Following Sohos recent growth from culinary wasteland (relative) to restaurant oasis sees the arrival of 10 Greek Street, another restaurant embracing the British bistro ethic, alongside other recent openings such as 10 Cases and Duck Soup. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on good cooking and good ingredients, and much of what is on the menu illustrates this. The daily menu is scribbled on the chalk boards around the small space, and merely lists a roll call of ingredients. No foams, reductions, jus or fancy language on show, what's on the board is essentially what you get.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
We all know street food is kind of a big deal at the moment, and rightly so. Everybody discerning Soho worker loves a big blow out on a slap up meal, but this is normally restricted to dinner times (unless you are a media guru with a wanton disregard of your companies expense budget and/or afternoons). Being able to pick up something cheap and delicious that you can enjoy on the go/at your desk is never that easy a task and is often disappointing, but can you imagine a world where you can get a delicious pizza quickly and cheaply as a takeaway lunch? Me neither.
That is until I met the Pizza Pilgrims. Two brothers who spent a few months travelling around Italy eating and learning about pizza, only to return to London to set up their own company. Jacking in their careers in media, and joining up with a 3rd "pilgrim", they created their travelling pizza oven on the back of an old three wheeled Piaggio van and are planning to bring hand held pizzas to a street side near you.
I was invited along to a pre-pre-launch tasting to see if they could make their pizzas better, and oh boy, those boys have got it nailed. First up was an ingredients test, trying out some Laverstoke Park buffalo mozzarella versus their cheese of choice, an imported Italian fior de latte, both unique in their own ways, but equally delicious raw. Best of all was a taster of their scamorza (or smoked mozzarella) which had a subtle oaky flavour. Finally, a shot of san marzano puree and a taste of their cooked dough. So eager was I to taste the final product, that I reconstructed their deconstructed pizza. And good it was too.
So there it is in all it's beauty, the finished pizza. Looks good doesn't it? Upon the first bite, the quality of the ingredients were clear. Even as the slow dribble of molten cheese slowly made it's way down my chin, burning everything in its path, I couldn't help but stick it out and savour the sweet mingle of dough, tomato and cheese. As I finished up that slice, more just kept on coming, just different variations on cheese and even one flecked with nduja that was top notch.
Whilst we digested the frankly obscene amounts of pizza we had just consumed, we had bowl of buffalo milk ice cream drizzled with flecks of salt and olive oil, another taste sensation (seriously, you should all try it). I love what these guys are doing, and the fact that they were already producing a top notch product out of the back of what is essentially a robin reliant, which can rival any high street pizza restaurant is just madness. Or genius. Keep an eye for updates via either their twitter account or their website, but expect an announcement over the next few weeks to find out where you too can get your chops around their pizzas.
Pizza Pilgrims - TBC (but Soho)
Thursday, February 16, 2012
(taken off the French Table website)
Resolutions are a bit rubbish aren't they? For a month, you're on this, that and every diet, vowing to lay off every fatty food known to man and go to the gym 8 times a week. Give it a few weeks, maybe even make it to the end of January if you have a strong resolve, but the fact is that very few of you will last into February. I just find it not to bother at all these days.
However, one thing I wanted to do more of last year was to eat more outside of London, and to be fair, I was pretty rubbish at that too. I did manage trips to LA, San Francisco and a holiday to Italy (they don't count), as well as a rather incongruous visit to a Beefeater in Telford. A few days in Cambridge and Birmingham saw me visit Alimentum and Purnells, as well as managing another trip to the Sportsman, so not a total loss.
As a final throw of the dice in order to bring this resolution to some sort of respectability, I headed out to Surbiton (not strictly out of town, but on the edge of zone 6, so might as well be) and sat down with my family at the French Table for one big blow out before the New Year. I've always found French cuisine a little on the predictable side, and in doing so, rather dull, but was quite surprised with what was served.
The gruyere and bacon bread we were given as we were perusing the menu was amongst the best bread I had ever eaten. Delicate slices packed with nuggets of bacon and packed with subtle cheesy flavour. It had my taste buds fizzing and had to resist myself from asking for more. The menu itself was undoubtedly packed with French influences and techniques, although there were typical external European influences included too, all the hallmarks of a modern "French" English restaurant.
The menu itself covered all the main food groups, ranging from scallops and trout to venison and pork. Between my family and I, we managed to consume most of these. My starter consisted of a pastry topping over a broth of smoked fish, seafood and a creamy white wine reduction, absolute bliss. Other starters of scallops and pheasant were perfectly cooked and paired with foreign influences. The scallops came packed with Japanese influences of black radish, ginger and yuzu whilst the pheasant was more "Franglais", being served with flavours of chestnut and celeriac.
I opted for the special of the day for my main, beef with chanterelles served with a deeply flavoured red wine jus and mash, comfort food to the max. I mopped up every dreg of sauce. Mains of rack of lamb and hake were more classic, although the venison was probably the most adventurous, paired with a parsnip canneloni and wrapped in bayonne ham.
As always, once you've made your way through so much rich food, desserts are often an afterthought, but in my family, never forgotten. Much of the menu circles around tarts and gateaus, all far too rich for me, so I went for the rather more interesting option of a marshwallow mousse, cacao tuile and raspberry sorbet. What is marshmallow mousse you say? Good question, I am still not too sure, but what I got was sticky and sweet. Although the tuile was slightly over done, it added a nice nutty contrast in texture and the raspberry sorbet was sweet yet tart, clearing the palate ready for the next bite.
Spending time with my family can be taxing at the best of times, but one thing we all appreciate is good food. I can thankfully report that there were no disagreements and we even managed to distribute bites of each others dishes to each other without so much as a hiss or a look of disdain. The French Table does an excellent job uniting the flavours of Europe on the edge of London using French techniques, and although seemingly confused, they somehow pull it off. It's definitely not cheap, but affordable enough and based in the heart of the commuter belt, I guess that's no surprise. Surbiton is a mere 20 minutes by train from Waterloo and comes highly recommended.
The French Table - 85 Maple Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4AW
Monday, February 13, 2012
When I was younger, my family and I would follow a very familiar weekly/fortnightly routine. With me and my three sisters in tow, we would make sure we would all be ready to leave the house bright and early, to arrive in Chinatown around 11am. We would head straight for New World and if we had arrived on time, we would head straight to one of the tables on one of the three floors. Any time after 12 and queues would form and you would be handed a little brightly coloured raffle ticket. My father would pass me the ticket and I would be the one to get us our table when our number was called.
After we had eaten, we would stroll down Gerrard street, to either Loon Fung or New Moon supermarket to stock up on provisions for the week ahead. If we had behaved, we would be bought white rabbit sweets and haw flakes for the long journey home. As you can expect, I look back fondly at those trips and reminisce what it was like to be that kid. Really happy times.
Sadly New World hasn't really stood the test of time. We stopped making those trips into Chinatown, a consequence of the birds flying the nest, and any family meetups are at the more south friendly Dragon Castle. I went back once a few years ago and the food was poor. The fried goods were extremely greasy and left a slick down your throat, whilst the dumplings were devoid of flavour and were basically balls of stodge.
It was pretty disappointing on that occasion, but I wasn't willing to just give up on it. I recently returned for what I hoped wasn't the last time with a friend, and thankfully it wasn't terrible. The trolleys were still out in force. It enables you to check out the goods before you try, and you get served as soon as you sit down, great stuff. The food isn't great, but it was far from bad. The dumplings were heavy but actually tasted of more than just MSG. Old favourites of roast pork went down well, and they are one of the few places I know that sells affordable and decent plates of suckling pig.
The best thing for me was the fact that it still sold almond beancurd with fruit cocktail, a dessert which seems to have faded out of existence across other dim sum restaurants, and one I frankly cannot get enough of. Nothing like ending a trip down memory lane on a rather enjoyable high. New World is one of those places which will always hold a fond place in my heart, even if it isn't my number one dim sum destination. It's not terrible, just rather average which is about the best endorsement I can give it. For nostalgia, I'll probably just grab a bag of haw flakes next time.
New World - 1 Gerrard Place, London W1D 5PA
Thursday, February 9, 2012
(This one's from @grobelaar)
Personally, I've always tried to avoid Borough market. Don't get me wrong, there is no doubt that it is packed full of many great things, but you only need to glance at the queue flowing down the street at Monmouth to see everything that is wrong about Borough market. Yes the coffee is good there, but is it worth waiting waiting over thirty minutes to satisfy your caffeine kick. Is it worth fighting past the throngs of people to just get to the end of the queue. Are you actually satisfied with your cup of coffee once you have have got it in your hands? To summarise, I hate queues, I hate large crowds and I hate working hard to get something I can get more easily elsewhere.
