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‘Comfort Eating’ Category

  1. Bea’s @ Maltby Street

    May 26, 2012 by Dini

    Saturday Sugar Rush

    Bea’s is a ’boutique’ chain of cake, come sweet things eateries, with 3 outlets in London and Maltby St, serving up Saturday fayre. Cupcakes aren’t really my thing and even Bea’s didn’t capture my imagination, so I was looking for something different. Hence, when I heard Maltby St regulars not only regaling about St Johns doughnuts, but Bea’s breakfasts’ too, I was intrigued to find out more…

    Beas signage

    Housed in a railway bridge arch, close to London Bridge, it’s quite a unique location. On Saturday’s, Bea usually shares the space with Rachel McCormack (supremo of all things Catalan), lends the space on Sundays to @Roast_Sunday and has just started up Tuesday film nights.  Bea’s ethos for a small business is a noble one, ensuring good quality, locally sourced ingredients, waste food is composted and using energy efficient induction cooking methods. I especially like the fact, that she has a summer rooftop garden for a fresh and direct  supply of herbs and vegetables – nothing like growing your own!

    The Arch

    Having gorged on a delicious St Johns doughut, that sweet fix was only the beginning, as thankfully at 10.30am there was no queue at Bea’s. Our gaggle of food bloggers hit the benches to start a sumptuous breakfast banquet, of calories and delight. I guess one could say we took over the joint, with our over-zealous photography (via smart-phone, SLR’s and compact cameras) and re-arrangement of the benches to accomodate our table of twelve (by the end, as the ‘food-loving twitterverse’, started to join us). Sorry Bea, for creating a little bit of chaos, but at least we ate with happy hearts.
    A simple offering of breakfast classics were on the offing, so the six original diners, ordered one of each, so we could have a biteful and pass it on, trying everything and not wanting for anything. Sometimes, especially in a new restaurant, I suffer from pangs of food envy, but thankfully I’m always with someone who’ll allow me a bite and vice-versa. This option of filling the table and creating our own human lazy-susan, suited me to a tee.
    Breakfast dishes
    Our selection: American style pancakes (plain or with blueberries) – we opted for cream and a side of bacon, French toast with sides of caramelised banana and walnuts and macerated strawberries and eggs benedict. This was quite an order, but could be forgiven as eventually shared between eight of us!
    Pancakes & cream
    My favourite, was the simplest of all the plain pancakes, drizzled with copious amounts of maple syrup and with the cream and bacon. Real comfort eating, that hits the spot. I loved the accompanying sides with the French toast, great textural contrasts, but with such a generous wedge of brioche, I preffered the lighter and fluffier pancakes. I have to say the portion size is really generous (the split bill costing us £8 each including a drink), so the portion could easily be shared between two, if you don’t have a healthy appetite.
    If there’s ever a queue for the Arch or you haven’t the time to dine in, Bea has created her own empire at Maltby Street, around the corner you can find her husband Franz, running a delicious Austrian stall with regional cheeses and cooked treats.
    Cheese dumplings with sides

    On offer were cheese dumplings, with poatoes/salad – I sampled a dumpling and they were deliciously crispy on the exterior and oozing with a cheese filling. The strudel also looked divine, dusted in a plentiful amount of icing sugar, something to try for next time. I asked him if he’d be doing another Austrian supperclub, as he had done last year (as I’d heard such good things about it), alas no. However he did let slip that they’ve just bought a food truck, so he’ll be hitting Eat Street (Kings Cross), with his Austrian fayre – a great addition, to the mix.

    For the sweet toothed, theres’s also a cake stall, selling her signature cakes and treats. Always decadently merchandised to entice and ensure that you take home at least one item for later.
    After lazily exploring the rest of Maltby Street, we saw on twitter that Bea was trialling her new range of ice-lollies. So we made a four o’clock pitt-stop, to investigate. On offer were a range of sublime ice-cream and sorbet styles.
    Lolly galore
    Flavours included: coffee, Pimms & lemonade, ginger & raspberries and strawbeeries & cream. My favourite was probably the sweet ginger one, using a stem ginger syrup, it was powerfully zingy but mellowed out by the tart raspberries. I submitted my ice-lolly cart naming suggestions of “Torvill & Cream” and “Ice, Ice, Baby”, the week before on Bea’s twitter request, so we’ll see what she eventually names it!
    Quite a foodie extravaganza catered by Bea, Franz and Crew, and worthwhile trying, if you fancy relaxing with friends, for a simple brunch or tea-time treat.
     
    Timings: Saturdays 9/10am – until it’s all gone! (around 2pm ish)
    Address: Bea’s of Bloomsbury at Maltby Street Market, Arch 76, Druid Street, London, SE1 2HQ
    Website: http://www.beasofbloomsbury.com/maltbystreet

  2. London’s French Dips

    April 23, 2012 by Dini

    Dunkin’ a Sarnie…

    21st April 2012

     My first introduction to the ‘French Dip’ was at my recent visit to the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar. There, I tried a cheese oozing brioche bun filled with beef and  gravy or mustard, for dunking. This was a revelation and a definite ‘comfort eating’ addition, to add to my favourite treats.

    Short rib French dip

    Hawksmoor Short Rib French Dip

    Twitter enlightened me that Rosie (a Food Journalist) and her friend Andrew, were setting up a French Dip stall in Brixton Market, so I was keen to try out their version. Tempted by Rosie’s preparations, on her twitter feed, I knew it would be a good thing…

    Scotch Beef Joint

    Scotch Beef Joint - pic c/o @RosieFoodie

    The Scotch beef from Moen & Sons, was PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) standard,  it was tender due to the slow roasting from the day before. The buns had been baked by Kindred Bakery, the recipe developed especially for London French Dip. I’d say for this type of baguette bun, you need more than a double dip, so that the bun’s truly drenched. Andrew told me he was being conservative with dunking, as some may add mustard and didn’t want the bun to go soggy. I’m not a mustard fan, so went without, but  I did love but the accompanying pickled gherkin garnish, it was a tasty addition.

    Kindred Bakery Buns

    Kindred Bakery Buns

    I loved the Team’s hands-on attitude, from sign writing to cooking all from scratch. Their positivity didn’t dip, even with the adverse weather, however they did have a support team on hand. It was also cool that they found Brixton suppliers, ‘keeping it local’ as well as ‘real’.

    For a Stateside comparison, @Cupcake_Kelly recently posted about a Tennessee version at Sweet Celebration’s  – Their classic ‘Short French Dip’ is made with “Warm Angus roast beef and Swiss cheese served with hot au juice” priced at $8.49 whole or $5.49 half. I like the idea of a dunking bowl or gravy boat, not sure about the crisps side though!

    I guess a lot of the above is subjective, to individual’s taste and preferences … how much to dunk, what bread (French baguette or brioche bun), cheese or no cheese? The Hawksmoor offering is priced at £10, you of course have the bells and whistles of dining in a swish bar, a cocktail in hand and central heating. The London French Dip Team’s offering was well priced at £4, considering they used good quality meat and buns.

    London French Dip Sign

    London French Dip Sign

     

    You can follow London French Dip (@LondonFrenchDip) on Twitter for updates and their stall location, they hope to be at the Saturday market, on a monthly basis and are considering different roasting meats… so watch this space…

    Hawksmoor Spitalfields: 157 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
    Telephone No: 020 7426 4856
    Reservations: spitalfieldsbar@thehawksmoor.com
    Website: http://thehawksmoor.com/spitalfieldsbar

     


  3. Wild Serai’s Malay St. Food

    April 12, 2012 by Dini

    Malaysian Brunch Feast

    9th April 2012

    My Easter Monday’s, are usually a lazy day, for recovering from Easter eggs’ excess and watching a James Bond or Ben Hur repeat on the telly. This year, I found myself making a trek to New Malden, in high winds and rain, all in the name of street food.  I knew Yolanda (our Wild Serai supperclub host) would pull out the stops, as she’d co-hosted a previous supperclub, with Goz (Plus-Six-Five), also a diner at the brunch.

    Wild Serai Table
    Wild Serai Table

    The table was set simply, with batik floral printed cloths and fresh flowers. Giant Keropok (shrimp crackers) were piled high on our tables, which I found irrestitable, a bit of a school girl error, to start filling up on such trifles, when so much was to follow…

    Shrimp crackers

    Shrimp crackers

    Sharif (Yolanda’s boyfriend) earnt his brownie points that day, as he barbecued our meat in the adverse weather conditions, for the starters. The chicken and beef skewers were tender and so much better having been charcoal barbecued, as opposed to just being griddled. The satay sauce was delicious, a crunchy consistency, balanced with freshness from red onion and cucumber chunks.

    Meat skewers

    Meat skewers

    Satay Sauce

    Satay Sauce

     

    The Mee Goreng Mamak, was executed really well. The noodles were plump and were coated well, in the spicy sauce, without any greasy residue. There was a lovely balance of seafood, with juicy tiger prawns, sliced fish balls and cake and decorated with fried onions.

    Mee Goreng Mamak

    Mee Goreng Mamak

    Next up was the Penang Rojak. I visited Penang (Malaysia), a few years ago and it is known as a ‘Hawker’s Paradise’. I tried the Rojak there as I was told it was a speciality of the area. I recalled that there was a variety of fresh and deep fried items that could be selected (like a pick-a-mix) and the thick treacle like, sticky sauce was ladled on, hence it’s translation ‘mixture’. Wild Serai’s version was a heady mix of pineapple, turnip (which was not my favourite, a little hard), deep-fried tofu (deliciously porous, soaking up the sauce) and fresh cucumber. This was a lighter sweet and sour sauce, using prawn paste and tamarind. The plate was garnished with nuts and rice-crackers.

    Penang Rojak

    Penang Rojak

    Roti Jala, was a new dish on me, I’m more akin to Roti Canai (a cross between a paratha and roti) for soaking up my curry sauce. Roti Jala was a thin and latticed pancake. The Jala referring to a ladle with five holes, thereby creating the patterned pancake.  The roti was accompanied with a tender Malay lamb curry, which had been tenderly cooked on the bone. It was medium in chilli heat, cooked in coconut milk, making it rich and creamy.

    Roti Jala & Lamb Curry

    Roti Jala & Lamb Curry

    Nasi Lemak and at (60 sen) referring to the Malaysian price you can pick this street food breakfast staple up for. Normally sold on road-sides parcelled up beautifully in banana leaf pyramids. From afar, the street carts selling them look like topiary displays. Likewise, our plates were ‘cleaned’ by the placing of a fresh banana leaf, to eat from. Dainty, heart scooped coconut rice piles were decorated with boiled quails eggs, ikan bilis in Grandma’s special sauce and Nyonya fried chicken. I am such a fan of ikan bilis (dried anchovies), that I love it in anything, whether it be curry, sambals, omlettes and even salad garnishes. This was real soul food, again the textures were so wonderful together, even something as simple as the fried chicken, had been marinated for 48 hours in curry leaves, shrimp paste, lemongrass and blue ginger, making it really crispy and tasty.

    Nasi Lemak 60 sen

    Nasi Lemak 60 sen

    Dessert came in the form of an adapted version of Ais Kacang. Beautiful shaved ice, drizzled with evaporated milk, rose and palm sugar syrup, sweet corn kernels, tapioca pearls, red beans, sea coconuts (a cross in texture and taste between rambuttan and lychee) and jelly (mango and honey-dew melon).

    Ais Kacang

    Ais Kacang

    Every stir, uncovered new assortment of sweet jewels, bursting with flavour, I absolutely loved the combinations.

    Ais Kacang stirred

    Ais Kacang stirred

    A much needed caffeine pick-me up came with Teh tarik (pulled tea), still frothy from being poured at height between two metal tumblers or jugs. Sweet, Malaysian tea, made with black tea and a combination of evaporated and condensed milk.

    Pulled Tea

    Pulled Tea

    Not that I needed it, as I was so full of food and contentment, by this point. However, how could I resist just one small banana fritter?  This for me, was a true hark back to my childhood, as it was a typical tea-time treat that my Mother would make, using up any over-ripened bananas.

    Banana fritters

    Banana fritters

    I hugely enjoyed the Wild Serai Seafood Feast and this was indeed a great contender to it, showcasing some great street food. For the vast quantity and selection dishes, £25 is a bargain. Yes, ok in Malaysia this street food is a pittance in £ terms, however this pricing needs to be compared to a ‘dining out’ experience in London and it fares extremely well on value, execution and consideration of diners.

    New Malden, normally famed for it’s ‘Little Korea’ (a collection of Korean take-aways, eateries and supermarkets), handy for stocking up, getting your fill of Kimchee or taking a peek as I did through the windows. Alas, I was full on my return to the station, but a little Sushi lady vendor (I know, Japanese not Korean – before you say it), right in the station’s entrance, caught me eye. With a steely look, she meant business and I’m sure could take on any trouble with her sushi roll-mat. Something, for another visit, but how I’ll be able to resist the beckon of Wild Serai’s Malaysian food, I’m not sure…

    To find out about more Wild Serai events check on the  Read more about Malaysian Street Food Brunch on Edible Experiences site or sign up to their mailing list here.


  4. Canary Wharf’s Obikà

    March 18, 2012 by Dini

    Mozzarella in the City

    11th March 2012

    Not quite in the City, but in the business hub that is Canary Wharf, where the suited City Slickers either dart to grab a quick bite to eat or languish in restaurants, ‘wining and dining’ Clients…

    Invited by Ms. Lapanovich (Obikà’s GM), to dine there for lunch, I was quite curious about what exactly a Mozzarella ‘bar’ was all about. So, it seemed was everyone else, my invited guest, five of my Canary Wharf working friends (who had never heard of it, I have a feeling they stick to the safety of Plateau, Boisdale & Roka). Even the TFL employee (who I sought directions from, at the station) said on my asking of the ‘Italian’ restaurant: “What that Mozzarella place? I’m partial to a bit of Mozzarella, but a whole menu of the stuff, not sure about that…”

    Obikà derived from the Neapolitan dialect, means “Here it is” … slap bang in the middle of a Canary Wharf concourse it was indeed, with the luxury of a deli, island bar and surrounding tables, quite an investment for the Italian company, with multiple sites already, across the globe.

    Drinks:

    We opted for a bottle of Tierre di Sant Alberto Prosecco (Valdese) which was light and refreshing and a jug of tap water to reign in our Sunday lunch excess.

    ProseccoIt was either the Prosecco or the Lurisia artisanal beer for me, as the wine selection didn’t tempt. unlike those on Opera Tavern’s list.

    Bufala classica with Caponata alla Siciliana

    This was delicious, a balance of the Caponata’s [sweet (with sultanas) and sour notes (vinegar and capers)] contrasted against the creaminess of the classic mozzarella. I was ‘instructed’ by the Waitress not to dress my mozzarella with black pepper, olive oil or balsamic, as this would detract from the cheese. This was fine as I had the flavoursome accompaniment of the caponata, however had it been solo with just the undressed spinach leaves, it would have been a little bland. In addition, we had shards of Pane Carasau (a Sardinian bread, which I can only describe as being like a poppadom), handy for scooping with.

    Bufala classica e Caponate alla Siciliana

    Insalate: Prosciutto Coto e Spinaci

    This came in a glass bowl, undressed, with a mountain of salad leaves. This time I had no instruction, was I ‘allowed’ to dress the salad?, was she going to do it?, was I suppossed to do it in the bowl? …. Too many questions, I just wanted a simple lunch. Perhaps, it would be good for the staff to ask if we’d like the salad to be dressed or put a small jug of dressing on the side, so we can add, as we please. After this debacle and creating a dressing mysef, I did like the textures of crunchy walnut, soft Prosciutto (dry cured from Parma) and leaves against the oozingly soft cheese. I’m so glad this was mixed leaves unlike the dishes’ description, as I found the spinach leaves (aforementioned, a little acrid when undressed).

    Prosciutto Cotto e Spinaci

    Mains:

    Dalla Cucina – Tortino di Riso

    I’d never had this dish before, so I was intrigued to try it. Inside the encasing of aubergine laid arborio rice with smoked mozzarella, accompanied with pesto. The pesto was fresh and was a good contrast to the cheesy rice. I was told the texture was not supposed to be wet like a risotto but more of a dry, baked effect. It was nice to try, but I think I’ll stick to my favourite classic of Parmigiana di Melazane.

