Being sick doesn't half know how to put a dampener on things. Snivelling, coughing, sneezing, complaining that my throat hurts ALL the time. But these are not the worst thing about being ill, not even close. It's the lack of appetite, an idea so alien to me that it took a virus to remind me how utterly depressing not wanting to eat is.
So that is why there is no week 3, it was pretty much a write off with one highlight, a dinner at the Old Quality Chop House. After a few drinks at the new Four Roses popup bar under the Zetter Townhouse (up there with my favourite bars in London), I headed with the venerable Gin Monkey for some food to mop up the bourbon.
I wasn't really sure what to expect, its previous incarnation was a restaurant selling meatballs which I previously hadn't heard particular great things about. This version seems to have strong British and Italian influences. Sharing a plate of charcuterie to start set the whole meal off on a good footing. Delicious cured meats, but hardly genius cooking. Morcilla and apple sauce may not have been the prettiest thing to look at but was also extremely moreish, with the apple compote not too sweet and breaking up the richness of that blood sausage perfectly.
Where the Quality Chop house really came into it's element was the meat. The longhorn fillet may not have been cheap, but was cooked to medium rare perfection. Served with watercress, nuggets of bone marrow and a pickled walnut, each mouthful was a joy. Even the nuggets of bone marrow that I have never been that fond of injected that little depth of beefy flavour. The Quality Chop house is a great place, and even though we only ate in the bar area, I look forward to going back to try out their ever changing set menu in the dining room.
The Quality Chop House - 94 Farringdon Rd, London, Greater London EC1R 3EA
So, the on-set of sickness hit and I managed to miss two eagerly anticipated meals. One was a leaving party at the institution that is Tayyabs (if you ever need some fantastic curries and grilled meats, this is the place) and the launch of Melba (a new platform to find and eat at some of Londons supperclubs). Thankfully come Sunday, I had managed to get take a break from generally feeling crap to spend Chinese New Year with my family.
Every year, we end up at the same restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater. Our family have been coming here regularly over the last 20 years and I think you would struggle to find a better version of lobster noodles or aromatic duck in London. Some of the other things it does well here are their deep fried baby squid (packed with chilli and garlic, and one of my favourite things in London), their dry fried chicken, chilli and onion dish, and maybe best of all, their off the menu truffle, mushroom and tofu special, which is indeed very special. Rounding off all the food, the traditional Yee Sang, a raw salmon and jellyfish salad with all sorts of other bits and pieces, flung into the air by all at the table and cheered with gusto to see in the year of the Black Water Snake.
Mandarin Kitchen - 4-16 Queensway, Paddington, London W2 3RX
One of the best burgers you're going to find in London can be found at Lucky Chip, a successful convert from mobile burger shack to bricks and mortar. From Netil Market to a semi-perm residency at the Sebright Arms in Hackney, you can gorge on fries in many guises (truffle oil, cheese, chilli, all of the above, not forgetting the wasabi and ginger mayo version) and burgers named after movie stars. The special on the night, a Danny Trejo, was a punchy mix of jalapeno, bacon and sour cream amongst other things, and will set you back just under a tenner. I would go as far to say as Lucky Chip are currently best in class and unmissable if you love burgers.
Carrying on the Chinese New Year celebrations, a feast at Goldmine with friends. Located in the heart of Londons 2nd Chinatown (the Bayswater/Queensway area is awash with great Chinese restaurants), we feasted on all sorts of great Cantonese fare. Steamed egg three ways was a new dish on me, and a perfect banqueting dish. Best of all is their roast duck, a "signature" dish of so many Cantonese restaurants. Here, the meat is moist, tender and roasted to perfection. Rumour has it that students heading back to the East come here to take some duck home then, vac packed on site. If that isn't endorsement enough, I'm not sure what is.
Goldmine - 102 Queensway, Paddington, London W2 3RR
So there it is, a fortnight punctuated by illness but book ended by good eats. Hope you enjoyed.