The internet is a strange thing. As a means of obtaining lots of information, instantly and for nothing more than the cost of connection, it is mindblowing. It is also shaping up to be a very useful means of social interaction. The internet has allowed me to keep in touch with relatives, old school friends, uni buddies, former colleagues and many of the alumni I have had the pleasure to teach. Then, of course, are the people I have met since setting up Snig's Kitchen.
I've been in contact with the lovely Kavita Favelle of Kavey Eats blog via various online means for months. I have a lot of admiration for her as a writer and gastronaut and I regularly follow her blog (http://www.kaveyeats.com/) and dip into the amazing living cookbook her mother Mamta has set up online (http://www.mamtaskitchen.com/). She has also been very supportive of my blog, being a regular reader and occasional commenter. Despite being such a well known and respected blogger, she's taken time to support a newbie. So I was thrilled when she agreed to meet me. Online interaction is great fun, but in my book is no substitute for real contact with real people - with not a keyboard or touchscreen in sight.
Once we had agreed to meet, we had to settle on a date and an arrangement. I'd suggested a sneaky coffee and cake since we are both busy women. Imagine my surprise when she came back with the idea of lunch! And that I would be her 'plus one' for a review meal!
So we met at Hush Brasserie on High Holborn. It's a new place, very close to my work, and very conveniently located for the Tube at Holborn. It has been the site of a restaurant for some years, but nothing that has truly captured the imagination or the market in this busy area which is neither The City nor The West End. In fact, it is only recently that there have been any eateries of any note in the Holborn area. It was long considered to be a bit of a culinary wasteland, but now with Shanghai Blues, Kimchee and The Chancery in the neighbourhood, things are looking up. Before, a cheeky fish 'n chips down the Fryer's Delight was about all you could treat yourself to!
Hush Brasserie is at the Holborn station end of High Holborn, so very conveniently located for public transport. The decor is neutral and smart but with an informal air. There are small bistro type tables, with some chairs and those very French style padded long sofas. I think they are called Banquettes in interior design, but I am no expert.
When we arrived we were efficiently shown to our tables, and our voluminous bags were looked after without fuss. This helpful, unobtrusive service continued throughout our time there, despite the place being fairly busy with lunchtime customers.
The menu is varied; there is a 'blackboard special' at a fixed price of £11.95 which changes each day, but is listed on the menu so you can plan when you fancy coming in. There is a Sunday roast, and the Tuesday Shepherd's pie sounds pretty appealing too. The blackboard specials are very much traditional British nosh. The rest of the menu is more freewheeling; French dishes shoulder to shoulder with risotto and a touch of the exotic. Some Chinese inspiration (Bang Bang Smoked Chicken) and some from further east (Spiced Parsnip Soup and Tiger Prawn Masala).
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with French Bread and Garlic Butter (£4.95) is a good sized starter at a keen price for Central London. The Portobello mushrooms are tinged with garlicky goodness. Sometimes the mushrooms are so full of water that they taste bland, but these had flavour and texture.
Dressed Dorset Crab with Avocado and Toasted Sourdough was (£7.95), which is a fairly priced starter, despite being far more dear than the mushrooms. I received a very generous amount of white crab meat, which tastes as fresh as a daisy. The avocado was just ripe, partly diced, partly mashed; all the better to spoon onto the fresh smelling and inviting Sourdough toasts.
Tiger Prawn Masala with Lemon Rice (£14.95) was my main course choice, through sheer curiousity. We were sceptical about this dish. At best we thought it would only be a vaguely Indian influenced dish. But we were pleasantly surprised to find a delicately spiced, slightly sweet and balanced curry resembling a Moilie style curry. The coconut milks is tempered by the flavour of turmeric and spices. The rice is fragrant, fluffy and jewelled with tiny black mustard seeds. The prawns are firm and cooked perfectly, and the small sprinkle of mini onion bhajis provides an interesting contrasting texture.
The Lobster Roll is actually a bargain (£15.95). A very healthy amount of lobster is heaped with mayonnaise in crusty bread. The New York chopped salad is zingy and compliments the roll and chips. To get the roll, chips and salad all in one is amazing value.
Turning to the desserts, I confess that I was getting full by this time. So Kavey and I shared the Mars Bar Cheesecake. The cheesecake is meant to taste like a Mars bar. We were assured by our server that it was the 'runaway favourite' of the pudding list. It was nice, but a little heavy, and didn't quite get the balance of chocolate and caramel you expect from a Mars bar.
All in all, we enjoyed our lunch. There are restaurants which attract food fans and those with a fearless desire to explore new tastes. However, when you are trying to get a gang of friends or perhaps work colleagues who are not big food fans to come out for a meal, those establishments are far from ideal. Were you to suggest going to Hawksmoor, how much choice would a non-beef eater or vegetarian have, for example? And what do you do with someone who doesn't like spicy food if going to Dishoom? Or finds burgers downmarket but is too scared to try lobster (Burger & Lobster restaurant thereby ruled out). Then there is the friend who cannot bear waiting for a table in a no-reservations restaurant (that's Bubbledogs gone, too). It is exactly the situation where a place like Hush Brasserie comes into its own.
Good food, well prepared, with a wide variety of meat and fish dishes are what you'll find here. Not 'fayne dayning' or the latest foodie fad. Just good reliable food. There is one vegetarian main (Butternut Squash Risotto) and a 'lighter' vegetarian main (Caramelised Onion Tart), although I might respectfully suggest that they might want to add one more to capitalise on the mixed group market.
95-97 High Holborn
London WC1V 6LF
020 7242 4580