Review: Balans Soho Society, Seven Dials, London

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Out Of Office Magazine visits the newly opened Balans Soho Society café at Seven Dials

This recently opened venue on Monmouth Street is the sixth location in the Balans family and modelled on the Soho café style. It’s simple, sleek, bistro style is clean and cosy – much like our seat specially reserved for us in the corner of the restaurant.

Also like our visit to the Kensington restaurant, the staff were friendly, attentive and well-informed about the variety of food and drink on offer. We also learnt that, like the Kensington restaurant, a staff member had left for an adventure and landed back at Balans a few years later – it seems they are a good employer with employees only enthusiastic to return.

We started with the seared scallops – perfectly cooked but a small portion that left you wanting a little more – plus the lamb pastilla, which was filling and tender. For our mains, we opted for the 10 oz sirloin steak cooked medium rare and the Cornish crab linguine that certainly didn’t skimp on the chilli!

Too full for dessert we stayed for another glass of malbec and merlot, happy in our surroundings. While we relaxed, a waiter dropped a full tray of glasses but the staff took it in their stride with a smile. (Very unlucky considering they had just opened!)

What? A great addition to the Balans Soho Society collection. Close to Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Leicester Square.

Why choose Balans? Nice for for a planned brunch, lunch or dinner out, or a spur of the moment occasion. The menu is varied with international influences and changes regularly.

Cost: ££

32-34 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9HA

020 7836 2982

www.balans.co.uk

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Review: Ibérica, Manchester

Ibérica Spinningfields, Manchester

Out Of Office Magazine visits Ibérica, a Spanish metropolis in Manchester’s Spinningfields

Who doesn’t like tapas? A small selection of tasty plates accompanied by great wine (or cocktails) enables you to try a great variety of dishes. And, if the restaurant is happy to take you on guided tour through their best cuisine – as our fantastic waitress at Ibérica was – it gives you all the more time to enjoy chatting with your guests.

We certainly felt safe in our waitress’ care as she brought us a selection of the restaurants’ top dishes. Our Ibérica journey started modestly with manzanilla olives and toasted bread with tomato washed down with a gin cocktail. The croquettes, mini secreto pork loin burgers, chorizo lollipops and Galician octopus were all delicious. The red berry gazpacho provided a palette cleanse but not much else.

All of us were in agreement that the pluma Iberian pork loin was the main event – the meat had a sweet nuttiness, was delicate and so tender it barely needed chewing. (My guests were carnivores but there are a reasonable number of options for vegetarians too.)

On to dessert and after grazing at a leisurely pace (which is great to combat over eating) we actually felt rather full. So, we opted for a liquid treat in the form of the Happy Ending, which consisted of Amaretto, midori, cream and cinnamon.

Where? Ibérica is centrally located; walking it’s around eight minutes from Salford Central and 16 from Manchester Victoria. The area, Spinningfields, is between Deansgate and the River Irwell, and was developed in the late 2000s – Iberica itself opened in 2015.

One of my guests went to Manchester Metropolitan University and was pleasantly surprised by how “fresh and new” the area looked, and by how much it had changed since she studied there years ago.

Ambience? Ibérica’s decor is in keeping with the crisp feel of its location. Leather seats, shutters, tiles, high ceilings and claret tassels give it a Spanish feel with a modern edge.

Should we go? Yes. We would certainly recommend trying it and taking a good few guests along to justify ordering more dishes!

Cost: ££

The Avenue, Manchester, M3 3HF
0161 358 1350
http://www.ibericarestaurants.com

Review: Del’Aziz, Bermondsey

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Out Of Office reviews Del’Aziz, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant located in Bermondsey Square 

We were invited to sample Del’Aziz, located between Bermondsey and Southwark stations, following a refurbishment. The décor is stylishly Mediterranean, with plenty of Turkish-style lanterns, leather seats and wooden furniture.

We were surprised to find the restaurant, deli and bar so quiet on a Saturday evening but it is a large establishment to fill, plus it meant our waiter was extra attentive. Each branch of Del’Aziz also hosts belly dancing, live jazz and world music on a weekly basis (check the calendar), with these events attracting a good number of attendees.

On to the food… We started off with a vegetarian mezze platter featuring all the Med favourites like hummus, tzatziki and dolma. For the mains, we opted for the sea bass and the  lobster feast (£20 deal: whole lobster, or half with BBQ ribs, harissa wings, grilled chicken or gambas). For dessert we sampled a cake from the deli.

The highlight of the meal was certainly the starter – there is a lot on offer here, which is great for those not keen on Med food but we think it’s what they do best.

What? A Mediterranean bar and restaurant in a number of locations, including Bermondsey, Swiss Cottage and Clapham.

Why choose Del’Aziz? We’d recommend booking an entertainment night, ordering cocktails and mezze, and bringing your staff along for a end of quarter party. Also good for leisurely drinks and informal birthday celebrations.

Cost: ££

11 Bermondsey Square, London, SE1 3UN
020 7407 2991 / bermondsey@delaziz.co.uk
www.delaziz.co.uk

Review: Counter Vauxhall Arches

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Out Of Office reviews Counter an all day bar and brasserie serving French and American inspired dishes

Seconds from Vauxhall Station tucked under the railways arches is Counter, a modern brasserie serving an interesting mix of French and American style plates, from starters such as mac and cheese balls and pâté de campagne, to mains like Parisian gnocchi with oxtail and the Counter burger.

We opted for the mac and cheese balls and the tostada with stone bass fillet and avocado, followed by the halibut and hanger steak; everything was deliciously cooked and well seasoned. The menu proves the chefs are not afraid to use a host of different flavours and ingredients from around the globe.

To finish our meal we shared the cheese board with a full bodied glass of red each, recommended by our waiter.

There are three vegetarian options on the menu, but don’t be afraid to ask the staff to make a change for you – they all seem very happy to help.

Housed in a 200-foot long railway arch, the building is quite… airy – so our only caution would be to bring along a jumper in the winter as it can get rather chilly!

What? An independent restaurant serving  flavoursome food, a wide selections of wine and cocktails. They also have cabaret shows here if you’re looking to treat clients or staff to something a bit different.

Why choose Counter? Those who appreciate architecture and good food will feel at home here. To try a bit of everything (meat eaters) select the sharing menu for four for £120, complete with a bottle of Malbec.

Cost: ££

Arch 50, 7-11 South Lambeth Place, London SW8 1SP
020 3693 9600
www.counterrestaurants.com

 

Review: Turntable, Chancery Lane, London

Out Of Office Magazine visits Turntable, a new bar and restaurant serving South East Asian food to the sound of soul in London

Minutes away from busy Chancery Lane is Turntable, a brand new bar and restaurant that has just opened its doors offering something different and fresh, with smooth musical nostalgia.

Entering the new location, we were taken by the sleek, black and modern décor and greeted by friendly cocktail masters with flair. Bottles were flying and in minutes we sipped our first drinks: Smooth Criminal, with Malibu, avocado and pineapple, and a Jungle Boogie, similar to a mojito with a fruity twist.

After our boozy indulgence we made our way downstairs for dinner. The downstairs is for eating, drinking and… dancing. As its namesake hints, the music is big part of the atmosphere and the DJs spin nothing but vinyl. There is also an arty display of old vinyls throughout the venue.

While chilled soul, funk and hip-hop played we were treated to an assault of flavours, chased down with Vidal Sauvignon Blanc and Septima Malbec. Our highlights had to be the Crab Fried Rice, Chicken Laska Lemak and Beef Rendang. The chocolate brownie (and a few more cocktails) rounded the night off perfectly.

What? This is a fresh bar and kitchen launched by newcomers to the restaurant trade. Born from a love of food, cocktails and music, Turntable went from dream to reality in just eight weeks. The Chancery Lane/Farringdon area has something new.

Why choose Turntable? Turntable has a welcoming atmosphere, tasty food and the crackle of a good vinyl – which, unfortunately is often very hard to find ‘these days’.

Cost: ££

7-9 Norwich Street EC4A 1EJ

020 7112 9179

www.turntable.london