When I was first invited to visit the Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, I raised an eyebrow. Wasn’t this the place that featured in the TV series “The Hotel”? For those who haven’t seen it, that place was a shambles, a real-life Faulty Towers filled with endearing levels of chaos and calamity. I quickly did a Google to check; yep, it’s the same place. But wait, I see on the website a familiar name, John Burton-Race. He is a culinary big-hitter having achieved two Michelin stars at The Landmark Hotel and I loved his TV series French Leave. Surely he wouldn’t be involved in this (for want of a better word) crappy hotel? Read More
Yes, it’s juvenile I know, but the name Balls and Company has always made me snigger. Sorry. And actually, the name is entirely appropriate since this little restaurant does specialise in balls; meatballs to be exact. Balls in all manner of meats and flavourings topped with your favoured sauce. With the phenomenal popularity of the bottomless brunch spreading across the country, Balls and Co have decided to go one better by offering a bottomless lunch; just £15 including all the sangria you can handle. Of course I definitely had to go check this out!
We started with Churro Bites, filled with parmesan and served with a labne and thyme honey dip. Beautifully light mouthfuls with punches of parmesan contrasted with the sweetness of that honey. Definitely one to share though; the portion was huge and rather rich. The sangria was a welcome refreshment and the whole experience instantly transported me to sunny Spain.
Now on to the main event. The balls. We chose the Short Rib with Bechamel and the Pork with Romesco. The beef was a triumph; everything you could want from a carefully stewed piece of meat; rich, succulent and hearty. The pork was also good – it couldn’t match the greatness of the beef but good all the same. However, it was the Romesco sauce that was the clincher for that dish. Just the right amount of pepper and sweetness coming through to compliment the more delicate pork. As a side we had crisp polenta chips which were packed with rosemary and served with an unapologetically garlic aioli – absolutely delicious. Our second side was charred courgette with tea-soaked raisins, pinenuts and ricotta. So good! This was almost my favourite part of the meal. Crisp with that subtle smoky char complemented by the sweet raisins, fresh herbs and soft, smooth ricotta. And yes, another sangria went down the hatch, just in case you were wondering.
To finish came two beautiful desserts. A gorgeous soft, warm, brownie packed with nuts and served with creamy ice cream and a little Rod Stewart wig of Persian candy floss. That’s three of my favourite childhood desserts together in one very well-executed dish. Then there was the pavlova with its melt-in-the-mouth meringue, soft cream and delicious berries. A classic done very well indeed. (And, yes, one more sangria gone)…
Over all, the food at Balls and Company is exceptional. It’s a fantastic place to go if you fancy sharing food with friends on a weekend. Endless sangria – more than is good for you – also helps. The menu is a little confusing though so we asked the waiter to order for us (just in case we ballsed it up). But once you’re sorted and comfy you are in for a real treat.
Balls and Company
58 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 3DY
My, my, how King’s Cross has changed in recent years. No longer is it a
bleak, grey revolving door to and from London but is now a celebration of
colour, design and right at the cutting edge. With these swift changes have
come a whole host of delicious restaurants from Dishoom to Caravan. The very
latest contender is Kimchee, a Korean Restaurant. Will people be queuing for
this Korean or will it be a stinker like its namesake? (Kimchee is high
odour fermented veg).
Franco Manca is a gift of a pizzeria that keeps on giving. Despite the fact that this pizza chain aspires to achieve UK domination, with almost 40 sites planned, I’m pleased to report that standards are still very high and prices very low!
We started with some delicious antipasti; burrata pugliese and garlic bread were particular highlights. Cream-infused mozzarella is always going to be a winner for me, with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of crunchy salt. Simplicity at its finest. The garlic bread was generously smothered, unapologetically, with roasted garlic – and just the way it should be too!
Pizza, pizza, pizza! I chose the daily special of mozzarella, San Marzano tomato base, Gloucester Old Spot ham, Kalamata olives and watercress. Now Franco Manca is famous for its sourdough bases and there’s good reason for it -it’s simply bloody great. The pizzas go into a 500c wood-fired oven for only 55 seconds to cook, crisp-up and get that ever-so-delicious slight smoky char. The flavours didn’t disappoint; cracking tomato sauce with juicy ham, deep flavoured salty olives and peppery, crisp watercress. They are even offering to make your pizza on a heart base as a special Valentine treat! Pizza as good as this is love after all.
One of the best things about Franco Manca is the price; from £5 up to £7.50 for a proper good pizza. This is a real one in the eye for the takeaway rip-off merchants who tout their decidedly average wares for £15+. It’s truly refreshing to see a quality restaurant offering a simple but excellent menu at really reasonable prices. Bravo Franco Manca, bravo.
When I went to Edinburgh Uni I fell in love with the great chieftain o’ the pudding race. On hearing that Mac and Wild have opened a new restaurant near Liverpool Street I had to go check it out, the chieftain commanded it. As you may have guessed, Mac and Wild specialise in Scottish fare and if you are into whisky, this new offering has a specialist whisky bar too. I’m not there on the whisky just yet, a bit too burny for my taste but I’m all about the Scottish food, and no, it’s not just deep-fried Mars bars.
Of course the first thing we ordered were the haggis pops, little deep fried balls of lightly spiced haggis served with a rich whiskey sauce – probably the most stereotypical Scottish food imaginable and an absolutely cracking start to the meal. The venison terrine was next up, soft sumptuous meat scattered with crunchy pistachios, perfect for spreading over bread and smothering with chutney.
Mac and Wild boast that all of their venison is wild, and as a great believer in well sourced ingredients taking food to the next level, the offering of a venison chateaubriand was pretty irresistible. The waiter came over and informed us that the meat needed 10 minutes of resting which only gave me even greater expectations for the dish, being well sourced and well treated. My god it was tender, like butter. No steak knives needed here! A real treat to share for those of us who are proper carnivores. With the venison came some of the best mash I have ever eaten. Technically, I’m not sure it could be called mash because of the amount of delicious, delicious butter it was combined with..mmm! Haggis mac n’ cheese was also a winner, of course it was. Cheesy mac, lightly spiced haggis with a crispy breadcrumb topping. The winter slaw provided crunchy light relief and balance between mouthfuls.
If that wasn’t enough to get you itching to go, this will. The Burger of the Year 2016 award goes to Mac and Wild for the veni-moo burger. Beef patty, venison patty, cheese, béarnaise & caramelised onions with candied bacon. Bloody hell it was fantastic! Please go and try it, it’s only a tenner and will make your life better.
Overall, you have to go and check this place out. Starters average about £6 and mains range from £10 for the burger to £12/100g for the chateaubriand, so it caters to all budgets. Go eat that burger!!!!!