Restaurant Review: Sticks ‘N’ Sushi, Covent Garden

Sticks ‘N’ Sushi – You Maki Miso Happy

I never understood what the fuss was all about. Sushi – uniform slivers of translucent fish, wrapped up in something or other. I mean, what was there really to get excited about? I thought sushi was an overpriced excuse for a meal, something for the pretentious and anorexic. How wrong I was. Sticks ‘N’ Sushi opened my eyes to a new world of flavours and exotic ingredients, each more exciting than the last.

Once seated, I was handed the sexiest menu in existence. Although overwhelming, I leafed through this glossy erotica, dribbling over the sheer aesthetics of it all. I was interrupted by exceptionally elegant cocktails promptly arriving; the ‘Yuzu Zoo’ ethereal citrus and plum notes delightfully danced around a distinguished gin base.

Sticks N Sushi followed a tapas format, with small but perfectly formed plates arriving quickly and often. For those with big appetites and expensive tastes, Sticks N Sushi was potentially exorbitant. However, the lower priced options were delicious, and dishes quickly added up to become surprisingly satisfying.

The Tuna Tartare was one of Sticks N Sushi’s premium dishes, and stunning was an understatement. Dressed up like a miniature fairy tail garden, the fine muscular units of tuna hiding underneath were world class. The tartar was so graceful in its presentation and flavour combinations that I savoured every morsel like Charlie Bucket with his Wonka chocolate bar.

The Spicy Tuna Maki was another dish I’d suggest is essential eating. Miso Aioli lovingly clung to the handsome tuna, which was itself maternally embraced by perfect rice. I now predict Miso Aioli to become the hipster condiment of 2017, dethroning 2016’s Flying Goose Siracha. I loved the Masago element too – tiny orange gems, tactfully adding colour, texture and taste.

The grilled sweet potato had a clever smokiness, and its Teriyaki dressing lifted this humble ingredient to something of status. The Gypsy Rolls were carefully prepared and offered decent value for money. Unfortunately, the desserts were something of a non-event. Diners choose from a variety of colourful things in the shape of golf balls, none of which left an impression. My advice is to skip pudding and take another look at the excellent cocktail menu.

Currently ranked 122 of 17,720 restaurants in London, Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden earned this pedigree by offering thoughtfully prepared majestic dishes in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan environment.

Kanpai!

Sticks N’ Sushi Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10   Cost 6/10    Quality 9/10    Service 9/10

Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden Restaurant Review

Maki – Gypsy Roll

Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden Restaurant Review

Maki – Spicy Tuna

Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden London Restaurant Review

Yakitori – Satsumaimo Yaki

Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden Restaurant Review

Tuna Tartare

Sticks N Sushi Covent Garden Restaurant Review

Fondant, Mochi Ice Cream & Dark Chocolate

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Restaurant Review: Iberica, Manchester

Iberica Manchester – Tip Top Tapas

I loved Iberica Spinningfields. It pleasingly served dishes separately but rapidly, and in big enough portions to actually share. Iberica Manchester was social eating at its best, something that surprisingly few other Tapas restaurants deliver on.

Iberica Spinningfields didn’t just offer the same chorizo, gambas, calamari, patatas bravas lead menu found everywhere. I love these dishes, but Iberica Spinningfields made a refreshing change. I went weak at the knees laying eyes on their artisan cheese menu; being exclusively Spanish it provided the opportunity to discover new products and flavours.

The Red Berry Gazpacho was the finest cold soup I’d ever eaten. It was alive with vibrancy and just wonderfully summery. I’d never had a more flavoursome dish for £4. The humble Bread & Oil was as good as anywhere. The grilled Padron Peppers were pleasingly salty and made a classy beer accompaniment. The curious Spring Onion Tempura were bronzed crunchy phallic mouthfuls, served with decidedly delicious dips. The Classic Tortilla didn’t let its nation down, providing a perfectly respectable account of itself.

The meaty Sea Trout was lightly cooked and uniquely served with peanuts and Ajo Blanco sauce. The dish was certainly enjoyable, but quite expensive at £8. The Chorizo Lollipops were golden balls of fun, served with an intriguing pear aioli. In the wake of these quirky touches, came the poshest Ham, Egg & Chips in Manchester. The Sliced Cooked Beef was Spain’s answer to Bresaola and every bit as flavourful.

The Churros were piping hot, pleasingly crispy and sugary pieces of happiness. The small but perfectly formed cheese board paired marvellously with the amber-hued viscous sherry. I don’t know anything about sherry, other than that I need to drink more of it.

With the drinks menu heavily marked up and the additional 12.5% service charge, Iberica Spinningfields is at the pricier end of Manchester’s bustling restaurant scene. Given the exciting menu, quality ingredients, sophisticated atmosphere and charming staff, it is still certainly worth exploring.

