Caffe Concerto – St Paul’s

Reviewed on June 5th, 2014 by Dina

What a wonderful surprise when my dad came to visit me one weekend! It was the perfect opportunity to take my dad out for an Afternoon Tea; something that I had wanted to do for a long time. With the location of Caffe Concerto in the shadow of the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral, what better place to be at on a Sunday.

Caffe Concerto looks quite elegant with its chandeliers, beige seating and red decor. Single yellow roses decorated the tables. There is the counter fridge near the entrance with a great display of cake slices, pastries and tarts. The staff and service were okay but it was hard at times to get the attention of the staff.

Bombay Chai and Organic Earl Grey teas were chosen. These came as silver pots of tea and they were tea bags instead of loose tea. Both teas were enjoyable.

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The selection of items for the Afternoon Tea looked wonderful. The sandwiches were cream cheese and cucumber and also egg mayonnaise. The bread was dry and tasted very stale. The sandwiches were a real disappointment and neither myself nor my dad were able to finish them.

At least the fruit scones were better. They seemed slightly fresher and were of a good size. They came with the traditional clotted cream and the strawberry jam came in a mini jar.

The tarts and the cakes were the highlight of the Caffe Concerto Afternoon Tea. A rich chocolate mousse on a chocolate biscuit base was lovely. To contrast this, there was a sharp lemon cheesecake. The fruit tart and the almond tart both had crumbly pastry and a good tasty filling.

Caffe Concerto was a nice place but it should pay more attention to the quality of the food so that it matches the high standard of its surroundings. Attention to detail could really make a difference to having this average cafe turned into a great cafe.

Caffe Concerto, One New Change, St Paul’s, London, EC4M 9AF

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Cafe VN – Farringdon / Clerkenwell

Reviewed on February 15th, 2013 by Dina

There is something truly comforting about a hot steaming bowl of pho. The combination of the thick rice noodles, the broth and the vegetables is perfect.

Cafe VN specialises in pho – the noodle soup, and bun – the noodle salad. The bright lime green sign lights up the outside of the restaurant. The green colour theme is followed through into the interior. The restaurant has a casual feel to it and even though it is fairly small in size, it is very clean and light. Red lantern style lights hang from the ceiling.

The vegetarian Summer Rolls were a cold starter. Shredded lettuce, cucumber and thin noodles were wrapped in the rice paper. The rolls were fresh and light.

In contrast, the vegetarian Spring Rolls were hot and generously filled. They were quite oily. Both the Summer and Spring Rolls were served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

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To drink, it was pure coconut water. This was a refreshing drink, served in a tall glass. The coconut water did not have any sugar or additives added to it and it did not need it either.

Even though pho was what I had in mind, it did not stop me getting tempted by the stir fried noodle and rice dishes. The food that was being brought out to the other diners all looked really good.

But I stuck to my original choice of the Vegetarian Pho. This noodle soup came with thick rice noodles, tofu and mushrooms. It could also be ordered as a spicy version. The garnishes that came on the side were basil, beansprouts, lime and chilli. The pho was really delicious and filling. The broth had a light flavour to it. The big bowl of pho was certainly a hearty dish!

A simple dessert of ice cream completed the meal. The Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream was better than other ice creams that I have had of the same flavour. Big chunks of the biscuit bases and strawberry pieces, combined with the creamy ice cream was just lovely!

Cafe VN gave us fresh tasting and filling Vietnamese food. The food was cooked to order. The staff were friendly and gave us service with a smile. It would be nice to come back to Cafe VN to try the other dishes!

Cafe VN, 144 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1R 5DP

Rating: ★★★★★

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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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