Review: French & Spice Fusion at Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

I could start and end this review right here: this was the best meal, without doubt, that I have ever eaten in London.

A bold claim for sure, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some damn good restaurants. But nearly three months on and this meal is still sticking out in my memory, and for all the good reasons. Friendly and attentive, but far from annoying, staff. Gorgeous plates, cutlery and decor. Cosy blankets for the outside tables (it’s just a shame Caluccio’s nabbed the best spot by the river!). All topped off with some of the most inventive and well-cooked dishes I’ve tried.

We started with cocktails – all strong, all delicous, all very well made – before moving onto wine. No complaints about the drinks, although really the stars here are the food. Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating original dishes that are both pretty on a plate and rather tasty. With views of the Thames, and stunning sunsets over Putney Bridge, it’s a lovely location and I’m rather pleased it’s within walking distance!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 4_zpsmpcrejwv.jpgI kicked off with the Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad. At £12 this was perhaps the one dish I felt was a little over-priced, but equally they were more than generous with the crab. It was fresh, light and summery, with the most delightful Mint, Yuzu and Orange dressing. The sharp flavours of the mint and orange tempered the sweetness of the seafood perfectly. It was also clearly made to order, as the cucumber had yet to impart it’s wateriness that comes from sitting around. The red chilli dotted throughout was fiery and I could have perhaps done without it, though due to the large slices I could delicately remove it.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 2_zpscsuvc8lb.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 3_zpsd2ttjh7x.jpgW ordered the Asparagus, Sprouting Beans, Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad, something which I was tempted by (but knew I’d get to try if he ordered!). Not being the biggest lover of avo as it is, I was slightly put off by the description of the “Fermented Sour Plum Dressing” but it really worked. All of the ingredients were at their peak-freshness, with the avocado lending a creaminess to the dish. Nuts added crunch, and the whole thing tasted light, healthy and absolutely delicious. I loved my seafood-based salad, but this came a close second.

The Spiced Bouillabaisse was also enjoyed, the classic French dish livened up with Middle-Eastern flavours.

Onto the mains, and this is where the stars of the show really were. Though I could only fault the starters if I was being really picky (see chill point about), I could sit here for hours and genuinely not be able to complain about my dish. I mean, it says a lot about the menu when we broke our biggest ‘couple rule’ and couldn’t resist ordered the same thing – Sea bass with Celeriac, Cauliflower & Raz el Hanout. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at the time of our visit this was served with cod rather than bass – I imagine both work equally well!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 11_zpsvvqdjbzh.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 12_zpsxoryaoep.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 14_zpstph7j6hg.jpgHaving eaten some really excellent fish dishes this year (the unusual Cod & Pineapple at Skosh, and an elegant Crab Lasagne at Galvin La Chapelle), this remains the one I’d happily eat again, and again, and again. The chunky piece of fish was cooked to absolute perfection – flaking into moist chunks with the merest press of a fork. It sat on a bed of Celeriac Hummus, which was creamy, moreish and had a depth of flavour all of it’s own, without detracting from the main dish. Give me a bowl of this and some of the flatbread I saw floating around the restaurant and I’d be a happy girl!  The dish was then topped with a generous serving of Spiced Cauliflower. Flawlessly cooked (soft and tender without a hint of the mushiness cauliflower is prone to) and just so fully of flavour. Again, give me a bowl of cauliflower and I’d probably be quite happy! Drizzled with a lemony-parsley dressing which pulled the whole dish together, I was genuinely sad when I’d finished my plate.

Also on our table was the Glazed Salmon, Carrot & Harissa Yoghurt, and a special involving Lamb Belly. Both seemed to go down extremely well – and next on my list to try is the delicious-looking Poussin Marinated In Sage, Maple Syrup, Garlic & Yoghurt.

In fact, the only negative I have is that the side dishes don’t seem to be particularly well-matched to the mains. Chips and cous-cous are all very good, but perhaps not the most imaginative. That said, on our visit they had a ‘slaw’ on offer which we tentatively ordered to share. Finely sliced cabbage tossed in a spiced-yoghurt and lemon dressing, it was actually far more delicious than the dubious description on the menu and went perfectly with both fish dishes.

A slight running theme is possible here, as like the sides the desserts just didn’t seem overly appealing. However we’d heard good things so ordered a few to share.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 18_zps0138jjek.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 15_zpsnjp2ch4d.jpgThe Exotic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Creameux was my top pick, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered it in a restaurant before! This was light and almost mousse-like – certainly not the heavy and artery-clogging dish I was expected. Flavours of mango and passion-fruit were strong without being sickly, the plate was garnished with coulis, curd and crispy meringues and the cheesecake topped with an almost gelato-textured sorbet.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 19_zpsk3kpb1ri.jpgW loved the Luxurious Chocolate and Bitter Orange, although I found it a tad heavy and cloying (and certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish it!).  Flavours were reminiscent of a jaffa cake, with the textures smooth. One for chocolate lovers, and only if you’ve got a big appetite.

Even before we’d paid our bill, we were talking about other dishes on the menu we’d like to try on a return visit. Unfortunately with moving, holidays, exams and other annoying things we haven’t yet made it, but watch this space!
And now I’ll end with another picture of the fish dish. Because it was THAT good!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 8_zpsit8mhatr.jpg

Where was your ‘best meal’ eaten?

Review: Duck & Waffle

I’d wanted to visit Duck & Waffle for aggessss. I poured over the Instagram photos, quizzed friends who had been – hell it even made it on my London Bucket List (which I really must make more of an effort to tick off!). Luckily someone listened to my whining and Santa surprised me with a voucher in my stocking last Christmas, though despite this it was still July before we headed up to the 40-something floor in the heart of the City.

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It was pretty difficult to book in for a weekend breakfast. I checked most days for a good month before I found a date that didn’t clash with pre-made plans, exams or deadlines, and still booked a couple of months in advance. Turns out my planning was excellent – it ended up being the day after W handed in his dissertation, and two days after I found out I’d passed April’s exam (the relief is still there!). So we celebrated with a two course brunch, though passing on the alcohol as numerous bubbles had been consumed in the days previous!

Tea ordered (though still the permanent confusion when presented with two pots and no indication of which was the Earl Grey and which was ‘normal’), it didn’t take us long to decide on our ‘mains’ – we both went for the Duck & Waffle. Neither of us could resist trying the signature dish, although we were tempted by the Full English (him) and the Duck Egg en Cocotte (me).

 photo Duck and Waffle 7_zps9rzbxr0o.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 6_zpswy6s4smt.jpgA toasted waffle, topped with a succulent confit duck leg, capped with an oozing duck egg and a side pot of mustard maple syrup, the Duck & Waffle is a combination of flavours and textures that really just have to be tried. Whilst my waffle was pretty perfect (slightly sweet, soft but with a slightly toasted crunch) I’ve hear reviews of stales ones, particularly those who go later in the day. The duck leg was super-crispy on the outer, with soft fall-apart flesh within. I spent ten or so minutes wishing it was acceptable to pick up and knaw on a bone in public, I didn’t want to waste a single bit of meat. The duck egg was again perfectly cooked with a *just* set white and gooey yolk. The mustard maple syrup was verging on too sweet for me with everything else, I’d possibly want more mustard coming through, but I did enjoy it drizzled on lightly. Plus I got the converted drizzle shot…

 photo Duck and Waffle 12_zpsaxwakdde.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 15_zpsrmox7p17.jpgOur ‘pudding’ was to share a sweet waffle, and it did take flipping a coin to decide which! We went for the Caramelised Banana, which came with homemade hazelnut & chocolate spread, vanilla ice cream and peanut crunch. We loved it – the bananas were warm and gooey, encrusted in a thick brulee sugar topping. The ice-cream was super-cream, the chocolate spread rich. Our only criticism was there was not nearly enough of the peanut crunch.

