Monday, 30 March 2009


On Saturday night we set off towards Angel with much excitement about eating at Ottolenghi where I have been eager to dine for some time now.

I managed to nab a booking, via email late on Friday for 6:30 the following day for 4 people. Upon arrival the waitress denied all knowledge of any booking and asked whether I had a print out of the confirmation email. Three emails in fact I had received but printed none however I remembered the persons name, Basia, a detail which drew blank looks when offered.

It didn’t look good, a full restaurant and apparently no booking. We were offered a table at the bar area, for 2 not 4 and were informed that should we accept we would be taking a table that the manager would usually sit at to eat her dinner, for this we should have been grateful?

In the end, after all this, they managed to find a table for the 4 of us. We settled down with a bottle of merlot and ordered one dish from the counter and one from the kitchen each.

I started with the Grilled Aubergine with walnuts and pomegranate. When I had my first forkful, I was delighted with the taste combination. I would never have dreamed up this amalgamation of flavours and textures. The soft aubergine was perfectly complemented by the crunch of the walnuts and the sweet pop of the pomegranate seeds. I loved this.

Thomas had the Beef which was melt in the mouth tender and faultless.

The presentation of the dishes is appealing to the eye, Fabi was pleased with the Butternut Squash from the counter and Svenja had the Spicy Aubergine.

When the dished from the Kitchen arrived I think we were all a little taken aback by the portion sizes, considering the prices they are very much on the small side. Having said that everything I tried was delicious and so worth the price when considering the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

My main dish was the Monkfish with Chorizo and Mango which was probably the smallest of them all. The tartness of the mango and piquancy of the chorizo did overshadow the monkfish which did not really hold it’s own.

Thomas’ Duck main was more pleasing served with Cashews, Sweet Potato Puree and Pak Choi. The duck was cooked perfectly and the dish was much more rounded with meat, carb and vegetable elements to it but again, the portion was disappointingly small. Fabi too went for the duck.

Svenja was particularly pleased with her from the kitchen dish of Mushroom Pearl Barley. It’s interesting how barley is being used instead of rice more and more these days. On a visit to Saf last year I had a Pearl Barley Risotto, I have always loved it in casseroles and stews and welcome the less traditional use of it in other types of dishes.

The only good thing that can be said about the diddy sizes of the dishes from the kitchen is that there is of course room left for dessert. The array of sweet treats is the first thing to greet diners upon arrival with displays of cakes, pastries and meringues at the front of the restaurant.

Between us we had the Carrot and Walnut Cake, Chocolate Torte, Toffee and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake and a Fruit Tarte. They were all very good with special mention reserved for the Cheesecake, in my opinion the finest of those we tried.

The idea of this place in hindsight is to get a number or dishes to share, this would be much more sensible but didn’t seem obvious looking at the menu. The salads looked glorious too on the front counters and I only wished there was a branch in central London so that I could pay a visit come lunchtime. It was a suitable venue to celebrate Earth Hour but considering the booking mix up, and the fact that we were given the wrong bill (and subsequently charged a further £50, taking the price per head, with wine and service to £35) means that I probably shall not hurry back for dinner.

287 Upper St, Angel

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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Just Falafs

I had a wrap from Just Falafs today and I’m very happy to report that it was every bit as good as I expected it to be. The concept (choose a base, choose a salad, choose a sauce) makes for ample variety and it was packed with filling and very tasty.

I would like to say however, that I was somewhat thrown when, after gleefully stating I would like the free range chicken with beetroot and carrot with the yoghurt and minted cucumber sauce, I was asked to select an extra. Hang on a minute I thought, how much will that set me back?

I also thought, dear god, I hadn’t expected them to do a McDonald’s-esque would you like….. type thing, if I wanted, I’d ask. But this is for free. You can choose from garlic sauce, chilli sauce, red peppers or one other option which I forget. For the sake of those attending the same meeting as me this afternoon, I resisted the urge to go for garlic and had the chilli sauce.

This literally blew my head off and I had to take it very slowly but it was great. I won’t be so considerate next time I think, I’ll go for the garlic! The chicken was very good with a squash dressing and the sunflower seeds in the salad provided a more than welcome crunch. The wrap itself too was hugely enjoyable, slightly toasted and a little crispy on the outside.

