Article
6 comments

Posh Lunch Club at Pizarro

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 26

To refresh your memories and to introduce new readers, Posh Lunch Club is all about finding the best fine lunches at bargain prices. So set menus, and all that jazz. Mainly in London but also anywhere that I might find myself. Which is a lot of places, at times. I have a long list to hit in London, and will be focussing on that for the next few months.

I love Posh Lunch Club because it makes London restaurants so accessible. I really believe that you don’t need to have a lot of money to eat well, either at home or out on the town. When I first moved to London and existed on a pittance, I took advantage of the amazing ingredients available to me and taught myself to cook more, as I couldn’t eat out that much. Now I can, but I still relish a bargainous and delicious discovery.

Posh Lunch Club isn’t a real club. I have had requests to join but sometimes there is only one member – just me on an indulgent solo lunch – more usually it involves one other, and sometimes, many more. The membership lasts for as long as lunch, and that is that. The real idea is for you to use this as a guide for your own posh lunches. I will show you the best and most delicious places to spend your hard earned cash.

Let us begin.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 01

My first Posh Lunch Club of 2013 was at Pizarro. One of my favourite restaurants, they have started doing a brilliantly priced Menu del Dia (as is typical in Spain) for £20 for 3 courses or £17 for 2. I have a confession, even though I normally stick to the menu, when in Pizarro I can’t resist going off piste and bumping things up a bit. I adore the jamon there (with a glass of fino, natch) and the cod fritters are very hard to resist. So we started with those.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 15

The cod fritters are crisp with a fabulously light & fluffy center. The jamon is nutty, rich and melts in the mouth. I can taste it now as I type. The jamon that is served at José (Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado) is sold at £1000 per leg retail elsewhere, so it is a bargain, even at £20 a plate.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 05

On to the starters. There are three choices, but I can’t look beyond chorizo, even if I have no idea what Trinxat is (Trinxat, chorizo was on the menu). It turns out to be a refined sibling of bubble and squeak with tiny diced chorizo, fried and crisp on top and on the side with some crisp greens. The cake itself was just holding together and when I touched it, it seemed to sigh and fall apart.

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 09

For my main course, I went for the pork chops with jersey royal and apple. The pork chop was very large and with a big coating of fat. The pork itself was delicious but the fat was divine. I left none behind. It lay on some apple puree, not over sweet and still perky. The jersey royals played a small supporting role with a herb dressing. My friend had mackerel plancha, which was super fresh as mackerel should be (but often isn’t).

Pizarro, Samsung S4 - 07

And this is where we stopped. No more food, and I finished with a coffee. But were I stronger, more greedy (or less greedy at the start), I would have had the Santiago tart. Really, I would.

A perfect breath of new life for Posh Lunch Club and about time I reviewed Pizarro. A wonderful restaurant, all heart and great food, those two courses cost only £17. There is a great sherry & wine list too.

It gets very busy, but there is almost always a seat at the bar. I have spent many a Saturday there. Enjoy it.

Pizarro, 194 Bermondsey St, London Borough of Southwark, London SE1

I am still experimenting with video. Here is a little one of Pizarro. A little shaky, but not bad for a phone at all. Imagine you are on a train as you watch it ;) (I think a little tripod for it would be very useful, I will perfect it!).

 

With thanks to Carphone Warehouse, who supplied the Samsung S4 which I used to take all photos in this post, and the video. Not bad, is it?! 

Article
12 comments

Posh Lunch Club: Summer Special at Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard

It’s been a little while since I’ve done Posh Lunch Club, there’s one post from Nuno Mendes Viajante still waiting in the wings, but otherwise travel and busy-ness has prevented my weektime posh lunch trips. I’ve had a few things to celebrate recently, this blog turned three (2 months ago!), I had a birthday, and summer has finally come, so I thought I should mark these with an extra special Posh Lunch Club. Who needs an excuse anyway, right?

Posh Lunch Club at the Owners Salon, Bob Bob Ricard

Normally just two dine for Posh Lunch, but this time we stretched to ten, and booked the Owners Salon at luscious Bob Bob Ricard. Edible in every respect, it’s so gorgeous to look at, I want to lick the wallpaper, Willy Wonka style. Except in the bathroom, even though it is possibly the most gorgeous part of this restaurant, truly it is.

Signature Rhubarb G&T

Home of the Rhubarb Gin & Tonic, some terrific Russian food and well executed traditional and comfort foods (Roasts, Chicken Kiev, Cheeseburger), they are also famed for their very shallow wine markups offering fine wines at very reasonable prices with a maximum of £50 on any bottle on the list. Not only is this great value for money, high end wines are often cheaper at Bob Bob Ricard than at retail. Likened frequently to being on the Orient Express, it always whisks me away from whatever is bothering me and the noisy streets of London, to something altogether calmer and more indulgent.

Press and get a glass of Pol Roger

Another reason to go, and this is what made this a very Posh Lunch indeed, is that for the month of July, Bob Bob Ricard are offering a free glass of Pol Roger (yes, that very nice one) with a two course lunch to celebrate it’s arrival as house champagne. Normally £11.50 a glass (and up to £18 a glass elsewhere), it’s a terrific bargain. Better still is the fact that you can order this champagne by pressing the “Press for Champagne” button at your table.

Russian Salad

We kicked off with the Rhubarb G&T. Creamy, sweet and sour with a hint of bitterness from the quinine in the tonic, I just love this drink. It’s a perfect appetiser too and surely counts towards our 5 a day, right? For lunch we then progressed to a Russian Salad which was wildly indulgent featuring lots of shaved truffle atop a softly boiled quails egg, and hidden between the lettuce leaves. This was served with a snifter of Russian Standard Vodka served at -18 degrees. It was a terrific match for the truffle, drawing out the earthiness and exaggerating the flavours. Itw as great with the creamy mayonnaise too.

Chicken Kiev with Sweetcorn Mash

On then to main course. I opted for Chicken Kiev with Sweetcorn and Potato Mash. It’s been years since I’ve had a chicken Kiev and I couldn’t resist trying the BBR interpretation. Served in a copper pan on top of sliced tomatoes, this was very good and the sweetcorn mash was a lovely idea, if a little too sweet for me. It was washed down with our lovely complementary glass of Pol Roger. The veal dishes were also popular amongst Posh Lunchers dining with me that day and I am going to try both the Roast & Veal Holstein on future visits.

Roast Veal

Veal Holstein

Dessert was a Little Layered Lemon Pot with Sugar Glazed Puff Pastry Soldiers and Fresh Raspberries, a perfect dessert for me, so tart and fresh with lovely balance from the sweet pastry soldiers. Gorgeous presentation too, but this is where these guys excel, delivering a feast for the eyes and the palate. Others ordered the impressive Chocolate Glory, the chocolate fondant and the delicious dessert soufflés.

Little Layered Lemon Pot with Sugar Glazed Puff Pastry Soldiers and Fresh Raspberries

Chocolate Glory

Strawberry & Cream Soufflé

Knickerbocker Glory

We finished with a coffee and agreed that it had been a lovely, lovely lunch. Great service just the right side of attentive (I really don’t like to be fussed over). This July offer is terrific value for money. If we had just done the two courses with Rhubarb G&T, my bill would have been under £40 with service (as the champagne is complimentary). The Russian Salad is £8.50 and the vodka £7. If you haven’t been, I would suggest you check it out. It has become a semi-regular haunt for me, and has a firm place in my affections.

Posh Lunch Club is nothing without the company so thanks to Denise, Jeanne, Ailbhe & Tony, Charlie, Petra, Magnus and Helen for making it so much fun and being great company.

http://www.bobbobricard.com/

Article
13 comments

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

There has been a lull in the transmission of Posh Lunch Club – apologies. The lull was only a week, but a week is a long time in politics blogging. I have been busy moving house and it has been a difficult transition. My new place is better located, and lovely and bright, but it is much smaller, and as a result I have a ridiculous amount of excess stuff. This takes sorting and dispensing, so it was lovely to escape from the chaos and indulge in a Posh Lunch with Sig of Scandilicious once more.

We had chosen to go to Texture, an Icelandic restaurant near Marble Arch. Iceland you say? You’ve heard of that recently? Well, this is possibly the star in the Icelandic crown. Forget attention seeking Eyjafjallajokull, that infernal volcano spouting puffing ash clouds all over the northern horizon and ruining everyone’s holiday plans. Forget about the collapse of the economy. Londoners, when you think of Iceland, you need to think Texture and you need to go there.

Why? Well, it’s a Posh Lunch Club bargain at £22 for 3 courses. The menu is pure simplicity, and deceptive for the food is intricate, and oh-so pretty. Each dish is like a woodland scene, I expected to spy a mini gruffalo peep out from behind a frond of dill amid Sig’s main course. I wanted to scoop my parmesan snow into a lunchbox and keep it forever in my freezer at home, like a parmesan ice queen. It’s modern yet in tune with nature, using normal ingredients (for us: chicken, salmon, asparagus, prawns) in creative ways.

Agnar Sverrisson is the culinary brainchild behind the operation. Icelandic, he started his culinary career in Reykjavik and has built an impressive CV including a stint as the Head Chef at La Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. There he met Xavier Rousset (Sommelier), and they left to setup Texture in 2007. They’ve just received their first Michelin star, and I really think this is one to watch.

Texture

We started with a plate of crispy bits – I am sure they have a better name! Crispy sheets of parmesan, potato, bread and cod skin with wasabi and lettuce emulsion and yoghurt and barley dip for dipping. The dip was fresh, and it was perfect, save the cod skin for me which was a little too fishy, although Sig loved that. This was followed by a gorgeous little amuse of pea and mint, what appeared to be soup, but was a combination of textures and flavours, some mousse with pea, mint & I think I detected some asparagus on top. The pea was almost frozen in parts, and the whole dish was packed with flavour, and had a purity to it with very clean and sharp flavours.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

The menu offers two choices per course, we each chose one so that we could try everything. Honestly, nothing disappointed. My starter of New Season English Asparagus, Parmesan Snow, Hazelnuts, Olive Bread was stunning. The crisp steamed asparagus was carpeted with a gentle icy parmesan snow. The hazelnuts were a great complement, and the texture of the crispy bread was perfect with the melting snow.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Sig went for Greenland Prawns, Gazpacho, Avocado, Tapenade. This dish had a touch of drama with the bright red gazpacho poured over at the table. The prawns were deliciously sweet and plentiful and the dish, from my brief tasting, worked beautifully.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

For mains I went for chicken – more precisely Corn Fed Free Range Chicken Breast & Leg, Barley, Chicken Jus. Chicken is normally absent on a Michelin starred menu and I was curious. Sig went for the Organic Scottish Salmon, Sorrel, New Potatoes, Cucumber. I was pleased when the waitress advised that they don’t cook the salmon through, as this is how I love to eat it (even if it’s not my dish!).