Maltby street market is a short hop away from Borough and is everything that Borough isn't. There are fewer stalls, less people, and is far more sparse, but for me, is a much better Saturday option. You still get the same spread of stalls and you can buy a huge amount great produce too. With Monmouth and Neals Yard based in the Maltby Street arches, you're not going to be deprived of your cheese or coffee needs, and the queues here are far more amenable.
Alongside these two London food goliaths are a few other well known names. St John bakery is actually also based out of these arches, and you can get their full range of loaves and cakes, and if you get there a little earlier, you can get your lips around a famous St John custard donut. Get there before 12 if you don't want to be disappointed as these unsurprisingly sell like hot cakes (as opposed to the actual hotcakes, which are also just as good).
Next door you have Beas of Bloomsbury and her wonderful cakes, as well as Rachel of Catalan Cooking making her cod doughnuts and a variety of Austrian delights, from goulash to cured meats. Dotted around, you will find an arch stacked to the brim with vegetables, the guys behind Kernel brewery (who are also based somewhere in the arches), as well as an expert butcher supplying top quality meats (check out @naththebutcher). Round this off with a few more cheese and meat stalls and what you have is an hour or so of enjoyable perusing, where you will more often than not return home with an excellent haul.
Once you're done getting you're weekly shop out of the way, head on down to 40 Maltby street for a glass of wine. Based in the vaults of a natural wine cellar, every week they rotate their wines (one red and one white by the glass) to serve alongside a small menu. The space is small and comfortable with plenty of space to perch or eat. When I ambled along towards the end of the market (all stalls shut at 2pm), most of the dishes had sold out, but all we were looking for were a few bites to tidy us over.
A chicken broth was packed with herbs, lacing the broth with tarragon and chervil, as well as mint and parsley. Chunks of croutons added a nice texture and the whole dish was light and refreshing.
Alongside, we opted for a simple dish of boiled ham and mustard which was as delicious as it was straightforward. Heap loads of excellent butter on equally excellent bread and we had exactly what we needed to hit the spot.
Maltby Street is everything which Borough Market isn't. Small and personable, without the crowds (yet) and great produce. One part of Borough I do love is the array of food stalls where you can grab handfuls of food you can walk on the go, although I am sure it is only a matter of time before Maltby St spreads and more people start to move in. I for one appreciate what it is for now, and you will be far more likely to find me ambling the arches of Maltby Street than ploughing through the crowds of Borough.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
In an effort to catch up and generally seem less lazy, I will be bombarding you with a whole load of mini bites over the next few weeks, and maybe some proper blog posts too.
First up is the notorious Ship in Wandsworth. Stuck round the back of a massive roundabout in Wandsworth (containing a rather strange and rather large spherical structure), in between a bus garage and a McDonalds you walk down Jews Row to be confronted with a frankly odd looking but fabulous pub. With three different bar areas (including the one outside), it's perennial jovial atmosphere make this place an ideal drinking establishment. Drinking by the river has always been one of London's favourite pastimes, and roll up over any weekend with a hint of sun and you will normally be faced with hordes of people ready to party.
Not only is this a great pub for drinking, but it's also a great pub for eating. Spending some time looking through the menu, you can see that a lot of thought has gone into the menu here and I guess it's no surprise that the Ship has become a blogger favourite, hosting events and feeding us to the gills.
I love the Ship and even though it doesn't need my endorsement, I give it a big thumbs up. Under Osh, Phil and the rest of the crew, you couldn't get a nicer bunch of people manning one of the busiest pubs in London. And if you are fed up of drinking in a pub with a roaring fire when it's cold, or enjoying an ice cold beer on the riverside terrace when the sun is out, feast your eyes on some of the quality food they roll out of the kitchen.
Fancy something decadent, a little foie gras perhaps?
Maybe partial to an excellent Sunday roast.
Probably a bit much, let's just settle for a frankly mindblowing burger.
Or maybe some seafood, will scallops do?
Yup, maybe just some old fashioned booze. Dark and Stormy coming up.
The Ship - 41 Jews Row London SW18 1TB