Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Food trends, BBQ and Burgers (and Lobster)

Pitt Cue co permanent residence

Every year at about this time, there is always a little talk about what the newest food trends are going to be. Of what everyone will be eating and what to expect in the restaurants. I was pretty confident about my prediction of American based food last year, and I was mostly not let down. What we really wanted was some good old American BBQ and we certainly got that from the little silver bullet under Hungerford bridge in Pitt Cue. Barbecoa was less sucessful, but mainly for trying to cater en masse and the intention was there. Letting pre prepared mounds of meat to stew do not lend well to BBQ.

Treats at the Rye, SE15

Burgers were also a huge part of 2011, with Meat Liquor opening and a dozen other places rising to prominence in the burger game such as Lucky Chip, Honest burgers and the Admiral Codrington. Burgers have always been a popular comfort food, so I guess it's rise once and for all was not too much of a shock.

What did surprise me was how well the street food scene has taken off this year. It's always been there in drips and drabs, but really just needed someone to grab it by the balls and get pitches. Petra Barran and her movement have been fundamental in making this happen, and we now have a burgeoning street food scene growing in London.

Brixton Village

Personally, I don't envisage much of a slow down in the street food scene in 2012. In fact, I definitely see a significant growth in the New Year. With the success and growth of markets such as Brixton Village, Netil Market and the Long Table this year, I would be extremely surprised to see independents in decline. Even with some of the bigger boys entering the fray soon (rumours abound for a Jamie Oliver van, or even one from Pizza express), I don't think they will be able to cope. What these places have in their favour is that they specialise, and what they do they do well. I really think this specialisation is not only going places in the street food scene, but in the bricks and mortar scene too.

Pitt Cue Co

Only last week, I was lucky enough to pop into the new kitchen of Pitt Cue to sample some of their delights. Working amidst a building site (they hope to be fully open in early January), they managed to knock up the most amazing smoky little pulled pork bun. Adorned with some homemade pickles, each bite was bliss and before I knew it, it was gone. Then I tried a little of their beef cheeks and pickled shiitake and I was back there again, in that little meaty happy place. Pitt Cue aren't going to be messing about, they are going to stick to what they know and do it well. Pulled pork, ribs, pickles and a few little experiments when they have a little bit of time. Nice.


Which brings me to Burger and Lobster. There is so much I can say about this place already, but I will keep it short. I love it. The only menu they have is for the bar, and you merely get the choice between a lobster or a burger. At £20 each, they both arrive with fries, salad and condiments (pickles or a butter sauce). Although the burger may be veering towards the pricy end, the whole lobster is exceedingly good value. Only other menu additions are a lobster roll (at £18 I believe) and two mousses, chocolate and lime. I see myself developing a bit of a lobster addiction in the near future.

Lobster Roll

So there you have it, a few long winded (yet brief compared to what is actually going on in my head) thoughts on the year and what we may expect from the next. As with any trends, you are never truly able to know what is going to happen, but where we have seen food heroes made out of people such as Mark (aka The Ribman) and Abiye (aka Mr Big Apple Hot Dog), expect a few more in 2012. Embrace specialisation, after all, there is nothing wrong with actually being rather good at a few things.

*Pitt Cue will be located at 1 Newburgh street and is due to open in early January. I was also a guest at a dry run for bloggers at Burger and Lobster.*

Burger and Lobster - 29 Clarges street, Mayfair London W1J 7EF

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Toptable Top 5

I've never been very good at rating stuff. I normally abstain from giving my write ups a rating and would hope that anyone who may read anything I write would use it as a guide and nothing more. When I was asked to narrow down my 5 favourite places to eat this year, I actually found it remarkably easy to choose. No ratings to refer to, just good honest enjoyable memories. Take a look below at what I thought, and here's the link to the other eleven bloggers thoughts.


Beef tartare, warm oyster

Hedone – A restaurant so good that the only bad thing I can say is that it’s in Chiswick and miles away from the center of town. Pairing simple but pure flavours, with excellent cooking and amongst the friendliest service you’ll get in London. It’s hard to beat for a night where you want to eat, relax and be happy. I haven't got round to writing it up yet (lazy), but here is a link to all the pics.

Roganic, Marylebone

Roganic – Led by the excellent Ben Spalding, the food here is innovative, and is as beautiful to eat as it is to look at. With a few little known ingredients on each plate prompting conversation with the exceptional staff, the atmosphere is highly convivial. Add some wine matched by the lovely Sandia Chang and you have yourselves the ingredients for a top night out. My write up is here.

Concealed Weapon

Hawksmoor 7D – opened at the end of last year, I find myself going back for the wonderful steaks, the devilish bar menu comprising of lobster rolls, burgers and hot dogs and of course THAT cocktail bar. Even though the license instigates no booze without food, book a spot and settle in, the knowledable bar men will happily guide you into a lively drunken buzz. I've never written about 7D, but here's a bit about the original Hawksmoor on Commercial street.

Sushi of Shiori, Warren Street

Sushi of Shiori – Responsible for my “OMG” moment of the year, this little eight seater just off Warren street introduced me to the world of sushi. After a few bites of their expertly crafted toro (or tuna belly), I fell instantly in love and haven’t looked back. Here's my write up.

