Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Posh Car in Camberwell...for one night only

Since the op, I've been gradually putting on more and more weight. Day by day, my clothes seem to get a little clingier. There is so only so much I can blame on the tumbe dryer so I decided to take evasive action, joining the gym was the only way to go. Now this may not seem too hard to do, but the staff at Camberwell Fusion seem to try and make it as difficult as possible.

Three trips to the gym later, I am registered and have my card but am still not allowed to use the damn thing until I have had an induction (which I cannot attend till next week). Don't they want me to return to my former svelte adonis like physique?

Anyway, on the way home from my latest attempt to join, I passed this beauty outside my house:

What was it doing there? Who knows, but as it was parked just off the main road in Camberwell, it was asking for trouble. My sister strongly suspects that we live next door to drug dealers which would explain a few things (namely the Ferrari and the BMW's parked outside).

Just as it had appeared, the Ferrari disappeared into the night and was nowhere to be found when I got up in the morning.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ha ha, very funny

A sibling, who will otherwise remain unnamed (FPFPFPFPFPFPFP!!!!) has decided to mock me by creating her own blog about my blog. An interesting venture, lets see how long she puts up with it! Please pay hers a visit by clicking here.

To be honest, she can be fairly witty when she puts her mind to it. To she who will remain unnamed (actually, lets call her
LaQuischa) I'm expecting comedy gold, NO PRESSURE ;)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Eat Pub Food : The Bear, Camberwell

I am a lazy cook. I enjoy cooking but don't really enjoy the hassle that goes along with it. You know, the cleaning up, the buying the ingredients, the waiting. I am just as happy to go somewhere and have a nice meal and pay for it as long as it's not too absurd. This is especially pertinent when it comes to a good roast. I don't think you can really beat a good home cooked roast but it's a labour of love for a group of people, not really a meal for one.

So, this weekend, consumed by the Sunday morning fug, I had arranged to meet an old friend of mine in the Bear. The Bear is another one of those places which seem so unassuming from the outside but you can tell the quality the minute you step through the doors. Rated one of London's best Sunday lunches by the Observer Food Monthly, I had high hopes for this place.

Grabbing the Sunday Times off a table covered in all the Sunday papers, we sat down perused the menu and munched on the bread and butter brought to us. The menu is not your normal Sunday lunch fare with a variety of other options including venison sausages (which went down rather well with my mate) and some fish and duck options. Regarding the roast options, these were plentiful and left me somewhat in a quandary. The veggie option was out of the picture (I'm almost a carnivore), but the chicken, pork and beef options left me salivating. Accompaniments of homemade apple sauce or cauliflower cheese nearly swayed me but ultimately, the roast beef won with its Yorkshire pudding and horseradish.

So, to the main event, did it live up to expectations? The beef was nice and had decent flavour so no real complaints here. The Yorkshire (as you can see from the picture) was a little on the small side and there was little to none of the advertised gravy which was disappointing. The roast tatties were a real winner, however. Advertised as roasted in duck fat, these had a delicious crunch with a really good flavour followed by a silky smooth inside. Overall verdict, a competent roast if nothing special.

I was still slightly peckish after the main event so opted for my personal favourite, a crème brulee. This incarnation came with a rhubarb compote, which kind of confused me a bit. When it arrived, it confused me even more, this appeared to be two dishes as opposed to one to be eaten together. Having said that, the compote was perfectly nice with the tanginess of the rhubarb being nicely complemented by the sweet sugary syrup. The brulee itself was a triumph, smooth and velvety with strong vanilla flavour, and the required crunch from the burnt sugar top.

Having settled the bill (less than £20 pp with a pint) I got up to leave and only then did it occur to me how packed the place was. It was just after 2 and the place was rammed wall to wall with families and child buggies. Definitely family friendly then, always good to know, whether to visit or avoid ;)

Bear Free House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eat Asian : Bam-Bou, Percy Street

This post has taken quite some time to go up. I've been busy at work and busy at home. But here's a belated write up of some half decent grub and a half decent film.

