Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eat and See : Madsen followed by Banksy

Its Saturday and its a beautiful day. I have arranged to goto a Banksy exhibition with my sister and need somewhere to eat nearby. Searching around for somewhere which isn't in the nosebleed price category (no mean feat in South Ken), I decided to try something different and settled for a Scandinavian restaurant called Madsen.

Madsen is a vision of white walls, wood and metal. I must admit, its a very attractive interior. When we got there, its pretty empty but soon fills with a smorgasbord of people (see what I've done there). After the initial hiccup of the waitress not understanding what a latte is (took her 3 attempts), everything went more smoothly after that.

We ordered the chefs selection smushi (you got the love the names), which are a selection of smorrebrod and some Frikadeller (basically meatballs) and a Jerusalem Artichoke salad.
If your on the Atkins, dont come here. Everything was very carb heavy. My meatballs were nice enough, if a little dry. It came with a good potato salad and a very heavy rye bread although the pickled cucumbers were a nice touch. My sisters salad was nice but even that came with fried bread!

All in all, a nice place, but not really ideal for a hot "summer's" day. I was walking around with a really heavy stomach all day.

Madsen on Urbanspoon

So, filled up to the max, we pottered off down to the Andipa Gallery. I dont think I have ever passed so many Porsche's, Ferrari's and Maserati's in my life! The Andipa Gallery is a small gallery round the back of Bibendum and the exhibition was basically some bloke trying to sell his collection of Banksy's. They were all pretty early stuff but it was quite cool to see some of his work other than the more popularised pieces. It was worth the trek but nothing fantastic. If you want to see some more of my Banksy pics, click here.

20 Old Brompton Road

Andipa Gallery
162 Walton Street

London SW3 2JL

Monday, April 27, 2009

World Cup Fever!!!!

Right, now the few people who actually read this blog complain that all I seem to write about is food. Well, you may be right, after all, I love food. However I will try and diversify it by trying to be more culturally diverse. Check out some pics of a Banksy exhibition I went to a few days ago. See, I can haz culture, innit.

Anyway, as some of you may or may not know, I have got a handful of tickets to the upcoming World Cup in 2010. I am as you can expect, very excited. I went out to a game at the last World Cup in Germany and as you can see from the photos below, had a pretty crazy few days.

This time round, I will hopefully be heading out for a full two weeks and looks like I will be taking in a monster 5 games! I am really, really, really excited (can you tell) and met up with my partners in crime last night. Its going to cost a fortune, but as I havent had a decent holiday in years, cost is not an issue at the moment. Its going to take in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, a safari, a 5 hour overnight trek to get to games and 2 short internal plane journeys.

Damn its going to be fun :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eat British : The Chippy, Poland Street

One of my favourite programmes on at the moment is the Great British Menu. Basically, they get 2 chefs representing their respective regions, get them to create a 4 course menu with the ultimate prize being to cook one (or more) of their courses at a final banquet. This has been as varied as cooking for the queen's birthday banquet to cooking for the British Ambassadors banquet in Paris. This year is slightly different with the theme of a taste of home for servicemen returning from Afghanistan

You may be wondering where this is going, but it has just occurred to me that 3 weeks in, nobody has yet attempted a variation on fish and chips. I mean, what's more British than fish and chips?

After a hard evening shopping on Oxford Street, I needed somewhere to eat and walking down Poland Street, I spotted the Chippy. A chippy in the middle of London? I was intrigued and headed straight in.

The menu is simple. This is a chip shop and not some nouveau cuisine eatery you might expect to find as you head to Soho. However, it's clean and new looking and very nice inside. It maintains the old chip shop charm with a modern twist. There's a daily special (this time it was Coley) but I opted for the haddock with some tartare sauce and a gherkin.

Shortly afterwards, a lovely firm bit of fish arrived in a crisp beery batter. I really couldn't be happier. The fish was great as were the chips. Even the homemade tartare sauce was lovely, although a bit dear at £2 a pot. This was a great example of fish and chips, down to the wedge of lemon, and right in the middle of town, who'd have thunk it?

If you are looking for a "taste of home" you could do far worse than visiting this establishment.

The Chippy on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eat Modern European : Wild Honey, St George Street

Its Easter Sunday and I have just about recovered from the excesses of the previous week. Birthdays, work and lots of food had taken their toll but a few quiet days have meant the batteries are almost full and to me, that means only one thing, time to run them down again!

The whirring of Project Easter Monday were afoot. Firstly, lunch. As you all know, I like to eat. So the hunt for a restaurant began. Amongst the various food blogs and reviews I read, I remembered that Wild Honey, off shoot of Arbutus, had been building a decent reputation and remembering that my friend Ed had also recommended it (he proposed to his fiancée there); I rang up and made a booking for lunch.

