Well at least I got fries this time…

I was up in Manchester staying at the Copthorne Hotel on Salford Quay and went for dinner in the restaurant, finding it was closed, no reason given, but food was being served in the bar area.

I decided to have the mackerel pate, however it wasn’t available. So I went with the soup of the day. Today it was tomato.

I had expected to get cream of tomato soup, like you get out of a Heinz can, but what I actually got was a really nice fresh tasting tomato soup. It was rather good. It came with some toast, I think toasted white bread is okay when cooking soup at home, but in a restaurant setting I think I would like to have seen some toasted sourdough or ciabatta. 

Though I hadn’t finished my soup, my main course arrived. So I quickly finished my soup and was about to start my main course, when I realised I had no cutlery. So it was back to the bar to get a knife and fork.

I had ordered Steak Frites. This was steak with garlic butter, fries, a parmesan and rocket salad.

In a previous visit to the Copthorne Hotel on Salford Quay I had ordered Steak Frites and I wrote this.

Well, yes it was a sirloin steak, yes it was served with herb garlic butter (and it was quite garlicky), yes there was some rocket. However those were not fries, they were chips! Okay maybe being a little petty, but the menu describes the fish and chips as coming with chips, the steak and ale pie talks about being served with chips, but when I see a menu say it is served with fries, I do expect to get fries. 

Well at least I got fries this time… 

The rocket and parmesan was nice and would be something that I would try and make myself.

Alas unlike my previous visit, the steak was rather disappointing.

The steak was unseasoned and had very little flavour, the garlic butter was missing. It was still cooked medium-rare as requested. I decided that I would add some salt, and I literally never add salt to my food when eating. However there was no salt on the table, so I had to go back to the bar and ask for salt.

Overall I liked the soup, I was pleased with the fries, but was disappointed with the steak.

Time for Filetto di Manzo e Rucola

I was staying in Berlin in December, for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany. I was staying at the NH Collection Mitte ‘Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of what was East Berlin. I had various meals and snacks while I was there in Berlin.

I did feel a little guilty going to an Italian restaurant while staying in Germany, but when you realise that Vapiano is a German restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne. The chain’s restaurants offer Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle, it certainly has some German food credentials.

The service was simple, in that you ordered from a screen, took a buzzer, and then collected your food from the kitchen. Looking over the menu, I initially decided I wouldn’t have pasta or pizza, but would probably go with a risotto.

I did though look over the pasta menu, I liked the idea of choosing your own type of pasta, and it was fresh pasta. So, I changed my mind and went with the Filetto di Manzo e Rucola, or Beef Fillet and Rocket.

The menu could be accessed in English, so the description of Rinderfilet, Weißwein, Karotten, Zucchini, Champignons, Lauchzwiebeln, Zwiebeln, Rucola, could be translated to beef fillet, white wine, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, spring onions, onions, rocket.  Saw I could add “brot” for free, so I did. Well, my Grade 4 CSE German comes in handy when I remember that ‘brot’ is German for bread and it was a free extra to my food.

When my buzzer buzzed, I went to the kitchen to collect my food. The dish looked great.

It also tasted great. It was fresh and delicious. The steak was tender and I liked the addition of the rocket to the dish. The rest of the ingredients in the dish added to the flavours and textures.

I really enjoyed the pasta dish. The bread was nice as well.

Though I had intended to have the Bruschetta as a starter, because of the process of ordering through a screen meant that the Bruschetta and the pasta arrived at the same time. The Bruschetta was toasted bread with fresh tomatoes, onion, and rocket.

It was a great combination of textures and flavours. The tomato was nice, fresh, and it was well seasoned.

Tasty. Though another time I think I would order my starter first and then order the main course.

Had an Orangina as well to drink.

German Pasta

I was staying in Berlin in December, for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany. I was staying at the NH Collection Mitte ‘Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of what was East Berlin. I had various meals and snacks while I was there in Berlin.

I did feel a little guilty going to an Italian restaurant while staying in Germany, but when you realise that Vapiano is a German restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne. The chain’s restaurants offer Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle, it certainly has some German food credentials.

The service was simple, in that you ordered from a screen, took a buzzer, and then collected your food from the kitchen. I had started with soup, after finishing that, I then went back to the screen to order some pasta.

I ordered the linguine with beef tenderloin, shrimp, lobster sauce, carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions, spring onions, basil, brandy. I liked how you could use the type of pasta in your dish and add extras if needed (such as cheese).

The pasta was perfectly cooked and the rest of the dish was very tasty, though I didn’t really taste the lobster in the lobster sauce. 

It was certainly an interesting pasta dish and I enjoyed it. In some ways it was a strange combination of ingredients, though you often have prawns and steak together as a surf and turf. Would I have it again, probably.

Steak and Chips

I was staying at the Doubletree Hilton in Ealing and was eating in the hotel restaurant. I had a look over their menu. There is something about hotel menus that can be rather depressing. Sometimes you find places that inspire and bring joy. Other times you think, I should have gone out to eat!

Now I will say having had steak and chips a fair few times recently at hotels, this dish was just a little disappointing in comparison.

The menu didn’t indicate the weight or the size of the steak, but I got what I felt was a rather thin piece of sirloin steak. The chips came in a small metal fryer basket. Alongside were some roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine, a roasted field mushroom and some watercress.

Having said it was a little disappointing, the accompaniments were all rather good, I think the dish was just let down by the main act. The steak was rather bland and lacked flavour. It was rather thin as well. It was cooked medium rare as ordered, but apart from that I was not impressed.

Starting at the Fox and Goose

I was in London and staying at the Fox and Goose close to Hangar Lane. This is a Fullers Hotel and is part of the same chain at Drayton Court, which I have stayed at for a few times now. When I was staying at the Drayton Court Hotel I had some excellent meals. The Fox and Goose had a slightly different menu than the Drayton Court, but there were similarities. 

I really liked the sound of the seared Owton’s dry-aged skirt steak with salsa verde and pecorino for my starter, so I ordered it.

Owton's dry-aged skirt steak with salsa verde and pecorino

The steak was lovely and tender and the chargrilling added flavour and texture to the surface of the cut of meat. The pecorino  and salsa verde added some nice saltiness to the dish. The accompanying pea shoots gave the dish a little bit of freshness.

I have to say I enjoyed the starter so much that on the following night I had it again!

Owton's dry-aged skirt steak with salsa verde and pecorino

Once more a delicious starter which I really enjoyed. It was less chargrilled than the previous evening.

Dinner at the Spencer

I was over in Dublin for an event and was staying at The Spencer Hotel. A dinner was planned in the restaurant and I was intrigued to see what we would be having. What was nice, was that we could choose from a menu of options.

For my starter I went with the Chicken Caesar Salad. This was crisp baby gem leaves, smoked bacon, crunchy croutons, poached chicken breast, parmesan shavings with classic caesar dressing. It was a nice caesar salad, though the chicken was a little bland. I think if I was cooking it, I would probably have served it with hot chicken, probably griddled, rather than poached. 

For my main course I had the Ribeye Steak with chips. There was a delay in getting my food out, compared to the rest of the group, as there had been a mess up in the ordering (or I suspect someone else decided to have my steak instead of their sea bass, probably forgot what they ordered! When it did arrive, the steak was cooked well and I enjoyed it. I did think they had cooked the steak in an interesting way. It was medium-rare, as requested, but the outside was well cooked, a little too much for my liking. Having said that I did like the dish.

Desert was a trio of desserts, and they were nothing to write home about, so I won’t.

Overall it was a nice meal.

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.

Chiquito

I’ve only been to Chiquito a couple of times, but I have always liked the idea of the menu.

We went as a family and had some interesting dishes. I don’t think we were overly impressed with the experience, and I can’t see us making a return visit anytime soon. The food was okay, buy nothing special.

I had the chilaquiles, these were nachos tossed in sauce, oven baked with mozzarella until crispy on top and soft at the bottom, topped with a fried egg. I had mine with the barbacoa beef and chimichurri sauce.

It was just okay, I thought it was interesting with the egg. I didn’t really enjoy the soft nachos.

My eldest went with the chimichanga, fried tortilla packed with rice, refried beans, mozzarella and jalapeño cheese sauce. Served with guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

He did enjoy the dish.

My other son with the topped salad with a chicken + chorizo skewer. 

The salad was mixed leaves, grains, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrot, pink onions and crumbled feta cheese in a citrus dressing. Interesting salad and combination of flavours.

