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food / travel



Yeah so it turns out there was only the one 'late summer session' so no real need to number them. That's like calling citizen Kane. Citizen Kane 1.

I decided this week to try 5 new places for lunch (over the five days we call a working week - obvs). I'm usually quite unadventurous with my lunch choices, and was interested to test whether I was missing something or if in fact I had mastered the art of soho lunching with no more to be said.



Monday - Whole Foods

I ventured inside this intriguing mass of a place (that's a wordplay on 'mess' by the way) to buy a post lunch fundrink. It was coconut water. And noticed they had an interesting thing going on with canteen style food. So I thought why not try it. Oh I tell you why not here look. It's expensive. They do it by weight. They say they don't weigh the plate but they clearly do. The rice is dense and shit because it had over cooked and undercooked qualities all at the same time. And basically whatever was good about it wasn't good enough for me to recall here. It felt like a parent must feel when they have to take their kids to eurodisney. Fun to try it once but definitely don't ever go back. Not quite sure who the kid or the parent was in this situation. I think I was both but the main thing was to have the subtext wholefoods=disneyfood.





Tuesday - Ducksoup

Things were looking up by the second day. Firstly I didn't have to go back to whole foods, and then... actually that was the main reason. I had 'swerved' ducksoup for reasons unknown but it popped up out of nowhere on my stroll down dean street, and I thought, well mais pourquoi pas non? To be honest the only reason why not is if you don't want to accidentally spend £20 on a quiet lunch for one on the wrong side of whichever day you think is 'the new Friday'. But apart from that this was my top pick from the week's eating. I had a glass of weird red (my request), delicious perfect grilled sardines with caponata, and Lardo on toast for dessert. It was a near perfect bar experience. Shame there isn't a hearty £7 daily main course. If there was, it would be my new princi. What?
THAT COMES LATER





Wednesday - honest burger

On hearing about the week's eating, my recent chum from Ducksoup put me onto Honest burger. A Brixton based burger joint opened up at the end of Meard Street (between Wardour and Dean). I don't know much about them but after Tuesday's £20 bonanza, the £7.50 for a burger with its chips seemed doable or even good value. I decided as always to eat in. Getting takeaway is quite depressing really, because eating lunch in parks is lame, and sitting at your desk with half an eye on work/YouTube/facebook is messy, sad and boring. The place didn't feel that exciting though. The enthusiasm of the staff did not match up to that of it's fan base…"Have you tried Honest Burger, they are soooo good… etc?". I ordered the standard burger with chips (@£7.50), which I guess is good value. The chips were a sort of rosemary shot, skin-on type, which for a few mouthfuls were very nice. But then my usual chip anger kicked in when I lost interest, demolished the burger (which was very nice) in about 2.5 minutes and had to return to what was essentially a pile of dried up, crunchy, cold cigarette butts. Which always makes me think, come on guys, surely this is getting tiring by now, hamburger and chips, really? I'm not saying that I'm at the top of this argument, but it is very lonely.



Thursday - Pierre Victoire

This was probably the least most adventurous place I went to in the week. The food was OK, but had a slightly gastropub feel to it. Which sounds unfair, but everyone knows gastropubs are the worst thing. My main course was a simple sausage and mash, but they managed to douse the whole thing with a slightly tepid sauce, and as I explained to my friend Pierre, it is normally the other way around; a warm piece of meat given life by a piping hot sauce. But what I have done here is start with the worst, because what was actually quite impressive was the two courses for under £10. So if you are hungry and in a money saving mood then do head here because it's totally fine. Plus you get to eat loads of free baguette and butter, which is basically irresistible.



Friday - Josephine's

There was a bit of confusion about the final lunch. I had missed a message half way through the week form a mate wanting to try Honest Burger, so when I did some pre-press pr putting a picture up clearly ignoring his request and going there without him, he kind of told me to go fuck myself, except it was much worse because it was this guy http://ascoffyegg.blogspot.co.uk. So when it came to Friday we had to re-think. Bubbledogs? no that's too trendy for us to deal with. So off we went, to what I think may be the only Filipino restaurant in London; happy to be proved wrong though. The restaurant is at the south end of Charlotte street and has been there for quite a while. We ordered a variety of dishes from their reasonably priced lunch menu, offering a £6/9 1-2 course set-up. I seem to remember getting really excited about not feeling ripped off. The food was very good and made interesting that it was slightly different to other Asian restaurants. One of my favourite moments was when the proprietor came out mid-order to ask how hot I wanted my Chicken in coconut sauce. I probably will come back here, although not that much, but the experience was a pleasant one, and a welcome change to the usual London food scene. By usual, I mean get the fuck over yourselves.


Round-Up, based on overall experience -

1. Ducksoup
2. Josephines
3. Pierre Victoire
4. Honest Burgers
5. Whole Foods


Directory of Restaurants -

Whole Foods Market, Inc.
20 Glasshouse Street
London  W1B 5AR
+44 (0)207 406 3100
Mon – Fri 7:30 – 9:30;
Sat 9 – 9:30;
Sun 10 (browsing and Cafe only), 12-6

Ducksoup
41 Dean Street W1D 4PY
020 7287 4599
Noon-10.30pm Mon-Sat (hot food not served 3-6pm)
1-6pm Sun

Honest Burgers
4a Meard Street
London, W1F 0EF
+44 (0)20 3609 9524
MON-THU 12-4/5.30-11PM
FRI-SAT 12-11PM
SUN12-10PM

Pierre Victoire
5 Dean Street
London
W1D 3RQ
020 7287 4582
Mon-Sun 12-11pm

Josephine’s Filipino restaurant
4 Charlotte Street
Fitzrovia
London w1t 2lp
0207 580 6551
0207 580 6564



Buying Fish -

It occurred to me recently that I am fascinated by fish. I am also quite into meat, but it's not quite in the same class. I enjoy seeing a great t-bone as much as the next person but there is something more special and meaningful about fish. They probably go back a bit further.

Having just spent a bit of time with family in the south of Spain, I was intrigued at the business of buying fish from the counter at one of the local supermarkets. I enjoyed seeing local, or at least Spanish mums, selecting their 'usual', which invariably was a whole hake, stripped of its difficult bits and sold as two very clean sides or fillets. I think they just shallow fry it with a slight dusting of well seasoned flour, but who knows. If done well, and the bones make themselves scarce enough, hake is definitely one of my favourite fish. You can cut it into slightly aggressive steaks for a BBQ, bake it or fry baby ones whole. The flesh is on the firm side but retains an almost fragile subtlety that sets it apart from a big gun like turbot.

In the supermarket I was delighted and fascinated to see the origin tags on all the fish. So little of it coming from Spain. The hake was south Atlantic, the dorada/bream was the widely seen Greek farmed variety, as was the bass. The squid was Indian Ocean, along with some of the prawns but we actually had some salmon trout one night on my grandmas orders, which was in fact from Spanish farms. I wasn't at all surprised at this but it does make you think. What on earth was the journey like for those poor squids scooped up off the Indian coast. Imagine if they could be resurrected to witness their destiny onto the harsh metal counters of a local Spanish supermarket.

I have enjoyed a former employer of mine recently (Rowley Leigh) talking about fish. They had just opened the fish shop at Kensington Place when I was working there over 10 years ago and at the time I seem to remember it being treated more as a sin bin. It was probably one of the best fish shops west of Steve Hat though. That aside, Rowley has been introducing some good ideas around the topic of where the fish we are eating come from, and implying the right amount of caution so as to not be too precious about its provenance. Ideally we would all like to have a freshly caught wild pink dorade, but it's not the end of the world to have a farmed bream, it's still a fish isn't it. We don't go around demanding line caught wild beefs do we. But I guess there are still better farms than others.

I know relatively little about the depths of the worldwide fishing industries but it certainly is an interesting subject, and I would like to learn more about it.

I would love to see an in-depth route map of all the comings and goings of fish in the world, a bit like what you see in the back of airline magazines. It would include all levels of locality like rickety small day boats coming back with fresh locally caught fish going direct to a handful of restaurants alongside big business fisheries, shippers and airfreight. I feel a self commission coming on. Fish + Graphic Design. hmmmmm.



Grilling Steak -

This may come across a bit Delia, but I think it's a nice thing to lay down. When it comes to BBQs I'm militant about my fires. I remember being on holiday as a kid, and making horrendously large wood concoctions on outdoor grill areas. It was near impossible to actually attend to anything cooking once added to the heat. We were always in agreement that some time after eating, and probably drinking (adults), and maybe dessert, would the fire then be at its optimum heat.

To make some steaks, I buy cheap rump from overpriced east end groceries. It's a good compromise I think. 30mins before grilling open the pack and stuff them all into one pack; don't actually use a dish, that's wasting. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a very decent drizzle of good salt, and a smaller drizzle of cracked black pepper. Mix it all up with ferocity, maybe even knead it a bit. Leave it to get to room temperature. When your grill is at its early hot stage, the bit that is too hot for chicken. Lay the steaks on, flat as possible and leave to colour. If the fire is very hot, no more than 4 minutes on that side, then turn over for 1 minute and take off to rest on a plate. Obviously timings will vary so take off a bit for very thin and add for very thick. Ideally try and rest the steak for a bit (more necessary for rump) slice it up on a board, and serve with a bit of lemon, Italian style as a little starter for the rest of the BBQ. That way you don't have to buy fucking steak for everyone, and you shouldn't eat that much anyway. Ok good.



Princi eggs royale -

I'm not sure whether this is technically 'royale'. Does the 'royale' refer to the duo of poached eggs with smoked salmon, or does it in fact demand the trio (English muffin) for 'royale' to be true. Nickname or no nickname the combo of smoked salmon with two poached eggs on sourdough toast was very appealing. Can't remember exactly how much it cost but I seem to remember it wasn't too bad, maybe either side of £8.

But to my surprise the dish wasn't quite a goer. The toast was done nicely, and in general the portion was on the generous side, but the smoked salmon was on the fishy, oily side, rather than the dryer smokey side, which I tend to prefer. And to add to that, one of the eggs was completely under cooked, spilling out an unattractive mess of cold-ish water over the plate. I was frustrated by this because there were so few things that had to happen for it to be a success. Better luck next time Princi.



Halloumi Salad -

I think whichever long weekend I am referring to may have passed but here is an intermediary post from June about a salad for summer. Or maybe next summer:

In case anyone needs a salad for the long weekend, I made this twice in the last couple of weeks, and seems to be quite good. I would imagine it is very similar to an Ottolenghi style recipe, and I am not pretending I invented the combo of flavours, but here is a basic outline:

Ingredients:
Aubergines
Halloumi
Pomegranate
Spring Onions
Lemons
Coriandre
Mint
Yogurt
Salt/pepper/other spices if need be

Method:

Aubergine and Halloumi can be fried in olive oil or barbequed. If bbq marinade them in oil first. Salt the aubergines too if you can be bothered.

Layer them on a plate with the rest of the ingredients in any way you like, big, small, dun't madder.

At the end make a dressing of olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper and throw over the top.

Good luck with the pomegranates!



Shrimpy's -

If this restaurant was set up by my friends it would be called Prawny's but that's by the by. I'm not sure if Shrimpy's is a permanent fixture, or using parasitical methods from developing buildings in the exciting Kings Cross basin area. It's sort of a pop-up with a semi.

Some of the food was great, but I hit a wall halfway through my softshell crab burger. Before it, I had some crispy pig skin dipped into guacamole and some delicious but oily fried squid, that came with a rich tapenade. So it's no surprise really that following with a deep fried crab inside a burger bun with a spicy mayonnaise sauce slightly finished me off.

Sitting at the bar, the staff seemed very together, and actually quite friendly, considering how new and hip Shrimpy's was, but in general the crowd seemed to be an in-joke about themselves and their clothes, and were probably about as annoying as me not explaining why amongst my friends we talk about prawns, prawning and sometimes sausages.

– It all harks back to a night out ending in the wrong bagel shop on brick lane where someone ordered a prawn and sausage bagel. How boring.



La Bodega Negra -

This is one of those new ceviche type restaurants with its almost opened ceviche bar and pisco sours. It wasn't that great and there was way too much pineapple involved in my savoury food. We had tacos of beef and pork. They were unexciting and had an infuriating lack of force in them.

Imagine Maximus Decimus Meridius and his Legions of the North going into a food battle with wet bits of pineapple? People are trying to tell us that this is an exiting new trend in food at the moment. Ha ha, OK there people, steady on, you're all idiots of the highest order. Having said that, they probably just picked the wrong spring cycle to open on. Good luck ceviche restaurants in London, good luck.

#the green rice and cowboy beans were OK though.



Frieze New York -

This year, on Randall's Island Park, off the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the frieze people opened their first edition of the London based contemporary art fair.

It was basically a massive success, all things considered. There were worries about this island that no-one had heard of, protesters coming to trash the party, ferries sinking, collectors falling in the river and drowning, the wood fired pizza oven exploding onto Larry Gagosian etc etc. But actually all went well. So well done.

And the food was quite good too. Although saying that would put the ranking of Frieze's earlier-in-the-year competitor/predecessor The Armory Show, so far below the line of any ranking whatsoever, it might just be easier to say that the food was seriously fucking impressive.



Rickshaw Dumplings -

This is one of those cool mobile food huts that puts a message out on its website everyday and says, "hey guys, we will be serving little steamed bits of dough here today". I didn't actually try any, I hope they were good and I wish them well.

The last time I made dumplings I was 10, the dough was a bit thick, but they were ok. If you did however want to make any, from what I recall (as a 10 year old) you mix pork or chicken in a food processor with Chinese staples like soy, ginger, spring onions, garlic, rice wine, salt, white pepper, misc spices, lay that out onto rounds of dumpling dough (?), fold it over in a platted way, fry on one side very hot in a frying pan, get it crispy, then send a whole load of water over it and steam with a lid until cooked. Its sort of laborious but simple.



Roberta's -

One of the best pieces at Frieze was a wood burning pizza oven by the people from Roberta's, a sort of mildly hippie urban garden kitchen wood burning pizza restaurant from Bushwick with accidental tendencies towards the three star michelin praying mantice foraging style. Would love to try one day.



Frankies Spuntino -

Not to be confused with the London Spuntino although suspiciously similar to the whole polpo group. It occurred to me that I am visiting some of these New York restaurants for the first time via a London based art fair. I am not complaining.

The food here was delicious, and came with relatively little fuss. I always expect fuss in pop-up restaurants, especially on their opening day, but we didn't have any. The meatballs were recommended to us by a native and very worthy New Yorker, they were very wholesome and huge, with nice bits of pine nuts and raisins I think. Slightly on the mealy side, but not necessarily a bad thing.

We then had an aubergine parmigiano, which stated it was served at room temperature. At first I thought this was a lazy/practicality issue, but after tasting and thinking about it, realised there was some wisdom to the natural cooling. I would go into the science, but basically it tastes better that way.

The dish in the foreground is their homemade linguini with fava beans. I'm not a big fan of fresh pastas because they don't work sometimes, and yes I wasn't a huge fan. I prefer the cleaner bite and slide to a dry linguini. And although on paper the sauce with fava (fresh broad beans) looked good, the outcome didn't salvage enough tomatoey acidy sweetness to overcome the heavy oily roundness of the beans and the garlic. I'm being a bit harsh here but it's only a few things changed that would have made this a great dish.



