Okay, another trip to London. Yes I know, London again. I really can’t get enough of the place sometimes. Originally the weekend’s trip had been planned for a trip to Borough Market (that didn’t happen). A room was booked at Club Quarter’s St Paul’s. A great little hotel, clean, just right for a one night stop. We both left work early to head off to London for a leisurely trip there and dinner at Cafe A Vin in Spitalfields. This was to be our second trip there in July. The first visit was after Olly Smith’s book signing. He really bigged it up so we just had to try. Also handy that it was very close to Liverpool Street Station.
Obviously we had a great time there first time round which is why I was on the train with much excitement as we headed back. After some great tweeting with Sara Galvin, Ruby and Julia, all at Galvin restaurants, we knew we would be expecting another great night. We arrived very early, a little due to my over excitement. We did stop for a drink and I was so thirsty, it went down a little quick so off we popped to Cafe A Vin. It’s a great venue, no traffic so sitting outside in the summer is relaxed and quiet. It’s also very satisfying sitting there relaxing watching the commuters rushing by to get to their trains.
I had been looking at the menu nearly all day, Julia actually emailed it to me so I could peruse. Thanks Julia, the extra time didn’t help at all, in fact it made it worse. By the time I got there I was really stuck as to what to choose. So much I wanted to try. We had the Galvin Champagne and while we were still choosing, it was suggested we try the tarte flambe to accompany the bubbly. Wow, it was just fantastic, light dough with bacon, creme fraiche and onion. Not just a good match, a brilliant match with champagne. DUring this we finally decided on our meals, okay I finally decided. My wife had chosen almost straight away.
Starters were the duck liver & foie gras parfait for my wife, which came with a shallot chutney. I went for steak tartare as I had not forgotten my plan this year to try new things. This was my first steak tartare and okay I have to be honest. It was nice, no it was great, very rich, very herby but great. It was a little rich for me though and I couldn’t finish it. I did enjoy it though and would try it again some time. I tried some of the parfait and loved it. I would have gone for that if I hadn’t wanted to try something new.
Champagne was still flowing and we went on to the mains. Braised Shoulder of Lamb with runner beans, artichokes and mint for my wife. No idea how this tasted as I didn’t get a look in. I assume that means she enjoyed it, the plate was cleared. I went for another new food, Sea Bream. Yes, I have tried quite a few different fish but never bream, it came wood roasted with chargrilled veg and sauce antiboise. Superbly cooked, three fillets (wow), the sauce, again something new, was well, I don’t quite know how to describe it. The whole dish worked so well, great fish, great flavours and that sauce, mmmmmmmmm. (Guess why I’m not a food journalist).
Then we have my nightmare, the dessert. I’m not great on desserts, however I thought I’d try something and i was a little too full for cheese and biscuits. So while my wife tucked into the same dessert she had last time, Baba au rhum which when serving they should ask, “would you like some baba with your rum?”, I tried the chocolate & hazelnut pot de creme. Smooth and light, just a small amount which was just right for me. We decided not to have coffee as we were intending to go for a drink after which ended up just walking back tot he hotel and collapsing with full stomachs.
Cafe a Vin really is a find, the service is great and so friendly. If you want really good food with a relaxed atmosphere, it is the place to go. Thank you to the guys there, a great team and the little tours round next door, Galvin La Chapelle has us already booked in for this coming Friday. I possibly have a nother trip back to Cafe a Vin the following week too. Have fallen in love I think.
Saturday morning arrives, a quick coffee sets us up for a walk from St Paul’s to Covent Garden. We continue wandering toward Oxford Circus almost walking into David Walliams near Shaftesbury Avenue. Well my wife says it was him, I didn’t think he was tall enough. I soon learnt not to argue with my wife over this issue though. There was a quick stop at Selfridges for a champagne cocktail before heading along Hyde Park to Le Cafe Anglais. A lovely walk in the sun.
We arrive and are directed to the lift to go up to the restaurant. Another warm greeting and we are shown to our table. We originally intended to go for the Toptable offer of the Air Conditioned Picnic with a glass of wine. Instead we stayed with the picnic and had a whole bottle. The picnic is a great idea for lunch. Light, great variety and again a chance to try a few things you may not have had before. There were 13 dishes on the menu and we could choose seven each. We went for one of everything and an extra stuffed aubergine. There were aioli eggs, baked peppers with mozzarella, taboulet, cheese with pickled cherries, really just lots of lovely little pick at foods. A couple of dessert dishes too.
It’s another great venue, attentive staff and very good food. It did surprise me at first that every dish was cold but then I though, oh yes, it’s a picnic. I have to say we struggled to drink a whole bottle of wine with lunch which makes the Toptable offer with a glass seem good sense. However we were not rushed and allowed to finish our wine at our own speed.
After lunch we wandered across the park, had a wander round Harrods and then Harvey Nicholls where we headed to the fifth floor as we had heard about the Tanquery Ten Terrace on the 5th Floor. It wasn’t easy to find, You sort of had to guess it must be attached to the restaurant. I would have thought they would have made a bigger thing about it being there. It was late afternoon and still warm. A table was just coming free which was lucky, the terrace was rammed. We ordered some snack, almonds and chips (not together) and then went for the Cocktail Flight. Three mini Tanquery cocktails, a delightful mix, so good, we flew twice.
The flight is a history lesson in cocktails. We start with the Martinez from around 1887, the exact origins are unknown. Aromatic & sweet with orange bitters and maraschino. Second step is the 1903, apparently a recently discovered recipe that is vibrant & silky with zesty orange undertones. Finally we have the Perfect Ten. We were told this was made with Tanquery Ten in mind. It’s much more your classic martini with citrus and juniper. All three were quite different, going from quite sweet to very dry in three steps. A great finish to a great weekend of food.
As always, to London, I raise my glass, I pat my full stomach and say “See you again, very soon”.
For Cafe a Vin, Spitalfields visit www.galvinrestaurants.com and Cafe a Vin is now bookable via Toptable.
For the Tenquery Terrace, visit www.harveynicholls.com
My Twitter friends who made this weekend so much better: