Tag Archives: restaurant

For the love of food – Al Boccon Di Vino, Richmond

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So, as you know, I now have a small person occupying my time so I haven’t blogged for a while, but this place is just so damn good I wanted to tell you all about it.

It’s called Al Boccon Di Vino and it’s a tiny little restaurant in Richmond owned by this impossibly cool man who managed to make me giggle like a schoolgirl simply by winking at me:

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And run by this fabulous lady who The Chef actually fell in love with, and who walked round all night filling up our wine glasses and offering out limoncello, with words of love and laughter.

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Now, I didn’t think London could possibly produce a better fun Italian restaurant than Giuseppes in Borough – I mean, when it comes to atmosphere, Giuseppes always has me up dancing by the end of the night – arms round a group of people I only just met, warbling out old love songs on the microphone and listening to Frank Sinatra while sipping limoncello.

But Al Boccon Di Vino has atmosphere in spades and is the most incredible authentic Italian feast.

First, it has to be said it’s great for Richmond, which I’ve always found disappointing food-wise. Richmond is sooo beautiful – overlooked by the deer of Richmond Park as the sun sets over the Thames that runs through it. It should be filled with fabulous eateries and river-side pubs. And yet it seems more to be filled with Zizzis and Stradas and such like, and a mixture of hooray henrys and wobbling young tykes bound for Be At One.

But this place is an institution. It doesn’t care about money, and as such there is no menu, but you squash in next to your neighbor (who you are likely to get very well acquainted with) and are served a veritable banquet of food, like an Italian wedding feast.

We were there for almost 5 hours!!! And were solidly eating for most of it, although there is a well-timed pause before the mains and after the antipasti. We spent quite a lot of time chatting with our neighbours about this incredible feast which gave the place a real community feel. This is what we ate (or what we remember we ate at least):

Antipasti of lightly tempura’d vegetables

Aubergine with the most delicious mozzarella and parmesan mousse

Fried Mozzarella

A plate of prosciutto

2 Types of Scallops

Langoustines

Beef Carpaccio

Pasta with wild boar

Mozzarella and tomato ravioli (which The Chef declared to be the best pasta he’d ever tasted, before declaring his undying love for Simona, and ordering a second bottle of wine)

A whole roast suckling pig that was shown to the diners to a great mass of applause, served simply with roast potatoes

Strawberries and pannaccotta

Some other desserts perhaps (neither of us can remember)

Complementary coffee, grappa and limoncello

Hic

The meal was fabulous. Fabulous! A real event, a showpiece meal served with a feeling of joy and community. The cooking was fantastic in the most part brilliant. All I would say is that the scallops were perhaps a bit overdone, but the rest of the meal was incredible, and generous in it’s cooking and presentation.

The cost for all this? £40 a head, which is quite ridiculous when you think of the amount of food and the quality of the ingredients. But as they say, they don’t do it for the money.

We went for the house wine (2 bottles given how long we were there and, well, because we don’t get out much) and this was fantastic, particularly the white, and it comes in at £25 per bottle.

I can’t recommend this place enough, although suggest you don’t go as a surprise as you’ll need to set aside tons of time and don’t eat for say a fortnight or so beforehand. Prepare to be full, happy and a little sozzled by the end. It would be a GREAT place for a group for a birthday or similar.

Al Boccon di'vino on Urbanspoon

Best of Clapham (IMHO) – Volume 1

 

Here is a snapshot of my favourite places to go in Cla’am (disclaimer: some of which may not be as good as they used to be!).

The Landor – my great friend Niki and I lived pretty much opposite (and in) The Landor for about 3 years.  Good old man’s pub with pool tables, where you can always get a seat and some decent pub grub.  Has a huge beer garden that is inexplicably neglected in favour of the packed Falcon and it even has its own theatre which recently showed the critically acclaimed “Stockwell”.   The roasts are perhaps not as good as somewhere like the Calf but its still a chilled out comfy place for a quiet pint.

La Terraza – Awesome authentic Spanish tapas bar, restaurant and music venue on Bedford Road.  I’ve been in with El Grumpo and also with some drunken friends having spilled out of The Falcon and both times had a wicked night – great food, regulars at the bar, keyboard players doing Spanish music and a collection of locals dancing the salsa.  Has a terrace outside in summer where I drool over people eating calamares with a cold beer. 
La Terraza on Urbanspoon

The Loft Run by the brilliant recently-refurbished Plan B guys, it bizarrely won Time Out’s best bar prize and I wouldn’t go that far, but during the week it is a great spot for drinks with mates in a “New York” warehouse style bar with views over Clapham high street.  Good cocktails, lounge seats and music but the food is average at best, and at weekends it’s packed.   They are currently doing 2 courses for £2 on their winter restaurant menu and 50% off roasts on Sundays. 
Loft on Urbanspoon

The Calf – dark and almost gothic with wooden floors and tables and velvet curtains, the Calf has an amazing selection of beers, cider and wine, really good pub grub and roasts, lovely bar staff and with board games liberally strewn around and large comfy sofas, the sort of place you can roll up, curl up and stay all day.
Calf on Urbanspoon

Cafe Cairo – this is apparently now closed because of a fire but in case it has re-opened I wanted to include it as it was probably the most interesting place in Clapham.  It had an upstairs Moroccan tent style room where you sat on the floor while drinking red wine, smoking a shishah and eating humous, merguez, pitta and greek salad.  Small room downstairs with crazy house DJs and wild party crowd.  Post-smoking ban they appeared to simply cut a whole in the roof but not sure how shishah smoking would continue in winter.  Lets hope it re-opens!
Cafe Cairo on Urbanspoon

The Stonhouse comfy, cosy warm pub to go for delicious steaks and red wine. 
The Stonhouse on Urbanspoon

Four O Nine – Impeccable service and posh grub just above the Clapham North.  Great for taking your mum, your best friend and for a date.  Pretty much permanent 50% off food through toptable so if it’s struggling, take advantage before it disappears.  Not as good as Upstairs on Acre Lane though.
Four O Nine on Urbanspoon

Clapham Picturehouse – lovely local cinema featuring interesting mix of films and a homely little bar.  Or try the Brixton Ritzy, its sister cinema, which is housed in a sprawling old Victorian building with quirky bar and roof terrace.  Sadly, ticket prices aren’t cheap but that seems to be across the board in London.

Fish Club – Fab fish and chips in a minimal, basic restaurant.  Potted crab, battered haddock and plaice with fish and chips and musy peas are all delicious and fresh – I’d like to go back to try the grey mullet, bream and seafood.  
Fish Club on Urbanspoon

Secondo – great vintage clothes shop under the arches next to Clapham High Street station.   Great cakes, quiches and pies, and great selection of vintage clothes, shoes and furniture.   Also check out their Brixton sister shops.

Tsunami – stylish Japanese restaurant on Voltaire road.  Good selection of sushi and sashimi and great mains like black cod and Wasabi steaks.
Tsunami on Urbanspoon

Esca – buzzing deli with large sharing tables and a great selection of sandwiches, cakes and salads.  Good to pick up a coffee and read the paper, and to buy nice ground coffee and other kitchen treats.  Not cheap though!
Esca on Urbanspoon

Special mentions go to The Falcon (old favourite but don’t like the new squished up garden and suddenly full of very young people, either that or I’m suddenly older eek), El Rincon Latino (good tapas bar), Belgo Bierodrome (yummy moules frites), So:UK and the White House (both were very good “back in the day” for girlie cocktails and a dance),  Traders (beer and dim sum, great combination), Gastro (authentic French restaurant with decent food and great wines served in cute little tumblers, sadly a little overpriced), Metro (romantic garden restaurant) and Arch 639 (for having a name we always got wrong and managing to combine good DJs and pool with the narrowest bar in the world – weekend nights sometimes a bit hit or miss though).  Aquum is nice in summer to sit outside and drink wine, although the white leather seats and poncey bouncers put me off going at any other time.  Infernos was my special place during law school but no longer will I cross its threshold.