Nutcracker -

I was at a party one night in the East Village, and someone offered me some 'Nutcracker' which he said if I took one sip, it would bust my lip... SOLD!

Apparently this is a well known drink sold by tramps on the subway for $5 a pop. Yes, it was awful.

The place above seamed to be serving one dish, Walnuts. The DIY service was fun, presentation was messy, and the portions were either too big or too small depending on which way you look at it. If you actually wanted to buy rather than eat, I think it set you back like $300,000 dollars.



Blue Bottle Coffee -

To Williamsburg for a taste of speciality coffee. I based a whole mornings activity on going here and made a crucial error to neglect basing a morning around having an amazing American breakfast, but don't worry that happened below on another day.

I ordered a filter coffee, which I specified to be 'short' i.e. strong, as I had seen one going out before and it looked watery. There is probably an argument to making the coffee this way as it may reveal more of the subtle flavours, like being able to smell a perfume better in a less concentrated solution. I reckon a miss-understood concept though.

The girl forgot to make my coffee short. I could tell that the coffee was quite nice but for me the experience was ruined by a few things. Their bench outside (always my preferred choice) was too near the entrance door and felt awkward, I couldn't help thinking I should have been having a nice breakfast somewhere, and the coffee was too damn weak. Don't get me wrong, Blue Bottle Coffee are serious about what they do, but I think when in town for only a few days breakfast comes before speciality coffee, and strong comes before weak.



Bubby's -

This was an insane start to a short break in New York city. In no particular order, I had, pancakes with maple syrup, 2 sides of bacon, 2 scrambled eggs, toasted bagel with cream cheese, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, biscuits (like warm sodary scones with butter and jam), lots of strong black filter coffee (SMASH!) and probably some other stuff. There were three of us. Thank you Bubby's



Diner, Brooklyn -

Despite the caption like title, this restaurant's name is in fact 'Diner'. Which confused me in the dying minutes of my HTC's failing battery life, having wasted much of it on a post coffee pacman style instagram hustle through the streets of Williamsburg.

I was attempting to meet a cousin, who I thought was being a tad generic about our meeting point. A short Wi-Fi pitt stop had me back on the map and only a short walk away. Diner is a great little cramped, well, diner of a sort. It's tucked just under the Williamsburg Bridge. You can sit outside but I think to get the atmosphere you need to go in.

The only bad thing about this experience is that they didn't do milkshakes, and I wanted a milkshake. Apart from that, it was an event that had all the ingredients of a great meal. Hunger, Thirst, Family, Foreign, Burger, Beer, Salad, you know those sorts of things. The menu is actually pretty minimal, and sophisticated, but they still had burgers so basically it was all fine. Although one of us didn't order one. Which I think was concluded to be a mistake.

The burger was great, and came with crafty looking chips and I think a pickled red onion. We ordered a salad too of watercress, rhubarb, and two types of radish; it was exceedingly good. We had a dessert but I haven't much memory of it for some reason, I think it was a flourless chocolate cake. Not quite River Cafe standards though.



Ed's Lobster Bar, NY -

As you can see by my cleverly positioned camera work, the restaurant is located on 222 Lafayette Street. I can't tell you how happy I was with my Belfast Bay Lobster Ale.

The problem is, Lobster is a sort of great high culinary memento, but rarely delivers. Even saying Lobster Bar, will make my mouth juicy. But really there is an incredibly small gateway to the land of Lobsterphoria.

Thursday night was their specials night, so we shared a whole grilled lobster and chips. I noticed that my uncle went for the broiled 1 1/2 pound lobster with bread crumbs and garlic, which actually looked a bit better. Our lobster was very watery for a 'grilled' lobster. I may be mistaken but for me a grilled lobster should be cut in half, doused in good oily substances potentially flavoured with garlic but probably not and then blasted and blistered under a massively high heat, yielding nothing other than a golden crispy singe on the top, yet buttery smooth and sweat flesh.



Risotto for 20 -

Or to be more specific, a butternut squash risotto made for about 12 which had to stretch to 20. In the old days, I would have been fuming with rage that my scientific calculations toward feeding numbers had been torn to shreds, but I now live for this kind of shit. It was a sort of unofficial feast for x number of people, one dish divided by however many turned up. The key is to not worry too much about guests being fussy. As long as something is put in front of you, people are usually grateful.



Kulu Kulu -

I don't go here very often but it is always quite a pleasing visit. I think it must be a relatively early version of the conveyor belt restaurant. The sushi poster reminded me of some art I saw in 2010. I feel that cheap sushi has been given a bad name recently with fast food highstreet outlets making the c2000 examples look like Nobu now. For £15/head you can give yourself a serious feasting.



School Night Cookery at Drazics -

This meal came out of nowhere but left me crawling on the floor of my office and out the building for a recovery dim sum lunch on a very hung over Friday. And to be honest, the reason I got so drunk, was because I was so happy about cooking the above food, not to mention pretending we were shooting a low budget pilot for a tv series that will never happen (no but it will).

I was on meat, I walked in, saw a pan of fried egg oil, heated it up, chucked the three sainsburys halal chicken quarters I bought for £2, added some unpeeled garlic, then that went in a ceramic with potatoes, onions, leeks, and stuff. This was flanked by a seriously mean cauliflower cheese and some even meaner simple greens with olive oil salt and lemon. We didn't drink 4 bottles of wine though, so why was I so hung over.



Dabbous -

I decided to try lunch at Dabbous, these were some lovely peas and broad beans, but they were from Fino, because Dabbous is booked up 8 weeks in advance. After reading Jay Leno's review of the crazed Fitzrovia restaurant I did feel sorry for Ollie Dabbous, who has accidentally caused much upset to rational people just wanting to go about their lives without being intruded upon by another London culinary frenzy. However I still get angry at people who open restaurants that look like abattoirs and dungeons. Trust me, go there it does.



Gustav's -

After a recent discussion with a mutual food fanatic, this cafe in Berlin, for one reason or another cropped up in my memory. And it is just a memory because it was only open for 6 months in the first half of 2009. Gustav was the cat, and the place was run by a Swiss man. He made rotis, with fried eggs and/or Speck, or you could have muesli, and a coffee. It was so good. I wish this place still existed in Berlin, or London for that matter. Anyone fancy fronting that? Pls?



London Review Bookshop Cafe -

I had woken late one morning, in the middle of the worst start to spring I think we have ever encountered. Having ignored many important calls already, I decided that I would duck into this really quite secretive place for a spot of breakfast.

Situated in a book shop a stones throw away from The British Museum, you have to enter through the bookshop; a useful deterrent. I ordered some toast with jam and butter, and a cappuccino. The toast was great. Compared to some breads, although a sort of sourdough or rye, it had none of that overly hard crunch with the crust, and they had cooked it perfectly. The jam did not get touched. The cappuccino was 'arty' but fine nonetheless.

I like this place because it is incredibly calm, like what people who read books are like. But don't go there because is a secret yeah.

josé

Before my visit to José, I was confused about the tapas situation on Bermondsey Street. I know about Whitecube (That's an art gallery), I've heard of the SE1 'river cafe' (my instaname for the Italian, Zucca), and that it's all meant to be quite good.

I knew I had heard about a Pizarro or a José Pizarro, but a lot of it was unsure. Having been accounted with supposed stories, vague experiences and a general lack of confidence by relayers, I was out at sea with no tapas in sight.

Luckily, a visit was arranged, and before I knew it, I was storming along the b-roads of South London, jackknifing my car into the nearest parking bay on Bermondsey Street. Err no I wasn't, on saturdays parking is until 6:30pm, so anyone idiotic enough to be voyaging par voiture, go and park in Maltby Street, its not that far, and you get to compare the two newest blue-chip food streets, south of the river.

Walking from the safely planted car on Maltby Street, I was trying to prepare myself for what to expect. I have come to the conclusion that I'm hype-phobic at the moment. After a bad couple of weeks attempting to try the new Pitt Cue Co in Newburgh Street (i. 17.2.12-6:20-7:45pm; ended in fajitas at a friends, ii. 2.3.12-1:50pm; ended in Byron Burger purchasing) my nerves were heading south; bad south.

So with animal instincts on full alert, I arrived at the heaving little corner of Bermondsey Street to José, which is actually the older of the two opened by ex-Brindisa José PIzarro (There is now Pizarro, a restaurant further up the road). I was a little early for my 3pm but I ventured in to test out this potentially ferocious bastard of a tapas bar...it was fine.

All this build up had played out for a surprisingly smooth experience. There were a good few people enjoying themselves but I glided in and made my way for a confident perusal of the bar and open kitchen. After gazing over grilling prawns, plates of sardines, bubbling terracotta dishes of something good, I made first contact. Some invented hand gestures and questionable eye movement saw to a glass of the finest, regular, no-nonsense, cold, dry sherry appearing. It was EXACTLY what I wanted.

Shortly after this, my date (who I have to admit is my girlfriend) arrived, and within a minute we were further glided over to a couple of good seats facing out over the great Bermondsey Street (you're meant to detect undecided irony there). Swiftly, we ordered some Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonad, Tortilla, Croquetas, Garlic and chilli Prawns, and some tomato bread to go with the ham.

I know there is nothing new to any of that (begging the question, where actually are the regional spanish tapas bars? in spain?), and it is all fairly approachable, but I don't mind as long as it's good. And it WAS good. The jamon was subtle for Iberico, prawns were sweet although could have been saltier, croquetas were creamy and crunchy, tortilla had the right amount of gooey oniony eggy potatoey sweet saltiness to it, and the tomato bread was a perfect accomplice to the Jamon. We finished with a crusty crema catalana to share, and I had a cortado.

The description of the food for José fit in to one slightly clumsy sentence here. To be honest, I think it would have been a waste of time to go on too much more. The main thing I wanted to get across, was that on a busy Saturday afternoon, we were made to feel very welcome, at home, and part of the establishment. This is exactly how walking into a tapas (or sherry) bar should be. Busy, fun and friendly.

At one point I was going to question the authenticity of our soave, dark glassesed host, after trying to make a joke with him about Palamos prawns (probably the best in the world) and getting an awkward sneer; and then had visions that I had foiled him in some sort of Saturday afternoon Bermondsey based James Bond food spy thriller. See, I thought that, but I didn't write it!

byron vs pitt cue co

byron vs pitt cue, to be fair is not a great fight here. I've only been to one of them. i have seen the food at pitt cue, but never experienced it due to a huge surge in hype about the place. i think it is probably really very good, but it infuriates me when such a buzz creates a bad vibe. so byron wins, and byron is an evil chain right? not really.

i have had a few byrony experiences recently, ranging from organised dates, after concert dinners and one bailout after getting confused in pitt cue. and all the experiences were great. the best was having their boilermaker, which includes the new 'bourbon' burger, a beer and a shot of bourbon. i had a kernel brewery IPA, which went extremely well with an eagle rare.

i know that the burgers at byron are not theeeeeee best in the world, (supposedly you have to go to meat liquor for that[noted...will do])but they work very well, and normally so does everything else. the courgette fries are on the naughty side, but good and the mac and cheese has a nice bite to it and not too salty, which I like, because it reminds me of the one i make at home.

i just wanted to put it out there, that there are flaws in the argument to small (pitt cue) over big (byron) and this time, goliath got revenge.

coffee and princi

i have been on a bit of a coffee journey after monmouth closed for almost 2 months at Christmas. i now realise how much of a comfy routine i was in until my bike got stolen and favourite coffee shop shut its doors (for a bit). i can't really figure out my best of the rest, but these are the places I have been to (including lazy mornings staying east). i would have to say that, for it's early morning warmth, and classical music, princi seems to be the place i have been the most, but at one point i had quite a strong affection for tapped and packed on rathbone place, that's dying off now, and the other one is milk bar, which does quite a tasty french toast, or scrambled eggs.

which is actually the one thing that got to me about monmouth, it's no good to sit-in there, and you can't really have a proper breakfast. i mean sure, yeah, i would give up breakfast for a leisurely 45 minute sit on a bench watching the world (in covent garden) go by, with probably one of the best coffees (short black filter) you are going to get in london. but for now at least, i am on a break with monmouth.

the other place i can include here is allpress, but it's not quite the same, as it's more of a weekend/home thing than a pre-work one. (n.b. numerous pre-work allpress have been had).

i never used to go to princi for coffee, but sometimes it happened. until one day, i ordered a double espresso, and it really wasn't bad at all. in fact they do use monmouth coffee. i also like how when i order hot milk, or water (a good trick to get a cappuccino 60p cheaper) on the side, it comes in a chemistry lesson-esque round bottomed flask; their croissants are nice too. banana bread is weird there (i detected alcohol;vom) , and pancakes taste orangey, but are oddly priced. the banana bread is at £1.20 and the pancakes £2.50. it doesn't really make sense.

that is the one thing i love about princi, if you know how to approach it, the place is actually very reasonable, and the portions in the hot meals are huge sometimes. what's slightly worrying/impressive is when you realise that all the money you spent in a week on food, went to one man's pocket...alan yau.

hawksmoor 2

i wrote a review of hawksmoor some time below, but i was a little under the weather and not in the best of moods. i went back recently for a 12 strong, all male visit, and for some reason things were a little different. in fact, it was an exceedingly good night.

we were set at the back of the room, which was probably the best place for us. representing a large and economically diverse crowd, some people started with a round of old fashioneds at the bar, others with water, and one person started with red wine, a 'house' magnum of Ramon Bilbao, Rioja Limited Edition 2007. which through the night, he started to share, and then everyone followed and we got another one. I enjoyed this rash move, and magnums do tend to add a sense of ocassion.

speaking of rash, i decided to order the roast chicken with a side of half a lobster. it was all very good, and the steaks that everyone else ordered seemed great. i remember a lot of marrow bones on the table too, as one of our side orders (i think we just had them bring us all the side dishes). it got a bit much when i started to mix in bone marrow to a roast sweet potato but there was such an abundance of it i couldn't resist.

our designated waitress did a fine service and efficient job at keeping a very loud raucous table happy. half way through the night i seem to remember thinking...this is what I thought hawksmoor would be like. lucky i went back then.

winter veg spaghetti

i had some food conscious friends coming round for an early sunday supper. although, thining about it, who isn't food conscious? i'll tell you who, none of my friends! i had no idea what to make. i like having no idea what to make, why should i have an idea, ever since my late teens i have bolted at the idea of giving a shit. its nice.

luckily i have a pretty decent open-on-sunday food shop round the corner, so it's just a question of will-power really. I took a stroll and headed to leilas shop, which I find myself at far more often than the cafe next door. there are a couple of things i know i can always do last minute, and one of them is pasta.

leilas sells some pretty funky varieties (I went with the massive spaghetti above), which she warned me was quite robust and almost buckwheat-like. looking at the rich selection of vegetables and greenery, i decided to do an italian winter veg spaghetti. but to make it not sooo dull, I would add bacon bits and cream fraiche.

i selected purple bocolli, treviso, cavalo nero and jerusalem artichoke. when it came to prepping, the main thing I can warn you of with this, is don't for whatever reason think that the stalks below the leaves on sprouting broccoli are any good at all. they aren't, they are awful, and i spent about 20 mins picking them out as I like to use the staggered and sequential method of par-boiling groups of veg, if you get what I mean. anyway apart from all that here is how to make what i made:

ingredients
spaghetti
onions
garlic
olive oil
red chilli
lemon rind (grated)
pancetta/bacon
cream fraiche
cavolo nero
sprouting broccoli
jerusalem artichoke
treviso

make
my sauce turned out on the mushy side, it was delicious but I had anticipated the veg to be more sturdy. I'm going to guide you through a fresher, more al dente approach.

start by getting 2 large pans, one for the large spaghetti and one for the sauce. put some water on to cook the veg a bit.

prepare the veg. be ruthless with the broccoli, it's nice to think that you can chop up the stalks but trust me on this one, anything below the leaves is a no no. with the cavalo nero, just cut it thick-ish at the top and get down to finer slithers when you get near the more dense end of the stem. you will need to peel the jerusalem artichoke, and cut into medium sized batons. with the treviso, cut in half lengthways, its nice to keep things a bit big.

