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Underbelly Festival has really spoiled us so far with some world-class productions, from the cool, contemporary circus show A Simple Space by Adelaide’s Gravity & Other Myths to the red-hot, debauched Little Death Club.

Of course, there’s plenty more to come this summer and just this weekend I caught the latest show, Transit by Flip Fabrique.  Founded in 2011, this award-winning Quebecois circus company presented its show Catch Me (Attrape Moi) to much acclaim in London two years ago and their new work has been just as well-received.

Transit explores the globe-trotting life of a circus troupe – the highs and the lows, the comradery and the squabbles.  The show opens in an airport where the group’s spirits are momentarily dampened by a long flight delay.  Within moments, however, they are juggling diabolos and balancing on flight cases with effervescent Jade Dussault hula hooping on the top.

They also pass the time by skipping with multiple neon ropes, celebrating a birthday with party hats and performing a hilarious ballet routine catching sweets in their mouths.

Amid the comedy and acrobatics, there are some poignant moments, such as when Jade has to make a difficult announcement to the group and Pierre Riviere has an argument with his girlfriend on the phone over being constantly on tour.

As the delay gets longer, they reflect on whether they would leave the circus life behind and what they would do if it was their last night performing together.  It’s an interesting moment, as very few circus shows have a scene with so much dialogue or ever give the audience a glimpse of the reality of this creative, physically demanding life.

Having discussed their wildest dreams for one last night, they set upon making them a reality.  Jasmin Blouin breaks his record of performing 14 circus disciplines in under one and a half minutes, while Jonathan Julien lifts up the entire troupe metal-style and Cedrik Pinault gets to feel like a rock star when the audience cheers and throws ‘their’ knickers at him.

The show ends with an impressive tramp wall routine (bouncing on the trampoline and walking up vertically) and lots of colourful soft balls flying around.  The group remains a happy family, even if it’s bittersweet as they may eventually follow different paths.

Transit is a thrilling, funny and touching show with a cool original soundtrack and plenty of wow moments.  Flip Fabrique really stand out as a company and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Transit runs at Underbelly Festival until 7th July.  For more information and booking, visit: www.underbellyfestival.com

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Kanada-Ya is my favourite place for ramen in London and having tried many of its competitors, nothing comes close, in my opinion.

Established in Japan in 2009 by Kanada Kazuhiro, this game-changing ramen bar now has an outpost in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay and three across London.  I recently had dinner at Kanada-Ya Angel, which is thankfully a little easier to get a table than its central London sisters, however you may still need to queue at peak times.

Kanada-Ya has added Gyoza to the menu at all of its restaurants this spring, so we just had to try them.  The precisely-folded dumplings were steaming hot with a crispy, golden base and generously filled with well-seasoned minced pork.

Chicken Karaage – another small plate – was tender and succulent with punchy flavours of garlic, ginger and soy and a crunchy fried coating.  I’ve previously found Kanada-Ya’s Karaage a little heavy on the batter, but this time the balance was just right.

A great new discovery was Chashu Don – the perfect dish to share if you can’t get enough of Kanada-Ya’s famous pork belly.  A plentiful bowl of soft, pearl-like Japanese rice dish was piled high with seared chashu pork belly and a layer of slow-cooked shredded pork, topped with spring onion.  It was ridiculously delicious and very filling – definitely a new favourite!

For the main event, we tried Tonkotsu X, a ramen dish exclusive to the London restaurants, made with pork and corn-fed chicken bone broth, chashu pork belly, wood ear fungus, seaweed and spring onion.  The umami-rich bone broth was meaty and slightly opaque and the silky chashu pork simply melted in the mouth.  Kanada-Ya offers a choice of firmness for the noodles (from soft to extra-hard) and the regular noodles were exemplary – thin, springy and tasty.

Chashu-Men was a slightly lighter ramen with pork bone broth, chashu pork collar, wood ear fungus, seaweed and spring onion.  The chashu pork collar was a little leaner and heartier than the pork belly and the pork bone broth was subtle and not overly creamy.  It was nicely complemented by fresh, earthy wood ear fungus, crispy dried nori and thinly-sliced spring onion.

We washed it all down with Kanada-Ya’s tangy, zesty Home-made lemonade, however you can also try an iced matcha latte, premium sake or Japanese beer.

Kanada-Ya is a fantastic addition to Islington’s Upper Street and its new menu of delicious small plates proves there’s much more to it than simply ramen.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Chérie City was a guest of Kanada-Ya 

All photos by Chérie City

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Watch out theatregoers, the Southbank just got that little bit sexier with the arrival of Little Death Club at Underbelly.  A smash hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe, this daring show is here to shock and delight all summer long.

Inspired by the Weimar Republic’s den of iniquity, Little Death Club brings debauchery, amazement and lots of laughs in an intimate club setting.  At the helm is formidable kabarett star Bernie Dieter, a striking vision in jet black feathers and spiked heels.  Bernie is the real deal – a provocative libertine born in Köln to a family of circus performers, with razor-sharp wit and an air of seduction.

The scene was set from the moment we arrived at the Underbelly spiegeltent, with a glamorous family of misfits prowling around the room and lounging on the stage, set to sleazy rock from the fantastic live band.

Bernie broke the ice with some hilarious audience participation, loosening everyone up as the 60-minutes of decadence got underway.  With sultry, theatrical tones, she regaled us with cheeky numbers including a rousing drinking song about her motorcycle-riding grandmother and another about lacklustre sex.

We were swiftly introduced to Myra DuBois, the self-proclaimed ‘songbird of south Yorkshire’, who served up unmistakably Northern humour, roasting a front-row guest for wearing flip flops to the theatre and having a pop at bloggers (it was the press night after all).  We were then treated to Myra’s party piece – a pouting solo rendition of I Know Him So Well, famously performed by “Elaine Paige and the other one”.

More than just bawdy comedy, Little Death Club also has some serious acrobatic credentials.  Fancy Chance mesmerised with angelic aerial ballet and somehow glided through the air hanging by her hair.  Beau Sargent graced the hoop with contortions that had the audience wincing as well as an elegant, poignant piece about gender with stunning vocals from Bernie.

Josh Glanc played a disillusioned French mime longing for real-life sensations, while Kitty Bang Bang’s finale was red hot with some incredible naked fire breathing.  It was so intense that you could feel the glow of the flames radiating from the stage.

Little Death Club is a fabulous, gin-soaked feast for the senses and above all, a whole lot of fun.  Bernie’s farewell address pointedly reminded us to celebrate difference in a world that wants us to all be the same.  I left wishing I could stay in her dazzling club just a little bit longer.

Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club runs at Underbelly Festival until 29th September.  For more information and booking, visit: www.underbellyfestival.com

Chérie City was a guest of Underbelly Festival

All images by Alistair Veryard Photography

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London Bridge is one of my favourite areas to explore, with its views over the Thames, charming historical buildings and incredible food scene.  I recently spent a glorious day out there and challenged myself to visit places that I haven’t been before, rather than relying on old favourites.

My first stop of the morning was the Kat Maconie concept store for a spot of pampering.  The British shoe designer launched her debut boutique and beauty salon at the beginning of the year and it’s quickly become part of the neighbourhood.

I enjoyed a 40-minute Ready for the Floor manicure while sipping Bermondsey tea and admiring the colourful, beautifully-crafted shoes gracing the wall.  I was so tempted to leave with a new pair!

With freshly-painted nails, I walked over to meet Steven for lunch at Padella.  This petite pasta bar by the duo behind Highbury’s Trullo always has a queue around the building and it’s easy to see why.  Luckily we only had to wait 20 minutes in the sun before we were seated at the marble counter and tucking into the most fabulous Burrata with Fiorano 2018 olive oil and sourdough bread.

