QP LDN (Mayfair) Restaurant Review

We all love Italian food, hell it’s one of the most popular foods around.  Italian food doesn’t merely consist of pizza and pasta, there is far more of a variety in Italian cooking than some restaurants would have you believe with the limited selections they have on offer.  Don’t get me wrong I love pizza and I love pasta and have written recipes such as my Fig, Mozzarella, Balsamic onion,  Parma ham and Rocket Pizza and my Lobster and King Prawn Pasta and of course enjoyed many meals out consisting of these types of foods but many restaurants seem to offer the same thing.

There are so many gorgeous meals that you can try and where better than at a good quality Italian restaurant located in Mayfair.  The QP LDN restaurant nestled in the heart of London offers patrons a taste of the Amalfi coast without them needing to leave the country.  Perfect for foodies such as myself this restaurant offers diners a choice of menus including their A La Carte, Express Lunch and Early Evening menus.  The lunch and evening menus change regularly making it one of those places you will want to visit often to sample the various delights they have to offer.

On arrival we were greeted warmly and shown to our table.  The seating is very comfy and there is also a bar area with seating where food can also be ordered from the bar menu.  The atmosphere was relaxed and the decor sophisticated.  I loved the addition of the palms and the dimmed lights added to the atmosphere.

The restaurant is far larger than I initially thought when I first arrived.  It was only once I had finished my meal that I decided to have a little nosey around and I discovered a whole second section to the room I was in.

There is even a bar downstairs which is very popular on certain evenings and looks great.  I hope to visit it sometime with friends.

I was booked in for the QP X Early Evening Meal by their lovely PR lady.  At £32 per person this is a bargain for what you get as it won’t leave you hungry.  Just like other Mediterranean’s, Italians are not only very hospitable they also enjoy their food and believe that guests should not leave until they are full.  Anyone who has been to mine for a meal will know this is very true.

Below is the menu we chose from on the evening of our visit which was prepared by Michelin starred chef Antonio Mellino.  He has 2 Michelin stars to be precise and is famed for his freshly made pasta.  He uses finest seasonal ingredients in his meals which are shipped daily from Italy.

EARLY EVENING MENU

Upon arrival, a glass of Champagne will be served along with some Panzerotti and Pizzette

STARTER WITH A CHOICE OF

PARMIGIANA DI MELANZANE Q.P.

Aubergine Parmigiana Q.P.

OR

CALAMARO RIPIENO DI PROVOLA E FRIARIELLI CON CREMA DI PATATE

Squid Stuffed with Provola Cheese, Broccoli and Cream of Potato

OR

ZUPPA DI ZUCCA, RISO CROCCANTE, PANE AL PEPERONCINO

Pumpkin Soup Served with Crispy Rice, Bread and Chilli

MAIN COURSE WITH A CHOICE OF

PASTA MISTA CON FAGIOLI BORLOTTI E PECORINO

Pasta Served with Borlotti Beans and Pecorino Cheese

OR

OSSOBUCO, PUREA DI PATATE, ARANCIA E LIMONE

Ossobuco with Mashed Potatoes, Lemone and Orange Sauce

OR

SALMONE SCOTTATO CON SCRAROLA E ACCIUGHE

Seared Salmon Served with Scarola and Anchovy Dressing

DESSERT WITH A CHOICE OF

PROFITEROL AL CIOCOLATO

Chocolate Profiterol

OR

MILLEFOGLIE DI AMARENE E CREMA CHANTILLY

Millefoglie with Black Cherry and Chantilly Cream

OR

SELEZIONE DI FORMAGGI ITALIANI

Selection of Italian Cheese

OR

TAGLIATA DI FRUTTA

Fruit Selection

GELATO AL PISTACCHIO (supplement di £10.00 per persona)

Pistachio ice cream (supplement of £10.00 per person)

Mark was our server for the evening and I must say he did a fabulous job.  He was able to advise us as to which dishes were popular with others and also which he liked and would strongly recommend.  Of course I observed him to see his interaction with others and he was very good.  There was no favouritism towards anyone (meaning us as we were reviewing), all were spoken to in the same manner with the same professionalism, he did an exceptional job.  I loved that he knew our glasses needed filling before we had even noticed and he would appear all of a sudden to make sure we were topped up.  His level of service was equivalent to that that I had received during my afternoon tea at Harrods from the lovely Loretta.  If I opened a restaurant I’d want both of them in it!

The menu we were booked to enjoy included a glass of champagne on arrival but the staff there kindly let us swap this for a bottle of sparkling water.  With our drink was served a selection of breads including wholemeal bread, foccacia, white bread with quinoa and potato, crisp Italian flat bread, grissini with polenta.  Just to note this was not on the set menu but an extra.

These were delicious and we were given a plate with fabulous quality olive oil and a blob of what must have been a balsamic vinegar reduction as it was nice and thick and packed full of flavour.  Still on the olive oil I must say I have not been served one as good as this in a restaurant before and I know good oil as we have freshly olive oil sent to us from Cyprus.  You can tell the good from the bad by the colour and the richness in flavour and if you do get to try this at QP LDN you will love it I assure you.  The breads were all lovely and we were pleased that there was a selection with a range of flavours and textures making it that quite exciting.  My favourite was the crisp Italian flat bread with it’s moreish saltiness.

Next up we are back to the menu.  We were served a panzerotti (stuffed with ricotta) and pizzette (like a pizza) each.  These were served warm and the moment I bit into each I was in heaven.  The bread was gorgeous.  It was soft and light with plenty of flavour of its own.  Within the panzerotti was a deliciously divine ricotta filling that was mouthwatering.  It was extremely smooth and creamy and fabulous!  The pizzette was also delicious and was topped with tomato, cheese and some fresh basil.  Again perfection.  What can I say these were fabulous examples of Italian cooking at it’s best and we hadn’t even gotten to the starters.

The Starters

These were beautifully presented with a variety of colours making them a feast for the eyes as well as our stomachs.

Stuffed Squid

This sure was a winning dish packed full of flavour with tender squid, perfectly cooked greens and a great contrast in texture from the beetroot crisps.  This was lovely and a dish you won’t want to share.  The potato cream worked well with the dish adding moisture and additional flavour but at the same time but not overpowering the flavour of the other ingredients.
Aubergine Parmigiana

A great interpretation of the dish this was not only rich in flavour but it wasn’t as oily as the dish baked version found in many restaurants.  The light fluffy cheese sauce on the side was lovely and was almost like eating a flavourful cloud.  The portion of this and the other starter was quite substantial and at this stage I was not sure if I would be able to finish the whole meal.

Having enjoyed everything so far we looked forward to tucking into the main dishes.

The Mains

Ossobuco with Mashed Potatoes, Lemone and Orange Sauce

Wow, this was a big portion and I was relieved that it was my friends dish as I knew the second it arrived I would never have managed to eat the whole thing.  The meat was tender, it literally melted in the mouth and was rich in flavour.  The meat fell of the bone instantly and combined with the sauce and mash made for a very tasty and hearty meal.

Pasta Served with Borlotti Beans and Pecorino Cheese

Simple yet tasty I had to try this to see how good the pasta really was and to say I was impressed was an understatement.  The dish combined a mix of perfectly formed pasta shapes which were Al dente (firm to the bite) with cheese and beans and had a fair amount of flavour.  The sauce was nice and creamy as you can see from the photo and this dish was nice and tasty.

With the meal we also had one side dish suggested by Mark – the fried zucchini and what can I say other than I was thankful he was there that day.  These were delicious, crispy and nicely salted giving them that additional favour and making them rather moreish.

By this stage we were pretty full.  But of course we were not going to skip dessert it’s the best part of the meal as my friend and I both have a sweet tooth.  Unable to decide what to have we were rescued by the lovely Mark who helped make the decision for us suggesting the Millefoglie and the pistachio ice cream.

Pistachio Ice Cream

This was placed on a serving table next to ours prior to presentation.  Anyone that likes pistachio ice cream will be in their element as this was truly magnificent.  The ice cream is akin to some authentic Italian ice cream I tried in Las Vegas years ago and I can honestly say we hadn’t been as quiet all evening as we were at that moment.  We wanted to fully savour the moment and enjoy the velvety soft and smooth ice cream as it gently melted in our mouths revealing small chunks of pistachio.

Note the colour of the ice cream indicating that this has been made with natural products and that colouring has not been added.  Honestly if I can make pistachio ice cream as good as this I know my friends would be over everyday.  I have yet to experiment with this having barely survived half term with all our tutors and out of school clubs.  The ice cream was so good we were not sure whether the Millefoglie could measure up to this but sure enough it was just as fantastic a dessert.

Millefoglie with Black Cherry and Chantilly Cream

This is the Italian version of the French pastry Mille-feuille meaning 1000 leaves / layers.  The pastry itself has a delicate flavour but is lovely and crispy.  The Chantilly cream and cherry combination works perfectly and this should not be over looked as a dessert nor should it be left in the shadow of the ice cream.  These are both desserts that I would highly recommend for their different textures and flavours which really do excited the taste buds and each is a heavenly dessert in its own right.

This really is a gem of a restaurant that serves gorgeous, great quality meals that are a cut above many others.   I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with your local pizzeria but for those looking for something a bit more authentic in relation to Italian food this is the place to try.  The quality of their dishes surpass most and the service is just as good.  This really has to be one of the best Italian restaurants in London and I am looking forward to visiting and trying more of their delicious meals with friends soon.

If you do go make sure you take a look at this work of art.  It’s a chair consisting of aluminium tubes dipped in gold and worth a staggering half a million pounds!  The chap sitting on the chair was lovely and just like me is a hugger so of course I got a big hug on my way out.

This is a great restaurant and they have got everything spot on.  If I was to make any suggestions then I would maybe add another dish or two to the options available in the main dish selection on the menu we had but other than that these guys have it all covered.

If you do pay them a visit make sure that you bring your appetite!

Have you tried any Italian dishes other than pizza or pasta?

Spaccanapoli Covent Garden

Those of you that read my Blogging Goals for 2017 post will be aware that one of my goals was to eat my way around more London restaurants.  I have of course be revisiting old favourites but now have a new restaurant under my belt to tell you all about.  My friend and I recently braved the cold weather and ventured out to a restaurant located in Covent Garden called Spaccanapoli.  There seem to be a cluster of restaurants in the area where this particular restaurant was which all had large floor to ceiling glass windows making them look very inviting.

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The restaurant we visited had two tables occupied on our arrival and during the time we spent there only one other group of guests come along to dine.  The seating was comfortable, roomy yet the restaurant was small and there was a nice relaxed atmosphere.

This particular meal was prepaid by us online, it was a deal found on the groupon site.  The offer was for the following:

Choice of starters includes: platter of Napoli prosciutto and salami | Toasted bread with tomatoes, garlic and basil | mixed grilled vegetables.

Choice of mains includes: gnocchi | lasagna | penne Siciliana | pizza margherita with tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and oregano | pizza Americana with salami, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan and basil | pizza vegetariana with tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, courgettes & mozzarella).

Apolina, a white or dark chocolate Italian treat will be served as a dessert.

Deal also includes a glass of house red or white wine each.

The waiter seemed friendly enough and flitted from table to table assisting the customers before vanishing off into the kitchen.

The menu was varied enough for the price and should you prefer you can swap your wine for a soft drink.

The House White

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This wine was palatable and went well with my meal although it did look more like a half glass than a full one.

The Starter

Platter of Napoli Prosciutto and Salami

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The cut was very thin and the Prosciutto was pretty fatty as you can see from the picture.  The bread was warm on arrival which was nice.  I would have preferred if the salami used looked a bit more appealing and less anaemic the picture gives the salami a redder colour then it actually had.  You can get such a lovely range of salamis that are not expensive from the supermarkets that look more appealing than those we were served.  The portion size for a starter was more than adequate.

The Main

Lasagna

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The lasagna came out sizzling and looked very nice.  The portion size was good and there was plenty of mince inside but the lasagna itself needed more flavour.

Dessert

This was extremely disappointing.  We would have liked something a little more substantial and we were not given the option of white or dark chocolate.  Instead we were given a glass that had something that we were told was caramel dessert which tasted a big like angel delight but with a thinner runnier consistency.  It was edible but I would have preferred a glass with tiramisu.

Spaccanapoli4For £19.95 for two people this wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t venture there again for this particular meal but the pizza did look good so maybe I just chose the wrong thing.  The price is reasonable and I think that if I was to venture there again I would probably go for the Bruschetta and a pizza.

Have you tried Spaccanapoli yet?

Tootoomoo Whetstone

I love Pan Asian food it’s got to be one of my favourites.  The mix of flavours, textures and colours is so enticing and the types of dishes that can be made are endless.  It’s also pretty healthy too which is an added bonus.  Not all restaurants are able to pull off Pan Asian cuisine to a reasonable quality but for those that would love to try a good one and live in London it I would strongly suggest going for a meal at Tootoomoo in Whetstone.  I went years ago with some other mums but as there was a large group of use we had to have the set menu which I don’t normally do and the restaurant wasn’t very big so it was a little tight but since then they have recently refurbished and the restaurant looks far nicer and was a bit more spacious.  It’s not an enormous restaurant but it is nice and cosy and has a and relaxed atmosphere.  This is a great place to go on a date or with friends and even for parties.  Staff are exceptionally welcoming and available when needed and extremely willing to help with explaining items off the menu as well as advising about popular dishes.

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I popped along to review this site and was extremely pleased that I had revisited, you will see why very soon.  First of all let it be said that their Lychee Martini is gorgeous it’s a fabulous drink for lovers of sweet fruity cocktails and one fans of sweet drinks must all try it!

We ordered a selection of starters which arrived at our table quickly.

The Starters

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Edamame (soya beans)

Packed with natural phytooestrogens and fibre these tasty beans are a lovely healthy way to start a meal.

Yuzo Salmon Maki (cold dish)

The flavours and textures were indicative of fresh food and were made well with the maki being firm and not falling apart when we picked them up with our chopsticks.  These were a good size too as some restaurants serve ones that are too big and not so easy to cram into one mouthful.  Food needs to look good, taste good and it helps if it’s easy to eat too.

Salmon Sashimi (cold dish)

This came accompanied by a small bowl of soy and kizami wasabi (fresh wasabi) and some salad leaves.  The fish was clearly fresh and cut to order.  The pieces were a touch thinner than the ones I have been served at other restaurants, yes I noticed but this was something I quite liked as it as that bit easier to eat all in one go.  The salad garnish and wasabi had been freshly prepared and the mix of fresh flavours was lovely.

Duck & Watermelon Salad (cold dish)

This is a well balanced dish with a mix of flavours and textures that work well together.  It’s delicious and super healthy too, simply take a look at the photo and you can see red lettuce, watermelon, nuts, nice fat free chunks of duck, cucumber, radish, carrot and lettuce.  This is a firm favourite of mine and I could eat a large plate of it all to myself as a meal.

The Mains

Black Cod Miso

This was delicious and for those that haven’t tried it it is a must.  Everyone I know (and I know a fair few people) that has been introduced to this dish loves the succulent, soft, moist, flaky fish and gorgeous flavour.  In many cases this will become one of you favourite dishes if it isn’t already.

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Singapore Noodles

These Singapore noodles must be one of the best I have ever had.  There was plenty of flavour, a good kick of heat and they had king prawns rather than the teeny shrimp that some others use.  In addition take a look at the size of those squid pieces!!!!!  Seriously, the quality of the dishes that came out was very good and the photos really help me give you an insight into this.

Thai Green Prawn Curry

This gorgeous coconut based soup with just the right amount of heat is full of flavour and nice sized pieces of seasonal vegetables and again those nice big prawns.  This was well made and I really couldn’t fault it.  I really do love this dish and there is also a chicken and a vegetarian version too if you prefer.

Egg Fried Rice

This was not overly greasy and had some nice bright coloured pieces of vegetable in it too which I quite liked.  This was great for soaking up all the yummy juices from the green curry and beef rendang.

Beef Rendang

Again rich in flavour this dish was fantastic.  You can taste the lemon grass coming through as well as coconut.  This is one of those warming comfort dishes that really make you feel great on eating them.  There were nice big chunks of beef that was tender without a trace of fat. The beef literally melts in the mouth.  There were also nice big chunks of sweet potato which really did work well in this dish.  This is also available in a chicken version and I think a vegetarian version with sweet potato and some other vegetables would be a lovely addition to the menu.

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Aromatic Duck

The piece of duck presented was lovely and tender and moist with perfectly crisped skin on top allowing for a nice mix of textures when this was added into the pancake with the pieces of vegetables and the hoisin sauce.  I’ve never had this with pieces of carrot and beetroot which was a lovely idea and adds colour and more nutrients to the dish.  This is a great dish for sharing and also keeping all for yourself.

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Dessert

Pistachio Creme Brulee

This was heavenly.

If I was to sum this up in two words they would be “Loved it!”  The creme was lovely a velvety smooth and simply amazing.  There as a lovely pistachio and vanilla flavour to the custard and although I had felt pretty full at the end of the meal I was so glad that I had attempted to squeeze this in too.  I wouldn’t hesitate to order this again and again it was the first time I had tried a pistachio creme brulee but I really don’t want it to be the last.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the meal at Tootoomoo and am hoping to take my husband and friends who have yet to go along to enjoy the food too.  What impressed me the most was the thought and care that went into the presentation of each dish.  Each dish looked great and this made them exceptionally appealing.  The ingredients were also of a good quality and these guys didn’t seem to take any short cuts to create their fabulously delicious food.

Have you visited one of the various Tootoomoo branches yet?

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I was invited to this restaurant to sample the lovely food and provide and honest review, all thoughts and opinions are mine own.

Royal China Restaurant (Bayswater)

I love reviewing restaurants especially as I am located in London and there are so many hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.  The next restaurant that I wanted to tell you all about is a Chinese restaurant in Bayswater.  The streets of Bayswater are aligned with beautiful large houses which are nicely furnished too if you manage to get a peek inside.  My friend and I decided that for this this little adventure we would drive.  Be aware they have residents parking but the times are different depending on what side of the road you are parking on so we were lucky enough to find a great space nearby and walk to the restaurant.

From the outside the restaurant doesn’t appear to be very large – appearances can be deceiving.  You walk in through the smallish shop front area up past the bar and voila a lovely large room with mirrored pillars and plenty of seating space.  The clientele are mixed with a fair amount of Chinese people there as well as a mixture of other people who all seemed to be tucking into their meals happily and it sounded as if some of these were regulars as well, a great indicator of a good restaurant especially in such an affluent area.  The Royal China group of restaurants are well known for their dim sum which are served daily from noon to 5pm.royal1We took a while to look through the menu (I can be pretty indecisive at time) and during this time we were asked a few times if we we ready to order which was good as we knew we had not been forgotten.  The menus were well presented with a good range of dishes and pictures which really do help you decided what you want the only problem is you might over order as so many of the dishes look delicious.  The tables were clutter free just the essentials adorned, the environment was nice and relaxed.  Over the course of the evening more people arrived for dinner and for a Monday night the restaurant was doing well.  We were pleased that there was wifi available onsite and we made full use of this.

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The pictures of the various foods in the menu really do get you salivating before you order and there is a good range of vegetarian, seafood, meat and poultry dishes to choose from.  There were numerous members of staff and some seemed friendly enough where as some were preoccupied with getting all the work done quickly and efficiently.  After studying the menu we finally decided on the Seafood Gourmet which was one of their set menus.  This way we would get a nice selection of dishes and they all sounded yummy.  This particular set menu costs £39.80 per person and includes some great dishes as you will see shortly.

