after cooking. 
After making a few of them, I started to get the correct movement and right size.

Pipe 2cm circles in straight lines across a baking sheet lined with a silicon paper. Leave a 1 cm gap between each macaroon shell. Drop the tray of macaroons onto the work surface from about 30 cm to remove any large air bubbles.
Allow the macaroons to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes or until the macaroon shells are no longer sticky to touch. 
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. If you are baking lots of macaroons you may need to keep the oven door slightly ajar (with a spoon or paper) to prevent steam building up in the oven. After 15 minutes, check the macaroons are cooked by gently lifting a macaroon at the edge of a tray. If the test macaroon does not stick, allow the tray of macaroons to finish cooking on the tray as it cools.
Allow the macaroons to cool completely before filling.
While the macaroons were rested and cooked, the chef introduced us to all the different filling for our macaroon.
We did two 'crème patissière', the first one we included pistachio paste, the second one we had strawberry jam.

Mix together the egg yolks, caster sugar and the cornflour.
Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the milk to the egg yolk mixture a little at a time. Return to the pan and whisk over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, gently bringing it back to the boil. Place the cream in a bowl and allow to cool. Add the jam or the pistachio paste.

We also prepared a lime and fresh ginger buttercream:
Mix the butter and the icing sugar in a bowl. Zest the lime and grate the ginger. Add the lime zest and ginger to the buttercream and mix well.

The last filling on that day was the salted butter caramel:
Place the remaining 170g sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and allow to melt without stirring.
Once you have a golden caramel, add a knob of butter and the cream. Mix well then remove from the pan and allow to cool.
Place the caramel in a food processor, add the salt and mix the remaining butter in a little at a time until you have a smooth, creamy filling.
The final step was the most easy and funny one, we all have the choice to select the macaroon we wanted and covered half of them with the filling of our choice. 
I decided to try all the different filling. My favourite filling we did was the salted butter caramel and the lime and fresh ginger butter cream. I am not a big fan of crème patissière so I won't probably reproduce the two other filling. I will probably opt for a simple jam and whole fruits for the decoration. 

All French classes at L'Atelier des chefs, macaroon classes is now £64 until end of July , so don't hesitate to book it, like me you will probably be a successful chef for two hours. 
I was invited at L'Atelier des chefs.


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7.08.2014

BITE ME PIZZA

Last month I was invited to the soft opening of Bite Me in Bayswater, it was the worst opening I have been too. 
The concept on paper looked very nice : "homemade dough and Italian tomato sauce, customers then add as many toppings as they fancy, mixing and matching, the price therefore varies depending on the number of toppings added – ensuring the guests only pay for exactly the toppings they order. "

It sounded like the pizza would be great value. 
But in the end sometimes a nice concept is not enough!

The restaurant has few seats on the ground floor, they didn't open the lower floor. 
At the back of the room, there was a counter where you order your pizza is divided in three different area : vegetable, meat and cheese. 

Bad things started from the beginning. It was very complicated to communicate with the waitress who prepared my pizza as she couldn't hear what I requested behind the glass counter. It took a long time to order as there was no details about all toppings anywhere in the place…I am not stupid I can recognise a tomato from pepper, the problem was more about meat and what type of cheese, which was more hard to identify.  The process at the counter wasn't well organised, the waitress started at the beginning with the dough and added tomato, then she went on the last counter to add the mozzarella (those two ingredients are the base), then she went back to the first counter to ask which vegetables I wanted, then she went back to the last counter for cheese, then to the meat. It took a lot of time to order and I felt sorry for this waitress who has to slaloming between counter and her colleague to prepare each pizza.






While I was ordering, a massive queue started to form behind my friend and I. When we finished ordering we noticed there was no seats left…we got our pizza and went to a table with a small space left and asked a girl if we could seat in this space, her answer was : "sorry I am holding the table."
Same answer from all other people who held tables without having ordered yet! I should mentioned my friend and I were the first 5 clients to be served.
We ate our pizza on a bench with pizza on our knees, like other people who get served and didn't have any seats.
What bad organisation !!!!! I noticed that most of the people who held tables still hadn't got their pizza when we finished ours. They could have thought about this before inviting loads of people at the same time or the manager should have asked customers to only sit when they had their pizza ready. They should have also opened more seats in the lower ground floor so customers could eat their pizza in good condition.

Regarding the pizza, the dough was very thin, my pizza fall apart when I tried to eat it, and my friend's pizza broke while it was cooking so it has a hole in it.
Regarding the toppings on the pizza, it wasn't good value… My pizza (the second below) would have been £15 if I had to pay! I requested two pepperoni toppings as with only one I would have had 4 miserable small slices of it (£4 - 8 small slices).

I know it is bad to critic a place who just open but the event was so badly organised, pizza were not good at all, we didn't eat in good condition, and the concept was supposed to be good value pizza and it was the opposite. Time won't make this place better.
A soft opening is supposed to blow your mind, make you want to come back to the place, sometimes there is some little issue, but this time it was problem after problem.

I will never go back to this place ever, for the same price I could get nearly 3 pizzas at Pizza Union which are so much better and good value! 

0/10.




Bite Me
95 Westbourne Grove
W2 4UW
Twitter: @Bitemepizza 
Bite Me Pizza on Urbanspoon
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