The fresh pasta is hand-rolled every morning and accompanied with delicious sauces inspired by the owners’ travels through Italy.  We ordered two contrasting dishes to share and it was impossible to pick a favourite.  Pici with marjoram and golden garlic was creamy and well-seasoned while Tagliarini with slow-cooked tomato sauce with Fiorano 2018 olive oil had a rich, sunkissed flavour.

We finished our day in London Bridge with a tour around the iconic Borough Market.  I’ve visited countless times, but decided to pick up some provisions that I hadn’t tried before.  At Neal’s Yard Dairy, we did a tasting of artisan cheeses with one of their friendly, knowledgable cheesemongers and settled on a small wedge of Gubbeen, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Cork, Ireland.

To go with the cheese, we picked up some aromatic, juicy porchetta, sliced to order, at authentic Italian deli Gastronomica.  Finally, we joined another queue at Bread Ahead Bakery for a freshly-baked ciabatta and two of their famous doughnuts, filled to bursting point with velvety pistachio and praline custard.

London Bridge is the perfect destination for foodies and there are always plenty of new places to discover.  Where are your favourite spots in London Bridge?

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

All photos by Chérie City

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It’s that time again when Underbelly Festival takes over the Southbank with a dazzling programme of live circus, cabaret, comedy and music.  Underbelly always presents best circus talent from around the world, but this season’s debut show was truly spectacular and memorable.

A Simple Space by leading Australian company Gravity & Other Myths (GOM) has won a number of awards and has been performed more than 600 times across 30 countries.  Formed in Adelaide in 2009, GOM is renowned for its honest, unpretentious shows that favour acrobatic excellence over high concept.

For this special Underbelly run, the stage set was minimal with just four spotlights that were switched on and off throughout and the performers were dressed casually in natural colours.  The show began with the group continually shouting ‘falling’, then tumbling and leaping off each other energetically – a truly captivating introduction.

GOM’s work has a real playfulness and there were plenty of japes and dares, like seeing who could hold their breath the longest, making animal balloons behind their backs and a ‘strip skipping’ competition where Benton Adam-Walker ended up losing all of his clothes (yes, it did get a little racy).

The chemistry between the seven performers was palpable as they climbed and stood on each other’s bodies, formed vertiginous pyramids, held impossible contortion poses and walked on each other’s heads.

Annalise Moore’s acrobatics had everyone’s jaws on the floor in amazement as she somersaulted through the air, balanced upside down and was literally thrown across the stage and caught by the guys in unison with talented flyer Ashleigh Pearce.

In between the high-octane routines were fun moments like when André Augustus solved a Rubik’s cube while standing on his head and the stage became a colourful ball pit with the audience pelting the performers as they posed.

But what really took the show to the next level was the atmospheric electronic soundtrack performed with live drums and programming by Alex Flood.  He also had his own solo moment beat boxing and tapping his chest rhythmically until it went red and raw.

The finale was epic with some incredible, high-speed acrobatics and I just didn’t want it to ever end.  I really connected with GOM and loved the joyful, confident and stripped back vibe of A Simple Space.  It’s definitely one that you won’t want to miss!

Underbelly has a wonderful carnival atmosphere and is bigger and better than ever with its fabulous pop-up spiegeltent, plus drinks and tempting street food from the likes of Nanny Bill’s and Hola Guacamole.  The shows are short and sweet at just 60-minutes and most are under £20, making it an affordable night out by the Thames.  I can’t wait to see more throughout the summer.

A Simple Space runs at Underbelly Festival until 5th May.  For more information and booking, visit: www.underbellyfestival.com

Chérie City was a guest of Underbelly Festival

Photos by Zoe Bridger

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Number 90 Bar & Kitchen in Hackney Wick, east London, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary with an epic weekender of top DJ sets, burgers and booze until 6am.

