Malaga raisin ice-cream with Pedro Ximenez sherry at Morito

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Don’t make the mistake we did! On reading Time Out’s listing for what to eat at Morito, we misinterpreted the “Malaga raisin ice cream with Pedro Ximenez sherry” as a cheeky demand on the magazine’s part for us to construct our own hybrid dessert by ordering sherry to accompany our ice cream.

“In actual fact, it wasn’t such a bad error to make!”

On tasting the sherry it was clear that this was a pudding in itself (in a way I’ve never before appreciated of a ‘dessert wine’) – super-sweet and with an amazing raisin taste which surprised me with how little it tasted of fresh grapes. When the ice cream arrived – or rather was scooped into bowls and had a thick red-brown liquid poured over it (should I say ‘constructed’?), we realised our mistake! In actual fact, it wasn’t such a bad error to make!

And then, something extraordinary happened. After the first mouthful Rachael uttered the words ‘this is in the top ten’. Completely matter-of-fact, completely unprompted.

The ice cream was a relatively straightforward, simple offer, with a light vanilla punctuated by the punch of Malaga raisins. Complexity, richness, a shaper edge, and, frankly, a lot more sweetness was added from the shot of sherry poured over.

I don’t really rate rum and raisin as an ice cream flavour, but this raisin and sherry I could certainly get used to. In fact, this is a great dessert I might make at home, for those times when I have an elaborate starter and main and want a simple sweet as much for my cooking sanity as to avoid overpowering guests’ palates. Vital to get really good quality ice cream and a top notch (sweet!) sherry. I’ll definitely try it!

12/100 of Time Out’s recommended list

Ajo blanco at Copita

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I’d seen people complaining online about the size of the portions at Copita (arguably simply missing the point about tapas, but obviously there is an extreme case where even tapas is too small), with some commentators complaining about the “thimbleful” of ajo blanco. In this particular case, I don’t think they could possibly be justified. Ajo blanco is an almond and garlic soup, served cold. If that sounds really rich, that’s because it is.

“The bartender simply said ‘You’ve been here before'”

Copita cuts through the richness with beetroot, a sprinkling of green herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil – yes, even the olive oil serves to make it less rich – so I’d struggle to get through any more than the small bowl you see above. And anyone who complains about this being a thimbleful must have very fat fingers, which, granted, you’d achieve by eating soup-bowls of this!

To be honest, when I say “struggle to get through more” I still would – because this soup is absolutely delicious. Rich, yes. Creamy, yes. But also woody, almost mushroomy. The beetroot adds freshness and texture, and it teeters on the fence between being savoury or sweet – you could almost imagine this as a liquid filling in an Artisan du Chocolat chocolate!

I love it. In fact, when we ordered a carafe of wine and two portions of ajo blanco, rather than getting weird looks and an explanation of how to order tapas, the bartender simply said “You’ve been here before”. When I come back, I’ll definitely be ordering another mini-bowl of this, and I’m sure I’ll come away satisfied by it!

 

Charcuterie at Terroirs

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When we planned to have a spot of charcuterie at Terroirs ahead of a wiener schnitzel at The Delauney, I’d rather envisaged Rachael and I having a glass of wine and nibbling on a spot of cured meats as a perfect starter. I happened to bump into Paul, a good friend who runs my writers’ group, who had a glass of wine, but didn’t stay to help us eat. Which was a pity, not just to lose his company, but also because Terroirs don’t do things by halves – not by a long shot.

“Veritable plank-loads of meat”

With Time Out’s failure to specify exactly what we should be eating, we ordered a selection of charcuterie (including the selection of charcuterie!), and were brought veritable plank-loads of meat.

Everything we ordered was delicious, particularly the pork and pistachio terrine, and I also particular enjoyed the duck rillettes. These dishes could easily have been a meal in themselves, and a perfectly pleasant evening could be spent sipping nice wine and picking at seemingly bottomless plates of salami and paté, as clearly many of our fellow diners were doing.

