Crystal Palace Market Place & Wine Bar

Without wanting to brag (much) I’m off to the Big Apple next month, and The Crystal Palace Market Place certainly has a New York brasserie vibe about it.

Tiles, wood clad walls, exposed Edison bulbs – it’s stylish yet relaxed at the same time. In the toilets, audiobooks play through the walls as you powder your nose. Sweet pots of flowers sit on each table to soften the largely industrial vibe. No disrespect to my beloved Crystopolis, but here you really don’t feel like you’re in South East London. My friend commented that the interior reminded her of the Ivy Market Grill – a comparison the owners I think should be pleased with.

 

The venue (and evening) is split into two – so we’ll deal with the restaurant first.

This is a review I’ve pre-arranged so I am expected, but I’ve eaten here a few times before (albeit a few years ago) so I’ll take those visits into account as well.

The first thing we notice on arrival is the life-giving air con which revives us after an inferno like bus ride from Covent Garden. An icy fish counter sits next to the open kitchen so you can see that everything is absolutely fresh. An inviting bar sits in the middle of the restaurant which despite being busy feels spacious rather than cramped.

Before I have made myself known as the rookie critic, we are shown to our table and seated by a lovely front of house lady who looks after us superbly along with her team for the rest of the evening. We’re brought some cucumber infused water, on their suggestion order a delicious bottle of Picpoul (fave) and get down to the serious business of food ordering.

Things are straightforward here – excellent quality meat and fish cooked simply with a choice of sides and sauces. It’s a good test of a restaurant to be able to produce something delicious from a few simple ingredients.

To start we choose a charcuterie board consisting of four different meats including a pistachio saucisson , cornichons, chutney and toasted baguette. Super tasty, not too huge and well presented. For no reason other than greed, we also order some salted edamame beans which were good to nibble on as we chatted.

For the main event I go for Hampshire rainbow trout with new potatoes, and my friend lemon sole with chips (and homemade ketchup). All mains come with a simple house salad which was tasty and nicely dressed. The proteins are cooked on a josper grill (a cooking method I’m encountering more frequently) which provides a lovely barbecue flavour to an already delicious fish. My friend is extremely happy with her choice too. A couple next to us are tackling an amazing looking seafood platter, and a group behind us some stonking looking burgers. Simplicity is key here and it really pays off.

menu

We’ve paid £26 each (without wine) which considering the quality and presentation feels pretty good to me. Yes there are cheaper options locally, but having payed a little bit more you certainly get the quality, provenance and extra touches that are on offer here. I think we should all try and eat locally where we can, or at least know where our food comes from so here you can do just that.

Brunch here is pretty good too, so if you’re seeking some classy dining and don’t want to schlep up to the West End (or New York) this could be your answer.


 

Wine and Oyster Bar – Crystal Palace

Having dropped a fair amount of dinner on my maxi dress, I move next door with dwindling sophistication. We’re greeted by owner Fabien and barman Manny, who’ve become familiar faces to me over the last few months.

Since opening in May I’ve visited here a number of times. The bar has hit the spot on several occasions providing the perfect place for a girls catch up, a date and large gathering of friends.

Crystal Palace is awash with great pubs and restaurants but a wine bar we didn’t have.

The bar sits on the site of a sadly short-lived butchers and fishmongers, but many features remain including an enormous butchers block table. The decor mirrors that of next door – bright, airy – heavy on the tiles with a great full length table that seats at least ten. You’ll find an oyster bar too, where you can sit and enjoy some of Northern Ireland’s finest shellfish washed down with a glass of champagne if you’re feeling fancy.

We start with a cocktail – Manny recommending one each based on our preferences. I go for a Palace Elder – Hendricks gin, elderflower liqueur, mint and cucumber. On a balmy night like this one, it’s perfect. My friend who prefers the sweet stuff chooses a Vin et Framboise – sauvignon blanc, apricot brandy, vodka and raspberries. Both are bloody lovely and are made with care and great attention to detail. We feel like we’re on holiday so remind ourselves we do actually have work the next day.

 

A French sommelier with 20 years experience Jean Louis Naveilhan has designed the wine list – yes there are plenty from just across the channel but also Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Italy. There’s champagne and prosecco too – or as I heard it called the other day ‘wine with holes’.

In the name of research we choose a cheese board to share after deliberately avoiding dessert earlier. Fabien’s cheeses come from The French Comte – his own stall at Borough Marche. Like fussy children we ask for no blue cheese, and minutes later we are presented with four beauties from the adjoining cheese room, including St Vernier, a soft cheese that has been bathed in wine. Yes please. Served with two chutneys and some delicious crackers this was a perfect end to the evening. There’s also top quality charcuterie boards, bread and olives on offer to accompany whatever you’re drinking.

cheese

I nip to the ladies and come back to find a chocolate board has appeared – four dainty chocolates from local chocolatiers Blowing Dandelion. Beaten by over-consumption our chocs are kindly boxed up ready for us to roll home.

Feeling somewhat giddy, we leave after a really a fantastic evening from start to finish, and are delighted that this local gem is right on our doorstep.

The bar is open Thursday to Sunday with some brilliant (dangerous) happy hour deals offering 50% off. There’s also live music on certain nights which I’ve yet to experience. 

