I don't eat out all the time, but when I do, I like it to be enjoyable. I love quick lunches in Cafe Rouge, bowls of pasta in Strada and pizzas in Pizza Express. Any eating experience is usually pleasurable for me, but in these regular places, it is the company (family and friends) and the conversation that matters.
It is always nice though when you make a bit more effort and go somewhere new. November brought two such places, the first being Iberica in London. My good friend Suz happened to be in London and we arranged to meet when I finished work. I had had this place on my list since reading about it on Bellaphon's blog and as usual, the recommendation was spot on.
We shared beautiful croquetas de jamon (iberico ham croquettes), a selection of Spanish cheeses served with membrillo (quince paste) and the prize for best dish of the night went to the "broken eggs" served with iberico ham and fried potatoes. Great service and delicious food in a stylish setting. If you like Spanish food, give it a try. We finished the evening saying hello to two fellow bloggers, easy to spot by the size of their cameras! Check out Food by Mark and the LondonEater - these guys are much more qualified to give London restaurant reviews than me so check out their excellent blogs.
Another new restaurant I tried this month was The Cuckoo in Cuckfield, a local village restaurant which has been around for years, but recently had a change of ownership. It had been recommended by my cousin John and his wife Caroline, and already tried out by my brother Dom for my sister-in-law Lynne's Birthday. My Dad treated us to Sunday lunch yesterday to celebrate my sister Sarah's Birthday.
For November there was a special set menu at 10.00 for 2 courses and 15.00 for 3. The choices were very good with something to suit everyone and the food came beautifully presented in generous portions. The starter of gambas pil pil was absolutely delicious, and I throroughly enjoyed my local Balcombe pheasant served with parsnip mash and game chips. The roast lamb looked very impressive, and the sea bass served with olive mash and cherry tomatoes was so good, nobody even offered me a mouthful. Desserts were equally tasty, with the chocolate fudge cake served with pistachio ice cream a clear winner.
The building is full of character, with small cosy seating areas, and the interior has been brought up to date with stripped floors, crisp table cloths, soft grey woodwork and funky artwork. Service was friendly and efficient, and there was no problem when a couple of us chose affogatos (espresso poured over vanilla ice cream) rather than the set menu desserts.
Owner Toby and Chef Matthew should be very proud of this lovely little place which is destined to become a local treasure. Their Christmas menu looks fantastic value and we will definitely be back before too long.