Amico Bio – Barbican

Reviewed on January 30th, 2013 by Dina

January is here and it is one of my favourite months. A lovely way to start the new year was with an Afternoon Tea! Afternoon Tea at Amico Bio was something a little different as it was a vegetarian one with an Italian twist. Amico Bio is a family run vegetarian restaurant that offers organic, vegan and gluten free options.

Amico Bio has a dining area that has been split into two different areas. The restaurant is made up with dark wooden tables and chairs. The walls are decorated with black and white pictures of the Amico Bio family, their farm and the organic produce.

There were a variety of teas on offer and it felt like I was spoilt for choice. After a little bit of time, the Orange and Coconut tea was chosen. Even though it was a fruit based tea, I chose to have it with soya milk and this was to my liking. There was the fruitiness of the orange but it also had the subtle coconut flavour coming through. The tea was served in a matching clay teapot and a clay drinking vessel. Before the tea, I was also served a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

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Amico Bio presented the Afternoon Tea beautifully. Lots of bite sized items were on a glass like platter, with the centre piece being the fruit salad. As there was a range of items, I started off with the small bites. Three small bowls contained tofu, black olives and seitan.

Seitan was not something that I had come across before and I was not too sure what it was. If I had to describe it, I would say that it was like “mock meat”. It had more flavour than tofu.

Homemade flatbread filled with chargrilled seitan, lettuce and tomato made up the club sandwich. The flatbread was thin and light. The club sandwich could have done with a bit more filling as it seemed a little sparse.

The other sandwich was egg and cucumber in foccacia bread. There was only one slice of egg and one slice of cucumber in the sandwich but I think that was due to it being a small canape style sandwich. The bread was fresh.

The scone was cut in half and it was generously filled with sultanas and cherries. It was a lovely sweet scone. Soya cream was another first for me and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It had the taste of dairy cream and its consistency was that of single cream. The soya cream and the preserve were a good combination for the scone.

The homemade cake was an almondy, nutty one. It reminded me of biscotti but it was not as hard and crunchy. It was not overly sweet and very moreish.

It was nice to end with the bowl of fruit salad. It gave a refreshing end to the whole Afternoon Tea. The selection of fruit was satsumas, peaches, apples and kiwi fruit.

What I liked about the Afternoon Tea at Amico Bio was that it was filling, but not heavy. The staff were great and they took the time to answer the questions that I had about the food. There was a friendly atmosphere at the restaurant and all the staff seemed really jolly with each other.

While I was having my Afternoon Tea, I could hear the chefs talking in the kitchen about the menu for the evening. They were so passionate about what they were going to be cooking. If I wasn’t full from the Afternoon Tea, I would easily have stayed for dinner at Amico Bio.

The manager was really friendly and she was telling me about the food. I learnt from her that there are quite a few items on the menu that change daily, depending on the season. Also, Amico Bio has a sister restaurant in Italy and their farm is near this restaurant. The food that is cooked in the restaurant is from the farm. The organic vegetables from the farm are also the ingredients used to make the meals at Amico Bio in London.

As I was so tempted by the food, it was nice that I was able to take home a portion of the Lasagne. It was a big portion, made up of many layers. It was jam packed with cabbage, spinach, ricotta and tomato. The Lasagne was delicious and it was made tasty by the quality of the vegetables.

Amico Bio was a very different restaurant. It was nice to try a vegetarian restaurant that had such a good range of food. The food is prepared with so much care and attention and this comes through in all the dishes!

Amico Bio, 44 Cloth Fair, London, EC1A 7JQ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Tempus Restaurant at Hotel Russell – Bloomsbury

Reviewed on December 7th, 2012 by Dina

The outside of Hotel Russell always reminds me of something that you would see in an American movie. There is something about the grandness of this hotel, especially at Christmas time when it is decorated with big red bows! The building overlooks Russell Square.

The grandness follows through into the Tempus Restaurant. Marble pillars and columns and wooden floors make up the spacious and clean restaurant. The high ceilings are adorned with chandeliers.

Our Afternoon Tea started off with a large pot of tea. The staff gave us time to relax and settle with our cups of tea before they brought out the food delights. Even though the tea was tea bag tea, it made for a good cup. The staff were really friendly and all throughout the afternoon, they kept coming to see if everything was okay and if we required refills of tea.

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There is always something special about finger sandwiches, maybe it because they have no crusts or maybe it is due to their small size. The sandwiches on offer were egg and cress, ham and mustard, smoked salmon and cream cheese and tomato. I asked for just the cheese sandwiches and my friend had the normal selection.

My sandwiches were brought out on a separate plate and not on the tiered stand. By mistake, I was given egg sandwiches as well as the cheese ones. As soon as I said to the staff that I only wanted cheese ones, they replaced them straight away with no fuss. The bread was fresh and soft and this made the sandwiches even tastier!

Two toasted scones, one fruit and one plain, were on the top of our three tier stand. Both scones were great. The scones would not be complete without clotted cream and jam. The cream was fresh and the two little pots were enough for the scones.

As my friend noticed, there was not the usual chocolate based cake for the sweet treats. But that was okay as we were satisfied with what cakes were on offer.

The Bakewell slices had a nice layer of jam, good pastry and moist almond sponge. The berry tart was also good! It was slightly sour due to the fruit.

My favourite was the custard based tart. Just because of the yellow colour, I thought that it was going to be lemon flavoured. The thick layer of custard was topped with some coconut and the tart also had a layer of jam. A really delicious combination.

The service here at Tempus Restaurant felt personal and nice. The staff continuously made us feel comfortable so that we could have an enjoyable luxury Afternoon Tea. As the Afternoon Tea was served in the restaurant, the dining area had to be vacated by five o’clock, so that the staff could get it ready for the evening dinner!

Having Afternoon Tea with my friend at Tempus Restaurant was really special. Tasty fresh food and cakes, wonderful service, a lovely ambiance, authentic decor made the perfect setting for our afternoon of indulgence!

An interesting fact of the Tempus Restaurant is that is was designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, the same person who did RMS Titanic!

Tempus Restaurant, Hotel Russell, 1-8 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B 5BE

Rating: ★★★★★

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Squares Restaurant at The Royal Trafalgar – Trafalgar Square

Reviewed on September 12th, 2012 by Dina

Sometimes it’s just nice to take some time out for you and to treat yourself. That’s exactly what this day was for me; it was supposed to be an indulgent Afternoon Tea in central London.

Unfortunately, the Squares Restaurant just did not deliver on this occasion. The setting and decor were nice but the quality of the Afternoon Tea was a huge disappointment.

The finger sandwich selection was egg, ham and cheese and pickle. The bread was dry and it felt like the sandwiches had been made up hours before they were served.

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It just got worse from there with the next stage of the fruit scone. Again, the scone was dry and it had been sliced in a strange sloped way. I am not entirely sure if it was supposed to be like that or if it was a mistake. The clotted cream tasted odd with a very buttery taste. The jam was nothing special either.

Both the coffee and walnut cake and the chocolate cake were stale. The whole food part of the Afternoon Tea was of a poor standard.

The English Breakfast tea was served by the pot. It was teabag tea instead of loose tea.

The staff were friendly and the atmosphere was fairly relaxed. Squares really did not impress and it is not a place that I would return to, especially for a good Afternoon Tea.

Squares Restaurant, The Royal Trafalgar by Thistle, Whitcomb Street, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2H 7HG

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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