Month: April 2018

Bar Nestor, San Sebastián

We arrive early at Bar Nestor, two hours early at 11am, and yet we’re not the first in mass (this being Spain there is no such thing as a queue). That particular honour belongs to the silver haired German lady with whom we communicate via Google translate, and a newlywed Canadian couple for who such technology is not required. We are all here for one reason only; to secure one of the fabled sixteen slices of tortilla that Nestor cooks at 1pm, and then again at 6pm. We are soon joined by an elderly Spanish man, then, around 11.30am, the shutters rise to waist height and we follow the others in scooping underneath and into the bar. It looks, unsurprisingly, just like the photos I’ve seen; mahogany and small, with a bar running down the right side. To the left is a singular table and a couple of stools, whilst every panelled wall has sports memorabilia personally signed to this tiny spot in the old town. Nestor himself is late fifties, his black hair now worn only around the perimeters of his head, and the capillaries on his nose those of a man who enjoys a glass of wine or five. He has warm eyes and a mouth that speaks only the necessities. He looks straight to me, asking how many of the tortilla I want and my name. I request two, an order that will become so common he eventually knows my name without asking. He tells us to be back at 1pm sharp. We do as we are told.

The cutting of that tortilla is something that I will remember almost as long as the taste of it. Sixteen uneven blocks, served with a solitary piece of baguette, and then passed to those who gave there morning to its making. It is still warm, dribbling egg yolk out via its sides on to the plate. In my experience very few dishes in life live up to the hype. This does. Maybe its the terroir, or the anticipation, but this is one of the very best things I have ever eaten, a shock even to me given that this is essentially made up of just eggs, potato, and onion. It is luscious and decadent, comforting and humble. We would be back many times for this, lunch and at dinner. On the last evening, when I ask Nestor what the secret is, he smiles and puts his hand over his heart. Others have said that it is the gently caramelised onion which sets it apart. I like to think there is more truth in the explanation of the old man.

They do other stuff here too. Well, three dishes precisely. Padron peppers are blistered and salty, whilst tomatoes are dressed simply in peppery olive oil, a good amount of salt, and the tiniest lick of vinegar. The latter is another dish that we would return to on other occasions, elbows resting on the bar with a glass of txakoli. They are stunning; firmly fleshed with tinges of green across the flesh, the simple accompaniment there only to enhance their flavour and then be mopped up with more of that baguette.

And then there is the steak from an eleven year old dairy cow. They don’t have many of these but ask and they will parade two raw sharing sized pieces for you to choose from. They take about an hour to arrive, my guess being a rough split of cooking and resting time, with the team making room for you at the bar to eat this. It comes smothered in salt, with ribbons of fat the colour of butter. The meat is rare, with the chew of a working beast that results in the deepest of bovine flavours. This is not for those who order a fillet on account of little jaw work, though it is essential steak eating for anyone with a remote interest in beef. The final jewels lay flat against the bone, the strips of these requiring a steady hand and sharp knife to prise away. It will ruin every steak you eat after this but it is worth it.

A similar piece of dairy cattle in a London restaurant will cost around £90, which, once service is included, will buy you two full meals at Bar Nestor. The steak above was 32 euros, the tortilla 2 euros each and the local wine less than that for a glass. It’s easy to see why Bar Nestor has garnered the mythical reputation that it has; whilst the rest of San Sebastian are exploring the culinary boundaries of pinxtos, they stick to the simple things here: the pick of the best local ingredients cooked simply with love. And whilst I am not saying that Bar Nestor is reason enough to book that flight to Bilbao and board the coach to San Sebastian, it absolutely should be a priority once you get here. You should start 11am sharp by getting in place for that tortilla.


I’m nominated for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards and would be grateful if you could spare a minute to vote for me.

Itihaas, Birmingham

Without wishing to generalise or resort to stereotype, Indians do service better than any other country. Maybe it’s cultural, or even driven by its colonial history where their position in society meant they served as a secondary nature, but the very basic level is elevated when in, or provided by, those from the sub-continent. My girlfriend saw this first-hand in India when staying at the majestic Taj hotel in Mumbai last November. Here a five star hotel is built around amenities; valet parking, afternoon tea, and then somewhere to work it off afterwards. At the Taj they would fold and recoil phone chargers, and turn down bed sheets whilst they were out for dinner. She was even able to send the concierge out for some cheap brandy I requested that she couldn’t be arsed to look for herself. You try going into The Connaught and asking them to fetch you some cheap brandy; they’ll have you downstairs in the bar drinking the very expensive stuff as a compromise.

Some of the very best service I think I’ve ever received in this mighty fine town was last week at Itihaas. It was hammering down outside when we pass into the entrance, the team quick to remove coats and offer towels to dry us off. And then we’re seated in chairs so deep they could be Leonard Cohen lyrics and offered champagne whilst poppadum arrive, whilst the team buzz around a dining room far too busy to be an Indian restaurant on a Monday evening. And then dishes arrive at a good pace and wine is topped up immaculately. Pitched well above casual and more towards those bestowed with accolades, they succeeded in that personal level of service that makes a diner feel special. Even when they’ve been soaked to the bone coming to eat here after an awful day in the office.

But what about the food, I don’t here you asking? It’s bloody good, probably the best of it’s too-expensive-for-a-casual-Balti-but-nice-enough-to-bring-the-parents category that it sits within. Soft shell crab pakora is the best soft shell dish I have eaten, with a crunchy spiced batter that avoids grease and never loses the flavour of the crustacean. Lamb tikka is remarkable; the quality of the fillet meat and the length of the marinade resulting in chunks of so tender they require no chewing. Both of these are outstanding but for me its the scallops that take the starters. Accurately seared to an opaque centre, the light curried dressing has bags of acidity and garlic, with whole bullet chillies for those who like a challenge. I do. Three starters of the highest order. We speak only in approving nods and doe eyes.

This being a night organised by the PR company behind the restaurant we are being fed plentifully and without choice, so the next two courses would not have been ordered by me usually on account of zero meat. Soy tikka masala is a clear riff on the nations favourite dish, the soy protein a substitute favoured by those who make their diet the first conversational piece. I love the spicy gravy but the texture of soy is one that I cannot get on board with, despite its obvious benefits. And you don’t need to because they have the Makhani Paneer, which I am calling one of the cities great vegetarian dishes. The homemade paneer is deliberately cooked without colour, allowing the creamy curry to star front of stage. It’s rich and buttery with a backnote of tang that stops it becoming too much until you soak it up with a truffle oil and poppy seed naan. This absolute genius addition of truffle oil works brilliantly when in the restrained environment of a naan, less so when applied liberally throughout the rice already laden of wild mushrooms. Too much luxury can be a bad thing occasionally. Just take the paneer curry with the truffle oil naan and order a plain pilau rice. Thank me after you’ve wiped the dish clean.

We also get a lamb shank, braised until the bone comes away from the protein with a singular tug, in a gravy style sauce that has the soul of cooking juices. Running low, I request a little more bread to protect my fingers as I tug away at the last of the meat, to which they produce a roomali roti. My favourite! It’s as if they’ve read my mind. Or this blog. The bread is perfect, almost transparent thin layers that collapse upon themselves like the English cricket team’s lower order, but this is all about the lamb which is delicate in texture and robust in flavour.

Dessert comes in the way of two courses; up first is a pistachio rasmali, a dish I tend to care little for, even with the metallic tang of saffron livening up the milk that moats around the sponge. I have a lot more time for the deep fried samosa filled with molten chocolate and coconut. Naughty, naughty, very naughty. The pastry is thin, the centre liquid. It goes very well with the almond kulfi drenched in bourbon. I don’t normally like kulfi. Maybe booze was the answer all along.

