Jimmy's pop up - The Secret Garden Clapham

Above The Clapham North is a little space which is let out to a few pop ups every now and then. More recently the 'pop up king' has brought his experience to Clapham and a bunch of us South of the River folk went there last night...

The restaurant is a little... odd. But, pop-ups have to work with what they have...the central focus point is a huge fake tree which hangs (it needs more oomph!) above a canteen like dining space of around 12 or so tables mostly seating couples - of which, almost every couple had their mobile phones out, talk to each other, please!! 

The menu read well, four delicious sounding starters, and the same for mains. All focussing on the 'BEST of British produce' and the wine is extensive enough to have a couple of decent bottles of each and be happy...

Our menu choices were followed by some excellent warm bread and salted butter. It then went slightly pear shaped from here on in...

Sadly, our first complaint went in after waiting almost an hour after ordering our starter... Nothing was rectified. Instead we found ourselves somewhat ignored, no apology and just a passing of excuses. I appreciate that waitresses get the brunt of complaints which isn't easy as I worked at a Gastro pub, in Devon, for two summers.

Our waitress told us the reason being was due to other tables arriving an hour late. So, we were being penalised for arriving on time?! 

Eventually our starters did get 'plonked down' and every single one was sublime, all was forgotten and thoroughly enjoyed...

A couple of us had boudin blanc (my picture is embarrassingly bad!!) this was served with a BBQ corn puree, crisp black pudding cubes and cauliflower florets. Oddly, there seemed to be some white meat (possibly quail?!) on the plate which wasn't accounted for on the menu. But, it was all completely delicious. 

Crottin goats cheese, balsamic vinegar, candied walnuts and baby beetroot was chosen by Mrs SB and tuna tartare for a few others. Both got rather large thumbs up.

Sadly, our small table of 6 seemed to be pushed further down the line. At ten past ten (2.5hrs after being seated) when our mains still hadn't arrived we had to ask where it was... 'It's on the pass' - (a restaurant favourite reply of mine) and then saw said 'pass food' go to another table... So, we waited... 

The manager came over and finally apologised for the exceptionally slow service but said it was due to us having both a starter and a main. Is that not expected in a restaurant?!

Another reason followed...'the whole restaurants dishes were being cooked in batches. First the lamb, then the hake etc etc...' that just doesn't make sense to me. But hey ho, our dishes arrived and again, all totally delicious...

My hake in a tasty seaweed and sea vegetable broth was beautiful, light and warming. The fish cooked perfectly, with flaky iridescent flesh and a good crisp skin. 

LJ's Roasted wood pigeon, butternut squash, girolles, braised potato, Fat Hen (?!) and blackberry jus. The potato 'gratin' was sadly, undercooked. Yet, every other element was triumph.

The previous mentioned 'sitting on the pass' rang alarm bells when Mrs BL's English lamb rump, olive oil mash, artichokes, samphire, peas and aubergines arrived with a rather 'crusty' looking sauce on the side from sitting under the heat lamp. However, I was assured that is was another winner...

We had a final apology and the booze wiped off the bill due to it being too late (10:40pm) for us all to warrant a free pudding (thank you). And we left somewhat baffled and slightly deflated...

I honestly, hardly ever complain in restaurants as I appreciate how much effort and time is consumed into running one. I SO wanted to love this place in every possible way but, it simply didn't happen. It's an incredible shame as the kitchen shows a huge amount of talent if you love your food go, just be prepared for an exceptionally odd roller coaster of an evening.

Website: HERE 

Address: 409 Clapham Rd, London SW9 9BT
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Searcys at The Gherkin

Every now and then Bookatable have a deal that I'm drawn towards... two weeks ago their star deal was for Searcys which, I had never heard of. What drew me to Searcys restaurant was that it is within The Gherkin, 40 floors up and therefore ticking off another of my high rise dining experiences looking over our beautiful city. 

The deal was 3 courses and a glass of bubbly for £45... not bad. But, what makes this extra special is that this dining experience has a rather fun bar above based on a Moroccan Souk which is only open for a limited time to celebrate The Gherkins 10th year (has it REALLY been that long!!). So, extra special. 