Iberica Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 6/10    Quality 10/10    Service 9/10

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review

A decent drop…

Ibérica Spinningfields

Bread & Oil

Ibérica Spinningfields

Outstanding Red Berry Gazpacho

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Padron Peppers

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Spring Onion Tempura

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Sea Trout, Ajoblanca & Pitu Sauce

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Fried Chorizo Lollipops w/ Pear Alioli

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Iberico Ham, Egg & Chips

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Sliced Cooked Beef

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Churros

Ibérica Spinningfields Restaurant Review Manchester

Cheese

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Bar Review: The Hawksmoor Seven Dials, Covent Garden

The Hawksmoor Seven Dials – A Meating Of Minds

I was drawn to The Hawksmoor after Giles Coren advised it served: “the best steak you will find anywhere”. The Hawksmoor Group has seven locations (six in London, one in Manchester) but the Seven Dials branch proudly ranked highest on TripAdvisor (124 out of 17,095), so I followed the herd in more ways than one. The Hawksmoor Seven Dials in Covent Garden is named after a seven street junction, each with respective sundials. Despite every road leading to it, The Hawksmoor Seven Dials is deceptively camouflaged – the unassuming entrance only added to the intrigue.

It wasn’t my drinking debut at The Hawksmoor Seven Dials, having wisely trusted Giles’s steak advice (he wasn’t wrong). On this occasion, I only had eyes for the bar. Leafing through the menu reading ‘Absinthe Pina Colada’ and ‘Full Fat Old Fashioned’ in the same breath, I fell hopelessly in love.

Nicole kookily orchestrated the proceedings, being knowledgeable, gracious and welcoming in equal measure. She advised the Full Fat Old Fashioned was a “game changer” – naturally I couldn’t refuse. This serious libation was patiently prepared, so I planned on giving it the respect it deserved. It was too good: rather than sipping and savouring, I greedily guzzled it down like a scene from Ice Cold In Alex.

The Hawksmoor Seven Dials’ best selling drink is Shakey Pete’s Ginger Brew, achieving cult status; served in pleasingly over-sized tankards, I lived out my pirate fantasies without a court summons. This fabulous concoction was the best ginger beer in town: ice cold, extravagantly frothy and mightily refreshing.

The Hawksmoor Seven Dials bar was handsomely stocked with quality bottles – many unfamiliar – of all shapes and sizes. I spotted Lagavulin, which I thought was my favourite whisky. I was poured Caol Ila and wryly told: “if you don’t prefer it – it’s free”. Predictably, my eyes were opened, and I happily paid. As the staff knew my favourite drink before I did, I was eager to learn what floated their boat. The Hawksmoor Seven Dials staff were partial to gentlemanly drops of Mezcal, something I’m relatively unfamiliar with. Two shots later I saw the appeal: beautifully smokey, slightly sweet but still put hairs on my chest.

A Sazerac – the dark prince of the cocktail world – was promptly made to order, with Nicole nodding in silent approval.  David Wondrich described it best:

“A proper drink at the right time—one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality—is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we’re getting what we want from life. A cat can gaze upon a king, as the proverb goes, and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we’re all cats.”

A zippy Margarita was soon whipped together, further jazzed up by the addition of fresh ginger. All this lead me to the conclusion that The Hawksmoor Seven Dials is my favourite bar. Bravo!

The Hawksmoor Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 4/10    Quality 10/10    Service 10/10

Hawksmoor Seven Dials Review

Something different…

Hawksmoor Seven Dials Review

Shakey Pete Ginger Beer & Caol Ila

Hawksmoor Seven Dials Review

Ginger Margarita & Sazerac

Hawksmoor Seven Dials Review

A martini (of sorts)

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Restaurant Review: Fazenda Rodizio Bar & Grill, Manchester

Fazenda – Best Meal In The UK

Fazenda Spinningfields carnivorous cacophony left me shell-shocked: I’ve never experienced such quality, variety and quantity of mouth-watering meaty offerings, all wrapped up in an intimate, stylish environment.

Fazenda Spinningfields’ a Rodizio restaurant, a concept familiar to Bem Brasil fans; however, that’s where the comparison ends. As good a product as Bem Brasil offers, Fazenda’s classy ambience made their competitor feel like a Premier Inn. The smartly dressed, happy-go-lucky Gauchos flirted around the dining room. They will be offended if by the end of the evening you haven’t taken your pants off and shouted for the midwife to deliver the food baby you’ve named Sirloin.

