Thursday 17 December 2009

Off The Blog

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been lucky enough to eat out a lot (and I mean a lot) - in theory this means loads of posts. However with Christmas looming, I have precious little time to actually write them. So with the exception of my review of Red 'N' Hot, you'll have to wait until the New Year for tales of my festive dining.

In the meantime, here's another one I made earlier – a round-up of three great restaurants that I enjoyed 'off the blog'. I don't post about every restaurant I visit as blogging can be hard work and sometimes I just want to relax. Then there are those meals when it isn't really appropriate to blog ! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I really liked these places even though I didn't give them the full blog treatment.

Like English footballers with natural flair, high-end contemporary Portuguese restaurants in London aren't all that common. To stretch this painful analogy further, Portal on St John St is the 'Joe Cole' of Portuguese restaurants and it certainly deserves more acclaim. This classy and understated Clerkenwell restaurant really shines with a beautiful conservatory and warm efficient service.

The food is excellent too and I enjoyed my three courses of fish soup, suckling pig with pumpkin galette and the poshest pasteis de nata ever. Around the table, others enjoyed the grilled venison with chestnut & mushroom ravioli and the braised bisaro with sweet potato mash.

Portal on Urbanspoon

grilled quail, photo courtesy of The Catty Life

If Portal is one of London's hidden gems, the same can't be said about Roka on Charlotte St. No one seems to have a bad word to say about this modern Japanese restaurant and it largely lives up to the hype. The restaurant sells itself on dishes from its open robata grill but the sushi and sashimi are also exceptional.

If you can, go for one of the tasting menus – highlights include wagyu sushi, grilled scallop skewers, grilled quail (pictured – thanks Catty) and their giant dessert platter. It's not cheap but I struggle to find much wrong with this buzzy restaurant and I'm usually very suspicious of over-stylised Asian places. In short, one of the best places I've eaten at since I started blogging.

Roka on Urbanspoon

In contrast to Roka and Portal, Camino is an everyday kind of place which won't break the bank. It's easily the best bar in the King's Cross area (not hard I know) and its location in the Regent Quarter development will take you far away from the grimy streets of the Cross.

The food is above par too - you can either order tapas at the bar or dine in the restaurant where they serve an excellent value set lunch (£15 for 3 courses). But what I really like about this place is its cracking selection of affordable Spanish wine (especially the red). Oh and they have 'proper' table footy where you can re-enact Barcelona v Real Madrid.

Camino on Urbanspoon


  1. Portal is yet ANOTHER great restaurant on St John St.. is that just a culinary laneway or what? I am booked into go to both Eastside Inn and St John Restaurant in January '10 and maybe I should add Portal to my list :)

  2. Catty - You're right St John St and the area round Farringdon station in general is great for foodies! Portal is also a bar so perhaps you could have some drinks before you head off to St John or Eastside Inn.

  3. Good recommendation - I live just by Clerkenwell, and being Brazilian I love Portuguese cuisine. Thanks.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  4. I have always wondered about Portal but got tempted by St Johns, Vinoteca or EastSide Inn instead. I agree that Roka is a brilliant restaurant.

  5. LE & GC - I'd be interested in what you think about Portal !