Madsen – A Handy Scandi I’d Like To Fancy

Madsen
20 Old Brompton Road
London SW7 3DL
Website
Map
Online Reservations

  • Brunch:  dishes from £5.75-12.75, plus there is a brunch platter for £18.50
  • Lunch: prices vary but generally £10-15pp for 2 courses; there are also set lunch menus for £14.50 (2 courses) or £18.50 (3 courses) and a smushi lunch platter for £9.50
  • Dinner: starters from £5.50-8.50, mains from £11.75-17.95, desserts from £5.50-895, plus there are also dinner set menus for £22.95 (2 courses) or £27.50 (3 courses) & various other seasonal menus
  • For the full set of high-resolution photos (which I am particularly fond of), please visit my Flickr sets: lunch & brunch

A small, cute, clean modern Scandinavian restaurant in South Kensington that I really wanted to love, but can’t quite find reason to. Well, the herring was pretty good and they serve a mean brunch platter. But a couple of lacklustre open sandwiches and four dry meatballs with no redeeming qualities don’t exactly have me chomping at the bit to return. In any case, it’s a pleasant place to hang out and, if you order well, you might just end up with some decent Nordic grub.

A quick smushi, not a sushi, for lunch for once

I had wanted to visit Madsen, a still *relatively* new Scandinavian restaurant in London, since it opened around the beginning of 2009. Being a long-time fan of food from the region, I was eager to get a taste of the food without having to travel there – although I do like visiting the Nordics, Sweden especially. Somehow I never made it during the opening hoopla, but I did follow them on twitter from very early on (so it felt like I had been there, at least) and mentally noted the mostly positive reviews from the blogger- and twitter-ati, as well as the traditional press.

The entrance - notice the very Scandinavian use of blankets for outdoor seating. Why don’t they have this in England more commonly?!

Anyhoot, it just so happened that we were out to get Baby LF’s French passport in South Kensington (where else would the French embassy in London be located?) before embarking on our transatlantic transplantation. It was nearing the end of what is generally considered ‘lunchtime’ and I remembered that Madsen was in the area, so we walked around the corner and espied a nearly vacant dining room, with one couple eating on the small terrace and the inside totally empty. Perfect, we had plenty of room for our little princess, and could relax and stretch out.

Simply red

The lunch menu made good for reading, and pretty soon we had whittled down the choices and made our selections.

The dining room is typically Nordic, employing clean lines, lots of white and wood, and dramatic utilization of splashes of primary colors. It is a simple dining room that is inviting in the daytime and (I imagine) sufficiently atmospheric in the evening.

Take a quick tour with me…first the right foot…

Right half of the dining room

…and now the left.

Left half of the dining room

A quick glance up….

Dangling illumination

…and now peer down at your table, and please be seated.

Looks nice, eh?

Given the restaurants roots, I have opted for Scandinavian minimalism in terms of commentary (sparser than usual, at least).

Onion Marinated Herring with Curry Salad & Rye Bread

The herring was excellent, as good as I’ve had in Sweden and Denmark, and I enjoyed this element the best out of all the components in the dish. The curried salad was also pleasant and not too cloyingly sweet. The rye bread was average at best and definitely not up to the standard that I’m used to in Nordic countries. The salad was fresh enough, but it was all about the herring.

Smushi Lunch Platter

Mrs. LF opted to go for the Smushi Lunch Platter, a trendy type of small open face sandwich gracing Denmark’s eateries as of late. It was certainly prettily presented.

Smushi Lunch Platter: Smoked Salmon with Cucumber on Sourdough Bread

This was Mrs. LF’s favorite of the three. It was good: not a knockout, but a satisfying classic nonetheless. That said, how hard is it to prepare a simple but tasty smoked salmon sandwich?

Smushi Lunch Platter: Tomato and New Potato with Mayo & Crispy Onion on Rye Bread

The other two smushis (can you say that?) were “take it or leave it” for both of us and not particularly rousing – a let-down for sure as they did look very appetizing. The veggie sandwich was probably our second favorite, saved in part by the crispy onions (these are nearly always good additions to plainer sandwiches, and hot dogs too, in my book).

Smushi Lunch Platter: Smoked Pork Loin Topped with Mayo & Tomato on Rye Bread

When I saw the words “smoked pork loin” I somehow didn’t envisage some thinly sliced cold-cut-ish looking meat. Also, the menu description wasn’t particularly accurate in this instance as those were definitely potatoes, and not tomatoes, on top (I know they rhyme, but c’mon…). Anyhow, this was below average and we found it boring and uninspired. We also found the platter to be pretty expensive for what it was at £9.50.

Frikadeller/Pork Meatballs with Cold Potato Salad

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. I don’t know how to say it other than these meatballs just didn’t taste good. Maybe I was disappointed because, again, they had been presented attractively, or maybe it was the fact that there was no gravy or sauce to accompany them and bring a much-needed counterpoint to the overly porky flavour and dry texture, but it just wasn’t happening. I really didn’t enjoy my main course and, having tried a bite, Mrs. LF concurred – and she is, like, well forthright, innit.

Despite our hit-and-miss experience (with more misses than hits), we still had a fairly nice time at lunch – the waitress was sweet and we liked the look and feel of the little venue. We decided to give it a second try when we saw they had a brunch menu, as we were due to meet some friends who live in the area that coming weekend.

The second coming?

We arrived back at Madsen a few days later and were expecting to wait ages for our friends to turn up (one of them is notoriously horrible with time-keeping – she’s in fashion, darling), but to our surprise they were already at the table, waiting to get their hands on Baby LF’s ridiculously rotund thighs. 🙂

To use a MasterChef Torodian non sequitur…“and from baby fat to brunch”…

We were back, the menu was white & black

I decided that from the relatively concise brunch menu, I would opt for the Nordic Brunch Platter as I was particularly hungry.

Rodier Pere et Fils Champagne N.V.

But of course upon noticing a decent N.V. (no, not a boring Dutch corporation) they had by the glass, I opted for a flute of champagne to start off the proceedings, and of course to serve as a good role model for Baby LF. 🙂 It was a satisfying beginning, though it’s not one of my favorite N.V.’s it has to be said.

Nordic Brunch Platter (Starter): Natural Yogurt & Fresh Strawberries with Muesli

I had envisaged my massive horde of food to arrive as a one complete unit. But instead, it seemed to be dismembered and presented in parts. Fair enough, I suppose. The first component to arrive was the yogurt. It was natural and unsweetened, which I liked. It made for a very simple but nice start to my ‘platter’. That said, I could have just as easily made this at home.

Nordic Brunch Platter (Main)

~  Scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes, onion & bacon ~
~ Smoked salmon on rye bread with mixed leaves ~
~ Brie cheese with mixed berry compote & crisp bread ~

Ah, now here was the promised mound o’ food I was after.

Getting up close & personal with my brunch platter

It was a pretty huge platter, but it was all executed nicely. The eggs were well seasoned, creamy and fluffy; the salmon was fresh and excellent; and the brie cheese itself was of very high quality and lovely with the berry compote. The bacon was nice and crispy, though a tad too salty for me, and the tomatoes were just about sweet. I enjoyed my Viking platter of brunchy bits.

Nordic Brunch Platter (Dessert): Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Fresh Fruit & Cream

The chocolate chip pancakes, which served as a finale to my platter, were okay – they were cooked through properly and the chocolate chips were nice inside them. However, I felt the plate was too dry (and I don’t particularly like whipped cream with breakfast pancakes), and thought it would have benefitted from some kind of sauce to tie everything together. You know, like the Big Lebowski’s rug.

Large Herring Platter (Onion, Juniper & Madeira)

One of our friends ordered the large herring platter, which consisted of three types of marinated herring (onion, juniper berry and Madeira) and served with a garnish and rye bread. I didn’t have it on this occasion, but as noted earlier, my (onion marinated) herring at Madsen from our previous lunch was excellent, and my friend thought the same.

Smushi of Thinly Sliced Roast Beef with Remoulade

Said friend also ordered a smushi of roast beef. This was topped with crispy onions, pickled cucumber and fresh horseradish and was served on rye bread. I didn’t get to try it but it looked amazing, I have to say.

Curry Salad & Beetrots in Horseradish Cream

Our other friend is vegetarian (I did mention she’s in fashion, right?) and ordered the curry salad and beetroots in horseradish cream. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste this either, although I think I had a smaller version of the curry with my herring at lunch), but it certainly looked appetizing.

Double Chocolate Mousse Topped with Sweet Horseradish Cream

I did get a bite of the chocolate mousse and it was lighter than I had expected from the billing of “double chocolate” – also, none of us could really taste the horseradish in the cream. It was borderline passable but not memorable.

Æblekage (Stewed Apples in Layers with Amaretti Biscuit Crumble & Whipped Cream)

I also got one small bit of this and didn’t think much of it, unfortunately. It was quite watery and generally lacking any discernible flavor – the only thing I noticed was the slightest taste of apples (thank god, because it was made of them) and a touch of Amaretto.

Single Macchiato

Well, at least I had been happy with my own food this time around, and decided to finish the meal off with a single macchiato, as is often my want, which was perfectly fine.

I’m not mad about Madsen

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to make of Madsen. On my two visits, I noted that it was casual yet subtly elegant; the plating of all of the dishes was clean and appealing; some of the food was fine and occasionally good, but it was also sometimes not worth eating (in a restaurant when you’re paying) IMHO; and the service was pleasant enough. I really want to like the place, but certainly can’t say I’m that enamored – and if I were a redheaded British comedian, no, I probably wouldn’t really be that bovvered.

On both occasions I wandered downstairs – passing the cute little private room on the way – and walked by the kitchen on the way to the bathroom. Both times it seemed deserted, with seemingly only one chef present. So maybe the culinary experience didn’t live up to my expectations because we ate at odd hours when the kitchen wasn’t well staffed (although it was packed upstairs at brunch), or maybe I didn’t order the signature dishes, if they have such things (but of course everything at a ‘good’ restaurant should at least be good).

Mrs. LF made a good point when she reflected that the food we have had at Madsen hasn’t really been ‘cooked’, per se, but rather the task of the chef has been to put together different ingredients. I am sure some dishes (maybe the ones at dinner time, when we have not been), involve more cooking skill, but the food we had was very simple, and as noted above a few times, it’s the kind of food you could make at home and is not necessarily worth going out to a restaurant to eat.

Will the third time be the charm?

For those of you who have been, what do you think – have I missed out on something special or have I gotten it mostly right? I’m befuddled.

Madsen on Urbanspoon

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The Table Cafe – A Sensational Brunch in Southwark

The Table Cafe
83 Southwark Street
London SE1 0HX
Website
Map
Phone: +44 (0)20 7401 2760 (no online reservations)

Weekend brunch dishes from £4-8, weekday lunch dishes from £2.85-7.70

We had an excellent Saturday brunch at The Table Cafe. The food is well sourced, honestly cooked and very satisfying; the ambience is Scandinavian cool; and we will definitely be back again.

We had an excellent Saturday brunch at The Table Cafe. The food is well sourced, honestly cooked and very satisfying; the ambience is Scandinavian cool; and we will definitely be back again

Thank u v much twitter 4 ur gr8 recm’dation!

A few months ago, when I first began my journey into the world of twitter, I saw that one of my twitter foodie ‘friends’ was following a place called The Table Cafe (TTC) near Southwark Bridge on the South side of the Thames. I read some of their tweets and was impressed with their daily changing menu. I vaguely remember looking at their website too and noting their seemingly meticulous selection of suppliers, which ticked a lot of boxes (local, organic, etc.). Plus, they listed Monmouth as their coffee supplier, which is a good thing in my book. I kept telling myself the next time I was in that neighborhood (which is very rare), I must drop by and see what it was all about.

Mrs. LF and I were headed to Borough Market last Saturday to buy some pork from Peter Gott’s Sillfield Farm. This is so far the best pork in London I’ve had in the UK, which I first had at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen a few months back – see here, and especially comments from Peter at bottom of the post. Given that we would be in the general vicinity of TTC, I thought we could stop by there for brunch en route – and we did.

Welcome to Sweden, can I take your order

Walking into TTC, I felt as if I was entering someplace very familiar, but not exactly British. As far as I understand, TTC functions as the canteen for the firm of architects whose ground floor it inhabits (as well as the nearby office buildings). The exterior of the building is mostly glass, accented with angular flashes of bright yellow. Once inside, the clean modern lines and the use of simple and warm wood tables and benches immediately made both of us think of Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular for me. In fact, quite disturbingly, it reminds me of a particular haunt of mine in Stockholm.

The fairly modest square room is replete with red rectangular sheets of metal on the ceiling, a long and narrow kitchen, a stock room that is half on display, a stainless steel espresso machine, and a wooden table on top of which some assorted juices, cereals, milks and fruits lay ready and waiting. As you can see from the photos below, cutlery and napkins are provided on the tables and the place settings are the paper menus. You order at the counter.

Our table

Our table

View from our table to the counter

View from our table to the counter

The breakfast counter

The breakfast counter

The corner of the kitchen

The corner of the kitchen

The credit crunch brunch

I would hazard to guess that TTC’s main business is the weekday lunch crowd, and for that they have a daily changing menu which sounds pretty good and is amazing value with dishes from £2.85 (for a Spanish Tortilla made with free range eggs, heritage potatoes and sautéed white onion) upward. I say ‘amazing’ value because even the most expensive dishes (just under £8) are made from very high quality ingredients and seem very hearty.

One of the staff members said they’ve only started opening on the weekends in the last few months and are still not set on exactly what times they should open for and what menu they should use (i.e. should it just be brunch all day, or brunch then lunch, etc.?). On our visit, the weekend brunch menu was available. It sounded very appetizing and, if any good, would be much better value than most places offering similar brunch menus in the West End.

The paper placemat is the menu

The paper placemat is the menu

We made our decisions and sat back and waited for the food to arrive over a cup of tea. It was a Twinning’s tea bag of Earl Grey by the way, which was surprising as all of their other suppliers seem to be so carefully chosen. But I like their Earl Grey the best of the major brands, so no complaints.

Oh my god, were we excited

Oh my god, were we excited!

After a good ten minutes, one of the chefs brought out the still hot plates to our table. We were a bit giddy as it looked like American sized portions, and visually both plates held a lot of promise.

The Table’s breakfast stack: home-made baked beans, red pepper pesto, chorizo sausage, two poached eggs with hollandaise, served on a fresh toasted organic bagel

The Table’s breakfast stack: homemade baked beans, red pepper pesto, chorizo sausage, two poached eggs with hollandaise, served on a fresh toasted organic bagel

Mrs LF said the following about her breakfast stack: “The toasted bagel was an original alternative to muffins, which are usually associated with poached eggs with hollandaise sauce. In this dish, the eggs were perfectly poached with a beautiful orangey yellow yolk as it was split open. The homemade baked beans were yummy, perfectly done and very special; how many places bother making their own baked beans these days? When it comes to baked beans, I tend to like Heinz, actually! But these were as much more delicious and satisfying. The hollandaise sauce was excellent in terms of taste (creamy and with the right amount of tang) and consistency. The chorizo sausage, however, didn’t stand out (maybe they forgot to put it in?) as I don’t actually remember eating it. Overall, it was very different compared to the breakfast we usually have at our favorite brunch places, which all tend to have the same items on the menu: English Breakfast, Eggs Benedict and so on.” 8/10.

Buttermilk pancakes with streaky bacon, organic maple syrup and caramelized banana

Buttermilk pancakes with streaky bacon, organic maple syrup and caramelized banana

My pancake looked and smelled beautiful. And I certainly wasn’t let down by the taste either. The large and very thin pancake had been cooked through exactly right: the edges were slightly crispy and the middle was soft and fluffy but not at all doughy. The sweetness of the maple syrup and caramelized bananas contrasted well with the saltiness of the extremely crisp and thin streaky bacon. I know this is a very American flavor combination, and I personally love it, although I can understand how some people are not the greatest fans of the extreme sweet and salty combination for breakfast food. For me it all worked together perfectly, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite. 8/10.

Well worth the detour

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at TTC. It had a nice, laid back vibe and the food was well sourced, honest, wholesome and satisfying – with nice little twists to many of the dishes on the menu. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who lives in the area or anyone who might be passing by the neighborhood on the weekend and fancies a good brunch. In fact, we are thinking of taking our nephew there when he next visits from France. If I worked in the area, I would certainly be down there most days if the weekday food is anywhere near as good as the brunch and seems to represent great value for money.

By the way, in case you are curious, we slow-cooked the pork we got from Borough Market for about 5 hours and it was to die for. So full of flavor, perfectly crispy crackling, and served with cooked and slightly sweetened red cabbage and cooked apples. 🙂

Rating

Ambience: 8/10

Service: n/a (self-service, order at the counter)

Food: 8/10

Wine: n/a

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have only dined at The Table Cafe once for weekend brunch. Hey, that sort of rhymed!*

The Table Cafe on Urbanspoon