With the Moroccan theme in mind you can opt for a 'Taste of Morocco' tasting menu fr an extra £10pp on arrival or, afternoon tea which is only available to book in advance...

On this gloomy rather grey weather summers evening we were ushered through security quickly and zoomed up the 39 flights to be greeted by friendly faces and shown to our table right on the edge showing beautiful birds eye views below our feet and they immediately poured our glass of crisp, dry champers... 

The menu for our 3 courses was far more extensive than other offers I have come across. Six starters and six mains including interesting vegetarian options which is sometimes a rarity. All the meat and fish dishes all sounded delicious making it ever so slightly hard to choose from. 

Some warm bread with churned, salted butter arrived and was so comforting I ate it in quick succession. 

Wait service here is super attentive without them getting in the way... staff were friendly, informative and didn't intrude on our meal. The room was almost full at 7pm on a Tuesday which made for a wonderful atmosphere and is, of course, flooded with light being surrounded 360 degrees by glass and not a single building gets in eyes way... it's quite stunning. 

Once ordered our starters came in good time. 

Pickled Beetroot was my choice and came with whipped Vulscombe goat's cheese, basil, apple and vanilla. It looked as good as a Michelin starred dish and was a real treat to eat. I didn't taste much of the vanilla but, every other flavour shone through. 

Mr D's starter was a confit of duck roulade, white peach, candied walnut and rocket... 

Of the mains (and I wish one of us went for the Moroccan lamb as it looked delicious) I went for Butter roasted monkfish, heritage purple carrot, crisp bone marrow and bacon foam. My fish was exquistely cooked, one of the best monkfish dishes I've eaten - it could be to do with the 10,000grams of butter which went into the dish succulent and tender a real winner. The bone marrow was a little over-crisp for my liking but all other aspects of the dish worked perfectly. 

The better half opted for pork tenderloin, broccoli and navet (a Moroccan nod - it means turnip) and leeks. Sadly the pork was completely overcook, so much so it look a little sad on the plate and we were surprised it even got past the pass. But, the accompanying sauce was worthy of a mention as were the perfectly cooked al dente leeks.

Mr D's pudding, for me, was the stand out dish for the evening. Looks wise, it was incredibly pretty...taste wise completely delicious. Opalyse (an exceptionally good Parisian white chocolate) cremeux, charred lemon, lemon rose sorbet. It has every aspect you would want in a dish both sweet and sour flavourings and a mix of different textures - divine. 

I rather boringly went for the cheese trolley for an extra £5 supplement from a selection of about 15 cheeses they asked what I liked flavour wise and gave me a good selection of hard, soft, goats and smoked. 

Searcys is a lovely restaurant with just a few tweeks here and there the food could be top notch. If, like me, you're sucker for a romantic high rise supper (and also a bargain) it's a must - hit it before it vanishes....

Bookatable's deal link HERE
Searcys website HERE

A: 30 St Mary Axe, off Leadenhall Street, London,EC3A 8EP
Tube: Bank

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Cambio de Tercio

I adore tapas and how it creates table conversation through sharing food, discussing flavours with your companions and all cooing over the dishes at the same time. It's perfect for large groups, romantic for two and a decadent treat for one... Cambio de Tercio in South Ken has been my families 'go to' for (I think) over 20 years. It's still owned by the same lovely faces and still has a wonderful cosy 'unique' atmosphere even after expansion into several other branches. 

The Old Brompton Rd houses four of them and there's another in Fulham. In a word it's DELICIOUS and has never faltered on any of my visits. 

Last week my parents came down to celebrate my little bro turning 25... Tube strikes thus meant we needed to eat near their hotel and there's simply no point in us trying anywhere new when Cambio de Tercio is on the hotel's doorstep.

