From Covent Garden to Henley
Saturday, August 26th , 2017
Clipstone in Fitzrovia is the younger sister of Portland and Quality Chop House. It is a casually decorated place with an open kitchen, and has a menu that felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be achingly fashionable, with dishes such as sardine and squid ink tempura with dill emulsion and fermented hispi cabbage. This dish was decent, but there were worrying technical problems elsewhere. A chicken dish was burnt so much as to be inedible, a pasta dish was heavily over-salted, and desserts were an afterthought. There was some very good bread, but that was actually the best thing that I tasted here.
Sibarita (pictured) is the second restaurant of young chef/owner Victor Garvey, who was brought up in Barcelona and has worked at some very serious restaurants over the years. This is a simple tapas bar, serving charcuterie, cheese and dishes dishes such as spinach croquettas, which were unusually good. Paella was hearty and enjoyable, and the wine list well thought out. This is a very enjoyable place to relax and eat a plate of fine pata negra and drink a glass of good Rioja wine.
Abeno is one of the very few restaurants in London serving okonomiyaki, the Japanese savoury pancake that is popular in Kansai and also Hiroshima. The pancakes are grilled in front of you on a steel hotplate, mixed in with cabbage and a choice of other toppings, and finished with a barbecue style sauce. This is fun to watch and very enjoyable, and although I have certainly eaten better versions in Japan, Abeno does an entirely competent job of cooking these simple but tasty dishes.
Out in the countryside near Henley is The Bottle and Glass. This is an old boozer recently taken over by a pair of managers that previously worked at The Harwood Arms, and is now spruced up. With a former sous chef from The nearby Royal Oak in charge of the kitchen, the menu was short but quite appealing. Venison haunch came with beetroot and pickled mustard seeds, and was typical of the kind of hearty offering here, though the menu had some touches that seemed too cheffy for this country pub setting. Millionaire shortbread was an enjoyably rich dessert, and the service operation was well drilled.