THOROUGHLY MODERN MISS: Amici Miei, Hoxton

Nestled in the trendy streets of Hoxton lies Amici Miei, a seemingly humble and unimposing Italian restaurant. Whilst it may seem humble and unimposing, the quality and vast selection of food and drink would lend itself to even the showiest of restaurant fronts. Start your meal off with one of their many delicious cocktails – special mention goes to the passionfruit martini – whilst enjoying a selection of ciccheti (Italian tapas) which include the Italian classics bruschetta and polpette, as well as more unusual choices such as the Gnocco Fritto con Proschiutto di Parma, (deep fried sourdough breadsticks with some of the best Parma ham I’ve ever tried) which went beautifully with one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, burrata with heritage tomatoes. Simply put, the burrata at Amici Miei was the best I’ve had this side of the Mediterranan Sea.

amici miei

We ordered the ciccheti first so that we would have plenty of time to peruse the extensive main course menu full of pasta, pizza, meat and fish dishes. Even then, we had to ask for extra deciding time… twice. Following excellent guidance from the servers, we eventually decided on the Spaghetti Allo Scoglio (seafood spaghetti) and the Romana pizza (a sourdough pizza topped with sausage, spinach, gorgonzola cheese and fresh chillies). Let’s start with the pasta dish; all of the pasta at Amici Miei is made from scratch – something you can immediately notice when trying any of their dishes. I’m sure there’s probably a very interesting scientific explanation, but the pasta seemed to soak up the sauce in a way shop bought pasta fails to do. The mussels, clams, prawns and squid were all individually cooked to perfection and the light sauce of tomato and garlic complimented the dish perfectly. Moving on to the pizza; Amici Miei’s sourdoguh pizzas are made using a slow rising process, proving over a minimum of 48 hours and then cooked at 450 degrees Celsius in a traditional wood fired oven. And believe me… the wait is worth it. The lightness of the dough allowed for the delicious, fresh flavours of the toppings shine and before we knew it, our plates were practically licked clean.

amici miei pasta

Now, you must be wondering, dear reader, how on earth we could fit any more in? I have one word for you: Tiramisu. Once again taking advice from the ever helpful servers, we ordered the Seadas Di Ricotta, a warm puff pastry filled with ricotta, cinnamon and lemon zest served with honey, and a classic Tiramisu. Whilst the Seadas Di Ricotta was delicious and satisfying, the true MVP of the desserts, or dare I say it, whole evening, was the Tiramisu. I should probably now give you a bit of context; in past dining experiences I have shied away from Tiramisu, often disliking the stodgy ladyfingers or the unnecessarily sweet cream, but this, my friends, this Tiramisu turned me into a true convert. The lightness of the cream, the rich and sweet taste of the coffee infused sponge and the undeniably good addition of chocolate took this dessert above and beyond.

amici miei pudding

I would not recommend this restaurant if you’ve come to Hoxton for the new fashionable food trends that we read about on Buzzfeed, however, if you want a hearty, homely, and incredibly well cooked meal of traditional Italian fare, I could not recommend this restaurant more highly. There’s a reason why the name of the restaurant translates to ‘my friends’, and that’s because once you try this restaurant you want to introduce all of your friends to it. If travelling to the trendy streets of Hoxton seems too much, they also deliver, so there really is no excuse to not try out this fantastic restaurant.

Written by Angelica Bomford.

More information and book a table here.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Holy Birds, Liverpool Street

TMM was meant to visit The Holy Birds in January, at the nadir of a dry January and in the gloom of a post-Christmas health drive. For one reason or another, we were unable to dine on that occasion, and as a result spent a delightful evening downstairs in the Mule Bar. There, we sampled the ample and accomplished cocktail menu (more on that anon), and tore through the Bar Snacks menu, which boasted buttermilk chicken and duck sausage rolls as particular highlights.

Holy Birds

You might guess from the name on the door, and if you miss this then the menu confirms it, The Holy Birds is indeed a destination for poultry. What isn’t so obvious until you step into the restaurant, but certainly makes an impact when you do, is the 1960s Danish design from which founders Gerry and Jon Calabrese have taken inspiration to create an eye-catching, individual look which conveys confidence, style and more than a hint of fun.

