What should I have?

I enjoyed my last visit to Bills on Baker Street in July. So it was with some anticipation we headed there for dinner on a visit to London. Bills has an interesting dining environment, the different branches seem familiar, but different at the same time. The Baker Street branch appears to be smaller than other Bills I have been to.

Upon entering we were given a warm welcome, we had booked, and were shown to our table. One of the things I have found with Bills is that the menu changes quite often, so even though you may think, well I have that next time I visit, sometimes those very things disappear. So it does make, making a choice that little bit harder.

I was expecting to see the set menu we had in July, but it had changed already. It had gone up by two pounds and had lost the steak and chicken dishes we had had back then. So after reviewing what was on the set menu, we looked at the main menu.

While the rest of the table went with steak and chips, I wanted something different.

I was tempted by the chargrilled lamb rump. However having had an outstanding lamb rump in 2018 from the (now sadly closed) Cattle & Co in Euston, I knew I would have high expectations. The menu description of marinated lamb rump steaks I knew I might be disappointed. The sound of the Black & Gold Burger was quite tempting.

Chargrilled beef patty topped with cheese & truffle fondue, 24 carat gold flakes & grated black truffle. Served with rosemary salted fries.

As was the description of the Triple Truffle Shuffle Burger from the specials menu.

Topped with truffle mac & cheese, white truffle oil & dusted with freshly grated truffle. Served with rosemary fries

However I didn’t really fancy a burger, having only had one the other day in Harwell.

In the end I went with a dish I had been tempted to before on previous visits to Bills, which was the Lobster & Seafood Linguine.

Lobster & Seafood Linguine

Lobster, king prawn & squid in a rich tomato & chilli cream sauce with lemon oil.

The dish was nicely presented.

There was a nice lot of seafood in the pasta dish, which meant as you ate the dish you kept finding prawns, squid and lobster on your fork. Some places I have eaten this kind of dish, you get a meagre amount of seafood. I wasn’t overly impressed with the lobster, which either lacked flavour or was overpowered by the sauce. If it wasn’t there I don’t think I would have missed it, which was a pity.

I did enjoy the dish, I liked the cherry tomatoes with the pasta. Though I think it wouldn’t be something I would order again, if it was still on the menu. It didn’t blow me away. 

As for the rest of the table, well they all went with chargrilled 8oz sirloin steak with rosemary fries.

chargrilled 8oz sirloin steak with rosemary fries

They all enjoyed their dishes, but they did say I cooked a better steak.

Service was excellent, efficient and friendly. 

Overall we had a really nice meal.

Time for some Risotto Nero

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. I had a nice starter of Fritto Misto. I went with fish for my main course and had the Risotto Nero.

Roasted scallops and squid seared in the pan served on a black squid ink risotto.

You have to say that the dish is very black, very black indeed.

A few weeks ago I had a squid ink paella and it was also very black. I have to say that it didn’t  look that appetising, however it was very tasty. There was squid and prawns in the rice. I am not sure I would have it again, but I am glad I tried it and it was good. So seeing the risotto nero on the menu I decided that I would give this squid ink dish a try.

Well the risotto I had was also very black. However the scallops and squid had been cooked separately and were added to the dish at the end. So it did look much nicer.

The risotto was al dente, and was quite good. It didn’t have the flavour of the paella, but I did enjoy it. The scallops were cooked well and were nice. The squid, was a little over cooked for me.

Overall I did enjoy the dish.

Homemade Gluten Free Fritto Misto

One thing I do quite like is seafood in crispy batter, what the Italians call Fritto Misto.

So after enjoying my recent attempts at gluten free Frito Misto, I thought I would cook it again. I went with the recipe I had used before.

Again I used the mixed seafood mix from Lidl. As part of their Andalusian range, Lidl had a bag of frozen prepared mixed seafood. It contains pieces of skin-in cod pieces, anchovy fillets, squid rings, chopped Indian squid and peeled shrimp. As I said before I do think there could be more shrimp (prawns) in there, but it is a good mix of seafood. I did take some of the squid rings and cut them into smaller pieces.

I took the seafood and defrosted it in a bowl and removed any excess water. I coated the seafood in seasoned flour and then left it for a while, a couple of hours all in.

I cooked the seafood by deep frying in hot oil. The end result was a crunchy coating on the seafood. This was then seasoned with a little salt.

Fritto Misto

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. The restaurant was in the Orangery, and to be honest the air conditioning was turned up a little too much for me, as it felt quite chilly.

On another evening I looked over the menu and went with the Fritto Misto for my starter, which was also available as a main course.

The dish comprised deep fried squid, tiger prawns, mullet and anchovies, set on a bed of ailiol and served with lemon.

The dish was garnished with some chilli and herbs. I am not sure how authentic the chilli is, something I see at Wagamama on their chilli, squid. I picked off the chill and squeezed some lemon juice onto the dish.

The batter was thin and crispy. You could taste the fish in the dish. The aioli was a little rough, but was okay.

Squid Ink Paella

When I was down in Ealing at La Rueda Tapas Bar in Ealing I was initially tempted by the paella choices they had, including a squid ink paella. In the end we had tapas. I would have liked to try a squid ink paella.

Recently I was working in Bristol, and went for a walk at lunchtime with a plan on getting something to eat. It was a Thursday so I headed out to the Temple Quay Market. Didn’t really fancy anything from the market, so I headed to the St Nicholas Market. It was rather busy. In the end I headed down towards La Lola for some squid or paella.

I was impressed to see that La Lola have expanded their menu and one of the choices was a squid ink paella. Well it was bit of a no-brainer, so I decided to try out their dish.

As with previous visits, I was given a warm welcome, I ordered my paella and took a seat. It arrived quite quickly, with some aioli and a slice of lemon.

You have to say that the dish is very black, very black indeed.

I have to say that it doesn’t look that appetising, however it was very tasty. There was squid and prawns in the rice.

I am not sure I would have it again, but I am glad I tried it and it was good.

tama squid

Staying in London I headed to Wagamama in Ealing. I had a the yasai yaki soba for my main, but I also wanted a side dish as well.

I chose the tama squid, which are crispy fried squid balls, drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. finished with aonori and bonito flakes.

tama squid

I thought they looked great. These were crispy with a smooth centre. The okonomiyaki sauce was tasty, the aonori and bonito flakes added flavour and texture.

I really quite enjoyed them.

Not as good as it was

Back in 2018 I made a few visits to The Real Greek in Cabot Circus and had some great food. Of course with lockdown, any early return visit was scuppered.

So recently I was in the Westfield Shopping Centre with my son and we decided, on my recommendation, the branch of The Real Greek they have there.

It was quite a hot day and it was rather warm in the restaurant. We looked over the menu and thought about what to eat. The menu has changed since I ate there four years ago, so some of the things I had enjoyed then, were no longer on the menu.

In the end we went with the fixed price Filoxenia Dinner Menu.

You make one choice from the four options.

For the first option, I went with the Greek flatbread, whilst my son had the crudités.

As for the second option, my son chose the Houmous and I went with the Santorini Fava.

From the hot meze options, I went with the Loukaniko Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, and my son chose the Fried Kalamari.

For the final option we had chips and the Saffron Rice.

The Santorini Fava was something I haven’t had before, and is yellow lentils from Santorini, cooked and blended with herbs and spices, topped with a salsa of tomatoes, onions, capers and caper powder. 

It was nicely presented  and worked well with the flatbread.

The houmous was a blend of chickpeas, rich in tahini and spiced with cumin, topped with paprika and roasted red peppers. I had a taste and it was really nice. 

For the hot meze, the Kalamari was crisp squid rings served with lemon mayonnaise.

Compared to the grilled kalamari I had in 2018 this was a real disappointment. The previous dish was described as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

My thoughts back then were:

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

This time, what we go was, squid rings in a crispy coating. It could have been okay, however the squid hadn’t been cleaned properly before cooking and a couple of pieces still had the inedible membrane attached.

As for my Loukaniko, Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, this was a traditional Greek sausage from Thrace, chargrilled and served on a bed of Greek Slaw.

Well it was, what it said it was. The sausages was tasty and I enjoyed the slaw.

This was a very different dish to the one I had in July 2018, then you got a lot more sausage.

Loukaniko beef and pork sausage

Overall I was to be honest quite disappointed with the whole experience. I don’t think I will be making a return visit anytime soon.

More Gluten Free Fritto Misto

One thing I do quite like is seafood in crispy batter, what the Italians call Fritto Misto.

So after enjoying my recent attempt at gluten free Frito Misto, I thought I would cook it again. I decided though, this time, to try a slightly different recipe.

Again I used the mixed seafood mix from Lidl. As part of their Andalusian range, Lidl had a bag of frozen prepared mixed seafood. It contains pieces of skin-in cod pieces, anchovy fillets, squid rings, chopped Indian squid and peeled shrimp. As I said before I do think there could be more shrimp (prawns) in there, but it is a good mix of seafood.

I took the seafood and defrosted it in a bowl and removed any excess water. I coated the seafood in seasoned flour and then left it for ten minutes. 

I cooked the seafood by deep frying in hot oil. The end result was a crunchy coating on the seafood. I think this was better than my previous attempt.

Gluten Free Fritto Misto

Gluten Free Fritto Misto

One thing I do quite like is seafood in crispy batter, what the Italians call Fritto Misto.

Though I have bought the Lidl Fritto Misto from their Italy week quite a few times, the reality is that it’s okay, but not good. It’s mainly squid, in a crispy batter. Also, the other downside is, it’s not gluten free.

As part of their Andalusian range, Lidl had a bag of frozen prepared mixed seafood. It contains pieces of skin-in cod pieces, anchovy fillets, squid rings, chopped Indian squid and peeled shrimp. Personally I think there could be more shrimp (prawns) in there, but it was a good mix of seafood.

I took the seafood and defrosted it in a bowl and removed any excess water. I coated the seafood in seasoned flour before coating in a gluten free batter and deep frying in hot oil.

The batter I made from gluten free plain flour, egg and milk. Mixing to a consistency that ensures a smooth coating of the seafood. As well as the seafood I added some prawns and cooked those as well.

Overall I was quite pleased with the dish, it was better than the Lidl Fritto Misto I have had before. The only issue I did have, was that the batter didn’t stay as crisp as I would have liked.

Fish Supper at Bills

I was in Manchester and needing an evening meal, my hotel restaurant was closed, so I headed out to the Trafford Centre for a bite to eat. There is a wide choice of places to choose from. I did walk around, but in the end decided I would go to Bills. There were quite a few things on the menu that I liked the sound of. They also had a reasonably priced set menu as well.

This branch of Bills is set within the New Orleans area of the Trafford Centre, so though it is a fake building, it’s quite an authentic fake building. I actually liked the facade.

I had a really good meal on my last visit to Bills in Ealing. I had some great tuna tacos and a nice steak. However that branch in Ealing has closed, it is now a branch of Las Iguanas. The menu at Bills appears to change frequently, or probably more likely I go so infrequently that it only appears to change frequently. However the tacos were on the menu, and I was tempted to give them a go again. I took my time, but in the end I decided I would go with the set menu.

For my starter I went with the crispy calamari with chilli and roast garlic & basil aioli.

I am a fan of crispy squid, so knew that I was probably going to be hyper-critical of the end result. However this was a nice plate of food. The squid was nice and tender, the coating was nice and crispy. It worked well with the aioli. I liked the presentation of the dish with the pea shoots and the chilli.

My main course was the pan-fried sea bass which was served with tomato sauce, nicoise olives, chive mash & pea shoots.

This was a nicely presented dish. The sea bass was nicely cooked and was quite tasty. I enjoyed the chive mash and it worked well with the tomato sauce. I finished all of this enjoyable dish.

I was tempted with dessert, but in the end said no.

Service was excellent and combined with the food made for a lovely meal. I would certainly go again and there are other items on the menu I want to try.