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Sunday 26 July 2015

Barrafina - Balls & Company - Luxardo at Obica

Three more lovely London eateries ticked off this week (only a few hundred to go):

Monday 20th July - Despite visiting 900 odd food & drink places in the last two and a bit years, my London restaurant wishlist still has some big hitters on it - The Clove Club, Typing Room, Restaurant Story, Kitchen Table and Gymkhana to name a few.  

And then there's Barrafina.  Not only have I not been to the Michelin-starred Soho institution, the Barrafina boys have kindly added two more to my list with outposts on Adelaide Street and Drury Lane (which opened last Friday).  All three have entirely different menus full of tempting tapas plates (except for their Classic Tortilla) so I can't even claim a hat-trick in one visit! In order to stop the rot, I went along to their latest opening for a light lunch with Dad The List.

To cut a long story short, it was excellent. The service was friendly with Eddie Hart milling around in the background, and the plates were superb.  You can't really go wrong, but you shouldn't leave without getting something from their Tortillas Y Huevos section.  Our Pheasant Egg & Morcilla de Burgos (flavoured with cumin) on Toast (£6.50) was outrageously tasty - perhaps the first sign of #BarrafinaBrunch? Order it.

Elsewhere Courgette Flowers stuffed with Cream Cheese & Goat’s Cheese (£7.80) and Baby Gem with Botarga, Walnuts, Pancetta & Manchego (£6.80) impressed, whilst Raba de Toro / Oxtail stuffed with Pine Nuts, Walnuts and Leeks (£9.50) and Milk Fed Lamb Sweetbreads (£12.80) kept my nose-to-tail fan of a father happy.

Pheasant Egg & Morcilla de Burgos on Toast

Pheasant Egg & Morcilla de Burgos on Toast

Courgette Flowers stuffed with Cream Cheese & Goat’s Cheese

Baby Gem, Botarga, Walnuts, Pancetta & Manchego

Baby Gem, Botarga, Walnuts, Pancetta & Manchego

Ordering an extra dessert is standard Dad The List practice. We diplomatically shared Leche Frita (Fried Custard) with Plum Jam (£6.50) and Torrijas (French Toast) soaked in Cinnamon & Orange with Pistachios & Creme Fraiche Ice Cream (£6.80) before diving in to Cuajada - a pot of milk curd served simply with hazeulnuts on top and honeycomb on the side. Glorious stuff, if not as memorable as Ollie Dabbous' curd creation.

Torrijas - French Toast soaked in Cinnamon & Orange with Pistachios & Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

Leche Frita - Fried Custard with Plum Jam

It's the usual no reservations stuff I'm afraid, but the Drury Lane site is your best bet for avoiding queues currently.  Get over there for lunch (Monday to Saturday) when it opens at 12pm and take whatever seats are going!  Alternatively, email to book a private dining area on the lower ground floor for up to 28 guests.  I'm to visit the other two before they open another one...

Barrafina Drury Lane -

43 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London

Monday-Saturday - 12-3 // 5-11

Square Meal

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Wednesday 22nd July - From Barrafina to Balls and Company - Timeout's restaurant of the week was unsurprisingly busy, so I popped down to look at their basement bar space that will look after hungry Londoners until a table is free (much like in Pitt Cue Co & Flat Iron).

Cocktails are well priced at £7 - Malt'N'Monkey is a dangerously drinkable Manhattan on ice with a chocolate bitter twist, whilst Gin Dilla is, well, gin and dill, with salt and fresh lemon balm for complexity.  And then there's Company Iced Tea - a bonkers mix of red wine, Early Grey and orange infused vodka, raspberry, strawberry, agave and orange brúlée.  It's surprisingly well-balanced!

For some moody Balls & Co. shots in Black & White, head to Matt The Tumblr

Malt'N'Monkey - Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Chocolate Bitters, Cherry Liqueur, Citrus Twist (£7)

Gin Dilla - Gin, Dill, Lemon Juice, Cucumber, Salt, Fresh Lemon Balm (£7)

Back upstairs, a complimentary bowl of ultra-thin, moreish parsnip crisps is the first sign that Balls & Company isn't a gimmick. Owner and head chef Bonny Porter (2012 Australian MasterChef Finalist) is the second.

Alright, at the heart of it there's a list of balls to choose between (served in fours with a sauce for £8), but you've also got sides and specials like Ricotta, Summer Peas & Pangrattato (£4) vying for attention. Our simple but sensational salad of Heirloom Tomato, Oregano & Balsamic Pearls (£4) threatened to steal the show. Mac'N'Cheese Arancini was always going to be a winner, though £7 is steep for four cheesy rice croquettes, even if they are served in an adorable little pan.

Mac’n’Cheese Arancini (£7)

Mac’n’Cheese Arancini (£7)

Heirloom tomato, oregano & balsamic pearls (£4)

Back to the balls, we went for Wagyu (served medium rare - £1 supplement) with a Romesco sauce of red pepper, tomato, almond, hazelnuts and garlic and Salmon with Dill and Seeds with a Pesto sauce consisting of basil, lemon, garlic and cashew nuts.  The meat and fish were beautifully cooked and seasoned, and satisfying sauces left room for the balls to shine.  I'll be back for Bonny's Pork Balls (with ricotta, parmesan, milk bread, pine nuts, basil & sage) along with the Quinoa with beetroot and feta that a trusted source recommends.

Wagyu balls (+£1 - £9) served medium rare (+1), with a Romesco sauce (red pepper, tomato, almond, hazelnuts & garlic)

Salmon balls (£8) with dill and seeds, with a Pesto sauce (basil, lemon, garlic, cashew nuts)

But wait, the show's not over.  Do not leave without getting yourself Bonny's Brownie served with Purbeck Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Persian Fairy Floss (£5).  Once we finished playing with Gandalf's hair, a serious dessert emerged underneath and then quickly vanished.

Brownie with Persian Fairy Floss, Purbeck vanilla bean ice cream (£5)

Brownie with Persian Fairy Floss, Purbeck vanilla bean ice cream (£5)

Balls & Company is a fine addition to the increasingly exciting north end of Greek Street that also boasts Bo Drake and marvellous Milroy's. Stumble in to the shambolic New Evaristo Club at the end of it all and you've got yourself quite an evening!

Balls & Company -

58 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 3DY

Monday-Saturday // 12pm-11pm

Square Meal

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Tuesday 21st July - To finish, some snaps and words on a fun evening at Obica Mozzarella Bar, Pizza & Kitchen in Poland Street (one of four London branches, many more worldwide). 

I dropped in for a #NewSeasonFeast of Obica's finest and freshest produce, plus some original cocktails showcasing Luxardo liqueurs created by brand ambassador mixologist "G" Franklin.  I already knew the Luxardo team well having been on a memorable trip to the distillery in Padua but it was a first visit to Obica.

We started with a refreshing Luxardo Fresco (Luxardo Maraschino, tonic water, fresh lemon juice, cucumber, fresh rosemary, and a cheeky spray of absinthe) which was a great vehicle for their aromatic Maraschino.

Luxardo Fresco - Luxardo Maraschino, tonic water, fresh lemon juice, cucumber, fresh rosemary, absinthe spray

As the second cocktail was prepared, we tucked in to a buffet of burrata, bresaolo and more.  A whopping 1kg ball of classic mozzarella (£38) was the star of the show, ably supported by some outstanding hay-smoked affumicata mozzarella balls of a more manageable size served with various pestos and focaccia.  Seasonal salumi (Soppressata di Gioi, Salame Nero dei Nebrodi, Salame di Mora Romagnola, Capicollo di Azze Anca) and Caponata alla Siciliana (aubergine, pine nuts, almonds, raisins, capers and vinegar) were also in great supply which was dangerous.

We also tucked in to some superb pizzas (prepared with Petra flour) - most notably the special with Pomodorino di Piennolo (Tomatoes) from Mount Vesuvius National Park, plus buffalo mozzarella and olives.  Each month, Obica collaborate with Presidi Slow Food to showcase small, artisan Italian food producers and products, and the exotic Piennolo Tomatoes will be around until the end of August (when Prosciutto di Nebrodi with figs takes over) or a bit longer if you are lucky.

In their honour, G created the Obica Spritz - a mix of Luxardo Aperitivo, Piennolo tomatoes, lemon, and basil, topped up with prosecco; quite the opposite of a Bloody Mary!  It will be available at Obica in August and September.

Hay-smoked mozzarella with basil, tomatoes and focaccia at Obica

Luxardo Aperitivo, Piennolo tomatoes, lemon, and basil, topped up with prosecco

For dessert, we shared out Obica's Torta di Capri (a warm almond and chocolate cake) which was the perfect partner to G's third drink of the evening, the Fashionista - a boozy Boulevardier twist with Luxardo Sangue Morlacco Cherry Liqueuer in place of sweet vermouth, and a generous splash of salty smoked mozzarella water. Ingenious!

Fashionista - Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, Bulleit Rye, Campari, Smoked Mozzarella Water

Torta di Capri - Warm Almond & Chocolate Cake

To finish, G went all festive with a Venetian Christmas - Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, Hot Americano Coffee, Christmas Spice and Double Cream.  I'm still not sold on hot cocktails but Irish coffee fans would enjoy this Italian twist.  Scroll down to see my current favourite Luxardo serve.

Venetian Christmas - Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, Hot Americano Coffee, Christmas Spice and Double Cream

Obica & Luxardo worked very well together, and they are both especially appealing in the Summer months.  I suggest you get yourself over to Obica from 5pm-7pm every day for Aperitivo Hour for free taster plates with drinks - an Italian tradition that really should have taken off here by now.  Don't miss the smoked mozzarella, and get yourself a Pomodorino di Piennolo pizza before it's too late!

Obica Poland Street - // Luxardo Liqueurs -

19-20 Poland Street, London, W1F 8QF 

Mon-Sat - 12pm-11pm / Sun 12pm-10pm

Matt The Luxardo / Luxardo The List

0.75 Lime Juice

A.K.A Division Bell (created by Philip Ward at Mayahuel NYC)
Usually made with a smoky Del Maguey Mezcal and Aperol

Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe - garnish with a grapefruit twist

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