Tuesday 14th January - For me, a trip to Park Lane usually means paying my sister about £2000 for all of her bloody hotels before losing another £200 to Income Tax straight afterwards, but I took a chance and advanced straight to Lanes of London, a new bar and restaurant next to the Marriott Hotel.
I was a tad early for my 6.30 appointment so I hung around outside watching the Aston Martins and Bentleys roll by, wondering whether I was slightly out of my depth. But as I entered the attractive bar and was warmly greeted by Angharad from Luchford PR and Bar Manager Francesco, it quickly became clear that Lanes of London is a very welcoming place. I was shown to a table of thirsty bloggers, including Le Cool, Beetroot & Beluga and We Love Food, where we worked our way through Francesco's finest.
Lanes of London's aim is to represent several areas of London's diverse food (and drink) scene all under one roof, focusing on Brick Lane (Indian), Kingsland Road (Vietnamese), Edgware Road (Lebanese) and Portobello Road (British). The cocktail menu is split up accordingly.
Francesco has had fun creating twists on classics to fit into different sections, including a refreshing Raita Gin Fizz, the amusingly named Vietnamito and Pi-Nam Colada, and a peaty Hung Que Sour (a whisky sour with Hung Que - aka Thai Basil). The Brick Lane Bruv cleverly makes use of Paul John Brilliance, an Indian whiskey, which is boldly combined with pineapple, lime juice, chai syrup and Meantime pale ale. Each section has its own sharing punch (priced at £18.50) which can be stacked on top of one another, creating a multicoloured Lanes of London punch selection.
There is room for more interesting beers than Meantime, Hue and Kingfisher behind the bar - surely they are missing the Lebanese Almaza beer for starters?
We moved to the restaurant where the lively Roger took over proceedings, talking us through the menu. Whilst it is again split up into sections, the idea is that you order from all corners and get a bonkers mix of dishes turning up to share. It is a system that benefits larger groups as you can get through a lot more of the menu as a team.
Roger and friends proceeded to bring us all manner of tasty treats, cooked up by the capable Anshu Anghotra who handled the massive range of styles admirably. Highlights included the Fattoush Salad (Sumac, lemon & olive oil dressing), Cornish Lamb Cutlets (with peas & beans, and mint pesto), Salt Baked Pumpkin Salad (with Black quinoa, goat's cheese, pumpkin seeds) and Samosa Chat (with chickpeas, yoghurt, pomegranate, and tamarind & mint chutney). The Beef Brisket Sliders with Roasted Bone Marrow to dip into were so popular that they were reordered several times.
For dessert, we were presented with several decadent Double Chocolate Brownie Gateaux (one of which I took home in a doggie bag for hungry flatmates!) and some quirky miniature tins of ice creams and sorbets. A refreshing lychee sorbet hit the spot, but the chocolate banana crunch ice cream was too reminiscent of sweet shop bananas.
There are plenty more tempting sweet options, including posh Jammy Dodgers. In a nice touch, you are given a postcard with the full dessert menu on to fill out if you wish which they will send out for you for free.
Francesco popped by before we left and brought along some of his interesting gin collection. As his Langley's No.8 hadn't yet been opened, we decided it was time and he created a very boozy "G&T" which was mostly G with a couple of dashes of this and that. If you are very nice to Francesco, he might even let you sip from his limited edition William Chase hip flask that he keeps on him at all times!
It was a lovely evening of top quality food and drink from the Lanes of London team, and very affordable given its location. They open bright and early for breakfast at 6.30am I believe, and they also run an afternoon tea and Sunday roasts - many excuses to try it out!
Thursday 16th January - I can never resist a good soft launch, especially when somewhere decides to open up just down the road from where I rehearse with Kensington Symphony Orchestra. I managed to convince 18 hungry musicians to head over to Moo Cantina for half priced Argentinean steaks and snacks, late on a Thursday night after a 3 hour rehearsal. The 50% offer is running til January 31st so there is plenty of time for you all to pop in!
We were pleased to find that Moo Cantina is actually run by Argentineans rather than British imitators, and our hosts were extremely winning throughout our stay. They have confidently set up in a very large site in Pimlico, with a big central bar area and plenty of room for diners around, all decorated very nicely. They show live sport, though the TVs don't dominate the restaurant - this could be a very fun place to come next summer for Argentina matches.
Anywhere that has a piano instantly gets extra points from me, though this one needs a bit of a tune - I would stick to some honky tonk / Scott Joplin saloon style playing, rather than four hands Rite of Spring that two of our party launched into.
On to the food, nearly everyone went for steaks which are quirkily priced per 100g - make sure you order enough! Steaks received thumbs up down the table - as their sister site Moo Grill says, "Argentina is like a spa for cows", hence tasty meat! As well as steaks, they have a wide range of gourmet sandwiches and classic Argentinean dishes, most of which are under £10. If you are feeling particularly peckish (as one viola player was), order the Moo Grill (for 2) complete with steak, sausage, sweetbread (not what you think), roasted peppers and provolone cheese. Hats off to the chefs for delivering 18 meals at the same time, right at the end of a busy evening.
The drinks menu is also pretty extensive with a wide range of wines, interesting beers (including offerings from Moncada in Notting Hill and Oregon based Rogue, and a massive 970ml bottle of Quilmes), and a Moo G&T menu too.
Thanks to the staff for a fun evening - we will return with some Piazzolla tangos next time! Does anybody have Yo Yo Ma's number? (Email users click through to the blog to see video below)
Also, points for the best meat / composer based pun that KSO hasn't already thought of. So far - Beefhoven, Shosteakovich, Rackoflambinov, Moosorgsky and Porkofiev are my favourites.