Cellar Gascon

Location:  City (Smithfield Market/Clerkenwell)

Cuisine: French

Price Range: £

LFM Score: 4/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 1/3

Shhhh…London Foodie Mama has stumbled upon a little London secret. Not sure we want anyone else to discover this find….It’s the lunch time bargain dish of the day served at Cellar Gascon. LFM is a big fan of the Gascon mini chain having dined at the Michelin starred (stiff and formal) Club Gascon and the more accessible gourmet bistro style Comptoir Gascon. Having spent a fortune at both these venues, who would have thought their baby sister restaurant, Cellar Gascon, could offer a decent dish at £6!

We devoured the Toulouse Sausage cassoulet bathed in beautiful juices and lentils. OK, the dish is on the small size but we were satisfied at lunchtime having filled up on the accompanying complimentary fresh baguette and topping up with the bargain desert (£3) of Pain Perdu (translated as Lost bread). We also tried the Signature Gascon Duck burger which you couldn’t fault – moist shredded duck, sandwiched between a toasted brioche bun (yes it could have been bigger but it was only £5!) Why can’t there be more places like this in London??

Would you bring a baby? Simple answer..No. Do you want to trek to the City/Clerkenwell area at lunchtime with the buggy on public transport and dine amongst serious looking suited and booted business men? Plus, the venue is more of a narrow wine bar with little room for buggies with no highchairs available and no baby changing facilities. Having mentioned all the above, our toddler was happily perched in a booth and staff made us feel welcome despite our noisy tag along. (Parenting tip from LFM: train your kids early on regarding restaurant behaviour and etiquette and potty train early to avoid searching from nappy changing facilities).

http://www.clubgascon.com/cellar/about.php

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Sagardi

Location:  Shoreditch

Cuisine: Spanish

Price Range: £££

LFM Score: 3/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 1/3

Basque restaurants in London are like buses – wait for ages, then 2 come along at the same time. Last month, we reviewed Eneko in Aldwych, now we have Sagardi, situated bang in the middle of trendy Shoreditch. We could attempt to describe Eneko as projecting the image of a sophisticated BMW car, whilst Sargardi possesses more of the  cooler, younger vibe of a Mini – both equally pricey but providing quality.

Our large group of 15 were led to the basement where private rooms reside – this offered us privacy and the freedom to be raucous, however, we missed the theatre of the main floor, showcasing the huge charcoal grill where the steaks were prepared. The staff were very knowledgeable, bringing us hunks of meat joints to choose from, describing their age, type of cow etc – too many details if you ask me..don’t give my food character or personality please..I feel guilty enough as it is!

So how did the food taste? – we tried a huge selection including Fried Txistorra sausages – tasty chorizo like bites, Grilled Biskay black pudding starter  – portion rather copious to stomach alone, definitely a sharing plate. From the grill, we sampled a T-bone Ox steak. Prices were dear at £60 a head for the meat ALONE with no trimmings. We could tell there was pride and joy with the meats offered (showcased in the window display – vegetarians look away).  Sadly, we were disappointed by our first experience of Ox…undercooked and a bit tough and chewy (perhaps Ox just does taste like that). Out of the ‘home-cooking’ style dishes, we selected the oxtail stew slow cooked in red wine for 4 hours which was rich and luxurious, however at £24 with no sides, you begin to realise this place ain’t cheap. Top dishes were the tuna tartare (£16), ham croquettes (£8) and the super tasty clams in green sauce. Bizarre pricing baffled us , with a side order of grilled peppers priced the same as the tuna tartare ….perhaps our ignorance in Basque delicacies is exposed here.

Our impression of Sagardi is that it is not really steered at families (based on our Saturday night with cool hipsters hanging around the bar). Friendly staff helped carry a buggy down the stairs and there is plenty of space for buggies – however, the location and dim lighting of the venue doesn’t really suit kids (plus no baby changing).

In summary, Sagardi is pretty good – some dishes were hits, some not so. Prices are pretty steep (unaffordable for stay at home mums who don’t live off their city lawyer/banker husbands) and if we had to choose between our favourite new basque restaurant, we would have to opt for the more refined Eneko (Note, LFM drives a Mini).

http://www.sagardi.co.uk/

Snowflake Gelato @Selfridges

Location: West End

Cuisine: Sweet

Price Range: ££

LFM Score: 3/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 1/3

If you have a sweet tooth like London Foodie Mama, then the terms ‘Afternoon Tea’ and ‘Ice-Cream’ certainly get the salivary glands pumping. Recently, Snowflake at Selfridges have come up with the ultimate sweet treat… Ice-Cream Afternoon Tea! #OMG

Upon arrival, we were served a tier of ice-cream treats, including ice-cream sandwiches, ice-cream macaroons and mini ice-cream cones dipped in chocolate. All rather pretty and dainty (and photogenic for those Instagram posts). However, after a few bites and slowly creeping into a diabetic coma, the novelty wore off. There was a lack of taste variation between each treat – all were vanilla ice cream  based accompanied by various forms of chocolate or biscuit. We craved for other ice cream flavours or even a sorbet diversification. <sigh> Maybe our expections had been too high.

The ambience of the venue failed to harmonise with the delicate nature of the food. Based in the noisy, crowded ground floor of the Selfridges food hall,  our destination was a few cramped tables beside a window overseeing a side street of busy Oxford Street (with an awkward structural beam in the middle).  Not the desired surroundings whilst charging  £15pp.

No high chairs and no space for buggies sadly, and even worse, the toilets were on another floor, on the other side of the building – bad news for a potty training toddler “Mama, I need the toilet NOW”.

Great idea. Execution disappointed.

https://www.facebook.com/snowflakegelato/

Tang Noodle Bar

Location: West End

Cuisine: Asian

Price Range: ££

LFM Score: 2/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 1/3

Does Central London need another noodle joint? London Foodie Mama went to investigate the recently opened Tang Noodle Bar off Tottenham Court Road for their soft launch (we like a 50% discount). The team at Tang appeared to have invested some cash and thought into this venture, with a slick website and contemporary décor – exposed lightbulbs, wooden tables, bare pipes and newspaper wallpaper…you get the gist.

The venue is easy to miss…in fact it’s just a door that you can miss as you walk past the neighbouring YMCA. I felt like an agent stumbling upon a secret underground site – let’s hope they gain customers through word of mouth otherwise they may struggle with just passers-by.

On to the food. LFM had the ‘Prawn Tang’ – an enticing description of ‘spicy prawn and pork broth’. Sadly, the broth failed to live up to expectation lacking any punch or depth that we have come accustomed to from the likes of ramen bars of Tonkotsu or Kanada-Ya. They claim to offer a lighter broth but it just didn’t do it for us and the noodles lacked any bite. And at a price tag of £12 for a bowl of noodles, frankly I’d head to China Town and eat double. On a positive note, the tiger prawns were succulent and the staff were accommodating to my special dietary requirements, allowing a couple of swapsies.

Should you bring the kids? Well if you are brave enough to drag the kids to central London, then maybe. The venue is casual but pretty compact so could fit a maximum of 2 slim buggies. No high chairs or baby changing.

http://www.tanglondon.co.uk/

Maitre Choux

Location: South Kensington (South West London)

Cuisine: Sweet (Patisserie)

Price Range: £££

LFM Score: 4/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 1/3

Macaroons were sooo 2014. Now Eclairs have well and truly overtaken the patisserie scene in London. Maitre Choux has set up shop in the high end district of South Kensington to catch the well heeled clientele. Beautifully decorated eclairs are lined up in the shop window which draw you in subconsciously.

London Foodie Mama is on a budget (nappies are expensive did you know)-  we couldn’t justify forking out £5-6 for just ONE eclair! So we dug deep in our empty pockets to try out the (cheaper) freshly baked Chouquettes which had just come out of the oven – think choux pastry balls covered in crunchy sugar crystals…tres bien oui oui. My Parisian plus one agreed that these were as good as they get.

The tiny cafe houses 2 tables with VERY little space for buggies (to manoeuvre our buggy to one table we had to disturb other guests and request they move their chairs – tres embarassing). So best to take home your eclairs (hide them from your sprogs!)

http://www.maitrechoux.com/