Favourite Forks: Tiny-but-Mighty Thai to Dabbous’s Brilliant Barnyard

3 April, 2014

All Eyes on Jane Tira

After a favourable review by Tom Parker Bowles in the Mail on Sunday, I went to check out Jane Tira, a tiny Thai restaurant on Brewer Street.

No stranger to spice, I asked for my dishes to be Thai-hot and ended up sweating! Everything was very authentic – the hot, salty and sour Larb, a traditional mince meat and salad dish from Laos, was just as I like it, and the Thai squid with deep-fried garlic chips were, crisp and light a real delight.

Sadly, the spicy mackerel curry that Tom Parker Bowles describes as ‘dark, muddy and mildly menacing’ was unavailable – so I look forward the challenge on my next visit.

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Ollie Dabbous’s new and extremely enjoyable casual-dining venture, Barnyard

Barnyard Brilliance

Following the growing trend for Michelin chefs to move into the casual-dining market, Ollie Dabbous has opened Barnyard, a beautiful agriculturally inspired restaurant (as the name intimates) in the middle of Charlotte Street.

Modern British with traditional American influences, standouts included their lovely and meaty sausage roll with piccalilli and beef mince and dumplings.

This subtle fusion seems to work well – from Bubble and Squeak to crispy chicken wings and warm cornbread – and their beer cocktails are ones to watch. What could be better than enjoying a Hedgerow Shandy with pink grapefruit, tonic, sloe gin and Wyld Wood cider on a spring day?

Ape & Bird’s bustling floor in Covent Garden. Image: Jenny Zarins

Very Bests: Sunday Lunch and Tuna Tartare

I think a good roast dinner is one of the hardest things for a restaurant kitchen to get right, and at Ape & Bird, it was textbook.

Starting with a plump prawn cocktail and moving on to roast beef with all the trimmings, then rice pudding with rhubarb compote – this was comfort food at its finest.

I also enjoyed the best tuna tartare I have ever had the pleasure of consuming at The Arts Club the other week: tuna cut in a large dice-shape, sitting atop of a spicy avocado purée, dressed with soy and wasabi and served super-chilled. Like The Arts Club itself, it was a very classy act.

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Spectacular tuna tartare at The Arts Club, Mayfair

Birthday Bites

I celebrated my birthday last week with dinner at Jacob Kennedy’s Bocca di Lupo on Archer Street, and feasted on green olives stuffed with veal, pork, bread-crumbed & deep-fried, and rabbit slow-braised with tomato and chilli.

We also welcomed to our table some trofie, one of my favourite pasta dishes and one that heralds the start of spring; it’s a classic Genovese pasta dish with green beans, potatoes and pesto.

We finished with the most unique Pecorino from Fattoria Corzano e Paterno. Produced all year in Tuscany, it is made at a low temperature to keep the aroma and distinct taste of fresh milk, and at Bocca di Lupo is served with fennel, grapes and honey. An apparent favourite of the Swedish Royal family, Bocca di Lupo is the only restaurant to sell it in the UK.

For a belated birthday dinner, a small group of us also headed to my favourite restaurant in London, Barrafina, and enjoyed some of my favourites: ham croquettas and gem salad, and daily specials including oxtails in a red-wine sauce as well as some spectacular deep-fried anchovies that simply sang when paired with some Albariño wine.

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