Cassis opens

Saturday, December 25th , 2010

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Cassis is a sister restaurant to The Greenhouse and Umu, serving food from the south west of France. I didn’t have any particular expectations, so I was all the more pleased to eat some really superb, simple but hearty food. The chef here worked for years at three star Lameloise, and can really cook, as can his pastry chef. Star dishes included some little crab mayonnaise mimosas as nibbles, excellent roast chicken and fine orange and Grand Marnier soufflé. As a bonus the service was spot-on and the breads excellent. It is not cheap, but the ingredient quality is high by London standards.

This being the last week before Christmas, It felt right to return to two of my favourite restaurants in London, Cambio de Tercio and Zafferano. Cambio has for several years now been serving the best Spanish food in London, and the relaxed atmosphere is reminiscent of Spain. Owner Abel Lusa is an excellent host, and the wine list here is a delight, from an excellent selection of sherries to both well- known and less explored corners of Spain. Cambio has a wide repertoire of dishes, and the best ones this week were a superb silky soft salt cod with lovely flavour, and a dish of bomba rice with cheese and sea urchin, while the kitchen also showed it could do nice presentation with a prettily laid out sardine dish (pictured).

Zafferano, which in places looks like it needs a lick of paint, continues to churn out ultra-reliable Italian dishes using high quality ingredients, many of them imported every week from Italy. Italian dishes are so often simple and so depend on fresh and high-grade ingredients, but few Italian restaurants in London take the trouble that Zafferano does to seek these out.  An example this week was in the lovely wild mushrooms with the bruschetta. Enzo Cassini heads up one of the slickest and friendliest front of house teams in the capital, and almost the only criticism is that the wine lists now features pretty high mark-ups, which is a pity. I have been coming here on a roughly monthly basis since soon after it opened, meaning that I have been here over a hundred times. I have yet to become bored of it.

For those interested, I do an occasional (free) email newsletter, and the latest one lists, amongst other things, my 26 3 star meals of 2010 in order of preference. If you are interested then please subscribe to this via the home page of my website.

A few months ago I started linking my reviews back to the listings site Urbanspoon (the one with the cool iPhone app where you shake the phone and get a “one armed bandit” interface with a restaurant choice). I am pleased to note that I am now the #1 ranked restaurant reviewer on Urbanspoon – what fine taste these people clearly have. 

I had a brief interview on Sky News a few days ago, talking about (of all things) how much of our Christmas food is imported, and discussing how we could do more to support local producers and independent food and shops. The extreme case was that Asda last year imported turkeys from Brazil because they were cheaper – I never knew that turkeys could fly.

A very happy Christmas to everyone.