Borough Plates

I’m sure I sound spoilt, but food reviewing is not always easy… after a couple of days of uninteresting eateries and dark rooms offering little photography options I was beginning to get downhearted about the job I know I am so lucky to have. Overeating in uninspiring restaurants is not much fun, but when you come across a venue presenting pretty, flavourful plates of seasonal British food my heart swells with excitement.

Borough Plates is a new pop-up from Cuisson and the Borough Market team that is housed in a beautiful 19th century building nearby to the market. The residency runs until March, with a tiny kitchen that uses seasonal produce from the market to create innovative and delicious plate of food.

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The set up is sparse but stunning. Using the natural light that floods in from the windows, and simple wooden tables, it is a cool contemporary space which lets the food do all the talking.

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The menu changes and evolves weekly dependent on produce available to the chefs. When I visited last week I tried locally made bread, wonderfully light Goujons of whiting with smoked garlic aioli and Pressed winter roots, suitable for vegans. It was the flavours of British winter, presented by chefs who truly know how to get the best out of the ingredients.

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The whole menu is designed for sharing. Of the larger plate section I particularly loved the delicate Poached brill with charred leek, chive and a buerre blanc sauce. It was the freshest piece of fish, treated with the utmost respect, and lightly complemented with a buttery herb sauce. Pork casserole with rainbow chard was a bowl of wintery comfort food, ideal after a cold morning wandering round the market.

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Dessert was a simple glass of ‘pretty-in-pink’ Rhubarb & custard, deliciously tart with a contrast of textures and tastes to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal.

My experience at Borough Plates was joyful. With so many other cuisines represented by the international restaurants at Borough Market, it feels like the right time for a British dining room to pop up. I’m wondering if I can return every week to review their new menu?

More information and book a table here.

The Masons Arms, Knowstone

I am constantly amazed by Michelin’s ability to find the country’s best restaurants even when hidden away in an unlikely corner of the English countryside. The Masons Arms is a quaint pub in Knowstone, Devon, and is recognised by Michelin as one of the UK’s best pubs for foodies. The pub is run by a friendly couple who are passionate about good food and service.

This charming 13th century pub will transport you; as a Londoner I felt completely removed from the busy city life. I particularly loved the old-fashioned thatched roof. The dining room is cosy and comfortable offering lovely views of the verdant surrounding countryside. Before opening his own eatery, chef and owner Mark Dodson was head chef at Michel Roux’s renowned Waterside Inn in Bray. At Masons Arms he produces hearty, tasty food, which is what most of the visitors desire after a bracing walk in the area.

An a la carte menu is available at lunch and dinner and features a range of dishes championing British ingredients with a creative, often Asian twist. We sampled the reasonable lunch menu which allows guests to indulge in three courses (£25) or two courses (£20) at a cut of the normal price.

After a round of delicious crusty bread our starters arrived. Cream of cauliflower soup was a simple and comforting dish, lusciously smooth soup with subtle seasoning and finely flaked and toasted almonds on top. Duck liver parfait was a richer option with a luxurious and complex flavour accompanied with wonderful pear chutney and granary toast. The chef also delivered a plate of Seared peppered tuna with Oriental salad to our table, an eclectic and intriguing dish full of punchy ingredients with the highest quality fish steak.

Main courses were generously sized, especially for lunchtime. Classic Roulade of pork belly was sweet and indulgent, perhaps a little too sweet. A tender piece of pork was perched on a bed of braised red cabbage, apple compote and roasted vegetables. It was the ideal dish for a lazy weekend lunch. I chose to taste the vegetarian option (which would have been suitable for vegans too), a very pretty plate of Baked aubergine with roasted vegetables and balsamic reduction. It was artistically presented and tasted good but could have benefitted from a contrasting texture, perhaps some cheese or carbohydrate within the recipe would have been nice.

Dessert was my favourite course, a delicate and creamy Tonka bean creme brûlée with sharp, exotic passion fruit sorbet and a board of irresistible local West Country cheeses and chutneys.

Masons Arms is a popular local haunt perfect for satisfying Sunday lunches. Though more pricey, I would recommend opting for the a la carte menu which offers much more choice and finesse, and more exciting culinary variety and creative flair.

More information and book a table here.

The Prince Alfred, Maida Vale

There is something wonderfully British about enjoying a meal in a London pub, and it’s something I don’t do enough. Last week I visited The Prince Alfred, a beautifully restored Victorian building in Maida Vale offering good quality and creative food in a wonderful setting.

The Prince Alfred and the adjoining Formosa Dining Room are grand and imposing, standing majestically on the corner of Formosa street near Warwick Avenue tube station. Inside, the original pub is beautifully kept with the snob screens still in tact (so staff and guests could avoid eye contact). To the average pub goer these screens appear as tiny wooden doors connecting different sections of the room; it is charmingly old fashioned, and makes the pub feel cosy and intimate. At the back, the more modern Formosa Dining Room is decorated with blue leather banquettes, patterned wallpaper and intriguing artwork.

The menu features British pub favourites presented in a stylish manner. Crispy Suffolk pork belly with crackling, braised cabbage and bacon, Worchester, sage and apple sauce was a decadent lunch time option. Cooked with finesse and arranged neatly on the plate. The pork was tender with a caramelised edge and the gravy soaked cabbage offered some moisture to the meat. The beef burger is a favourite with the locals who come in for lunch, and I can understand why… Flavoursome British beef is nicely seasoned and coarsely ground to give a delicious patty, accompanied with cheese, bacon and red onion pickle. I found the bun quite limp and lack lustre, perhaps a lightly toasted brioche bap would work better. The skinny fries were an upmarket version of the McDonalds variety and sadly were way over salted for me.

The puddings on offer are big and bold, from Apple tart with brandy snaps, to Prince Alfred’s take on an Eton Mess. I couldn’t resist trying the Grilled Pineapple with nougat glace and raspberry coulis, which wasn’t the prettiest of desserts but tasted delicious – tart, caramelised fruit with a nutty sweet glace. Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel sauce was a hit with my guest. The classic dessert was light but indulgent with a contrasting creamy vanilla ice cream.

After a long walk round the Venice canals on a crisp Sunday morning, a hearty roast at The Prince Alfred pub would be a comforting reward. The locals are very lucky to have such a beautiful British pub on their doorstep.

More information on The Prince Alfred here.