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Cardinal Tea Room

18 Mar

Free time is somewhat of a luxury for my girlfriend and I. Now…admittedly it is pretty much by choice as we like to keep ourselves busy but regardless, when we have some – especially on a gorgeous weekend like the one we had relatively recently – I quickly enter into date mode. We need to take advantage of the opportunity – and I need to win some brownie points with the lady of course! Prior to being completely embarrassed by my performance on the skating rink down in the old port later that afternoon, I figured this was a great chance to go visit a place I had on my lists for a while now, the Cardinal Tea Room.

Somewhat secretly located on the second floor of the Sparrow bar on St-Laurent in Mile End, The Cardinal Tea Room is exactly that – a tea room in the typical British traditions, serving a variety of teas with sandwiches, pastry and salads to enjoy at the same time. Open from 11 to 7 only 4 days a week, it is not a place for a big hearty meal but for a nice relaxed light brunch, lunch or snack.

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First thing, this tea room is certainly a looker. A beautiful open two floor space anchored by a huge glass chandelier in the middle, the room is flooded with sunlights from the large windows to give it a warm and cozy feel. The key to the space though is the attention to detail and the inclusion of so much decoration to really give it that tea room feel. The jazzy music. The use of bookshelves, racquets, artwork, all the way down to the china and the handwritten painted signs. The entire space really feels like a proper British tea room without the kitsch. A lovely space to enjoy a lazy weekend.

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As we shared a tea kettle of Pai Mu Tan white tea, we decided to try a few items food wise. My girlfriend went for the open faced smoked trout sandwich. A generous portion of trout topped with some marinated onions and chives served over some cream cheese and some nice bread. A solid sandwich – light but still satisfying.

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On my end, I wanted something a little hearty so I went for the Ploughman’s lunch – a plate of cured meats, campagnard pate, sharp cheddar, a soft boiled egg, roasted beets, sliced apple and fruit chutney. Served with some bread, the plate was a nice mixture of items – individually solid but that really worked well together.

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Still feeling a little hungry and of course having a sweet tooth, we were also in the mood for some dessert. There is a daily Cardinal cake which in this instance was a ground poppy seed cake topped with some cream cheese icing. Texturally, we were surprised but the moist and smooth consistency. The icing was a little too sweet however.

We also tried the Eccles cake – essentially a puff pastry stuffed with currants and served (if so desired) with some sharp cheddar. I really enjoyed this one – the puff pastry was nice and flaky and the currants added a nice sweet bite to the dessert.

It took too long to visit Cardinal Tea Room but I’m really happy we did. A super nice and relaxed spot where I can definitely see visiting for a regular tea. I liked the options food wise and was definitely happy with the quality of items. Mile End continues to be one of my favourites areas in town and Cardinal Tea Room just reinforces that opinion. Now go enjoy some sunday tea!

Cheers!

Cardinal Tea Room
5326 Saint-Laurent
514 903 2877

Salon de Thé Cardinal Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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London 2015 – Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen

13 Apr

As a final treat in London prior to our departure back towards Montreal, we made a reservation at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen. Located in central London, Fifteen’s claim to fame is their “non-profit” status. All profits from the restaurant go to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. On top of that, the restaurant has an apprentice programme which provides challenged youth with training and mentorship in the food industry. A very cool and worthwhile project within a high-end restaurant.

Located on a weird, almost dead-end street that is very easy to miss, Fifteen is a beautiful space. The main floor has a nice bar and lounge space which was quite busy when we arrived for our reservation. Visually, I really loved the space – great use of the old brick walls subtly accented by dark wood counters, leather seats and metal tables. The low lighting, when mixed with the music and chatter from the bar/lounge area, created a cool speakeasy type vibe.

We were seated in the basement area right in front of the open kitchen – which was cool in order to observe the work being done over the course of the evening. The primary downside however was that the ambience that was present upstairs was less so by the kitchen – I was more aware of the wait staff and kitchen staff buzzing around us retrieving plates.

First we ordered a basket of their home-made sourdough with butter. I absolutely love sourdough bread so I couldn’t resist trying it. Nice crunch on the crust but still moist and fluffy on the inside. Had that classic sourdough taste as well. This was a great start of the meal for me.

On to the starters now, I went with the crispy pig’s cheek with slow cooked egg, goldrush apple and kimchi. I was rather intrigued by the combination of ingredients as listed on the menu and how they would mix together. The answer is perfectly. The crunch and fattiness of the pig’s cheek, the spiciness of the kimchi, the richness and creaminess of the egg and finally the sweetness of the apple all worked beautifully as a mixture of texture.

Our other starter was the house-cured salmon with parsley root, dill and pickled mustard seed. A very elegant dish compared to the strong notes of the previous starter. The star is clearly the salmon and all the other ingredients here act to enhance its inherent flavours. The dill was most notable although part of that to me is how well dill seems to pair with salmon – it seems to make that spice pop more so than others. Very nice dish.