I thought as it was indirectly Ed's idea, I should invite him and my lunch date was arranged. I just prayed the location wouldn't instigate him to get down on one knee. Located just off Regent Street, it was just a short hop on the 12 for me and I was early. I perched at the bar and ordered a glass of wine.

One thing you should know is I am a wine cretin. I know nothing about wine so I asked the front of house (they don't have a sommelier) for a recommendation. She brought me a very nice light white which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Once my mate had arrived, we proceeded to make our choices. I opted for the 3 course Prix Fixe. At £16.95, this is a steal. I mean, where can you sample Michelin starred cooking for under £20? I started with the thinly sliced pork with a rather intriguing poached egg vinaigrette. I wasn't really sure what I was going to get but what tuned up were a few pieces of warm delicious thinly sliced pork covered with a light tangy vinaigrette with a hint of richness coming from the egg. It was a really nice light starter and sets you up nicely for what was to follow.

My main of veal ravioli was simple but well executed. The pasta was firm and the filling of veal was smooth and flavoursome. The chard was a bit of a revelation for me as I had never had it before but was a more delicious version of spinach. My only criticism was that at just 2 ravioli, the portion may have been erring on the small side and the onion compote that it sat on may have been overly sweet.

Finally, I finished off my meal with Rhubarb Jelly and Ice cream. The jelly was tart and complemented the sweetness of the ice cream perfectly (let's face it, you can't really go wrong with jelly and ice cream). One highlight was the small nuggets of candied rhubarb at the bottom which released small bursts of rhubarb goodness.

The service throughout was attentive without coming across as over bearing. Although initially neglecting us with the offer of bread, once this oversight had been pointed out, we couldn't stop them offering us bread!

After lunch, I wanted to buy trainers but I was made to go and drink cocktails in the Fumoir at Claridges. I won't say too much about this other than it's an amazing setting; the cocktails are expensive but very strong. Half the fun of going to places like this is the people watching. One of these people was the eavesdropping middle aged woman sitting next us sipping her multitude of cocktails alone. This was topped off by her asking for more rum in her daiquiri! Bloody hell, if I had asked for more alcohol in my drinks, I would have keeled over.

I completed my Easter Monday with the first BBQ of the year round my friends house, where I managed to add to my alcoholic smorgasbord of red wine, white wine and cocktails with some Guinness. What started out as a potentially very dull day turned into something completely mental!

Wild Honey on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 10, 2009

See : Monsters vs Aliens 3D on the IMAX

Having missed out on the opportunity to watch Watchmen on the massive screen that is the IMAX, I scoured the future listings for upcoming shows and saw that Monsters vs. Aliens was coming up. And not just any showing, it was to be shown in 3D!

From an early age, 3D always fascinated me. How the use of green and red could play tricks on the mind, absolutely fascinating. 3D appears to have come a long way since then. Long have the green and red gone, but the stupid glasses remain (see below). I went with my little sisters (2 of the 3) and the youngest was adamant her dodgy eyes meant that she couldn't see 3D. Having forked out a tenner for her (£13.50 for adults, she is still a student) I hoped it wasn't going to be a tenner wasted.

Settled in, popcorn in hand, we donned our Kanye West style glasses and waited in anticipation. And it certainly didn't disappoint. From the opening sequence where asteroids seem to fly around your head, the 3D was rendered really well throughout the film, and far from detracting from the film, definitely added an additional depth to it (excuse the pun).

As to the film itself, it was pretty enjoyable throughout and laugh out loud in places. A kid's film? Like Shrek, DreamWorks previous animated series, the lions share is aimed at the younger audience but there is plenty there to keep the adult entertained. I had a thoroughly good time and came away with one thought. I wish all films were in 3D.

1 Charlie Chaplin Walk
South Bank
London SE1 8XR

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eat Steak : The Hawksmoor, Commercial Street

Looking through my past posts, it looks as though I eat a lot of meat. And let's face it, I do. It's been a struggle, but over the years, I have gradually forced myself to try and enjoy new foods. I think I have managed this with varying degrees of success. I can now eat most green veg and even enjoy some of it. Aubergines and avocado are well up there on my list of favourite new(ish) discoveries as are most seafood (although fish in general is still a stumbling block). I still struggle with raw tomatoes and won't let an anchovy pass my lips.

There are many restaurants which claim to be the best steak house in London. I mean, how hard is it to grill a piece of meat? Very difficult apparently. I have eaten some mediocre steaks, some ok steaks, some terrible steaks and even some pretty good ones. But I always strove for more, to reach that beef nirvana. And the day dinner was organised at the Hawksmoor, I hoped that this was to be that day.