I sort of imagined this as a coincidental sauce, the ingredients are all there of their own accord, and go well together but in a slightly deconstructed way. I liked the idea that the mouthfulls could vary. when the water is boiling, add some salt, and the jerusalem artichokes for 2 minutes, then add the rest of the veg for another 3 minutes. tip it all into a colander (save the water if you must) and Hopefully all will still be in tact and colourful. dry the same pan off to re-start the sauce and fill the other one up with water for the pasta ( I feel like jeremy irons in die hard with a vengence).

add a very decent oversized glug of good olive oil to the sauce pan (forget what people say about not cooking with good extra virgin oil). let it heat up and add a large chopped onion, and half a head of garlic, peeled and sliced. now add a large red chilli, sliced up. the large peperoncino they use in italy are not that hot, so it shouldn't hurt too much but judge it if you don't like chilli.

now add a few thick rashes of good, fatty smoked bacon and cook this all for about 5 minutes, quite high. when it has softened and taken colour, add the veg and leave it to sizzle without touching, it doesn't matter if it sticks a bit because you are going to deglaze the pan with cream; lol. give it a shake and see how the pasta water is doing. it may be boiling, in which case salt it and add the spaghetti.

maybe you can grate the lemon zest now. after adding the pasta just help it sit down properly because it is about 3 times the length of normal supermarket spaghetti. now add a tub of cream fraiche to the sauce ( which is more like an oily, bacony, vegetable fry up). take the pasta off when al dente to allow for more cooking, take it off very al dente if you actually like to crunch into pasta (weirdos).

I have ceased to use a strainer for pasta, as i always use the water to help bind the sauce. so pour off almost all the water but keep some back. put the pasta back on a high heat, add all of the contents of the sauce pan, with some grated lemon rind, season it well, give it a bit of time on the heat. I have been in italian households where pasta is gently turned and checked and turned for 15 minutes on a low heat. and that should be it, bar a bit of grated parmesan should you want that and a nice crisp glass of a fruity northern (italian) white. eh...eh

tsiakkos

this is a little piece about my greek mate xen, the guy, if you read further down, i claim to have invented supper clubs with. and that is kind of what it's like when you go there on a regular night. if you imagine taking a supper club host, beating all the crap out of them, taking all their 'knowledge' and 8 course wisdom, burning it, adding a playstation, some heavy duty old man cigarettes, the best music you have ever heard in your whole life, a lot of chill and possibly some obligatory dancing, then you begin to understand a bit about this man. but we're only scratching the surface here. go and see.

w hotel

went to the w hotel off leicester square. piss off.

Allpress Espresso
58 Redchurch Street
London E2 7DP
020 7749 1780
8am-5pm daily

Byron at The Black Horse
6 Rathbone Place
London W1T 1HL
020 7636 9330
Mon-Thu 12.00-23.00
Fri-Sat 12.00-23.30
Sun 12.00-22.30

Hawksmoor
157 Commercial Street
Spitalfields
London E1 6BJ
020 7247 7392
Mon to Fri Lunch 12 noon-3pm
Dinner 6pm-10.30pm
(bar opened till midnight)
Sat Brunch 11am-4pm
Dinner 6pm-10.30pm
(bar opened till midnight)
Sun Brunch 11am-4pm

José
104 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3UB
020 7403 4902
noon-10.30pm daily

THE KERNEL BREWERY
98 Druid Street
London SE1 2HQ
Visitor entrance is 1 Ropewalk
around the back of the arch,
just off Millstream Road.
07757552636

Leila's Shop
17 Calvert Avenue London E2 7JP
020 7729 9789
10am-6pm Tues-Sat (??)
10am-5pm Sun

Milkbar
3 Bateman street
Soho
London W1D 4AG
0207 287 479
Monday to Friday 8am - 7pm
Saturdays and Sundays 9am - 6pm

monmouth coffee co.
27 Monmouth Street
Covent Garden, London
020 7379 3516
Mon-Sat
8am–6:30pm

Princi
135 Wardour Street
London W1F 0UT
020 7478 8888
7am-midnight Mon-Sat
8.30am-10pm Sun

Tapped & Packed
26 Rathbone Place
London W1T 1JD
020 7580 2163
8am-7pm Mon-Fri
9am-7pm Sat

Tsiakkos/xen
5 Marylands Rd
London W9 2DU
020 7286 7896
dinner tues-Sat
6pm-10.30pm

w hotel
10 Wardour Street
Leicester Square
London W1D 6QF
020 7758 1000

for the next few posts i leave you in the capable hands of maeve... our parisian counterpart via berlin. london office will resume service later on in the month. thank you.

MACARONS

Let's get serious about almonds. The Queen of Nuts and nowhere more glorious than as a macaron. And maybe marzipan. "Macaron" is not to be confused with "macaroons" and if you do, stop reading now. French people like to have opinions and in this case it's about who makes the best macarons: Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. There is some preposterous online literature stating that Pierre Hermé is at the forefront of post-modern macaron-making, but if you really want to taste a twenty-first century macaron, head to Sadaharu Aoki on the rue Vaugirard and have a Genmaicha macaron. Any thing he does is super yummy and it's the only time I'll concede to eating a pastry that looks like a Pantone swatch book. Back to PH. Let's call his flavour pairings "inventive" to be polite, although "peacocking" would be more to the point. Just because you call something "Arabesque" does not make it classy. Simply, his macarons are oily, gooey, messy in a bad way, confused about what they are and generally trying too hard to be "fusion". As for Ladurée, nevermind that they produced all the food for Sofia Coppola's picture perfect Marie Antoinette, or that they have the most wonderful patterned packaging. All you need to know is that the crack of the macaron shell has just enough give, it doesn't get soggy, the creamy filling always delivers full-bodied, distinctive flavours and their seasonal concoctions rarely ever disappoint. Although if in doubt, go pistachio - biting into one is like getting exactly what you wanted for Christmas. Don't even get me started on filling chocolate éclairs with anything but chocolate crème pâtissière. I don't feel passionately about that either.

PApà PANE, ACKERSTRASSE

This meal was incredible. Apparently the place is famous for pizza, which I was ready to believe the moment I tried my neighbour's pizza del giorno: "pizza in bianco con mozzarella, porcini e crema di castagne al tartufo con rucola e proscuitto pepato toscano" (it was either that or the German version). It's your basic very good pizza, but what really did it for me was the thin spreading of chestnut cream onto the pizza base. We had to ask for the menu again to make sure. On it's own it's pretty intense and an express ticket for diabetes, but here it completely changed the other flavours and was downright meaty. I had the grilled octopus and vegetables. The fennel was cooked to perfection and when I moved one octopus to cut it's juicy little leg off I discovered an entire second mollusc underneath the first one. I never quite recovered from the excitement. Everything tasted so unbelievably fresh and delicious, I left nothing on my plate but the two tiny octopus beaks. Solid tiramisu and panna cotta.

BOURBON BANANA BREAD

I stole this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is my go-to for anything from latkes to lemon cake. It's a super easy, no-mixer-needed recipe that can be pimped into oblivion. Bar getting a mouth ulcer, there's no limit to how many walnuts you can use. Successful batches included: flaked almonds on top, replacing half the flour with ground almonds and/or hazelnuts, and adding rolled oats to the batter. Fails: grated ginger ("health" tangent) and frozen blueberries (bitter pebbles). On the fence about using fresh raspberries. As for the bourbon, like in eggnog, I use Maker's Mark but you can use anything you like. The smell alone could sell a house.

BIBIMBAP

On Berlin's first snowy evening we tried a new Korean place on Lychenerstraße. Their bibimbap is served in a roomy steel bowl, the way I first tried it with Emma on Tottenham Court Road, although I'm sure that, had I deciphered the German menu in full, I could have had the carved-from-a-red-hot-volcanic-rock option. The obvious competition to any Korean joint in town is Kimchi Princess, with its neon lights and Swedish stag dos, so although Juki might not make it into Monocle it can definitely hold its own. If only for the fact that I can eat their kimchi without liquefying my eyeballs. KP offers 7 side dishes with bibimbap, Juki gives you just 3, but they taste fresher and more homemade than anything KP puts out. Our waitress served our food with a surgical glove-clad hand, which I was grateful for considering she took many cigarette breaks, in plain sight and despite the -10°C weather. The only drawback: no crunchy rice crust at the bottom of the bowl. Again, this could have been solved by reading the menu properly.

WOCHENMARKT

Boxhagenerplatz Wochenmarkt is a tight little weekly market set up around a park in Friedrischain. Small in comparison to other Berlin food markets, it's crawling with good produce, not children. When you're done looking around you can sit and have some Gözleme, Turkish pancakes filled with either meat or spinach and cheese.

BROWNIES

If you're not friends with gluten, these brownies are perfect. If you like chocolate, these brownies are perfect. I scrolled all the way down and used "Clare"'s original recipe because I don't want anything to do with coconut oil. Double the recipe and you could feed at least three teenagers with the munchies. Get some Ziploc bags, we're talking industrial size, and either share the love or stick them in the freezer. A friend recently told me that if you don't eat all the brownies at once you can eat them from frozen, the texture is insane. If you want to know how long you can keep the brownies in the freezer for, you're asking the wrong question.

BRUNCH

Berlin is all about the brunch. The popular choice is entire plates of cheese and cold cuts, but there is a growing number of pancake providers. Sadly, either the Americans who are starting these places have been away from home too long, or they come from Iowa. You want the pancakes to be soaked in maple-syrup, smooth and fluffy counterparts to the crispy bacon you will inevitably be gorging on. You don't want a patty made from the exploded bits of oatmeal stuck to the walls of the microwave. So make brunch at home. Shown here with salted butter chocolate chip cookies and fruit salad - easy crowd-pleaser and welcome break from doughy stuff. Ideally it includes some grapefruit, blueberries, mango, blackberries, oranges, bananas and lots of lemon juice.

mine

minestrone. as the italian man frequenting my office just said to me, all you need to do is cover up all the shit dat you jus made with really gooda olive oil and good parmesan, is good. even though my soup was good in the first place and i used shit virgin oil he has a point. by adding freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, grated parmesan, and a good glug of oil this simple wet offering becomes an impressively authentic hot treat. heat good oil in a pot, add chopped onions and celery, whole peppercorns, potatoes, carrots, courgettes and peas, plus reallly anything else you see fit (don't forget salt too). add cold water to make enough soup. cook it until soupy. add the shit i talked about at the beginning, at the end. buon appetito.

italo-michelin ravioli

my flatmate made a whole braised vegetable ravioli dish the other night. it made me realise how much ravioli benefits from not having a sauce. think more, flavoured oil or butter with cheese. in this case butter, was flavoured with vegetables, and it was very nice indeed. there is an incredibly nutty flavour you get when the water finally evaporates and you are just essentially pan roasting veg in butter.

however I realise that this could also work with a good olive oil too and might be worth a try. if you fancy i reckon it would go something like this.

in a decent, heavy, high-sided frying pan or creuset pot add whole peeled carrots and celery pieces, you can half them lengthways if you like. add a generous amount of very good olive oil. and with that add cold water to the level of the veg, but not much higher.

bring to a simmer quickly but then turn down a bit. you can season with whatever you want but salt + the good oil should be enough. this should cook until the veg is cooked and the water content has evaporated to leave a slowly frying thing happening in the pan.

at this stage put some water on and cook some good ravioli as you normally would. when it is done, pour off most of the water but keep them moist by retaining a small amount.

finally, introduce this with the surplus water to the veg and let them sit on a gentle heat for a bit. serve the raviolis and veg with a dash more fresh olive oil as well as the cooking oil/liquor and a generous grating of parmesan or pecorino. very smart, very simple, very tasty...and quite michelin actually.

le musée, lyon

a recent trip (for romantic reasons) to lyon:

we used to go as a kid quite a lot for just a night, as it was a useful stop off for parents that refused to go by plane to anywhere less than 3000 miles from London.

we had a great flight out from terminal 5 at dawn on a friday morning, but then not such a great one back. one reason alone to visit lyon is to experience the airport to tgv hub connection built in the early 90's (to my surprise). it was eerily quiet when we were there and you felt quite imersed into the soft concrete hands (and rails) of darth sarrasin, the high speed rail god. unfortunately there is no speed connection to the city but a relatively new little tram that was quite ok.

we stayed at a great hotel in the old town that exudes a similar feeling to that of the tgv station. its kind of a mash-up of post-modern french contemporaire, mixed with essences of scaramangas luxury lair shoe-horned into vieux lyon. but it works very well.

we had a fantastic meal on the first night at a place flagged up by a couple of friends. they went there on a night out in geneva (ha! bad luck geneva, that's a rub down if I ever heard one). I got the feeling that amongst various students and a few other (french) tourists, we may have, that night, actually been in the coolest place in lyon. in a good way.

our host came and sat down with his hand written menu, which 3 minutes before he had reeled off to the couple 2 feet away from us. i think he quite enjoyed doing this. my only worry as he was reading was that this was not an eat everything scenario; we were going to have to make a choice.

we had:
steaming bowl of pig cheek (the amuse bouche he gave us because we were insane enough not to have actually ordered it...sorry!)
snails with creamy goodness/badness
mushrooms in salad with more goatscheesy creamy goodness/badness
quenelles de brochet (lyonnaise fishy quenelle with a creamy lobster sauce...yaouch!)
duck leg roasted with a lightly honeyed sauce
braised fennel and gratin dauphinoise (this came on your plate and then your main course came in a sizzling creuset dish)
some desserts + marc de bourgoigne (alcohol)

it was all incredibly delicious in a very french way, which was exactly what we wanted. but therein lay the problem, how on earth could we follow that for a combination of food, hosting, atmosphere and value. we couldn't. lucky we were staying in a nice hotel then.

and in summary on that point, that's exactly what happens. if you are lucky enough to find a relatively non-touristy, exciting, traditional buchon, you will simply, physically not be able to follow it up, even if you did find another one. we were trying to figure out how on earth the local people were surviving off such rich food. then we acccidentally walked up one of the hills? maybe that was how. that, and the fact that a long time ago when genetics to the stomach were given out they accidentally had 'ox' written on their cards.