Founded by two music industry experts and Hackney Wick residents, Number 90 is a buzzing canal-side warehouse venue with a fantastic music and art programme.  It’s a landmark of the creative community with a local vibe and can easily be identified among the area’s colourful industrial buildings by its two recently finished 70ft murals by renowned street artists Dale Grimshaw and Zabou.

I visited for dinner on the first night of birthday merriment and feasted on burgers and cocktails with a warm-up soundtrack courtesy of Stranger Than Paradise Records, the independent record store based at Mare Street Market.

The menu is all about comfort food with a twist, featuring some tempting Greek-style kebabs and glazed ribs, loaded burgers, luxury fries and creative vegan dishes.

The rather enormous TNG burger was smokey and flavourful with a high-quality, well-seasoned beef patty in a fluffy, seeded TNG activated charcoal bun.  It was taken to the next level with fruity and tangy chutney, moreish baconnaise sauce, smoked cheddar cheese, brie, baby gem, beef tomato, sweet red onion marmalade and smoked bacon.

The Chicken burger had a lovely home-cooked taste and was a real contrast to the TNG burger.  The tasty Italian herb bread bun was packed with tender, crispy chicken schnitzel, baby gem, red onion, tomato, subtle aioli and punchy chorizo paste.

It’s hard to pick a favourite dish, but I was really wowed by the Slow-cooked duck confit dirty fries.  The generous portion of classic skin-on fries were topped with flaky pulled duck confit (just like the kind you’d find in a French bistro), rich cheese sauce and mouthwatering red wine gravy, finished with a scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds.  They were incredibly decadent and a real treat – ideal for sharing along with a burger.

Our second (and thankfully more modest) side of Sweet potato fries was exemplary – definitely some of the best in town.

The cocktail list is a well-edited mix of classics done well.  90’s Elderflower pisco sour was potent and refreshing, made with Macchu Pisco, St Germain, lime, simple syrup, egg white and Angostura Bitters.  We also loved the sweet and aromatic Iced 9Tea – Earl grey tea mixed with Martini Rosso, Southern Comfort and lemon.

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen is perfect for a night out in Hackney Wick and I can definitely see myself spending the warmer nights on that glorious terrace overlooking the water.

For more information, menus and booking, visit: www.number90bar.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Number 90 Bar & Kitchen

All photos by Chérie City

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Andrew Wong opened his second modern Chinese restaurant Kym’s late last year and, as expected, it became the hottest ticket in The City’s prominent Bloomberg Arcade.

A favourite among London foodies, the celebrated chef gained a Michelin star for his innovative restaurant A. Wong.  In 2012 he took over the Pimlico Cantonese restaurant that belonged to his parents and established a more authentic cuisine with his signature flair, following intensive culinary training across China.  In fact, the family spirit lives on at Kym’s – named after the original restaurant and his grandmother who taught him to cook.

This sister restaurant is a more casual, accessible affair with a completely different look and ambiance.  Set across two floors, the interiors are slick and seductive with an open kitchen and counter, grey velvet banquettes, crescent-shaped bar and a pretty faux cherry blossom tree.

We visited on a Saturday lunchtime when the Norman Foster-designed complex, that also houses gems like Koya, Brigadiers and Ekte, is much calmer with laid-back weekend crowd.

While A Wong is famed for its exquisite dim sum, Kym’s focusses on the ancient art of roasting meats, meticulously salting, curing and air-drying them for two days before hitting the oven.  You can watch observe this process from the open kitchen or sit at the counter to be in the middle of all the action.

To start, we shared the Tiger prawn skewers with sweet chilli, pineapple and cracker (£8.50), which had a rather whimsical fairground look.  The tiger prawns were plump and ever so fresh and I loved the crunchy coating, even if it all fell off dramatically and was tricky to eat.  The dipping sauce was fruity and luscious rather than sugary and it added lightness to the deep-fried cracker.  It was a tasty small plate but the serving of only two prawns didn’t really satisfy and perhaps there are more filling dishes to try instead.