    Tortino di Riso

    Pizze – Salmone e Ricotta

    This was on a flat base, my favourite, but there was a lot of crust wastage (see gallery), because there was no oozing sauce. I’m a hater of waste, so this made me a little sad. We were told afterwards that we could have requested for pesto, but alas it was too late. The ricotta was delicious creamy and rich serenading the delightful Forman & Field smoked salmon. My dining guest, had only that week been to Forman’s Fish Island to visit them and get a first hand view of the slicing of their salmon. I prefer pizza’s that pack a punch and would have opted for the nduja one instead, my guest wasn’t so keen (my loss, I guess one has to make compromises when sharing). I’m told by an Italian work colleague, that the Neapolitan’s prefer simple pizza’s, allowing the core ingredients to sing… this pizza follows that ethos.

    Pizza - Salmone e Ricotta

    Dolci: Degustazione di Dolci

    This comprised of Buffalo Ricotta cream, gently folded with toasted pine nuts, candied orange peel and honey. It was thick and rich, a few spoonfuls were just enough.

    Crema di Ricotta

    Tiramisù

    This Tiramisù , I’m told was layered with mascarpone and egg white, but for me it was much lighter, like a zabaglione topping, sitting afloat of espresso drenched Savoiardi. There was no Marsala in sight, but that’s a good thing, as in a small glass like this, it might have been overpowering.

    Tiramisu

    Torta di Capri

    A crumbly torte, jammed pack full of rich, dark chocolate and almonds. This for me, could have done with being served with a scoop of gelato or mascarpone (thankfully I ordered a scoop)…

    Torta di Capri

    Gelato Artigianale:

    A single scoop of Pistachio gelato (as I simply can’t resist this, it’s truly my benchmark flavour for rating a good gelato) complimented the Torta, by adding a creamy contrast.

    Pistachio Gelato

     Their gelato’s are sourced from Oddono’s (which is my absolute favourite London supplier for Pistachio gelato). Their version is light in colour, due to using natural nuts from Sicily and not adding any artificial colourings. It has a good texture, with pistachio nuts churned through it. I’d probably say that it’s the best way to finish off a meal there, as I had ‘work’ to do that night, I skipped dessert wines.

    Having taken the time to speak to Obikà’s GM, I get the concept more and what they’re trying to achieve and encourage Brits to try more. Yes they have ‘classics’ that I have grown up with from Italian restaurants over here, but also introducing new dishes and their wanting us to be more ‘hands-on’ in dressing our own salads.

    In terms of their specialisation – Mozzarella, I thought the quality was great, having tried their Classic and Smoked and displayed in tanks, for all to view. Another trip is in order to try their Burrata (from Andria), which is one of my guilty pleasures. One last note, on Obikà’s serviceware, it’s sourced from the rather classy Broste from Copenhagen. Beautiful crockery sets, that display the dishes with grace.

    Thank you Ms. Lapanovich for the meal for two, I’ll be back with my own credit card, for burrata and perhaps a scoop of gelato and to @mcginners (my dining co-hort).

     

    Obikà Mozzarella Bar: Unit 1 West Wintergarden, 35 Bank Street, E14 5NW

    Tel no: 0207 719 1532
    Website: http://www.obika.co.uk/

     

     

    Obika on Urbanspoon


  5. Hawksmoor Bar Spitalfields

    March 9, 2012 by Dini

    Triple Cooked Chips on the Side?

    8th March 2012

    Groaning in the underbelly of Spitalfields, are the new tables laiden with bar-snacks in Hawksmoor’s ‘bar downstairs’. I say groaning, because the amount we ordered on a ‘soft-launch’ night (where the food was 50% off), pretty much overtook the table. In fact, a trolley or secondary table may have come in use.

    Our Waiter for the night was James, a consummate professional, who was knowledgeable, courteous, attentive and cute as a button (a rarity in London). My guest had a theatre booking, so we warned him we were on a mission to have ‘food’, ‘sides’ and ‘pudding’ as per the menu in 2 hours, he didn’t fail to deliver on that.

    The decor is cosy, a kind of mish-mash of speakeasy meets a Jacques Cousteau submarine, with leather banquette booths and metallic walls.

    Downstairs Decor

    I wasn’t keen on the seating options, for smaller groups – high bar tables with bar-stools, not necessarily the easiest for dining (even if bar snacks), but fine for drinking.

    Cocktails were first on order and two classics to start the night with a bang. I opted for:

    Shaky Pete's Ginger Brew

    Shaky Pete's Ginger Brew

    (a fiery blend of Gin, Ginger and London Pride) and my guest had a

    Green & Red Margarita

    Green & Red Margarita

    (alas, she was disappointed by the lack of a salt rim, but a good execution all the same).

    Food:

    Short rib French dip

    Short Rib French Dip

    A new and very welcome addition to menu came in the form of the Short rib French dip, soft brioche sandwiching cheese, short ribs and then dunked in a rich gloopy beef and onion flavoured gravy… Delicious.

     

    Lobster roll

    Lobster Roll

    I can’t compare this roll to Burger & Lobster’s, at same priced £20 offering, as I haven’t been yet. I’m not sure I’d like B&L’s as their dip is coriander based (one of my pet hates). So for now, I’m more than content with this billowy brioche roll, with great chunks of lobster and a delicious drawn butter dip. I have to say that we were given very generous gravy boats full of dips, I could have set up an IV tube for an infusion of them both.