I've been wanting to watch Watchmen for quite some time and nearly a month after release, I finally got round to seeing it this week. A combination of trying to arrange a time which was suitable for my friends who actually wanted to go and see it, and the insistence of the few to go and try and see it at the iMax (which incidentally was almost fully booked for every conceivable showing) meant I had to wait until now.

Booked in for the 8pm showing, I thought I would try and find somewhere to use my newly acquired free one month membership to Tastelondon (after a giveaway to celebrate their 3rd birthday). Reviewing the list of restaurants, Bam-Bou was nearby and looked like a decent option.

Bam-Bou is a French-Vietnamese restaurant set in a town-house at the bottom end of Charlotte Street. It's very quaint and very dark but it's a really nice setting and quite unique in the fact that it really feels like you're going back in time.

I ate here with my good Brazilian mate Sergio and we were definitely getting some odd looks. Other than the couple of groups of suits, this appears to definitely be a couple's restaurant. I guess the dim candlelit rooms and extensive cocktail list are conducive for a romantic environment. Unperturbed, my mate and I grabbed our beers, made manly noises and proceeded to peruse the menu.

We started with the old favourite, deep fried chilli squid. These were nice and tender, although not deep in flavour as the one I normally order at Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater (a family favourite). Tender and herby more than spicy and chilli hot but perfectly adequate.

For my main, I ordered the 3 flavour chicken with cashews and some rice and noodles on the side. The chicken was indeed quite a strange sensation. It was almost sweet and sour in taste, with a salty kick from the liberal fish sauce; I guess those were the 3 flavours. The cashews added a nice contrast in texture. This was very nice; I would definitely have it again.

The fried rice was disappointing. Fried rice needs to be cooked with cold rice otherwise it turns all mushy and you can't get the right texture. Unfortunately, that was what happened to this example, a mushy, if edible, mess. The noodles were nice, but you really shouldn't be able to screw up plain fried noodles.

The meal came to £15 a head with a drink and that was perfectly good value. However, without the Taste card, you would need to add another £20 to the total bill which would frankly be too expensive.

So was "Watchmen" any good? My verdict was that it remained faithful to the novel with an interesting take on the ending. It was a bit long however, it was nearly midnight on a school night by the time it finished. I was nodding off, not a good sign. So in two words, too long.

Bam-Bou on Urbanspoon

Eat British : Johanssons, Camberwell

(courtesy of Hannah B @ Yelp)

It's been a long time since I have been able to enjoy getting up on a Saturday without the assistance of an alarm clock, head into Camberwell, grab a paper and have a nice brunch. In the past, I would have been too tired, with an impending visit to the hospital looming, and would invariably spend most of the morning and early afternoon lounging around in my bed.

So up and changed, what to do with myself? Well, there are a few places to get a decent brunch in Camberwell but my mind wandered to Johansson's at the end of Grove Lane. Now I've walked past this place many times but never been in. Recently, it has added a very appealing deli and I thought it was about time that I gave this place a go. And I'm very glad I did.

On first appearance, this place is tiny but once you step through the front doors, it's a veritable tardis inside. A rabbit warren of interlinking rooms on various levels, it even has a room with a roaring fire! Warm and cosy, it feels like your dining in somebody's front room. Looking through the menu, I have to be honest; I was blinded by the Full breakfast. I noticed sandwiches, a daily special and a few other items. But I was here for a fry up and nothing was going to get in my way.

With a pot of tea by my side (and an accompanying 70% Monbana chocolate!) and Guardian in my hand, I made myself comfortable and pretended I was in my front room. Breakfast without the hassle of actually making it! As an aside, it was at this stage that I noticed that everybody else in here had either a copy of the Guardian or the Times. How very middle classed!

When the main event arrived, I wasn't disappointed. A proper brekkie. Mounds of buttered toast, thick cut rashers of bacon, porky sausages, I was in breakfast heaven. I even devoured the tomato covered in a mild basil pesto, not something I would normally do owing to my aversion to tomatoes. The only mild complaint I had was that the scrambled eggs were a bit runny and unseasoned. I will opt for the fried version next time.

Once I had mopped up the last of the juice of the baked beans with the remnants of my toast, I still hadn't finished leafing through the multitude of supplements in this week's Guardian so I sat back, ordered a cappuccino and took my time. And a very good cappuccino it was too, a fine ending to a rather delightful brunch.

Sated, I got up, paid my bill and left in search of a haircut. Heading over to Teamwork on Camberwell Church Street, I failed in getting shorn owing to a mere two people cutting hair and a reservation list as long as the eye can see. Pretty disappointing only having two staff cutting hair considering it's a Saturday. I set off home only to be showered in a freak hail storm. A bum note to a great lunch.

2 Grove Lane
London, SE5 8SY

Johanssons on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eat : A tale of two Bistros. Cafe Marlayne and The Outsider, Edinburgh

Edinburgh has an abundance of great restaurants. Every time I come up here, I am quite amazed at the availability of decent food. However, I tend to migrate to the same haunts where I know the food is decent and inexpensive. This trip was slightly different in that this was my first trip in a few years and I was left with the niggling thought whether the old haunts would still hit the spot. I guess there was only one way to find out.

Cafe Marlayne on Fishmarket Close

This place was my little sister's recommendation. Cafe Marlayne has 2 restaurants, one on Thistle Street which is small and quaint and always busy and one on Fishmarket Close which is small and quaint and not as busy as the Thistle street branch. Located just off the Royal Mile, I would imagine that this would be thriving due to the passing tourist trade. Reservation secured, I had heard good things about this place from sisters 2 and 3 and was looking forward to a good feed.

It was pretty empty for Saturday lunchtime but soon reached "bustling" if not overly busy. That was probably a good thing with just one waitress and 2 chefs. The menu was handwritten and contained a selection of home cooked favourites. I plumped for a Chicken Supreme with bacon and leeks whilst the rest went for the Haddock and Steak.

What I got was a succulent and well cooked piece of chicken with a nice creamy sauce salty with bacon and oniony with the flavour of leeks. Nothing spectacular but perfectly palatable. The steak was perfectly cooked medium as requested and had a great flavour with a decent char, no mean feat. For £8, it was an absolute bargain! All mains come with a selection of vegetables and the huge dish brought to our table for the four of us contained the staple broccoli, carrots and new potatoes, all well cooked (al dente!).

Desserts ordered were sticky toffee pudding (far too sweet for me but my sisters appeared to enjoy it) and a coffee crème brulee which was very competently executed and had a nice subtle taste of espresso.

All in all, I don't think you can go far wrong with this place. The food is good and very affordable, costing us just over £10 a head. No fireworks but you can't get food of that quality for that price down here in London!

7 Old Fishmarket Close
Edinburgh, EH1 1RW
Cafe Marlayne on Urbanspoon

The Outsider on George IV Bridge

This restaurant has become a bit of a destination restaurant in Edinburgh. Sister restaurant to The Apartment, it's started to build its own reputation and has been thriving now for a few years. Located just off the George IV Bridge, it has excellent views of the castle and a quirky setup inside with the restaurant split into different alcoves sections and levels.

Every time I come to Edinburgh, I always try to make a trip here for 2 main reasons, their garlicky fries and their apple and beetroot coleslaw. I know that these two dishes hardly sound that awe-inspiring but the minute I put my first garlicky fry in my mouth, I fell in love with this place.

I was worried that they might have stopped serving these little beauties but I was not let down. The question what was I going to order with it. The menu was pretty varied although I neglected to take a picture so pretty much forgot what was on it other than what I ate. I do remember that they seem to make a big deal out of their CHL line (Chunky Healthy Line I think) which is basically a bunch of stuff on skewers.

