Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Spuntino - Hangover Destination no.1

Those who may know me have heard how much I enjoy the Polpos, da Polpos and similar small plate style restaurants around the city. Apart from my natural inclination to like small things because they make me feel like a giant, in restaurants it also satisfies my need to eat everything on the menu.

So Spuntino fills that gap well, as all the dishes are small and designed to be shared. That is if anyone else can get past your guarding fork, stabbing intruders.

As a nice first round, we grabbed some of the Aubergine chips, looking to compare them the Byron Burgers' magnificent Courgette fries (in my head, these two veg are like siblings, or old school friends. They just go so well together!) 

Crispy, aniseedy outsides revealed a juicy, moist inside. A definite win and a good first impression.

The deep fried olives however...

These were superficially tasty, but the filling was overpoweringly fishy, a bit too aggressive for my tastes, especially in the early stages of a meal

On the menu, there was a section that seemed designed to help by previously mentioned favour of small things. Sliders. 

Burgers that make me feel like a giant and are incredibly tasty? Sign me up.

Bone marrow and beef, pulled pork and pickled cucumber, lamb meatball and mackeral. I think I lost a finger fighting for the lamb and the beef, both vanishing before I could get a proper picture

 But the pulled pork lasted slightly longer, protected by my giant hands, and as you can see, it was a fine expression of the form.

 Tiny burgers should always be accompanied by tiny chips, crisp and salty to cut through the slider's fat

And of course, there's no salad quite like one that's mostly meat...

This fails to mention the scorchingly hot mac and cheese, that's worth the loss of the skin in your mouth in order to appreciate it's gooey, crispy, macaroni brilliance

So obviously, after this meal full of fried, tasty food in a pretty dark restaurant, my obviously conclusion was;

'I need to get blackout drunk more, just so I can have a meal the next day here...'

Sunday, 23 October 2011

One good Reason ; To go for the healthy option

Look, Grilled Chicken!

If you look closely, you'll also notice that I've not even got a mixer in my drink, further health measures!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

One Good Reason - To plan ahead for weekday Lunches

Working in the city, I often have to pop out for a quick lunch to eat at my desk, and these are not always going to be of the best quality. Therefore I have found it's always useful to build up a store back at base camp of tasty toppings that can improve any meal.
I'm going condi-mental!
My current line up includes;

Sweet Chilli Sauce - For those sagging salads that need a quick improvement
Chilli Sesame oil - To help ramen and sushi
Hoi sin Sauce - for Pho and in case I ever get the chance to roast a duck at my desk
Sriracha - Guaranteed to make anything twice as tasty with the power of fire and garlic
Soy Sauce
Kimchi Rice Seasoning flakes - A donation to the cause from a member of my team, not opened by I'm looking forward to it.

This line up is ever expanding, and I'd recommend that anyone with a fixed desk at work do something similar. It feels odd at first, until you realise that everyone has started using/contributing to the stock...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Back to the bridge, I hear they have ribs now! Pitt Cue Co's final day

Anyone who's been along the South Bank over the summer will have noticed the amazing smell that have been wafting down from under one of the bridges. This summer, the van of Pitt Cue Co set up shop near Waterloo and spent the season dishing out amazing BBQ, punctuated by the occasional Tweat Up, bringing together hot dogs from the Big Apple Hot Dog company (seen above) and various other delights to join their meat frenzy.

The last time I visited, and unfortunately it will be the last time for a while, was their final day in that position, where they had also brought down the Hot Dogs as well as importing some slow cooked short ribs with chilli Jam all the way from a little restaurant in Bray that you may have heard of.

The hot dogs that were available from the grill were a perfect starter, with skins that snapped under light pressure, giving a satisfying crunch, followed by the intense meatiness of a good sausage (no comments on that please...). Definitely going to have to pop along to Old Street one lunch break to have a repeat (or 5...)