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

The dishes were breathtakingly pretty and packed with flavour. Mine had white breast meat and dark leg meat, with nuggets of barley and tiny dark brown mushrooms throughout. It was rich but not heavy, with two delicious spears of sprouting broccoli and carrots. I knew that not only was this delicious, but it was doing me good. Sig’s salmon was tender and flaked beautifully, she was very happy with her main course.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Desserts: I chose Mango & Pineapple Soup, Lemongrass, Basil, Olive Oil. The soup was poured at the table, a nice touch, and was fragrant and fruity and a fitting end to the meal. Sig couldn’t resist the Valrhona White Chocolate Mousse, Ice Cream, Dill Cucumber, mainly to see what they would do with the dill and cucumber. Again, she really enjoyed it, and we both agreed that we would love to go again, and as soon as possible. We finished with coffees and delicious petits fours, a pretty and delicious little macaron and truffles. Just enough to satiate and not enough to feel guilty.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Overall the food showed a real lightness of touch, both in the artfulness of the dishes and a purity and sharpness of flavour. At the end of the meal, we both agreed that we were satiated but perfectly so, perhaps because Sverrisson doesn’t use cream or butter in his savoury food, and you can really feel the difference. Not that I am knocking cream or butter, but it is nice to have somewhere that goes without and produces something this wonderful.

Posh Lunch Club at Texture

Much has been said of the wine, of the wide variety and the keen pricing. We didn’t explore this very thoroughly as it was just lunch after all. We wanted something light, with a bit of life, that wouldn’t knock us out and that would complement the food. We requested a suggestion for under £30. A Spanish wine from Rueda was proposed at £29 (Verdejo, José Pariente, Bodegas dos Victoria, 2008), and it fitted the bill perfectly, not unlike a Sauvignon but lacking those limey/gooseberry flavours, it matched the savoury dishes nicely.

All of this wonderful lunch came to £45 each including service. If that’s not a bargain for this gorgeous michelin starred lunch, tell me what is.

Article
11 comments

Posh Lunch Club at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

Another day, another Posh Lunch Club. This, my friends, is why none of my clothes fit me right now. I wish I was exaggerating! How can I go about continuing my lifestyle as savoury cookie monster, without putting on weight, or going to the gym? No purging either please. There has got to be an answer. Answers in a comment.

This lunch date was at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, one of the Galvin brothers numerous outposts in London. I ate at sister restaurant Galvin La Chapelle last year and really enjoyed the well executed and elegant French food. I was very much looking forward to (belatedly) trying the Bistrot. It has been recommended to me by many people for years.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

I was meeting fellow blogger and good friend, Sig of Scandilicious for lunch. I arrived first, and was immediately taken by the authentic Parisian buzz, high ceilings, low lit and low lamps, mirrors lining the walls, and lots of diners chattering surrounded by hues of brown and cream. It was a very elegant space with a charming atmosphere. I was glad Sig had suggested it, and was asking myself why I hadn’t been before.

I sat down and absorbed it all, perusing the set lunch menu, which is an absolute bargain at £15.50, running 7 days a week, including Sunday. This, in my Posh Lunch Club experience is fairly unusual. The set menu is also available in the evenings from 6-7pm.

There are two options for each course, which is normal for this kind of deal, and absolutely fine for me. It may be a bit trickier for vegetarians, impossible for those that don’t eat fish, but it is a French restaurant, and they don’t do vegetarian well. I am tempted to say Why Should They? Not because I dislike vegetarians, or vegetarian options, I often order them myself. Done well, vegetarian food can be fantastic. French food, however, is steeped in a history of rich meaty stocks and marrow, and I don’t think they should change that to suit a minority.

Sig and I chose a nice carafe of white wine, we asked the sommelier for something that would broadly suit our choices and it was a lovely one, which sadly, I can’t remember. It’s in a notebook somewhere, no doubt under a box, and in another box by now.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

For starter I had the Velouté of Pumpkin & Parmesan, which was a really perfect soup. Rich and savoury, with the fruitiness of the pumpkin playing with the umami rich parmesan, I was thinking about it for a few days. Sig went for the Mackerel Escabeche, which was perfectly nice, but nothing could extract me psychologically from my soup, sorry velouté, so I took a hurried bite and retreated swiftly to my bowl of liquid pleasure.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

We went for the same main course, Roast Pavé of Icelandic Cod, Pistou Vegetables. The cod was very nice, well cooked, nice crispy skin, but the pistou vegetables were a little underwhelming. Not bad for the price overall but a little lacking in ooomph. Grilled Calves Liver, White Polenta and Smoked Bacon was also on offer.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

For dessert, how could I resist the rhubarb? We’re almost out of the pretty-in-pink forced rhubarb season, and that sends me into a blind culinary panic. It came in the form of Buttermilk Panacaotta, Poached Rhubarb. I enjoyed the slight tang of the wobbly panacotta, but found the rhubarb a bit tough, which is a shame. Perhaps they undercooked them to retain a firm shape for presentation, but it took from the dessert. Brie de Meaux with Walnut and Raising Loaf was the other option. Once I saw the R word, I was blind to it though.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

So, overall, I really enjoyed it, after all, a meal is the sum of its parts, not just about the food, while it is very important. While the service was quite formal, it really fitted with the room and, dare I say it, it felt truly French. I really felt removed from my everyday existence here, I felt like I was in Paris. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The food was good overall, the wine a great match and a good sipper, and Sig was excellent company. What a bargain it was too. I heartily recommend it, and will be there again myself soon.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
66 Baker Street,
London, W1U 7DJ
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0) 20 7935 4007

http://www.galvinrestaurants.com

Article
27 comments

Posh Lunch Club at Kitchen W8, Kensington

Posh Lunch Club last week could only be a success, for I was to be in affable company. Oliver Thring, fellow blogger and now writer, joined me for a sojourn to the wilds of Kensington. Always cheerful and ever sharp, I knew we would have some fun.

We had booked lunch at Kitchen W8, a restaurant not on my radar at all, and for that reason, I was keen to try it. It’s like watching a film without seeing a trailer, or reading a review, and not really being sure what to expect as a result.  It can be very successful or perplexing, I wondered what I would get. En route, I spied a tweet from Ollie, stating that they had tried to seat us at the worst table in the room, even though the restaurant was empty. I sighed and speeded on, as ever a fashionable ten minutes late. Chronoptimism, my faithful stalker.

On arrival I spied a beige room, with lots of emaciated blonde older diners, lots of Ladies-What-Lunch. As a less svelte brunette, I wondered if there was a notice barring my sort that I hadn’t spied, the sort with single barreled names, and double barreled bellies. I wondered where these ladies put the food they were eating. Must have been in their handbags or down the loo.  I perused the menu, it was intriguing and I was in excellent company and ready to tuck in.

We were interested in the set menu, fine dining on a budget is what Posh Lunch Club is, as you know. There were three courses on offer for a very reasonable £19.50, two options for each course. We opted for a bottle of house red, a French Cabernet Sauvignon, to power us through it.

For starter I went for a Raviolo of Duck with Rhubarb Chutney and Trompette de la Mort. My second raviolo with rhubarb in as many weeks, I am aware. I may need to change the name of this venture to Rhubarb Club if I continue.

It was a curious dish. The raviolo was lovely, with dense full flavoured and moist duck, enveloped in extremely graceful and delicate pasta, perfect in it’s supporting role, as it should be. There was some finely minced duck on top, which was a lovely textural contrast, but the rhubarb chutney underneath just didn’t work. I really don’t think it was a chutney either, it was just rhubarb. To quote Ollie, in order to be stylish, you take one item off before you leave the house. This dish should have taken this sage advice and left the rhubarb in the kitchen, it would have been perfectly lovely with a simple jus.

The room was filling up now, and a hushed but vibrant atmosphere was developing. Maybe I was settling into the wine. We both opted for the Peppered Flatiron Steak with Pommes Salardaise, Crushed Turnip and Bone Marrow. This was a fine dish, the steak served medium-rare as suggested, with a fine wedge of bone marrow atop. The pommes salardaise were stellar, a firm slice of rich potatoes with a delicious and intensely savoury crust. The flatiron steak was rich and full-flavoured. This was a bold meal with great flavours. An extra green side salad was dressed perfectly, and a good accompaniment. The only thing was I am sure that that turnip was in fact celeriac. No matter, I prefer it and was happy. I liked this course a lot.

Rhubarb obsessed and hoping for a better interpretation than the starter offered, I chose the Poached Yorksire Rhubarb with Stem Ginger, Almond & Orange for dessert. I never can resist it, I had it for lunch today too! I expected a compote but what arrived was some rhubarb on a cake base of sorts, with jelly and icecream and some wafers, effectively. Much better and I enjoyed it, it was understated but tasty and good for the price.

Our meal was over, time for coffee? No. More wine please! A whole bottle. Why not, we thought, it had been a while and we were enjoying catching up. It is precisely for this reason that I am now the proud owner of retro jelly moulds, a new moka and a retro icing set purchased on the way home.

Overall, it really was a pleasant lunch. The service was very professional and swift, the food was well executed and there is some good if adventurous and at times misguided cooking coming out of the kitchen. If in the area I might pop in for lunch again and see if I fared better, I don’t think I would go out of my way to explore. We did have a great time though and it is a lunch to remember, if not for the food, for the laughs and stories shared over the wine. And isn’t that what lunch is all about sometimes?

Article
36 comments

Announcing Posh Lunch Club: First Stop, Arbutus

I want to do something new. I want to do something fun. A mini project that I will want to write about, an injection of passion, an objective. As you know, I like to be fed. So, I present to you: Posh Lunch Club.

Posh Lunch Club is all about the set menus in great restaurants, wonderful food at bargain prices. There will be the occasional defection to the expensive side of the fence, The Fat Duck has got to be done, and there’s a few others that will creep in at high prices. Guest members are allowed, and most welcome. I do love the occasional solo lunch with a book, so will be sure to have a number of these. In the main though, this is about tripping about London as a gourmand, at surprising prices. It’s always possible to source a great bargain.

Where to start? It had to be Arbutus, Anthony Demetre and Will Smith’s modern British restaurant in Soho. I’ve eaten there before, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but didn’t blog it. I was lunching with a visiting friend and decided to leave the camera at home. It’s perfect for Posh Lunch Club, really good food and the set lunch and early bird menu is an absolute bargain, at £16.95 for three courses.

arbutus-set-menu

I visited on a Friday, I hadn’t booked, and got a seat at the bar with no fuss. Perched with my book, I was happy, and swiftly ordered a reasonably priced carafe of Syrah/Grenache for £6.50. Sourdough (brown or white) was offered with some butter. I knew immediately what I wanted, and was also very hungry, so I ordered swiftly and shortly after was tucking into a country terrine with fruit chutney. The terrine, served with toast, was delicate and velveteen countered nicely by the sharp chutney. Wafers of radish were a lovely fresh addition. I liked it.

Lunch at Arbutus

I couldn’t resist the caillette for mains, an old fashioned pork meatball, served atop crushed winter root vegetables, primarily swede. The swede was delicious, a much under rated and under used vegetable, I scolded myself for not using it more in my kitchen. The caillette was rich and savoury, with nice contrasting textures, chunks of pork amidst minced, with a lovely lick of what seemed to be gravy on top. Another success, I was very happy with it.

Lunch at Arbutus

Finally a warm polenta and olive oil cake with seville orange marmalade and chantilly cream, followed by an espresso. The cake was nice and light, the cream delicious, the marmalade was tangy and sharp, seasonal, but I think I would have preferred something sweeter. The espresso cost £3.50 extra, but I needed my coffee, and it was a nice rich shot of dark caffeinated goodness, which terminated the meal nicely.

Lunch at Arbutus

Service was friendly and swift, it’s perfectly quick for lunch, I had 3 courses in under an hour and a half. It’s high on my list and I highly recommend it. Next, I must get the cookbook, I am keen to try some of Anthony’s recipes at home.

So, that was it. The first Posh Lunch Club, a very good lunch for a very good price. I can’t wait for the next one.

http://www.arbutusrestaurant.co.uk/