Now I’m not naïve enough to think for a second that the specially planned menu with generous amounts of wine and a brandy nightcap isn’t a conscious effort from the restaurant to show off, but frankly, it worked. And my eye was firmly on the table of city workers behind us who received the same level of brilliant service despite being heavily under the influence. Everyone gets the same brilliant service, its just that most have a bill to settle at the end. And that bill is worth it; from beginning to end it’s total class, with smart Indian cooking using some very good ingredients. As a city Birmingham does Indian food better than all others. Itihaas is right at the top of that pile.


I was invited to dine here on a complimentary basis

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The Square Peg, Birmingham

In hindsight, asking Twitter to choose my dinner via a poll was a teeny bit stupid. For a while it looked they may do the good deed and send me to Folium, but no, right at the end there was a surge for The Square Peg, a Wetherspoons of local legend for all of the wrong reasons. I hadn’t been in here for maybe twelve years and if anything it’s succeeded in getting worse. The one time I leave my chair in the stale smelling room is to visit the gents. There I find no lock on the cubicle, the loo roll on the floor in a puddle of piss and an empty coke bag, not that I have any idea what one of those looks like. I decide to not to dump in this dump and hold it in. Back out in the pub and it’s thriving, arguably as busy as anywhere in the city. There are young people enjoying cheap booze, old people enjoying cheap booze and families eating, though whether you eat here for enjoyment or necessity is debatable.

With Eau de Blàgger running through my veins, I conjure a plan to eat as much as possible for free whilst allowing the Twitter Twats to have a little more fun. The Wetherspoon app is one of those things that was built to be abused. Intended as a waiter service to order food and beverages without leaving the table, it has become misused by those who can send menu oddities, like a bowl of peas, to tables without ever being near the pub. I tell Twitter that I am in the pub, give them my table number and challenge them to send whatever food and drink they wanted.

I get those peas, the first to arrive along with a shot of Apple Sourz, swiftly followed by a pint of piss in a Carling glass. The peas are tragic, lifeless and devoid of any taste or texture. These are followed by halloumi, a dish I order from the app because I assume 75 more portions of peas are to appear. Shock alert: it’s actually edible. Really salty halloumi charred on both sides with a sweet chilli dip. I’d quite gladly eat it again, though next time I’d request that the dead salad be given a proper burial instead of being left on the side of my plate to rot.

Also edible was the chips in curry sauce, so thank you to whoever sent that. Fat bits of potato in a slightly Chinesey sauce that is better than my local Chinese. Yes, it may be a little heavy and greasy but so is the woman on the table behind me. We can let that slip, we’re in a ‘spoons, remember. One thing I never want to see again is the child’s portion of chilli con carne that arrives with an Archers and coke. I know who sent this and as much as I want to say it’s better than Low’n’Slows (you absolute bastard), I can’t. This is all blunt tomato notes and bitterness. Two forkfuls and I’m done. A non-alcoholic beer arrives. I laugh at first and then wish the prick who sent me this an ingrown toe nail.

By now the incredibly charming bloke who is serving me is in on the act and Wetherspoons Birmingham are following me on Twitter. Another shot arrives. Very good. And then some very nice strawberry ice lollies with a congealed semen dip that the menu lists as yogurt. I know congealed semen when I taste it, how do you think I pay for all of these fancy meals? The ice lollies are followed by a fried egg. Which genius knew that I always eat a fried egg after a dessert? My girlfriend the evil fuck. The egg is fine, free range I think, and totally devoid of seasoning.

Another pint of piss in a Carling glass turns up with burgers following soon afterwards. The beef one first with a gin and tonic (thanks Holly). It’s okay, dense and under-seasoned; I’ve certainly eaten worse at establishments with far bigger reputations. I draw the line at the buttermilk chicken which is nothing of the sort. The reformed meat is cotton wool in texture, the outer coating a sweetened saw dust. I tell the chap who serves all of these to stop any future orders. I’m done, the mutant chicken thing has finished me off.

