Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

Dinner at Johanssons, Camberwell

October 20, 2013

Camberwell is full of dining surprises. Obviously you can’t miss the Nando’s on the corner as you go up Denmark Hill, or the McDonald’s as you go into the Butterfly Walk shopping centre. But Camberwell’s dining scene is much more varied, independent and exciting than that.

We went to Johanssons last night. A small scandi-cuisine restaurant at night, a deli by day, tucked behind the bustling Camberwell Church Street.

It looked closed when we approached, though the lights were on. A friendly young lady greeted us and led us past the deli counter, up a small flight of steps, through a big square room with wooden floors and high ceilings, empty apart from a chair or two, and finally, into the small dining room (it only seats about 20 from my count…). Again, a high ceilinged, white wall room with wooden floor, wood tables and chairs and lit by flickering candles and a happy fire (the first of this year).

We were alone, but soon a bunch of eight friends came through the door for dinner, so it turned into a dinner party atmosphere. It was really like eating in someone’s living room… I expect it gets busy in the summer as there is a garden attached to the back of the house.

Anyway, onto the food! A simple menu with two sharing platters, a few good looking mains and a drinks list.

We went for the Scandi platter to share, which was a generous spread presented on a slate. An earthy reindeer terrine with loganberry sauce and tomato chutney, thick homemade ham slices with proper Dijon mustard and sauerkraut, and a two generous slices of salmon terrine with a sour cream and dill sauce. Toasted crusty bread slices to pile it on. Delicious!

We thought we might need a main but the platter was more than enough for three hungry ladies!

A great discovery, and perfect venue for an intimate gathering with friends or family. Must try the brunch!

Caravan, Kings Cross

October 14, 2012

If you haven’t been to Caravan yet, the restaurant in the brand spanking new University of Arts London campus at Kings Cross, I urge you to go!

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Firstly, because the new campus is a pretty awesome feat of architecture, integrating the old Grade II listed Granary building with new university facilities. I know because I work for BAM Construction, the people who built it!!! And a fine job they did too.

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Secondly, the food. The menu is split into small plates and mains. We shared 3 small plates, which was plenty for 2 hungry ladies and utterly delicious!

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The scallop ceviche was fresh and zingy, though it could have done with even more lime if it was up to me!

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The duck egg with new potatoes was nice, and made better by samphire, which I had never tried.before.

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But the real winner was the quail! Lip smackingly good!

Of course we had to sample desserts as well…

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A naughtily sweet gingerbread treacle tart with vanilla ice cream for me…

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An exciting salted shortbread and butterscotch pot for Carole… And there was a lot more I’d love to sample on the menu!!!

Thirdly, the cocktails. Served in short, small glasses, they packed a punch. I was glad! Finally a drink you can hold AND taste, without an iceberg worth of ice in it!!

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We sampled a few, starting with Pisco Sours, just as good as the ones I had in Peru last year…

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But a particulary mention worthy drink is the Espresso Martini, which uses freshly brewed espresso, made on site!! We talked about it for days…

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Finally go for the atmosphere! Nice mixed crowd, down to earth yet eager waiters, and a warm decor which integrates well into this Grade II listed building!

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Take a date or a friend for a good catch up!

Caponata, Delancey Street, Camden

October 7, 2009

My boyfriend and I had not seen each other for 24 hours, due to our conflicting work and play schedules. So, Saturday night we decided to out for dinner for a nice catchup meal which meant no home distractions or washing up involved. I really fancied some hearty Italian food as I was still fragile from Friday night work drinks and needed carbohydrates. I decided to take my boyfriend to an Italian restaurant I had walked by a few times after work called ‘Caponata’, which is a typically Sicilian dish made of aubergine, capers and olives.

Situated on Delancey Street, just off Camden High Street, Caponata is a little gem of a restaurant. This Sicilian Ristorante, Osteria and Bar looks sleek yet welcoming, with lime, white and deep plum coloured tables and chairs. The restaurant is situated upstairs but we decided to stay in the bar area, where other people were dining. We were actually seated in ‘The Courtyard’, a charming extension to the bar area, with a leafy wall and high ceiling with retractable roof.

Our table was small and round but created an intimate feel and it was nice to be able to reach across it and hold hands with my other half. After all,this was the whole point of this meal!

A friendly (Spanish) waitress served us and was very nice and accommodating. The menu was simple and very Italian, with the traditional Antipasti, Primi, and Secondi courses. Having been to Naples and tried eating all the different courses, we had decided it wasn’t for us: way too much food for one meal. So we narrowed our choice down to one dish each. I had the Risotto Balls – an interesting concept where the risotto vegetables/cheese are surrounded by rice and then the ball is coated in breadcrumbs. The 3 balls had different stuffings: ham and mozerella, beef and pea stew and spinach and mozerella. An interesting mix! The boy went for the Butcher’s cut which consisted of liver, beef and lamb bits, seared and served with roasted aubergine and carrots. It was amazing! (luckily neither of us mind sharing which is good because I always want to try what other people have chosen!)

The portions were just right, the food, beautifully presented and the meal a success. Caponata offers affordable, beautifully presented food in a setting which gives you a sense of occasion.

Since being there I’ve found more wonderful things about this charming venue. It offers live classical and jazz concerts most evenings of the week in their courtyard as well as Jive, Samba and Swing lessons every Friday night, followed by dancing with a live band! How cool is that? Must check it out on a Friday next time :)

Caponata also offers a hearty brunch menu so it’s really worth a visit on weekend mornings when you need some filling food to soak up the night before’s alchol!

Caponata, ti amo!

Guanabana, Kentish Town Rd.

October 7, 2009

Last night I decided to try out a new restaurant instead of the usual high street chains for dinner. A quick look on Time Out revealed quite a few cool eateries round Camden. I settled on Guanabana and dragged my boyfriend along.

Guanabana is a charming little Latin Carribean restaurant situated on Kentish Town rd., just after Camden Stables market. Slightly off the beaten tourist track, it’s easy to miss but so worth the detour. As you walk in, it seems to be quite small and sweet. But then walk through to the back and there is a whole other room and a decked beer garden with fairylights and  greenery. It felt a bit like stumbling into a secret garden.

We sat inside at the back, looking out onto the garden. The decor is homely: whitewashed brick walls with pale wood, wooden tables and chairs, all different sizes! Cute photographs and wooden trinkets adorn the walls. The lighting is subdued, partly because a lot of the bulbs have blown, partly because there are candles on every table. Some might say they have gone for the very-in shabby chic style. Others would just say they haven’t bothered to change the bulbs. Somehow, it works.

The food itself was not bad at all. My boyfriend ordered the ‘Famous Camden half a baby jerk chicken’ which was pretty big and succulent- the meat just fell off the bone. I ordered the ‘Fragrant Chickpea and Green Mango Coconut Stew’. It sounded amazing and when it arrived on the table, it was huge! Half the plate was covered in rice with kidney beans (rice and peas!), the other in chickpeas with green mango. It was tasty though I would have called it a risotto rather than a stew, and the rice tasted like reheated takeaway rice. But apart from that, very tasty. Next time though I would definitely try a more traditional Carribean dish like Curry Goat or Ackee and Saltfish Festival.

The main appeal of Guanabana is not necessarily the food, but the whole aura of the place. It really looks like a perfect venue for a great party. There is a shisha bar set up in the garden and they also have a ‘bring your own wine’ policy. The corking charge is £2 per bottle of wine and £0.50 per bottle/can of beer. For parties of ten or more it is £2 per head and you can bring as much wine or beer as you like!

When we went, there was only another couple having dinner so it was very quiet and the staff were a bit over-attentive (which isn’t really a bad thing!). But there is definite potential in this cute Carribean restaurant. Take some friends and check it out before it becomes a hot spot full of Camden teenagers and tourists!

[images: guanabanarestaurant.com]

Gilgamesh, Camden Stables

October 7, 2009

It was my friend’s birthday yesterday so we headed to the celebrity restaurant Gilgamesh, located in the Stables Market in Camden Town. There are 2 ways to get into Gilgamesh: either you go up the dramatic entrance with candles, red carpet and escalator, elevating you to the wonder that is Gilgamesh. Or you can take the stairs. Don’t be fooled however as the wide spiral staircase walls are engraved with a wood and bronze depiction of the Tree of Life. Impressive.

We were lucky enough to be seated at one of the top tables in the main restaurant/bar area, a horseshoe shaped banqueting seat surrounding a round table. So nice to be at a round table for dinner-everyone can see and speak to each other easily and there’s no one in a rubbish seat.

Probably the most amazing thing about Gilgamesh are the incredible decorations. Everything has been hand-carved, hand-made or hand-upholstered. The bar, which claims to be the longest in the world, was hand-crafted by 10,000 men in India and is embossed with lapis lazuli. The overall vibe is that of opulence, in hues of warm red, gold and bronze. The walls are adorned with the legend of Gilgamesh. This Babylonian king went on many quests and adventures (think Hercules) and all these exploits are carved onto the massive walls.

Of course the other thing Gilgamesh is famous for is their Pan-Asian food. The kitchen is run by celebrity chef  Ian Pengelley and there’s a reason why celebrities like Girls Aloud, Paris Hilton, and Emma Bunton have all flocked here in the past. We had the set menu (special offer in August- 50% off set menu) so were able to sample all 3 courses. And boy were they good!

The starters were some incredible crab and tuna sushi (4 pieces each) followed by a oriental beef salad…honestly the beef melted in the mouth it was tender and rare and oooh yum! The starters were presented so you had to share between 2 people but that just made it more fun!

Then the mains arrived. Everyone went for the Chicken Thai Curry served in bowls with rice, baby mushrooms and lots of gorgeous spices. Very fragrant and light. I, however, decided to be a rebel and try the honey-salmon. And honestly, I’m glad I did. It was beautiful. A nice square fillet of salmon presented on a rectangular white plate with a lovely sauce (not sure what it was but reckon there was sour cream in it?). It was sweet but not too sweet and the rice balanced it out nicely. The mains also came with a side of stir-fried morning glory! We all laughed when we read that. Turns out morning glory is a type of Chinese vegetable! Sort of like spinach. It was a little bit awkward eating with chopsticks and sitting so close to one another..there were a few eyes that nearly got poked out! But on the whole it the mains were a stupendous sucess.

The dessert however wasn’t as exciting but I guess it fulfilled it’s purpose: a light sort of blamange/cheesecake with a mango and passion fruit topping. The best part of it was the brandy snap balanced on top. Yum!

The only down side to Gilgamesh are the drinks. They cost a fortune (I kid you not, a bottle of still water was £4.50!) but it really is worth going there for a special occassion. Dramatic decor, succulent food, a good atmosphere…really highly recommend it to anyone!