I greatly appreciate value restaurants (more money for wine, obviously); likewise, I love quality steak. Unfortunately, the two never meet. Until now. I mentally awarded Fazenda Spinningfields two trophies: ‘The Classiest All-You-Can-Restaurant Ever’ and ‘The UK’s Best-Value-Quality Steak Restaurant’, two accolades not to be sniffed at. If the management is reading: please don’t increase your prices, turn your restaurant into Gauchos and price me out.

With such a carnivorous cacophony of Frango (Chicken Thighs), Fraldinha (Beef Skirt), Cordeiro (Lamb), before being seduced by the house speciality Picanha (Cap of Rump), I needed to be reminded of the main event – Filet Mignon. It arrived sensually caramelised, strikingly rare, and just beautifully boviney. Even though it looked and smelt delicious, I had the ultimate first world problem of having to fend off Bife de Presunto (Smoked Gammon) and Linguica (Brazilian Beef & Pork Sausage) for fear of exploding.

It wasn’t all just top drawer steaks, wonderfully prepared in delicious marinades – as if that would have been a problem. There was Morcela (Brazil’s answer to Bury’s Black Pudding), Barringa De Porco (Pork Belly) and who knows what else. It all became a blur. I could have forgiven Fazenda Spinningfields for not turning my pescetarian friend on, but far from being a fish out of water, the sumptuous hot and cold salad bars and lush seafood dishes left her equally satisfied.

Everyone, including the door staff, were in good spirits – I’ve rarely seen broader smiles – especially not from someone wielding skewers full of chicken hearts. Maybe it was the meat sweats, but Fazenda Spinningfields got my blood pumping in all the right areas. This was a rare example of a brilliant restaurant you want to shout about, but also keep for yourself…

…Please don’t tell anyone else.

Fazenda Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 10/10    Service 10/10

RESTAURANT REVIEW: FAZENDA RODIZIO BAR & GRILL, SPINNINGFIELDS MANCHESTER

A rare treat

RESTAURANT REVIEW: FAZENDA RODIZIO BAR & GRILL, SPINNINGFIELDS MANCHESTER

So.Much.Beef

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Restaurant Review: Angels, Ribchester (No.II)

Angels Restaurant – On Cloud Nine

I won’t bore anyone by deconstructing the welcoming service, eccentric interior and sophisticated atmosphere Angels Restaurant offered – mainly because I already have, secondly because it’s simply excellent.

Despite recently reviewing Angels Restaurant, their ‘Gourmet Evening’ seduced me into Ribchester with their super-reasonable midweek price point. The Angels Restaurant Gourmet Evening was a delight; the menu contrasted unusual combinations and predominately classic British cooking, with every course well balanced and beautifully presented. Angels Restaurant should be applauded for putting ambition above blandness, standing out against the Ribchester crowd.

Angels Restaurant kicked off with ‘golden beetroot, whipped goat’s cheese, tempura cauliflower’. The starter was a wonder, with the humble beetroot and exotic tempura batter getting along like inter-racial soul mates. This apparently simple starter is a guaranteed cock-up if attempted at home, and was the jazziest thing to ever happen to a cauliflower. The paired Pinot Noir was non-offensive but not the life and soul of the party. The ‘salmon, ginger cream, orange purée’ was memorable, as those elegant flavour combinations were a personal first. The citrus notes of the Chablis worked wonderfully with the dish, and I found myself sitting up straight, feeling rather pleased with myself. The ‘mushroom & apple veloute’, balanced the acidity of apple with the earthy mushrooms admirably. The ‘blade of beef, watercress & grain mustard sauce’ was hearty and delicious, with the mustard commendably picking out the peppery Rioja pairing.

The local cheese was well a piece of cheese really, but the artisan biscuits and chutney were fit for the Queen. Finally, the ‘pineapple caramel, banana brownie and coconut ice cream’ provided a satisfying mixture of textures and temperatures. The desert wine was an absolute sensation – think incredibly refreshing port and cranberry juice. I immediately made a mental note to drink more dessert wine.

Some fat, greedy people criticise Angels Restaurant’s small portion sizes. I’m far from wasting away, yet I unbecomingly took my belt off before the bill. Luckily Angels Restaurant manager Claire recognised the large volume of food, rather than forwarding me onto the Ribchester Sex Offenders Register.

Angels Review Summary

Atmosphere 9/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 9/10    Service 9/10

Angels Restaurant Ribchester Review

‘golden beetroot, whipped goats’ cheese, tempura cauliflower’

Angels Restaurant Review Ribchester

‘salmon, ginger cream, orange purée’

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Restaurant Review: The Ivy, The West End

The Ivy – In A League Of Its Own

It’s difficult to say anything that’s not already been said about the iconic Ivy restaurant. Living in the North, I’d only visited twice; yet, The Ivy is my favourite British restaurant  – I cannot give it a greater compliment.

