22 Ships, Hong Kong

A new Jason Atherton seems to pop up in London every couple of months. Whilst travelling the world I have noticed his significant global influence too. Kensington Street Social has just opened in Sydney’s chic Old Clare Hotel, and he has two successful eateries in Hong Kong.

22 Ships is rather different in style and offering to Atherton’s ‘Social’ restaurants that I have experienced. The small tapas joint is centered around a lively bar, where busy barman mix up White Sangria cocktails and pour glasses of Cava. In the kitchen Executive Chef Nathan Green creates pretty plates of contemporary Spanish tapas. The tasty recipes indicate an obvious influence of Chinese ingredients and produce – roasted suckling pig with pineapple and piquillo peppers is a hit with locals and expats.

I opted for a few of the house specialities including a rich and decadent jamon, manchego & truffle toastie with quail eggs, and the mini pork and foie gras burgers. I loved the perfectly balanced dish of peas, broad beans, goat’s curd and Serrano, a welcome plate of greenery.

The desserts are artistic and exciting, I could see plenty of technical expertise and complicated processes going into each pudding. We devoured the chocolate fondant with malt ice cream and 100’s & 1000’s, a bowl of delicious contrasting textures and tastes. The green tea cheesecake with lime and yoghurt I spotted on the neighbouring table also looked very appetising.

22 Ships is proof that Atherton has a grasp of food trends all around the world, though this little eatery has enough positives to succeed even without his celebrity name attached to it.

More information and book a table at 22 Ships here.

Notting Hill Kitchen

Since moving to Holland Park, I have endeavoured to discover as many exciting bars, boutiques and restaurants as possible. Notting Hill Kitchen is perfectly located for Portobello Market trawlers or those perusing the boutiques on Westbourne Grove. A contemporary eatery offering Spanish and Portuguese delicacies, it is ideal for a late tapas lunch in summer or a glass of wine with friends on a Friday.

After a floral herb infused Honey and thyme whiskey sour cocktail in the bar, we got comfortable at one of the informal wooden tables ready to indulge in the modern Mediterranean cuisine. The bread was unexciting and a little dry but the thinly sliced Jamon Iberico and the Spanish cheeses were delicious and reminded me of a little tapas bar I stumbled across with friends in Alicante. The best bites though were the tasty little Ham croquetas, with molten cheese oozing out of the crunchy cases.

Main courses are classy and creative… the luxurious Free range chicken with langoustines layered with chorizo, avocado mousse, artichokes and viscaina sauce is presented artistically across the plate, a contrast of textures and creamy and salty flavours. The Seared beef tenderloin was my favourite, chunks of soft meat with a crisp edge, its woody rustic flavour marrying beautifully with the buttery truffled mash, sautéed mushrooms and fresh white asparagus. The food wasn’t fussy, but the quality was as high as you’d expect from a stuffier, smarter restaurant.

The wine selection here will leave you stumped, obscure varieties from idyllic sounding vineyards from Spain and Portugal. I left the decision to our chirpy waiter who chose a fruity, fresh Portuguese wine, Crasto Douro from 2012.The desserts looked beautiful but were slightly overcomplicated in flavour, the posh Portuguese tart would have been better just left alone without the fruit and cream and the Lemon cheesecake conflicted with the chocolate. Most of the attention and detail is given to the savoury courses, puddings seem to be a bit of an afterthought.

Food is pricey, but you’d expect it to be in this area of London. Many of the nearby restaurants exhibit style over substance, Notting Hill Kitchen offers a fresh concept for West Londoners to get their teeth into.

More information and book a table here: www.nottinghillkitchen.co.uk

Ember Yard, Soho

The festive season is about feeling full, all the time. A strange time perhaps for the newest Salt Yard restaurant to open. But loyal to my favourite restaurant Opera Tavern, I felt compelled to try this new member of the collection ASAP. This Christmas, Ember Yard joins the Salt Yard family of Italian-Spanish tapas restaurants alongside Salt Yard (Goodge Street), Opera Tavern (Covent Garden) and Dehesa (Carnaby Street).

And so, after much haggling for a table, my best friends and I arrived at Ember Yard for our special Soho Supperclub Christmas meal. Much like the other eateries Ember Yard focuses on high quality, utterly irresistible Spanish produce (think divine Manchego and rich Iberico ham) and little plates of delectable fish, meat and vegetable recipes. As the name suggests, Ember Yard has an emphasis on chargrilling.

It is a familiar feel… dimly lit restaurant, cosy tables closely packed together and atmospheric bar stools for those who want to be closer to the action. The menu is much like the other restaurants, with a few of its own signature dishes. At Opera Tavern they pride themselves on their mini Iberico pork and fois gras burger, and rightly so, it is unbelievably good. In an effort to repeat this success Ember Yard have created their own interpretation: Smoked Basque Beef Burger with Idiazabal and Chorizo Ketchup. I loved it, though not quite as much as the sweet and indulgent Opera Tavern original. Other highlights included the silky tender Grilled Iberico Presa with rich Whipped Jamon Butter and Grilled Salt Marsh Lamb, with roasted aubergine and salsa verde which was an earthy and exquisite combination of ingredients. We found the Iberico Pork Fat Chips with Chorizo a little disappointing, the tangy ketchup is delicious but the chips were a little too dry and needed more seasoning. For a green kick the Seasonal Italian Greens with Chilli are a fresh accompaniment to the meat mains.

Desserts were tempting but we managed to resist on this trip, they will have to be a treat for next time. As expected the wine list is thorough and fine, the house white and red were both were exemplary and priced very reasonably.

Salt Yard Group have done it again. Unlike the locations of its other members, Soho is already filled with tapas style venues vying for your custom, but with food this good I have no doubt that Ember Yard will be a favourite in no time.

More information and book here.