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Restaurant Review

    The Modern Pantry: Restaurant Review

    I think I’ve said it before, but Brunch is swiftly becoming my favourite meal of the day. A few friends and I have checked out another few of London’s Kiwi brunch spots – Kopapa (which I’ve found out recently means “Meeting Place”), the Providores and Caravan (Kings Cross) all run by Kiwi chefs with a passion for good food and great atmosphere.

    The Modern Pantry was no exception.

    Found in fashionable Clerkenwell, the Modern Pantry is housed in two Georgian buildings, the larger of the two buildings was originally part of an adjacent steel foundry, while the other was a townhouse.

    The interior of the restaurant (we were downstairs in the cafe part) is nicely full of crisp clean furniture with warm highlights. We couldn’t believe how large the place was – our floor, another floor above us and a floor above that with the facilities. It was so quiet it was hard to believe how many people were there being served.

    Service was really nice – friendly, funny, happy to answer any questions and make substitutions and not overbearing in anyway, they wierdly just popped over whenever we started to think about ordering something. Maybe telepathy is a hiring condition there?

    Our biggest problem was deciding what to eat from the extensive menu in the sunshine away from the bitter North wind. Every plate that came out of the kitchen – usually a good indication of what’s good – looked delicious. As with most of the restaurants we’ve tried with Kiwi links, the menus are modern, focus on the ingredients, but don’t have a particular food style – they do have a few Kiwi twists though – Marmite soldiers for instance.

    We settled in the end for a variety of dishes:

    Turkish Menemen Baked Eggs with Nigella Yoghurt and Sourdough Bread – a in essence a Turkish ratatouille of onions, tomato, peppers and lovely spice topped with two perfectly baked eggs, a spiced flavoured yoghurt and sourdough bread perfect for dipping.

    Eggs Benedict withYuzu Hollandaise (Yuzu is a small oriental citrus fruit) and Bacon or Salmon; The Yuzu Hollandaise was met with mixed reviews, but the perfectly poached eggs looked delicous atop their salmon or bacon and Muffin brunch-fellows.

    A delicious looking Grilled Breakfast (Bacon, Scrambled Eggs etc.) Everything seemed to cooked really nicely as you’d expect, this certainly isn’t a greasy spoon.

    And the Pièce de résistance: Ricotta filled pancakes with berry compote and Cream Fraiche. As per our very freindly waiters advice, we kinda had them as Breakfast Dessert, sharing between the table. Oh Boy were these delicious.

    Crisp batter filled with soft creamy Ricotta cut with the sweetly sharp berries. This was… well it’s making my mouth water. You load your fork with a bit of everything and just enjoy.

     

    We tried several coffees (Kiwi’s definately know how to make a mean flat white – full bodied without being burned, full fat milk (gasp) at just the right temperature) and whilst we didn’t order any of the delectable smoothies or delicious sounding ‘reviving cocktails’, we were tempted into ordering some of the hard to pronounce Teas made locally. We were also advised (laughingly) by our waiter that the Tea company recommends their Teas are served in stemmed wine glasses. Ever the adventurers we had a try, and thankfully had no incidents of smashing (though it steam a few specs).

     

    Overall we really enjoyed ourselves. Unobstrusive friendly service, good food and a nice atmosphere it is a place that is very easy to linger in on a Saturday morning.

     

     

    I definately recommend going to The Modern Pantry for a nice brunch near to Farringdon Tube Station (watch out at the station for marauding Kiwis but only near the 6th of Feb though). Be warned the menus are extensive, they have daily changing menus (including separate Saturday and Sunday Brunch menus) and I understand that you’re advised to book as it can get very busy.

    Eggs Benedict: Bacon or Salmon? Discuss. 

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    The Forties Tea Room

    Nestled in the some what unusual location of an Uxbridge mall in Zone 6, The Forties Tea Room/Farm Shop is lovely. I’m starting to tire of bland samey chain coffee houses, and when meeting a friend on maternity leave, I secretly hoped that the chain coffee house we had arranged to go to, would be full.

    My stars must have aligned (or the cold wintery weather pushed everyone inside) and with the chain full to bursting, I managed to sneak in the suggestion of The Forties Tea Room.

    It had everything my little vintage enjoying heart loves – pretty mismatched teacups and saucers, teapots and wood furniture, big fluffy scones and a good sized light-bites menu.

    The double front cafe and shop has been set up to raise money for the RAF Bomber Command Memorial and Maintenance Appeal, which only makes future excuses to pop in easier to wrangle.

    

    

    
    

    (Excuse the poor photo – too busy scoffing. I’m glad we went hungry)

    

    It’s really hard to pin down a favourite aspect; the cake platters loaded with slabs of cake, the wooden dresser housing the china, the great service, the bunting, the ‘war’ themed menus, the tea made with traditional tea leaves. No wait, it’s the enormous scones (plain, sultana or cherry) served with clotted cream and Jam which stole my heart, followed by my take home slice of Bread Pudding.

    To my surprise, even the tube Station has quite a cool character.

    Now, the only temptation I need to resist is going back to clear out the Farm Shop & adjoining gift store. With no website for directions, you just need to head out of the Tube Station (the entrance straight ahead exiting the train), and head towards the Pavilion Shopping Mall.

    It’s nicely busy; a good level hubbub giving it a nice atmosphere, but service was fast even when it picked up. Did I mention it was also really well priced? Go.

    What is your preferred style – Modern or Mismatch?

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    Weekday Cocktails

    Warning: this post may make you thirsty.

    I think I’ve found an awesome way to dispell weekday blues – cocktail classes!

    Now, I’m nothing but honest (and probably usually overshare) and in this instance I was a guest of Balans in Stratford, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own.

    When I left my office to hop on the tube to Stratford, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we were warmly welcomed with a fresh Bellini and a big smile from our instructor and her assistant.

    Our instructor was a (cocktail making) mother hen to our gaggle of giggling bloggees. We were taught how to make a variety of cocktails in a beginners shaker – it’s really good because us bloggers all love things that we can try again at home, and none of them required special equipment bar the Shaker. We made a Berrylicious (Blackberries, Raspberries, Berry Puree and White Rum);

    My all-time favourite Margarita (it was so good, it was inhaled – the nice thing is you can tailor them to your own tastes when you make them):

    We then stopped for a snack break with some nice nosh; Gruyere and Spinach Quiche, Calamari, Turkish Pitta and dips, Ham Terrine.

    Tried a Red Ribbon (made in honour of Elton John’s Aids Foundation, which was lovely);

    Then a Balans White Russian, with a seasonal decoration… the decoration kinda worked (if you squint and kind of tilt your head it’s two bells.)

    They cheerfully accommodated our non-alcohol drinker, and whilst a couple of the mocktails were (by her own admission as they don’t often get the request) on-the-fly adventures, two of them looked delicious – the berry mocktail with pomegrante syrup and the layered hazelnut coffee. It led to a really interesting conversation about sugar syrups, and how easy they are to make at home and flavour with your chosen ingrediant. Future Challenge accepted.

    Oh, and apparently Pumpkin Spice Syrup is really good in cocktails. Second Future Challenge accepted and ingredients ordered..

    One of the best things about this particular restaurant – the vicinity to public transport links. You can get just about anywhere, as long as it’s in London or Essex, and you are willing to make a few changes.

    There are a few branches of Balans, dotted over London and Miami, see the Balans Website for further details. The Cocktail classes were well organised, are held regularily, cost £39.95 and I think for the quality pretty good value for money; 5 drinks, great nibbles and some really interesting tuition. And you get to Ghetto Dump (it’s the way you pour the cocktail into the glass, fyi).