    Triple cooked chips

    Triple Cooked Chips

    “Chips, Glorious Chips”… usually the case, but not in this case. They were crisp but not really soft inside, they were a little dehydrated if anything, something had gone awry from the blanching to refrying stage. I’m not sure what had been used for frying (oil, dripping or fat), but the best I’ve had still remains as The Young Turks’ in beef dripping (even better than Heston’s).

    One stand out ‘food’ item ordered was the Tamworth Laab.

    Tamworth Laab

    Tamworth Laab

    I haven’t had this dish since visiting Laos a few years ago, so a welcome trip down memory lane. It consists of spiced minced pork, dressed with fish sauce, fresh herbs and served in fresh gem type lettuce leaves. You scoop the pork into the leaves, a little like tacos. These had a little zing, but were refreshing, perhaps a virtuous change from the other calorific options.

    Puddings:

    Onto the main business of desserts (for me). To be honest I could have opted for everything, quite easily, but as I was on a budget and time constraint, we opted for the above and a Chocolate Malt Tart.

    Chocolate Malt Tart

    Surprisingly the Tart was the lightest of the two, with a delicious mousse, but the pastry required a sledgehammer.

    Peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice-cream

    The shortbread was the opposite, too ‘short’ a mix too flaky.  The combination of the salted caramel, peanut butter and surprise chocolate centre were divine on paper, but none of the flavours seemed to sing through. Even so, as a desserts fiend, I scoffed the lot and ended my meal with a contented tummy.

    I didn’t try the burgers, as I knew from other diners that the ‘Umami’ burger wasn’t available (which would have been my pick). I was discouraged from ordering burgers by other bloggers, as knew that rare/medium rare isn’t an option, they have to comply with H&S regs and serve up medium to well done.

    There are so many tempting treats on the bar menu, to draw you in. If anything I’m yearning already to go back and taste the short rib nuggets (with a kimchee ketchup), Sausage & Egg HkMuffin (a take on McDonalds’ dirty brekkie), the Chicken burger (another newbie), washed down with a cornflake milkshake… oh oh, cardiac arrest on a plate!

    I’ve cheekily used photos from Hawksmoor’s website, as it is so dim in the bar, my photo’s were somewhat flawed, so ‘Thanks’ for the lovely shots

    Hawksmoor Spitalfields: 157 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
    Telephone No: 020 7426 4856
    Reservations: spitalfieldsbar@thehawksmoor.com
    Website: http://thehawksmoor.com/spitalfieldsbar

     


  6. El Pirata Detapas

    February 5, 2012 by Dini

    Foodspotting Tapas

    3rd February 2012

    Championed by Gordon Ramsay in his ‘Best Restaurants’ Channel 4 series (in 2010),  I was excited to dine at El Pirata De Tapas. Expectations were riding high and I was expecting modern twists on classic Spanish fayre.  On research, I discovered that Omar Allibhoy is no longer at the helm, as he’s off with his new venture, (Revolution in Westfield & BlueWater shopping centres), so I’m not sure we’d get the same vigour and flair. Hey ho, I hadn’t had Tapas in a while and was keen to try out their offering and it was an opportunity to socialise with food-lovers. I joined a table of ‘Foodspotters’ for the popular apps’ 2nd Birthday (who kindly donated £25 to our kitty and cute badges – so thanks to them and London organiser, Katherina!).

    On entry, the restaurant was quiet, but true to the Spanish way, the room came alive and was bustling, post 9pm, with later night crowd. Our communal table decided on sharing the two different tasting menu’s:

    Tasting Menu at £21 (TM) and the Chef’s Menu at £25 (CM).

    The best combination, was picking and choosing from each of the menu’s, as there were some interesting dishes on both. However, the Chef’s menu was definately one that caught the foodspotter crowd’s attention, as there were some beautiful dishes. I’m afraid that I didn’t have good light on all of them, so I haven’t done justice to some of them…

    Noteworthy: Brozen Eggs, deliciously moreishly scrambled eggs with Serrano ham and potatoes and the oozing croquettes. My first introduction to Little Creatures, I opted for the divine Pale Ale.

    Not so good: The Crema Catalana was a cold citrusy custard with a sprinkle of cinnamon. For some reason, I had expected a creme brulee style dessert… I was reliably informed by my Spanish fellow diners, that this was the true presentation of the dessert. The Tasting menu was not as interesting as the Chef’s one, next to each other there was a stark difference in execution for a £4 difference, so I’d suggest paying more.

    I am absolutely, no expert on Spanish/Catalan dishes, so I’m not going to draw judgement on the execution. I will say though, that 4 of my fellow diners were Spanish and thought the food was a little lack lustre. I hope this was a one-off as it’s a bustling restaurant that obviously cares about creating new dishes and using great Spanish produce, so here’s to the next time…

    El Pirata Detapas: 115 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UP
    Tel No: 020 7727 5000
    Website: http://www.elpiratadetapas.co.uk/

    El Pirata Detapas on Urbanspoon


  7. Feng Sushi on the SouthBank

    February 4, 2012 by Dini

    Sustainable Japanese

    30th January 2012

    Monday lunchtime, on the Southbank I joined the GoogleLondon Team for a Sushi meet-up.  I was looking forward to it, as Feng Sushi’s menu offers a mix of Japanese classics with some modern European twists. In exchange for some reviews for GoogleLondon, I was treated to: Seafood Miso and Loch Duart Salmon Donburi, not a bad deal at all!