Oh, and we had to spend the rest of the day lying down in a food coma…

All in all, it was pretty damn good. Pricey, but worth it for a special occasion. The views were gorgeous, the interiors rather Instagrammable and the iconic Duck & Waffle dish was delicious. That said, the menu at Duck & Waffle Local looks a little bit more adventurous (that duck burger!) so I know where I’ll be heading next…

 photo Duck and Waffle 3_zpsc8iyqx9i.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 18_zpsai0yghsw.jpg*Note that this is not a sponsored review – my parents kindly got us a gift voucher for last Christmas, and we paid the difference ourselves.

Have you ever been to Duck & Waffle? What did you think?

Review: Putney Pies

I’m not going to lie, finding out this place existed pretty much sealed the deal for me on where I wanted to live in London. I’m only half joking – we’d narrowed it down to somewhere on the West-end of the District line and then this place came to my attention. Putney it was!

(The cheaper council tax also helped…)

 photo Putney Pies_zps7v1qaahi.jpgWeirdly, I’ve only been twice – and those two visits were shamefully within six days of each other. W is yet to visit (much to his disgust). It’s a shame it’s coming up to summer time now, as pies aren’t exactly going to help me get my summer bod this year!

 photo Putney Pies2_zpskh9mtqa8.jpg photo Putney Pies4_zpspiunzqn8.jpg photo Putney Pies1_zps8qjnhnsa.jpgThe first time I visited I had the Chicken & Ham Hock Pot Pie, whilst my date (the lovely Libby) enjoyed her Steak & Ale Pie. My pie was in a deep, fully-filled bowl topped with buttery short-crust pastry and served with creamy mash. The sauce was light, almost-stock like, but full of flavour. There was plenty of chunky chicken and ham, along with carrots and leeks. The mash was smooth and completely lump-free. All in all delicious!

 photo Putney Pies9_zpsstuyab0o.jpg photo Putney Pies13_zps25ik1b7w.jpgOn my next visit I enjoyed the Pork and Apple Pie. Fully encased in the same perfect pastry, it was packed full of juicy pork, bacon, apple pieces and a delicious cider sauce. The only criticism I have here is that it was a little dry – however as I was unable to have the gravy (damn you, sneaky tomatoes!) this is probably why. My mum enjoyed the Beef Bourguignon Pie with triple cooked chips. I have to say the chips were perfect!

 photo Putney Pies8_zpsxlz1clif.jpg photo Putney Pies14_zpsntobdjyr.jpgBoth times we had a side of Season Veg – normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning something like this, but it was lovely. Everything was perfectly cooked and lightly dressed in butter. Little touches but it made all the difference. On the second visit we also splurged and shared the Brownie with ice-cream – and it was a damn good brownie. Warm and gooey, rich and indulgent tempered with creamy ice-cream and a salted caramel sauce.

Coupled with some of the yummiest prosecco I’ve tried, this was a meal of pie perfection. I’m almost impatient for Autumn when it’s back to pie weather!

Are you a fan of pies? What’s your favourite filling?

Review: Peruvian Food & Señor Ceviche, Carnaby Street

With Will spending January in Chile, he came back with a taste for lighter, fresher food. Typically I was used to the cold weather and was craving comfort food and stodgy carbs – so finding a destination for our first date night of the year was difficult! After much too-ing and fro-ing and menu consulting, we decided on Señor Ceviche. Offering both Ceviche and Peruvian Barbecue we thought there would be plenty of choice to keep both of us happy!

 photo Senor Ceviche_zpsi2qthbfj.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 13_zpsmytnvhsm.jpgFirst off, Kingly Court is one of my favourite little pockets of London – a multiple level open area, with around twenty different restaurants offering food from across the globe. Plus Carnaby Street is a bit of shopping-addicts playground! The restaurant carried on the relaxed feel of it’s surroundings – the decor felt authentic and homely, the music was foot-tappingly fun, and the staff super-friendly. I love it when restaurants have an open kitchen too, it gives me more to be nosey at…

Allergy information obtained, having studied the menu over the few days leading up to date night we both quickly ordered. We took the opportunity to catch up properly before our food came out – as this visit was back in February (hence the horribly dark and badly edited photos!) it was our first chance to properly talk about his trip. We were also given some popped corn to nibble on while we waited – insanely addictive stuff!

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Food arrived as and when it was ready – but it arrived quickly and pretty much at the same time anyway. The Pachamanca pork ribs were slathered with a slightly sweet sticky sauce and peanuts. The meat fell right off the bone, the sauce was insanely good – these were very much a favourite of us both. I only wish we had more of them! I absolutely loved the Anticucho De Res of beef heart skewers served with sweet potato mayonnaise, aji panca, botija olives and mint. The heart arrives in big pieces, each one folded onto a skewer, with a good gamey texture. It was rich, satisying and super-flavoursome, though I’m a big fan of offal as it is. Will wasn’t convinced by these, and he was definitely put off by the strong olive flavour of the topping. I have to say, I was massively disappointed with the presentation considering Señor Ceviche’s own Instagram post above!

 photo Senor Ceviche 3_zpsv2fwmztu.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 2_zpszdpltery.jpg photo Senor Ceviche 1_zpsqeqglmde.jpgFrom the ceviche, we went both hot and cold. The hot option was mussels with rocotto & coconut tiger’s milk, chorizo and charred sourdough – it was rich, spicy and intensely savoury, and the mussels well cooked and juicy. I wished we had had more bread to mop up the delicious sauce too…though I may have used the empty mussel shells to ferry most of it down! The sea bass ceviche with aji limo tiger’s milk, sweet potato puree, choclo corn, red onion, coriander & plantain is their classic dish. Beautifully fresh and zesty, full of colour and full of flavour – this was my first time trying ceviche so I was a little nervous, but I definitely enjoyed it!

The only dud of our meal was the quinoa. We both love the stuff, but this was really buttery which clashed with all the other flavours. It was overly rich and cloying – not good at all, in fact completely inedible. If our servers hadn’t been so lovely, we probably would have sent it back…

 photo Senor Ceviche 9_zps29jlj7l2.jpgWhilst W was more self-restrained and ended his meal with a Pisco Sour (too sweet apparently, he preferred the ones he had in South America) I finished with the Dulche de Leche. Tooth-achingly sweet, the warm sauce and crunchy pecans went wonderfully with the smooth ice-cream. It was the perfect end to the meal for me!

Quinoa aside, we both really enjoyed our time at Señor Ceviche. Our issue was the price – whilst not expensive, we both felt for the portion size all of the dishes (with perhaps the exception of the ribs) was overpriced. Considering the two of us can eat a massive meal at Wahaca for less than £25 total, we both felt a little put-off by our bill – and whilst we enjoyed our food, it didn’t absolutely blow us away. Perhaps we’re still not used to London restaurant prices!

Have you been to Señor Ceviche? What’s your favourite restaurant in London?

Restaurant Review: Mac & Wild, London

Scotland is somewhere super-close to our heart. And I love burgers. So when we found out about a Scottish restaurant who made London’s best burger of 2015, there was no question about where we were spending our anniversary. We donned some fancy-ish clothes (me bringing out a dress I love, but is too dressy for every-weekend wear, too low-cut for work), I whacked on the date-night makeup (because wearing Mac Diva is great for eating a burger…) and we headed out for a much anticipated evening.

mac-wild photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 1_zpsykqkcpjl.jpgAnd it didn’t disappoint.

I could just finish the review of Mac & Wild here, by telling you to go, to go book a table, eat plenty of meat, drink lots of whisky and feel very merry, very happy and very full. It would sum up exactly how I felt about the place. But obviously I’ll have to tell/show you exactly why you should make the effort to get to this Scottish gem in the heart of London.

