Monday, 15 November 2010

Lotus Floating Restaurant - E14

Repatriation has involved a short-term rental for a month or so in Docklands. In my first weekend of wandering around this modern, barren place, I was pleased to note a number of potential restaurants to visit. Thomasina Miers opening a Wahaca there, Ubon, Royal China and also a curious floating chinese restaurant opposite my apartment. Starving, having shuffled from another short-term place in Central London, there was really no excuse to take the 3-minute walk across the canal.

I love places where the opinion is divided on the various food review websites and Lotus was no different. Most of the "Food 0, Atmosphere 0, Service 0" reviews that proliferated the London Eating website were due to the abrupt and rude service. These were punctuated with 10s for the food. Music to my ears. You could slap me round the head with a kipper but if the food was good, I'd be coming back. Thankfully the many zero-reviews here once again said more about the diners than the food.

It was a quick in-and-out for me. In case you were wondering, service was perfunctory - but did the job. That's all I want. 5 different dishes: pastry parcels of char siu, the same meat in cheung fun (those awkward flat sheets), prawn "har gau", simple fried dumplings and my one deviation from the standard fare, pork with pickled radish.

Let's cut to the chase - aside from the pastry parcels of char siu that were a little too sweet, everything was done as you'd expect, but the distant winner were the pork with pickled radish dumplings. Inside the thin, glutinous wrappers (of the ilk that you'd find surrounding the prawn har gau) was a crunchy mixture of pork, radish and five-spice seasoning - wonderful texture and flavour. The other winner were the home-made fried pork dumplings. Wonderful thin, crispy skin containing a seriously meaty hit of minced pork - and well seasoned too.

I looked around the restaurant to see that, aside from one guy with his extended chinese family, I was the only "westerner" there. It's often said that this is a good sign for a foreign restaurant on these shores. I can't disagree, and with 4 weeks left over the road, I'll be back - most probably more than once. Orange juice, 5 dim sum plates and chinese tea - £16. And a worthy 8.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Blueprint Cafe

Back in London for good after 7 months away in Dublin. Being away from London makes you realise a) how much you underuse it when you're there and b) how much you miss it. A wander around Shad Thames to sniff around a potential place to live also afforded me the chance to visit the Blueprint Cafe from a friend who works in the industry and has 5 times the interest and knowledge in food and restaurants than I have.

Naturally I was keyed up to go largely through excitement of being back in London again. I tend not to really comment on the restaurant itself but it was lovely - plain white, unfussy and with a lovely view right on the Thames in the buzzy restaurant area where other Conran restaurants reside.

Blueprint Cafe

And so to lunch. Opted for a £6 house cabernet sauvignon that was sharp but palatable. Started with the coarse jellied terrine - terrine is a theme clearly given I'd had some at the Pig's Ear in Dublin a couple of months ago. This actually disappointed - a relatively small slice with some cornichons that lacked crunch and for a small slice I was expecting some intense flavour - but it really was quite flavourless. The tiny dot of mustard that came with the dish certainly packed a punch.

Naturally hoping for better things for the main - a simple dish of chicken with fennel and celeriac. I've only really had celeriac as part of the restaurant staple - remoulade so having this was a change. The resulting simple dish was an absolute stunner. Three ingredients, perfectly cooked, all complimenting one another. Aniseedy fennel, buttery celeriac and perfectly cooked chicken. The chicken was wonderfully bronzed and charred on the outside with addictive salty skin and still very moist and full of flavour inside. Accompanied with a punchy green parsley-laden sauce - if I could remember back to everything I've had that is wonderful this year, this would be top 3 material. A joy.

Blueprint Cafe - Chicken with celeriac and fennel

The restaurant slowly filled up to half-capacity and included a courting couple, a huge, jolly table of old friends, a family with a well-behaved youngster and four twenty-somethings (one of whom claimed "the menu here is a bit weiiirrd" - which couldn't have been further from the truth - it was solid, English cooking. Despite the misfiring starter, places like this should be far fuller. £24 inc tip for a large glass of wine and two courses. 7.