Two food stops and a finished book

notes-music-coffee-london-01Where: Notes, St Martin’s Lane Central London

What: A chain of speciality coffee, food and wine bars around London.

Thoughts: After googling coffee bars in central London this was the first on the hit list after I had discounted the big three (Starbucks, Nero and Costa). Coffee was on the cards when meeting my friend for a post-work catch-up however, the day had taken its toll and so our chosen tipple was selected instead, from the wine list. A very decent and modestly priced wine list, we both had the Malbec – usually an expensive choice but £5.50 for a 125ml glass (we had three). Tap water was topped up by attentive waiters and although there was an overall bustle and busyness about the place it was the perfect setting to have a good conversation without having to shout to be heard. It should also be noted that the sharing plates of food being served around us looked delicious and will definitely be sampled next time.

murder-underground

What : Murder on the Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay

1934 When Miss Pongleton is found murdered on the stairs of Belsize Park station, her fellow-boarders in the Frampton Hotel are not overwhelmed with grief at the death of a tiresome old woman. But they all have their theories about the identity of the murderer, and help to unravel the mystery of who killed the wealthy ‘Pongle’. Several of her fellow residents – even Tuppy the terrier – have a part to play in the events that lead to a dramatic arrest.

Why: I – and I suppose the whole of London – couldn’t help but notice the vast marketing of this book and its adornment in most bookshop windows – also a colleague had bought a copy and failed to finish it so I thought I would give it a go.

Thoughts: A cosy and delightful murder mystery that trundles along and welcomes you into it’s gossipy bosom. Don’t bother reading this if you like a fast-paced thriller or any type of violence in your crime as you won’t enjoy this book at all – I however loved it and felt like I’d been invited to afternoon tea with Miss Marple.

polpo11

Where: Polpo, Soho London

What: Small Venetian Plates, Proseccco and Spritz (according to the menu)

Thoughts: Wandering aimlessly in the afternoon around Soho London the stomach started growling slightly, with the idea to go to Pix for some Spanish tapas my companion and I  ended up walking past Polpo first – we had the cookery book at home and had tried out some successful recipes so decided to try the real deal.

Sat at the bar we ordered Aperol Spritz to start followed by

  • Chopped Chicken Liver Crostini course, delicious and packed an offaly good punch
  • White anchovy and smoked mozzarella Pizzetta – the base was so thin, almost like eating a big crisp. Light and tasty although couldn’t ascertain any smokiness in the cheese.
  • Cod Cheeks with Lentils and Salsa Verde I have been wanting to make this from the recipe book for ages and it didn’t disappoint. The cod cheeks were lightly battered and had a nice crispy edge until you bit into the pillowy meat and the lentils were rich and smooth without being mushy or over-cooked.
  • Zucchini Parmesan and Basil  – this was a ribbon sliced, cold and refreshing salad a lovely balance of fresh flavours and a nice side to the cod with lentils.

Price for two people was £43 including service so not going to break the bank balance especially for what is in essence deliciously cooked food with seasonal ingredients – perfect for an un-planned and informal late lunch.

Also would recommend the cookbook…

 

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Cigalon

CigalonWhere: Cigalon, Chancery Lane London

When: A Thursday evening at 7.30pm (Booktable offer £20 for 3-course and a champagne cocktail)

Cuisine: Provencal cuisine with a modern twist.

Ambiance: Beautiful ornate entrance that widens out to a quiet dining room filled with cosy booths and banquets. The muted pastel tones and the stunning high ceilings adorned with unique light fittings complete with leafy accessories brings the feeling of Provence into the heart of London’s central business district. Even with the open plan kitchen towards the back of the restaurant and the close proximity of other banquette diners the overall atmosphere was calm and peaceful – a welcome refuge from the working day.

Service: Exceptional service with waiters able to offer suggestions and explanations to some of the more detailed dishes. At times we felt that we were interrupted a bit more than was completely necessary but that was likely down to them having more staff on than they really required.

Screenshot 2015-03-12 13.28.05Food:

Whilst perusing the set menu we were brought fresh warm bread and a tapenade that had a good course texture and zing without being overly acidic.

For a starter I had the poached salmon and spiced carrots. The salmon was a sizeable chunk and deliciously pink in the middle sliced as soft as butter and had a delicate flavour. This was sat on a bed of sweet potato puree which contrasted beautifully with and balanced out the spiced carrots. My dining partner had the baked beetroot that I was assured was equally delicious.

Main course I stuck with the fish option which was, grilled bream fillet, cima di rapa & tonnato sauce. The skin of the fish was lovely and crispy but slightly over salted for my tastes, however the fish underneath was grilled to perfection and served with the cima – which when it arrived revealed it to be a cross between broccoli and spinach – and a cream sauce. The Cima was a revelation – I already am rather obsessed with green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli so this is another to add to the list of sides. The sauce was okay but I would have preferred it either on the side or just a drizzle over the top, for me it was extremely rich and my plate was swimming slightly.

The dessert was rosemary cream pot & morello cherry coulis which was served in a delightful clay pot and was tasty with the herb flavour coming through at the end. I would eat it again but it wasn’t overly memorable.

(NB: Three choices for each course including one vegetarian option)

Drink:

Champagne cocktail was served in the traditional champagne saucers that I love so they were already onto a winner. A well-made and refreshing cocktail that actually tasted as though it had been made with some care and attention and NOT a premixed sugar or juice sloshed into a glass of weak prosecco.

During dinner we shared a carafe of the house white wine which was dry, crisp and perfectly quaffable. Then post dinner – and as it was still quite early – we had another cocktail!

It should be noted that the wine and spirit list is extensive and really rather impressive – especially the gin varieties and attention paid to calvados!

Price: Set menu is usually £26 which is still pretty reasonable.

We had the £20 for 3-course & cocktail + carafe of house wine + a cocktail = £40 inc. service.

Rating: 9 out of 10 – definitely recommend and will certainly be returning here as well as visiting their sister bar next door – Baranis

 

 

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland

The3rdWoman

Title: The 3rd Woman

Author: Jonathan Freedland (@freedland)

Publication date: 2nd July 2015

Paperback: 544 pages

Review:

SHE CAN’T SAVE HER SISTER

Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she would be investigating her own sister’s murder. SHE CAN’T TRUST THE POLICE – Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests that Abi was the third victim in a series of killings that’s been hushed up as part of a major conspiracy. SHE CAN EXPOSE THE TRUTH – In a United States that has yielded to the People’s Republic of China, corruption is rife – the government dictates what the ‘truth’ is. With her life on the line, Madison must give up the story, or face the consequences…

Strangely I was really craving a crime thriller and then this advanced copy dropped on my door mat with the added kudos of being written by an award-winning investigative journalist.

Strong, intelligent and determined Madison Webb is the embodiment of an investigative reporter – not scared of danger or getting her hands dirty. She also battles demons and insomnia that she represses and tries to keep hidden from the outside world and from those closet to her – including family and any potential love interest. As the central character, and the driving force behind solving the crime, you have to believe in and likes this woman and I am pleased to say that I did. Freedland has clearly brought his experience and insight from working as a correspondent in the US adding quality and depth to both Madison’s thought processes and strategy. Often women can become cliche and fall into a stereotype of either ballsy bitch or femme fatale and she is neither. I felt that the way she reacted to the sudden and horrendous death of her sister was natural and well presented and her grief drives her to do what she does best – follow the story. As she dictates, she can mourn when she has discovered and revealed those culpable.

Behind the investigation is the continuous theme of conspiracy set against a backdrop of an ongoing political election for the governor of LA. This adds a really pertinent and dynamic edge to the plot forcing you to think about the parallels in everyday society. Equally the focus on China and it’s growing influence over the US in terms of economic clout serves as a dangerous prediction for the future. Freedland skilfully draws on these current debates and fears and weaves them seamlessly together with a focusses on the pervasive and uncontrollable medium of social media and online news.

A good crime and conspiracy thriller leaves you guessing until the last page and this one certainly achieved just that – sure Maddison discovered things perhaps a little too easy at times and had the ‘right friends’ to call on in an emergency, but over all this was a compelling and addictive read with a brilliant female protagonist.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10