The Starters

We were pretty hungry when the food arrived and so at first we didn’t realise that we had been brought out the wrong starter selection, it was only once we had eaten a little that we realised we had been served the starters from the House Dinner set menu £33.80.  This consisted of:

Sesame Prawn Toast

We have all tried these at some stage or at least those amongst us that have dined or ordered from a Chinese restaurant.  These had a nice generous topping of prawn on the toast which you can identify as prawn.  This is lovely and moist and the bread beneath is golden and crunchy not a burnt part in sight.

Smoked Shredded Chicken

This had a smokey taste to it and was seasoned nicely with salt and the chicken pieces were not too thin.  You could see this was actual shredded chicken not an item from a questionable origin.  The chicken had been fried with chilli and spring onion to add extra flavour to the dish which is different to what I am used to as it normally comes without these so it was a welcome surprise and added an extra kick to the dish.  This was served with a sweet chilli dip which I do like and have my own bottle from my local Chinese cash and carry – I doubt any of you are surprised to hear that lol.

Vietnamese Pancake Rolls

These were served with fish sauce and were packed with vegetables as you can see in the picture and I also discovered some chunks of prawn in there too.  The coating was nice and crunchy although a touch greasy on the outside but then you expect some grease from a dish that is deep fried.

Mandarin Pork Chops

I will admit I had specifically not ordered the The House Dinner set menu as I wasn’t sure about this particular dish and we did prefer the seafood options but this dish was actually really good, in fact I will hasten to add that this was the best of all the starters that we got to try apart from one which I will tell you about later.  The meat had been removed from the bone and the actual pieces of meat had been cleared of any fat.  This dish was full of flavour so it was actually good thing in a way that the wrong starters had been brought to us.

Seaweed

This is another starter that features on many Chinese restaurant menus.  The seaweed was nice and crispy as expected and lightly seasoned with salt.  I do like this although you need to be careful not to get it caught in your teeth.  Not something I would advise to eat on a first date.

Spicy Baby Squid

We asked for a portion of this as it would have come with the original set menu that we ordered and we really wanted to try it.  We did not regret the decision, the squid was nice and tender and the batter was crunchy and full of flavour.   This also had spring onion and chilli and had a good kick to it which you can avoid if you don’t eat the chillies although they are very good for you and work fabulously in the dish.

All the dishes were fresh and there was no indication of stale oil for the fried foods or that various different items had been cooked in the same oil.

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Next up was the lobster.

We had a choice of sauce as you can see in the picture above with the menu, we opted for ginger and spring onion.  There were lovely large pieces of ginger found amongst the chunks of lobster which had been broken apart to make sure the flavours dispersed well when cooking in the sauce and also to make it easier for us to handle.  You are provided with the necessary tools to prise the lobster pieces apart in order to get to the soft perfectly cooked and beautifully flavoured meat.  I would highly recommend this, it’s delicious!

royal4Between each course the staff were extremely fast in clearing the table and bringing out fresh plates for us to eat from.  By this stage we were feeling pretty full as the food we had already feasted on was quite filling but there was still more to come!

Next arrived the following:

Mixed Seafood in Bird’s Nest

Not an actual birds nest thankfully having seen how these are made in various nature programmes, this dish was well presented as were all the others in this course.  The colours of the vegetables were all vibrant and the texture crisp indicating a flash fry which was good as it kept them looking great and retaining their nutrients and flavour.  The sauce was very tasty and did not take from the flavour of the vegetables or the seafood which was more than adequate in it’s quantity in the dish.  The prawns and squid were plump and tender, the scallops perfectly cooked and lovely and soft.

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Deep-Fried Fillet of Dove Sole with Spicy Salt

This was amazing!!!  We both loved this dish although we struggled to eat it all as we were almost bursting by this stage.  The thought of wasting such delicious food spurred us on as it wouldn’t be right and we would have felt awful doing so.  The pieces of fish were large but not too big to fit in to your mouth with a couple of bites.  The fish itself was tender and flaky, the coating was perfectly seasoned with salt and not too much spice for my taste or to prevent you enjoying the overall flavour.

Stir Fried Mixed Vegetables

Lovely fresh crunchy vegetables with a delicious light sauce, again the flavours of the vegetables could be enjoyed as the sauce was not overpowering.  The dish looks simple yet pretty and was very good.

‘Royal China’ Lotus Leaf Rice

This specially prepared rice dish consists of prawns and duck wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed allowing the flavour from the duck, prawn and lotus leaf (a light tea like flavour) to gently infuse with the rice.  This is a lovely dish and as you dig through the rice you will find generous pieces of prawn and duck hidden within.

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As luck would have it one of the other tables asked if they couple pack up what they couldn’t eat and take it home.  Not having occurred to us to do this previously we decided it was a great idea and did the same.  The food would have ended up being thrown away which we simply could not allow.  Below you can see how much was packed away which demonstrates how good the portions are here and I would say that this set menu allows enough food for three people rather than two or alternatively a doggy bag for the next day.

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But it’s not over yet!

The final course – dessert!

Mixed Fruit Platter

A selection of fruit including strawberries, melon, dragon fruit and grapes.  This was more than welcome as it was nicely chilled by the ice and very refreshing and cleansing to the palate. royal7

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Royal China Bayswater  These guys have a few more sites to look out for too.  The food from the set menu as demonstrated is plentiful and we both agreed this is excellent value for money when you look at the quantity, quality and types to food included in the set meal.  Apparently seven course tasting menus are also available for those with a very large appetite.

A must try if you are a fan of Chinese food and are in London.

Royal China Bayswater

13 Queensway
London
W2 4QJ

020 7221 2535

I was invited to the restaurant for an honest review.  As always all views are my own.

Ask Italian, Gloucester Arcade, London

When you think of Ask Italian restaurant what immediately springs to mind?  It’s a chain, the food isn’t all that great.  Ok, so chains can have a bad reputation but in my experience the key to finding one that is good is location.  Yes just like purchasing a property the quality of a meal in a restaurant can be influenced by where you have it.  Head off to an affluent area and the chances are the meal will be better as customers will be influenced by how good the meal will be.  Bad restaurants in a these areas won’t last long thankfully.  Last week I went to the Natural History Museum with the little ones and a friend.  Whilst we were there we began to get peckish so decided to look up local restaurants and discovered there was an Ask Italian located nearby at Gloucester Arcade.  I had been looking specifically for restaurants that take Tastecard as meals out in London can get pricey the more people there are in the group.  This restaurant had been awarded 4 starts by visitors on TripAdvisor where as many others in the area were either 3 or 3.5 stars so we were confident the food wouldn’t be too bad.  We phoned in advance as per the conditions of use for the card and arrived to be seated quickly by staff.

It wasn’t long until we decided what to order and we were all very pleased that the food arrived at the table quickly.  We had asked for the children’s pizza the Stomboli (Pepperoni) to be served with the starters which they did.  The children didn’t hesitate to dive in.  They enjoyed this and polished it all off faster than normal thankfully.

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For the adults the Calamari starter (a portion each).  As described on the menu this arrived golden and crispy but I’m assuming this had been frozen in battered form.  The batter was not seasoned enough for my liking although the squid was quite soft.  My eldest daughter however had some and ended up eating half of the portion.  Not a problem I was saving myself for the pizza.

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Again my friend and I ordered the same, the Salami Misti pizza.  This comes topped with Milano and finocchiona salamis, pepperoni and smoked prosciutto, roasted red peppers,  caramelised red onion and Grana Padano.  Now this was nice!!!  Both of us were pleasantly surprised at how nice the pizza was.  The combination of topping went well together and we really enjoyed it.  I plan to make my own version eventually at home with my pizza stone.

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Needless to say we would revisit the site again especially as I have a Tastecard so we were able to get buy one get one free on the starters and two of the main dishes.

This restaurant is located at:

Gloucester Arcade
24 Gloucester Rd
Kensington
SW7 4SF
020 7835 0840

Do you have a Tastecard yet?

Pho and Bun restaurant in Soho

The appropriately named Pho and Bun restaurant in Soho serves authentic Vietnamese food in the heart of the theatre district.  Their menu is varied yet not excessive and as their name would indicate their menu features Pho which is a traditional broth that is not only healthy but also extremely tasty with its herb and spices as well as Buns which are rather yummy burger like creations.  There are of course other dishes to choose from but these are their best sellers and you will see why shortly.

The restaurant was busy when we found it.  There appeared to be a range of customers from people on their work breaks, people visiting London, families and foodies.

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On our arrival the duty manager Babis showed us to our table which was available within minutes gave us our menus and advised us on some of his favourite dishes.  What a fabulous fellow, clearly a foodie himself he was very passionate about the food served and quite rightly so as it is very healthy and also clearly very popular judging from the steady stream of new arrivals.  There is also a seating area downstairs so there is plenty of room.

After careful consideration we decided what we were to try and the ever attentive Babis appeared like magic just at the right time to take our order.  This guy was great giving all his customers attention and assistance.

The menu was varied and all the dishes sounded fabulous which made choosing what we were to order very difficult.  We decided as the restaurant was name Pho and Bun it would be wrong of us not to sample both.  We requested one tasting menu with the Pho Bo Tai and also the Lemongrass Beef skewers.  I opted for the Bun / Steamed Bao Burger with the 28 days dry aged beef, red onion relish, house pickle and smokey mayo.

Cocktails to start:

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My plus one tried the Chilli-Mango daiquiri.  This has a mild kick to it but isn’t too hot.  The heat is counterbalanced by the sweetness that makes this a great cocktail.  The Lychee Martini was my option and was amazing.  It was easy to drink, full of flavour and the various flavours worked well together.  I could have easily had another but I had food to review so needed to be able to concentrate on taking photos and writing notes.

Starters

Pork and Crab Spring Roll

These pieces were pretty large for spring rolls and crammed with fresh vegetables and crab meat.  The portion size wasn’t big but it was part of the tasting menu rather than individually ordered so the size was about right.  The flavour was more subtle than that of the other dishes and the sauce it was paired with as a result was light to allow for the various flavours including that of the crab to be tasted rather than overwhelmed.