“Terroirs don’t do things by halves”

Something about it didn’t come together, however, and I didn’t find myself feeling like I’d eaten a full meal, even though I was pretty full. Perhaps this is unfair, given we’re supposed to be reviewing dishes, not full meals. Even so, Time Out itself admits that there’s better charcuterie to be had in London, which rather invites the question of why they didn’t include those in the top 100 list. Maybe they wanted to include Terroirs for its (genuinely) comfortable ambiance and deft cooking in general, but again, the list is supposed to be identifying great dishes, not restaurants.

Enjoyable, tasty, but ultimately left me a little cold and unsatisfied.

Beyti kofte at Mangal Ocakbasi

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If there’s one good reason to head to deepest, darkest East London it has to be for the Turkish food. With hundreds of local grills, it’s a big claim for Time Out to have picked out a particular kebab as one of the hundred best dishes in London, but since it had, we were duty-bound to head to Mangal Ocakbasi to try it.

“Cooked perfectly, it was juicy and soft”

Rather foolishly we shared a mezze to start (well, you have to try out a place’s hummus, don’t you? This joint’s: the grainy, bland sort), fully aware that our mains would be enormous. Sure enough, two kofte kebabs rested on piles of salad, pickles, chillies and flatbread.

It was clearly good meat, with a freshness of flavour enhanced by crisp herby hints in the mix. Cooked perfectly, it was juicy and soft. But that’s about where the compliments end, because, to be honest, it was nothing special. Sure, it was a decent kebab, and goodness knows you can get terrible kebabs which are downright unpleasant eating. Would I cross London, or recommend this to a friend as the place to go for authentic grill? Nope.

70/100 best dish from Time Out London’s list

Beetroot ravioli at Bistrot Bruno Loubet

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I don’t hate beetroot. Hate is quite a strong word. I can eat it, but I generally wouldn’t choose to, so a high bar was set for these ravioli to excite me. Yet thrill me they did!

“Delicate, ethereal ravioli with simple rocket and parmesan”

Rather than having that peaty, acid taste that exudes purple, these parcels of fresh, light pasta were filled with a subtly fragrant, but unmistakably beet flavour.

And rather than the popular, three massive lumps of pasta that you tend to get served as a starter these days, making up for quantity with a punch and a half of full-on-spinach-or-beef, this was a large plate matching several delicate, ethereal ravioli with simple rocket and parmesan.

I followed this with wild duck – excellent, brimming with flavour, much more than the farmed sort, but smaller in size. Competent, not-try-hard French cuisine is what this place does, and I’ll be back. I’d probably even order the beetroot ravioli!

20/100 of Time Out’s list

Bone marrow and parsley salad at St John

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St John was pretty empty when we were there, which was odd, since it’s usually crammed. But perhaps it was the fact that, for a nose-to-tail restaurant (some would say the nose-to-tail restaurant), there was remarkable little nose or tail on the current menu.

Buttered toast will never taste quite the same again!

I decide to brave the ox heart, after being reassured by the waiter that it wasn’t too ‘offally’, having been marinated in balsamic vinegar and then cut into very thin slices before cooking, rendering it a steak-like quality (he wasn’t wrong).

But before the ox heart I got the joy of the famous bone-marrow, which I’d assumed came in a parsley salad, given the name on the menu. Instead, it’s really bone-marrow-on-toast with a parsley garnish (which, no doubt, could be corrected by pausing in the right place when reading the menu).

Rather unappetisingly, when I suggested it was basically toast-with-dripping (which I confess I’ve never actually ordered) Chris declared that ‘but marrow is all cells and stuff’. I’m pretty sure all food is ‘cells and stuff’, but I took his point: there’s a bit more going on than just a butter-substitute (in the opposite direction to Olivio!)

It’s really bone-marrow-on-toast with a parsley garnish

That there’s a bit more going on is also evident in the eating. Your mouth is greeted by a complex flavour, outrageously velvety, but meaty, smoky and utterly indulgent. The richness (but not the grease!) is offset by a sprinkling of course sea salt, which cuts through the creaminess. The parsley definitely adds something, and something more than just a hint of healthy afterthought. It’s a fresh flavour, but more importantly a herby complement, and its absence would certainly be missed.

A salad this is not – but buttered toast will never taste quite the same again!

15/100 best dishes from Time Out’s list