By now I’m quite pissed and starting to enjoy the slightly threatening atmosphere. It’s loud and people are genuinely enjoying themselves. The Square Peg might be a little bit dirty but it is also very cheap and accessible; nobody, apart from this grumpy bastard, comes here with any preconceptions, they come because the drinks are affordable, the beers well kept, and the food basic and filling. Would I personally come here by choice? No. But I would if I had to and I could probably eat here too, though I’d keep it strictly vegetarian. Wetherspoons like this are a national institution and I am totally fine with them continuing to serve those who visit them. The Square Peg ain’t that bad at all, it just ain’t that good either.


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Niraj’s Kitchen, Dudley

I’m not good with dinner parties. And when I say I’m not good, what I really mean is I’m dreadful at them. I never get invited to them, maybe because I’m overly opinionated, a little arrogant, and drink too much. Maybe it’s because the last one I went to I asked for salt and pepper to make a truly horrific chilli con carne marginally better, or maybe it is because the time prior to that I criticised the technique in making an frittata. For some reason, and I have every idea why, people do not want to cook for me in their own home. And I totally understand that. I don’t want to cook for me in my own home. I just chastise myself continually until I’m told to shut up for talking over Don’t Tell The Bride.

So it’s a good thing that neither Niraj and Leena had no preconceptions of who I was prior to their supper club. Had they known in advance what a horrendous human being I am they may not have greeted us so warmly at their doorstep, taken our jackets and wine away and sat us down in their living room with a mocktail whilst we awaited the other guests. Then, when they arrive, they may not have been so eager to sit us in the large kitchen diner and serve up some of the very best Indian food I have ever had the privilege of eating anywhere. So good that on the drive back to Birmingham we contact them about coming back again. So good that I would gladly travel back to Dudley to eat. It’s that good.

This event, as part of WeFiFo’s supper clubs, is a showcase for the cooking of Niraj, a local government employee whose passion lies elsewhere; a sentiment that I can very much relate to. Over the space of an hour and forty five we get food cleverly layered with spice from a chef with serious talent. Even the homemade chutneys that get served with poppadum’s are great; a sweet and sour date and tamarind puree, a more conventional mint yogurt, and a vivid green one that has coriander at the front and the blast of green chilli at the rear. This is just a prequel to the knockout starter. Chicken wings, deboned just like those legendary morsels at the greatly missed Modu, with a Manchurian sauce. The wings have been cooked twice, my guess being first sous-vide and then pan fried to crisp up and render down the fatty skin. The sauce is an Indo-Chinese one I’m not familiar with that has bags of chilli heat and vinegar acidity. The two together are incredible; put these in Digbeth Dining Club and you have an instant street food classic, stick them on a restaurant menu and people will be asking for an extra portion to take and eat at home the following day. For the only time in the evening there is total silence at the table. Not a scrap is left by anyone.

Mains are communal and generous. There is a warming karai ghost with slow cooked lamb that breaks down at the slightest suggestion, and a butter chicken that is complex and rich. A chickpea and spinach curry that we cook at home shows just how rubbish we are in comparison to Niraj and an aubergine curry is everything you want a vegetarian curry to be; smoky with plenty of spice, yet still putting the aubergine as the star. All of it is absolutely brilliant and if it sounds like I am gushing it is because I genuinely am. This is the very reason I started this blog, to find food of this standard in places I never thought to look, and to hopefully encourage others to then seek it out. Even the naans are brilliant, light and pliable, as we get plain ones and garlic ones and ones flavoured with plenty of chilli. My partner spent much of November in India. She elbows me to whisper that this is better than anything she ate there.

Dessert is the ultra traditional chocolate and ginger fondant, with Chantilly cream hiding a pond of raspberry gel. It’s a crowd pleaser executed with precision, the oozy centre with a hint of spice and a huge whack of chocolate. It’s rich and unexpected given the food served prior, but I would personally take this over kulfi every day.

I was sceptical before going: After all there are a lot of variables involved. Will the food be any good? Will I like the hosts? Will I like the other people who are here? The truth is this was one of the best Saturday evenings that I can recall having, with lovely company, hosts who care and a meal that will linger far longer in the memory than most restaurants. An evening at Niraj’s Kitchen will be one of the best ways you will ever spend £30, that much I can guarantee.

I was invited by WeFiFo. Book Niraj’s Kitchen here;

Don Diego, Edgbaston

I don’t write about every meal I have. Sometimes I leave the ego at home and enjoy food with the other half for exactly what it is; a meal cooked by someone else that I am paying for. Plus, nobody ever wants to read about the Pret salad I ate for lunch. Don Diego was supposed to be one of those meals. We ordered and I started drinking red wine for the two of us, whilst Claire is telling me off for staring at my phone. Out walks Alfonso the chef, a burly balding man named after my favourite mango. He outstretches his hand, I shake it saying my forename in the way that you do the first time you meet someone. “Yes, Simon Carlo” he says in a deep Spanish accent. I don’t know how he knows me, but in hindsight maybe it was the awards on the table that I take everywhere with me which gave it away. Then it clocks, this is the man who was front of house the last time I was in this building, when it was The Epicurean, a place I was less than polite about. I really should learn to be nicer. He is kind about my opinion and apologises for the chef cooking here over two years ago, which is unexpected and not at all necessary. He asks if I will be writing about our meal tonight. “Err, well… of course I am”. I am weak and pathetic.

So here is my opinion on Don Diego, a place I had no intention of writing about, but am happy to now the meal is over. It is an upgrade on Epicurean, one built around sturdy Spanish flavours and hefty portions. There is nothing nuanced about the food; it is about as subtle as my writing style and thankfully punctuated with less errors. A king prawn starter owes its success to the velvety bisque that coats everything and puddles in the bottom of the bowl. The big flavours are found in the bits that we discard, here those heads and shells are roasted and flambéed in a little booze to form the base of the bisque. A salad of mozzarella, tomato, and red onions owes its character to the lick of vinegar and garlic heat works on to every forkful. We’ll gloss over the bought in garlic bread that hasn’t sufficiently been heated through so that some of the butter remains set in the centre.

Main portions are set to massive. There is a breaded chicken main that looks massive until the even bigger pork belly arrives. The chicken is accurately cooked with a clever sauce that has plenty of chorizo running through it. The pork has not been pressed so that the layers of fat and meat are still distinguishable. It’s on a puddle of warm apple sauce, with a smaller puddle of tomato. In hindsight, a more equal ratio of the two would work better. With mains you will need a side and you should take the chips, all crispy rosemary edges and fluffy centre.

After this did we need dessert? Probably not, but I am now committed to tell you about dinner and therefore order them. A chocolate semifreddo eats better than it looks, the flavour of Baileys coming through strongly, with a berry compote to cut through the richness. A better option is the almond tart. The pastry is short and buttery, the frangipane rich. It needs the apricot purée for relief. This is a solid bit of dessert work.

And with that we’re done. An enjoyable meal, from a little place ran only by two brothers. It deserves to be busier than it is. It’s affordable and warm, offering a short menu of dishes that you want to eat. We’ll be back to explore the rest of it soon, tucked away in the corner with a nice bottle of Rioja. I might even take the night off from writing. I’ve earned it.


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Sorrento Lounge, Moseley

They do a great trick at Sorrento Lounge. Dishes are wielded out at the same time to the table, some may be cold, others not as advertised. There will be components missed. They lay them down and ask how everything is that very second, before the damp aromas have risen and the reality sets in. No time to say “I’m yet to try to them, but they look disgusting”, just straight out of the way and on to the next customer, never to be seen again. It leaves the customer in a void, staring into the dimly lit space knowing that having already parted for this clusterfuck of badly cooked food there is very little that can be done about it. I knew I’d lost my money purely by looking down at the table. I was already mourning its loss.