I’m also dying to try Breads Etcetera for its wonderful sounding breakfasts including Scandanavian breakfast with fish roe, cheese and ham and DIY toast – yum.

The Gramaphone, 60-62 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6LT (http://www.thegramaphone.co.uk/)

The Gramaphone is a great find.  It’s on Commercial Street about 5 mins along the road from the Truman Brewery.  Upstairs, there’s a bar with very friendly staff and great wine (cheap at around £13-15 a bottle), which serves good Thai food during weeknights and is quiet enough you can get a seat and have a natter.  Last Thursday, I was there with my friend Pip and had yummy dumplings and spring rolls as a bar snack. 

On Fridays, there’s various DJs playing good tunes  – I’m afraid last time I was in on a Friday, its all rather hazy thanks to the 2 for 1 before 7pm offer at Scarlett Dot in Spitalfields market, but I think it was hip hop, there were tons of people there and everyone was having a good old dance. Very relaxed atmosphere – I seem to recall falling over a sofa, which they were fine with.  Downstairs, there’s a club where I ended up after The Luxe two weeks ago – they have various DJs on during the week and weekend and club nights like Electrotherapy, where you listen to house, dress up in neon and swap clothes, apparently.  So, weeknights for nice thai and chat, weekends for crazy DJ rave up with someone else’s clothes on.

Gramaphone on Urbanspoon

Adulis Restaurant, 44-46 Brixton Road, London

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El G and I tried this place as its near us and something a bit different.   And we were really pleased we did. 

Adulis is an Eritrean restaurant which serves delicious food and tries to teach you something about Eritrea by its menu and artefacts on the walls.  Service was friendly and patient (they were used to people asking about the menu) and it was really busy on a Saturday night.  Inside was warm and cosy.  We ordered the meat feast which came in a large bowl and which we ate with our fingers using sort of pancakes.  Spicy and tasty and definitely filling.  Makes for a fun experience and was super cheap – definitely something different for a group of friends.

Adulis on Urbanspoon

Buddha Bar, 8 Victoria Embankment, London

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I’m lucky enough to have gone to both the Paris and London versions of the Buddha Bar.  Although the Paris version is somehow more grand (there is a certain level of snootiness that Parisiennes can do far  better than we can), but I really like the London version.  I’ve been twice, both times with girlfriends, and have had a good night out.  The decor is great and the music is fantastic (I’d forgotten how good the Buddha Bar sound is) .  The wine list is really good and the food is very nice, although not amazing.  Its Asian fusion in a sort of posh-Thai kind of way.  Sadly, I note that the toptable half price set menu offer is over as otherwise it is a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re celebrating something and want a bit of an occassion, then it would be a good choice.  Alternatively, just go upstairs for cocktails.

Buddha Bar  on Urbanspoon

Things to do in Prague

I lived in Prague for 6 months in 2006 and absolutely loved it – I’m lucky to still have a few friends there to visit.  Here’s a few things to do on a weekend there:

To stay there cheaply, check out these appartments: http://www.apartment4rent.cz/ – Josefov (the old Jewish quarter which is now a sort of Bond Street area) or Mala Strana (by the castle) are lovely areas to stay.

– The most romantic restaurants in Prague, right by the Charles Bridge, are Kampa Park and Hergetova Cihelna both are fine dining overlooking the Vltava, and very romantic – not cheap though!

– For cocktails, try Cowboys which is just under the castle in Mala Strana, Bar and Books, Tretters or Bugsys: http://www.expats.cz/prague/directory/cocktail-bars/0/

– For authentic” Czech dining (or as authentic as you can get in Prague 1), I liked taking people to Kozicka on Kozi (beer cellar with great beers and simple Czech food) or U Zelehno Stromu (At the Green Tree – try the pork knuckle (see below)).

– For fun nights out, try La Bodeguita Del Medio on Kaprova for live salsa while you eat, and for drinking and dancing, I had a lot of fun at Bombay on Dlouha (open until about 5am), Aloha on Dusni , Lucerna off Wenceslas Square,  Duplex which is has a roof terrace overlooking Wenceslas Square, and the wonderful Misch Masch – get a cab for the latter, its a huge club with a house room and R&B room and definitely worth a night out!  Roxy and Radost are rather more upmarket.

Nice lunch/brunch places are Cafe Louvre (see below) in the New Town (where you can also play pool), Bohemia Bagel in Mala Strana or the Old Town, Barock on Parizska, or for something quite incredible (but not cheap) – try the Palffy Palac in Mala Strana where I had the most wonderful brunch of champagne, smoked salmon and quail’s eggs on their summer terrace – bliss.  

Things to see and do – Apart from checking out the Charles Bridge, the Castle, Wenceslas Square, the Jewish quarter cemetry and synagogues, and Old Town Square, go up to Letna Park to see a great view over the town (see photo below) .  If the crowds in Old Town Square are a little claustrophobic, go to the U Prince Hotel and get the lift right to the top floor – it has a lovely little roof top bar with great views over the square (see below). 

– Also check out the classical concerts and opera in Prague, great value and amazing standard.  See recent listings for what’s on.  Remember, if you’re going to the opera at the beautiful National Theatre, dress up – people will be very smart and you should be too.

– If you get too hot in Summer, try Prague’s man-made beach on the banks of the Vltava by Andel metro (Thailand it ain’t), do a boat trip or hire a pedalo (the place to hire them is by the National Museum) to mosey down the river. 

Museums: I loved the Kafka museum, which is on the Castle side of the Vltava river, which gave both an interesting insight into the Jewish population of Prague, which was pretty much destroyed during the Holocaust, and into Kafka’s life and work.  You could go over the Charles Bridge to Josefov to go to the Jewish Cemetry and synagogues of the old Jewish area afterwards.   The Mucha museum on Panska is also interesting – its pretty small but the video of his life is worth a look.

Things to do in Paris

I don’t know Paris that well, but my big sis lives there and so I’ve been over a few times in the last few years.  Here are some suggestions of things to do:

Places to stay: Hotel Mamashelter (see below): Philippe Starck-designed hotel in the same Menilmontant/Belleville area, with funky bar downstairs serving great cocktails and cool little rooms including batman masks over the lamps.  Cheap and in a great area.   I’ve also been recommended the Hotel Eldorado.

– For a cheap and cheerful dinner try Heureux comme Alexandre for a great value  (15 euros) meat or cheese fondu and a relaxed atmosphere.

– For a posh dinner try Georges at the top of the Pompidou (see view from the terrace below), try the Tigre qui Pleure main but beware the skimpily dressed rather snooty waiting staff; The Buddha Bar or Les Ombres which has an amazing view of the Tour Eiffel and a great tasting menu.  Just make sure you can swallow the £100+ per head tab.

– For drinks, try The Bottle Shop or the bar in the Publicis building by the Champs Elysses. 

–  For shopping, I love Antoine et Lili for unusual clothes like cotton and raw silk dresses, and Colette on the Rue St Honore for being too cool for school.

Things to doCemetery Pere Lachaise: visit this gorgeous cemetery near Belleville/Menilmontant which is like a small town (recently visited by Russell Brand and Katy Perry no less).  Get a map and visit the tombstones of Jim Morrisson, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Chopin, and wonder at the intricate tombstones of centuries of Parisiens.  A great area too with great restaurants and bars nearby.

– Otherwise stroll round the Marais and Montmartre, taking in the view from the Sacre Coeur and having a coffee in the Place du Tertre.  Wander down the Canal St Martin where Amelie was mostly filmed.  Go the the Louvre but avoid the snooty Cafe Marly (wouldn’t even let me take a look around).  Check out Notre Dame and the wonderful Shakespeare bookshop.  And do a bateau mouche along the Seine.

For a far, far better guide to what to do in Paris, check out my sister’s friend’s blog: http://megzimbeck.com/ or this one http://www.blackbookmag.com/guides/paris

Remember its also the 120th anniversary of the Eiffel tower this year so on the hour you get very cool lightshows!