Three restaurants, two cocktail bars, one pub, 48 hours. We had a very merry time in the Capital. Wanting to escape York for a couple of days before Christmas, Michael and I decided to visit London for a little Christmas treat and I’m going to give you the lowdown of where we went and what I thought, no frilly stuff.
Vibrant, Chilled-Out and Popular. Arriving at the door of Bao Fitz at bang on 12pm, we were second in the queue and they hadn’t even opened the door yet. A few minutes later and we probably wouldn’t have got a table, as the restaurant was packed within a few minutes. Greeted by a social open counter top dining experience around a central bar, Bao Fitz is open plan, welcoming, and there is a buzz of excitement in anticipation of the famous Bao buns. The staff were attentive but not overbearing despite the intimate surroundings, and they were happy to give recommendations such as the Horlicks ice-cream Bao that we HAD to try; it was delicious.
We decided to order separately from the £15 set lunch menu as we weren’t sure if we wanted three courses each, although it was an incredibly reasonably priced menu. Michael had a beer and I ordered a glass of wine, however they brought out a carafe which was a small mistake on their part, but it did set us back around £20 (although of course we drank it without any complaint!). It was a Muscadet and was light, zingy, and refreshing so the perfect accompaniment to the Taiwanese cuisine.
We didn’t have to wait long until the food began to be served around the restaurant. We ordered a Grilled Belly Pork Bowl, Taiwanese Chicken Chop and two Pork Confit Bao Buns. All the food arrived looking beautiful, the Pork Bowl had a rich vinegar soy sauce that infused into the rice, and the two pieces of Pork on top were sticky and tasty. The Chicken Chop was crispy and tender, and was served on the bone surrounded by a soy cured Egg. Michael had most of this dish as I am allergic to eggs, but he said it was really tasty and enjoyed it thoroughly. The long-awaited steamed Bao buns then arrived and were super soft and doughy. They were filled with a sticky pork confit with a thin layer of fat surrounding the pork which added to the taste immensely. The Bao Buns were an adequate size for £5 each and were topped with crispy onion curls. Personally, I thought the Bao’s were delicious but didn’t differ greatly in terms of taste to any other Bao’s I had experienced previously, but were none-the-less very tasty.
We finished off our lunch with the sweet brioche style Horlicks Ice-cream Bao Bun to share. It sounded so intriguing that we both felt like we had to try it, and we weren’t disappointed. The ice-cream was soft and creamed with beautiful malted undertones that complimented the sweet brioche Bao bun. The Bao was very different to the ones we had eaten for our main course, and it was sweet, sugar glazed on top, and took on a lovely orangey hue which was similar to a donut. Overall our meal and experience at Bao Fitz was thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the open counter-top informality of the experience, and I though the food and wine were tasty, served in adequate time without feeling rushed out of your seat despite the destination’s popularity.
Overall Experience: 💃💃💃
Quality of Food: 💃💃💃
Value for Money: £60 for Two. 💃💃💃
Atmospheric, Dark, and Meaty. I scoured the web for a long time looking for the right place for dinner, as we wanted somewhere that hit the balance between good tasty small plates, with a chilled-out hipster vibe. I picked Temper in Soho hoping it would hit the spot, and it did.
I booked a table for 7:45 and as we arrived, the music was playing, and you could already hear the buzz of people downstairs. Temper is an underground basement restaurant that seats at least 100 guests and features a huge counter top surrounding the open barbeque grill in the center of the restaurant where you can watch the chefs cooking. The concept is barbequed meat and fish, with a small sharing plates style. The menu is compact with a few different options such as nachos, tacos and buttered Parathas topped with different meats and accompaniments. The buzz of people chatting, laughing and have a good time was ecstatic, and the restaurant was packed.
