Foley’s, Fitzrovia

I loved Palomar restaurant so was excited to hear about the Foley’s kitchen team, headed up by ex-Palomar chef Mitz Vora. The restaurant, in Fitzrovia, is set over two floors with an open kitchen downstairs so that guests can get a glimpse of the action.

Foley's

The restaurant is cosy and welcoming, with stylishly designed seating and warm lighting. After a round of fruity cocktails we moved on to the food menu, which is split into various categories: ‘Bits & Bobs’, ‘Veg’, ‘Meat’  and ‘From the Sea’. The menu is eclectic with an intriguing variety of dishes. The chef’s creativity is immediately obvious from reading through the first section of the menu where tacos, potato fritters and ham hock all feature.

Foley'sFoley's

The starters were perhaps my favourite part of the lunch. Korean BBQ charcoal grilled chicken ‘burnt ends’ were addictively good served with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce. Aubergine with pomegranate, dates, chilli lime yoghurt and puffed quinoa was a suped-up version of Ottolenghi’s grilled aubergines, with a lovely sweetness from the dates and a contrasting zing from the lime and chilli. A little taste of Italy came in the form of Truffle potato agnolotti with cauliflower, rocket, hazelnuts and parmesan… a little out of place amongst the fusion menu of Foley’s but very tasty nonetheless.

Foley'sFoley's

The daily lunch menu offers some of Foley’s best dishes at the very reasonable price of £20 for three courses. I recommend the Pork Belly with apple and swede vermicelli, buttermilk and toasted cashews. It was a lovely piece of meat, cooked to perfection so the fat was melting away to give a lovely rich and velvety taste. The Keralan duck with ginger and parsnip puree was also a delicious main course, with accents of coriander and coconut reminding me of the Indian influence.

Foley'sFoley's

Desserts were a mix of unusual flavours and textures. Lemongrass, lychee and thai basil pannacotta was a little too much like solidified Thai curry, but the ‘Fat Boy Elvis’ was a more successful pudding. This decadent dish is made up of chocolate chip banana cake, banana cream, peanut butter nougat and bacon & strawberry jam. I liked the saccarine sweet mix of banana, chocolate and peanuts, though the jam was a little too much for me.

Every Sunday, head chef Mitz Vora hosts ‘off-menu’ tasting sessions for 10 guests at a time. These evenings are priced at £65 per person for which you will be treated to 6 special courses inspired by the flavours of India and the Middle East. If you can’t make it to a weekend feast, Foley’s is equally good for afterwork cocktails and small snacks with friends, or a romantic dinner for two.

More information and book a table here.

Osteria Francescana, Modena

It is difficult to put a meal at the world’s best restaurant into words. Of course that accolade has only been awarded by one set of expert-eaters, and I thought to myself throughout lunch there, is this the best meal I’ve ever eaten? It was without a doubt one of the finest, with each tiny course was more memorable than the last, so imaginative and delicious, I almost found myself closing my eyes in appreciation.

I won’t write much about Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, it is really a restaurant that should be tasted rather than written about, but here are a few photos from inside Modena’s most exclusive eatery…

Osteria Francescana

The town of Modena in central Italy is quiet and sleepy. I immediately noticed the strong food traditions, large vocal markets and tiny patisserie shops with piles of frappe (fried pastry) dusted in icing sugar. Bottura’s renowned restaurant has put Modena on the tourist map, and has shone a light on the rich produce which comes from this part of the country.

Osteria Francescana

There are just 22 covers per mealtime, and bookings are made 3 months in advance at 10am (Italy time) on the 1st day of the month. When the doors opened at 12pm we were greeted by a crowd of suited staff, each trying to help you with your coat. I was impressed to see the lack of dress code here, an indication that Massimo really wants you to feel comfortable, despite the 3 star label.

Osteria Francescana

Aula in carpione (re-imagined fish and chips)

Several tasting menus are available, or a la carte. I looked around and everyone was ordering the tasting option… why pay the same for 3 courses when you could try 9! The menus change with the seasons but I spotted a few favourites which I recognised from watching Bottura on the Chef’s Table programme.

The first course was a simple but complex rendition of fish and chips… a crunchy salty base topped with Carpione fish ice-cream!

Osteria Francescana

Memories of a mortadella sandwich

Mortadella is the cured meat of Bologna and tastes supremely better than the stuff we get here in England. Using the amazing flavour and the beautiful dusty pink colour Bottura reimagines the mortadella sandwich (an standard snack in Modena) into a thick and sumptuous mousse, spiked with powdered pistachio.

