I’ve been sat here in my kitchen for 20 minutes wondering what to write about, and it’s suddenly hit me that I actually have far too much to write about today. I want to make the bulk of this about my trip to the recently opened Bronte on The Strand (and if you bear with me I might include a recipe for the best flavoured butter you’ll ever make, put it on a stick and I’ll eat it like a lollypop), but first I feel I need to mention the following:
- BAKE OFF IS BACK
- BAKE OFF
- IS BACK
The Bake Off is back. Praise the Lord that the TV void left by the Olympics can somewhat be remedied by this (I’d take Paul Hollywood’s piercing, if kind of pervy, predatory eyes over Tom Daley any day). To celebrate this I’m going to start doing one Bake Off post a week, where I’ll be trying out the technical bakes each week to see how tricky they really are. This is kind of more to prove to myself that I could win Bake Off if I wanted to, but have a read if you fancy trying one out for yourself. This week is jaffa cakes – stay tuned.
But onto what I intended to write about today – insta-restaurants. This is what I call those restaurants that mould their interior, menu, staff, choice of crockery, and toilets all around the creation of the perfect Instagram. I recently went to the newly opened Bronte on The Strand by Trafalgar, and can confirm that this was a prime example of a classic insta-restaurant. My friend and I arrived early to have one of their aesthetically pleasing cocktails out on their aesthetically pleasing pink-walled terrace (having had a few drinks at the pub before because cocktails here are a tenner and to be honest we only really came here for the pictures), served by one of the many attractive waiting staff. We took pictures of it all, obviously. But looking past the dreamy dusty pink bar, the brass-rimmed liquor cabinets, jade leather booths paired with pink armchairs, and huge brass pendant lights that form the centrepiece of the entrance (all the work of Tom Dixon), the drinks (and we discovered later, the food) was actually pretty good too. Though ranging from £8-10 (standard prices for London, but still a shock when you’re used to a bottle of wine for a fiver), the cocktails proved so good that we both forked out for another one (I recommend the smokey rogers – when I asked about the truffley taste the waiter brought me a teaspoon of their homemade truffle honey to sample).
Once seated in the (again, entirely photogenic) restaurant area, we were guided briefly through the menu by yet another attractive waiter. It was broken down, as is the trend right now, into ‘small plates’ for starters or tapas-style sharing, salads and ‘Bronte dishes’ (still don’t really know what a ‘Bronte dish’ is, but under this name sat an edamame and kale pancake next to…fish and chips. Kind of a clunky take on fusion?), ‘grilled mains’, and ‘sides and desserts’ (no idea why you’d pair side dishes and desserts together, my guess was to keep symmetry with the illogical ‘salads and Bronte dishes’ above).
Wanting to try as much as possible whilst spending as little as possible, we opted to skip the mains and mystery ‘Bronte’ dishes and go for a number of the small plates to share between us. A good decision, as it was the small plates that the restaurant really showcased its globally inspired cuisine; we started British (sort of) with a crab and chorizo scotch egg in THE most moorish, thick sambal (Malaysian chilli sauce), before going Mediterranean with calamari in a seriously light chilli-kissed batter served with lemon and paprika aioli. East Asia was represented by both a coconut prawn ceviche (unanimously the highlight of the meal) flavoured with chilli, lemongrass and coriander, and a crab and avocado rice paper roll, which was fine, but pretty hard to get wrong anyway. ‘Fusing’ (hate the word ‘fusing’, it’s not physics) The Middle East and India, we had an okay-but-boring chicken, butternut squash and feta samosa sat on a too-subtle-to-taste miso infused yoghurt with pomegranates, that we only really finished off because we paid for it. Flanked by some skinny rosemary fries and tenderstem broccoli with a fantastically thick tahini truffle sauce that we mopped up with the chips, we were pretty happy.
Too full and, by now, too poor to get a pudding, we sat back and admired the interiors whilst paying the bill, sneaking in one last picture of the bar before leaving. So my verdict of Bronte: fancy going out for a posh-ish dinner? Need to give some TLC to your neglected Insta account? Then it definitely ticks the boxes. Don’t expect to be particularly blown away by the food, but expect at least 5 new followers when you tag the location in your aerial shot of your table groaning with various designer plates and glasses; I know I did.
REALLY QUICKLY ON A COMPLETELY UNRELATED NOTE here’s the recipe for sesame, chilli and lime butter because it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted a recipe and this butter is the bomb. Literally the emperor of butter. I’ve incorporated it into lunch and dinner for the past 3 days. It’s adapted from a Waitrose Mag a month or 2 ago and intended to go on BBQ corn on the cob, but I’ve been treating it like normal butter and it works with literally everything.
Sesame, chilli and lime butter
75g butter, softened
1 tbsp tahini
The juice of half a lime
1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
Half a chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Small bunch of coriander, chopped finely
- Mix everything together in a bowl. Test it out on a bit of bread and adjust if needed. Resist the temptation to eat out the bowl.
- Keep in a ramekin/wrapped in greaseproof paper in the fridge, ready for any meat that needs grilling, toast that needs spreading or steamed veg that needs buttering.