Pitt Cue co, Southbank

Pitt Cue Co – Not really a restaurant but my nominee this year for the burgeoning street food scene. Think boxes of pulled pork and ribs, matched with slow cooked beans or a cooling coleslaw and pickles, served with a slice of the finest sour dough. A real one to look out for, especially with a planned restaurant opening at the end of this year. Here is my write up for their residency under Hungerford bridge.

Please feel free to let me know your top 5, I would be pretty interested to hear.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mishkins and a little about burger fatigue

London has gone burger mad, and sadly, I have not. I LIKE burgers, however, I do not LOVE them. I often felt a little bit of a weirdo as all my burger hound friends around me regale at how their last burger was perfectly medium rare, how the cheese melted perfectly coating their exceptionally balanced patty like a snug yellow blanket. I wasn't always like this, I just think I have reached my fill for now. Living so close to the Meatwagon (in all it's incarnations) for such a long time has probably spoiled my immediate desire for "proper" burgers, a serious case of "too much of a good thing".

There have been a few recent run-ins which have worked towards semi lifting me out of this burger funk, one of which can be attributed to the diminutive 3oz steamed beef patty at newly opened Mishkin's. It may be small, but packs a deeply beefy punch, smothered in a delicate coating of cheese (Swiss) and sat atop the onions they were steamed on. Add a perfect little bun and you get a perfect little burger.

The rest of Mishkin's ain't too shabby either. Loosely based around a Jewish American diner, you can get a variety of dishes inspired by Jewish favourites (such as the matzoh ball soup and salt beef sandwiches). As with all Russell Norman led projects (he of Polpo and Spuntino fame), the focus is very much around the casual diner, a space which is alive with atmosphere, and plentiful with booze. The formula is straightforward, bar at the front, seating space out the back, good food throughout. Mishkin's definitely feels a little more spacious than any of the Polpos. Sat in a big booth on my first visit, and in the rather cute little radio box on my second, it never felt crowded or over noisy.

Other must orders for me include the Reuben and the meatloaf. The Reuben is quite a beast of a sandwich. Stuffed with mounds of pastrami, sauerkraut and swiss cheese, with a smear of the in house Russian dressing, the whole experience is enjoyable from first bite to last.

When I think of meatloaf, I normally think of a huge hunk of ground meat in the shape of a loaf of bread, almost akin to a very dark loaf of rye. Not really the most appetising sounding meal is it? Mind you, my school canteen was certainly no Mishkin's, and the version here is a much more delicate affair. Slicing into the moist spiced meatloaf in a tiny bread tin yields the reward of a perfectly soft boiled egg. More like a meat-scotch-egg-loaf. Whatever it is, each rich mouthful is normally followed by an approving gurgle.

I guess it's no surprise that I enjoyed Mishkin's. A lot. It might even be my new favourite of the Norman empire. The big bar (serving a number of gin based drinks) lends itself more towards a comfortable casual drink, or even the solo diner (I am one), and the vibrant restaurant space past the bar where you can lounge in the comfortable banquettes whilst enjoying your meal. Round off your meal with a bowl of bananas foster (caramelised bananas with a dash of rum and vanilla ice cream) and go home happy. I know I did.

*All credit for these photos go to Paul Winch-Furness, photographer extraordinaire. It's his job, and he's rather good at it. It was quite dark, rendering my camera helpless*

Mishkin's - 25 Catherine Street. London, WC2B 5JS

Mishkin's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pizarro: An ode to sitting down


I'll be the first person to admit that I don't really enjoy Jose on Bermondsey Street. It's nothing personal, it's just that I don't enjoy tapas restaurants in general. The thought of being crammed into a small space with a host of other people, where the noise is deafening and I am forced to eat standing up. Sadly, the old curmudgeon in me can think of nothing worse.

Having said that, I enjoyed all the food at Jose and when I heard that Pizarro, a sit down version of Jose, was due to open, I was pretty excited. I could finally "enjoy" my food. And open it did and with a 4 day soft opening period announced (offering 50% off), this was an offer not to be missed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm back! Dim Sum at Phoenix Palace

Pheonix palace, Baker Street

So, I have been on a mini hiatus recently as any regular readers might have been able to tell. In the past, the blog has taken over many facets of my life, but over the last few weeks, my real life has wrestled the blog away from me and I just haven’t found the time. Fear not, I have eaten at many lovely places, and I will try to add a few words to each over the next few weeks to let you know about all the delicious details.

So let’s start at the most recent, which was a dim sum trip to Pheonix Palace organised by the one and only Mr “F*cking” Noodles. Now, I hadn’t heard of Pheonix Palace before, but it is a popular haunt of Mr Noodles and I trust his judgement in the minefield that is the London Dim Sum restaurant. First impressions are strangely comforting. The place is absolutely massive and is adorned with large walls covered in Dragons and red & gold paint. Match that with marginally excessive Xmas decorations and parachuting santas and you get the picture. I love it, the absolute seeming chaos exacerbated by the frantic staff and the high chintz rating are amongst all the things that endears me most about Chinese restaurants.