We first visited the Artichoke restaurant in Amersham a year ago, when we were struck by the very high quality of the cuisine and service. On something of a whim, we decided this half-term that it was high time to try it out again. In particular, we had heard that the Artichoke had recently expanded its premises into the adjacent building, and we were keen to see how this had changed the restaurant.
The Artichoke’s website offers three dining areas within the newly expanded restaurant: The Kitchen Dining Room with views of the restaurant’s kitchen, the Garden Dining Room with a kitchen garden theme and a Wine Room, upstairs. Having recently been engaged by recent Masterchef and Great British Menu TV series, we were keen to see the chefs at work, and requested a table in the Kitchen Dining Room.
On entering the Artichoke, you’re immediately aware that you’re not in any old restaurant. The service is elegant while being extremely slick. To our delight we’d be given the table right in front of the kitchen area, so prime views of the chefs were on hand. Within moments the chef himself arrived and greeted us personally – a lovely additional touch.
The recent absence of blogposts might have been making you think that married life has put an end to our usual weekend trips out and pub exploration. Not so. In fact we’ve no less than three recent discoveries to bring you.
The Swan, Ley Hill, nr Chesham
This pub was recommended a few months ago. We decided to pop over there on the August Bank Holiday, not realising that it’s a time when many villages and towns hold special events. Ley Hill was no exception, with live music and stalls set out around the Swan as part of the Ley Hill Festival 2010. Fortunately we decided to call ahead, so did have a table secured, although were completely bemused by the level of activity greeting us on arrival! Despite being so busy there was good food and service to be had.
It’s been quiet on the blog recently but we’ve been continuing to make some great local culinary discoveries.
Few restaurants in the area so regularly feature in top food guides as the Artichoke in Amersham. Being closed on Sundays, we booked in for Saturday lunch a few weekends ago. It quickly becomes apparent that this is the home of fine dining; the service is top notch from the moment you walk in while the menu exudes quality. It’s priced accordingly without being prohibitively expensive. Definitely worth a visit for a special occasion.
Another weekend took us again over the border to Buckinghamshire; this time to Chesham on the Metropolitan Line. Curiously, Chesham is the largest town on the Amersham branch of the Met Line, however the path of history has meant that rather than a mainline stop is it an infrequently served station at the end of a single line spur of track from Chalfont & Latimer. Despite the relative inconvenience of reaching this farthest flung outpost of the tube network, our visit revealed some surprises. Chesham’s high street isn’t bad, but it’s the old town which is the biggest highlight. Based on recommendations we tried out the Queens Head, famed around these parts for its Thai food. It lived up to the reputation and was a fine old pub with it. Round the corner there’s also a Chess River walk to be had.
Opposite Rickmansworth Station resides the Long Island Exchange Hotel & Bar. Originally the Victoria Hotel, built in 1860, it grew with the railway and the businesses moving into the area, and has been Long Island since 1984 (going by the information on the menu at least).
Although just across the road from the station we have in the months we’ve lived in Ricky never felt inclined to visit Long Island. There are a few reasons for this. First, the exterior is white, drab and looks a touch run down. Compared with the many other restaurants and hostelries in town it didn’t really stand out and sell itself. Second, we were all too aware of its status as bar & club, which can be particularly noisy and raucous on Friday and Saturday nights. Although we hadn’t given it much thought, we’d assumed there was the hotel, the bar, and that was about it.
While down for the weekend, my parents decided to stay at hotel element of Long Island, being the nearest and only central Ricky accommodation we’re aware of. The website doesn’t look bad and the prices are reasonable. I visited them there one evening and was taken aback to discover a large, modern and rather pleasant restaurant area. Doubling up as the breakfast area for the hotel, the restaurant is open from midday until 10pm. The layout is modern, with a mix of wooden chairs and comfortable semi-circular padded seats. If anything, it’s a little reminiscent of some coffee houses.
Hatch End high street is a funny yet appealing place, containing as it does a preponderance of home furnishing stores and restaurants. Following an arduous day of sales shopping it was time to try out one of the many eating options on offer. Having already tried Hatchetts (intrigingly 70’s appearance and clientele) and ASK (good service and surrounds from this chain) it was time to try another option.
We decided upon Delisserie, a spot we’d already marked out due to its breakfast and lunch offerings, although on this occasion it was an evening meal we were in much need of. The menu is a largely meat-based affair with central European influences. Dishes range from steaks and burgers to salted beef and Hungarian goulash to substantial deli sandwiches. The speciality is the salt beef, which although new to us is, as I understand it, broadly similar to jerk or corned beef, albeit prepared in a different way.
A month ago we visited Haché in Camden to try out what was rated as the best burgers in London by TimeOut. Although a reasonable experience we left unconvinced by the claim. Today, finding ourselves again in Camden we decided to give Haché a try to see if it faired any better than in November.
It was mid-afternoon and busy, if not quite full, however the irregularity of the appearance of staff made it feel rather busier than it should have. Indeed once again the food proved passable but the service noticably below par. We both opted for the special Christmas Burger, comprising turkey, stuffing, rocket and onions with the option of cranberry and / or bread sauce, and we plumped for chunky chips on the side.
“Always keep your hook in the water: where you least expect one, the fish will be found” (Ovid)
Thus it was that we discovered Fishworks Seafood Cafe last night on Marylebone High Street. The front section of Fishworks, in the manner of its Roman ancestor, is dedicated to the sale of fresh fish and shellfish. The aroma is almost opaque. You could spread it on toast. I’ve walked past here many a time without even realising that one can eat here. A small, unassuming white-lettered sign says ‘Seafood Cafe Open’ on the glass behind the fishmonger. The glass itself slides open to allow the freshness of the fish to be demonstrated to diners before they select it from the menu.
We were seated (“You can have it for two hours”) fairly near to the fishier bit of the establishment, but our fears that the smell of the fishmonger’s would hang over us like the Great Stink of 1858 were happily just about unfounded. Continue reading →
Who says advertising doesn’t work? While reviewing the Time Out London website for what’s on suggestions for the weekend my attention was drawn by a review of the best burgers in London. Having browsed the reviews and lazily opted for the higher scoring options we chose to settle for the most conveniently located option, Hache, round the corner from Camden Town tube. This choice was aided not least by a extremely tempting product photo: