Review: Balans Soho Society, Seven Dials, London

7dials_int_3

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: Gaucho Piccadilly

Gaucho
Out Of Office reviews Gaucho Piccadilly – one of London’s best steak restaurants for any occasion

Walking into Gaucho, it’s dark, sleek, chic and stylish. You’re greeted by friendly and professional receptionists, and as they take your coats and point you to the restaurant upstairs they are super apologetic about the current state of affairs. The restaurant may be undergoing a major  refurbishment downstairs, but it doesn’t impact the experience.

Like all the Gaucho restaurants the decor is a mixture of black, chrome and cow skin. The music is muted and cool, and and the chandeliers and bottles of booze make the place shine. It feels like a special location and, when the wine and dishes come out, it only gets better.

We kicked off our Gaucho experience with two gin cocktails – a Yerba 10 and an Alvear Royal – before embarking on a journey through the wine.

Oh the wine, well where do we begin? The wine list itself is an impressive booklet and one my guest was tempted to take away as bedtime reading. It’s detailed, informative and rather large because every Gaucho offers a bespoke range of Argentinian wine. From the crisp white Torrentés to the full bodied Malbec – you will find a superb mix, all hand-picked and many unavailable anywhere else. It’ not surprise that Gaucho offer a case service so that you can enjoy your new favourite wine at home.

On to the food. For starters we had a crab tostada and a tuna ceviche, each trying a different Torrentés as recommended by our seasoned waitress.

Followed by this was the main event, the steak. We had 300g of Lomo (fillet) and 300g of Ancho (rib eye), both cooked perfectly to our liking (medium rare, of course). Accompanying the beef were beef dripping chips, spinach and flat mushrooms finished with peppercorn sauce. The steak was so tender and juicy, and the sides so moreish we never wanted it to end. (In fact, my guest had a tear in his eye when his plate was cleared!)

Feeling blissfully content and yet too curious to pass up on having something sweet, we opted for the chocolate truffles and another glass of Malbec to round things off.

What? An Argentinian steakhouse around 5-10 minutes walk form Piccadilly Station. There are also locations across London, Dubai and Hong Kong. There are vegetarian options on the menu to, but the most extensive choices exist for wine and steak.

Why choose Gaucho Piccadilly? This is Gaucho’s flagship restaurant in London. The venue is welcoming, stylish and historical – it was once the home of a Spanish Ambassador and the small private dining room (perfect for meetings or small celebrations) has an impressive tiled wall.  A relatively new introduction to the menu is the business lunch, which our readers should certainly sample.

Also every Gaucho venue is perfect for private functions, whether it’s a standing reception or a formal awards ceremony the team are adept at tailoring and creating a bespoke service for clients.

While the venue is undergoing a nip and tuck (new downstairs to be unveiled soon) the experience is not interrupted. However, we are looking forward to being invited back and reporting an update once the work is finished…

Cost: £££

25 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4QR
020 7734 4040
www.gauchorestaurants.com

 

Review: Amantia, Birmingham

calamari
Ben Paddock reviews Amantia, a family run restaurant serving Spanish cuisine in the heart of Birmingham

A short walk up from New Street Station on Bennetts Hill, you’ll find  Amantia. This Spanish restaurant has been open for over a year serving authentic tapas and paella among other dishes.

To start we chose a mixture of tapas – Manchego cheese with fried almonds, potato and onion omelette and dates wrapped in pancetta. This turned out to be a great selection, the cheese was creamy and the sweetness of the dates combined with the pancetta was a great combo. There are enough options on this menu that you could easily have a well-varied meal on tapas alone.

For the main, we shared a seafood paella – each dish is easily enough between two. It came out in the pan and the waiter offered to serve it for us. This was a good hearty dish – plenty of rice and a good mix of mussels, salmon, prawns and calamari. We chose a red and white rioja from the wine list which was a ideal match for this dish.

Somehow we found room for dessert and opted for a traditional Spanish almond cake and chocolate torte. The almond cake was moist and had a great texture and the chocolate torte had the right level of richness. All in all this perfectly rounded off an enjoyable evening.

What? A friendly, family-run restaurant showcasing a great selection of original Spanish dishes, wine and sangria. They also have an extensive list of gin & tonic, as well as regular cocktails.

Why choose Amantia? You’ll be served by a team of people keen to show off Spain’s best dishes. You can enjoy a quick tapas lunch or take in the full works for dinner.

Cost: ££

9-10 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5RS
0121 643 3647 /  info@amantia.co.uk
www.amantiarestaurant.co.uk

Review: The Drift, Bishopsgate

Downstairs bar[2]

Out Of Office Magazine reviews The Drift Bar near Liverpool Street Station.

The Drift is a lively bar and restaurant in the heart of the city, brimming with quirky collectables, hidden alcoves and a slight nautical vibe – in some corners the aquarium next door casts swimming shadows on the walls.

It has an open plan kitchen so you can see the chefs whipping up dishes from simple sharing boards and fries, to burgers and larger plates like roast rump of lamb with mint jus.

For us, the highlights on the menu were the scotch egg with piccalilli and the dessert cocktails.

The Drift is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and late drinks. Innovative cocktails and a good selection of wines sit alongside the varied seasonal menu.

What? A bar serving food throughout the day a stones throw away from Liverpool Street Station.

Why Choose the Drift? A good place if you’re planning client or staff drinks and are looking for a lively and informal place with a touch of class. Mixology and cocktails are a key feature.

Cost: ££

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY