ZIZZI - MARCH REVIEW
Will this vile weather ever end? Today we had sunshine and hailstones simultaneously, closely followed by howling winds, rain and finally snow showers to round off the day. English weather, all four seasons in one day, personally I am fed up to the back teeth with it all. No amount of yoke yellow daffodils, desperately trying to announce that Spring is just around the corner can lift my spirits.
However, there is an upside to everything and this is the perfect weather to tuck into some good, rustic Italian pasta. Huge plates of Spaghetti Bolognese, or tagliatelle piled high with pork and beef meatballs packed with fresh garlic and oregano. Homemade tomato sauce, fiery with red chilies, draped over a bowl of steaming, hot penne, or maybe Puttanesca sauce, flamboyant, rich with olives, capers, breadcrumbs and a hint of chili peppers.
Then there’s the cream sauces; luscious Fettucine Carbonara being a favourite of mine or maybe you prefer the flavour of basil and pine nuts in a delicious pesto sauce. I am beginning to feel better already.
Zizzi offer traditional, rustic Italian food, great service and most
importantly of all, excellent value for money. Some of their branches currently
offer a set two course lunch menu for £10 and a three course meal for £16.95
which includes a glass of Prosecco.(Please check their website for details of
Having just celebrated their tenth birthday they seem to be maturing nicely. They keep their eye on the ball by regularly updating the menus and offering imaginative seasonal specials. This is a restaurant for all tastes, all pockets and it’s child friendly.
As I sit here in Zizzi writing this, I have a plate of piping hot spaghetti pomodoro in front of me. Studded with sweet, baby Santos tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, there are small puddles of buffalo milk mozarella splashed on the steaming, scarlet sauce like little floating islands.
I look out of the window, the rain is pouring down, beating a steady and depressing rhythm, everywhere it’s grey. Do I care?
Not me, I’m about to go island hopping. Ciao!
ZIZZI - NOTTING HILL
2-6, Notting Hill Gate
020 7243 2888
ZIZZI - EARL’S COURT
194-196, Earl’s Court Rd.,
020 7370 1999
Copyright © Ffiona Reid-Owen (2010)
The big chill is upon us, and what better way to thaw out than by tucking into a cooked breakfast, preferably cooked by someone else, and a cup of fresh, hot coffee? So as you slip and slide on the icy wastes of Kensington High Street, skate off towards Kensington Court to Côte Bistro. Open from 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, they offer a breakfast menu par excellance! Everything you would expect is here and a bit more.
For me the gold standard of a brunch is the cooked breakfast. Will the scrambled eggs be “nuked”? Will the cooked tomatoes actually be cooked and if so will they have any taste? Will the bangers be too full of bread and not much pork and then there’s the coffee to consider. The list goes on and on…believe me when I say that breakfast is an exact science. Eggs can overcook or go cold in the blink of an eye. A restaurant packed with “brunchers”, hungry for eggs is a daunting task.
Alors! Côte’s full English comprises: a pork sausage, back bacon, a grilled plum tomato, two eggs, button mushrooms and toast. I opted for scrambled eggs and they were perfect. Suprisingly they were not microwaved, this must be one of the only places in Kensington that actually scrambles their eggs. It’s really not difficult and the result was creamy, fluffy, delicious eggs…… full marks! The tomatoes were tasty and properly cooked, the fat on the bacon was crispy and the sausage was one of the best I’ve had. Packed with pork and herbs and full of flavour. However, the toast was a real let down, bog standard sliced bread, not properly toasted, chewy and damp, it didn’t match the standard of the rest of the meal.
We also tried the Crêpe Complète, a traditional Breton crêpe folded to lovingly embrace two perfectly fried eggs and bacon. A touch of béchamel sauce and the crowning glory…..grated Gruyère cheese it was delicious and a welcome and unusual twist to a menu that can suffer from universal sameness. Also on offer is sauage/bacon baguette, eggs benedict and croque monsieur/madame.
The coffee is sublime and joy of joys it’s served in a normal sized cup. So, you can have two deliciously hot coffees instead of a bucket of tepid, diluted slop that is served in too many restaurants.
Breakfast is personal, everyone has their preferences and Côte suits mine perfectly.
Full English Breakfast £7.50
Crêpe Complète £5.90
Café Americain £1.95
47, Kensington Court
London W8 5DA
020 7938 4784
Copyright © Ffiona Reid-Owen (2010)
On arrival at the Gaucho Grill in Swallow Street you realize one thing, it’s all about the cow. They cut it, they grill it, they mince it, they even have the skins up on the walls, a carnivore’s paradise. Even on a Monday night they were packed, however we weren’t rushed or hassled in any way. The service was slick, polished and professional.