My main of venison with spring greens and pearl barley risotto was competently cooked and actually quite delicious. The only criticism was that the venison was a little stringy (is this consistent with venison as a whole?) but the greens were delicious as was the pearl barley. On the whole, I think everyone enjoyed their food and the fries and coleslaw certainly didn't let me down, they tasted just as good as the first time I tried them.

Just to highlight one common criticism of this place and that's service. I personally didn't have a problem when I went. The waitress was perfectly nice and attentive on a very busy Saturday night. I say don't always believe what you read in reviews.

To sum up, I still love this place. Come here if you want some decent food in a cool setting. It's also very reasonably priced (mains around the tenner mark on average) so won't break the bank in these credit crunch times.

15-16 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, EH1 1EE
Outsider on Urbanspoon

See : Edinburgh

Another day, another apology. Sorry I haven't updated for a while. I always have good intentions but with work and social life, and the fact that looking at a computer screen is the last thing I want to do when I get home, it kind of means my blog gets neglected. However, I have been informed that some people actually do read this and may actually enjoy my posts (shock horror!) so I will make a more concerted effort to keep this up to date with all things that are good about London (and any other place I may go).

So this brings me to my latest post. This weekend just gone saw the Tehbus make the long trip north up the backbone of England to arrive in Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and home of my little sister (that's the littlelest sister, I do have 3 and need to distinguish them). Here, she was partaking in the annual Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show, a fundraiser organised by the students with all money raised going to charity.

My parents, my middle sister and I went to watch sis no 3 whilst sis no 1 stayed down south to babysit our two Shih Tzu's. Held at the Corn Exchange, the venue was very smart and after a very long wait to get our seats and a push to get the best seats akin to Hillsborough (no casualties thankfully), it all went very well. Nobody fell over (on Friday night at least) and everyone looked great and it was all very professionally done (for more photos, click here). After the event, I proceeded to Berlin (the club, not the city) for the after party. I tell you now, there is no easier way to make yourself feel old than going out partying with 21 year old wannabe models.

The next day few days were spent eating (write-ups to follow shortly) and walking around Edinburgh. As time was limited and I wanted to watch the England vs Scotland rugby match in the afternoon, I restricted my meanderings to a wander up and down the Royal Mile with a visit to the Castle for some bright Springtime views over Edinburgh.

Finally, to the game itself, I managed to camp myself in a small Scottish pub. I think I cheered a little too loudly when England scored their first try. All the Scottish eyes in the pub bore down on me so I took the conscious decision to pipe down. My father joined me at half time and we enjoyed a swift half to round off the comprehensive England victory.

The next day was Mothers day where we visited a very nice bistro round from sister no 3's place called Iglu, serving local produce. It was perfectly reasonable and tasted alright. No review here, Mothers day meal shall remain sacred (and I forgot to take pictures). When all was done, it was back to the roads and a trip back down south. It was a long return trip but well worth it.

For more pics of Edinburgh, please click here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

See : The Imperial War Museum & the Saatchi Gallery

As many of you know, I have had the last few months off work as I recovered from a rather important operation. As soon as I got mobile again, I wanted to make sure that I got out as much as possible, partly to maintain a level of sanity but probably more importantly, see a bit of London. In the past few weeks, I have revisited the Tate Modern, eaten at loads of great restaurants, gone for walks round places I had previously neglected (such as the Southbank and Soho) as well as visiting various museums and caught up with lots of friends. And one takeaway from this, London is great!

Amongst some of my unblogged exploits are the Imperial War Museum and the Saatchi Gallery. Not only are they a great way to spend an afternoon, but perhaps more importantly, they are both free.

Imperial War Museum, Elephant and Castle

I had never gone to the Imperial War Museum before. To me, the thought was that it was a big dreary exhibition all about death. How wrong I was. This is all made clear as soon as you enter the light and airy main room filled with vehicles from the past, including, planes, tanks and missiles. It was genuinely exciting to walk amongst these beasts of the past and instead of ignoring the past, embracing it. The museums focus is definitely not just on death and hardship but of the people who partook in the war and what it meant to many of them. This interspersed with various bits of memorabilia and interesting artefacts led to a thoroughly interesting morning.

Current exhibitions include an exhibition on the holocaust (which I didn't get a chance to get to, will get there as soon as I have another free afternoon) as well as exhibitions on the Children's War and an interesting exhibition on the "Secret War", detailing exploits of MI5, MI6 and the SAS.

I really enjoyed walking through here and felt better with myself having re-educated myself on one of our darker passages of history.

The Saatchi Gallery, Kings Road

The Saatchi Gallery is also a free museum located at the top end of the Kings Road. When I visited, it was currently exhibiting modern artwork from the Middle East although most installations are temporary and rotate.

Split into 14 different galleries, the pieces were cleverly hung and positioned in a light and airy space and I never felt crowded, often a problem in more intimate galleries. Although busy, I had a chance to fully enjoy the pieces and walked around untroubled and unhurried.

As to the art, these varied from sculptures to some quite intricate paintings. A large part of the art expressed much of the hardship experienced by many in this part of the world as well as one room highlighting the development of the woman's role in these societies by replacing their heads with everyday utensils such as an iron and a sieve!

I often enjoy reading the little placards next to paintings telling me a little about the painting and the artist. At the end of the day, I'm not an art snob and need a bit of guidance. These were nowhere to be seen although you could purchase a guide from reception for a measly £1.50. This was a worthwhile investment; after all, the gallery is free! I guess they need to raise funds somehow.

All in all, another excellent place to visit in London. We really are spoilt.
For more pictures, please feel free to visit my Flickr here.

Imperial War Museum London
Lambeth Road
London SE1 6HZ

Duke of York's HQ, King's Road
Chelsea, London, SW3 4SQ, U.K.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eat British : Bluebird, Kings Road

I've been a bit of slack with updates of late. Although it looks as if I have been pretty lazy of late, I have been getting out there and doing stuff. I'm just very lazy when it comes to writing it up. Anyway, with my return to the working population imminent, I better get my arse in gear and do a bit of catch up blogging! First up, my lunch at Bluebird.

Normally, I avoid the Kings Road like the plague but this appears to be my second visit in as many weeks. First for my sisters 25th birthday (drinks at the Botanist then dancing at Kitts) and now because imp drawn to a free gallery like a moth to a flame. So before my visit to the nearby Saatchi Gallery, I went looking for some food.

And what a chore that was. Everywhere seems too overpriced and frankly bad value. I spent what felt like an eternity, trekking from one restaurant to another, looking for a decent deal. Eventually I ended up at Bluebird which had a pretty decent lunch menu going on.

The last time I went to Bluebird was with a group of uni friends on an Evening Standard "2 courses for a tenner". That was nearly ten years to go and the space is still as beautiful as I remember. A highly elegant room. Staff were attentive and quick and I was ushered to a table by the window (it wasn't that busy) and was brought some bread (a really nice garlic roll) whilst I perused the set menu choices.

First course, Rillette of Old Spot Pork with Piccalilli. This was delicious. The rillette was filled with porky goodness and was perfectly complemented by the tart vinegariness of the piccalilli. Even the accompanying watercress added a slight pepperiness. A very good course.

For the main, I had the Goosnargh Chicken and Mushroom pie. Now I love chicken and mushroom pie at the best of times and this was a very good example. Lovely torn bits of chicken, no signs of processed chunks, in a lovely creamy sauce. No complaints here. The sides of mash and spinach were competently done and full of flavour.

By the time I was done with the pie, I was verging on the very full and was regretting ordering the apple pie for dessert. However, what arrived was a quite straightforward apple tart tatin. Nicely caramelised and actually pretty small, it was the perfect size just to round off the meal.

The set menu comes to £15.50 for 3 courses and for food of this quality, it was an absolute bargain. To think that ten years ago, I was a struggling student and thought 2 courses for a tenner was a good deal! If I'm ever in the area again, I'm coming back.

Bluebird on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Steak Off! Sophie's vs Gaucho

I have eaten a few steaks of late. Unfortunately, none of these have come from the Hawksmoor. Having tried to secure a booking this week and failing miserably, I had to settle for a visit to Gaucho on Swallow Street to satisfy my craving for a lump of red meat. Having been to Sophie's in Covent Garden recently, and failed to blog it, I thought I would pit them mano a mano in a steak off!

Now I'm going to compare them in the six S's. These will be Surroundings, Starters, Steaks, Sides, Service and Size-of-the-bill.

Surroundings - Sophie's is located in a pretty busy part of Covent Garden, right next to the Lyceum theatre so is bustling with the theatre crowd. The restaurant is dimly lit but a decent airy space with pretty interesting lighting (think lots of light bulbs hanging off the air-conditioning). I had a pretty early dinner here but it was packed with the pre-theatre crowd.

Gaucho was also busy but the decor is frankly a bit off putting. Think dead cows hanging off the walls, everywhere. In fact, I dare you to find an area within the restaurant which doesn't have cow print. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was cow print in the kitchen. Split over 4 floors, it is dark, bordering on the pitch black in areas. All in all, the actual dining room is a pleasant space, with different levels keeping it interesting.

I like Sophie's. There is only so much cow print a man can take.

Starters (or freebies) - Sophie's gives you meat. Strips of salami which is definitely more-ish. They taste nice. Gaucho give you bread. Now normally meat trumps bread any day of the week. But this bread comes with this awesome salsa (sweet vinegary goodness) and the best cheese balls this side of Brazil. Gaucho wins the battle of the freebies hands down.

Steaks - I've had a few steaks from both establishments, varying from the sirloin to the rump. Gaucho's steaks claim to be Argentinean whilst Sophie's are British. I must admit, I have enjoyed steaks from both, and both come with pretty decent Béarnaise. However, the vote goes to Gaucho. The last steak I had there, a juicy bit of sirloin was perfectly done and tasted great. Only downside was that they are very tight on the Béarnaise.

Sides - I've only had the chips and the salad from Sophie's. The salad was more like coleslaw, which is no bad thing. The chips were alright, nothing special. At Gaucho, I had the mash and a spinach and baconconcoction. Again, nothing wrong with these but nothing outstanding, the spinach was a little salty. No real stand out performers so no winners, it's a tie.

Service - This one is easy. I was made very welcome at Sophie's and the staff were very attentive. The service was also excellent at Gaucho. But, and it's a massive but, I was felt that I was constantly being hurried by the team at Gaucho. I was 10 minutes late and was hurried to my table. I hadn't received my drink and they were hurrying me to order. I was still eating my food and they were already cleaning the plates off the table. I wanted a coffee when a bill arrived on my table. Turning over tables is key at Gaucho but if I'm spending a decent bit of cash on a meal, I do not want to be rushed. Round goes to Sophie's.

Size-of-the-Bill - Now good steaks don't come cheap. I enjoyed my meals at both Sophie's and Gaucho and if you order off the main menu, it's certainly going to set you back a few bob. The steaks themselves are fairly reasonable, but it's the sides which add to the cost. This is where Sophie's comes into its own. There is no set or express menu at Gaucho whereas Sophie's has a very reasonable pre-theatre menu. Any time before 7.30, its £12.50 for two courses which includes a decent sized rib-eye with Béarnaise and chips. Result! Easy winner here, Sophie's pre-theatre menu is a bargain. And if you register on their website, they give you a free lunch.

RESULT - It's a tight one but Sophie's emerge victorious 3.5 to 2.5. I look forward to the Hawksmoor trouncing both of these.

Sophie's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon
Gaucho Grill on Urbanspoon