We arrived, ordered Aperol Spritz and Sherries (they specialise in the liquor) and got stuck into their mouthwatering menu. The other restaurants are solely 'tapas style' but, Cambio de Tercio's menu has tapas style starters and also a mains section. Putting my brother and I in charge of choosing the tapas (always dangerous if you ask me!) whilst Dad ordered a plate of the delicious acorn fed Iberico ham to munch on whilst we decided. 

Our tapas feast went as follows:

8 hr roasted Tomatoes in sherry and served with basil caviar and potato cubes

Foie Gras 'from the tree' a wonderful mind boggling Heston-esque apple jelly covered foie gras pate and poached pear.
Incredibly lightly fried squid, lemon aioli.

Their version of 'patatas bravas' - so SO good and an absolute must when here.

and finally their infamous Iberico ham croquettes... crisp outer shell and a creamy oozy delicious inside - what's not to love?!

Mains were as epic as the starter for us all...

My Dad and brother went for the Cambio classic of Crispy roasted suckling pig from Salamanca, pickled kumquat, caramelised shallots, roast parsnip... I had a mouthful of this and it is rather incredible, crispy skin and succulent meat - heaven.

Mum - Flame grilled pluma iberica (the finest cut from acorn feed pork) pineapple, lime puree. This was, sadly, not to mum's taste as it was very sweet but the meat had a wonderful flavour. 

I went for one of their fish dishes... Red mullet roasted with cauliflower, nameko mushrooms and in a rich mullet jus. 

Puddings were a necessity with it being the bro's birthday and he already has his eyes set on their 'egg and chips'. Mandarin egg yolk which oozed as it should. Mango as the chips and strawberry sauce as the ketchup (which has ketchup consistency). Mr brother loved it.

 A terrible photo of the egg yolk... 

4hr baked vanilla custard was also shared amongst us all and was utterly delicious. 

Another playful way of presenting food came with our rather delicious 'petite fours' chocolate truffles on dry ice...

Innovative, playful and still managing a good nod to Spain's traditional dishes - Superb as ever and a definite must go.

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Kurobuta - Chelsea

A couple of weeks ago Mr D and I found ourselves with a long and lazy weekend ahead of us... this usually then means a good day of grub followed by a spontaneous pub session with friends. On this particular weekend there happened to be hardly anyone in town so, we meandered as us 30 year old folk do, across the river to the haven that is... Peter Jones and a wander down the Kings Road. 

Kurobuta has now moved venue since my last visit a year ago (link) and I was somewhat saddened to see the rustic 'pop up' d├ęcor has now been replaced with slightly strange, haphazard and to be frank...a little bit odd. But, I'm here for the food and those delicious boozy cocktails. 

Our waitress was a charming American girl whom enthusiastically took us through her favourites and recommendations and then, quite literally, skipped off to get our drinks order and came back at lightening speed. 

Having been before there were a few 'must haves' that I ordered without looking at the menu and already knowing he was a little peckish ordered the Crunchy Rice Senbei Crisps with Avocado-Jalapeno Dip for a nibble whilst we decided on our feast...

Once ordered the dishes came at a decent pace and thankfully not all at once... first up was a punchy yellowtail Sashimi with Kizami Wasabi Salsa and Yuzu-Soy. Quite a generous portion for £13 and wonderfully fresh.

Next up was a favourite of mine when at Kurobuta... their version of Baby Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Mayo and Warm Ponzu Dipping Sauces. Served with fried rice cracker 'spaghetti'.

BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy an absolute must have when visiting here... pillow-soft buns, wrapped round juicy perfectly cooked meat. Smother it in the sweet, sticky, salty peanut sauce and you have heaven in a mouthful.

BBQ Kurobuta Pork Ribs with Honey-Soy-Ginger Glaze were pre braised, then grilled, sadly let the meal down. A little too dry and the sauce was barely noticeable....

Kurobuta has changed ever so slightly since its previous home which is a shame as its lost a little of the charm which I so loved before. That said, however, it wouldn't stop me going back for more of those delicious buns and wonderous cocktails...

Address: 312 King's Rd, London SW3 5UH

Open today · 6:00 – 10:30 p.m.

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