Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Koya is one of those places that I always wanted to try but other new openings sort of got in the way, and it got pushed down my must visit list. Truth be told Japanese food has not really exited me in the past and as this place specialises in Udon noodles it felt just a little restrictive menu wise.
Something aroused my inner self when on twitter someone was singing their praises about the specials board. So hey ho lets give it a whirl then.

Its been a couple of months since our visit and back then it was a nice sunny day so a hot steaming bowl of noodles was off our menu, even a cold bowl did not appeal.
A queue greeted us ( its another no bookings place)  so we waited patiently like everyone else. One of the couples in front of us were beckoned through to dine but they left within minutes mumbling something. Clearly they were unimpressed.

Its pretty basic inside, bench seating, tiled floor, sparse decor with blackboards of specials providing interest on the walls. We opted to sit by the open kitchen as for me (but not my wife) this is the best seat in the house.

We chose our food mainly from the specials board, and as is the norm we tried a number of different dishes.

This is what we ate.

Whole steamed tomato, shiso, ginger ( £4.70)

Globe artichoke, mustard miso vinaigrette (£7.70)

"Tatsuta" Fried haunch of venison, mixed green coleslaw (£7.70)

Monkfish, aubergine, girolle "agebitashi" (£8.70)

Prawn tempura (£9.90)

Pork ribs (£9.40)

We drank wine by the glass and I had a couple of beers which for me worked well with the food.

Thinking back through the dishes we made some bad choices. The globe artichoke was bland and boring. Its been an age since I ate one and it will be more than an age before I eat one again.

We were expecting more from the Italian tomato. Even with the soy, dashi and ginger addition the tomato itself remained pretty tasteless, it really was a nothing dish. My fault in a way for ordering it but the tomato should at the very least have tasted of tomato.
We did enjoy the meaty monkfish paired with the delicious sloppy aubergine which had soaked up the dashi broth.
The pork had been braised in soy, mirin and sugar and it was full flavoured but very fatty. The gelatinous texture reduced the impact of the dish.
Tempura Prawn, mushroom, courgette and sweet potatoes was timed well, crunchy but not overcooked, decent dipping sauce too.
The deep fried venison was decent enough but a little on the tough side. In a way I now wished that we had tried a noodle dish perhaps instead of the artichoke and tomato. Still we all make mistakes.

Koya is somewhere that we would not dash back to. Its a pit stop venue for youngsters with simple tastes who want to fuel up before doing whatever they  need to do for the rest of their day. Part of the attraction is of course that it is cheap and some people can perhaps get by on one or two dishes.

We would perhaps give it another try for the noodles but given its abudant food choice location and our forward planning I can't envisage that happening in the foreseeable future.

49 Frith Street
W1D 4SG.

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Monday, 29 October 2012


I always look forward to the new Michelin guide being released. On the whole I trust the judgement of this foodie bible and relish any new entries in the star listings, as in the main I have eaten at most of the existing ones and thrive on the thought of trying new places.
There are only five Michelin starred Indian restaurants listed in the last Michelin UK guide so I was pleased to see Trishna listed with a star in the new one.
The only thing that I knew about this place was that it is right next door to double Michelin starred chef Simon Rogan's London pop up Roganic. Floating around in my head was some other connection but for the life of me I could not remember what.

Now then, like most people I suspect, me and my wife have eaten some pretty dull Indian food. Most of it very samey even though two or three dishes from the same restaurant should taste of the different areas that they should represent there seems little variation in flavour. In our experience at the top level of Indian cooking every dish should be different. We were hopeful Trishna would deliver that difference.

The interior is fairly basic with white painted brick walls, wooden floors, Ikea-ish tables and chairs, and eau de nil  wooden panelled walls

There are a multitude of menus covering lunch, evening and  early evening. There's a carte, Xmas, express lunch, lunch bites, and various tasting menus. If you look carefully though quite a few dishes cross from one menu to another.
Unbeknownst to me at the time Trishna have a mother ship restaurant in Mumbai which seems to have a very good reputation. It specialises in seafood. The Marylebone offshoot perhaps lists as many meat options as fish and features cuisine from the coastal region of South West India.  I suppose that means down from Mumbai, through Goa and to the tip of Kerala.

What followed was quite a handsome feast between the two of us, and each dish did remarkably taste different.

Roasted poppadoms with some excellent chutneys. The chutneys were easily good enough for commercial marketing. Beating anything that we have tried in recent times.

A very generous helping of crispy Quail with a mango coriander chutney.

Chicken Pepper fry, Keralan spices, black pepper, curry leaf.

 Aubergine chat, peanuts, tomato, coriander.

 Trishna Seafood Salad. Generosity again, especially considering the quantity of tiger prawns and queen scallops. Also in the dish was some Goan sausage which tasted very much like chorizo.

Hyderabadi dal. Very tasty but a little on the thin side.

Spinach, Corn.

Seafood Biryani, with Sea Bass,  Prawns, fresh herbs and cucumber raita.

Dorset Brown Crab ( butter, pepper, garlic) Ever so rich. My wife loves crab and she devoured most of this offering.

Fish Tikka, with a black pepper turmeric crust, and a dill raita.

Tandoori Baby Chicken with a herb chutney.

Bread basket.

All of the savoury courses were finished, so we had just the one dessert to satisfy the sweet tooth craving.

Cardamom kheer. A pleasant almond pistachio topped rice pudding. As simple as you like.

A little surprise at the end was a couple of sweets which we could not resist.

To sum up then. An amazing array of food. We ate here at lunch and chose the remarkable value Lunch Bites Menu a two, three, four of five course choice which is served with extras such as the breads, dal, spinach.
We went for the five courser (£24.50) which we knew by half way through the meal was going to overwhelm us, and we were right, it was a mountain of food. We were happy with all of the dishes except perhaps the Fish Tikka. We just though that the spicing overpowered the delicate fish somewhat. The rest was most enjoyable. The quail, chicken, aubergine, and especially the seafood salad were most relished. As I have already stated each dish had its own identity, some were subtly spiced others were more in your face but the fact remains that this cooking is more than a couple of steps up the ladder in comparison to most Indian places that we have eaten at.

By its very spicy nature eating this type of meal can induce a thirst and if you enjoy alcohol the extremely good value food can be lost in the bill if you indulge in the alcohol. Think £5 (inc service charge) for a small bottle of beer and £6 plus for the cheapest glass of wine. From memory our bill for two lunches @ £24.50 each, plus two beers, three glasses of wine, tap water, no coffees, service charge was about £90. If your on a budget, (and without alcohol) you can easily eat here at lunch for about £20 pp including service charge.
Very good value indeed for the quality of food.

Go(an) then

Ged it ? (winks)

15-17 Blandford Street
Marylebone Village
0207 935 5624.

  Trishna on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Launceston Place.

Its been a while since we ate at Launceston Place. Chef Tristan Welch  was in residence at the time. I never met him but he came across as a really nice guy on the few TV appearance's that I saw him in . He was hotly tipped for Michelin stardom but that elusive gong was not to arrive.
Move forward a handful of years and lo and behold Launceston Place have finally gained the star that they so much desired. It has arrived in very quick fashion too, especially given Michelin's pedestrian history. Tim Allen perhaps was destined for stardom having worked for arguably one of the toughest chefs in the business John Burton Race. Then a seven year stint at Whatley Manor with highly respected two Michelin starred Martin Burge has not gone unnoticed too. Still he has only been here since February and to earn a star in that period of time is remarkable indeed.

The restaurant is an unusual shape and seats around sixty. There is a private dining room in the basement. The best seats are by the large window at the front of the restaurant.
There were  three menus to choose from on our weekend lunch visit, a tasting menu, carte, and set lunch.
A few dishes cross over from the carte on to the set making it far from the poor cousin. All of them read very well with lots of temptation in each. In the end we chose the set menu as we found all of the dishes interesting but it was about half the price of the carte.

A couple of amuse bouche arrived at the table. The moreish cheese filled choux pastry gougeres were much relished. The extremely tasty cauliflower foam sitting on a bed of curried lentils is worthy of developing as a course on its own it was that enjoyable.

Bread was decent and I suspect freshly baked on the premises. I slightly preferred the white to the brown. I am not keen on whipped butter though, much preferring the rich density of the original

My first course read very well. Slow cooked Duck egg, sauteed girolles, pata negra lardo, pea veloute.

 I initially found the sight of the under cooked egg white off putting, however I put that to the back of my mind because the smell was amazing and it ate very well indeed. Every component of the dish worked in tandem resulting in a very nice plate of food indeed.

My wife's starter looked the business. Hot home smoked Mackerel with salt water prawns, piquillo pepper and lemon confit.

There was a delay in the main courses. our server apologised for the wait as the chef was not happy with my fish and had decided to cook another. We felt like Great British Menu judges instead of normal punters, still I like that honesty coming from a craftsman.

The Roasted Hake was indeed worth the wait. It was accompanied with salt cod bon bon, celeriac puree, charred baby gem, capers and brown butter chicken jus, a veritable mouthful in both senses.

A hunky bit of fish perfectly cooked. Moist and flaky big on flavour with enough textural teasing on the plate to hold the interest. Again another bit of good cooking.

I also liked the sound of my wife's dish Roasted pigeon with glazed bacon.  No small portions here proper plates of food and this was a man sized portion as well.

Totally delicious, tender and gamy, savoury with good depth of flavour on the salty sweet bacon which did not overwhelm the pigeon but complimented it. Loved the garlic mash, confit shallot and the sherry vinegar caramel.

Desserts did not disappoint. My wife's choice first. English custard tart, caramelised apples, sultana puree and yogurt ice cream.

An ideal combination, fruity, rich, warm, cold, texture and visually exciting, a winner.

Last but not least my dessert was a Baked vanilla yogurt, poached English plums and orange ice cream.

So layers of flavour. Delicious sweet slightly tart orange ice cream, diced plums and orange slices. buried in the base of baked yogurt were more plums. Excellent.

Now then, its fair to say that given Tim Allen's pedigree I had high expectations of this meal and thankfully we were not disappointed. All of the dishes displayed a high level of technical skill and were packed full of flavour. Portions are generous and each dish held the interest until the very end. I also feel the need to add that the value for quality is amazing. Its hard to comprehend that what is on display is from a set menu of three courses for only £23.

We both relished the thought of trying more of  Tim's food and we look forward to a speedy return.

Highly recommended. 

Launceston Place.
1 launceston place
W8 5RL

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