What really had us raving, however, was the Pork & shrimp ‘Bao Bao’ – fried egg, pat chun and crispy chilli (£12).  It came in a sizzling skillet with five dumplings generously filled with well-seasoned ground pork and shrimp, nestled among two runny fried eggs.  It had a rich, slightly sweet taste from the pat chun (black rice vinegar) and was liberally garnished with golden, piquant crispy chilli, sliced spring onion and sesame seeds.

It’s the perfect brunch dish with a nod to Andrew Wong’s famous dim sum, which doesn’t tend to feature on the menu at Kym’s.

The main event was the fabulous-sounding Three treasure – a majestic trio of slow-roasted meats each with an accompanying dipping sauce.  Cantonese crispy pork belly had a layer of silky rendered fat and exemplary crackling, served with a sweet honey mustard sauce.  Slow poached soy chicken was succulent with a nicely lacquered skin and a heavenly ginger relish with garlic and spring onion.  Iberico pork char siu was just as delicious and moreish as I’d hoped with a caramelised, red-hued edge and a rich honey soy sauce.

It was impossible to pick a favourite as they were all so different and the portion size was more than enough to share.  Steamed jasmine rice was the perfect side dish to really let the flavours of the meat and sauces shine.  We didn’t stay for dessert, but you can finish with a tempting Pineapple bun or Peanut mochi with mango sorbet.

Lunch at Kym’s was an absolute delight and I’d love to go back and try more of the menu, like the Crispy duck pancakes and Wagyu beef bao.  It’s also worth mentioning that Kym’s has recently launched an edited ‘click and collect’ take-out menu, so you can get a complete meal of roasted meat with steamed rice for less than a tenner.  What could be better than that?

For more information and booking, visit: www.kymsrestaurant.com

All photos by Chérie City

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Since opening last summer, Portuguese restaurant Casa do Frango has quickly gained a reputation as a real good time place and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.

Perched next to the railways arches near Borough Market, Casa do Frango (translated as ‘chicken house’) is one of London’s prettiest restaurants with a menu inspired by the coastal cuisine of southern Portugal.  Its three owners created it out of a shared love of Algarvian cuisine and have worked with a pitmaster to ensure the signature piri piri frango – slow-cooked over wood charcoal – is truly authentic.

Before even mentioning the food, Casa do Frango is a beauty of a restaurant with loft-style exposed brick, high arched windows, a large skylight that brightens up the room and lots of verdant plants.  When we visited on a Saturday lunchtime, it had a joyful, lively atmosphere and an intoxicating aroma of garlic, smoke and wine – a welcome preview of what’s to come.

There are mostly communal tables with rustic wooden benches for large groups, however we were shown to a nice table for two.  The restaurant was calm when we arrived but it filled up quickly and I can’t stress enough the importance of booking a table.

After our drinks arrived, the dishes followed astonishingly quickly.  Usually this wouldn’t fill me with much confidence, but it seemed that the kitchen was simply running smoothly before the peak rush and everything could be plated up easily.

Piri Piri garlic prawns with white wine and parsley certainly looked the part and came in a generous portion of four.  They were ever so fresh and plump, served in a gorgeous rich seafood jus, which was worthy of mopping up with bread.

Grilled chorizo with black olive mayo and guindilla peppers was meaty and intense with a slightly bitter flavour.  It went well with the aromatic black olive mayo and tangy peppers and I liked the liberal garnish of fresh tarragon.

We shared the house signature of Half free-range chicken brushed with piri piri, however you can also choose milder marinades like oregano or lemon and garlic.  The high quality chicken was tender, smoky and well-seasoned with punchy piri piri that had just the right amount of heat.

Our reason for sharing was to try a greater range of dishes, but the chicken is definitely the main event and a little on the small side, so I recommend one each if you’re hungry.

Green rice with peas, plantain, pickled peppers and crispy artichoke was a colourful, moreish side dish.  The perfectly-cooked rice was garlicky and a little creamy, studded with lovely golden, deep-fried artichokes.  It’s an ideal accompaniment if you want something more interesting than fries.

Lunch at Casa do Frango was a real delight, but my only criticism would be the hyper-attentive service.  The staff were friendly, but came to take away our dishes too frequently, leaving us feel a little rushed.

Casa do Frango really impresses with its stylish surroundings, modest prices and beautifully-presented dishes with full-on flavour.  It’s a tough time for restaurants in London, but this one has the winning formula that will see us all coming back again for more.

For more information and booking, visit: www.casadofrango.co.uk

All photos by Chérie City

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Just a few months ago, France’s oldest tea house, Mariage Frères, opened its largest boutique to date in Covent Garden.  In 1854, Parisian brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage established their first tea emporium and salon de thé on rue Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais and there are now seven locations in Paris and across Japan.

The elegant five-storey Georgian townhouse on upscale King Street, just a few steps from the Piazza, is home to an enormous tea emporium where you can find the largest collection of teas in the world at an impressive 1000 varieties from 36 different countries, a take-away tea and pâtisserie counter and the first floor salon de thé.

I know Mariage Frères teas well (Wedding Imperial and Marco Polo are favourites), but dining there was high on my wish list, so I was excited to visit for Saturday lunch to start January in style.  The soft launch discount of 50% off food was also most welcome, as we were able to order a little more freely.

We were warmly welcomed by the friendly staff and were shown to the bright, modern front room with palms and a patterned floor inspired by the Paris original.  This is where you can enjoy a decadent lunch, afternoon tea, weekend brunch or simply tea and cake.

What really makes Mariage Frères stand out is that all dishes and pâtisserie feature the brand’s most iconic teas, chosen to complement and enhance the flavours.  With this in mind, the name ‘salon de thé’ feels somewhat modest, as the style of the menu and the standard of Head Chef Felix Richard’s cooking are what you’d expect to find in a restaurant.

We started by sharing Avocado ‘guacamole style’ with Japanese matcha tea, sweet potato crisps and roasted peanuts.  The velvety crushed avocado was packed with lots of high quality, verdant matcha and had a strong zesty flavour from the fresh lime.  It went perfectly with the curly sweet potato crisps and crunchy peanuts and was ideal for sharing.

I followed with Roasted chicken supreme and smoky black leopard tea jus with roasted shiitakes and button mushrooms, cauliflower and turmeric puree.  The presentation was just stunning and there were so many contrasting flavours at play.

The succulent chicken was elevated by the rich jus and well matched with the smooth turmeric purée, soy-infused mushrooms, tangy pickled cauliflower and punchy red currants (only the roasted peanuts seemed a little out of place).

Saumon matcha with sautéed spinach, toasted sesame and fragrant Siam rice with barberry was another hit. The salmon was incredibly fresh and plump with delicate wilted spinach, nutty sesame and an aromatic, creamy matcha sauce.  The cute little pot of fluffy steamed rice was a simple yet well-balanced accompaniment.

It was a real joy to then saunter over to the chariot de pâtisseries and be guided through the overwhelming selection of dazzling treats.  After much deliberation on whether to go for a tarte, mousse, éclair or seasonal Galette des Rois, I was drawn to the most bold, eye-catching cakes.

The Mille cake was bright red and meticulously layered with joconde sponge and cherry compote, infused with the sweet rooibos Thé Sexy and topped with gold leaf.  This dessert was intense like a perfume with refreshing red berry notes and a lingering vanilla taste with every bite.

The Gold cake not only looked incredibly decadent, and was generously-sized, but it had the most wonderful melange of flavours.  The buttery, dense chocolate and vanilla pound cake had a centre of heavenly gianduja and candied orange peel and was infused with spiced Christmas tea.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was entirely enrobed in a thick layer of gold-painted milk chocolate.  It was the most luxurious teatime cake I’ve ever tasted, however its price was equally gilded at £13 a slice.  A word of advice here is to try not to be dazzled by the array of cakes and pay attention when ordering.

An even bigger decision was selecting a tea from the hundreds on the menu, however we were given a helping hand with The French Art of Tea – a compendium of tea handily placed on the table – and precise recommendations from the very knowledgeable tea masters.  Tzar Alexandre was a smoky yet mellow tea with a plesantly medicinal flavour while Earl Grey French Blue was light and floral with blue cornflowers and fragrant bergamot.

Our lunch at Mariage Frères was an absolute delight and we were particularly surprised by the artistry of the main dishes.  Service was also immaculate yet warm and the staff looked after us so well.  It was quite easy for the bill to soar when dining à la carte, however if you’re flexible there are better value options such as the Brunch Parisien, afternoon tea and the prix-fixe Tea Lunch.  I can’t wait to go back and work my way through the different teas.

For more information and reservations, visit: www.mariagefreres.com

All photos by Chérie City

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London has its fair share of great French restaurants, but how much do you know about the cuisine of Gascony?  New Spitalfields bistro Monsieur Le Duck puts the spotlight on this charming region of France, known for its rich gastronomy and use of duck fat.

This casual, cosy restaurant takes inspiration from the South-West’s signature douceur de vivre (the ‘sweetness of living’) with expertly-cooked duck from Gascony farms, authentic side dishes, Armagnac aperitifs and Côtes de Gascogne wine.  If you love French bistro classics, what could be more tempting than that?

We visited soon after it opened and were keen to see how well it would translate to east London.  On arrival, we were offered a Pousse Rapière (the ‘thrust of the sword’), a refreshing, bittersweet mix of Vin Sauvage fizz with orange and Armagnac liqueur.

The menu is short and focussed with a Prix fixe including a main dish with one side and a house mixed leaf salad for £17.  We were, however, treated to Le Grand Jeu for two to share – a rustic wooden board with duck cooked four ways, two sides and two salads for £40.

While waiting for the duck to cook, we enjoyed some warm baguette with silky, moreish duck fat butter and a bowl of fresh house mixed salad with a light dressing that had flavours of duck fat-roasted potatoes.  The classic Confit de canard was a generously-sized Moulard duck leg finished in the pan with aromatic garlic and thyme.  It had plenty of tender, flaky pink meat and an exemplary crispy, golden skin covering sticky rendered fat.

We also loved the duo of Magret de canard, which comes both pan-roasted and chargrilled.  The duck was plump and juicy with a scorched skin and it worked particularly well chargrilled with that hint of smokiness.

For something a little more creative, there’s the Duck burger – Barbary duck leg with prune d’agen mayo, cornichons and baby gem in a brioche bun.  The burgers were succulent and delicious with a little sweetness from the prune mayo and the fluffy brioche bun.  There’s also a Grilled winter vegetable tarte with tomato, courgette, shallot and thyme, suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Frites were the perfect accompaniment for the duck – hot, crunchy and well-seasoned.  We also loved the side of Puy lentils with shallots and carrots, which were a highlight of the meal.  I had to ask how they were made to taste so good and was told that the magic ingredient is a little bit of duck fat.

While the desserts are not strictly from Gascony, they’re authentically French and well worth saving some room for.  Crème brûlée was velvety and smooth with a touch of fresh vanilla and a typically crunchy layer of burnt sugar.  Tarte aux pommes with crème fraîche was just like the ones you’d find in a rustic French bakery with thinly-sliced apple, light crème patisserie and perfect pastry.

Monsieur Le Duck is great value for the high quality and provenance of the food and while its approach is playful, there’s some seriously good cooking there.  It’s the perfect spot for satisfying your canard craving, especially in these cold winter months.

For more information and booking, visit: www.leduck.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Monsieur Le Duck 

Photos by Chérie City (interior by Monsieur Le Duck)

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