And this, one of the absolute worst meals I have ever eaten in my entire life, is completely the fault of Moseley. We did this to ourselves. This low-lit, gauche, adolescent shit-pit excuse is the latest of places that filled the Halfords void. We were meant to have Boston Tea Party, a place I care little for but at least displays good ingredient ethics and does a very nice scone, but No! we said, its a chain, all 22 of them, and Moseley does not want chains here, even if they have good ingredient ethics and very nice scones. Instead we ended up with Prezzo, a tartier Pizza Express, with a list of half decent things on cheese and tomato smothered cardboard. They fucked-up my order with Deliveroo when I was hungover and I never forgave them after that. Prezzo took liberties at building a nice little terrace when they wasn’t allowed and Moseley went “fuck off our land, we don’t want chains in Moseley”. And so they did. Now this. All walls covered in artwork and tables with candles because presumably they don’t want you to see what you are eating. Part of the very Lounge Group that owns five in Birmingham, and dozens, if not hundreds, elsewhere. We don’t do chains in Moseley. Not unless they change the first name every time. Fucking dimwits.

Sorrento is named after an old hospital in Moseley, the irony of which is not lost on me considering I would rather die than come here again. We order a total of nine dishes, consisting of six tapas and three side. The six are to tapas in the same way Citizen Khan is to comedy. Six pathetic little microwavable dishes containing various bits of food that very nearly bring me to tears of sadness. ‘Animals have died for this’ is the best I could muster for pulled chicken and chorizo. Torn shreds of a tired old bird in a claggy sauce that had me reaching for the insipid red wine. And then there is the courgette and red peppers with fingernail sized pieces of halloumi bobbing in a chilli oil that faintly smells of dead fish. It is supposed to be chargrilled. Bullshit. The only heat applied here has come from a 850w metal box. It is frankly an insult to every single chef who has ever tried to apply his trade with any integrity.

You’ll have to believe me as to how bad the potatas bravas was. Colourless blocks of soggy spud with two sauces they’ve failed to warm up correctly. The red one has the uncooked notes of tomato puree that is my only indicator of its intended flavour.  The white one, absolutely no idea, but I hope its not the bodily fluid of whatever horny teenager in the kitchen they’re paying the minimum wage to operate the pingy thing in the corner. By comparison the sweet potato fries are almost edible, albeit only once something called salt is applied. And then there’s the broccoli, not microwaved enough so that the stems are still raw. With this are soggy bits of garlic and chilli, proving that the kitchen here can fuck just about anything up.

We allegedly get crispy porky belly bites that are soft grey lump of fat sat in a puddle of dirty water. It looks like the contents of a post colonic irrigation and tastes far worse. I do something I’ve only done once before and spit a piece back out after the fat gets trapped in my throat. Buttermilk chicken are really sub-standard chicken dippers, pork and beef meatballs solid bits of off-cuts that would be better driven off a tee than ate. A side of macaroni cheese has the nuclear yellow tinge of a Russian assassination attempt. I eat some hoping to end it all. It doesn’t work. I just get burnt lips and overcooked pasta. A second glass of wine doesn’t sedate me, it just makes me more angry.

We don’t have dessert because we have bread. Two loaves worth of fucking bread that they forgot to bring with our food. I try to stop the lad who dumped it on to our table to tell him how bad this is, but he is gone. Of course he is. With dishes at around £4 each some would say this is value, and to those idiots I would gladly drag them 20 metres to Zindiya where similar prices buys skill and love. A final word; my girlfriend, the far nicer side of our relationship, says that this is the worst meal she can recall eating. She’s right. There is nothing redeeming about anything to do with Sorrento Lounge. It’s cynical and nasty, working on a small plate premise that will quickly see a bill adding up to a price point well above what it is worth. And this glossy wank stain of a restaurant is on my doorstep. People of Moseley, this is all your fault. We could have just taken the nice scones.