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Chilli Salt and Pepper Squid

I must say this is one of the best versions of this particular dish I have had although the squid itself isn’t the softest I have tried the batter was nice and crispy, perfectly seasoned, not greasy and the freshly stir fried onion, spring onion and pepper with just the right amount of salt really did add the perfect finish to the dish.  This was a dish we both agreed would could have kept to ourselves.  You might want to order one per person if you pay these guys a visit as it was lovely.  This dish has so much flavour on its own it has no need for a sauce.

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Fresh Summer Roll with Tiger Prawns

I really do enjoy summer rolls.  The act of eating them makes me feel so healthy and the fresh flavours of the herbs and other ingredients not only look but taste great.  I have been making various types of summer rolls for years including ones with chicken, my recipe for which you can find on my Summer Rolls page.  The summer rolls at Pho and Bun were equally delicious and their appearance attracts attention.  The accompanying peanut sauce was better than many I have tried with a rich flavour and not at all oily.

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Mango Salad with Tiger Prawn 

This was simply amazing.  The fresh flavours of this create a fabulous dish and I was very pleased that Babis had given us a larger portion of this as my tastebuds were in heaven.  Seriously sitting here writing this now I wish I had a bowl to munch on as it is also very healthy and could make a great meal by itself.  The ingredients are quite simple but as you can see are all fresh which make a difference to the flavour of the dish.  Again fresh mint and coriander appear in the dish as does a little chilli to add a nice kick.  This is the epitome of healthy eating.  The sprinkle of crushed peanuts add a little crunch to the dish as well as additional flavour.  This salad was also great to cleanse the palette between dishes and also cool if you had eaten something spicy.

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Lemongrass Beef Skewers

The flavour within the lemongrass spear infuses with the juicy beef to create a mouthwatering dish.  Perfect for the meat eaters among us this is a great dish that is as delicious as it is beautifully presented.  The caramel and soy sauce like flavour of the sauce gives a gorgeous contrast of sweetness to the savoury meat.  The flavours of the fresh mint and coriander compliment it well.  Hardly surprising this vanished very quickly so if you are sharing this between two you will either have to share the third skewer in a civilised manor like I did with my plus one or have your fork at the ready to pounce so you don’t miss out.  The garnish with mooli is also delicious with a yummy dressing, we didn’t leave anything on this plate except the actual lemongrass skewers.  This was in addition to the tasting menu but well worth trying as far as we were concerned and we were very appreciative to Babis for recommending these.

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The Mains

Pho with Rare Sliced Beef

Again we listened to Basis’ advice and went with the rare sliced beef as we were advised that we simply needed to stir the soup in order for the beef to be cooked by the hot broth.  The broth has a secret combination of spices that give it a lovely rich flavour.  This dish is definitely full of flavour and comes with a bowl of fresh herbs, beansprouts, chillis and lemon.  You simply pull the leaves off the stems of tear them apart and toss the in.  The spiciness is controlled by each dinner as you choose how many chillis to add.  This was popular amongst other dinners and I observed quite a few with Pho of different types.

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Bun / Steamed Bao Burger

These are freshly made and served with salad, house pickle, fresh herbs and homemade mayonnaise and a choice or free range organic meats or crispy tiger prawns.  I asked for some sweet potato fries to go with this.  The fries are great with a soft inside, crispy outside and the are extra tasty with the chilli mayonnaise they are served with.  The burger although on the smaller side from what we may find in some burger chains is far superior to them in in it’s quality of ingredients, flavour and juiciness.  Burgers should be moist not like cardboard and these are not only moist but cooked to perfection as you can see in the photo below.  I think that a large size option should be available for those wanting to come for healthy burgers and chips as the other local burger restaurants simply can’t compete.

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We were pretty full by the time we had eaten all this and only just managed to squeeze in a dessert albeit to share.

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Coconut Snow with Vietnamese Ice coffee

With the weather being warm this was not only delicious but also very refreshing.  A welcome addition and lovely end to a fabulously tasty meal.  The coconut can be tasted although is overpowered a little by the coffee here.  Either way it was very nice and we were pleased we managed to find space in our pretty full stomachs to fit it in.

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Babis insisted we try a Matcha Green Tea soft ice cream as we left.  Armed with a match cone in hand we proceeded into the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of London ready to do a little walk to help our food go down.

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Basis also kindly gave us a portion of the Flan Caramel with Vietnamese coffee and also Pandan and Coconut Panna Cotta with Peanut and Pineapple Salsa to take away and try later.  These were both very good.  The flan was lovely and thick yet creamy and went well with the coffee.  The Panna Cotta was amazing the flavours worked incredibly well together and is a dessert I may have to look into recreating at home.

Service at the restaurant was friendly and efficient.  I loved that all the dishes had a lovely selection of fresh ingredients which was obvious from the flavour and the portion sizes were good.  The prices for the location are reasonable and this is really a great place for food lovers to pay a visit when in London.  This has to be one of my favourite London restaurants so far with a great mix of flavours and many more dishes I would love to try.

We would love to say a big thank you to the wonderful Babis without whom I am sure our visit would not have been as enjoyable even though the food was fabulous.

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If you have not been here yet you really are missing out!

My Score: 4.5 / 5

This meal was complimentary but our views were not influenced in any way.

Busaba Eathai Leicester Square, London

Busaba Eathai has been enticing people to try their fabulous Thai food at one of the most well known Foodie Festivals The Taste of London for years and I have been meaning to try it for longer than I remember but for some reason I have never managed to.  Finally this weekend I made it and boy did I wish I had gone along sooner!!!

From the exterior you could be fooled into thinking that it was just another London restaurant.

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But as you step between the large wooden doors you are greeted by a golden Buddha, the scent of burning incense wafting through the air and Gerbera floating gently on a shallow bed of water.

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The relaxing and calm atmosphere entice you in.  The appearance of the restaurant represents a Thai casual dining venue with its large wooden benches and tables with ample room to give dinners a fuss free relaxed and comfortable eating experience.

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As we entered we were greeted warmly and shown to our table.  There are also seating areas facing windows to allow for a more private meal should you prefer.  There you can gaze out at the passersby and maybe even spot a passing celeb, very possible as it is literally just a stone’s throw from Leicester Square gardens and the Odeon Cinema.  They also have some other sites dotted around London as well as Manchester and Liverpool.

The menu is clearly set out with explanations of each dish and special menus for certain times of the day clearly marked.

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They have a good selection of dishes to choose from and icon / signature dishes are clearly displayed.  Dish types include soups, noodle dishes; stir frys, curries and rice dishes.  A range of snacks and side dishes are also available.

I was please to see that they had a children’s menu.  The children’s menu also has some fun activities to keep them entertained whilst waiting for their food.

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There were numerous dishes for the vegetarians among us and I was also informed that any dish that included meat could be made vegetarian should the diner desire.

 Gluten free, nut free and vegetarian options can also be found on the menu.

Just a quick note, all small and large dishes will come out when ready so what one might perceive as a starter may come with the larger dishes.  If you want to have them separated all you need to do is ask, nothing was too much for the fabulous guys that were on site when we visited which added to the overall experience.

Whilst we waited for our food to come we enjoyed some prawn crackers served with sweet chilli sauce and some wok tossed cashews with chilli and salt.

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Starters / small dishes

Thai Calamari with Ginger and Peppercorns

This is the most popular dish on the menu and it is obvious why when you bite into the firm, thick yet tender pieces of squid with a thin batter coat that adds to the flavour but doesn’t feel at all greasy.  The gorgeous flavour of the fresh ginger with the delicious secret sauce and peppercorn (the peppercorn was not overwhelming) had chopsticks diving back in for second and third pieces.  This moreish dish is a must try for any newbie, you can thank me later.

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Soft Shell Crab

A perfect example of how the dish should be made as the crab was not greasy and it was perfectly crisp and tasted lovely.  The accompanying sauce with garlic pepper, chilli, spring onion and oyster sauce added extra flavour and heat to the dish.  I do love soft shell crab and this was a great version.

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Main Dishes

 Children’s

Chicken Fried Rice

This is the perfect dish for children that are not very adventurous.  The portion is enormous, both my girls could have shared it as a main meal.  My little one loved it but only managed to eat about half of the portion which was good going for her.

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Pad Thai (Children’s)

A great dish for little ones this was not spicy like the adult version and again was a very generous size.  There are plenty of prawns to keep little ones happy and these were a nice and plump as you can see from the picture.

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Adults

 Tom Yam Goong

Full of flavour this delicious soup combines coconut, lemongrass, galangal, king prawns and glass noodles topped with fresh, fragrant Thai basil.  This soups is not only filling it also tastes amazing and is one of the most popular dishes featured on the menu.  Fresh ingredients are used to make this and all the other meals available.

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Sen Chan Pad Thai

 This is similar to the classic but with additional extras of crab meat and green mango.  The combination of sweet, salty and spicy flavours work well together.  Make full use of the lime as this adds a burst of flavour from the fresh lime.  Having tried this version I would say the mango is a necessity which should be an ingredient added to all versions of Pad Thai it really tastes great.

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All meal portions were generous and each of us felt comfortably full at the end of the meal. As part of the children’s meal there was an option of vanilla or coconut ice cream.  Both children enjoyed the later and us parents tried our best to resist but failed miserably.  In our defence it was very good.

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You can eat a large meal here for about £20 or less per person depending on the time you dine.

 Busaba Eathai is the sort of restaurant you will want to revisit over and over so you can work your way through the varied menu as well as enjoy your favourite dishes again and again.

 Fancy trying this great restaurant?  Want a discount?  If you download their app you can get £5 off your first bill and further rewards as for regular app users!!!

Rating 4/5

We went along to Busaba Eathai as guests.  All views expressed are our own.