Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Off The Blog 4 - Comfort Food

The days are getting colder and the nights are drawing in. It's that time of the year when you want your grub to cheer you up so in this post I'll be looking at three great places for comfort food: a rather special pub, somewhere a bit posh and a good old-fashioned Italian.

Toulouse cassoulet @ The Gunmakers
Toulouse cassoulet is exactly the kind of food that soothes the soul and it's one of many hearty dishes served at The Gunmakers. Being a Northerner, I'm prone to moaning about meagre 'London portions' but I had no complaints about this mammoth serving.

However, it wasn't just the quantity that I was impressed with; I was also struck by the high quality of the ingredients. The haricot beans, ham hock, and pork shoulder were all top notch but a special mention goes to the Toulouse sausage.

I was quite full after this feast and it was a shame that I had to go back to work, as I could've done with a couple of pints and a kip. The Gunmakers is a cracking boozer and it's also worth mentioning that they serve a fine array of ales.

Gunmakers on Urbanspoon

The Gunmakers, 13 Eyre Street Hill, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 5ET 
(Tel: 020-7278-1022) Nearest tube: Chancery Lane

Prawn cocktail @ Bob Bob Ricard
Bob Bob Ricard needs little introduction. This Soho restaurant has been blogged to death and this particular meal has already been blogged about by Catty and The Grubworm. The menu is full of heart-warming dishes like fish soup, beef wellington, pies and burgers. But to start, I couldn't resist the retro charms of the prawn cocktail. Mind you, part of me wishes I ordered the venison steak tatare.

Veal Holstein @ Bob Bob Ricard
For mains, my dining companions shared a roast leg of Elwy Valley lamb; I had a taste and it was damn good although my veal Holstein was none too shabby either. Served with anchovies, quail egg, truffled mash and secret sauce (not to be confused with special sauce), I loved it. The puds are good too and I couldn't say no to warm chocolate fondant.

I'm a big fan of the decadent dining room and the fact that everyone is seated in a booth. In addition to the classic comfort food, there's also a small selection of Russian dishes. I might try these next time with a shot or two of their vintage vodkas. Not that you need me to tell you but BBR is highly recommended.

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF
(Tel: 020-3145-1000) Nearest tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus

Ciao Bella
I can't believe that I haven't got round to blogging about Ciao Bella 'til now. This charming old school ristorante is a favourite office lunch venue of mine. I've been a regular for the best part of a decade and come to think of it, I've probably eaten here more times than any other restaurant. And whilst I've not seen him eat at Ciao Bella, it seems that Raymond Blanc is a fan too.

The menu doesn't push any boundaries but that's its appeal, as sometimes I don't want to think too much about my food. My favourites include spaghetti con polpette (spaghetti with meatballs) and scaloppa Milanese (I usually order this veal dish with a side of pasta instead of the usual potatoes and veg). But above all else, I adore their pizzas, in particular the prosciutto crudo.

Ciao Bella is always busy and booking is recommended. That said if you turn up without a reservation, they have an arrangement with the pub next door. You can wait in the pub and once a table is ready, they'll come and fetch you. If you haven't finished your drink then you can bring that through too. Now that's what I call service!

Ciao Bella on Urbanspoon

Ciao Bella, 86-90 Lamb's Conduit St, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ 
(Tel: 020-7242-4119) Nearest tube: Russell Square


  1. Ciao Bella is where I ate and drunk myself (for damn cheap prices) through law school : )

  2. The Toulouse cassoulet looks delicious. I agree with you, that is exactly the kind of food that warms the soul.

  3. Nice selection of restos - I haven't been to any of them before, so will drop by next time I'm in clerkenwell/soho/bloomsbury.

  4. mmmmmmmmmmmmmm happy memories of BBR! I'm so glad you recommended an Italian place too. Have been craving a good bowl of pasta, might just check this one out!

  5. TomEats - yes it is good value at Ciao Bella, in particular the pizza and pasta. The vino less so although that might have to do with the vino I choose!

    Chiara - that Cassoulet nearly wiped me for the afternoon. A case of too much of a good thing!

    A-in-L - I can't believe that you've not been to BBR yet! And to think, we thought we were the last bloggers to go there!

    Catty - BBR was so good! Hope you enjoy Ciao Bella!

  6. I have fond memories of Ciao Bella. My best friend lives on that road, and it is their routine haunt for birthday and celebrations. It helps the owners know them by now, which means a bottle of limoncello usually makes an appearance at the end of the day. You're right - not fashionable, not the best Italian food in London, but a place where you'll always have some fun, comfort, and a nice welcome.

  7. I can vouch for the first two having been there while that food was served. The sausages in the cassoulet were particularly fine - they were sourced from the East London Sausage Co up in Walthamstow and so were as locally made as you could hope for. Ciao Bella sounds ace - sometimes it's those understated, unsung and unchanging eateries that really deliver, and deliver consistently. I must try it soon.

  8. Sharmila - ssshhh! Don't let the cat out of the bag about the limoncello!

    Gworm - I remember the landlord banging on about where he sourced the sausage and I'm glad one of us was paying attention! Ciao Bella is like an old pair of slippers, if you know what I mean!