This is a little more than I would normally spend on a lunch to eat at my desk coming in at £4.95 but it’s well worth it. If you’re in a hurry though it’s perhaps not ideal with only one person making the wraps. I went to the Covent Garden branch, perhaps this is not the case in Soho?

Just Falafs
27b Covent Garden, WC2E

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Forgive me the lapse in posts, this is due to illness and general exhaustion.

Having heard VERY good things about the burgers at Hawksmoor, which are available only as a lunchtime special, I hastily booked a day off of work and made a reservation for 2pm. Not really, the day off wass well deserved and not solely for the purpose of a burgerfest, only in part!

So Thomas and I head for Commercial St on Friday lunchtime, eagerly anticipating the supposed best burger in London. We were disappointed by Hache and for Thomas GBK still held the crown so I was keen to find a new victor.

The search for the perfect burger is something Thomas and I have become rather preoccupied with, resorting to making our own of late. In New York I adored the experience at The Burger Joint but admittedly, it’s sort of gimmicky and the actual food was above average but certainly beatable.

Having sampled the Hawksmoor offering I am pleased to say there is a new firm favourite, London Rules!

This is unadulterated burger heaven. There is not one thing I would criticise, except perhaps the £15 price tag but then I didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day because I was so sated. Also, when considering the superior ingredients, beef from the Ginger Pig for example, it is well worth paying that little bit extra. The Oggleshield cheese was also notable, I’ve never tasted such a deep and satisfying cheese on a burger before and I’ll be seeking it out for sure.

The combination of crispy lettuce, juicy tomato, slight heat from the mustard and the punch of the red onion and mild gherkins makes for virtual perfection. Every mouthful was a joy and the only thing that failed to knock my socks of were the fries. I found them average, but upon further reflection I'm struggling to pinpoint exactly how they might be improved. Perhaps they could have been a little darker in colour and a tad crispier. I love that the waitress offered mayonnaise, I cannot fully enjoy chips without it. The homemade ketchup is a nice touch too.

As well as the faultlessness of the dish, the service was excellent (the only slight blip being the necessity to ask twice before a coke found it’s way to the table). We arrived 30 minutes early and were instantly seated. The food arrived promptly and I would recommend coming at lunchtimes for the reason that service was great and obviously due to the the burger not available in the evenings.

We started with the Pan fried Scallops with Yorkshire Chorizo to share, the quality of the chorizo was what really sang out about this dish and it was over all too quickly as we hungrily devoured it with speed thinking that it was really all about the burger! This did provide a fitting and more then adequate warm up though.

I enjoyed everything about this meal and even Thomas agreed that this is without doubt THE best burger we have ever had. I cannot rave enough about it really, we shall return, I am spreading the word to everyone I talk to and I eagerly anticipate trying one of their steaks. At long last, the search is over.

157 Commercial St

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Lord Palmerston 1

On Sunday, the first sunny and warm(ish) day of the year Thomas and I had a nice local pub lunch and the obligatory jug of pimms sitting in the sun.

The Lord Palmerston is a delightfully quaint little place, situated at the top of Dartmouth Park Hill, a stones throw away from Tufnell Park tube station. Last summer we were frequent visitors but it lost it’s appeal to us throughout the winter months due to our associating it with al fresco activities. We plonked ourselves down in the prime sun spot on a bench out front and were envied by the bar staff, one declaring to me that this would be his exact way to spend the day were he not working.

How wrong we were though to discount the inside areas. When the air turned chilly we ventured in and around the corner from the bar there’s a brilliant little area where one can enjoy the Sunday Paper and a glass of whatever. Our chosen tipple was Pimms, though they were lacking the fruit to make it as good as it should be. We lounged on a beaten up old leather couch for a couple of hours and were pleased to find a very cute downstairs dining room and a lovely wooden panelled, creaky floor boarded function room upstairs which would happily seat around 30 people. I’ll bare this in mind for future events for sure.

Whilst basking in the sun (well sort of, we ignored the cold breeze for as long as we possibly could) we both enjoyed the Roast Loin of Pork with mixed vegetables, roast potatoes and apple and cinnamon sauce.

I loved the vegetable selection, each cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of bite and the apple sauce with it’s pleasant and warming hit of cinnamon. The whole thing was perhaps under seasoned though and lacked oomph. The potatoes were okay, they looked good, crisp on the outside but were perhaps a little too hard on the inside.

