Eats and treats

Benihana – London

The entrance to the Benihana restaurant on the Kings Road, Chelsea is so discreet that I had walked past it many times without noticing it. But on this occasion I had arranged to meet a couple of friends there for lunch, so I had to pay more attention to where I was going.

Venturing down the stairs I found myself in a large comfortable open waiting space with what appeared to be dining rooms to both sides. My friends weren’t far behind me and before long we found ourselves sitting at one of the large communal tables around the Teppan.

The Benihana ‘empire’ has gone a long way since a Japanese boy called Hiroaki left his native country for New York to pursue his interest as a wrestler. But he had been brought up in his parents’ restaurant and so it was not long before he went to college in New York to study hotel management. He adopted the name ‘Rocky’ to make it easier to pronounce and in 1964 Rocky Aoki opened his first restaurant.

His father suggested that chefs should entertain and tell jokes whilst cooking. The Benihana brand and style of cuisine took off. Rocky Aoki died in 2008 but his legacy lives on under the direction of Keiko Ono Aoki and the Benihana Tokyo team.

After a few minutes David joined our table, introduced himself as our chef and set to work entertaining and juggling as he skilfully cooked our absolutely delicious Keiko menu lunch – a special August ladies lunch menu to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary (a fantastic value set lunch for ladies only for £30 for nine-courses, plus a plum wine cocktail, and a glass of wine.

Actually the party of business men seated round the adjoining Teppan were having an even more spectacular juggling routine and their lunch looked every bit as good as ours. We really liked the menu we had – very fresh food, nicely varied, not a dud dish amongst them plus it was an excellent showcase for the Benihana style of cuisine generally, and of course David our chef’s teppan-yaki skills and sense of showmanship.

It’s a great restaurant for special occasions and celebrations and also has its own private dining room. We are definitely keeping an eye on Benihana’s promotional offers – far too good to miss out on. C.G.

Benihana Chelsea: 77 King’s Road, SW3 4NX. Tel: 020 7376 7799; Benihana Piccadilly: 37 Sackville Street, W1S 3EH. Tel: 020 7494 2525. www.benihana.co.uk 

Georgian House, Alderney

The family-run Georgian House is at the heart of the small island of Alderney at St Anne. Run by Holly and Del Chandler the Georgian House, which also offers &&B accommodation, places huge emphasis on food and believes in sourcing local and sustainable produce where possible.

The menus are contemporary with a mix of traditional British pub and European with a seafood influence. There is also a bar menu for anybody wanting something quick and easy to eat.

And it’s not all about the food. The Chandlers believe drink is important too! There is a wine and beer lists to suit all palates, wallets and occasions.

Incidentally Holly Chandler (nee Fisher) is the ‘Fish’ of Gourmet ski chalet holiday specialists Fish&Pips Chalets. Famed for their foodie influence on the Alps, Holly has extended Fish&Pips’ values and culinary expertise to Alderney. They often run small events and have experimented with pop up restaurants around the Island. V.N. www.georgianalderney.com 

Da Vincis, Kato, Paphos, Cyprus

When visiting popular holiday destinations you will inevitably find hundreds of restaurants all offering similar menus aiming to please and cater for the palates of visitors from all corners of the world. They are all much of a muchness and the likelihood is, that in the course of a holiday they will fail to entice you back.

However, as a regular visitor to Paphos in Cyprus, on a visit in May this year my friend and I found a little gem at Da Vincis Restaurant Bar, Posidonos Avenue.

We had called in for a drink and were greeted by a lovely sociable waitress who brought us two glasses of very chilled dry white, local wine, served in beautiful thin, large long-stemmed glasses – delicious. All the staff were delightful, taking the time to chat with customers and making everyone feel welcome and valued. The price was ridiculously cheap €11.20 for 4 large glasses!!

We had already arranged to eat in another restaurant that evening but as the food coming from the kitchens looked so appetising we decided to return the following night.

So, the next evening we walked down to Da Vincis , but this time to sample their extensive menu. We were not disappointed. Again we were greeted with the same degree of friendliness and this time our drinks were served accompanied by piping hot rolls with tapenade and garlic butter.

I ordered the Kleftiko as I like to have dishes local to the country – it was mouth-wateringly delicious and fell off the bone in large chunks of lean tender lamb, served with a selection of freshly cooked vegetables. My friend had a succulent breast of chicken stuffed with haloumi and sundried tomatoes!

The restaurant was buzzing all evening. The standard of service and the food coming from the kitchen was excellent. Da Vincis is not high-end dining but it offers non-pretentious good value for money. It is a fun place with a great atmosphere and well-prepared and presented food. Our total bill, including two glasses of wine plus a litre carafe and large coffees was under €40 (with a complementary liqueur). J.E.

Da Vincis Restaurante Mediteraneo, Posidonos Avenue 3, Paphos

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