Thu: 6pm-11pm
Fri: 4pm-Midnight
Sat: 12pm-Midnight
Sun: 12pm-10pm

Merci Fabien and team – Crystal Palace is lucky to have you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Clove Club, Shoreditch

Forty – for me the birthday that keeps on giving. My visit to The Clove Club is my birthday present from a fabulous friend who researched carefully to find a memorable dining experience. This girl did good and so we end up in Shoreditch at a restaurant recently voted number 26 in the top 50 restaurants in the world.

I barely know where to start on this review.

The Clove Club took residence in the imposing Shoreditch Town Hall in 2013 after previously running as a supper club hosted in a flat by chef Isaac McHale, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith.

Fighting your way through the crowds of teen hipsters on a Saturday night it’s hard to imagine you’ll end up in such a beautiful and serene setting.

The restaurant has a reputation (and Michelin star) for producing creative, ambitious dishes with often overlooked ingredients.

I knew the night would provide me with material a blogger dreams of, but feared the room would be wall to wall of Instagramming hipsters, and I didn’t want to be one of them.

But wrong I was. A couple in their sixties, a father with his tween-age daughter and a couple of well-behaved city boys and their girlfriends surrounded us – not a beard in sight.

The restaurant is split into two – a cosier room where the bar sits (where we were) and a larger room with high ceilings in view of the open plan kitchen.

The staff are polite, chatty, unfussy yet attentive. We’re brought hot towels before we start – a pleasant but unusual ritual.

We’re having a 9 (yes 9) course tasting menu – my friend a pescatarian has a slightly different selection to me. There’s a full vegetarian menu too plus a wine pairing option also on offer.

It’s nice not to have to choose anything, and the experience really puts you out of your culinary comfort zone. More to the point it’s an opportunity to sit back a relax and put your trust is some bloody amazing cooking.

photo

Each dish is explained in an uncomplicated way – some of the ingredients unknown others more familiar.

I simply can’t describe everything we ate – but I can give you some of the highlights from our visit. I’m also going to go over my 3-4 photo rule as this is an exception.

So we start with snacks. Snacks sounds a bit like they could be nachos or Pringles. Small delicacies arrive including a little ball of haggis, a melon granita, crab tartlets and buttermilk chicken served on a bed of pinecones and needles – something I can’t see KFC launching anytime soon.

Snacks aren’t even classed as one of the 9 courses we soon realise – I wish I’d worn my loosefit jogging bottoms at this point. Yes it’s 9 courses but the portions are delicate – free from filling carbs such as rice and pasta.

Orkney scallops, Mackerel sashimi, Hebridean lamb and suckling pig all come and go – each dish as thrilling and anticipated as the next.

At one point the waiter brings over a tray and offers us a snifter of Madeira which is 108 years old. Incredible. At the end of the meal tiny sweets filled with liquid creme de menthe provide a boozy hit to round off the proceedings.

Even the toilets are beautiful and there’s a meat hanging room to peer into as you leave.

But I don’t want to leave – I’d happily sit here to the early hours drinking amazing cocktails.

I feel truly spoilt to have been given the chance to come here. If you’re an adventurous foodie and want something out of the ordinary The Clove Club is simply stunning.

 

Graze – Bath

I’m out of town for the weekend, and heading west to one of my favourite parts of the country.

Before getting down to my restaurant review, I wanted to mention Lacock Village – the destination for our Saturday daytime outing. It’s the perfect chocolate box village peppered with pubs, tea rooms and pretty cottages.

Film crews for Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice and Downtown Abbey have all descended on this tiny village to film their mega productions as do the hoards of tourists.

You’ll find  a National Trust run Abbey and grounds and the  Fox Talbot history of photography museum plus some great shops such as CoCo Chemistry and Quintessentially English. If you’re in the area – pay a little visit – it’s lovely.


 

I’ve been coming to Bath on and off for many years now including millennium NYE. I love the Georgian architecture and dare I say Jane Austen overkill. But… despite the history Bath has emerged as a great shopping destination with new bars and restaurants springing up each time I visit.

Graze bar and Chophouse sits next to the Brunel built railway station, so perfect for heel wearers and those keen not miss their train.

photo (100)

Graze in Bath is the flagship (and largest) venue of the 11 strong Bath Ales chain who have pubs across the South West.

The space is huge (180 covers) with two outside terraces and plenty of room for drinkers as well as diners.

Beer lovers will be delighted to see a micro-brewery that produces the beer Platform 3. The wine selection is great starting at £15.50 which can’t be argued with.

Vegetarians and pescetarians are catered for but this is a flesh lovers paradise – there’s even a meat hanging room visible to diners. Graze focusses on aged steak cooked on a Josper charcoal grill. There’s plenty of other options to choose from including specials.

My friend and I both opt for squid, which is spot on and came with a delicious aioli and burnt lemon. After deliberating for what seems like hours I choose a burger served with smokehouse cheddar and apple ketchup and triple cooked chips. It was delicious and uncomplicated – the ingredients spoke for themselves. My friend had a pork cut wrapped in prosciutto with some ace looking sweet potato fries.

Unable to manage dessert we instead go for coffee that came with some cakey/biscuity combo – in honesty I forget what exactly, but provided a sweet hit without needing a heavy pudding.

The place was busy all the time we were there, but the huge restaurant meant it didn’t feel remotely crowded. The service was great and the food really excellent quality.

They offer a kids menu, some good value set options and breakfast too. So whether you’re taking a break from shopping or want a full on celebration meal this place would be a great choice.

You can even watch the trains go past the window if you’re that way inclined.