I felt the dish was a bit cold, this can possibly be down to the fact that we were eating outside so I won’t hold that against them. We both wished we had opted for roast beef in the end. Alfie, a well behaved dog with a group of people at a nearby table, certainly seemed mightily impressed with the aroma of it as plate after plate wafted through the bar!

The service here can be slightly prickly, depending on who is serving you, there’s a definite sense of ‘i’m so much better than this’ with some of the staff but they probably are so who am I to complain. It seems to be the type of place where regulars are a combination of lone diners who like that they are unpestered or groups of young people who are well acquainted with the place and the owners. This is certainly the case of a Sunday it seems.

Now, I wish to cast no aspersions when I say both Thomas and I were very ill that same evening. It might have been my experiment with homemade meringues which unfortunately were undercooked, in that they were more like lemon meringue pie in consistency than pavlova. That aside, we shall return to the Lord Palmerston in future, if for no other reason than the mean jugs of pimms.

The Lord Palmerston
33 Dartmouth Park Hill, NW5

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

J Sheekey

On Sunday Sven came to visit and I took us to lunch at J Sheekey.

I’ve been wanting to pay them a visit for a number of years now but have never gotten round to it. When looking for a potential lunch spot for a Sunday, some place situated centrally and reasonably priced I found that J Sheekey fit the bill with a special weekend lunch menu of 3 courses for £24.50.

I managed to book a table with relative ease, at fairly late notice on Friday afternoon, for the coming Sunday for lunch at 2:30.

It was bucketing down when we got there and it offered a brilliant olde worldy type escape form a miserable afternoon in the city. We were seated at a cosy little table in the corner, there’s a real feeling of it being a kind of traditional club with wooden walls and framed pictures lining most of the available space. We ordered some water and were presented with the menus and some bread.

The bread was good with 2 white pieces of white baguette and 2 smaller offerings of granary. Both very nice and were accompanied by salted butter, a must in my opinion.

It was a little stuffy service wise and you feel a little like you’re being permanently watched which is annoying. I hate getting a sense of being rushed. I was told when booking that the table would be available to us until 5 and we were out way before 4 in the end.

Anyhow, we both opted for the weekend lunch menu. There are a generous 3 choices for each course, I had Mussel, Leek and Saffron soup to start which was lovely. It was poured out before my eyes from a little pot into my bowl and had a liberal serving of plump mussels and chunks of leek and a very creamy consistency. It was tasty and quite filling. I loved it but I felt rather full up from Saturdays feast so it beat me. I should perhaps have opted for the pear and endive salad to start with. Sven had Broccoli with crispy bacon and a poached egg, all of which were perfectly cooked and combined to make an interesting amalgamation of flavours. He was more than pleased to finish off my soup as well.

For main I opted for the Sheekey’s Fish Pie which was served with green beans. Again I was beaten, and again this is not a reflection on the dish, which was delightful, with its creamy parsley sauce, wonderful smokey flavour from the haddock, crispy mashed potato topping and generous filling of haddock, salmon and cod.

Sven had the shin of veal which was tender and served with spring vegetables and a nice tasty jus. This was nice but not remarkable in any way.

I have to say it was pretty much all about the dessert though, the Pavlova with blood oranges was a masterpiece. Gorgeously gooey in the centre, crisp but surrendering to the spoon on the outside with a tangy orange sauce and chunks of vibrant red orange. Topped with some crème fraiche and a few strips of candied peel each mouthful buzzed with the sugary sweetness being counteracted by the citrus.

Having expected to be wowed by the fish on offer at Sheekeys it is with surprise that I say this is the dish that will stick in my memory. And I didn’t even order it. I had only one mouthful having opted for the cheese selection. There was a soft blue, and harder manchego type piece and a creamier hard cheese. These are advertised simply as a farmhouse selection on the weekend menu and on the a la carte menu the cheese options are irish: St Gall, Crozier Blue and Gubbeen. I suspect this is what I had. They were served with some nice oaty biscuits and a quince and raisin chutney which was very good and quite spicy.

I love the idea of the set lunch menu and the way that more expensive places are accessible to all at such bargainous prices. Sheekey’s have recently revamped an area of their restaurant as an oyster bar, I would love to return in the evening and probably will at some point in the near future.

NB: Lack and poor quality of picutres due to the request that customers refrain from using mobiles or cameras in the restaurant. I tried but got some icy stares from the table of russian diners next to us! Oh well.

J Sheekey
28 St Martin's Court

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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Pork Goulash

One of the severe drawbacks relating to my job is the long hours and weekend work around deadline periods. Dinners at work are inevitably miserable and standard, Wagamama, Pizza Express etc. I find using the allocated dinner money to buy groceries and making something exciting is well worth it, even if it does mean eating late. Or, better still, having your student boyfriend cooking at home so that there’s a tasty dinner ready when you get back!

This was the case on Saturday when Thomas made a Pork Goulash with peppers and smoked paprika. My contribution was dessert in the form Eton Mess. Out of season but what the heck, I needed some creamy meringue goodness in my life. And something quick to assemble.

So here’s the obligatory ingredients shot

Here we have some roasted peppadew peppers, sweet but with a spicy note, paprika, lemon thyme, marjoram, caraway seeds. tinned tomatoes, onions and fresh peppers. These combined to make the sauce in which the pork cooks in the oven after the initial searing process.

Here's how the pork looked pre oven:

Beautiful! And once assembled in the bowl on a bed of rice with a dollop of lemon and garlic infused sour cream, the resulting meal was hearty and satisfying, with a hefty kick from the peppers and paprika. It was lovely and we both went back for seconds.

The pork was wonderfully tender, succumbing to the fork with the merest of nudges. The peppers and the sauce were delicious too and rice offers the only feesible accompaniment in my opinion.

For dessert, I pressed some raspberries through a fine mesh sieve, hulled some strawberries and quartered them. Crushed up some M&S meringues (cheating I know but they're definitely the best ones available pre made) whipped some double cream with a dash of vanilla essence and some icing sugar and combined everything. This is so so brilliant and easy I cannot rave enough about it. It did, true to it's name, look like a complete mess, but it was pink and white and marbled and lovely to look at and to eat. I can't wait to make it again. We scoffed it without even thinking about taking pictures!


Few things delight more than cupcakes.

When I saw that The Primrose Bakery had opened a new branch in Covent Garden I both jumped for joy and whimpered at the prospect of having to stifle my cupcake cravings knowing that these beauties are in the vicinity. It’s been a struggle.

This week I succumbed and purchased 4 cupcakes, 2 vanilla, 1 chocolate and 1 peanut butter. Here are the latter 2 whilst they remained in tact!

The thing about cupcakes is that they appeal to the child in you. It makes me happy just looking at them, usually adorned with hundreds and thousands or flowers or other edible sparkly items. They’re beautiful and delicious. What more does one need?

The Primrose Bakery smells divine which only adds to the experience, I was sorely tempted to purchase a mini cupcake to quell my anticipation and fill the void between purchase and consumption but I refrained!

I’ve been a fan ever since my first visit to New York when I sampled the delights on offer at the famous Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the City fame. On our recent visit to New York I was keen for Thomas to try one but it’s sadly become a tourist mecca and queuing for hours in below zero temperatures did not appeal. I was sad about that because I remember their cupcakes and found them to be superior to any I’ve had since.

The one thing I would say about the Primrose Bakery cakes is that the vanilla sponge was a little on the dry side. The chocolate one was virtual perfection, moist dense sponge and creamy chocolaty butter icing. I managed 2 whole cakes whilst Thomas was beaten by the peanut butter one.

I’ve never attempted to make them myself, now there’s a thought…

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


I’ve visited Wahaca on a number of occasions but never blogged about it. There is usually the wait for a table to contend with if you choose to visit at a reasonable hour but yesterday Thomas and I head there at around 10 on a wet and windy evening and were seated straight away.

The no bookings policy is slightly irritating and considering their declaration that ‘we believe you should be able to eat whenever you want’ in my opinion they ought to perhaps have a rethink.

The service is usually a bit in your face but this time the waiter was courteous, efficient and non intrusive, as a good waiter should be. We decided to go for the platter for 2 which offers a selection of market style food.

We had this on our first visit here over a year ago and both felt a bit unfulfilled. For £20 it’s certainly good value for money but then we had been disappointed and felt the portions were a little on the measly side.

The new and improved platter provides the following:

Pork Pibil Tacos (pictured at the back). They were so delicious. The pork was juicy and succulent and very rich in flavour, it was falling apart and the Yucatecan marinade (named after a state in Mexico) was smoky in flavour and added an extra zing to the dish.