I loved The Ivy for being so understated: the Art Deco building oozed style without trying. More cynical types may say it’s dated, but The Ivy had a real sophistication without pretentiousness. What’s great was the mixture of people; old money types, no money types (me), minor celebrities, families, tourists, ladies who lunch and fathers and sons.

Service at The Ivy on both times was spot on: the amount of polished staff that briskly trotted past without flying arse-over-tit was amazing. The Ivy was obviously a well-run restaurant – confident in its abilities – taking a serious amount of choreography.

Regarding cost, The Ivy Set Lunch provided good value. Unless you’re looking for something offensively ostentatious, it will provide you and yours with plenty of good eats. The al la carte wasn’t cheap, but not as ridiculously expensive as other top London restaurants. The Bang Bang Chicken provided plenty of bang for your buck (or chuck). The Roast Lamb dish was the personification of a glorious spring morning. The Steak Tartar was as good anywhere – either side of the channel. Desserts weren’t a highlight; some pineapple thing was a waste of time, but the Sticky Toffee Pudding was a comfort blanket on a plate.

The food was of the highest standard: just simple flavours but with real depth. One could argue The Ivy’s menu was miss matched, but everything sounded tempting and looked equally delicious. It was proper (predominantly) British cooking at it’s best. If you’re not driving (who is in central London?), you owe it yourself to have a cocktail either before or after your meal – they really are excellent.

I’d eat here every week if I could.

The Ivy Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 5/10    Quality 9/10    Service 10/10

The Ivy London Restaurant Review

The Ivy: Simple, British, Delicious

The Ivy London Restaurant Review

The Ivy: Simple, British, Delicious

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Restaurant Review: Angels, Ribchester

Angels Restaurant – Still Heavenly

Angels Restaurant Ribchester has held or flirted with, Trip Advisor’s top Preston spot for considerable time – building up significant local support. With an empty stomach, I booked myself in for Angels special Autumn Food Month menu…

After I greedily ate too much posh bread, Angels Restaurant Ribchester started with ‘smoked sweet corn & lime soup confit chicken’ – an unusual ensemble, which worked surprisingly well. I didn’t associate limes with autumn, but it added freshness, balancing the moist, flavoursome meat and provided a zingy talking point if nothing else.

Angels Restaurant Ribchester’s Fish Course produced wonderfully presented ‘seared mackerel, beetroot, horseradish, celeriac’. Gloriously in season with pleasingly blistered skin, the oily fish against the sharp beetroot is a classic combination I’ll never tire of. I finished the plate noting that I must remember to buy more beetroot.

Angels Restaurant Ribchester’s Main Course proudly consisted of ‘Guineafowl, spiced squash & mushroom Bolognese’. Who puts Bolognese with guineafowl? I don’t care if your Italian family’s Bolognese recipe’s passed down mother-to-daughter for generations – it couldn’t compete. A delicately piped thimble of creamy mash and ethereal micro leaves framed the rich guineafowl. It was so succulent I wondered why anyone bothers with turkey?

Angels Restaurant Ribchester’s Dessert produced a ‘Blueberry chocolate blondie, caramelised apple, & caramel cream’. This was how puddings should be – indulgent – not comma-inducing. As if that wasn’t enough, the ‘Northumberland Baltic ale-washed cheese, fruit & peanut loaf’ concluded the consumption, although I wasn’t blown away: I viewed the vaguely geriatric quality of the dried fruit and nut loaves with suspicion.

I haven’t mentioned wine because I’ve gone on long enough; however, the pinot noir was a general crowd-pleaser for this time of year when we eat little else but dead birds. For a tricky dessert pairing the ‘Concha y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon’ with its light honey and peach flavours was just lovely with their creamy dessert.

A lot of thought and effort had gone into the interior of Angels Restaurant Ribchester. Perhaps the glitz won’t be to the taste of conservative persuasions. For my money, Angels Restaurant Ribchester got it just right, with a tastefully muted colour scheme with a touch of kitsch humour. Restaurants need an element of fun – how they achieve that while retaining their professionalism is a big challenge – but one Angels Restaurant Ribchester answered.

Finally, just as much effort was exerted by their hard-working shiny young staff, who will almost certainly make your meal an enjoyable one should you be lucky to visit.

Angels Review Summary

Atmosphere 9/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 9/10    Service 9/10

Angels Restaurant Ribchester Review

Guineafowl, Spiced Squash, Raisins, Mushroom Bolognese

Angels Restaurant Ribchester Review

Mackerel, Beetroot, Horseradish, Celeriac

Angels Restaurant Ribchester Review

Smoked Sweetcorn & Lime Soup, Chicken Confit

Angels Restaurant Ribchester Review

Blueberry Chocolate Brownie & Caramel Cream

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