tout es bon dans le cochon.

spaghetti in a can

i sometimes like having a real smooth tomato sauce on my spaghetti. just make your tomato sauce as usual but then pass it through a sieve over the pasta and heat through before serving. it looks just like canned spaghetti. fucking yum!

mess

this restaurant was called mess. its the basement of our favourite kingsland rd vietnamese, viet hoa cafe. but its a really weird basement space and its worrying that in a year of re-launching their frankly unnecessary re-design, they have already completely done a number over the underground space. to be fair it did have astroturf before. and now, it feels like eating off one of those slate serving boards with an electric fire pit dug out of the middle. its good fun, all sitting round and messing your food on the cookers, but not for repeat business. and repeat business is the key to global domination so, you know...

beef

i was really excited cooking this beef, but now I am not, because I'm not cooking it anymore, and I know what it tasted like. probably a little harsh, but it just didn't do anything to excite me amongst its quite ditinguished accompaniments (cauliflower cheese, yorkshire puddings, glazed carrots etc). i thought i could win by getting nice reasonable cuts of far too lean supermarket beef and cook it with a shit load of beef dripping and salt and pepper; but no. so go and spend more money on beef everyone. that's right, you go and pay for them fat and bones.

roasted pasta

no, this isn't really roasted pasta, i just done took the photo when it was mixed in a roasting pan. but i did make the sauce in the roasting dish, it wasn't that bad, even though its sort of weird to put chicken with pasta. it basically consisted of chicken, mushrooms and cream. I 'roasted' onions, garlic and chicken pieces (boned leg/thigh) in the pan with olive oil, then added the mushrooms towards the end. season it well and dump some coked taglioni all over it and mix in the roasting pan. it looks like there is some green stuff in there too doesn't it, maybe add parsely; couldn't hurt.

perrier

my flatmate is obsessed with cans of perrier, but i'm pretty sure its better out of a bottle.

boursin chicken

on an open sunday i embarked on a simple roast chicken recipe. by open i mean, planless, timeful, stress-free, everything a kitchen enthusiast wishes for really. I mean all we want to do is make stock all day isn't it?

reading through Stéphane reynaud's 'ripailles' , I came acros what he describes as his basic, simple roast chicken, which goes something like this. take a chicken, take your oven, peel some garlic, get some tarragon (i omitted due to lack of), get the salt. now go buy a boursin (watch ad here)... shove that all inside the chicken, roast for 1 hour in 200°C oven. baste like you love to cook and there you are.

I find you have 2 options at the end for sauce. either spoon out the contents of the bird and serve as a sort of garlicky tarragony boursiny cheesy buttery dip sauce. or empty out the contents into the roasting dish and make a sauce of it all to blanket the fowl. this version will probably be thinner than the dip version as it mixes with the original pan juices form the chicken. I did the latter. it was very good.

fires and pubs

i am getting excited about fires in pubs at the moment. we went to the elephant & castle near Wheathampstead for a post plane watching pre curry birthday bash (there were 3 of us... enough). the fire was active when we entered, but in the time we had ordered our ales from the bar, someone had been to hotelier college in lausanne on a private plane from luton and back to present us with a massively stoked fire and candle lit table for three in the room we had just passed. sneaky. will update on further fire experiences.

sobol sourdough

here is some bread my mate max sobol made with sourdough mother from his girlfriend's brother. it was lovely and one of them looked like the moon. we ate some of it toasted with roasted red peppers with whole red chillies and garlic, served with buffalo mozzarella. but it was better when the peppers had cooled more. interesting. cold can be better than hot. hello physics and chemistry.

more princi eggs

more eggs here... e-e-e-e-g-g-g-g-g-g-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s + a split high-end apple juice. no story on this one, just a funny egg photo.

roka

i'm finding it difficult to find an interesting angle on roka. the food is incredibly good but I'm not sure what I want to say about it. they had a fire recently, maybe due to the fact that they had open charcoal flames near lots of wood, but probably not. it lacks something but there are certainly restaurants with worse food that come across or are represented in a much better light. so what makes a restaurant greater or less than the sum of its parts? ask me another time.

basque gateau at allpress

they do this 'basque' gateaux at allpress, my local coffee shop. I say local, because it is one of my local coffee shops, however they are not that local themselves given that their original roastery is in some sort of bay... in Auckland. I kind of like the fact that they have sprung me up a joint for regular coffee visits (thanks guys).

the basque cake above is seriously naughty, especially since it seems to come with what I can only describe as creme chantilly, or spray cream. and the cake itself is all eggy and gooey in the middle. its more of a mind win than a body win.

baked potato roti

there is a good amount of argument thrown around on the subject of making hashbrowns or roti. are they the same thing? Maybe. that's not meant to be the argument.

do you add onions? do you add egg? do you add onions + egg? do you grate the potato? do you par-boil the potato first? do you add other things which are better to argue about?

I think I would grate raw, add egg, no onion. but if you happened to make a baked potato too many the night before, just peel it, grate it, squidge it, and fry it. for efficiency, use a pan you roasted something meaty in the night before, and maybe add black pudding if its handy. serve with auxiliary fried egg.

the small point I am trying to make is that I have experienced my fair share of panicked #brown making, where the panic is in the flipping. and I'm just sayin, that the leftover baked potato thing creates a sort of ready made gluten that binds the potato; real easy for flipping.

hawksmoor, bad cold

I feel this has been done, yes yes we know hawksmoor; top level, big ass steaks. very good. I went having got to the first stage of the beginning of the end of a hugely irritable summer flu. girls can translate for whatever they think I had, but it was pretty fucking bad ok. ahh good I am taken back to my mood now, sniff sniff, nope just feels like drinking salt and fat with a whiff of farmyardy hay shit (must be nice beef)... is what I thought of the steak. I shared a bone-in Sirloin, which I think must be the left side of a T-bone-in steak, or the right side if you turn it over. it was extremly good, but no better than that. sorry do I need to explain that? no? you already understand oh ok thats good.

the one thing i could go on about however, were the 'triple cooked chips'. restaurants have figured out a clever pr trick to luxurise the process of cooking their chips. and before I continue, yes I would prefer them to scrap this label and just say whether they are good or bad chips. but if they are bad chips whether they are good-bad or bad-bad.

most chips that restaurants prepare are already cooked, so when they deep fry them to serve they are already 'twice cooked', so to say 'triple' cooked is like they cook them once, to cook them through, then they cook them again?, and then they deep fry them. anyway its stupid, it pisses me off, and they're not even good because they end up being too crispy and hard and go cold too soon. so its blacksmoor marksmoor for the chips. sorry chips.

it was hard not to compare the whole thing with the rougher, firey argentine 'buen ayre' over there on broadway market. the chips are big, hot, fatty, fluffy, crispy (listen to those words and don't tell me you can't taste good chips), aaaand.. they do a really ridiculous garlic/herb version for total chip write-off fun! oh yeah and the steak was better.

a slightly bone-in round up of actually a very good meal. but I stick by my verdict. the 'no better than extremly good' top end chain loses out to neighbourhood firey, chilled-out argentine.

sushi noodle bar soirée

i thoguht this was a nice idea for a small balcony get together. ooooh we live in hackney...ooooh we're artists... ooooh we don't have a garden . .. ooohhh but we want to go outside ...... ooooh lets improvise and climb out the window.... ooooh but we like food.... oooh lets do sushi ..... ooooh and really good limey soy saucy noodle salad with crab... ooohh yeah and the ledge can be the bar....oooh its sooo improvise... ahhhh and lets put peoples names on their copsticks.... amaze!!!! ooohhhh yeahhhhhhh. thanks lauren and marie.

cheap wine in bike

drinking cheap £12.50 white wine can be fun. but take caution after the 4th bottle. only holster in bike if you really need to. this is not a recipe for disaster.

in the johns

for some reason, felt the need to snap this at st john in smithfield. made me realise how much we all love to check out toilets. it's not a massively new topic but if you have any favourites or worsts, would love to know. I am particularly in favour of luxurious toilets. especially hotel ones. I have felt some of my best bathroom times there. good chat...

another paella magazine

don't worry, I'm not going to start a paella magazine. but wouldn't it be great, to be honest there is enough enthusiasm, controversy and heated discussion to easily last a few issues, not sure what would happen after that, maybe some sort of readers' wives paellas section? unfortunately this wouldn't be a local Valencian publication, where the real gold would ooze out of the pans. no, somehow I fear the spanish down there may be slightly too cool for 'zines'. I don't reckon starting 4 times round ironic food publications is really their thing. so there is the flaw in this paellazine conception. I have not massively researched this intro bit to be honest.

the pic above was a very quick example seeing as we had been locked out of the premisis prior to cooking which gave the onions and peppers about 3 hours less time to cook than I would have liked. but it wasn't bad, with some nice frozen prawns, chorizo (not my choice, I never do it; I was being a good sport), and a bit of pork shoulder diced up (YES! cheap meat rules).

a lot has gone on in the paella press though since I wrote the other two paella stories and realised there may be a few things I am doing wrong. although the article in the guardian doesn't actually tell you how to make a perfect paella it just talks around and about the various different ways, also the picture looks ruddy shite. however this made me look at a few videos on youtube to check what some people do.

the bit I am concerned about is once you have added the stock to cook it all, where do you go from there, do you stay on top or go below (to the oven), foil, no foil etc. I used to go for the oven, because the paellas I used to have in spain always came out with a slight, oily crust and then underneath was nice and moist (you don't have to say it, I need to work on slightly toning down my euphemisms, I know! not doing it on purpose). what made me stop using the oven more recently was that I bought a paella dish too big for my oven, but then I remembered that in the north of spain I once dined with a vivacious family who cooked a village sized paella all open flame without ovening it; which is common too.

so it's a slightly tricky decision. the other big no-no is stirring, but I find that on a regular home style gas ring it is very difficult for the rice to cook evenly, and sometimes I am guilty of it. watching the videos made me aware of one thing that I have been doing wrong, probably on all the recipes below, is putting the foil on too early. apparently you only do this right at the end. so the way to see it, is like making a risotto, with all the stock in at once, no lid, and no stirring!

anyway I feel like I could go on forever like almost into a zine so I think I may stop, and will return to paella after another attempt using the recent revelations.

1* tomato tasting

if you ever find yourself waiting for a train at the avignon tgv just after lunch, you have to ask yourself, did I go to Christian etienne beforehand? if the answer is yes, then you are correct. and you were also in the right to be taking the train.

something something dark side

In case you missed a slightly covert upload of this on twitter, here it is again. on a recent trip to france, about half an hour from Montpellier we fed on some rather dark chickens. they were from our friend frederic, we could of had rabbits or pigeons but we went for the chicken. he claims they are a cross breed between the famous french poulet de bresse and a chinese bird called a silkie (awesome).

I think most people - from UK supermarkets or gastropubs - must have heard of poulet noir, but this is something different with all skin and bones black, although it is more of a blue inky oily black. it's the silkie half that makes it so, and I am assured by our catalan origin french violin making all purpose legend that sometimes the bones are completely black! It is quite an experience if a little confusing. your eyes say no, but then your eyes say yes. wait, no.

i was not at the controls when this bird was rendered. my dad was. his cooking originates from proper techniques and lots of love/respect for the ingredient, but has taken on experimental elements. anyway the idea was good but needed a bit more time. he had made a very honest vegetable stock, and poached the chicken lightly in the oven with the juice. although at some point he doused a puree of leftover basic vegetable dish he had made the day before (interesting). the chicken is scrawny at best and does not react well to brisk cooking, however the flavour is gamey and full. we discussed the cooking at the table and it was agreed that the proper way to address would be to steam/poach inside a pigs bladder, which is how paul bocuse does his famous volaile de bresse en vessie.

if you haven't got one to hand here is what I suggest (briefly): use the chicken either whole, or portinoned into 4 (2 legs/thighs + 2 breast/wings). either in a cruset style pot or high sided roasting dish cook the chicken with a decent amount of butter, stock (homemade veg or chicken [err from the chicken]), salt and pepper (whole). the stock level should look like a lot for roasting and not enough for soup. cover the chicken lightly (unscrunched) with foil and cook for 3-4 hours on a medium to low heat. the chicken is really done when the skin on the legs looks very much detached from the bones. maybe finish the cooking juices with creme fraiche if you have to. it should be good. gentle...

summer cous cous salad

if you can be bothered to cut up some stuff real small, then this is a really nice salad, which can obviously be changed and adapted. I find cous cous in salad form can be incredibly disappointing, and actually I have become a bit obsessed over the summer with the search for optimum outputs.

never mind all that though, this one was smashing. It's worth noting that you can probably get away with not dressing it, but I don't mind sacrificing a bit of dryness for extra flavour. we, were lucky enough to be at the disposal of olive oil made in the next door house (on holiday...not shoreditch) so was worth adding a bit of that at least.

here is how to do it. what you need is cous cous (moyen), tomatoes, preserved lemons, courgettes, red peppers, onions, garlic, raisins or sultanas, parsley, basil, pistachios, saffron, tumeric, cumin, peppercorns. that'll do!

you do this in 4 parts. 1.couscous 2.courgette phase 3. pepper phase 4. finish phase so...

in terms of prep you need to cut into as small cubes as possible, the peppers, courgettes, preserved lemons, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. then

1. make the couscous. there are many ways to do this but a simple-ish way is to put some couscous in a saucepan (with tight lid at the ready). Add boiling water once so it just gets soaked up by the couscous, put a lid on (1min). then add another amount of boiling water so it sits just about the couscous, then put the lid back on (5 min). then take the lid off, fluff it up a bit and leave to dry while you make the rest.

2. put a decent glug of local olive oil (ha ha) in a frying pan on high heat, when the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic, cook for a bit, then add the courgettes, preserved lemon and parsley, if they are very small it shouldn't take long to cook. if you want you can leave alone so it sticks to get a bit of caramelisation. mmmmmmm. when this is done, just whack it on top of the couscous (which you put in a salad bowl). clean the pan, more oil. back on the heat.

3. when the pan is hot again, add the peppers, saffron, tumeric, cumin, peppercorns, pistachios and raisins. I hate crucnchy peppers, so the small cutting and vicious frying should sort that out. when you think enough for this stage, then add into the bowl of the other ingredients. there should be some nice yellowiness goings on.

4. lastly, finish the salad by adding the chopped tomatoes (raw) bits of basil (i used micro) salt and pepper, although not too much as this is a sort of self seasoned salad. If you want to dress more, then add another glub of oil with either a few fresh squeezes of lemon juice or some fruity vinegar. yes blad.

sausage supper

why is there a face in my potato? anyway apart from that this was a very serious sausage meal. fine sausages from overpriced gentrified corner shop (conran), perfect boiled potatoes (doesn't matter about the face), and actually serious half butter, half water carrots. probably shouldn't do this much but vgood, and sometimes nice to just have it dry, i.e. no soupy onion gray shit.

SHE'S TURNING INTO BROCCOLI

it's kind of great when some old broccoli, a bit of bacon, and some regular kitchenhold items come together to make a serious piece of pasta. no need to cook the broccoli before as long as you cut it up small enough. you almost make a confit of it in the bacon fat and olive oil mix. don't be put off by the amount of oil though. this forms the sauce along with a little de-glaze if you happen to have the last glass of wines worth from a bottle lying around. or perhaps you already bought a new one for the purpose.

we had this with trennete, but I was under the impression that trennete were the sort of flat elongated shells you have with pesto, so any clarification on that would be great.

to make, put the water for the pasta on. heat generous amount of good olive oil on medium heat. add roughly chopped bits of pancetta or good bacon. also add some big flat bits of garlic and chilli, and even some hard herbs if you like. add to this small bits of broccoli (1 head). let it sit a bit too much (all cooked brown and sticking mess like) and de-glaze witha glass of wine.

when the pasta is done spoon it out of the water so some of the water catches into the frying pan what you are making the 'sauce' in. stir it patiently adding grated parmesan and more pasta water if need binding. didn't actively include salt+pepper as the dish includes salty bacon and spicy chilli? anyway...its good.

jean's chicken thigh pasta's gone

my friend jean-michel once didn't have enough food for his roast beef lunch, so he supplemented it with a roast chicken. that's the kind of practical chef that gets my juices runnig clear.

so you won't be too surprised to hear that his idea of feeding a party involves frying 20 chicken thighs in a paella dish with some red onions and olive oil, and then tipping in 3 bags of fusilli(cooked).

At first I wasn't sure what he was on about, what you up tho there matey just going to serve some thighs up there are you like? then I really wasn't sure when I saw a growth of pasta around it. But believe you me you me and the rest of the canal party dance massive were loving it. It seems wrong. but its right. that'(ha)s gone. thanks jean. oh and carola for posing.

london [cipriani]

I don't know what the general consensus on 'cipriani' in Davies Street is but I get the feeling, not great (although you can't really call it cipriani any more as it got super-injunked) and the menu starts with a real clanger of a disclaimer which is on the website here: http://www.cipriani.com/locations/london.php speaking of which, how scary is the animated bellini maker logo? I've already had nightmares about that creepy little guy (harry?).

however, this restaurant falls into a category which I weirdly enjoy. I haven't really got a name for it but its a sort of hyper wrong and right, all at the same time. I'm not sure why it's beneficial to have this contrasting tension on the brain, but i find it stimulating getting angry, excited, confused and ashamed all at the same time.

on the 'right', there is the huge italian menu offering essential must haves like pasta, more pasta, probably combos of squid, octopus, 70's veal slices and more of that. i can't remember how many dishes there are but at my best recall, with the height of menu, type size and leading I would say there are more than 50 dishes.

and what is impressive is how quickly, on an insanely packed out tuesday night, they serve a table of five regular punters who accidentally found their way in (not really. i was with norwegian heavies and we owned the place). when we got up to leave, I couldn't actually believe how many people were seated and enjoying meals that for a table of five would be costing something near the price of a second hand mercedes.

but on top of this, the over-performance of italian waiters lifts the atmosphere bringing that sense of chaotic but effective theatre. the only complaint food wise was of a slightly cheated risotto milanese and that was it, I even enjoyed the side dish of highly seasoned plain risotto rice labelled 'pilaf'.

the restauant almost reminds me of the ever chaotic viet hoa cafe (pre-makeover) on kingsland rd, full of east london-ites shouting through their wonky hair and turned up trousers! sub wonky hair for gold watches and turned up trousers for err... louboutins? and it's pretty much the same thing.

then there is the 'wrong'. the point I reckon why most people like to hate this place. 'the people!' dum dum duuuuuuuuuuum. but actually people that like to talk about 'people' whether they admit it or not, find the whole question of types an arousing spectacle, so if you think about it the people are quite good because they provide a massive pot of entertainment for the cool-living. that, and the huge mercedes shaped hole in their hypothetical non-cipriani life.

johnny white noise

this is my friend johnny white. i took him to the hare krishna restaurant. I was delighted that in such a holy restaurant he felt compelled to plug his dead phone into the wall sockets and have business meetings about D major chords. i feel they should always be kept on their white sock in orange croc toes. but i still go back. fairewell johnny

all waka at gergovie

can't remember if I have written about this place yet. i meant to anyway. http://www.gergoviewines.com/

in the week their business is supplying restaurants with very decent natural wines from around southern france and north italy, i think. but on fridays and saturday becomes a little wine bar and food stop. I have yet to be there on a friday night but apparently they put tables out, on saturdays it's just standing and stools.

i expected the place to be pretty good, and well, it is. this waka (which i looked up after writing, with no search results!), which is a sort of moroccan thing similar to a pastilla was awesome.

they make a very thin pancake in what looked like some sort of wok/bainmarie. then, in some way or other it gets fried with an egg and harisa and anchovy paste. crispy eggy, salty, fishy, chillyyeyye and garlicky. ohh goody. With a squeeze of lemon too.

indian fried chicken

i never really thought to do this before, and I don't see it around anywhere but its rather good. I have done it twice now. the texture is not like dry, crisp fried chicken as I shallow fry it. but its damn tasty.
do it like this:

Get some decent chicken breasts, or whatever is available. slice them lengthways in half so you have a nice flatness. this helps with cooking time. then make rough pieces out of the two flats. like 3"x3".

fry some spices like coriandre seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, cloves, chilli, and whatever else. grind it up, and rub it into the chicken with salt and pepper. now add quite a lot of ketchup and maybe a bit of lemon juice. get it all mixed together and really smash it around. this does actually have a purpose in tenderising the meat.

on the side get a flat tray or dish and put some flour in for dusting, but mix it generously with some mild madras curry powder, and more salt and pepper.

get some cooking oil or ghee or whatever you fry in and have it about half an inch in the pan. put it on a medium to low heat. in the mean time back to the chicken.

quite simply dust the mixed up chicken in the flour and set aside ready for frying. err, then you fry it until its cooked. golden brown on both sides is your gauge to whether it is cooked or not. pat dry when finished and repeat if you can't fit all the chicken in one go.

the above version was served with lemon, banana and saffron rice. not recipizing that one. sorry.

JOsholognese 1138

my friend josh made this bolognese.

he's a sort of no bullshit kind of guy when it comes to food. although he put olives in this bolognese.

but where bullshit would really come in is if some guy came back to this and said, no mate that's not a bolognese, a bolognese is where...- that's the point at which josh would probably wade in, take of his exothermic plasma skin, throw the guy round the room a couple of times, just to wake him up from passing out, which he would of done as a natural reflex from the fear. then tell him that people that go on about shit like that have no place in his world, throw him out the window, and spiderweb down the street. thats why I am friends with josh.

gull's's''''eggs's's''''''

I might get shouted at for saying this but I really think the gull's eggs should be left alone becasue they are a bit crap. especially when I bought two at £4.50 each (they are only marginably bigger than quails eggs) and ruined both of them. I boiled one, and poached the other. the boiled one cracked. the poached one disintegrated. I was £9 worse off. then I fell off my bike. maybe it wasn't my day. :(

hackney pearl (the)

before you adjust your tv, or computer or htc, or whatever you are watching this programme on. STOP. don't. the image above is in real colour. those are the actual colours of hackney wick.

this place seemed quite promising but in a way was a huge let down because of its nearly factor.

I had a roast, but of pork belly, which came with salsa verde as its sauce. this is like the vegetarian playing with his green fire a bit. I find you have to be very careful with a, how you make it and b, what you put it with.

my preference is that the sauce is salty, tangy and creamy. this one however was very oily, (common mistake), and underwhelming on the fresh greenness side of things. Now here is the really annoying thing. why would you serve a very oily cut of meat, oozing its own globules of fat, with another oily sauce. it doesn't make sense. so that was ruined. the whole thing was completely under seasoned too. agreed to by all roast compatriots at the table.

I am being a bit cruel here, but its worth pointing these things out (not that I did. [fear of crack being thrown in face by irate moody chef or something])only because its such a simple thing to put right.

the last thing that really annoyed me was a sherry on the menu, listed as a dessert sherry. I asked the guy specifically if it was very sweet as I wanted it as an apperitive. he said, well, it is a sweet sherry but its not too bad. so i ordered it. the drink was dryer than a sundried dogs bone. such an infuriating error.

small fish ......................................... large fish .......................................... extra large fish ................................

i think you see what I am getting at here. I recently looked up the victoria on queensbridge road in dalston. the description of the place was this:

The Victoria is a popular pub in Dalston not far from Kingsland Shopping Centre, serving a range of beers, wines and spirits and a menu of traditional pub food.

sorry? what?

In fact I ended up at this place to hear some live music one night, when an immense smell of exotic fish wafted through the stage. I found this quite hilarious, and sent my emissary to investigate. he came back with news of fish, big fish, I mean like massive fish mate. he reckoned that with a months preparation we would be able to go in there, sit down, order the fish, maybe a beer, eat it, and be out without anyone batting an eyelid.

who started supper clubs?

i am not sure who started supper clubs. maybe they have been around for ages. I would like to have a go and claim that I did, with my mates xen, george and martin in 2001 whilst I was still at school. the first one I remember doing we made a bolito misto and homemade ravioli for about 60 people. in some form or other we have been doing them ever since. the more recent ones involve suckling pig, and now goat (above) alongside my strawberry daiquiri. mmmmmmmmmmm.

books for cooks for lunch

went for an immense lunch on portobello rd at 11:45 on a wednesday with this lot (although there was a swedish girl there but she didn't factor much into it).

books for cooks opens for lunch at the back of their shop. it is very reasonable, and incredibly good. however being small it fills up in about 10 mins, hence the early start time. you can't 'book'.

on this occasion we had lentil, lardon, and sprouting brocoli salad, followed by coq au vin. along the way we drank quite a lot of red wine, which is made by the owner in france. following this we had three different types of cake with homemade grappa, homemade limoncello, and homemade marc de bourgogne (a sort of brandy made with the left overs of the grape pressings).

so that was a bit silly wasn't it.

chicken+sweetcorn soup please

i admit this effort does not look that appetising. but you are wrong. rather than the chinese style version this had more of a mexican theme to it with sweet smoked paprika and lime juice.

to summarise, it is fried fresh corn, with onions/spring ones too, garlic, sweet smoked paprika, few other spices, coriandre stalks, few diced potatoes and diced chicken. then generous squeezes of lime + season well. finally add stock and cook for 25 mins lid on, add some broken spaghetti 8 mins before the end if you like. actually pretty good. just looks like sick, thats all.

paella: go again

look. I made another paella, but I already wrote about paella below. i think this one was a bit better, and it was much less fancy. instead of rabbits and big prawns, i used two supermarket pork chops (with bone obvs) and some supermarket prawns. However the way you make it great, as previously stated, is in the onion, pepper and olive oil fry up mix, that takes really quite a long time to get good.

I particularly like the middle shot in the pics, because it suggests so much. the paella just having the rice thrown in uncooked, but with a frying pan of last minute pork chop bone stock on the go... its so obvious what happens next. well actualy it was a bit of a faf but i got there in the end.

maltby street soints.

to make a mozzarella and prosciutto croissant at maltby street.

first go to maltby street. but maybe be a bit discreet about it, like don't be telling people and shit. go to monmouth, order your coffee. now here's the clever part. order a plain croissant, or however many you plan to make. take one of their knives (legit), and make generous gash in side of soint.

put your soints back in the brown bag and walk down the arches to the guys near the beer people what sell the mozz + prosciutto. for three soints we bought one mozzarella, and a sheet of prosciutto.

go and find a little sit-down, make sure the wind is not up. tear the mozzarella and place inside the soint, then follow with a couple of slices of prosciutto. its good. oh its very good.

cru. oslo. norway. the world.

on a recent trip to norway, I got taken to what i initially heard as a korean restaurant. but actually it was a place called 'cru'. Here is a google translation of the menu:

– White asparagus, trout roe, beurre blanc, herb salad & melba
– Country Chicken from Strange Farm, fresh morels, cauliflower cream, sugar snap peas & corn, kyllingsjy with garlic & herbs
– Today's cheeses
– Semulekrem, strawberries, raspberries, vanilla ice cream and crispo

The food and service were surprisingly first rate (surprising due to my usual write-off of any neighbourhood looking restaurant). the white asparagus and chicken dish (I think the Strange farm bit is a google fail) would not be out of place in a good london 1* michelin, I'm thinking arbutus but maybe even better.

The wine from Jura, above, really stood out though. It had the perfect balance of being immediately sensational on the nose with all the right flowers, butters, honeys, apricots etc from a great white, mixed with challenging revelations on the palette.

what also stood out in our meal were a couple of business colleagues that sat near us half way through the evening. the british one (i assume the other was norwegian) got a call during the meal. the call was to tell the inversely proportional scruffygreyhairedbrit/oil tycoon that he had indeed struck oil. I just thought that was really funny. just in case you didn't think people 'struck oil' anymore. ahhhh well done shells.

lardo salad


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can anyone that has been to el bulli let me know if they ever had a dish involving a bowl of stale bread and lardo? yeah exactly. I don't know either. This was a mistake.

a good italian dinner


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couldn't quite hold down a final shot of the meal for various reasons but here are some interims of a fine simple dinner for 4.

I'm feeling a wanky minimal menu should follow:

olives
lardo, toasted ciabatta
burratina, olive oil



penne, sausage, spinach, chilli and cream
rocket, lemon, olive oil, salt



plum compote, yogurt and creme fraiche glass

so there you have it. a nice mixture of buying some great things that don't need much work but still seem impressive to guests, followed by a big steaming pot of sausagey spinichified penneliketty creamed out pasta dish (with half an accidental naga chilli).

I have been on a bit of an 'i Camisa' splurge at the moment (where most of the stuff came from) but there's more on that below. They do these amazing, simple, plump, juicy, sweet, garlicky sausages which I sort of set in three to make sudo-meatballs (see pic). They were impossible not to eat during the cooking stages and many balls were victimized.

so they were good, but also worth a mention was the spinach i bought from leila's shop. It was the 5th place around my block I went to before finding, which is ridiculous, but very glad to have sourced such great leaves (pic above).

And just a small note to add. Although it is nice to keep everything fresh and green looking, this sauce called for more of a lengthy cooking out of the ingredients, which I think is a crucial sacrifice to make for pasta sauces.

goat in charcoal and other


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this is my mate xen's place. not sure if I have ever posted anything about him before but he likes to keep a low profile internet presence so here is a google street view link in case you are interested. but don't be too keen on lunches or Sundays and mondays. otherwise, be as keeno as you like.

for about the last ten years, we have occasionally collaborated in special sunday ventures that might involve something like 2 roast suckling pigs, 1 goat, 4 lamb shoulders... basically quite a lot of meat.

the pictured goat was wrapped up in foil with little else than some cypriot oregano and salt, then placed inside a bed of charcoals for god knows how long (2-6 hrs). and he insisted i used some mastica in something so we created a sort of braised lightly curried masticarized shoulder in milk, which was interesting.

The chopping board shot above refers to a bbq sauce I decided to make whilst waiting for meatageddon. I sort of stole this off a mate of mine but it turned out a bit different, he says he doesn't use ginger in his. so in case you want a quick recipe: (adjust amounts to taste like bbq sauce)

Matthias' BBQ sauce

in hot oil, fry loads of garlic, chillies, tomatoes, onions, and grated ginger for about 15mins. then add ketchup, tomato puree, vinegar, sugar and some spicy shit like, curry powder, cinamon, cumin, coriander seeds, etc. it should be sweet, spicy, sour, spicy and sweet. i can actually taste it.

i camisa #tigerblood #winning

OK its probably about 3 weeks too late for a sheen dig, but you get the picture...or maybe you don't. Here is the picture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5aSa4tmVNM

enough of that idiot/genius. the old italian deli (i camisa, not Charlie sheen) in soho has always been a favourite of mine and after a recent bout of stomach flu, i decided to put myself back on track via a little snack of ciabatta, prosciutto and tomato, leaving the dairy out. But there was something brilliantly simple and to the point about it. I followed that with a £1.35 single espresso with a dash of hot water from monmouth. So for £4.35 (you can do the math for the sandwich) I don't really think you can get a much better (in hashtag language) #luxurycheapeatlunchinsoho.

I repeated throughout that week ending in a three way lunch date to show-off my new found regime to a couple of friends (above).

oily home cooked take away

There is a place I go to, far far away. Actually its not that far away, its about a 3 minute cycle ride. look see:



I usually get invited there for some sort of meal that they spin into me cooking dinner for them. This is definitely not the first time it's happened. the irony however was that we were going to have a takeaway, but then home cooked lamb curry got mentioned. But I ended up making it oilier than the ones you get in a take out. That's all I'm saying, if you want authenticity put more oil in, it's simple.

to add to that. I had a dilemma regarding the lamb. We had very cheap, fatty stewing lamb, which to be honest excites me more than boring lean cubes of leg. However you don't want to start slow cooking at 9pm on a friday night.

last summer I had learned of a very interesting way of making lamb tikka. It's a bit of a vacation from the over hyped 'sealing' movement of today, and frankly they can all fuck off too. (sorry please carry on reading).

so the recipe called for the lamb to be marinated in whatever a tikka marinade involves for quite a long time (like maybe 24hrs). then to cook, you heat a wok very hot with some cooking oil. dump the whole lot in, with all the liquid, give it a stir, add a glass of water, put a lid on and simmer for about 45 min. Then you take the lid off and turn heat up to reduce, practically, to dry. I had never heard of this but it kind of worked. and the lamb became very tender.

So to finish the story this is what I tried for the short amount of time I had (maybe 55 mins) and it worked quite well. You also get the option of when to stop with the reducing, you can leave it thick or take it right down to dry and oily.hmmmmmmmmmmmm dddrrryyy and oooiiiiillllyyyyyyy.

carbonara again

here goes another carbonara, which at this point looks to be going fine. Got the pasta on, parmesan grated and ready, and lovely big fatty bits of bacon fried off. but then it went a bit wrong.

I had always assumed that as long as you do it in a spirited, quick and feisty way you can just chuck in the eggs with the parmesan and the bacon over a heat and just mix it all together with the pasta.

w-r-o-n-g ... couldn't figure out why this one split so early on in the making. I definitely don't mind if by the end of the process, the egg has cooked slightly, but this one split way too early.

I spent the whole of the meal to my friend's 'enjoyment' trying to figure this out. My conclusion was that I put the parmesan into the pasta before the eggs, and the eggs cooled down the parmesan, got in the way and fucked everything up a bit. good to know eh.

brompton country pub crawl

we went on a sort of country pub bike crawl in devon recently. i was given a brompton as my vehicle. It wasn't ideal, but if you think you can manage the hills I would thoroughly recommend for a bit of fun... good luck finding a nice pub.

barrafina mid-career retrospective





I jest slightly with the 'art museum' title slant here. but as below with bocca di lupo, i present to you another case study. because after all places can go up and down. and also, have been in two minds about barrafina since it opened a few years ago.

I have actually returned within a couple of weeks since these photos were taken, so should make for some very exciting consistency appraisal. i think a general list of what was had over the two meals should follow:

food (no particular order): crispy fried artichokes, chipirones, chicken wings, brill, lamb cutlets, little gem + bacon salad, razor clams, green salad, gambas with garlic, probably some bread + oil

drinks: sherry, fizzy water, espressos, cortados

in list order:
• the artichokes were great, although if it were a battle between these (spanish offering) and a really great italian fritto, I would fear for the spanish team.
• chipirones are the deep fried baby squids, which in my book start high up on a scale of never ending perfection. these were very high but so difficult to tell where the scale ends. I mean what if a lake full of squids existed and you just happened to have a deep fat fryer on your boat?
• chicken wings were simple with olive oil chilli and garlic, you can't really go wrong.
• brill is one of my favourite fish, this one got there.
• lamb cutlets were actually exceptional, completely melted in mouth with an awesomely smooth and sweet parsnip puree, there was something cutting the sweetness but can't remember what. almost a perfect dish ya.
• i am going to scim through the last dishes, as patience + end of day is nearing.
• little gem + bacon salad: vinegary + gem-like
• razor clams: (chewy, due to overcooking, but very tasty. come on guys you must have heard of the quick or slow theory)
• green salad: vinegary + like
• gambas: kick ass and so much better than the big prawns which frankly I believe are not worth the salt they prawn in.
• yeah yeah yeah bread + oil big deal. right glad that's over with.

so. what am I going to say about barrafina. well, foodwise (sometimes) i don't think you can get much better in london. but i struggle to know where to let this one go.

something still bothers me about the fact that it is a tapas bar but with compulsory seating, yet I can understand that with a business mind, you have to londonise this great eating style.

beyond that, there is something that I can't put my finger on. or would take a lot longer to explain than on a blog. which I think could be enough to make you understand of an issue at bay here. almost like phoning someone up and their declining to comment. it still tells a story albeit more cryptic. oh dear look how that ended.

kurz&lang wurst + flensburg

currywurst + roll + sauerkraut + flensburg. a perfect non-shitty snack before an ec1 based dance. OK no we didn't actually go to fabric, but this little german sausage hut is ideally situated for a food break just off the west side of smithfield meat market. I've always liked wurst because they are actually a speciality fast food. a sort of mini, cheap luxury.

dave's pork with apple +

another report on the old flatmate and his culinary escapades. he asked me to take a photo of this start to a rather fine pig supper. he claims it didn't turn out correct with regard to the slightly wetter than desired skin. i.e. it didn't crackle-ing. (sorry made a pig's ear of that sentence, lol)

so I guess lucky I took the photo before, as it was a rather splendid array of raw ingredients I thought. a good start anyway.

shrove galletes

sometimes it can be more fun to explain something without looking it up first. depends which side of the truth has more of a conversation springboard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galette. (that was a 180° by the way. actually tried to go the un-informed route)

ok right so they are savoury buckwheat pancakes. here is the picture of one in a pan, strangely enough, with ham, emmenthal and egg. I didn't have egg in mine. thanks hianta. the end. (definitely making shit up next time)

golden day

I met up with an old friend of the family recently. he knew a thing or two about a certain group of restaurants that made good from the early 90's. so i offered to buy him lunch if he would... talk. he declined the offer and suggested to take me somewhere instead.

there were two options, chinese or korean. intrigued to be shown a new chinese restaurant, I opted for that. and intrigued I should have been; this was a very interesting experience. my friend explained that the place was making food from the hunan province in china, known for its liberal deploying of very hot chillies. in every dish... well that's just fine.

over discussions of feng shui gurus and other surprising revelations, we were served a complimentary bowl of toasted peanuts in vinegar. it kind of stayed there the whole meal and acted as a good spice guard, whilst being completely and addictively delicious. other dishes included a kelp salad**, tree fungus***, glass noodles with king prawns* (sculpted into weird defensive florettes, that although impossible to penetrate, were good), and a very hearty pork belly with preserved veg*.

spice scale: * a kick ** flying kick *** upside down helicopter kick

so there you have it. a golden day. all dishes had their own way of rubbing spice into your mouth with varying strength and tenacity, but the underlying win, was that I had never really tried anything like it. which, apart from the heat, was refreshing.

we left with far too much glee, even for a friday lunchtime. i went back the next evening with 7 hungry, surprised, bewildered, drunk and satisfied violin dealers.

Uncle Robert's salad

This is quite a nice simplified version of a niçoise. for some reason I have credited my uncle for this, which my family might find amusing, but everyone else won't give a shit. (there is no story there)

The dish came into my head as i had some high end spanish tuna in the fridge for a while, and was feeling slightly lazy. to be honest, with the fresh squeezed lemon + olive oil dressing i used, it didn't really need the mass of red onions underneath. so I guess next time its tuna + potatoes. wow, that shit's so minimal. (yeah the tuna was good, hope it was caught and distributed correctly)

t1 to Vienna on austrian

Had a very successful trip to Vienna recently in both the food and travel capacity. decided to spend a bit extra (although not a lot) and travel on austrian. the only problem being they fly out of heathrow, famous for its world beating (as in world losing) airport express prices.

luckily there were two of us travelling so with a bit of local cab scouting, managed to get to terminal 1 in an hour from east london during lunchtime traffic for £36. I think that's quite good.

furthermore austrian airlines (+other star alliance partners) seem to have netted themselves a rather cushty separate area to check in and go through departures, so it feels like flying first even though you are not. I don't know maybe you are. I'm not.

without going into it too much, the flight was very good, with complimentary vienna based 'Do&co' cake (way better than most airline attempts) and beer. however I do wish that airlines state on their seat-maps when a window seat is in fact a 'wall seat'. no window, no fun.

vienna is a very chilled out place, usually known to be quite heavy on the meat, potatoes and cream. obviously not just strewn about the streets, I'm talking restaurants here. but we had three quite good meals.

the first was a very traditional viennese restaurant called plachuta (prepare to be greeted by loud waltz music on the website) which actually served an incredibly good range of boiled cow in copper pot with vegetables, served with a sort of loose potato hash brown and apple/horseradish sauce. think tender brisket, and so much that you can't even think about finishing, and you are there.

actually come to think of it the next place was not really worth mentioning. it was a very decent italian restaurant - the other option in vienna - but lacked anything worth going public about. a risotto of treviso with duck breast stood out.

and before I mention the last place I just need to fit in a small mention of the traditional coffee houses in vienna. this is where the city shines. although it is more of a dull, murky and resilient cling-on to a lost art of slow confidence (with a bit of brilliant surliness thrown in by the waiters).

the one we went to was of post-war decor but design wise, far back enough to get excited about. walking in is almost like joining onto a motorway, but instead of accelerating triumphantly to gain respect of the passing traffic, you do exactly the opposite. you think 'right, better slow down now or else these bastard waiters are going to flatten me with their surly gaze'. funnily enough the first google image result of these words produced a picture from the very cafe (ici).

right I'm bored of this now, bye bye vienna. (apologies to pizza mari, with their impessively berlin-esque pizza joint and buffala heavy pizzas, for not making the story)

Bocca di lupo

bocca di lupo. I'm a bit late with this one but always good to see if a place is still worth its stars or bibs or whatever it has (i think red bib + red fork, but definitely red).

so without further ado this is what we ate >

food:
Olive stuffed with minced pork & veal
Shaved radish, celeriac & pecorino salad with pomegranates & truffle oil
Fried prawns, baby squid, blood orange & white polenta
Fried soft-shell crab, with blood orange & lamb's lettuce salad
Grilled home-made wild boar sausages & grilled polenta
Rustic pork & foie gras sausage with farro & porcini
Home-made cotechino with lentils & mostarda
The amazing milk-free espresso gelato

drinks:
prosecco, red wine, macchiato

I'm not going to say much about the drinks. the prosecco was fine, caraffe of red was nice but clearly not memorable and coffee was usual embarrassing effort. maybe there is something wrong with our water in england?

so the food in order:
• the olives were one of those naughty golden fried little snacks you have with say, a glass of prosecco. so that all made sense.
• the salad I thought sounded a bit 'fresh' especially with pomegranates and truffle oil, like a sort of mid nineties effort, but a very good one at that. the pecorino sorts it out though.
• frito misto (prawns/squid etc) was awesome and is a dish I could eat all day long. its kinda the italian version of tempura, and I love both. the white polenta was properly seasoned and probably had an unhealthy amount of butter, which is the correct amount. tick.
• soft-shell crab is all over the place (abundance not clumsyness). but i do love its crispy crabby bitter sweet contradictions. i'm not sure where the restaurants get them and if they come fresh or not but these were top notch creatures. also with blood orange (tis the season)
• didn't really consult on our main course ordering and managed to see ourselves down with a right royal sausage trilogy. however. the cotechino was nice but a bit too polite. i feel that the cooked cured sausage should be oozing smelly, sticky and fatty bits of pork, but this one was a bit small in gauge and dry. but i'm being harsh here, it was a very good dish.
• the wild boar sausages were slashed into a hash, which looks wrong somehow but is a great way to grill them, and is exactly what toto, a bearded fiorano tracksuit wearing italian from modena did once. I know. i was there!

< this is toto

• and the one I ordered, was a bit of a mistake really. not sure what I was thinking ordering a sausage in an italian restaurant involving fois gras. anyway I'm glad it got showed up by the other 'proper' sausages.
• and lastly we all shared (there were 3 of us) the 'milkless' espresso gelato, which was like a perfect post meal palette cleanser. insanely smooth, cold, sweet, espressoeyness.

so bocca is doing pretty well here. we sat at the bar right opposite the chefs preparing our meals calmly and to a good rhythm. which was greatly entertaining but not invasive. they got involved if we showed interest and ignored us when they needed to.

this was a meal that grew on me throughout the day, and I like it when that happens.

dave's packers chilli

yeah so this is the beer can chicken guy from below. he likes foouuurrrtbuhaaaaaarrrrllllllll which is the american spelling of football what we play in england. anyway their wimbledon is the superbowl and everyone goes crazy.

bringing me to his chilli effort. and a good one at that. I like the fact that I hadn't heard of the beans (no they are not just black beans, or even black-eyed) and he makes a separate roast of tomatoey chillipeppery goodness. well done dave. that is all.

duke of(f) cambridge

I have just completed a sort of groundhog day back to back sunday lunch at the duke of cambridge in islington. I first came here for a book launch and we were served quite a good buffet dinner in the restaurant area. so when asked recently by someone where to have a good sunday lunch in a pub in that area, I suggested it. the events that proceeded:

lunch 1. 25 people £39/head
I ate: bread, smoked mackerel paté, roast (pork), sampled (sticky tp + choc mousse) desserts but didn't order.
and drank: a pint, glass red (big), coffee (pot)

comments in order:
25 people not easy to accommodate, especially when arriving in bits all the way up until 4:30pm.
bread was good.
smoked mackerel paté was good and came with quite a smart lemony jerusalem artichoke salad. although was surprised at my eyees thinking they wanted that before a roast.

bad. what do you mean bad. you can't start and then leave a sentence with bad. where has this bad come from. what do you mean bad. yes, the roast was — bad grammar (even for blogging) inducing, voices in your head shouting at you — baaaaaaaaaaaad. look how crazy mad I have gone from this roast pork. have you ever seen the scene from ace ventura when Jim Carey takes a huge breath in before exhaling an incredibly long winded but speedy prognosis of a murder scene?

there are so many places I could start, but I guess a good place would be a description. So, for £20 (wtf!) you get a plate of soupy tasteless gravy, and way too much of it (a recurring theme). then sits a pile of twice sodden cabbage. first from the water it was cooked in, then from the gravy it sat in, come to think of it I actually choked. after that comes watery undercooked carrots + parsnips, beside them a lone potato, roasted to perfection (shut up, of course it wasn't). and on top of that pretty miserable foundation, a huge serving of thick, tough, tasteless, watery (again) roast pork with no sign of any caramelisation, good fat or cracklingy bits. its as if they have been delivered a huge vac-packed (organic, naturally)side of pig, and it came with the instructions: roast! (badly)

the funny thing though, is that I haven't even started. and I'm not going to finish either because this post is already too long and doesn't fit into the nice 600 pixel maximum height I try and set myself. not sure what to do about this, maybe from now on I will have to feed in ill timed references to all other posts.

ok lets do a quick car crashy round up so I don't loose sleep on this. the roast was bad, the front of house don't understand the kitchen, the menu is all over the place and makes no sense, the second lunch i had was the same but worse (not joking £39 again?), with too many fucking piquilo peppers. Hey piquilo pepper sporters, how about you learn where to put them, like not in a pigs head terrine etc. or anywhere else. weirdly I almost wrote 'the new sun dried tomatoes', then they actually appeared alongside them in a dish here. haven't got time to explain how bad it is for the dying existence of real pubs that places like the duke of cambridge exist. cut.

hare hare hare

I just came back from here and now fear my words may sting. lets pretend I didn't and forget that. but maybe remember it a bit at the end.

this is the hare krishna restaurant, 'govinda's' located just near my office off soho square. seeing as I am ending up there for an efficient late lunch, sometimes as much as twice a week, thought I better mention why.

well. they do a very nice big plate of vegetarian indian goodness. its not incredibly cheap (£7.95) but you do get quite a lot. and the thing that rounds it up is stealing as much of the condiments/chutneys as you can. you get a popadom with the meal, but I always take two (pictured). yeah I'm definitely feeling the chutney/popadomness. its always a bit of a lottery, sometimes they are awesome lemony tangy chilli fruity things, but they've been doing this banana one a lot recently, which takes a bit of getting used to. probably a veg box thing.

just beware of the enlightenment vibe and weirdos in the worst styled movement of friendlies I have ever come across, I was almost sick; probably. Nothing to do with the lovely food though, more the harrowing slowness of self satisfied 'happy' people. (shudder)

monmouth

just a quick note on coffee: monmouth still my favourite (by a long shot), especially when they draw me on the cup. they weren't amused at my 10 minute inquisition into why my glasses had been depicted architectly. sorry :(

roast pork at princi

ah princi. princi princi princi. why have I walked into you for no reason, decided to sit down and have roast pork at 12:45 on a monday lunchtime. because occasionally it really gets there. perfectly roasted with shallots and rost potatoes. maybe the people from the duke of cambridge should sample. yes they shouuuuuuuuuuuuuld.

st john > burns > haggis

succumbed to some shameful burns night tweeting from st john here. but I guess it was a god excuse for a visit (not sure why my freudian fingers keep trying to write 'god') . although why you would need an excuse. err sorry the haggis was good, much meatier and less processed than others I have tried. with welcome large bits of slightly pinked liver. lovely. (but one more potato please SJhq, I had not eaten the third, it was not there)

wanky roots winter soup

inspired by an ill flat mate, a confused urbane fox and a legend of gastronomy.

* ok the pictures are gettin real shitty here, i know. but I have figured out a solution involving rapidly dissmantling my phone before snapping, so next upload they should all be great. (+ I refuse to take out a massive camera for this purpose, its bad enough pausing your life and ruining others just with a phone cam. (hold your breath or something)

but the soup. to be honest I have forgotten which legend I was referring to, perhaps somehwere between paul bocuse and someone else. he does a famous 'soupe au truffe noire', a clear soup with finely diced bits of high end material + black truffles and finished off under one of those pastry case hats.

and I like the idea, because it is a sort of reverse engineered finish to a soup. rather than processing afterwards with robocoups and sieves, dice all the vegetables nice and fine before, (i'm talking ideally 5mm sqaures) then just boil them up. this soup wasn't perfect so the recipe is just a pointer.

I used jerusalem artichoke, golden beetroot, carrot, potato and a bit of fresh tomato. I boiled them up with a baby chicken, which you can either discard or de-flesh and put back into the soup 20 mins or so before the end. as there were ill parties involved i went for ginger and coriander additions but seriosuly don't fuck with it too much. only if they are ill.

in terms of seasoning, maybe start like all good starts with sauteed onions and garlic, but not too coloured. then basics, I would say whole peppercorns and plenty of salt. if thats not enough try coriander seeds and other spices but very sparingly.

and finally a tip in clarity. when you have sauteed the onions etc and added the raw diced veg + chicken + seasoning. add cold water. when you bring to the boil it will form scum from the impurities, which you then scim off. anyway there you go. a soup for sick people, or regular ones.

buen ayre

the meal at this argentine steak house went far too quickly, which was quite surprising really. being in shitster village (guess or look up here and here), I was wary of the suburban time frame with which meals can sometimes follow. they shot this theory to pieces. I arrived late and starving, to a packed restaurant (no shitsters).

I ate/drank:

1.Bife de chorizo con guarnición £21.50
14oz grilled prime Argentine Sirloin steak with garnish

2.Finca Flichman Rosé
, Malbec Shiraz - Bodegas Flichman, Arg. £14.40
Delicious strawberry and raspberry aromas with great depth of colour. 
Dry with hints of white peaches with a refreshing, crisp acidity.

response:

1. you will not find a better, more seriously prepared steak for that price. there was no bullshit, just a really damn good piece of fire cooked meat. how it should be. although I like it when a chef has confidence with salt on a piece of meat, but apart from that...

2. pretty much just chose the most basic red to have. it was from argentina, and really good. the description is wrong, but surely nobody choses a wine by a description. you could stop at 'delicious' and it wouldn't be far off. the berry hints were darker than rasberries and strawberries, don't know where the white peaches factor in.

so to sum up, this place was fucking awesome. I don't really like neighbourhood restaurants. this one got there though. was impressed at how quickly our big table got fed. and enjoyed the 'interesting' attitude of the attentive and concerned staff. towards the end of the meal a guy came in and kissed all the staff (all men), sat down at the counter and drank a glass of wine.

kedgeree

my friend kat eating a kedgeree that i made. she said she liked it and asked if I could teach her how to make one.

kat. this is me teaching you how to make it.

this came together on the spot to cook dinner for 4.

we bought some: smoked haddock, eggs, basmati rice, mushrooms, mild curry powder, cream, onions, garlic, coriander, parsley and pepercorns. probably didn't actually buy all that but you get the picture.

so first thing to do is cook the smoked haddock separately. just submerge it in simmering water or milk until the fish is flaking / cooked.

in the mean time also boil some eggs. use cold water, bring to boil for 2 mins, then drain and leave to settle without shelling, so they cook a bit more.

the rest of it involves frying onions, garlic, mushrooms, in oil or butter. add some peppercorns, and then a good amount of curry powder. next flake the smoked haddock into this and fry for a bit more but don't break it up too much, you definitely want to come across a few bigger bits.

put some basmati rice in, judge the aounts accordingly and add liquid, (could be the milky fish milk, but water is fine). cook the mixture as you would rice, with a lid on.

when it is almost done, finish by adding cream, chopped coriander and parsley, and the quarters of boiled eggs (shelled). use as many eggs as you want, but I go for 1 per person. you can present in the pan that you cooked in. there are loads more ways to do this, so this was this one.

rabbit and prawn paella

i am quite into the meaty versions of paella. afterall I think this is a peasant dish from parts of spain where there were likely to be rabbity creatures and probably not mussels, prawns or squid. however i'm pretty sure the flavour of shellfish goes with the meat. you should probably put in whatever is at your disposal, so if you live near all of spain's crustacae on the west coast of Scotland then by all means make your paella with lobster and langoustines. but probably not. (my prawns were a bit pointless is what I was trying to say)

the flavour of paella comes from cooking loads of onions and peppers and a bit of garlic in good cooking olive oil, with paprika and saffron. this mixture should be almost jam like.

before this you might have fried off bits of rabbit (pictured) add those and maybe some peas (my picture shows, shitty wrong ones) then add some authentic spanish rice. not too much. It should look like you haven't added enough. (i added too much and fucked the cooking dynamic and burnt the pan, so don't do that!).

then cover the mixture well with a good cooking liquor, use your imagination + salt. then turn down the heat and leave to cook with tight foil on top (I have asumed you are using a paella dish, but can be done in an industrial metal baking/roasting tray).

cooking times vary a lot so check from time to time (25-45 mins). the finished look is of a sort of cooked and oily rice that will then dry out a bit. mmmmmmmmm. serve with lots of wedges of lemon.

tarte tatin

I attempted two tarte tatins the other weekend. my first two ever. this was the second attempt (on the sunday), the saturday one was good but I used the wrong apples (bramley/cooking). the result you are looking for is actually a pretty sickly dark toffee/caramel drenched one. The cooking apples were far too sharp to achieve this, but rendered a perfectly nice something or other. just not authentic tatin.

Ok so just had to look up history, something to do with some lesbians running a hotel (Tatin) in the loire valley, and one of them was a bit stupid and baked her famous apple tarte upside down, and then served it immediately?? Oh no wait they were sisters not lesbians. actually they were probably both. and with each other.

so the next one I used cox, which I actually saw in a recipee but didn't believe. anyway nicely proven wrong. they were perfect as you can use them in halves which leaves for the attractive oldskool domed look on top. and they become more moist than you would think a cox is capable of.

right this is becoming slightly ranty so I will round up with a quick biddulph version (with the usual lacking of quantative info):

bag of cox (peeled, halved, cored[in that order]), light brown sugar, unsalted or slightly salted butter, warm water, fresh bought regular puff pastry, medium/large sized oven safe frying pan.

method: (fire:medium) melt just under half a pack of butter, then add quite a bit of sugar, and bits of warm water to help with emulsification. this is the caramel. hopefully this will bubble away for a bit and when the colour starts heading towards coffee from toffee add the apples.

coat them well in the mixture but be careful not to burn. it needs to be as dark as possible but not burnt. turn the apples so they all sit on the round not the flat. turn fire off.

roughly measure the puff pastry sheet and cut an appropriate square to fit the gauge of your frying pan. the pastry will have a bit of give to round it from its square shape.

place it on top of the apples and poke a few knife pricks into it. bake this in quite a hot oven for a bout 20 mins then turn down to medium for another 35/40 mins. pastry should be golden with signs of bubbling caramelly apples underneath.

finally turn the tarte out using a tea towel on the hot frying pan and an appropriate sized flat plate. that should be it. serve with various types of unhealthy cow products.

they call it an eggs royale wi' cheese*

still got dem orange yokes at rivington. I'm just saying...
*not with cheese

panier maxstyle

bolting 2 x suitcases on to a bike definitely makes my travel section.

flying to geneva - report







follow up on 'flying to geneva a few squares below:

lon-gva still one of my favourite journeys. swiss still one of my favourite carriers. city airport is a shithole, not quite as easily accessed from shoreditch as you might hope. although does provide a nice backdrop of canary wharf/city of london on take off and very quick taxi>security>gate times. they say you can arrive about 20 mins before boarding. the airport was pathetically not open at 0835hr to accept our on-time swiss arrival. so we held for about 25mins.

business class was even nicer on the way back, had breakfast in the lounge, and once again leaving the alpine backdrop after take-off. ridiculously fresh croissants for a plane! swiss chocolates still good.

please note this fare inc. the business class return was cheaper than an easyjet return. so look out, and don't forget to check potential of business class not being much more on separate legs. www.swiss.com

kopapa



tried kopapa, first week back into the new year. Was taken by my father, high-end educating lord of the restaurant world. they knew we were 'related' as we arrived at separate times, both soaked from the january rain, and both requesting if they had a drying room (as a sort of joke). they didn't think we were that funny.

the meal:

Parmesan & bone marrow sauce on toast with chrain 5.20

Sesame infused tuna tartare with soy wasabi tapioca, crispy lotus root & shiso 6.00

Pork, chilli, coconut & gapi salad on betel leaf with crispy shallots 6.40

Tempura spicy dahl stuffed inari pocket on sugar snaps with caramelised coconut, plantain crisps, pickled green papaya & coriander 11.00

Glazed smoked Dutch eel on ratte potatoes & mizuna with soft boiled egg & miso mustard dressing 8.00

drinks: had a sherry (not great) and quite a nice white after.

coffee: girl looked at me funny when I asked for a cortado. sorry but they use enough chorizo in their menu to know what a cortado is i think. but the cortadillo that arrived was lovely (she said, "oh yeah, thats a piccolo!").

verdict:
this will be quite a general summary due to my lack of patience as I have left too many articles to upload over the holidays. so can't be bothered to comment on each dish.

I love the original sister/mother/cousin of kopapa in marelebone high st (providores) but it took me a couple of years to get it and withstand the unexpected high and low blows the fusiony plug-ins throw at you.

kopapa arrives with even fresher and newer concoctions and I expect it will take me a while before I get used to it. dishes are prepared well, but the range of flavours is just too distracting sometimes. I don't like to write off new places. so I won't. (p.s. apologies for abrupt ending)

koya

I found a blog that wrote almost exactly what I would have said about this place. and I am very tempted to just link the article... [here] actually their whole site is quite good.

the basic gist of it: koya specialises in udon noodles. and I have decided I don't really like udon noodles, especially when they are cold and snakey and too al dente. however, the cooking is very good and the specials with the least amount of udon content win. apparently their sister restaurant in paris is good/better.

biiiiig botty red



Stocked up on 6, 2 litre bottles of this for the holiday period. goes down very nicely at large gatherings. bought from guillaume at www.aubertandmascoli.com (look for the 200cl)

beer can chicken!

my flatmate seems to be pretty into this bbq obsession from tennessee. errr you put a can of beer up a chicken's backside. it works as a sort of internal baister/ bain-marie. Had one on a bbq few days before this was taken. was awesome (and it fell over half way through).

this one was done in our shitty oven. it looks weird here before cooking but it wasn't. it was fuckin good. the meat retains a sort of slow cooked succulency but with crispy bbq skin.

basic method (should you attempt): make a dry-ish spicy-ish bbq rub, up to you what really. rub the chicken in the rub. empty half the beer out of the beer can. put it up the chicken ass so that the chicken can stand upright. then either cook on a bbq grill with lid on, or oven 190°C until done (1.15/30)- good luck!

Bulette mit Kartoffelsalat innit!

I had this dish in Berlin http://www.diener-tattersall.de/ last year for the first time. although a beef patty has made its way down me before that. beef patties pan fried and served with a sort of wet potato and cucumber salad. really simple and delicious.

I was greeted with a recreation by my berliner friend marie so I did the same for her. but she thought I was joking. so jokes on her cus i bloody made them didn't i.

patties: beef, onions, egg, salt, pepper, spices (optional) ... fry!
salad: boiled potatoes, cucmber, spring onions, yogurt vinaigrette.
boom: smash!

carbonara

i am ob-seeeessssed with carbonara. always intrigued as to how the best and most authentic way to do it is. I guess the beauty is that you should be able to do what you want. Please note the state of the pasta and sauce is splitting but retaining saucy goodness.

this is what I do:

fry exceptional quality smoked bacon in thick/small/long pieces (try to think over the contradictions there) possibly with a bit of thyme in the pan. cook some tortiglioni or other. I haven't decided what is best. but tortiglioni is the size down from rigatoni I think and works well with surpising bits of bacon inside.

cook the pasta until quite al dente, poor off most of the water using the lid to catch the pasta. back on a medium heat, add the bacon with fat, some cream, decent amount of parmesan, egg yolks and salt and pepper. it will seem weird and soupy with the pasta water for a bit. but be patient and stir until it looks above-like. fucking eat that!

hand baggage



sometimes the friends come to london. this is marie travelling light. (left)

eggs at Princi



I will be the first to admit that princi, in wardour street, is a bit of a mixed bag. often find myself walking in there and walking straight out again. However the other morning I felt like a sit-in scrambled eggs somwehere and for £4.00 I had a huge portion of very nicely done scrammys.

- even had to buy a roll (30p) to sandwich the leftovers. almost like eggs, served twice. (bread was good but clearly not toasted properly a la 'mixed bag')



really naughty princi moment here: treated myself to a profiterol!!!

sausage ragu

on very high heat: fry some sausage with garlic and onions, add some tomato paste. still on high heat, deglaze with quite a bit of red wine. can add fresh or tinned tomatoes. season well and cover for 15 mins. probably done. eat with pasta (duh!) and grated pecorino.

St John "13 calvados and 13 espressos please..."

please appreciate my friend's humour top middle left. yeah so 13 of us made it to st john for the game lunch over christmas. venison salad with beetroot (and a shit load of rare venison) , pheasant and trotter pie, bread pudding, coffee, calvados. lovely.

vintage papers



got some nice papers from Shepherds/Falkiners on southhampton row for my presents this year. The design above is by Thomas Lowisnky. Also had a really nice one From an original design by Edward Bawden for London Transport, 1935.

both here:
http://store.falkiners.com/store/department/24/Paper---Decorative/

sashimi over sushi

tuna sashimi at sakura.

there is no substitue for the ultimate raw fish experience to having properly sliced thick pieces of tuna, dabbed with wasabi and dipped generously into good soy. makes the riced up seaweed version seem like such a small-time event.

When you sit at the bar, you can see the chef work, and then present the dish right to your hands, in a sort of painstakingly ceremonial manner. it makes you eat the fish properly and savour the ice cold flesh!

north road

heard about this place via a StJohn tweet the other day as they are neighbours in clerkenwell. and was lucky enough to be taken there. I don't really do restaurant reviews so I thought it might be funny to try and round it up in about 50 words. which probably won't be that easy.

order of service goes something like this:
1. pickled, then hay smoked quails eggs / salty animal skins, including fish!
2. rolls with brown butter
3. sweetbreads, pickled green elderberries, milk skin
4. roasted brill, salsify, unidentified green flappy discs
5. british cheeses
6. espresso
drinks: glass of reisling + muscadet / bottle of red 'touraine'/ water.

order of comment:

1. could have done with more of the quails eggs although the burnt hay reminded me slightly of killer moth 'smoke bombs'. the animal skins were a bit crispy and too salty, weirdly might have actually enjoyed them as soft skins.

2. rolls were lovely but the butter wasn't salty enough + reminded me of the madeleine honey butter (post below). could have done with one of those wanky salt piles that get served, but having said that I need to make clear that this place was not wanky, it was indeed very nice!

3. balance of sweetbread dish was perfect but agreed with my eating partner that the portions in general should have followed the larger starter, smaller main course scale rather than the small starter, medium main course one. milky skin was good, and with a fatter sweetbread and a creamier/fuller milk skin this would be a seriously top notch plate.

4. the roasted brill was in good stead with the salsify. it may have been a tad overcooked, but brill, like its bigger cus turbot, can withstand that. if I was being picky I would say that both the brill and the sweatbreads could have done with a little less time. i used the clumsy term of 'green flappy discs' because I am not really sure what they were. possibly a jellied herb oil? but not certain; best not to have this confusion.

5. i ordered the cheeses as that's what i felt like. also actually quite a good test. they were very good, and brought a satisfying end to the food part of the meal.

6. when people go to switzerland and learn about restaurantierering, do they not include making a perfect espresso in the curriculum? (I'm not being fair here but you get the picture)

re drinks: the glasses of white were perfectly good but the bottle of 'touraine' from the loire valley really turned great on us i think. and also appeared to be bottomless. win!

throughout the meal, I think I bored my accomplice with various rants about contemporary dining and what we want when we go out to eat. i went off on one about how great big dishes to share are, like if the brill and salsify had been in one nice pot with a couple of serving spoons, but then this restaurant wasn't that sort of place. And the bottom line is that I respect it for being a bit alone out there, in an attractive, well designed way. and most importantly i will send people to north road and look forward to returning one day.

50 word limit failed i think.
http://www.northroadrestaurant.co.uk

madeleines

have been meaning to attempt these for a while now, and I am a reluctant pastry chef, but they seem to turn out quite well. a few years ago I ordered them for dessert at st john; there was no looking back.

I wouldn't say they were the easiest thing to make but definitely a satisfying process, although watch out for the splitting honey-butter. they say you need to let the mixture stand for 2-3 hours before baking them (10-13 mins) at 190°C. however I am a fan of impatience and I made do with an hour which seemed ok in a decent fridge.

my mixture was a bit rich (excuse the aviation term...[that was an aviation term]) due to under sized eggs and to elaborate on the splitting of the honey-butter, you caramelise honey with butter which you then add to beaten up eggs with sugar + sifted flour. but as you leave the honey-butter to cool it tends to split. didn't matter though. Anyway the st john (nose to tail 2) recipe works well or you can google st john madeleines and you should find a similar one. http://justcookit.blogspot.com/2010/01/honey-madeleines.html

In terms of what you are looking for: I reckon they need to be as moist as possible inside whilst retaining cakey status, and on the 'shell' side they need to ideally have that crytalised/crusty shine from the contact with the baking tray. I used a floppy weird modern tray and still got the shine. so the google images top hits are not cuting the mustard, they look well cakey. hmmmmm + mmmmmmm.

flying to geneva

one of my favourite flights is to geneva. it is the perfect distance, and you normally get a nice aerial shot of paris on the way. was intrigued recently when arranging travel for a visit that my 'swiss' flight with a business class return leg worked out cheaper than an easyjet round trip.

In the pre-easyjet days, there was a great sense of purpose flying the old swissair with its brown belly and red cross into geneva, but eventually I warmed to the lightweight-ness of taking a luton flight on a nice new orange Boeing 737-700. I realised that it must be the flight and the airport and not so much swissair/swiss.

However I will not deny that I am excited to be departing from City airport on the Swis country's national airline for old times sake over the suckers that paid for their alternate more expensive easyflight. They will be sorely missing their chocolate footballs*

*only applicable during world cup, although I am sure an alternate non-football shape is provided at all other times. will report back in the new year about this.

turkish eggs + ei



one of my favourite pieces from Frieze Art Fair 2010, were two eggs by Gavin Turk. The emphasis on the size makes you realise the comforting values of a good egg. Obviously you can't touch the bloody things!



Accidently took part in a performance by ei arakawa. we made landscapes from string outside the back of the deutsche bank VIP room in regents park. the performance was meant to provide relief from the hustle inside the tent, with things like poetry, yoga, and banging sticks of bambo together. it was a bit of a relief actually.

big risotto



the scale of this photograph is deceptive. this is actually preparation of a mushroom risotto for about 30 people. the pot in the middle is actually quite big. the pan on the right is massive, and the bowl of cooked off mushrooms on the left is a salad bowl size.

we used the restaurant method of half cooking the risotto, as this was an after party event, but it works very well. you simply start cooking the risotto as if you were going to finish, then when the rice is still under cooked, cease the stock addition, let it go a bit dry and leave until you are ready to carry on. (in this case +4 hours)



on a recent sunday, in search of a proper meal, a friend and I ditched the toe path food festival (sorry toe pathers) for a little drive into town and a dim sum at the new world. I love it when old places are still good. its always nice to look back on something and re-asses whether it holds the original credentials that made it. the picture says it all, the blue in the china, tea, chilli oil, bamboo. its obvious what it smells like, you all know!



another trip to berlin, this piece at the kw institute invited people (with caution) to stand on the concrete floor and walk it from underneath you by pushing back on the wall. this brought up an interesting problem to the art participant as to how the turntable should be left. quartered?



purpose of the 4th trip this year to berlin was to attend the wolfgang tillmans opening in west berlin. diener is a place near the gallery that probably hasn't changed much in the last half a century, or more. Nice beers and traditional food like fried beef hashes with potato salad. http://www.diener-tattersall.de/index2.html



wolfgang tillmans at galerie daniel buchholz, berlin.



another lunch ready to go at dan biddulph presents. this was pre cooking facilities, so just cold preparation. theoretically though, in the middle of summer all you need is a good salad or two, some bread and maybe a bit of nice mozzarella to beef it up a bit.



one of the salads from the above meal: fennel, pea, dried (fresh) mint, olive oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice, salt and pepper. I seem to remember (as I am writing this in late october) the mint had dried up nicely and used it straight into the dressing, almost like a mint sauce you would have with lamb. it worked though.

fresh dried mint is a nice thing to use. i remember a greek friend of mine, who would kill me if I publicised his small restaurant (at 5 marylands road, maida vale, london) anyway, his mum used to start the moussaka by frying the minced pork with this great big jar of seriously high end dried mint. random dried mint story there...





Just under a year ago I worked on a card for a bunch of food businesses housed in arches underneath the train tracks in Bermondsey. Its a sort of new south east of borough movement.
http://www.maltbystreet.com/


Last saturday after a coffee at the monmouth hq, we walked along the arches, where other people seem to store things like wood and radiators, and ended up having a good continental sty le snack of beer, ham and cheese. All work incredibly well together. The beer (http://www.thekernelbrewery.com/saturdays.html) is brewed under the arch itself, and its only like £2.50 for a big bottle. Not big like the 'bigmig' san miguel litre bottle, but big enough.




delicious mozzarella from http://www.thehamandcheeseco.com/

a refreshing antidote to the parma ham, which actually for ham was quite refreshing in itself. a nice change from the ever prominent spanish jamon we see more and more of in english establishments.




err. ham?




yeah radiators are cool.




After testing my guessed recipe of the tayaabs prawn curry, I have a few notes to add. The bit about the burnt onions was not entirely accurate.

The curry in general turned out well and definitely had the same sort of vibe as the one at tayaabs, however as you can see was a lot darker.

To remedy this, instead of burning the onions and then cooking everything else after, take one med/large onion, slice half of it thinly (for the burning) and chop the other half finely. use the finely chopped half at the start, as per the original recipe below but just colour it a bit rather than burn. Then at the end garnish stage when you add the fresh tomatoes, add some nicely burned sliced onions. Should work better that way.




the last few weeks a friend has been supplying me with fresh boletus edulis from the new forest. the best thing about being given mushrooms rather than buying them for £50+/kilo from a shop is that you don't care how big a portion you serve yourself. I had these real simple on top of a spaghetti pomodoro. I fried the mushrooms seperately and added them on top like you might do with truffles. Shaved parmesan is optional as is the wine.




nice view here over the french/swiss/italian alps. monte bianco is somewhere in the middle of the range. The bit of road you can see is a good stretch that bypasses geneva on the way to chamonix, mont blanc.




I only managed one iced latte this summer, but in a way one is enough. It is absolutely imperative to have it in a glass rather than a plastic cup though, so you can enjoy the clatter and ping of the ice cooling you down. I find this is quite a slow drink too, like the coffee version of a campari and soda, or maybe negroni, i don't know!



the kitchen set up at dan biddulph presents this summer. Compared to the studio in soho there isn't a great choice of places to lunch unless you want to eat world class pakistani food. but its difficult to do it every day. believe me i tried (see prawn curry below). So I decided that borough market was my local shop (or more accurately the gastranomica store there). I used to pick up some fresh ravioli and a bit of pecorino sardo. Pretty simple but quite satisfying nonetheless. I experimented with different types of butter! this one is with dill.




during a recent interview for db presents I tailed off on a quiet rant about tomatoes. you can read the piece here and skip to the end to find the tomato rage. Aaaaanyway these are the very ones from just outside Montpellier. You really didn't have to do anything to them, I think these just had some oil (when they are exceptional tomatoes no vinegar needed), salt and a bit of basil torn over, served with a bit of bread and local goat's cheese. Not really sure whey there is a bowl of ice there. Anyway €1/k for the best tomatoes ever!!!




i had a brunch recently at the rivington bar and grill. which I have decided I actually like now. It's a lot more honest than I had previously thought and they made a loud table of 16 hungover youths quite satisfied. I shared a starter with a friend which made a great marriage. we halvsed a soft herring roes on toast and an eggs royale (the smoked salmon version of eggs benedict). Think I actually took this photo because of the extraordinarily orange yoke!




seem to have more and more friends living in berlin now. this is me and a friend travelling light. I am the brown, he is green.




the small prawn curry at tayaabs, as mentioned before. Sooooooo good but difficult to eat in the summer day after day. I am going to attempt at guessing the recipe so here goes. It is quite a simple curry which I reckon is not too far off from a quick cook, fresh tomato arrabiata:


what you will need:
good small frozen prawns, fresh tomatoes, bit of fresh green pepper, onions, garlic, dried and fresh red chilli, typical curry spices (off the top of my head: coriander, cumin, cloves, curry, ginger, +etc) and some ghee for cooking.

Just want to emphasise this is a very loose recipe, I would even do without grinding the spices, the only bit of prep is to chop up the tomatoes and slice the onions and peppers. You will need a few of the chopped tomatoes for the end.

ok here goes. heat a good (bad) amount of ghee in a wok, and add some sliced onions. they need to almost be burned (seriously, its one of those things that make it taste more authentic, when you wonder to yourself-it just doesn't taste the same as in the restaurants-).

Next add the spices and fry for 30secs. Then add the garlic, chillies, tomatoes (smaller they are chopped quicker it will turn into a sauce) and peppers (and some salt). Cook on high heat for another 5 mins, then add the prawns (probably defrosted). cook this for another 5 mins with a small glass of water and put a lid on if you have.

to finish, reduce for another 3-4 mins and add some of the chopped tomatoes. done. The key with this dish, I think is to really disintegrate the first lot of stuff you add to the burning onions to make it saucy asap. You shouldn't be able to detect the first lot of tomatoes as pieces, only the end garnish.