It’s small, it’s cozy, it’s ‘trendy’ lighting didn’t make for great photos. Walls were adorned with stag’s heads and rather graphic photos. Staff were outstandingly welcoming and friendly, taking the time to talk us through the menu and ask about our days. And the food was damn good.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 2_zpshnhr7kff.jpgWe started by splitting a ‘lighter’ choice alongside a heavier one. The Bone Broth was deceptively heavy, in a good way. Rich, unctuous, this is the kind of thing you crave when ill. I’d happily bulk buy and store in the freezer. The Scotch Egg was a heavier choice. A perfectly cooked egg (no set yolk here), encased in wonderfully flavourful venison meat, covered in crisp breadcrumbs and served with a mustard so perfect I’m tempted to contact Mac & Wild and find their supplier. I was a little wary that the meat was rare, but it was piping hot, tender and worked well all together. Definitely a filling portion!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 3_zpsenykwgk9.jpgW went ‘date-night suitable’ for his main, choosing the Venison Steak with Bearnaise. The steak arrived pre-sliced, and cooked as it’s meant to be cooked (there was no choice given upon ordered, so be warned if you aren’t a fan of rarer meat!). It was gorgeous – extremely tender and beautifully rich in flavour rendering the silky and buttery Bearnaise unnecessary. I stoke a piece and almost, almost regretted not suggesting sharing a Chateaubriand.

The reason for not regretting? Well, London’s best burger of course…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 5_zpsgn6iiev0.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpsz7at3wrc.jpgWhilst I’m not quite sure it deserves that title (more research needed, you see), it was a damn good burger. Both patties were cooked well – tender and moist, a slight hint of pink to the beef. They were well-season whilst remaining a good ‘meat’ flavour; you could tell which was which. The Bearnaise added moistness and richness, the cheese and mustard (more of that addictive mustard!) adding a salty kick. I usually pick the pickles out of a burger, but here they worked perfectly to add a much needed tang. I added the Candied Bacon, but honestly I’d say it’s not really necessary (shock horror!) – I found it got a little lost amongst all the flavours, and wasn’t quite crisp enough to add an extra texture. The bun held it all together, but the big issue with the burger? It was just too big. It was impossible to eat all elements at once and ultimately I felt it suffered. And date-night suitable? Definitely not. My lipstick was down my chin before I was halfway through the burger…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 7_zpspossdcak.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 4_zps2xqiqurt.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 8_zpseuo5yvwv.jpgWe both went for sides of Haggis Mac & Cheese. I’m a huge mac’n’cheese fan (if you hadn’t already guessed), and haggis is a major foodie love of mine. The two together was something I’d never considered (though I’m now anxiously awaiting Burn’s Night) – it’s a pretty good combo! The Mac was cheesy and rich, the haggis moist and peppery, and the crispy topping by far the best topping on a restaurant one I’ve tried. My only complaint? It was a little dry, though I saw ones at different tables that looked a lot looser and creamier. I was a bit jealous if I’m honest!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 10_zpsril5vxv3.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 9_zpscejbwlag.jpgPuddings were also a success. The Cheeseboard came with a good selection, though we were a bit perplexed at the lack of biscuits considered one of them was a softer cheese. My desert, however, was the winner. The “I Shouldn’t But I Will’ was a dark chocolate Nemesis, salted caramel sauce, orange, almonds, & taffy crumble base. I was recommended a side of salted caramel ice-cream; I declined but rather wish I hadn’t as the portion did need something to break it up a little. That said, we both enjoyed it – I just preferred the savoury options and rather wished I’d tried the Haggis Pops instead!

We paired our food courses with whiskies, generally going with their suggestions (apart from my desert; I was recommended a smoky Islay whisky of which I’m not a fan, so went with my favourite tipple). All were deliciously drinkable and did complement the dishes perfectly. We left clutching our stomaches and swaying slightly…

Mac & Wild definitely impressed us, and it’s certainly left us wanting more. I know without a doubt I’ll be back to sample more. Their Sunday Roasts sound rather intriguing, they have a delicious sounding brunch menu, and their Dirty Buttery Mash sounds too good to miss.

Have you ever tried Haggis? What’s your favourite London restaurant?