    Loch Duart Salmon Donburi

    Loch Duart Salmon Donburi

    The Donburi was a visual and tasty treat, with salmon four ways: tea smoked, sashimi, crispy skin and Ikura (bright red roe). The different textures were so good, that I scoffed them greedily. I was left with surplus white rice, so I probably did a ‘no-no’ and added some of my Miso to it, to slurp the rest.

    Shellfish Miso

    Shellfish Miso

    Feng Sushi boasts 7 outlets in London, with even a delivery/takeaway outlet,  in the heart of Billingsgate Fishmarket. Owned by Silla Bjerrum, from Denmark, she has carried the Scandi sensibility of sourcing of the very best of ingredients and heralding sustainability. Credit to her, as she’s made great strides to operate in a socially responsible manner.

    The decor is simple with a mix of wooden communal dining tables as well as individual tables. Vibrant with floral paintwork and a beautiful fish aquarium, naturally showcasing harmonious feng shui elements.

    Feng Sushi Aquarium

    Feng Sushi Aquarium

    I additionally ordered, a couple of dishes to share, to see out of curiosity, the execution. Some Rock Shrimp Tempura with a spicy sauce. I loved the shrimp, juicy morsels with a light tempura batter.

    Rock Shrimp Tempura

    Rock Shrimp Tempura

    I also ordered Miso Dengaku (which I recently tried @thelondonfoodie’s Japanese supperclub). For the Dengaku, unlike the last type I had, Feng Sushi had used the larger variety of aubergine. This meant it had absorbed more oil and was a little bit on the greasy side, but the miso dressing made it moreish all the same.

    Miso Dengaku

    Miso Dengaku

    To end the lunch I curiously perused the Desserts menu. Alas, Macarons and Rice Pudding were not available at the time, so I opted for a Chocolate Mochi (a glutinous rice cake, filled with oozing chocolate). For the £2.75, I had expected maybe two Mochi’s, the individual serve, the size of a £2 coin, seemed a little mean for the price, however it was delicious.

    Chocolate Moshi

    Chocolate Moshi

    On the note of price, Feng Sushi is more on the premium side of your ‘high street’ Sushi providers, but the rationale of quality and sustainability, more than qualifies it. Thanks to my GoogleLondon hosts (Sarah & Alex) for hosting a lovely lunch and introducing me to the Restaurant. I’ll definately choose Feng Sushi now as a place to stop off to try more dishes and at least I’ll be reassured that I’m doing my bit for the environment too.

    Feng Sushi: Unit 9 Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
    Tel No: 020 7261 0001
    Website: http://www.fengsushi.co.uk/ – for details of other branches

    Feng Sushi on Urbanspoon


  8. PittCueCo takes on Newburgh St

    January 19, 2012 by Dini

    PittCueCo's Pulled Pork & Burnt End Mash

    Flying Visit to Pitt Cue

     18th January 2012

    I discovered PittCueCo under the Hungerford Bridge, on London’s Southbank, in the ‘Summer of 2011’. This turned into a summer long love affair, namely with their pulled pork and illustrated in my last post (click here)…

    So it didn’t take long for the wafts of the BBQ fayre to send twitter foodies into fever-point. I left it a few days and visited off-peak, to get a queue free seat and fast service. The new PittCueCo, is in Newburgh Street, just off the bustle of Carnaby Street.

    An intimate venue, with 30 seats, a little like Spuntino in the manner that there’s informal seating at the bar and more downstairs. I braced myself for the Foodie avalanche, Tourists who had luckily stumbled upon it and Media Dahling Soho-ites dining there. On entering, I was greeted by the ever charming Jamie (a partner) and offered a ceremonial ‘Pickleback’, I declined as it just isn’t my cup of tea… Thankfully, I pitched the timing just right, post-work drinks and dining hadn’t commenced yet, so I took a stool downstairs. I spied Tom (the other partner) cooking away in the Kitchen, so said a quick hello. It’s quite different, having been familiar with seeing them both in action in the old truck, now seeing them in their Front and Back of House roles.

    The menu, is a succinct selection of unctuously delicious ‘comfort’ food. I was glad to see my favourites on the menu (pulled pork, brisket and slaw). When opting for a mains and a side the pair come in at £9 – 9.50, not bad considering you get (mains, side, house pickles and a piece of toasted sourdough). The ‘Special’ tonight was a ‘House Sausage’, I decided to try this and the dessert offering on another occasion, when I had more time. One pretty special new side dish, was the ‘Burnt End Mash’. It was a beautifully smooth and buttery mashed potato, with tender ends of the beef brisket laden on top.

    The food is served up in rectangular tin dishes and jars, a cross between old school camping kit and Little House on the Prairie (sweet). I did  notice there were two filled bun options (for pulled pork or brisket). When I asked to order them, I was told they were take-away only… boo I say, as I would have been keen. I did pick this up with Jamie on leaving and he said they were available at the bar, well… to loyal customers ;

    Alas next time, I know to sit upstairs for the buns, to peruse the great selection of bourbon’s & rye’s displayed on the back-bar and just have a good time. This isn’t food for a flying visit (my schoolgirl error), it’s food to be relished, saluted with a PickleBack and obviously followed up with a dessert.

    Alas, there are no bookings, so either go off-peak, or as word spreads, prepare to queue…

    Address: 1 Newburgh St, Soho, W1F 7RB
    Website: http://www.pittcue.co.uk/

    Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon


  9. The Ship – Wandsworth’s Gem

    January 15, 2012 by Dini

    Riverside Blogger’s Lunch

    14th January 2012

    As a Blogger’s Lunch, I knew I was going to toss the towel in on the eating front, out with January de-toxing and shifting the ‘dolce’ muffin top. Having been to a Ship Bloggers event before, I knew that the tables would be groaning with traditional ‘pub grub’ with a gastro twist. Yes, The Ship is a Youngs pub and probably more renowned (at least, amongst my friends) for pitchers of Pimms & Lemonade on a Bank Holiday Monday. So I’ll let you into a little secret, it’s got a great food offering, full on roasts on a Sunday and BBQ’s in the summer and not to mention some fun events. They recently hosted the #ScotchEggChallenge, whereby contestants (Prof. Chefs and Amateurs) entered their efforts to be judged and the winner, awarded a glorious trophy. I’m so glad The Ship’s own Scotch egg made an appearance, here’s a peek of some beauties…

    The Ship's Scotch Egg

    The Ship's Scotch Egg

    Alas, that was then and today was a different affair, for more like an eating contest for bloggers with the greatest appetites, as you can see with the menu (kindly supplied by @Mcmoop and @gaildogget).

    The Ship Menu

    The Ship Menu

    We were given a selection of dishes (starters, mains, sides and desserts) to share amongst ourselves… but an ample amount considering we had 14 dishes!

    ***

    Starters 

    Red Onion Soup, Cheese Crôute

    Red Onion Soup, Cheese Crôute

     

    Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait, Rum Soaked Baby Figs, Toasted Brioche

    Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait, Rum Soaked Baby Figs, Toasted Brioche

    Scallops with Fennel Pure, Crisped Fennel, Garlic Chives

    Scallops with Fennel Pure, Crisped Fennel, Garlic Chives

    Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Spiced Tomato & Yoghurt Dressing

    Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Spiced Tomato & Yoghurt Dressing

     

    Black Sticks Blue and Mushroom Torte with Truffle Rosti Creamed Spinach

    Black Sticks Blue and Mushroom Torte with Truffle Rosti Creamed Spinach

    ***

    Mains

    Seared Guinea Fowl with Truffled Mash, Sprouting Broccoli and Wild Mushroom Jus

    Seared Guinea Fowl with Truffled Mash, Sprouting Broccoli and Wild Mushroom Jus

    Chargrilled Beef Burger with Cheese, Pickled Cucumber

    Chargrilled Beef Burger with Cheese, Pickled Cucumber

    Goat’s Cheese Gratin, Jerusalem Artichoke, Chestnut Mushroom & Spinach Fricassée

    Goat’s Cheese Gratin, Jerusalem Artichoke, Chestnut Mushroom & Spinach Fricassée

    Seared Plaice, Parma Ham, Poached Leeks, Samphire & Champagne Sauce

    Seared Plaice, Parma Ham, Poached Leeks, Samphire & Champagne Sauce

    Braised Pork and Cider Pastry Pie with Mustard Glazed Carrots

    Braised Pork and Cider Pastry Pie with Mustard Glazed Carrots

    ***

    Desserts

    Chocolate Fondant with Ice Cream

    Chocolate Fondant with Ice Cream

    Panacotta with Coffee Short Bread & Poached Fruit

    Panacotta with Coffee Short Bread & Poached Fruit

    Treacle Tart with Stem Ginger Ice Cream

    Treacle Tart with Stem Ginger Ice Cream

    ***

    Cheese Board: Brie, Lincs Poacher & Black Sticks Blue

    Cheese Board: Brie, Lincs Poacher & Black Sticks Blue

    ***

    My dishes of the day were the: Grilled Lamb, Seared Plaice and the Chocolate Fondant

    For £20, for such a variety of dishes, an aperitif, wine and the best hospitality from @Mcmoop (Oisin -Licensee, Kitchen and Serving Staff, this is no ordinary Youngs Pub. It will be always be a destination pub for weekends and holidays, I just hope that drinkers get a chance to sample the food fayre too. By all means, this was an extravagent subsidised offering c/o The Ship, but the dishes are all fairly priced, with a Carved Buffet at £19.95 and A la Carte Mains from £12-£15. They are so confident about their Jam Roly Poly, they often invite Michael Winner (via twitter) to try it… one day I’m sure he’ll succumb… (his loss and my gain and until then, perhaps around my waistline first!)

    Website: http://www.theship.co.uk/
    Address: 41 Jew’s Row, Wandsworth, SW18 1TB
    Tel no: 020 8870 9667

  10. Japanese Supper with The London Foodie

    January 8, 2012 by Dini

    Japanese Umami Feast

    5th January 2012

    Fresh from his travels in Tokyo, TheLondonFoodie (Luiz) hosted the first of his Japanese Home Supperclubs, to showcase recipes from his travels and from recently published ‘Hashi Cooking’ by Reiko Hashimoto. This was the second Supperclub I attended, that Luiz had hosted, the first being the inaugural Grazing Asia event.

    Reiko's Hashi Cook Book

    Reiko's Hashi Cook Book

    There were no spaces left as a dining guest, but keen to increase my knowledge of this genre of cusine and take part in the event, I volunteered as a Kitchen Assistant for the evening. For diners, this supperclub was £35 per person (BYO), pretty good value considering the calibre and variety of ingredients used.

    Welcomed with a glass of wine, by Luiz and Dr. G (Luiz’s partner), I was made at home and what a beautiful home it was. I was particularly impressed with their pantry, divine cooking accoutrements and serviceware.

    Japanese Bowls

    Japanese Bowls

    Looking at all of the plates and bowls lined up, at a guess I’d say there were over a 100 for the 20 dining guests. I knew from this, that a serious feat was about to be performed by Luiz. Having started at 7am, Luiz was supper organised with a timed plan (which we almost stuck to) and had already done a lot of the mise en place. This was essential, as we were catering for 20 hungry diners and had a 6 course feast to be served pre-midnight…

    Luiz preparing the Sushi

    Luiz preparing the Sushi

    ***

    Sushi selection

    Dainty hand-rolled sushi with sea-bream, mackerel and asparagus. The diners were treated to an accompanying aperitif of Gordon’s Gin & Tonic, which set off the night, with a lemon-twist (I told Dr. G, that lime might make a nice change for next time).

    Sushi selection

    Sushi selection

    ***

    Salmon Sashimi ‘South American way’

    Delicate strips of tuna sashimi drizzled with a marinade and served with a sour-cream, wasabi avocado salad.

    Salmon Sashimi South American way

    Salmon Sashimi South American way

    ***

    Spicy Pork with Seafood Nabe

    Spicy Pork & Seafood Nabe

    Spicy Pork & Seafood Nabe (pre-cooking)

    Typically, a one pot dish of seafood and vegetables, that cooks at the table in a claypot. I last tried this is in Laos, so it was great to see it in action again, it adds such drama and fun to the occassion. After the diners has wrestled over the seafood picks, we added some udon noodles, so they could slurp up the remaining cooking juices, which had a good spicy kick.

    Spicy Pork and Seafood Nabe

    Spicy Pork and Seafood Nabe (cooking)

    ***

    Beef Fillet Tataki with creamy sesame dressing

    Luiz seared the fillets then allowed them to marinade and then delicately sliced and positioned over brined onions. For a supperclub, it was quite a luxury to have fillet. This was possible thanks to The Well Hung Meat Co who donated the meat and generously offered the diners 50% off their first orders.

    Beef Fillet Tataki with creamy sesame dressing
    Beef Fillet Tataki with creamy sesame dressing

    ***

    Takikomi Gohan

    A mixed rice, bejewelled with 5 ingredients, this was a chicken and vegetable based one, dressed with mange tout chiffonade.

    Green beans and Kamaboko with Spicy Mayo

    Crunchy beans with a sliced fish cake (Kamaboko) garnish and wok-dressed in a zingy mayonnaise. I really like the contrast of textures, with the crunchy beans, creamy dressing and almost sponge-like fish cake slices.

    Green beans, Kamaboko and Spicy Mayo

    Green beans, Kamaboko and Spicy Mayo

    Tamagoyaki

    A beautifully rolled omlette, sweetened with sugar, seasoned with dashi and chives for pretty colouring. This was a real masterpiece, so when it was sliced, almost like a swiss roll, you could see the many delicate layers. Grated mooli and soy sauce were placed on the side.

    Tamagoyaki

    Tamagoyaki

    Aubergine Dengaku

    My favourite of the side dishes, using delicious aubergines. Luiz used the thin variety of aubergine, for faster cooking and also because they soaked up the Nasu Dengaku glaze (with white miso, mirin and sugar) more. They had a gratinated crust made with melted mozzarella and were garnished as with the green beans, with crunchy seasame seeds.

    Aubergine Dengaku

    Aubergine Dengaku

    Deep fried Tofu and Spinach Miso Soup

     A bubbling bowl of soup, that was great for cleansing at the end of the night.

    Tofu & Spinach Miso Soup

    Tofu & Spinach Miso Soup

    ***

    Ice Cream Trio with Madeleine

     The scent of zingy lemon rind madeleines drifted through the room, kindly whisked up and baked fresh by Dr. G.

    Dr. G in Madeleine making mode

    Dr. G in Madeleine making mode

    This was a light and simple accompaniment to the smooth and creamy trio. The flavours were heavenly: Green Tea, Red Bean and Black Seasame. I’ve tried the flavours in various muses as created by Teanamu (when I’ve visited his Tea-House), however the last, was a new one. Luiz created it by making a praline with the black seasame seeds and then adding the brittle to the ice-cream mix, before churning.

    Ice Cream Trio with Madeleine

    Ice Cream Trio with Madeleine

    ***

    I’ll hold my hand up and admit, the evening was ‘hard-work’ not all making up G&T’s and tasting for seasoning (unfortunately!). Alas, now I know that Luiz being a perfectionist, wouldn’t let a mere amateur like myself, scrimp on beautiful plating up or the taste of his dishes going out. Next time, I know I’m best suited on the receiving end and do what I do best… Eating. I wish I had been a fly-on-the wall whilst Luiz had done his mise en place, so that I could pick up tips or learn the recipes. The saving grace was the fact I could always refer to Reiko’s book (a signed copy) and Luiz promised to email his recipes too. This was a Japanese comfort eating at it’s best, really good hearty food, that hit the spot. However, in the kitchen, the execution was somewhat more intricate than usual comfort food and expertly executed by Luiz.

    Luiz has kindly invited me back to learn the recipes and sample all the dishes at leisure, so I’m very much looking forward to that experience.

    To find out more about Luiz’s supper’s or cooking club’s:
    Luiz’s twitter: @thelondonfoodie
    Luiz’s website: http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/
    Reiko’s Hashi Cooking: http://www.hashicooking.co.uk/