Wednesday, 22 December 2010

SW London goes global

The latest in my series of SW London restuarant mini-reviews for the lovely people at Heaver Magazine - took the ol' hood global with a whistle-stop culinery tour through Korean, Italian, Japanese, French and Argentinian (Entrée (French), Bistro Delicat (Austrian), Lola Roja (Spanish) and Doukan (Moroccan) are other notiable entries that missed out on the global stage as they'd already been reviewed).

Manson (SW6)
The owners of secret-gem gastropub The Sands End have upped their game to a fully-fledge restaurant in Manson, bringing in ex-Ramsay protégé chef Gemma Tuley to give a very un-pubby gastro French flair to their brassiere-style offering. Knowledgeable young things explain the menu peppered with ‘my favourite’ and appetite-whetting descriptions of the more inventive twists on classics sitting t alongside the untwist-ables such as oysters, terrine and lobster thermidor with truffle mash (don’t leave until you’ve tried it). But it’s the sharp presentation and interesting execution which lifts Manson head and shoulders above your average local restaurant and that will make it a classic.

676 Fulham Road
Parsons Green
020 7384 9559

Red Monkey Lounge (SW11)
Past the burly Friday-night bouncer and through the dimly-lit, packed bar isn’t where you expect to find fine sushi but find you shall, with an Asian-infused cocktail in hand. The menu is tapas-style and with a kitchen headed up by ex-Sake No Hana chef Pawal Wiktorek, these are no average bar snacks. Platters (kushiyaki, katsu or tempura) offer an easy introduction, with the grilled ‘kushiyaki’ selection including buttery belly pork, marinated just-done beef and a multitude of marinated veg. Sushi is super-fresh, while tuna katsu and spice ika (deep-fried strips of squid) are battered with the lightest of hands. Plus with three karaoke ‘pods’ downstairs, you can even sing for your supper.

Just a couple of tempting snaps (it was very dark and I, um, kept on diving in before I snapped... well I did say they were tempting - spider maki and the lightest tuna katsu)

Red Monkey Lounge
50-52 Battersea Rise
SW11 1EG
020 7924 6288

Franco Manca (SW9)
All the accolades heaped upon Brixton pizzeria Franco Manca don’t weigh heavy on their produce – the sourdough bases are feather-light, while meticulously-sourced toppings are more-ishly minimal. With only six pizzas and two wines to choose from on the menu, it won’t be long until your choice is out of the wood-fired ovens specially imported from Naples and in front of you. Only open when the market is (which roughly equates to Monday to Saturday lunchtimes) the queue is almost as famous as the food, but if you’re not one for queuing (or lunchtimes) the recently opened Chiswick addition is an authentic export with an added reservations line.

Franco Manca
4 Market Row
Electric Lane
020 7738 3021

Santa Maria del Sur (SW8) - you know how much I love this one!
Argentina is generally known for two things: Evita and steak. Focusing on the latter (sorry Madge) has seen Santa Maria’s steady rise to South London fame and a recent appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word. You don’t come here for anything but steak, starters are nothing sensational (grilled cheese, chorizo, Serrano ham), but the steaks, oh the steaks – from 8oz to a pound of fillet, sirloin, rib-eye or rump – are served plain and simple (you can order sauces but that would be defying the point). The wine list, like the beef, is born and raised Argentinean and equally juicy and delicious. Argentina will be crying that this one got away.

Santa Maria del Sur
129 Queenstown Road
020 7622 2088

Cah Chi (SW18)
Korean food might not get the top-billing of its Chinese and Japanese neighbours, but Cah Chi is no bit part. The star of the SW London Korean scene at their New Malden branch, the Earlsfield incarnation loses some of the more unusual dishes but excels in the crowd-pleasing barbecued fare. But don’t dive straight for your hot plate: glistening translucent dumplings and spicy stir-fries whet your appetite nicely before the table-top barbecue is revealed and your choice of meat sizzled then wrapped in a lettuce leaf with spring onions and Korean ‘miso’ called chang. With green-tea cheesecake and sake to round things off, plus a BYO on wine, Cah Chi is sure to come to play a regular role.

On our visit we opted for the set menu - hit me:

Our 'amuse bouche': fried soya beans, various (slightly mystery) pickled veg and a very-mash-potato-like potato salad... not a highlight, but there was plenty more to come.

Miso soup and more salad, we're getting warmer...

Now this was more like it and they were coming down thick and fast: vegetable stir fried noodles...

Delicately shiny pork dumplings...

And hot hot hot squid stir fry... yum.

But this is what it's all about: the barbeque. Over came the waitress, the middle of our table taken out, hot plate lit and we watched on tender hooks as she deftly chopsticked the sizzling pork (it was near as damnit bacon, mmm) until it was crispily perfect.

Then to add a 'healthy' element the bac...uhum.. pork was wrapped in a little lettace leaf 'pancake' with shredded spring onions and kang (miso-like) sauce... refreshingly delicious.

Now I don't normally opt for desserts in Asian restaurants a) because I'm normally so stuffed and b) I have, shall we say, a few bad experiences. But green tea cheesecake? My favourite dessert on a health kick? How could I resist. And I was pleasantly surprised... especially when washed down with sake and sticky sweet plum wine.

Cah Chi
394 Garratt Lane
SW18 4HP
020 8946 8811

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