Newsletter 25 January 2012

Chinese New Year in London, the return of Flambe, Bourbon & Burgers and the latest foodie news and openings…

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Chinese New Year Celebrations @ Trafalgar Square, 29 January

1315 Newsletter 25 January 2012Trafalgar Square will be transformed this weekend as Londoners join for the largest celebration of Chinese New Year outside of China!  A parade will get the festivities going from 10.15am in Trafalgar Square and the colourful floats and beating of drums can be followed through Chinatown ending in Rupert Street.  A host of performers will then take their place on the main stage from 12.00 – 5.40pm, with acts such as The Chen Brothers Flying Lion Dance and National Music Orchestra of Jilin Province. There will also be performances on the second stage in Shaftesbury Avenue all afternoon as well as stalls dotted around the West End selling Chinese specialities and gift ideas.

Flambé Menu @ The Drift, EC2

1314 Newsletter 25 January 2012Sideburns, boil-in-a-bag dinners, bell-bottoms and Smash…there are some fads better left in the 1970s. It was also the era of the flambé, and The Drift is looking to set the London restaurant scene alight by bringing back this quirky trend with the introduction of a flambé menu.  Watch the flames unfurl as your chef adds a touch of booze to the pan to create kitsch classics such as Beef Stroganoff, Steak Diane and Sizzling Scampi in a cheesy Mornay sauce.  Diners can round off the evening with a fabulously retro Crepe Suzette or Banana Flambé.  Cocktails will also be given the pyrotechnic treatment with a special selection created for the occasion.  £27.95 for three-courses or £45.95 when paired with cocktails.

Divine Bovine with Matthew Fort @ Gaucho Piccadilly, 31st Jan

Gaucho Restaurants are hosting their annual Divine Bovine Dinner with Matthew Fort presenting the evening of bovine theatre.  This year’s special feature is the opportunity for guests to make their own Lomo Beef Ceviche starter.  The beef inspired menu includes a Bloody Mary with beef consommé on arrival, beef Empanadas and Entrana Fina (tender thin skirt of beef), all matched to Argentine wines.  Diners will also receive an intriguing chocolate & beef truffle especially designed by chocolatier Paul A Young.  Tickets are £80/person. More info at

Bourbon @ Byron Burger, throughout London

Already renowned for bringing an authentic American diner experience to London with their burgers and shakes, Byron has introduced another American classic to their restaurants – Bourbon.  The list of ten Kentucky Bourbons will include whiskeys such as Woodford Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel and Eagle Rare 10 Year Old, with prices ranging from £3-4 per 25ml serving.  For the full experience, the Bourbon Burger (£8.50) adds Monterey Jack cheese and a Bourbon BBQ sauce to Byron’s classic patty with a glazed bun.

New Openings…

Léon De Bruxelles, WC2

1316 Newsletter 25 January 2012One of Belgium’s oldest and best loved restaurants, Chez Leon, famed for its exceptional moules frites and hearty Flemmish classics, has chosen London as the setting of their first international branch of its Leon de Bruxelles franchise.  Leon de Bruxelles hopes to ignite our love of the simple mussel by pairing it with crisp cloudy Belgian beer, thin crunchy fries and deliciously comforting waffles dripping with hot chocolate sauce, whipped cream and ice cream in true Belgian style.  Alongside its signature list of eleven variations of mussel dishes – served the traditional Léon way in large cocottes or au gratin – Léon De Bruxelles also features a range of hearty brasserie and Flemish classics.

Dabbous, W1

The first venture by Ollie Dabbous, latterly of Michelin-starred Texture, and award-winning mixologist Oskar Kinberg, formerly of the Cuckoo Club, has got foodie tongues wagging with its opening in Fitzrovia.   Spread over two levels, Dabbous comprises a dining room and basement bar. Both areas have an industrial but organic design, with exposed brickwork, sheet metal and copper pipes offset by rustic candles and natural woods.  The menu provides a selection of unpretentious modern European dishes with an emphasis on smaller sharing style plates, including Barbecued Ibérico pork, savoury acorn praline, turnip tops & homemade apple vinegar; and chocolate clay with sheep’s milk ice cream & basil.

Jeremy Lee @ Quo Vadis, W1

This January sees a new beginning for the enduring Soho restaurant Quo Vadis, with the arrival of Chef Jeremy Lee, who after 16 years at London’s Blueprint Café, has taken charge of the kitchen.  Jeremy’s arrival has been marked with a new, more accessible direction for QV.  This includes a spruce-up for the restaurant and bar to create a lighter, pared down look to create a fitting environment for Jeremy’s much loved, unfussy style of cooking.  The daily changing menu will include dishes such as Salt Mallard & beetroot salad and Ox Liver, onions & sage as well as a grill selection and a pie of the day.

Try This Week…

1317 Newsletter 25 January 2012Magic Bullet Food Processor

Without a doubt, my favourite bit of kitchen kit at the moment has got to be the Magic Bullet Food Processor.  Perfect for my resolution to eat more healthily, I’ve used it practically every day to make smoothies and fruity milkshakes to boost my chances of achieving my 5-a-day.  It’s also ideal for blending spices or finely chopping things like onions.  With its tiny footprint taking no more room than a coffee cup, it’s ideal for diminutive modern kitchen work tops.  Best of all is the simplicity of it; just screw the lid on and it’s ready to go.  Unlike most other similar blenders, the Magic Bullet’s fiddle-free design means that it is also super-easy to clean.  (Shame about the name though!). £59.99 from

1318 Newsletter 25 January 2012
’100 Easy Chinese Suppers’ by Ken Hom

If this week’s Chinese New Year celebrations have got you craving the cuisine of our Far Eastern friends, don’t succumb to the dodgy takeaway and grab yourself this cookbook.  Still one of the most lauded Chinese chefs around, Ken Hom brings the reader 100 foolproof supper recipes from across China – from Sichuan Braised Fish and delicious vegetable dishes such as Three Mushroom Braise to our favourite, Hunan Style Lamb.  We’ve been cooking our way through the recipes as an antidote to the overload of traditional roasts over Christmas and we can confirm that the dishes are indeed both easy and seriously tasty.  It’s not overly complicated on the ingredients too, so the recipes can be cooked with most kitchen cupboard essentials.  Widely available for around £6.


1319 Newsletter 25 January 2012

It’s not often we come across a restaurant that we rate a perfect 5/5, but L’Etranger breezes into this club.  Chef Jerome Tauvron takes inspiration from his French heritage and his love of Asian cuisine to create dishes that combine the rich flavours of the former with the precision of the latter.  Given that you will probably experience one of the best meals that London has to offer, you will find few better places to spend your hard-earned on!

Ma Cuisine Bistrot, TW9

This restaurant has it all. Checked tablecloths with matching floor, mirrors with funky frames, a slightly snotty manager and Coq au Vin on the menu. None of this fusion, modern, contemporary malarkey – this is pure ‘Allo! ‘Allo!  However, this is no comedy restaurant, but a thoroughly traditional French dining experience with some delicious food served in a charming environment.


(Click on restaurant names to read full reviews)