Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Arigato Sushi and Thai, Winchmore Hill - Restaurant Review

Thai cuisine is my favourite. Luckily for me, a new Thai and Japanese restaurant has opened up locally, so I felt it my duty to check it out with some friends and let North Londoners know what it's like.

Located on Green Lanes, a few minutes walk down Station Road from the Green and the pubs of Winchmore Hill, Arigato offers a menu with all the traditional best-loved Thai dishes, as well as an array of Japanese specialities such as Sushi, Sashimi, Nigiri and Teriyaki. Formerly Makan Minum, a Malaysian eatery, it has been refurbished in a contemporary oriental style with some Japanese pallet tables and a guitar inside the door for anyone to play (we didn't!).

Mixed Starter: Spring Rolls, Prawns in blankets, Prawn toast, Thai Fishcakes and Satay chicken
Pud Thai
Thai Green Curry
Mussaman Curry

I have read quite a few bad reviews, poor service, wrong orders, but on this occasion the waitresses were very sweet and helpful. As it's BYOB they charge a small corkage fee, so once we plonked our Prosecco on the table, the waitress brought us glasses without even asking. The Japanese menu is extensive and seems to cover all areas of Japanese food, but we stuck to the Thai menu (which is, after all, the best cuisine there is!).

Starters are the thing. Always a good barometer: If you just want to carry on eating starters all evening then you know it's good. However, I wasn't blown away by them. I think I wanted to be, but the satay chicken didn't taste of anything, and the spring rolls were falling apart. Between three of us we ordered the mixed starter and it was just enough.

The main event was much more promising though. My friend ordered the Thai Green curry and it was fresh and flavoursome, though perhaps lacking in heat. My Mussaman curry was actually really good - creamy and coconutty with some the traditional potatoes and topped crispy fried onions. My other friend had the Pad Thai and was rather impressed. 

Portion sizes were really big - if we hadn't been going on to the pub we would have had enough for a whole other meal to take home. Since eating here, my friend has ordered takeaways from Arigato and been more than happy. This is great for the area, particularly since the closing down of the Green Dragon Pub, where the Thai food was excellent. It did feel a little as if it were a Japanese restaurant catering for people who liked Thai food, and specializes more in Sushi and the like, so I think I may have to return to try out some tempura and maybe a bento box...

Doitashimashite (You are welcome!)

741 Green Lanes N21 3RX
020 3581 1609

~£15 a head, not including drinks
Bring your own alcohol.
Cards not accepted.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Godiva Chocolate Challenge #2 - The Finals

As National Chocolate Week draws to a close, I know of one lady who will still be celebrating. Last year's Godiva Challenge Winner, Heather, returned this year as a finalist and according to the judges, it was no 'Hix Fix' that she retained her title.

The four judges, Mark Hix, Gizzi Erskine, William Sitwell and Godiva's Master Chocolatier Jean Apostolou (an old friend of mine ;)), took a little less than an hour of deliberation whilst us honoured invited guests (and non-finalists) mingled and tasted the four desserts. Impressive skills, a high standard and being able to taste the fine chocolate ingredients was key in their decision. Each finalist reproduced their dish six times - four for each of the judges, one for photos, and one for the rest of us to sample.

The four entries were:

Heather Bennet: Come Fly With Me

Heather's was really original, and so complex it took about six hours to re-create. Good luck with that to the professional chefs that will be serving it up in Mark Hix's Soho restaurant!

Come Fly With Me: Raspberry and Chocolate Meringue, Chocolate Mousse, Caramelised Almonds and Rose Cream

Anoop Momi: Nuts About Cherry

Anoop was supported by his lovely girl, who is always urging him to enter the Great British Bake Off. I reckon he would have a really good chance, his dish was perfection, in presentation as well as taste.

Nuts About Cherry: White Chocolate, Cherry and Pistachio Delice, Macarons, Tempered Chocolate, Kirsch Cherry and Ganache.

Joe Fallowfield: You Can Eat Flowers

Joe's beautiful dish showed off his chef skills with originality and opulence. An explosion of chocolate flavours.
You Can Eat Flowers: Chocolate and Rose Mousse, Kirsch Ice Cream Meringue, with Edible Flowers.

Rosanna McPhee: Chocolate Nut Torte with Cherry Meringue Ice Cream

Rosanna's dessert was, in my humble opinion, home cooking at its best. Although delicious and extremely skilled, it's also quite an accessible dish, which I hope to re-create soon.

You can find Rosanna's recipe here.

Chocolate Nut Torte with Amarena Cherry Meringue Ice Cream

Another wonderful evening hosted by Godiva. And better still, for every purchase of their delicious Mousse Meringues, they will donate a percentage to Breast Cancer Now. What better incentive to indulge in some luxurious chocolate?

Chef and Judge Mark Hix with the Godiva Challenge Winner, Heather.
Photos courtesy of LuxxPR, Photography by Carl Pendle.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Li Veli Winery & Bistro, Covent Garden - Restaurant Review

Li Veli Winery and Bistro, on Long Acre in Covent is bringing the simple authentic cuisine of Puglia, the 'heel' of Italy, to London. I was invited in for a review for Love Food Love Drink, and as soon as we arrived we were treated like VIPs. Our reserved table in the window was perfect for people watching, both on the street and inside this modern, spacious and stylish eatery featuring elements of Apulian design.

Li Veli Winery & Bistro

Our very charming maitre d', Nicolas, ushered us to our seats and remained attentive but not intrusive for the evening. From the Antipasti menu he recommended the Apulian 'Frisella' Bread and the Fave e Cicora, a broad bean mash with chicory. Not being a huge fan of tomatoes, I tentatively ordered the Frisella, a wholewheat bagel bread covered in organic cherry tomatoes and doused in San Domenico olive oil. It was good, really good. A sizable portion too. Himself went for the red tuna tartare instead of the Fave, and both of us were stuffed after our starters. 

Frisella Bread; Red Tuna Tartare; San Domenico Olive Oil;
Aubergine Parmagiana; Orcchiette; Pistachio Ice Cream
Most of the wine served in Li Veli is sourced from the owner's own vineyards in Puglia, The Masseria Li Veli. The white wine was light and fresh and extremely drinkable. The red, served with our mains, was earthier and slid down our throats like silk. 

Li Veli wines
Li Veli wines

For mains, we followed Nicolas's advice and plumped for homemade organic orecchiette, little ear-shaped pasta, served with melted anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs. For me, aubergine parmigiana, topped with smoky caciocavallo cheese - delicious. 
The menu catered well for vegetarians, with only a few meat dishes, but every was organic, fresh, and simple. This simple yet sophisticated style is typically Italian, and more so Pugliese, taking quality ingredients and serving them in time-honoured traditions.

Dessert was the highlight of the meal. Tiramisu, of course, and an enticingly flavourful pistachio ice cream, drizzled with San Domenico olive oil. This you have to try for yourself. You won't believe it works, but it does. 

Join these two families, one culture, and the traditional Apulian taste in Covent Garden. Not your typical pizzeria...

69 Long Acre, WC2E 9JS
020 7240 8163

Pre-Theatre Dinner (5-7pm) 2 Courses £18, 3 Courses £22

Read my review for Love Food Love Drink Magazine here.

Li Veli Winery & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal