Tasty Italian and a warm welcome at C’Alice

So today we’re dining out in Fulham. Fulham sits on the north bank of the River Thames, between Putney and Chelsea and is an elegant area of London teaming with stylish shops, bars and restaurants.

Historically half of Fulham was originally occupied by market gardeners, so a lot of London’s produce came from here – nowadays plenty of it is being eaten.

C’Alice is a new addition to the scene (it opened about two months ago), about halfway along the Munster Road, a short and pleasant meander from Parsons Green tube station.

It’s run by an Italian husband and wife team who felt there was a lack of what they describe as Italian aperitvi places in the area, so they wanted to create a relaxed meeting place for drinks or dinner that locals could enjoy. Well, there’s plenty of enjoying going on at C’Alice.

The menu abounds with Italian favourites and dishes with a difference, too. To start off we enjoyed two fishy starters. The scallops were panfried with grapefruit juice, an unusual combination. The sweetness of the scallops was a little overpowered by the tartness of the grapefruit but they did melt in the mouth. And don’t they look beautiful.

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A beautifully presented scallop starter

A dish of three-pepper marinated salmon in olive oil, lemon and celery was light and zesty, a lovely summer night starter.

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Succulent pink, peppery salmon

For mains there’s a good selection of pasta, risotto and salads as well as classic dishes like tagliata. And this pan fried, breaded sirloin steak simply served with chips and salad. Must try breading sirloin at home – it was tasty and tender and gives a nice twist to a steak.

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Lightly breaded, tender sirloin

And here’s a real Italian favourite – Saltimbocca. The pan fried veal steak is topped with Parma ham and served with Parmesan risotto. A truly indulgent and satisfying dish.

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A traditional veal dish with parmesan risotto

And then of course we were on the Italian dessert trail and we went for two beauties. The creme brûlée was warm, creamy and light.

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A classic creme brûlée

The tiramisu was a little overloaded with cocoa powder but underneath had all the beautiful textures and flavours of this Italian staple. I seem to be tasting tiramisu all around London…nothing wrong with that.

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Time to taste another tiramisu

C’Alice serves good Italian cuisine in substantial portions. The service is friendly welcoming and the space is light and decorated in a relaxed, contemporary style. There’s plenty of wine on display – they sell over 130 different kinds from Italy – and lots of other liquor options as we discovered.

After dinner we settled in on the small terrace and sipped on a glass of their beautiful Amara – a lemon-based liqueur from Sicilly.

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Delicious lemony liqueur from Sicilia

And we chatted to some of the locals who were clearly happy with their new meeting spot. C’Alice’s strapline on their website and shopfront is Wine – Food – Talk. They’ve definitely got all that covered.

Today’s price point

Our three-course dinner cost £69.50 for two people, not including wine.

There’s a wide range of Italian wine available, including by the glass. We had a bottle of Primitivo Itynera for £19.

Starters begin from £6 and mains from £12 for pasta dishes.

C’Alice is at 199 Munster Road, Fulham, SW6.

Square Meal

Fabulously fresh flavours at Orchid Vietnamese Kitchen

So my quest to try different areas of London every week continues. Today we’re moving from Belgravia to Chelsea.

Orchid Vietnamese Kitchen is a small, cosy restaurant near the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in Fulham Road, where my nephew Daniel was born (though Orchid wasn’t there then!). So I have very happy memories of the area – even happier after a visit to this restaurant, I have to say.

I’ve cooked Vietnamese-style food quite a lot, there are even quite a few Vietnamese-style recipes on my blog. But I recently realised  that I’d never been to a Vietnamese restaurant. Frankly I was shocked with myself! Especially as I’ve loved any of the food I’ve cooked myself. The Vietnamese style of cooking is right up my street with lovely marinades, loads of fresh herbs and dishes that are really easy to produce, Plus, I discovered, when you go to a restaurant there’s quite a bit of at-table action, too.

Orchid Vietnam pride themselves in serving authentic Vietnamese food from around the country. It seems to vary quite substantially depending on the area and our meal here was a bit like a culinary tour, while not leaving Fulham, obviously. The charming manager, Hung, told us that you could tell which part of the country each dish comes from because they are more salty in the north, more spicy in the middle and sweeter in the south.

Either way, Vietnamese food is a real taste sensation with a unique freshness and zest to it. There’s always an abundance of herbs, sauces are light and tasty and you can tell that all dishes have been conceived of and cooked with a great deal of love and pride.

A lot of the starters are designed to be shared. Like theMonkfish Cha Ca La Vong.

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The monkfish is marinated with galangal and saffron, and brought to your table in a frying pan, topped with handfuls of fresh dill. It’s then stir-fried at your table on a handy little gas hob (I’m keen for one of these, you know me, new stuff for the kitchen gets me excited).

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The tasty fried monkfish and herbs top the noodles and herbs

Once the fish is slightly crispy the sizzling mixture is placed on top of a plate of cold noodles which have already been sprinkled with chilli, fresh mint, crushed peanuts and a mix of fish sauce and vinegar. Mix it all up and dig in! The contrast of flavours, textures and temperatures is amazing and the monkfish and dill combination totally mouthwatering.

Next we shared the Nam Bo Pancake. A traditional Vietnamese crispy pancake filled with tiger prawns, sliced pork, spring onions and bean sprouts arrives at your table. As does a bowl of water and a plate with rounds of rice paper. And then there’s the plateful of amazing fresh veges and herbs – lettuce, carrot, mooli (radish), basil and coriander.

The amazing crispy pancake stuffed with prawns and pork

The amazing crispy pancake filled with prawns and pork

You take the rice paper and dip it lightly in the bowl of water to soften it slightly. Then place it flat on your plate and layer the one side with the veges and herbs. Slice a chunk off your filled pancake and place it on top. Then, holding the insides down with your chopsticks, roll the pancake up, pulling the chopsticks out when the two sides meet. Wow!

My little wrapped parcel, not bad for my first attempt

My little wrapped parcel, not bad for my first attempt

I love food with a bit of action involved and this got me very excited. And the resulting little parcel of deliciousness? Well, what can I say? I loved this dish and am longing to recreate it at home.

Oh, and I met a new herb called Perilla. Part of the mint family, it’s widely used in Vietnamese cooking and also used in the treatement of asthma, sunstroke, nausea and to reduce swelling (among a very long list of other things!). It tastes good too!

For mains we were presented with two dishes that will be coming onto the menu in a couple of weeks. Amazing beef cooked with cinnamon, tender and flavoursome; and lemongrass chicken with a most tasty peanut sauce and a bit of a chilli bite – served with sticky rice.

Succulent lemongrass chicken with a chilli bite

Succulent lemongrass chicken with a chilli bite

Fantastic tender ribeye in a cinnamony sauce

Fantastic tender ribeye in a cinnamon-y sauce

As well as being a fantastic and intriguing eating experience, Orchid  is amazingly good value for money, too. Our shared monkfish starter was only £7 and mains are under a tenner. What a wonderful discovery, I feel we will be back soon to sample some more. The staff were friendly and incredibly informative about (and obviously proud of) all their food so much so that I think they may have convinced us that a visit to Vietnam (yes, the country) may have to be on the cards for next year!

Orchid Vietnamese Kitchen is at 351 Fulham Road