Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Gallery

Close to Home.

Well this was a pleasant surprise. On a cheeky evening jaunt down the road, what was to appear in front of us but The Gallery, a glowing hub of fairy lights and shining bottles that I always forget is almost on my doorstep. 

It being rather late, we almost had the entire bar to ourselves and while this would usually inspire the 180 spin at the doorstep, this time The Gallery was too inviting and it didn't matter one bit. In fact, it was as if we had just tumbled into our own private, fully stocked bar and neither I nor my companion was going to argue with that!

After a few seconds of some not at all contrived photo taking, we took our glasses up to 'the gallery' and watched from above as people sauntered in and out of what I now refer to as my local. I've always wanted a local and the relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere of this little West Hampstead bar can take that title for now.

 Gallery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hakkasan - Hanway

Dim Sum Sunday 

It happened. I have eaten the best meal of my life so far. Having developed some rather discerning tastes, this was somewhat of a high bar to reach. Hakkasan managed to vault over this with ease. A totally deserved Michelin star and definitely a restaurant to add to the bucket list. 

Walking down spotlit steps with hints of incense wafting after me, I tumbled down the proverbial rabbit hole into the luxury of my dreams. I almost gasped at the beauty of these flowers in front of the glowing turquoise wall. Perfect!

On the other side of the blue glass stood tall, dark wooden screens which sectioned off the tables to give the wonderful illusion of intimacy. 

The resident DJ was spinning mellow house tunes in the background and set the perfect mood for our lazy Sunday brunch. All began with cocktails. This delightful Fleur De Coco with coconut water, vodka and raspberry was outstandingly fresh and the perfect start to our 6 course dim sum adventure.

My partner in crime chose the Gaelic Caesar, a little twist on the Bloody Mary and made with Whiskey and clamato juice (something I am yet to get my head around although I was informed this cocktail was delicious and not at all clammy)!

First to arrive was a dish that decided to steal the show. In front of our eyes, the waiter proceeded to mix the best crispy duck salad I have ever experienced. Placed before us was the perfect combination of pine nuts, pomello and a plum sauce dressing that I would drink from the bottle if socially appropriate. These all complimented the crunchy yet tender duck that peeped out from miniature leaves. If you don't try anything else ever, try this. I have confirmation from a number of alternative sources that I am in no way exaggerating!

Next up was the steamed dim sum. Little mouthfuls of perfection. I must confess that my previous experiences of dim sum have been far from pleasant and I'm not going to go into what they were reminiscent of. Let's just say I was overjoyed not to have a repeat. Further more, there were no singed tongues, leaving our taste buds fully intact and ready for our next culinary delight.

Next up was my second favourite element of the meal. The crispy dim sum, in particular the smoked duck and pumpkin puff shaped like the vegetable itself! Cute factor: tick.

Back to the booze, pink bubbles were flowing throughout the meal and we sipped contentedly while discussing the generally wonderful nature of this particular Sunday.

Our main course arrived in its full, beautiful glory. Stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot nestling inside a vermicelli basket (edible but really for presentation only as we discovered).  

This was accompanied by lotus leaf parcels filled with steaming sticky white rice.

With the main course inhaled, it was time for me to take a tour around the restaurant and inspect the facilities. I was suitably impressed. Just like you can tell a lot about a man by the shoes he wears, you can tell equally as much about a restaurant by the quality of their toilets. Hakkasan did not let me down on this one. Aesop hand balm and a candlelit 'lake' sink.  

After splashing around in the sink and enjoying my hand bath immensely, I decided it was probably appropriate to return to my dinner companion and choose dessert. I opted for a coffee and chocolate extravaganza with ice cream and a fluffy little doughnut. How I had space for all this I have no idea but my plate was scraped clean nevertheless.

A lemon creation left Mr Opposite-me drowning in happiness. It was either that, or my fabulous company but I might be a little biased. Just a little.

Behind our table glowed the extensive bar where our final, after dinner cocktails were being whisked up. I do love a bit of exposed brickwork as you know!

The Shanghai Sting and China Black were our final tastes of the meal and the grins which had been stretched across our faces the entire meal weren't going anywhere.

Our rating system was somewhat of a sliding scale between amazing and incredible. This transferred not simply to the equally delightful dishes, bursting with strong and diverse flavours and textures, but also to the attentive service and the multi-million pound wall-to-wall magnificence of our surroundings. Intimacy and comfort oozed out of the elaborate screens and cloaked us in robes of utter relaxation. A perfect way to spend your Sunday afternoon. They will never be the same again.

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon
Square Meal
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