Another year and another Christmas of too much wining and dining for Elldrew, but in keeping with tradition, here’s our blog of what was hot and what was not in Elldrew’s annual festive restaurant feasting round-up.
We started festivities by gate-crashing a dear friend’s traditional family lunch at the original Nobu, Park Lane. Huge in the late nineties/early noughties, neither Ell nor Drew thought they’d been for well over a decade, so we were excited to revisit it. It didn’t feel especially seasonal eating raw fish and blackened cod, and the elegantly scaled back holiday decorations didn’t much help, but the food was still delicious. Talk about dropping our entire Christmas budget on the first restaurant!
Highlights included the yellowtail sashimi jalapeño, the baby tiger shrimp with three sauces, and an avocado salad that whilst sounding simple had exquisite flavours. On the down side, the Wagyu gyoza with spicy ponzu was disappointing.
Nobu may no longer have a Michelin star but the food remains top notch, with staff and service to suit. The challenge for Elldrew is that there are so many fantastic Asian restaurants in London that we struggle to justify the price, but we’d go back if we were invited to gate-crash again [hint hint].
At the more sensible end of the budget, we skipped our annual Hawksmoor Christmas burgers that have been a stalwart for the last five years and headed to Hotbox London, in Spitalfields, for a less festive bottomless brunch. Elldrew also skipped breakfast and arrived hungry, greedily eyeing up the meat heavy/BBQ focussed menu. It being the Sunday before Christmas, with every other restaurant packed, Hotbox was no exception.
The drinks flowed well and we were looked after by the busy staff. We also really enjoyed the buzzy vibe as we rolled on the merriment. Dishes arrived as they were cooked, with no line between small plates and mains, so in no time our table was bursting as we tucked into our lunch. We loved the beef short rib tacos and smoked chicken, hugely generous portions for the price. The star was the smoked meat hash; a divine dish of smokey meat, crispy potatoes with a fried egg perfectly spiced to have just the right kick. The Shawarma aubergine didn’t quite deliver the exotic punch we hoped for and in conclusion we plan to head back to Hawksmoor this year…when you’re onto a good thing, stick to it!
In another break with tradition there was no Christmas restaurant luncheon for Elldrew (we had a wonderful home cooked meal at family friends instead), but our annual friend post-Christmas get-together still went ahead at our 2018 favourite, Coal Office. We’d never been for lunch so we got to combine this with a spot of sale shopping in the new Coal Drops Yard area of Kings Cross.
Coal Office didn’t disappoint despite a much shorter lunch menu. Our favourites were Machneyuda’s polenta with asparagus, mushrooms, parmesan and truffle, we loved the Damascus Gate tuna with its black caramel, mango and hazelnuts (wonderfully light and refreshing after all the heavy Christmas food). We had been meaning to try the carbonised chicken for ages, it was simply delicious however we were disappointed with the steak special of the day, it was just steak and not up to par.
If we’re completely honest, we felt that Coal Office is a night time venue; the loud music, pumping atmosphere and effervescent hosts just weren’t there at lunch so we would prefer to stick with Palomar for more casual day dining.
We wrapped up “the season” with Papa Elldrew’s birthday dinner at Selfridge’s brand new Brasserie of Light. It was a suitable finale; it’s bright and bold, looks stunning, it’s fresh and new and has an atmosphere to suit. As an outpost of Richard Caring’s familiar empire it has all his trademarks from the font on the menu to the truffle arancini, but it felt different and we thought that the food was head & shoulders above most of his other restaurants (the original Ivy being the exception here).
A salt-crusted sourdough was an unnecessary aperitif, but it was just moorish and we’d sod the calories and order it again. The avocado and sesame fried chicken with coriander, green tea and chia seeds, served with a jalapeño dip, was light and delicious but the chicken dumplings, with truffle and citrus totally trumped Nobu’s gyoza for less than half the price. Perhaps a sign that our eating season was drawing to a close all of us at the table went with a lighter chicken dish for our main course. Again, none of us could complain (portions were huge) although we’d comment that the flat-iron chicken ever so slightly took the lead from the chargrilled paillard of chicken.
We shared two desserts, but struggled to finish them, wishing we’d just stuck with the Butterfly Flutterby (the lighter and more refreshing dish) than their signature Chocolate Bubbles. We rolled out of Brasserie of Light with padding coming not just from all the food but also from the extra cash in our wallet, a surprisingly reasonable bill.
Our only grumble would be that the staff could look like they were enjoying themselves a bit more. Mind you, it was the very end of Christmas so, like everyone else, they could have had a touch of the January Blues.
And that was our festive restaurant feasting 2018/2019 Christmas dining. No time for a diet as Elldrew has more restaurants and a jaunt to St Petersburg to squeeze in before we are definitely tightening both our wallets and our belts as the thought of summer beach holidays loom.