The menu also offers plenty of opportunity for a gamier dining experience, with pigeon, grouse and guinea fowl dishes to choose from, but we opted for a couple of half chickens, one drenched in garlic & herb, the other in paprika, served simply with chips and gravy.

Roast chicken

The chicken was good quality, well cooked and coloured, and while the paprika could have done with more heat, the garlic & herb iteration was standout. The chips were acceptably crispy and seasoned but it was a side of mushrooms roasted in herbs and chicken stock that packed a meatier punch than their humble billing betrayed. Stellar stuff, we agreed we would return for those and the shirred hen’s egg starter (think poached eggs in a tub of béchamel, blue cheese and spinach with sourdough to dip) alone.

Dessert went one for two. The “baked”Alaska was finished with a blow torch at the table, arguably pushing the definition of baked, and definitely a case of theatre over taste. The redeeming member of the pud portion was a “parkin” (Scottish ginger cake) that once the extra requested toffee sauce arrived, was as soft and rich as you might hope to imagine.

holy birds cocktails

Drinks, compiled by Salvatore Calabrese, legendary bartender and father to Gerry and Jon, included the well-balanced and fun-to-say-quickly Little Italy, picked from the extensive Negroni menu, the minty, creamy Silk Stocking (think After Eights meet Irish Coffee) and a refreshing and light Sloe Gin Fizz.

The staff who served us were lovely, managing the spacious and airy dining space with the minimum of fuss, and although a few plates were underwhelming, we left feeling satisfied. Holy Birds isn’t cheep, but if feather you’re in the neighbourhood, you’d do worse than to wing your way over for a bite.

More information about Holy Birds here.

Written by James Bomford.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MISS: Sushi Shop

The discovery of Sushi Shop has made me very happy, although slightly annoyed at myself that I’ve wasted so many years on mediocre rolls and nigiri from certain high street chains. I’m a great fan of sushi, but I’ve inevitably picked it up as a meal on the go, or a vaguely healthy snack, and so become used to slightly stodgy rice and an overpowering taste of soy.

Sushi shop

Which is why Sushi Shop is so exciting. Started in Paris in 1998 by two Frenchmen who had fallen in love with the Japanese delicacy, Sushi Shop stood alone in the French capital. It positioned itself as a casual sushi restaurant and delivery service, somewhere to enjoy innovative, well considered flavours which married French and Japanese cultures, without the high prices of the top end Japanese restaurants. And the chain’s offering remains the same today.

Sushi shop

Sushi Shop is now in 14 countries across Europe, but the tradition which started in the year the brand was founded, of inviting a notable chef to develop a sushi menu inspired by the chef’s own style, lives on. The latest to be invited to the celebrated list which features, among others, Thierry Marx and Joël Robuchon, is Kei Kobayashi, who was awarded his first Michelin star in 2012.

sushi shop

In a lovely piece of symmetry, Kobayashi is a Japanese chef who fell for French cuisine, and his menu, from which my favourites were a spicy Gyū Special Roll, Salmon Gravalax Roll and a Red Miso Cucumber Salad, is filled with the complexities found in French cooking, but balanced with the freshness which comes from the vegetables that Kobayashi loves to use. As Kobayashi himself explains,

“The challenge of reinterpreting sushi for a Japanese chef who works in the French tradition is both stimulating and a big risk, for me and for Sushi Shop. I had to detach myself from what I have always known in order to reinvent new recipes.”

Sushi Shop

I’m happy to say the risk has paid off. The prices might sit slightly higher than the aforementioned sushi chains that have become so familiar to London streets, but it’s a cost well worth paying. Sushi Shop offers a new kind of taste sensation, and makes high quality, freshly produced fusion cooking readily accessible – I recommend you try for yourself as soon as you can.

Sushi Shop has three outlets in London, in South Kensington, Marylebone and Notting Hill. Deliveries can also be ordered via the Sushi Shop App.

More information can be found online here.

Written by Lucy Freedman.