Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Carbone Hong Kong

As far as you’re concerned, a great meal should always end with:

(  (a) a smear of ketchup on one cheek and a free plastic toy;
(  (b) descending on a plate of artfully arranged petit fours (you may have just feasted on twelve small but perfectly formed courses, but you’re still a little peckish); or
(  (c)  a red sauce spattered tablecloth strewn with half-sipped glasses of homemade Limoncello and shards of cracked nutshells.

Answered (a) or (b)? This post’s probably not for you.
Answered (c)? We think you may just be a foodie after our very own hearts, read on…

So now we’ve given away the ending, let’s rewind to the very beginning or just about the point where you’ve zipped up to the 9th floor of the LKF Tower and are hopping out of the lift with a rumbling tummy and an expectant spring in your step. Welcome to Carbone Hong Kong, it’s time to tuck in to a huge helping of New York-Italian fine dining brought piping hot from the kitchens of Greenwich Village to the very heart of Central.

As you approach the candlelit concierge desk you’re met by an immaculately dressed, beaming hostess. Looking more fifties pin-up than door girl, she greets you like a long lost Italian cousin and suggests that maybe you’d like to start the evening with a pre-dinner drink. A nod later, and in a clatter of heels and a swoosh of a door, you’re whisked from the lobby to the gleaming dark wood bar for a peek at the drinks menu. Your eyes run down a list of old school cocktail classics and then right off the bottom of the page where, with a flash of déjà vu, you realize you’ve seen those black and white floor tiles before, just as the Godfather theme tune starts up in your head. A very smooth-mannered, white-jacketed Barman sidles over, and as you order up a Gibson (ice cold gin, vermouth and rosemary garnished with a pickled onion), you begin to ponder whether the lift was actually a time machine that whisked you back to New York City circa 1958.

Before you’ve even finished that thought, a maroon dinner-jacketed Captain (who it later transpires, runs the joint) appears by your elbow. He raises an eyebrow and, with a twitch of his bowtie, bets you that you’ve never tasted a meatball even a quarter as good as the ones currently being cooked up in the kitchen. Never one to shy away from a good wager, you allow yourself to be shown to your table where in one smooth movement your Captain (“please, call me Louie!”) pulls out your red leather chair and presents you with a menu so super-sized that the rest of the room is momentarily obliterated.  

As you greedily eye your options from Caprese salad to baked clams, through to Linguine Vongole and Ribeye Diana, Frank Sinatra croons along in the background, another Gibson arrives, and you conclude that this may actually be heaven. And if it was, Louie would surely be the Angel Gabriel, because now he’s back bearing a plate draped with Parma ham and studded with hunks of parmesan, nestled next to a slice of the most ambrosial garlic bread topped with a melted cloak of cheese. And that’s just the New York-Italian equivalent of an Amuse-bouche.

Nibbles inhaled, you’re floundering over the myriad of deliciousness confronting you on the menu until it’s Louie to the rescue once more, as he calls out a volley of his favourite dishes while simultaneously bantering with the Captain waiting on the next-door table. Deciding that you could do far worse than put your stomach’s fate in the capable of hands of Louie, you settle back in your seat and wait for the feast to commence.

What follows is a procession of dishes waistband-bustingly abundant, and mind-blowingly great. Octopus Piazzaiolo is a tumble of buttery-soft chunks of charred octopus, sweet peppers and toasted croutons finished with a kiss of chili. The Caesar Salad comes with a side of food theatre courtesy of your Captain chopping anchovies, drizzling dressing and tossing salad leaves in a bowl on a tableside trolley. The pasta course is a masterpiece of two acts. The rich Spicy Rigatone Vodka is a luxuriously unctuous opening, while the delicate Lobster Ravioli provides a lipsmacking finale.  But don’t consider it anywhere close to the curtain call just yet, next up are Mario’s Meatballs, which, after a single mouthful, render every superlative you’ve ever uttered far too lacking to disparage them with. Beckoning Louie over to happily concede that he won his bet, you goggle as you realize he’s laden down with your meat course. Luckily the Veal Parm’s more than worth undoing your top button for, we’re talking meltingly tender veal, crumbed and topped with herby tomato sauce and molten Parmesan – the stuff of a pizza-loving carnivore’s dreams.

As you push your knife and fork together and consider waving your white napkin above your head in defeat, the Supremes’ Baby Love starts playing and a trolley piled high with a veritable sugar high of dessert glides into view. Because you strongly believe that a feast should close on a toothache-inducingly sweet note, you opt for a spoonful of everything and one more for luck. Carrot cake, tiramisu, lemon cheesecake and banana flambé – each more insanely indulgent than the last.  

Full, happy and a little tipsy, you’re delighted when Louie bowls back over wielding a nutcracker, with a bottle of homemade Limoncello under one arm and a basket of nuts under the other. As he shells you a heap of walnuts, pecans and hazlenuts, the afterdinner jokes roll and your Limoncello glass never seems to empty.

Which, as the music fades and the candles begin to putter out, brings us right back to where we began.

The tables may be white-table cloth topped but they’re scrumpled and sauce-spattered. The Captains may be tuxedoed but they’re cheekier than your most entertaining Uncle. The food may be Michelin-star quality but its more comforting and scrumptious than your most treasured, time-honed family recipes. The end of a meal at Carbone feels all at once like a special occasion fine dining experience, and supper at home with your extended Italian-American family. And what more can you ask for than that?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Boozy Brunch with Mr B...

I've wanted to try Mr Buckley's for some time, however it's one of those places that, unless you live out East, is just not that convenient. The perfect opportunity arose for a girlie weekend lunch with all parties living in the Hagerston and Bethnal Green area! 

Located at 255 Hackney Road, you'll see why it's tricky for a post work meet-up for anyone outside East London, with the closest tube being Bethnal Green and that being a bus journey away, your next best bet is the overground to Cambridge Heath and then a further brisk trot. However, despite these complications, you'd be a fool to miss out on this one! Plus not having a tube station next door means you avoid the crowds and can actually enjoy this little gem! 

Having just celebrated his 2nd birthday, Mr Buckley is still relatively young, but fear not, he knows exactly what he's doing!

The ambiance is super laid back, it doesn't try too hard, which creates the perfect cocoon to while away many hours...which is exactly what we did! The decor is simple yet cool - exposed brick walls with peeling paint, 
mismatched school chairs, Mr Buckley's stencilled across one side of the room, quotes scrawled in neon lights and all dimly lit by shabby outdoor lamps. Urban meets chic at it's best!
On our visit, the downstairs bar was booked out for a private party, so unfortunately we have no pictures to show, however this didn't stop us from sampling the amazing cocktails! My favourite had to be the 277 - Sloe Gin, lemon juice, cucumber and prosecco...so fresh and incredibly moreish! Having said that the Raspberry and Basil smash slipped down just as easily, as did a bottle of ice cold Savignon Blanc! There's no doubt that we'll back to check out the bar and the rest of the cocktail list!   

And finally...the food! WOW! You're in for a serious treat! We arrived towards the end of the Saturday brunch service, but being four hungover girls with impressive appetites, they kindly served us an edited version of the dinner menu and thank God they did! 

Firstly there's no messing about with small portions, even the jars are big enough for sharing - which was a great way to explore the menu options! We went for:
Shredded wild rabbit with chilli & tarragon...

Spice roasted peanuts, macadamias & almonds with vanilla salt...

Butterbean hummus with aubergine & pepperade...

Everything is presented beautifully and the flavours they pack in are incredible - who would have thought a jar of nuts could be so delicious...the perfect mix of salt, sweet, spice and delicate vanilla! Jars devoured, we decided to move onto mains...
Fillet of sea bass with lemon crushed potatoes & spinach purée...

8oz Onglet steak with bone marrow, blue cheese butter & skinny fries...

Some serious silence went down around a table that had previously been filled with constant chatter, squealing and laughter! There wasn't even time for food envy...both dishes were so lip smackingly good Middle Mouse and I forgot to do the obligatory spoon swap taster! 
By this point our tummies were so swollen with our amazing feast and 3 too many cocktails, we decided pudding would have to be bypassed! Well not completely...we ordered a couple of portions of Mr B's salted chocolate fudge and replaced the accompanying coffee with an espresso martini of course!!!! 

Divine is the only word to describe these little diamonds of heaven...wow wow wow...you need to get yourself down there if only to sample these bad boys!!! 

Our new favourite haunt and with a brunch menu and Sunday dinner menu still to sample, one we will need to frequent manyyyyy more times! 

See you soon Mr B.... 

Friday, 17 October 2014

This Week The Mice Have Mostly...

Good Morning, good yawning!

Time to give your sleepy self a shake and...

...it's Friday and we have a feeling that this weekend is set to be a good one!

So let's kick it off with a canter through the weekly goings on in Mouseland. This week the Mice have mostly been...

Pimping up the most important meal of the day with some brand new breakfast experiments. We're sick of scrambled eggs, tired of toast and know that trying to scrape by on just a coffee means a morning full of tantrums and rumbling tummies. So, we decided it was time to get Googling and come up with some fun alternatives. 

We're trying to start autumn as we mean to go on with early morning work outs followed by healthy breakfasts to get us set up and raring to go for our busy days ahead. Because no one's got time for slaving over a hot stove for hours on end on a weekday morning, we're keeping things simple but tasty. If you're also after some clean, lean, carb-light meal inspo, highlights this week have been...

...coconut yoghurt with kiwi and raspberries...

... and baked eggs in avocado with herbs and chilli.

Scrumble-saurus Rex!

Curling up with some seriously awesome autumn reads. As summer fades to a shimmery memory, it's definitely time to embrace all the best things about the cooler weather and top of our list of wintery pastimes is snuggling up on the sofa with a big glass of red wine and a really great book. It may still be 30C and sunny in Hong Kong but that doesn't mean we can't whack up the aircon and pull on our onesies a little prematurely... Our October bookworm picks?  

A collection of letters written throughout the eighties from Nina, a fresh out of the box nanny in London back home to her sister in Leicester. Filled with the most wryly observed and wittily recounted tales of domestic life in a fascinatingly bonkers household, you'll miss Nina like a new friend when it finishes far too soon. 

The brand new offering from David Nicholls is every bit as spellbinding as his 2009 bestseller One Day. Us follows a family on the brink of collapse off on a make or break trip of a lifetime around Europe. Bittersweet but brilliant.

Stocking up on spooktacular essentials as Halloween lurks just around the corner primed ready to jump out on us with a boo! Whether you're getting decked out in your scariest costume for a serious evening of trick or treating, or just heading out to get frightfully intoxicated on a couple too many cocktails, we've rounded up our top Halloween buys (and there's some scarily great bargains in the mix to boot!)...

£347.50 (reduced from £695)


£398 (reduced from £995)


£234 (reduced from £586)


£30 (reduced from £50)

£247.50 (reduced from £495)

And that's that for another week! Time to zip off in a shower of glitter and Champagne corks to get the weekend started. But before you go, a little reminder...

Lots and lots of love!
The Mice

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sipping at 5CC...

Last week we brought you a London Cocktail Week post pin-pointing all the freakin' fabulous bars scattered across London that were offering up a one-off week-long delectable cocktail for just £4 a pop. The London mice didn't actually take advantage of this offer (I think we momentarily lost our minds for the week) but we did check out one of the participating bars ... 5CC after their kind PR agency invited us down for an evening of scrumptious finger food and mind-blowingly moreish cocktails....

5CC has actually been on my radar and hit list for some time now. This cocktail den is so well nestled below the Well & Bucket (a favourite haunt of mine on Bethnal Green Road) that one could be forgiven for it slipping through the net but once found, it's a keeper.

Neon-rays light the stairs to the basement hideaway, guiding you in off the street and down to the pièce de résistance. Candlelit and effortlessly cool with a grungy east london vibe - I knew instantly we were going to be very happy here!

Even the bar menu cries out cool and kooky - hand drawn illustrations pepper the pages transforming a plain menu into a mini storybook of cocktails so enticing we wanted to stay up well past our bedtime and taste-test everything...

Myslef, Mini and honorary London mouse V, ordered up a round of Rhubarb Daiquiri cocktails to get us started.

First thing to note is the mixologist knows his stuff. He personally delivered us the lovingly crafted concoctions explaining their ingredients and make up in wonderfully descriptive detail - it was clear he loved what he does through and through, or he might have just sampled one too many of his own creations - who knows, who cares - he was awesome! Our waitress, Nadia, also deserves a special mention. She went out of her way to make sure we had a blast and couldn't have been more attentive from start to finish. Together they ran the floor like a well-oiled machine. Check out our snap with Nadia...

We also trialled the 'Spector' - white rum, elderflower cordial, lemon juice, lychee juice and egg white, the 'Spiced Pear Martini' - vodka, pear, apple, spiced syrup and lime juice and a round of 'Porn Star Martinis' - delish, divine, devilishly deadly! 

Next up ... the grub! If the cocktails were anything to go by, we were in for a treat. With the help and guidance of waitress-extrondaire Nadia, we ordered up a couple of lobster rolls, crab and cheese fries, pulled pork sliders, peri peri chicken sliders, a crab, avocado and king prawn salad and a pint of prawns with aioli amazingness. Word of warning, we expected the portions to be on the small side like most London-based bars serve up ... not this one ... the portions are punchy - just how we like them! The food arrived and the chatter dried up in an instant while we devoured the spread laid before our eyes ... Verdict? Delectable down to the very last crumb!

We'll be back. Fact.

Well and Bucket - 5CC
143 Bethnal Green Rd 
E2 7DG

020 3664 6454

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