Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"What I ate" Weekly - Issue 1

So this weekly round up is going to be a "thing" for me. Let's call it a trade off to try and at least keep up and get some constant content on here.

Paul's Pies

First out of the traps, the guys at Paul's Pies. Randomly, I used to work with one of the guys behind this, and he got back in touch letting me know about his new venture. "Do you want to try some pies?" he said. "Hell yes" I said. A few days later, a delivery arrived packed with four handmade and rather excellent pies. Dinner for the week sorted. Each pie is hand made and packed with whatever the box says (I think the venison and mushroom was my favourite). Knock up some mash and gravy and you'll have a rather excellent dinner. Thanks guys!

You can get your hands on a pie through their website HERE.

Outside

One of the highlights of the week was an unsurprisingly excellent meal at Silk Road in Camberwell. A local favourite selling Tsingtao for a couple of quid and a host of reasonably priced dishes from the Xinjiang region of China. We devoured the menu in under an hour and left as satisfied as food and beer can leave you. Order the lamb skewers, aubergine, homestyle cabbage and their dumplings. Roll home. 

Here is my old post on Silk Road


Nanban Popup
Tuesday saw me visit The Thatched, a lovely pub located in the heart of Ravenscourt Park, for a test run of Tim Andersons (he of Masterchef fame) menu of his upcoming restaurant Nanban. Based around the food from the South Island of Japan (Kyushu), we tried a number of strange dishes, from lotus root to ramen to kinako buttercream (or roasted soybean to the unaquainted). Best of the lot was a cheesy vegetable curry crowned by a slow cooked egg, crazy in conception but it just drags you in for that one more spoonful. Look out for the official Nanban opening in the next few months.

Nanbans FB page is HERE.


Deal


For a couple of months, my friends and I have been plotting to get away for a few days, them predominantly from their wives, me, away from the hustle and bustle of London. How we settled on Deal in Kent, I have no idea, but it's close, has a rather drab pier, and more pubs than you can shake a stick at. It was a pretty slack weekend of pubs, pizzas and pound coins (couldn't resist sticking some money into the fruit machines), with little gastronomy in sight. Thankfully, we came to our senses before our drive home and ended up at the Black Douglas Cafe on the Deal seafront, an excellent cafe recommended by Marina O'Laughlin. In our state, only the Black Douglas big breakfast would do, and the end results were exactly what was needs. I loved the look of the proper menu too and it  was packed on the Sunday we were leaving, which I guess says more about it than I can write in this paragraph.

Deal

More info on the Black Douglas cafe can be found HERE.

So there you go, roundup 1 done. Lets see if I can keep this up for another 49 weeks....

Deal

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Lazy Posts of 2012: Part 1 - The Pricy Ones

There seems to be a trend of “lost posts” going on at the moment, posts which got lost in the draft sections of their blog archive. This post is not a lost posts writeup, but a lazy posts write up. This has nothing to do with being lost, these have been sitting penned in ink upon my notepad next to me, staring at me whenever I sit down to type anything at my computer.

So here they are, the lazy posts, written up lazily, but hopefully with enough to help make you decide whether it could be your cup of tea, or just another herbal teabag destined to be languishing at the back of your store cupboard. Part one (oh yes, there will be at least THREE parts) will be about the places on the slightly dearer end of the scale.


The Classic Posh One: The Square, Mayfair

The Square Book Launch

Now, I really should have written something about this earlier, because the food was very very well executed, and as good an example of classic French techniques as you will find anywhere in London, I would imagine. I was there for a little blogger dinner for the launch of Phil Howards new cookbook, an anthology of savoury recipes. Apparently, this had been many years in the making and I can see why. It’s a beautiful and bountiful cookbook containing recipes for beginners up to the pros.

The Square Book Launch

In summary, a flawless masterclass of classic cooking.

Check out the book HERE, and more photos of the food HERE.

The Square - 6-10 Bruton Street, London W1J 6PU

Square on Urbanspoon

Square Meal



The Next Big Thing: Upstairs at the Ten Bells, Shoreditch


Upstairs at the Ten Bells

In a stark comparison to the Square, the food I ate at the Ten Bells with the Young Turks in residence was about as cutting edge as you can find in London at the moment. Formed by a few guys who have come from some of the best restaurants in the world, expect pine flavoured fried chicken, mackerel with pickled melon and olives, and one of the best dishes I had in 2012, a pork, sweetcorn and peach dish which inspired me to cook something similar at home. Suffice to say, it wasn’t as good.

Upstairs at the Ten Bells

Upstairs at the Ten Bells

I love what these guys are doing, and their residency at the Ten Bells is now permanent with some of their chefs still working in the kitchen (led by Giorgio Ravelli). The Young Turks will be opening up their own restaurant in Shoreditch Town Hall soon. Destined to be a success so keep your eyes open for this one.

Upstairs at the Ten Bells

For more pics, please click HERE

Upstairs at the Ten Bells - 84 Commercial Street, London E1 6LY

Upstairs at the Ten Bells on Urbanspoon

Square Meal



The One Where The Scary Chinese Owner Gets Me Into A Headlock: Hunan, Pimlico

Hunan

Hunan had been on my to do list for as long as I have been writing this blog and is quite an institution down in Pimlico. The principle is old school Cantonese banquet, a never ending sequence of dishes which only stops when your stomach yields and waves the white flag. Getting a group together is not essential, but it is quite an experience best shared with others.

Hunan

Over the course of the evening, we covered a whole selection of food groups, from the humble green bean to every meat known to man. Half the time I had no idea what I was eating, but that mostly didn’t matter, it was all pretty decent. There is no heavy seasoning or use of MSG, with the aim of letting the main flavours come through central to its ethos, although slightly unfortunate in some instances where lack of seasoning was definitely an issue. On the whole though, loved Hunan, it’s conveyor belt of mostly excellent food and a hat tip to the chef who having smacked me round the head and got me in a headlock, was great entertainment (for my friends mostly).

Hunan

Click HERE for more pictures of the meal.

Hunan - 51 Pimlico Road, London SW1W 8NE

Hunan on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The first of 2013: The two faces of Bubbledogs

Bubbledogs&

First up this year, and one of last years successes for me, a bit of both at Bubbledogs &. And when I mean both, I mean opposite sides of the foodie spectrum. Out the front, you will find a queue snaking out the front all the way down Charlotte Street, waiting for their turn to tuck into a selection of hot dogs (pork, beef and veggie) covered in all sorts of delicious accompaniments. To drink, a selection of grower champagnes selected carefully by wine buff Sandia Chang, or a decent selection cocktails made and shaken to order by people who actually know what they are doing.

Bubbledogs&

The dogs taste great and come with that essential snap of the skin, releasing all the meaty juices held within. For me, a hot dog with no snap is like a sad bowl of soggy Rice Krispies, mushy and undesirable. Toppings are inspired from all over the world, with kimchi, chilli, truffle and even red cabbage adorning the dogs. Personal favourites are the BLT, which is a dog wrapped in bacon, and topped with caramelized lettuce and truffle mayo, and the Small Eye (in the pic above), a combination of pickled veg and sriracha, akin to a hot dog stuffed banh mi.

Bubbledogs&

I'm not massively into bubbly or queueing, but I do love cocktails and hot dogs. Book a table for 6 in advance, gather a few friends together and go and eat the menu, you won't be disappointed. If you're a sadist and want to torture yourself, get there at half seven and wait in the queue. Not advised as these get kind of crazy long, so basically either book or start queueing early. Oh, and don't forget sides of tater tots, the best sweet potato fries I have ever had, dipped in bowls of cheese wizz (artificial cheesy artery glue). Dirty but satisfying.

Bubbledogs&

Step through the curtains at the back and you enter the realm of the "&". In front of you is the most beautiful open plan kitchen, with a horseshoe shaped bar seating surrounding the hot plates and prep areas. This section is very much the domain of James Knappett, husband to Sandia, and orchestrator in chief behind that curtain. Every week, James plans his menus around the produce that his suppliers choose to send him. Only the best in season will hit your plates and you will never get the same menu twice.

Untitled

James has had experience in so many top kitchens, it wouldn't be outlandish to say that his CV reads like a list of ther worlds best. Per Se, The French Laundry, Noma, The Ledbury, Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, a pretty impressive bunch. All this experience has finally culminated in his own place serving his own food. I've bumped into James a few times wandering around Maltby Street Market; jovial, friendly, buying ingredients to cook and eat with. At the Kitchen Table, his attention was devoted to the food, meticulous with each dish and orchestrating his chefs with ease and calm.

There is no a la carte, with just two tasting menus differing in length as your options (I forget how long they are but I went with the 12 course menu, the longer one). Each listed menu item was simply summarised in one word, not giving away what each dish had in store. I'm not sure the menu helped all that much anyway, as each dish was a surprise and a delight.

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Take "Cod, for example. What arrived was a delightfully light cod roe based taramasalata, served with curls of pork crackling to dip and scrape. I'm not a massive fan of taramasalata, it's fishy pungency and salty fishy tang embodies much of what put me off fish in the first place when I was a kid. This, however, was something different altogether. That salty fishy tang was still present, but was whipped smooth and creamy, without being overly pungent. The crunchy puffed pig skin wasn't heavily salted and the combination of crunch, salt, fish and a few other ingredients just left me wanting more. Lick the bowl clean good, the best dish of the lot for me (I may or may not have done any licking).

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I'm not going to go through every dish, but each one came prepared in unconventional ways or came paired with with ingredients that I had never tried together before. A whimsical take on a lobster mac and cheese (in the pic above), a classic seaside combination of mackerel and oysters, venison rack with a side of venison pie, a superb Meyer Lemon sponge, straight from California. Each dish carefully presented, each dish plated with precision in front of you, a unique experience I don't think you can find anywhere else in London.

Sandia and James

The Bubbledogs package is something quite unique for London and in this ever expanding city of restaurants, it's always pleasing to see something so unique take off. Struggle with the crowds out the front for a chance to scoff down some hotdogs and champagne or sneak behind the curtain for one of the best tasting menus in town.

[For more photos, please click here]

Bubbledogs& - 70 Charlotte Street, London W1T 4QG

Bubbledogs on Urbanspoon

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