Also pictured are the Espinacas Tacos with spinach, corn and feta cheese. These were yum but definitely out shined by the pork ones. The tacos were soft, I’d kind of expected them to be hard but was pleasantly surprised. The pork ones in particular bring to mind a sort of Mexican take on a peking duck roll found in Chinese restaurant. But obviously a far superior take on it.

Next came the Smoked Mackerel Tostadas. These were my favourite of the night. The fish was cold which again I had not anticipated but the succulent fish was lightly smoked and not one bit like the smoked mackerel I’m used to. The tomato salsa added a fresh note to this dish, the lettuce and crisp tortilla provided crunch and I found each bite of these to be faultless. I want them now just thinking about them.

Then the Chicken Taquitos arrived, They are deepfried tortillas filled with marinated chicken, topped with tomato salsa and Lancashire cheese. There’s also a creamy sauce drizzled over the top. I felt a bit not fussed about these, they look appealing but tasted just how one might expect a deepfried tortilla to taste, there was nothing notable about them.

The Huitlacoche Quesadillas were by contrast hugely satisfying and came on a plate with the green rice and frijoles. This was the last instalment of the platter and I actually like how the staggered delivery means you’re busy enjoying tucking into one dish to then find your gaze drawn to the latest arrival. It’s all very exciting.

Huitlacoche (or, Mexican Corn Smut as it’s known there, ew!) is quite delicious, here it was used to flavour the combination of South American and British mushrooms and with the oozing melted cheese and all that within the slightly toasted flour tortilla made for a brilliant end to the selection.

The rice was a little on the dry side but the salsas pictured above (served to every table) were put to good use moistening it. The frijoles were delightful, dense and dark and topped with crumbly cheese, much tastier than any black beans I’ve ever tried before.

We rounded things of with Chirros y Chocolate for Thomas,

These doughnuts are wickedly good, crispy and sugary and melt in the mouth in texture. The dark chocolate sauce high in cocoa and perfect with the doughnuts.

I had dessert too, being slightly tipsy from the pre dinner drinks and thinking ‘what the hell’ I opted for the vanilla ice-cream with caramel sauce and toasted pumpkin seeds.

This was creamy and indulgent and worked very well with the doughnuts! I loved this meal, everything about it and the experience. The only downside being my failure to recognise when I’ve had enough wine and instead go down the soft drink route, like Thomas did. The house white is very good though.

Everything tastes so fresh and the sourcing of good quality British ingredients certainly adds to the enjoyment. The Lancashire cheese and the British field mushrooms both fine examples of the benefits of this. Thomasina Myers has a winner here. When I visited for lunch once with Crystal and Em I saw the lady herself grabbing a lunch (she had the Summer Super Salad fyi). With a new branch recently opened at Westfield I can see this fast becoming a chain, without the negative connotations that usually accompany that word!

66 Chandos Place

Wahaca on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Seafood Saturday

When it comes to signature dishes Thomas’ has to be Seafood pasta. It was the first thing he ever cooked for me and I was both wowed and charmed by his culinary abilities.

Having had a very healthy week (I’ve managed to take to Pilates and surprised even myself with my new fitness regime) we decided to go all out on Saturday night. We had a prawn dish for starter which we cooked with garlic, chilli, shallots, cabbage, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika and parsley.

This was served with ample bread for dipping. I find one of the most enjoyable things about mealtimes is seeing all of the components chopped and ready to go. I geekily love this on cookery programmes and this is how our meal looked in the prep stage.

When we first tried the prawns we were not 100% convinced that the combinations worked but the more we ate the more we approved. The initial inspiration for this is a dish we have tried on a number of occasions at Del Parc, the Spanish restaurant across the road from where we live. It was different but still good.

Then, time for the main event. The seafood pasta. We used a combo of scallops and mussels with a sauce made from white wine, cherry tomatoes and crème fraiche. When using a good quality substantial pasta, like thick tagliatelle the sauce sticks to it and makes every mouthful full of flavour. Plenty of sauce leftover to be mopped up with bread is one of the many charms of this dish.

The delicate scallops and fragrant mussels combined with the sauce make for a slightly decadent but hugely satisfying weekend treat. Not every weekend of course but once in a while. I made a white chocolate and passionfruit mousse for dessert but neglected to take photos.