Thursday, August 13, 2015
Summer Salads, Gourmet Sandwiches, and Desserts Galore @ Aline Mayfair, With PocketHighStreet
It isn't every day that you stumble out of a not-officially-opened-yet restaurant close to midnight, dizzy from wine and laughter ... and eleven dishes. Not nine, not ten, but eleven. But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself smack dab in the middle of swishy Mayfair, sampling gourmet sandwiches and fresh summer salads with PocketHighStreet at the soft launch of Aline Mayfair, along with four other food-obsessed bloggers. And I didn't leave until nearly midnight. My carriage very nearly turned into a pumpkin, but I managed to keep both shoes on.
PocketHighStreet is a new service that seeks to promote local businesses by bringing the high street directly to you online via a network of bloggers, social media influencers, and other online presences. You can search for products and restaurants near you to encourage local, independent shopping. And as a champion of indie establishments, I love this idea.
So, this is how I found myself at Aline and its industrial-chic, bistro-feel dining room - complete with high bar stools, tile game to make the Instagram account #ihavethisthingwithfloors jealous, and a beautifully lit bar, where cocktails were served as aperitifs ("Anything you wish! Tell me: what do you like? Gin? Vodka?" I politely declined, but was secretly jealous of everyone else's beautiful beverages).
But then the dishes started arriving from the kitchen and ... well, they didn't stop.
We began with platefuls of delicious summer salads: white chicory with turkey, grapes and walnuts drizzled with a honey dressing; puy green lentils with carrots, parsley shallots and Roquefort in vinaigrette; and the "summer special" of watermelon, melon, feta, mint and shavings of parmesan - which was my favorite (p.s. doesn't it look like that watermelon is smiling at you in that photo above? So funny!).
It's so difficult to find exciting and fresh salads that make use of seasonal ingredients in London, don't you think? Everywhere I look it's Caesar, cobb, or - worse yet - a bunch of random, limp leaves hastily thrown together with a sprinkling of raw onion and an afterthought of cherry tomatoes. No, thanks.
The salads at Aline couldn't be further from this - I would love to stop in for lunch at some point, just to indulge in that watermelon salad! It was so light and refreshing, especially with the last minute substitute of mint (in lieu of rocket) and feta (instead of ricotta). The parmesan added a sharp and unexpected twist.
As for the sandwiches ... we had incorrectly assumed that we'd be "sampling" each open sandwich, but we were actually given normal-sized portions (not that I'm complaining!), so by the time the prawn burger arrived (yes, you read that correctly), our eyes were bulging out of their sockets and waistbands were definitely straining (or maybe that was just me).
Highlights included the beautifully cured beetroot and orange gravlax salmon with cream cheese and dill; the roasted rump steak with horseradish, sweet cucumber pickles (these were everything!), sundried tomatoes and rocket and parmesan. They also presented us with a pulled pork burger slathered in Aline's speciality homemade BBQ sauce with courgette pickles and beetroot slaw (which I only managed a mouthful of because I was so full!) and the prawn burger which was just ... excellent.
I loved the mix of healthy and light bites to the downright dirty and indulgent buns, plus the fantastic interpretations of each. It's clear that the menu has been thoughtfully and carefully curated; the ingredients well-sourced.
And just as we thought we couldn't possibly eat any more (plus, my watch told me it was 9:45 pm and John had texted fifteen minutes earlier to ask if I was on my way ... um, no, but dessert was!) ...
A whiskey toffee pudding, to be exact. Along with orange blossom panna cotta and ice-cream sandwiches comprised of chocolate chip and coconut whoopie pies with sorbet and vanilla ice-cream fillings. I'm not a huge fan of panna cotta in general and the biscuits on the ice-cream sandwiches were a little too hard for my liking (I like them soft and chewy!), but ohmygoodness ... that whiskey toffee pudding was divine!
Fastforward to an hour later when I was back in my living room at home, with John fast-asleep upstairs and half of a prawn burger in our fridge. I passed out in a food coma on the sofa and managed to stagger upstairs when I snored myself awake.
The next morning? I had a green juice for breakfast.
I was generously hosted by PocketHighStreet and Aline Mayfair, which opens soon! When it does, you can find them at 14 Maddox Street, London, W1S 9PQ and download the PocketHighStreet app to your phone. All opinions are my own.