    There are a few ladies who I’m going to round up & suggest we hit another one of the branches up. Practice makes perfect after all.

    I’ve also got a possible Margarita night planned in my 101 in 1001 goals.


    The ladies I met have some awesome blogs: Simply Foods, Botanical Baker, Food I Fancy, Pebble Soup and Ladies in Blogging a UK blogging network.

    What is your favourite Cocktail? Have you ever tried a Mocktail?

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    L’Entrecote – Cultish Steak

    If you like steak, and you have lived in London for any length of time, the odds are that you will have heard of, if not been to Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, a steak restaurant not far from Oxford Street, on Marylebone Lane.

    Check out that queue!

    The basic premise is, they offer one starter and one main only – Walnut Salad and Steak Frites (Entrecote Steak and Chips) and their secret sauce (if you are a vegetarian they do now offer you a second serving of salad and a selection of Cheese) – with a small selection of desserts and drinks.

    It’s modelled on their Parisian restaurant by the same name, established 50 years ago, in fact, the decor and waitress uniforms are identical.

    It’s good – their secret sauce is delicious, and they keep behind 1/3rd of your steak to keep it warm until your table has finished their first 2/3rds. They then bring it out with another huge portion of fries.

    Entrecote Steak is tender and flavoursome, originally cut from between the 9th & 11th ribs making it a premier cut, but now is synonymous with rib-eye steak.

    Brilliant for indecisive diners, the only real choice you have is how well you would like it cooked – Blue, Rare, Medium or Well Done – and what to drink. The below image doesn’t really do much for the dish, but it tastes so good.

    The restaurant is regarded with almost cultish awe, and I have to say it is good – much better than some of the franchise Steak houses – the secret sauce was superb and the fries fantastic. I’ve been spoiled by Goodmans choices and knowledge though, which overall was better for me, and not too much more expensive.Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte is good – but go early as they don’t book tables and the queues are normally around the corner.

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    Caravan, Kings Cross

    Mark of a good restaurant? 8 hours in it & 3 meals – breakfast, lunch & dinner.




    The lushest Brownie. Ever.

    With a Kiwi accented menu (Sweetcorn Fritters anyone?), Caravan is quite industrial in decoration located in a converted Mill, but very comfortable nonetheless for the Kiwis, Pirates, Spaniels and brunchers flocking there.

    




    Sweetcorn & Black Pudding Fritters. Bliss.

    We rather enjoyed exploring the menus, in between talking (hubby is sure “using more words in 8 hours [than he] has, speaking with his best friend in the entire 20 years they have known each other”.)

    We tried the baked eggs with chorizo,


    Salted beef hash,


    The staff as a rule were really sweet, and a good laugh. The only downside to the day were the bathrooms – they could have had much more TLC during the day, and it’s awkward having one soap bottle between 4 strangers…

    Quail on creamed Sweetcorn

     

     Another view of the unctious Brownie (resist, I dare you!)


    and last but not least the Butterscotch Tart (amazing, though the base was a bit hard to eat).

    Winner of the day for me was the Sweetcorn and Black Pudding Fritters. Such a gorgeous combination of flavours, especially paired with the Avocado, and the Paprika Cream Fraiche.

     

    The drinks – we tastes tested an endless stream of lattes which were scrumptious, Watermelon and Mint Juice which was really refreshing (I loved it but it wasn’t to my friends taste), the endless table water was great and the Strawberry shake was so thick you can stand up a straw in it declared delissimo.

     

    Cocktails were great – the Mojitos passed a very strict level of standard and the Pear & Apple Daquiris. Oh the Daquiris.

    I swear it was light when we went into the restaurant…

     

    All in all (bar the bathrooms, and lack of Spirulina smoothies), I think we can pretty decisively say that Caravan is great, supported by the very busy floor full of brunchers. It’s located behind Kings Cross Station. Please don’t tell anyone about it – it’s too good to be too busy!

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