The other dish on the table was a 6oz juicy tender steak, mixed salad and homemade sweet potato wedges.

The steak lacked flavour, and the sweet potato wedges were undercooked.

Overall it was just okay as a meal out, the service was lacklustre.

Time for Tacos at Wahaca

The last time I went to Wahaca it was just before lockdown. In May 2022 I was up in London for an event with my son, and afterwards we decided to get something to eat. Our first choice was Bills in Victoria, but they were full. So, I suggested that we head to Oxford Circus and go to Wahaca. We caught a tube across London.

We arrived to find there was a bit of a wait for a table, well it was a Friday evening in London, not too surprising. We decided that we would wait. It wasn’t too long before a table was free, we sat down and looked over the menu.

We chose six dishes, the one we started with, was the Mexico City nachos which I discussed here and was the highlight of our meal.

We also had three plates of tacos.

We had the grilled chicken and avocado tacos with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa, served in two soft corn tortillas.

I have had these before, the chicken for me was slightly overcooked, but the flavours were excellent. I like the addition of the guacamole to the spicy chicken.

There was also the chargrilled steak & cheese tacos, chargrilled bavette steak with grilled cheese, chipotle and avocado salsas, in two soft corn tortillas.

Another dish I have had before, these were very tasty. Though I think I have had better ones before. The steak was nice and tender and the salsas added a contrast of flavours and textures. Never see the point of the grilled cheese, preferred it when it was an option and I could choose not to have it.

Our final choice of tacos were the buttermilk chicken tacos, this was crispy fried chicken, with pink pickled onions and spiced mayo, in two soft flour tortillas.

I have had these before also. The chicken was overcooked and dry, but I liked the pink pickled onions. 

Overall these were nice tacos, not the best I’ve had, but certainly they were tasty.

Back at Bills

I have really enjoyed my recent meals at Bills. Back in September 2021 I had a really nice meal at the (now closed) branch of Bills in Ealing. In May I was in Manchester and had a nice fish supper at Bills. Last month we had a delicious brunch in Bath, well everyone else had brunch, I had tacos.

So it was with a little anticipation myself and my son headed out to the Baker Street branch of Bills. We had booked, so, after a warm welcome, we were shown to our table. I do like the quirkiness of the decor in the different branches of Bills, and Baker Street was no exception.

I looked over the menu (or should I say menus) and decided what to eat. As you might expect I was somewhat tempted by the tuna tacos again, as I had enjoyed them on previous visits. I also liked the idea of the crab cakes. There were lots of nice choices on the mains section of the menu, the chargrilled lamb rump did appeal, as did the lobster and seafood linguine.

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.

In the end we went with the set menu, with two courses for £13.95 which seemed very reasonable.

For my starter I had the chicken and sesame dumplings with Bill’s spicy chutney.

I got six pan fried dumplings, though I wouldn’t have called it a chutney, it was much more a dipping sauce. The pastry was nice and crisp, though the filling was a little bland for me. However the dipping sauce enhanced the dumplings, so in the end I did enjoy the dish.

My son went with the crispy calamari served with roast garlic & basil aioli.

He let me try some, the squid was really nice, tender and there was a nice crunch to the crispy coating. There was quite a bit of sliced red chilli on the dish, which I did try to avoid. I couldn’t taste the basil, but the aioli was quite tasty.

For my main course I weren’t with the chargrilled chicken and grains. This was described as coming with spinach, lentil and ancient grain salad, flatbread and tzatziki.

The flatbread was warm and fresh, and the tzatziki was tasty and refreshing.

As you can see, the lentil and ancient grain salad was served with pea shoots and not spinach, but I didn’t mind that as I preferred the pea shoots over having the spinach.

The chicken was chargrilled, but I did feel it was a little dry and overcooked. Of course you have to cook chicken properly, but this was cooked a little too much properly for my liking.

My son had the chargrilled minute steak with rosemary fries and  dressed pea shoots. 

Well the pea shoots were missing. He let me try some, this was an excellent dish, the steak was cooked perfectly and the fries (were fries) and tasted of potato

We decided to forgo desert and paid the bill using the QR code, which is becoming the norm for many places these days. 

I am looking forward to my next visit to Bills.