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

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Now? When? Then?

Working in the city, I'm always looking for new places to grab a quick lunch that's different to your standard Pret, Eat, Leon. Moving offices to the middle of Moorgate helped this, with the resources of Liverpool Street, Bank, Clerkenwell at my disposal the world is my oyster (for lunch at least)

So when I realised I could try Ping Pong's Now store, I thought why not? Dim Sum to take away in a flash.

When I saw that among their offerings was something called a Meat Basket, I couldn't resist.

ABBAABA. These were the standard style dim sum you get at Ping Pongs across London, but still good for a fast lunch.

Also on the menu was a Chinese Burger; Char Siu pork in a steamed pork bun, seeming a bit like someone read about the Momofuku pork bun and thought they could copy it;

While an interesting attempt, the chewy bun let this down, making it more of an effort to chew through than it should have been. I'd probably give it another shot if I see it again, just as something different though.

Overall,for cheap and easy Dim Sum to grab quickly on a workday, Ping Pong Now does well and I'll definitely return, but it's not as good as the sit down Ping Pong restaurants, or any of Chinatown's Dim Sum destinations

Friday, 29 July 2011

Pitt Cue Co - Under the bridge, but I'm the only troll

The South Bank in London is a hectic place, full of chain restaurants and various touristy things. This is why when something like the Pitt Cue Co pops up, it's always a pleasure. These guys are bringing brilliant American Style BBQ to London from a van under a bridge.

Going for the pulled pork (which after ordering I found out was something my dining companion had never been too impressed with when ordered elsewhere) I was presented with a heaping box of meat, beans and coleslaw. Firstly I'd like to point out anyone can win my allegiance with meat and coleslaw, so I may be a bit biased with this, but I'd put this offering as one of my favourite pieces of Street Food in London at the moment.

From the Pork that falls apart as you push a wooden fork into it, to the slightly spicy beans and the crisp bread, this is what I'd always imagined pulled pork should be. It also impressed my companion, who admitted that she'd never have ordered it without me, but definitely would if visiting again.

Also, for those New Yorkers in London, they have PBR...

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Quick Lunch with Peyton and Byrne

As you may have noticed, I haven't been updating much over this last couple of weeks. This is mainly because I have flown north for the summer. And for the rest of the year. Not too far north, just north of the river up to the dizzying heights of Kings Cross.

One of the things that comes part and parcel with moving house is buying new furniture, so in order to go and gawp and stuff we couldn't afford, myself and my lovely little lady (awesomely alliterative) headed to Heals on Tottenham Court Road.

Within this den of pricy furniture we discovered another den, one of tasty food (not scum and villany as one would assume) - Peyton and Byrne

Seven pounds for grabbing a couple of quick, quality quiches, a small side salad and a drink isn't too bad for city prices (although anywhere not London, probably a lil bit of robbery)

Two quiches; one Bacon and Cheese, the other Spinach and Goats cheese, both brilliant for a quick lunch to refuel in style, with a tasty salad with a sticky, sweet mustard dressing.

Overall,a useful resource to know about when stuck shopping department stores for furniture. A situation always improved by good food

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Weekend Breakfast - Baked Eggs in Rolls

Waking up at the weekend is harder than it has any right to be, that's why its always good to get some breakfast treats to encourage movement from bed to...well...most likely to the sofa.

Deciding to mix things up from my usual routine of bacon, fried eggs or cereal, I decided to try baked eggs. However, since I don't own any ramekins, I had to improvise a container. For this, ciabatta rolls, hollowed out and lined with Feta and Spinach did the trick.

Filled in with two eggs and baked at 200c for 10 mins, gave a perfect egg with a blast of salty feta in every bite, and crisp rolls to absorb the juices.

Definitely a good way to get out of bed. Possible ideas for next time include adding chorizo, cheese on the top or tomatoes inside. But that's my changes for most if not all recipes

Saturday, 23 July 2011

One Good Reason; Rhodes 24

Rhodes 24, Tower 42.

The food isn't bad, definitely the sort of cuisine designed for expenses bills. But there is one good reason to go;
The best view of a gherkin this side of a McDonalds

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Recipeasy - Grilled Salmon with Avocado and Mango

A hot and balmy summers night it's difficult to resist the lure of something fresh and new. This usually for me means I start craving fish as for some reason I associate that with fresh and light flavours. Unfortunately I am not very good at cooking fish, a situation which I have decided to remedy.

To this end, I did a quick marinade of some Salmon Fillets in a splash of Pedro Ximanez sherry vinegar and pepper and put together a salad of rocket, avocado and tomato.

While this seemed like it would be a good combo, there felt like there was something missing, something to add a bit of colour.

To this end, I quickly sliced up some mango and put it on the grill after the salmon was done, to colour it. This gave a fun extra element to the dish, complementing the spicy and peppery rocket and providing some surprising contrasts to the mango.

For a 10 minute dinner, definitely one to remember and the combo of grilled fruit and fish bears further thought...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

One Good Reason for Shelling those Broad Beans

You can't say you wouldn't finish this Broad Bean and Pancetta penne in less time than it'd take to shell a single bean

Monday, 4 July 2011

Burgers I have had - A love story

Everyone has it, that one perfect burger.

The one that they had once and never found again, almost like a lost love, this haunts your life, leaving only regrets at burgers that don't live up to it.

From a chilli cheese burger found in the back alleys of Tokyo

To a customised Byron Burger, with exactly the toppings you feel like, and a sharp pickle to chase it. Washed down with cream soda (my usual order is a Byron burger with blue cheese, avocado and aioli in case anyone wants to buy me one)

A quick Korean slider grabbed wandering around London Zoo, filled with Kimchi, cheese and warmth

In New York, the spiritual home of the humble Hamburger, I have had Foie Gras Burgers with homemade tomato confit, visited the hidden Burger joint in the Parker Meridian. I've wann'ed a burger at Wannaburger.

But I still think back to one of two places when I crave a burger; the greasy faux New York diner on a corner in Chiang Mai that I visited most nights I was there in my gap year. The other is the Van of Life in Cambridge. Selling horrible burgers to humble students on their way home.

I suppose in retrospect the best burger is the one that's there when you really want it.

After 9 or 10 beers...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

One Good Reason to go on Holiday

No better way to show how my holidays end up...

Benihana, not just a skateboarding move any more

Benihanas, a teppenyaki restaurant which I'm surprised in my years of dining out I've never experienced.

For those who don't know what teppenyaki is, this is Japanese style food where they have a chef performing while cooking. This show happens in front of you as you eat and chat with the chef of dubious Asian heritage.

During the show you get various spectacles such as rice ball catching, quick cutting and grilling and my favourite, fire
You can see the deft handiwork of the chef preparing the prawns on the grill and flicking the tails at members of the table
But in the end, as you'd expect from a venue where the dishes are named such things as the 'Samurai Special', the food underwhelms. All of it ends up pretty much plain grilled, with a little bit of rice and no other side dishes to increase the excitement

However, this isn't to say that a good night can't be held here, but it should definitely be viewed more as a show than anything else.

Friday, 24 June 2011