Thursday, July 7, 2011

The London Restaurants (3): Hix; Racine; Cassis; Cheyne Walk Brasserie

Heirloom pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce, a flavourful crunchy nibble to begin.

"Heaven and earth" blood sausage with mustard horseradish gravy, simmered slices of apple and potatoes. This was a very good dish for lovers of blood sausage.

Steamed heirloom potatoes with butter and chopped parsley.

Aberdeenshire rib steak on the bone, asked for rare and received medium rare to medium. The waiter brought another steak properly cooked. The steak flavour was not the best example of English beef. I asked for crispy well done french fries. What came to the table was limp and tasteless.

Frankly, I can't recommend this branch of Hix, on Brewer street, but, the bar in the basement is an incredible singles scene with lots of well dressed beautiful ladies and handsome gents.


I sat down to recognizable quality. Very good crispy baguettes and a tub of Echire butter.

We began with a classic soup de poisson with rouille, gruyere cheese and garlic toasts. It had good flavour but lacked the layers of rich flavour and complexity of Toronto's Pastis resto. However, unlike the hesitant entrenched Rosedale version at Pastis, this was classic Marseillaise rouille, redolent of garlic!! Loved that!!

Now, what I had been waiting for, tete de veau with stewed onions, calves brain, potatoes and a side of sauce ravigote, a wonderful, classic rendition of this dish. The sauce was somewhat tart and laced with tarragon, a perfect match for the melted collagen and fat. I would go out of my way to come to this resto for this dish alone!!!

Cassis Bistro

I came to Cassis to try their bouillabaisse. It was served, as traditional, with rouille and gruyere  cheese. The stock was rich tasting and presented with mussels, clams, an some whitefish. However, once again, the soup was not as good as the one I enjoy at Pastis. Further, the rouille was disappointing with the unpleasant consistency of dense mashed potatoes making it closer to a skordalia rather than a rouille. All of the fish and shellfish were perfectly cooked.

Cheyne Walk Brasserie

Cheyne Walk Brasserie is a place for simple comfort food and easily accessible to the Chelsea crowd. It is only open for dinner and is always full. The fowl and meats are grilled over an open charcoal fire. On my first occasion there, I was the guest of a good friend who lived close by. It is his family's "go to" spot for a simple good meal.

Even the breads are a good beginning. Top quality butter (Premier Cheese Ltd) is served with toast that has been grilled on the open charcoal fire, bringing an additional flavour to this comfort food experience.

A slightly spicy, roasted tomato soup had potential but the use of out of season tomatoes made the flavour too tart, overwhelming the tomato taste.

Venison, cooked to medium rare was enclosed in crisp wrappers and presented with jerusalem artichoke puree drizzled with white truffle oil. The mildly gamey flavour of the perfectly cooked venison went well with the puree but the truffle oil was a superfluous touch.

Barely cooked seared scallops were presented on the shell with creamy leeks and pieces of crisp smokey bacon, which provided a nice counterpoint to the sweet shellfish.

Charcoal grilled rib eye steak, properly cooked rare, was a nice beef experience for European beef, not always my fave.

A side dish of roasted potatoes. Not that interesting.

I enjoyed the crisp and flakey crusted pear tart tatin, drizzled with caramelized sugar and accompanied by small scoops of caramel ice cream.

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