Little Blackwood, Moseley

I am familiar with the dining room of Little Blackwood. It is a space I know well, like my work desk and the contents of my drinks globe. For much of the past 18 months I have spent time and money within its walls, under its previous guise as Cheval Blanc. I hold no shame in my love for its previous incarnation; I drank so frequently at it’s bar I had a stool with my name on, and I mourned its loss in a piece for a regional newspaper when it announced its closure. It gave me some of the very best months of my life. But I’m not one for legacies. The past is just that, a memory, one that slowly dwindles away like the contents of my wine glass. Little Blackwood is now here, tweaking the interior with new lights and mismatched furniture. The sense of deja vu may still be present in the wall murals and turquoise booths, but a new spirit is alive and present.

Now stepping away from my fatty liver and putting my food cap firmly on, I think that what sets chef Ben Taylor apart is a firm sense of identity, one that frequently veers to the East, doing so with purpose and confidence. And whilst the cooking occasionally takes a small misstep, it quickly corrects itself with a stride in the right direction. There is very little about the food here that is delicate; the dishes thud with spice applied through modern technique. We would eat three solid courses each but only after an amuse that fails in its intention of setting out his style. A prawn kissed with the lightest of heat on spiced lentils, with a piece of popcorn dusted in curry powder. The daal was good, the prawn of decent quality with the intestinal tract still in place, which is crap. The popcorn is misjudged – have you ever pined for prawn popcorn? Me neither. They are two textures that should never go together.

And then it all gets good. A mushroom and lemongrass broth is poured tableside into a bowl containing pickled onions, a smoked onion puree, and mushroom wontons. The broth is heady and deep in flavour with the suggestion of mirin lurking in the background. The wontons have the texture of a man who has folded a million of these before. A similar success was had with crab macaroni cheese, rich and molten, with the best bit a croquette of the more pungent brown meat. The balance of crustacean and dairy is a tricky one to get right. He nails it here.

A chicken ballottine main shows strong technique across the plate. The rolled breast meat stuffed with a delicate mousseline that is accurately seasoned and poached. A California roll on the side is not only a playful way of getting carbohydrate on to the plate, it also allows the chef to bring a little wasabi into the mix. It is this, along with a ginger gel and a jus flavoured with sake, that makes the plate sing, even if the pak choi has been show a little too much cooking time. On the flip we have a hefty short rib of beef that relies on classic French technique and no Eastern flavours. The meat is cooked until the bone slides cleanly away from the protein, with a Jerusalem artichoke puree and thick baton of carrot halved lengthways. The very best thing on the plate, indeed that we try all night, is the potato Anna, which is what happens to sliced spuds when you trust them in the company of butter for a long time. These have taken on the best bits of the cow, too, perhaps for being a shelf to the short rib whilst cooking. I don’t bloody know. What I do know is I dream of the day when I can sit on a stool and order a bowl of these potatoes, a good bottle of wine and some of the baos for dessert. Those bao, I’ll get to them now.

Dessert is, you may have guessed, bao, those oriental milk buns usually steamed, though here deep fried to a donut-like consistency. We take three because that particular ratio saves me two quid on the usual £4 price tag, and because I am a greedy bastard. All are very good; the banana and salted caramel, the peanut butter and jelly, and the blackberry and apple. Lovely concise bits of dessert, unlike anything else in the city, and perfect for a one man kitchen operation like here. No doubt others will try to copy it and good for them. I’ll read about it on Twitter whilst sat at the bar here with a bowl of potato Anna, three bao, and a bottle of Nyetimber. I may or may not be on my own. A man has needs and this particular man has a girlfriend not very good at sharing.

Service is kind and well meant, if a little raw. A broth is quite difficult to eat with just a knife and fork. But I liked it here, quite a lot actually. It seems an instant fit to the area, a casual bistro where a meal for two could be had for around £40 a head with wine. At that price point they can expect to see a lot of my business. Cheval Blanc is dead, long live Little Blackwood.