So what brings me to the Hawksmoor? After all, it's located in a slightly more obscure part of Shoreditch and hardly stands out on a rather busy road. Well, Dos Herman's said it did the best steak in London, and I wasn't going to go against their word so I thought I would give it a go. I was meeting sister number 2, which was no mean feat. Dragging her out of Chelsea is like getting water from a stone, getting her to Shoreditch, a different matter completely. Surprisingly, she had heard the rumbles emanating from the Hawksmoor and agreed to come along with her boyfriend and his flatmate.

What a shock, she was late. Which I was semi glad at as it meant I could sidle up to the bar and sample one of their cocktails. Having had a few après-work drinks already, I was nicely warmed up and went for a Hawksmoor Julep. I ordered it and then there it was, the barman was psychic! He had already started making me one before I had even asked for it. Weird. Anyway, it was very nice. I probably didn't need it, but what the hell.

Just as I drew the last slurp from the straw (I'm classy as hell), sister no 2 rocked up and we started to peruse the menu. The menu is short and sweet but to be honest, when the quality is good, who needs variety. More cocktails were ordered as we decided on what to eat (Black Forest Sazerac for me) and starters promptly ordered. No scallops left so I shared a Crab and Crayfish cocktail with my sister. Being somebody who is neither fond of crab or crayfish (or seafood in general actually), this was somewhat a departure for me but I must admit I enjoyed it, not too fishy with a well made mayonnaise. The alcohol was clearly beginning to have an effect on me. One additional point to note, the Tamworth Belly Ribs ordered by Dan, absolutely delicious!

Next up was the main event, the steak! Now, when ordering, I really didn't know what to go for. I asked the waitress and although knowledgeable, she seemed pretty unhelpful . She recommended the prime rib for flavour so that's what I went for. She then told me I could only order 600g. Now I'm a big guy, but 600g? That's a lot of meat. In the end, I went for the 400g rib eye and boy was I happy. When it arrived, it had a beautiful char on the outside, gloriously pink on the inside and the flavour was unlike any other steak I have ever had. You could really taste the 35 day matured longhorn. Absolute bliss on a plate. It came with a trio of sauces (peppercorn, ketchup and a perfect béarnaise) but I felt almost guilty sullying this piece of meat with any sauce at all. At £21, I thought it was well worth every penny. Piers and Sis shared the Chateaubriand (£66 for 550g) which was ok and although more tender, was not as flavoursome as my rib eye and nowhere near as good value.

With the main meal, we managed to order a bevy of sides. Triple cooked chips were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and delicious. Runner beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach were all very nice. No complaints here.

I was pretty much done at this stage. It was definitely belt loosening time. But my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I proceeded to order the blood orange jelly and blancmange. Made in a mould by Bompas and Parr (renowned jelly makers, what a thing to be famous for!) this had a great wobble and provided more entertainment than taste. It was alright but nothing special, and especially not worth busting my gut for. Sister had a rhubarb and ginger crumble and although the flavours were good, there just wasn't enough crumble and the rhubarb was a little too sharp. I don't really think the desserts are the Hawksmoor's forte.

All in all, I came here to sample the best steak in London and I certainly wasn't disappointed. The steak was on another level to anything else I have had in London. I will be back, many, many times.

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You having a laugh?

Just a brief post here to wish my old mucker the cockroach a happy 31st Birthday.

The old man of Sidcup rounded up a few of his massive and after a brief pitstop in the notorious Wong Kei's for a "crispy", we all headed down to the Comedy Store on Oxendon Street. Amongst the motley crew were badger, big Dave, little Dave, the wodge, Northern Will and the Steer. There was also a guest appearance from Bottles at half time but I think we are still debating whether he was actually there or merely a figment of our imagination.

The Comedy Store is a bit of an institution. Its been around for over 20 years and is by far and away the premier funny spot in London. It has seen legends such as Robin Williams, Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard do their thing. Anybody who considers themselves a comedian aspires to tread this stage.

Wednesday night is the "Comedy Store Players", an improvisation night which has been running for as long as the club itself and we were lucky enough to watch Josie Lawrence, Phil Jupitus and Neil Mullarkey amongst others doing what they do best, improvising and making us laugh. Items included an Italian Carry On set in a biscuit factory, Josie Lawrence correctly identifying that she picked the corn off the cob with a harmonica and put them into Tin-Tin tins in a church for an occupation (she's good) and a Roman crime thriller revolving around the theft of a cursed helmet. Really, you cant make this stuff up!

Anyway, it was a good night. The lure of late night poker was strong but I am committed to the cause, so off to home I went as I had a long day ahead.