Osteria Francescana

Croccantino di foie gras in crosta di mandorle di Noto e nocciole del Piemonte, ripieno di Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (foie gras lollipop with hazulnuts and a balsamic vinegar centre)

The food continued to arrive, the most immaculate plates of food each presented in it’s own way, with crockery designed to showcase the dish. An indulgent lollipop of foie gras was paired with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, a thick and syrupy gel more intense than any vinegar I had ever tried before.

Osteria Francescana

Un’anguilla che risale il fiume Po (An eel swimming up the Po River)

Beautifully stark on the plate the eel was wonderfully cooked in a sticky glaze and served with two ingredients the eel encounters as it swims up the river… Campanine apple, cream of polenta and burned onion powder.

Osteria Francescana

Merluzzo Mare Nostrum (Cod and tomato)

This dish was perhaps the most ‘normal’ of the meal. A simple, perfect piece of cod with a bright and vibrant green tomato dressing.

Osteria Francescana

Ravioli di porri, foie gras e tartufi (leek ravioli with foie gras and truffles)

I was most excited about the pasta at Osteria Francescana, and it didn’t disappoint. This creamy dish combined some of my favourite ingredients, and wasn’t as clever as some of the other courses, but it tasted so wonderfully comforting and delicious.

Osteria Francescana

Cinque stagionature del Parmigiano Reggiano in diverse consistenze e temperature (Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano)

The waiter delivered this pristine white bowl proclaiming that only the only two ingredients for this famous recipe are parmesan and time. Bottura’s love of parmesan is evident in every mouthful, how one cheese can be made into so many different textures and tastes is amazing.

Osteria Francescana

Riso grigio e nero (rice, grey and black)

This startling black plate of food concealed many ingredients; oysters, shallots, tomatoes, sparkling wine and topped with a dot of luxurious caviar.

Osteria Francescana

Autumn in New York

Bottura’s wife is from New York, and I imagined she helped inspire this delicate and pretty dish of berries. Presented in the shape of an apple as an ode to the ‘Big Apple’.

Osteria Francescana

Tortellino in crema di Parmigiano Reggiano (tortellini in parmesan cream)

My favourite dish was perhaps the simplest. Perfectly made little tortellini filled with meat and dressed in a aromatic parmesan cream. I could have eaten it over and over again.

Osteria Francescana

Maialino da latte morbido e croccante (Pork belly with pickled vegetables)

This pork course was smallest meat course I have ever had in a restaurant. Placed on a plate with a variety of pickled vegetables (humorously in the shape of pigs), with drizzles of the finest sauce.

Osteria Francescana

Caesar salad in bloom

The prettiest palate cleanser I’ve ever seen. This ‘caesar salad’ is intended to be eaten in one of two mouthfuls, a floral salad of edible flowers and fruity powders, all perched on a lettuce leaf.

Osteria Francescana

Yellow is bello

We weren’t entirely sure what flavours were in this dessert, the soft and light mousse was heavenly to eat… blissfully light at the end of a big meal. I detected hints of saffron, perhaps pineapple and ginger. By this point in the meal I had learnt not to analyse too much and just enjoy tasting Bottura’s elaborate and artistic dreams.

Osteria Francescana

Oops! I dropped the lemon tart

The famous lemon tart dessert wasn’t on the menu we’d ordered but the waiter kindly swapped my set dessert for it when I said how much I had wanted to try it. Each minute ingredient on the right of the plate matched and contrasted carefully with the bright citrus flavour to make each mouthful different. A seemingly brilliant dish that is, in reality, painstakingly thoughtful.

Modena

More information about Osteria Francescana here.

Afternoon Tea, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction — The Halkin’s Michelin-starred restaurant — is offering a unique take on the British tradition of Afternoon Tea, served with the Bassque flair and passion that has become the restaurant’s trademark.

Ametsa afternoon tea

Created by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Sanz, the afternoon tea menu draws on the principles of Basque cuisine. The usual sandwiches have been replaced by a selection of savoury tapas, followed by a series of desserts that match extraordinary taste with stunning presentation. The menu includes delicious specialities like Piquillo pepper and avocado sandwich, pork croquettes and chocolate with churros.

Ametsa afternoon tea

Served in the Halkin bar and lounge, each afternoon tea is offered with a choice of Jing Teas. For an extra special occasion, guests can indulge with a chilled glass of Spanish cava or a cocktail.

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction afternoon tea is available every day between 2.30pm and 5:00pm in the lavish Halkin Bar and Lounge, priced at £32 per person (or £36 per person with a glass of cava or Sipsmith cocktail).

More information and book here.