We decided to go for a dish of Aged Cheeseburger Tacos, Octopus Tacos, and the Beef Confit buttered Paratha to share as we didn’t want too much to eat. On orderingBunhowever, we were told to order another main because ‘you don’t get much’ so we ordered an extra Pork Paratha, although on reflection, one would have tied us over quite nicely. The food was as expected; meaty, juicy, and full of smoky barbeque flavour. However, the obvious star of the show was sitting on the counter seats and watching the chefs cook. My favourite dish was the cheeseburger tacos which had an intense meaty flavour topped with melted cheese and wrapped in two small soft tacos. We finished off the meal with a shared butterscotch Ice-cream dessert which again was really tasty.
The whole restaurant experience was a must-try. The small meaty plates were tasty but not mind-blowing, and the service was average if a little on the slow side, but overall, we both really enjoyed dining at Temper.
Quality of Food: 💃💃💃
Value for Money: £80 for Two. 💃💃
Overall Experience: 💃💃💃
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal:
Stylish, Creative, and Immersive. Tuesday lunch was organised by Michael as a surprise treat so I had no idea where we were going! Situated inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Dinner by Heston is of course placed within opulent surroundings. On arrival, we were greeted by the reception staff and taken through to the bar where I enjoyed a Monkey 47 gin and tonic before heading through to the restaurant. The restaurant itself was busy for a Tuesday lunch and they did 95 covers. We were seated on a lovely table facing into the rest of the restaurant and with a great view of the glass-fronted kitchen and roasting pineapple display which led us to of course order Heston’s famous ‘Tipsy Cake’ desert.
We chose to eat from the set lunch menu which was three courses for £45 per person and had two choices for the starter, main, and dessert. Michael and I both chose the Hay Smoked Salmon to start, which I followed by the Roasted Quail and the Tipsy Cake, and Michael chose Cod with Admiral Sauce, followed by the Christmas Custard Tart. The Salmon was beautifully presented on the plate and was deliciously smooth and creamy, with a mellow smoky taste. It was accompanied by pickled beetroot which added a beautiful vinegary element to the dish and bitter leaves. Overall it was really tasty and was generous in portion size. We had to wait a little for our main course, but the restaurant was quite full by this point, and we were luckily in no rush.
When the Roasted Quail arrived, it was served with a delicious red wine jus, pumpkin confit, pumpkin salad, and beautiful salted chard. The Chard added a delicate salted and bitter bite to the dish, and the quail was tender and delicious. The pumpkin confit had a gel-like finish and was smooth and flavoursome, and the whole dish was beautifully balanced and constructed, and I enjoyed it greatly. After my main course, I then followed with the famous Tipsy Cake, and it was incredible. It was described as a similar to a ‘bread and butter pudding’ soaked in a creamed rum until it was saturated, and it was served alongside glazed pineapple that had been roasted for 4-5 hours. The sponge was beautifully light and bouncy despite being soaked in a creamy rum sauce and was luxuriously sweet. The pineapple was also a tasty edition to the dish and the glazed top ensured the pineapple stayed moist, warm, and had a delicious caramel-style glaze.
After having a thoroughly pleasurable and pampered time, we were each given a green coloured pineapple petit-four tart that was creamy, crunchy, and had a sweet balanced finish. We were then fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to look around the kitchen and speak to one of the head chefs running the service, in addition to the Maître-D’ who looked after us throughout our lunch. After a lovely chat with Tom Allen, we were each given a complimentary ice-cream made from a custom-built trolley which created the liquid nitrogen ice-cream desert right in front of us at the table! The base was a vanilla custard that froze instantly when the liquid nitrogen was added to the mix, it was then was hand-spun in a specially made machine to create a delicious soft and creamy Ice-cream. It was served in a wafer sugared ice-cream cone and topped with meringue and freeze-dried raspberry pieces on one side and popping candy on the other; it was a fabulous end to an incredible lunch. The front of house team were extremely attentive and accommodating throughout the duration of the meal, and the kitchen team were fantastic. I had a fabulous lunch, and what a place to be taken for a surprise treat.
Quality of Food: 💃💃💃💃
Value for Money: £180 for Two. 💃💃💃💃
Overall Experience: 💃💃💃💃💃
I hope you enjoyed reading about my foodie 48 hours in London. Follow @York_Talks on Twitter to keep updated with all my foodie adventures both in and out of York!