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Monday 23 December 2013

Caravan - Blackfoot - House of Ho - Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

Guest Post - Wednesday 11th December

Last week, whilst Matt was experiencing The Last Word, the opening of new pork restaurant Blackfoot took me to Exmouth Market.

As I arrived well ahead of my table booking I decided to stop off in Caravan for a coffee and a cheeky, pre-dinner beer. I was pleasantly surprised, the coffee was delicious and, sat at the bar watching the passing custom, whilst others sat down for a full blown meal down in the restaurant area, I whiled away an hour with no trouble at all. They had a Beavertown IPA on tap and Camden Hells Lager (which made the time go a little quicker...).  Caravan opened a larger second site in the old grain house in King's Cross in 2012.

Moving on to the main event, I popped down the street to Blackfoot. Initially I was unsure, the decor and layout is typical of many recent openings; tiled white walls, candles, booths and a basic bar. Nothing to note there. However, glancing at the menu, there is more to grab one's attention. There's pork of all varieties. Smoked, Burger-ed, Vietnamese, Spanish, Chopped and more. We went all out and filled up on pig.

From the Raw and Preserved options the Pork Rillettes were of distinction - succulent pork with toasted sourdough and gherkins. From the mains I would recommend The Long Smoke; smoked belly with pepper, treacle and star anise - sweet and peppery, full of flavour and terrifically well cooked. We also tried the Iberico Pressa, an unusual Spanish delicacy, a proper tender chunk of meat served pink. Delicious.

Not only are the offerings here unusual, I certainly don't know anywhere else that has such a piggy focus or range (apart from Wiggies), but the quality is fantastic as well. This place gets my recommendation for providing an interesting, unique menu and top notch cooking. Mention should also be made of the friendly and enthusiastic staff.  If you are passing by, pop to the counter to grab a takeaway £5 roll with pork loin & belly and salsa verde:

£5 takeaway pork loin & belly rolls with salsa verde at Blackfoot
From Blackfoot to Babyfoot, we finished off the evening with a visit to Café Kick, opposite. Matt mentioned it earlier in the year here, it remains a European style bar dedicated to football of the outdoor and table variety. Great for lovers of the sport(s).

Exmouth Market has plenty more for us to try out on future visits.  The Exmouth Arms and hidden 5CC, Moro & Morito, and the relatively new Paesan currently top the to-do list.

Tuesday 17th December

For my second soft opening of December (yes I fully intend to be two stone heavier by January) I visited Bobby Chin's House of Ho (no jokes) with TfL girls, Gemma and Amie.

Photo Credit - Ming Tang-Evans
The cheerful Bobby Chinn
Greeted with fervour, we were graciously removed of our coats, scarves, hats and umbrellas and I started to get concerned about the potential cost of the menu. However, on being seated I was happily surprised at the reasonable pricing - £4-14 for a dish.

Lighting was limited with arrays of candles, glimmers of glass and minimalist decor - all blacks, reds and oranges but as we were seated in front of window, I felt it created a good dining atmosphere. Understated, it allowed the food to take centre stage.

'Light and Raw' was the first section of the menu, which presented a range of delights. Duck 'a la banana' was a particular pleasure, light and crunchy with hints of sweetness and succulent marinaded duck breast. Also a hit was the mushrooms with sauce, flavoursome lemongrass chicken wings and pork ribs.

Seafood Ceviche & Smokey Aubergine
Sweet & Sour Vietnamese Bouillabaisse, Duck 'a la Banana', Crab Pomelo Salad, 72-hour Apple-Smoked Pork
Clockwise from Top Left - Photo credit - Ming Tang-Evans
We followed this with the monkfish, Vietnamese chicken curry, shaking beef and morning glory. My shaking beef was cooked to perfection and had a definite Vietnamese twist.

Finally, we couldn't leave without trying the full complement of desserts: the Molten Marou chocolate cake and the Crème Brûlée.

Cocktails, wines, beers and all the trimmings filled the drinks menu. We paired our dinner with wine, which was perfect, but I'll be heading back to try the cocktails another time.

Overall, this restaurant is a well-received addition to the Soho dining scene. It offers a classy, affordable and tangy addition, standing in stark contrast to the plethora of burger, pizza and 'quick eats' in the area (N.B. The List is very partial to the likes of Honest Burgers, Pizza Pilgrims and Herman Ze German - there's room for everyone!).

Wednesday 18th December

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is a cosy wine bar with a Parisian sense of style from the clever French folk behind Experimental Cocktail Club. They already have a Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Paris, along with 3 fantastic cocktail bars. The London branch feels like a stylish living room with sofas and armchairs in bold greens and swirls, and a wooden panelled staircase in one corner but also manages to maintain the atmosphere of the best cocktail bars in London; think Zetter Townhouse and 69 Colebrooke Row.

Wines are sold by the bottle and the glass (from what looks like the latest in wine-technology fridges). The wines themselves are pretty interesting, focusing on little known, smaller vineyards. There are up and coming whites from Spain and reds from Georgia, not your average findings. There was also sherry, port and champagne on offer but for those who aren't fans of the grape there's nothing else on offer except some overpriced water - don't be tempted to say yes when offered still or sparkling. I fell into that trap far too easily.

They also do food, a selection of cheeses, cold meats and appetisers. I didn't try any on my visit as I'd just finished a large meal at Yauatcha but the sight and smell of it all was hugely tempting, even on a full stomach.

They have also just opened a "gourmet delicatessen" of sorts, a few of doors down from the bar - see below for some sneak preview shots.

Guest post written by @JaneSlocombe

CVS have opened a "gourmet delicatessen" a couple of doors down

Square Meal

Square Meal

Square Meal

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