 However, it was the Short Ribs that were the star of the show. Cooked so long they had become tender enough to melt on a wooden fork, you could just look at it and the meat would fall apart. It was like eating the essence of cow, punctuated by a sweet spiciness from the chilli, and the smooth simplicity of the beans and slaw underneath. I'd happily eat this every day for a year, and accept the health risks (and associated massive coronary) from this.

For anyone interested in the regular offerings from the Pitt Cue Co, you can read my previous visit here;


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Awana - a Mal-eh-sian experience

Groupon, for those of you who don't know (which I find unlikely in this day and age), is a company that specialises in daily deals. Including deals at restaurants, where they put on a menu usually at highly discounted costs. So for example, you can get a £50 set menu for £20 for two, something like that.

So when there was a daily deal for Awana, offering a tasting menu at cheap prices, I jumped on it. Having tried their Roti Canai at various Taste of London festivals and being impressed, this had been on my list for a while. However, being in the opposite end of town, I never saw a reason to go until now.

Looking at the menu, it was made up of all the things I'd grown to love when I spent some time in Malaysia all those years ago, Roti, Rendang etc. So I arrived with excitement.

The first course, the Roti Canai with Satay Chicken, was a decent interpretation along the lines of the tastes I'd had previously. However, I was less of a fan of the cheap looking TVs around the restaurant with poor quality video of the kitchen that was making these.
The next course, following swiftly behind the first, was a spicy and sour salad with Pomelo and a half a prawn perched on top, with some fruit and a Tamarind paste to dip it in. The fruit was pretty tasty, but the salad disappointed here. Too spicy, sour and bitter, with no sweet notes to offset this. The small portion of prawn was also slightly confusing, as my girlfriend's portion had only 2/3rds of a prawns worth.

Again, the salad was quickly followed by a Char Siu Lamb rib with a Chicken Dumpling soup. At this point I should point out, the meal was going so quickly we hadn't even finished out cocktails, or had our wine brought out. The lamb was actually very good, as was the dumpling soup, so I wolfed them down. My dining companion on the other hand prefers to savour the meal. This lead to one of the worst instances of service I have seen in a restaurant, the waiters had removed my plate and started to put my next course down before my girlfriend was even halfway through hers. I had to point this out to them and suggest they wait until both diners are ready for the next course.

Beef Rendang. One of my favourite curries around and this was a good example of the form. However, I was slightly confused at a self proclaimed 'fine dining' Malay restaurant giving diners their own little bowls of Rendang to portion out. This part of the meal seemed to be lacking any real presentation that you'd expect. However, it was very tasty, so it gets a pass.

The final course, a dessert of Lemongrass Ice Cream, Chilli and Papaya Sorbet and a Cheesecake more like a mousse was also impressive, tasty and interesting. However, by this point I'd been soured on the whole experience by the feeling that we were being rushed through as we were 'Groupon Cheapos', even though we'd covered more than the cost of the full price meal in drinks...

So overall, while the food at Awana wasn't bad, the service has shot any chance of me going back, especially when the bill that came had the audacity to charge service on the full priced menu (putting it at around 50%) for what was one of the worst examples of the art I have been unfortunate to experience.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

One Good Reason; Goats Cheese

In my new digs in North London I have the nice treat on Sundays of Chapel Street Market in Angel. This, for those of you who don't know, is a farmers market with stalls similar to those of Borough market, but with some stalls roaming in and out depending on the week.

One of the best stalls there is the Wobbly Bottom goats cheese man, selling a variety of different and unique Goats Cheeses. From the standard ash logs to Garlic or Chilli covered. Last week he had something a bit different though, a Goats Cheese ball moulded around a fig. They suggested we combined this with nectarines for a brilliant treat.

Not being one to ignore an odd combo like this, I went for it.

Much to my surprise this was a fantastic mix, especially with a little bit of honey. A definite recommendation for a weekend breakfast with a long black coffee and someone nice to share it with

Sunday, 7 August 2011