The menu is big in both choice and size, (it’s huge), and offers plenty of alternatives to beef. Choose from: Patagonian sea bass, chicken and a full range of traditional ceviche dishes. Raw fish/shellfish that are “cooked” by marinating in citrus juices, promoting a process called denaturation. Which, like cooking with heat, unravels the molecules and alters their chemical and physical properties, turning the flesh firm and opaque………blah…blah…blah. You simply tune out, let’s face it, if you go to the The Gaucho Grill, you go for one thing only, a big, fat, Argentinian steak.
The formula is simple, there are four cuts, three sizes and four sauces to choose from. Needless to say there is a “fatties platter”, (my words, not theirs), on offer, which is basically all four cuts on one plate, a cardiologist’s nightmare.
We both ordered the 8oz Bife de Chorizo, (sirloin steak), and they were excellent, everything a good steak should be. The fat was yellow and sweet, the meat was tender and juicy, packed with flavour and cooked as ordered, pink throughout. Erika opted for peppercorn sauce and I chose the bernaise, again they were delicious.
The steaks are the star attraction here and come unadorned, no chips, salad, or even a garnish, so we added both and they were equally good. All of this was washed down with a couple of glasses of their house Sangiovese which was smooth, rich and buttery. It was a delight and I couldn’t fault any of it. I was not paying the bill however, and I would imagine that this is not the most cost effective Monday night supper. Hell! If you want the best you don’t beef about the cost!
Five out of five for: food, service and ambiance, I’ll be straight back here when I need my next bloody fix.
THE GAUCHO GRILL
25, SWALLOW STREET
LONDON W1B 4QR
020 7734 4040
Copyright © Ffiona Reid-Owen (2009)
People often comment that I never write a bad review. There is a reason for this. I would rather hear good news, not bad, find out where to go rather than where not to go. Accentuate the positive and all that. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve had more than my fair share of substandard meals and diabolical service, but if I wrote about it, it might entertain you, but would you go? No! I try to be fair in any criticisms that I make. So, with that in mind, here goes with yet another great place to go and to the Job’s comforters amongst you, I apologise.
Wagamama sits atop TK Max on Kensington High Street, a most uplifting setting. A huge room, white paint and blond wood with beautiful Victorian windows that stretch from floor to ceiling flooding the room with light. The staff will seat you at the long wooden tables, English style, within reach of the condiments but with a decent gap between you and your neighbour. The menu is well explained and there is a plentiful choice of noodle dishes, soups, rice dishes and salads. However, I prefer to sample their deliciously tempting side dishes rather than opt for one main course. My favourites include: the raw salad, a good selection of salad leaves grated carrot, thin cut mooli, (Asian radish), spring and red onions, sprinkled with crispy fried shallots and house dressing. Also, the asparagus, grilled with chilli garlic salt and sesame seeds. I can’t resist their fried chilli squid with schichimi (Japanese chilli) and the ebi katsu, butterfly tiger prawns with a thick coating of coarse Japanese breadcrumbs, served with hot chilli sauce and a fat wedge of lime.
For mains, try the yasai katsu curry. This is one of the many vegetarian options available. It consists of slices of sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash. These are deep fried in breadcrumbs and served with a lightly spiced curry sauce, sticky white rice and red pickles.I have not yet had room to try the desserts. I am tempted by either the white chocolate and ginger cheesecake with chilli toffee sauce or the chocolate fudge cake with dark chocolate wasabi sauce and vanilla pod ice cream.
This is the pinnacle of fast food, real positive eating. It’s fresh, tasty, imaginative and energising. The service is efficient not fussy. Open all day and evening, at lunchtime it’s packed and the vibe is loud, gossipy and fun. The good news is, if you can’t drag yourself out of your office for lunch, can’t find a babysitter, or just fancy ordering some great snacks to go with cocktails in the garden, just click on line and order in. With Wagamama it win, win, win!!!
26, Kensington High Street
020 7376 1717
Copyright © Ffiona Reid-Owen (2009)
THE BLUEBIRD CAFÉ
My disappointment with the Bluebird Café has become an annual event. This year, it was sight of the cheery black and white Lanson Champagne umbrellas, green astroturf and the brilliant sunshine that lured me in. The latter being their saving grace, one really needs a sunny day because you may wait a very long time until the staff have broken off their chat long enough to serve you. Well, when I say serve, I am referring to their sullen expression as they wordlessly shove a menu onto your table. If you are fortunate you may encounter Vincent, who not only smiles but actually seems to enjoy serving people, otherwise be prepared for attitude or just plain surliness. The food is average and could be so much better if anyone really cared, but it is patently obvious that no one does. Even the delicious sounding salads all seem to be served covered in gunky, gloopy dressings, which in turn attract swarms of wasps, who, unlike the staff, will be all over you. Be warned!