My main of choice on this evening was the gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach and goat’s curd. Texture-wise, the gnocchi was very interesting – quite a bit more crunch on the exterior than I’ve typically gotten with gnocchi but thankfully they still kept their pillowy texture inside. The combination of the squash with the goat’s curd made for a rather creamy sauce to pair with it. The spinach was good but frankly didn’t feel all that necessary in the construction of the plate.

Our second main was the Hereford short rib with jerusalem artichoke and pickled walnut dressing. The short rib was heavenly – rich and fatty and fall-apart texture. The pureed artichokes were a nice contrast to the meat and the walnut dressing added some spiciness of the equation. Very enjoyable overall.

Looking at the dessert options next, we couldn’t say no to some of the options laid before us. First up was the hazelnut ice cream sandwich. Great smooth texture to the ice cream as well as a strong hazelnut flavour. Ideally I would have preferred true cookies to create a full sandwich you could grab but regardless, I did enjoy the crunch from the cookie “bites” here.

Our other dessert was organic chocolate mousse with blood orange and creme fraiche. A beautiful looking dessert and a delicious one at that. Great contrast between the tartness of the chocolate mousse, the acidity of the orange and the creaminess of the creme fraiche. A nice mixture of textures and flavours.

Fifteen was a wonderful experience to finish off our time in London. It’s great to see Jamie Oliver set up a restaurant in this non-profit fashion and still ensure that it has the look and feel of a high-end restaurant. The quality you would look for in a Jamie Oliver restaurant was still there and it’s great to know that my enjoyment of a great meal may help someone get future employment in the industry. A truly worthwhile cause to support.

Cheers!

Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen
15 Westland Pl
London, UK
(020) 3375 1515

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen on Urbanspoon

London 2015 – London House

31 Mar

Last month, I went on a quick vacation to the UK trying to cram as much as I physically could in 6 days abroad. Outside of visiting the usual sights, of course, I couldn’t help but try to experience some nice British cuisine while there. Personally, when I think of British chefs, I think Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. Blumenthal was completely out of range for this trip – both in location and cost – but frankly my dining partner (my sister) wanted nothing to do with the menu. However, we did find a way to enjoy cuisine from the other two during the trip. First up was our Gordon Ramsay’s experience – out in Battersea (Southwest London essentially) at London House.

I’ll admit that I hate Gordon Ramsay the TV personality – too blowhard and bombastic for me. None of his shows ever kept my interest. However I totally respect his cooking acumen and was curious to see what one of his higher end spots would provide. One of his more recent opening in London, London House is described as a “relaxed, cosy restaurant and bar offering Modern European cooking”. The space is definitely going for a more relaxed vibe – using leather banquettes, leather sofas, dim lighting and even a fireplace near the entrance. However, the cozy vibe was lacking due to the relatively empty space due to lack of patrons. Now I understand what we did go on a Thursday night but I still expected more of an ambience. As such, the room felt a little cold with staff moving around with little to do. Service was top notch throughout the night although given our waiter had only 2 tables to take care of while we were there, I would have been exceptionally surprised to experience the contrary.

Food-wise, the modern European statement fit the menu. Not your standard British fare to be sure. Many interesting combinations to try out. We went with two starters to get the night going. The first one was a wild mushroom ragout on toast with quail egg and tarragon mayonnaise. I really enjoyed this dish – the earthy mushroom mixed with the creamy rich quail egg worked really well with the tarragon as well. Wonderful execution across the entire plate and a beautiful presentation.

Our second starter was shaved cauliflower salad with asiago cheese beignets. I never thought I would enjoy a salad of shaved cauliflower but here we are. Very fresh and I liked how the sharpness of the asiago cheese worked well with the vegetables here. Very nice once again.

The themes of strong execution and presentation continued through to the mains. First up, we had the braised lentils with caramelized leeks and pumpkin. A subtle dish but one with great flavour. The caramelized leeks were to die for and I loved the roasted pumpkin. Personally I want more of a protein for a main but my sister really took to this one.

On my end, I went with the pork belly with apple puree, pancetta compote and sage. Great combination of fattiness, sweetness and saltiness. The crispy skin on the pork belly was simply beautiful – such an amazing crunch without feeling like you just bit into a rock. My only real lament here was that I simply wanted more belly on the plate. Everything else was wonderful.

Desserts were solid as well. I went for the spiced pecan steamed pudding with mulled pear puree. I really enjoyed the soft chewy pudding. The nutty flavour mixed well with the more fruity pear puree. The other dessert was the chocolate tart with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. While very skeptical of artichoke ice cream, I was quite impressed by it – it actually worked here! The tart was dark chocolate at its finest – tart in flavour but beautifully smooth in texture.

London House was a great experience in culinary technique – pretty much exactly what I had expected from a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. The food was enjoyable from end to end. My only disappointment was the overall vibe of the setting which, I’m guessing, had more to do with the night we went than everything else. For a chef who appears to pride himself on execution, it’s nice to know that Gordon can still set up a restaurant in that image. A spot worthy for my quick trip.

Cheers!

London House
9 Battersea Sq
Greater London, UK
(020) 7592 8545

London House on Urbanspoon

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