Belgo Noord – Chalk Farm

I’m no stranger to Belgo’s Lobsterfest. Taking place every June, the Belgian restaurant chain stops pushing their ‘moules et frites’ and goes full-on crustacean. I’ve been invited the past two years to take part, and every year it gets better.

This time, DQ and I were invited to a Belgo Lobster Quiz* in celebration. Yes, an entire quiz solely about lobsters. Despite my lobster research just hours before dinner, we lost. Badly.

Luckily the food was much more of a winner. I started out with the Lobster Bisque (£6.35):

Creamy, rich, buttery and more creamy…Usually I have trouble finishing a bisque because of those, and this was no exception. However, I take that as a good thing.

DQ, not being a fan of pretty much anything creamy, started with the Warm salad of smoked bacon, shredded duck, eggs & black pudding with garlic croutons and a Dijon mustard dressing (£6.50):

I really really really liked this, and luckily he did too. The saltiness of the black pudding was a perfect complement to the mustard dressing. Highly recommended.

And on to the main event: lobster

We tried the two mains available during Lobsterfest: Surf and Turf (£21.95) and Whole Lobster (£24.95)

With any lobster, you can’t expect to go in and not get your hands a little dirty. The more buttery and rich, the better, right? Both lobsters were tender, sweet enough and deliciously messy. Naturally, Belgo provides a ridiculous amount of napkins and wetwipes, though, so no complaints there.

For dessert, naturally some nibbles of Belgian Waffles with white and milk chocolate dipping sauces:

The main waffle dessert on the menu is £5.50 and comes with ice cream as well. Trust me, it’s a lot better than the waffles you get on Oxford street (no matter how good they smell)

Lobsterfest 2011, goes on through the end of the month

Belgo Noord on Urbanspoon

*I, along with about 20 bloggers, was a guest of Belgo for the Lonsterfest event

Restaurant a la Cruz (Septima wine tasting) – Exmouth Market

It’s really tough having a food blog when you’re on a diet. Ever since Barcelona a few weeks ago, I’ve been watching what I eat. It’s been a horrible low carb, no dessert, no alcohol few weeks. Rubbish, in other words.  Before I went on holiday, however, I was invited to a wine tasting event in late September at Restaurant a la Cruz, a steak house tucked away just south of Exmouth Market in Farringdon – and not just any wine tasting… no…it was a 7-course Argentinian steak and wine feast with Septima Wines.  So even though I promised myself I would be good till the end of the month, it went out the window this past at Cruz. Oh well.

We started out the evening with a glass of sparkling surrounded by Cruz’s ‘asador’ – an authentic Argentinian open-flame barbecue designed to roast huge chunks of meat for large parties. Apparently, it’s the only one in London, and was super expensive to install.  Going in hungry, it was very hard not to salivate on the very thick glass that separated us from the gorgeous racks of beef and lamb.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. Within minutes we were whisked away to Restaurant a la Cruz’s private dining area, where this nice-looking Beef Carpaccio was waiting for us, paired with a large pour of a apple-y Septima Chardonnay.

Next up, the Fillet Steak was one of my favourite cuts of the night. Served with a glass of almost-dark-rose-looking Septima Pinot Noir, this was a beautiful steak served medium-rare. It was oozy and juicy steak just as it should be. Drizzled on top was a slightly smoky mustard and wine sauce that I could have had more of.

The Mini Sirloin served with Salsa Criolla (a summery sauce of sliced onions with coriander, pickles beets, chili and tomatoes) and a pour of Septima’s best-selling Malbec, was unfortunately the opposite. Without a hint of pink in the middle, the steak was bone dry – and while the Criolla’s fresh tomatoes did a bit on the moisture front – the meat was DOA.

The Rib-eye Chimichurri picked things back up. I really loved the chimichurri sauce served on the side. It was heavy on the spice and oil – distinct aromas of coriander, cumin and chili really made it shine. The rib-eye was quality, not too fatty or chewy, just the way I like it.

By this point, I was full. I started eating one or two bites of the next dishes. It was a good decision, especially since the next plate had a buffet-eater’s worst nightmare: bread.

The Rump Mini-Sandwich, was nothing to speak of. Thin slices of beef tend to get overcooked to easily, and Cruz’s was no exception. It was dry dry dry. The redeemable feature of this course was that it was served with my favourite wine of the night: Septima’s Dia Malbec, a gutsy malbec full of dark fruit and soft tannins.

Paired with the Septima Dia Cabernet, was the Flank Steak. Things must have got a bit hazy at this point because in my notes I wrote: ‘Thin cuts not Cruz’s bag. Dry.’

The final course was the Roasted Lamb, paired with Septima’s Gran Reserva blend. This lovely pour (89 points Wine Spectator too!) is Septima’s favourite. Underpinned by Tannat grape and blended with Cab and Malbec, it was warm and jammy. I enjoyed it almost as much as the Dia Malbec.  The accompanying lamb was a bit too sweet for the wine, but the salty potatoes balanced it out a bit.

I’m really glad I got to try quite a bit of Restaurant a la Cruz’s range. I had heard some mixed reviews on the place, and I totally see why. The rib-eye, the fillet and the carpaccio were all excellent – just as good as you’d get at your best steakhouses in London, but the sirloin, flank and rump were all lacklustre dry slabs that I would have had a hard time paying good money for (considering the prices are all around £16-£25 per cut of meat).

The real stars of the evening though, were the Septima Argentinian wine pairings. All of the wines were easily drinkable and relatively inexpensive (most around £8-£17 a bottle depending where you go). A definite thumbs up for Septima.

And with that, I’m back on the diet.

Disclosure: I was invited by the lovely ladies at Relish to this free event with the fantastic company of about 20 other food and drink bloggers, including the fantastic Ms Gourmet Chick, The Wine Sleuth, TikiChris, Boo in London, Ben Norum and Eats Drinks and Sleeps.

A la Cruz on Urbanspoon