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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Selesa

Location:  West London (South Kensington)

Cuisine: Asian (Malaysian)

Price Range: ££

LFM Score: 3/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 2/3

Never to keen on basement hotel restaurants in those less established hotels in West London (Park City Grand Plaza Hotel), however, when Timeout ran an offer on Malaysian restaurant, Selesa, LFM snapped up the chance.

Malaysian restaurants in London are rare and the cuisine hasn’t really hit the English tastebuds like Thai dishes have. This is disappointing as Malaysian food has so much to offer. The best dish Selesa showcased was the Assam Laksa  – a spicy, pungent, sour  soup based noodle dish with mackerel  which really hit the spot and was truly authentic. With this high, came a low – starter dish of prawn fritters was raw inside (the chef provided a replacement but I was dubious of their standards by this point).

Selesa is worth the trek to South Kensington if you have that Malaysian food craving. However, the restaurant lacks ambience; there was only one other table on a Saturday afternoon. The premises are spacious for buggies but there are no highchairs available – odd for a hotel (where are families suppose to dine??). No baby changing facilities but you could probably find a spot in the hotel lobby to do the business.

http://www.parkcitylondon.com/selesa-restaurant-2

Ichiryu Udon

Location:  West End

Cuisine: Japanese

Price Range: ££

LFM Score: 5/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 2/3

When you’ve been trekking the shops of Oxford Street and fancy some decent Asian food and can’t face the walk to Soho, head to nearby Ichiryu  because you won’t be disappointed.

The udon noodles are made on the premises – they are bouncy and have just the right bite factor. Favourite dish was the prawn carbonara hot udon – don’t let the fusion novelty put you off..the flavours are perfect and the prawns were plump and juicy. The curry udon noodles were tasty and the soft oozing egg yolk was beautifully orange and reflected the high quality of ingredients.

Bit cramped for buggies but the staff were helpful to keep it out of the way for us. Highchairs available but no baby changing facilities (but a very clean toilet is maintained).

A bit on the pricey side for a noodle joint, but the slick décor and innovative flavour combos, somehow,  justifies the price.

http://ichiryuudon.com/

Yosma

Location:  West End (Baker Street)

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

Price Range: ££

LFM Score: 4/5

Bebe Friendly Score: 2/3

Yosma – pioneers in London of the concept of Turkish street food, self-described as “A new Turkish Meyhane, Mangal & Raki bar inspired by the streets of Istanbul”. Slightly sceptical and a non-expert in this type of cuisine, LFM attended  the half price soft launch to see if Yosma was more than an overpriced kebab van.

Situated on the busy main road of Baker Street, Yosma is well placed amongst many other reputable venues (neighbours include Royal China Club, Bright Courtyard) , although it feels that this particular area of London lacks the buzzy aura of Soho or Marylebone. The premises are large and spacious (lots of room for buggies thumbs up) and you can tell the designers and architects have really given some thought into the layout (raised bar area, open kitchen, spectacular wood fired oven on display). The décor feels like a brasserie and has a very similar vibe to the look of Dishoom (mega successful mini-chain serving Indian street food). Yosma was so new, the high chairs weren’t even  ordered, but there are lovely pews with sofa type soft seating for little ones to crawl over (not the purpose intended by the owners I am sure, but great for parents!).

The menu is extensive – something for every type of palate and appetite. Highlights were the Turkish dumplings and the lamb kofte – a classic which has been given a twist through the flavours and side sauces. The real treat was the poached pear dessert (supposed to be quince – was out of season) served with ‘candy floss’ – not the fluorescent pink E-number fuelled type found on the funfair, but made with ingredients which we had never experienced before (coined ‘cotton wool’ by our 2 year old). One criticism was the lack of attention to alerting customers to allergens on their menu  – staff had failed to highlight the presences of walnuts in one particular dish which we had ordered and as someone with a mild nut allergy, I was left disappointed.

Overall, LFM has high hopes for Yosma – fingers crossed the staff will have got into the swing of things in a few weeks (service a little slow and many aimless bodies milling around without purpose it would seem). The venue looks smart and innovation has been brought to the menu to excite London tastebuds.  Pricing is decent for the area and  for the quality of the cuisine offered. Good luck Yosma!

http://www.yosma.london/

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/