Monday, 28 September 2009


In search of the best steak in London I felt that it was high time I visited Goodman, Mayfair. I was in a bit of a quandry, would it be burger or steak?? Decisions. I have put in more hours in search of the best burger, I don't often have steak, clearly at Goodman this is what it's all about. It had to be steak.

Saturday afternoon, we're the only visible diners, I suspect there are others lurking towards the rear of the restaurant. 3 of us went with the majority of fellow bloggers (having read the many other posts devoted to Goodman) and had the 350G USDA grain fed New York Strip Steak. Thomas had the Goodman ribeye.

The New York Strip, medium rare, was perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour with an amazing char. Compared to the ribeye this had more taste but was a little tougher, Thomas' ribeye was slightly over cooked, he asked for medium rare and it was more medium. We ate without talking, relishing each mouthful, trying first without sauce then dousing it in the contents of the little individual silver boats.

The selection of sauces sampled, bernaise and stilton were impeccable, the latter not too pungeant therefore overpowering the meat as stilton sauce all to often does. I adored the creamed spinach but was less keen on the chips which left a rather acrid taste in my mouth for hours afterwards. In any case, not nice. The waiter did suggest that we needn't order 1 each though, that 2 between 4 would likely be enough, and it was, more than enough. I also tried the sauteed button mushrooms which were good.

The waiter was very attentive, all staff were very friendly and the place soon filled up as the afternoon wore on. I had a very good bloody mary and there was ample tap water provided. I rather like the decor and the background music. I felt a tad too full for dessert but the boys each had a slice of New York cheesecake which I had a couple of bites of and it was really very good. One of the best I've tried.

Okay, I have a couple of gripes but this is THE best steak I've had in London, and my companions agreed. The set lunch menu the website claims is available between 12 and 5pm. Upon requesting to see the menu the waiter set off to find it then returned saying in fact it was no longer possible. It was about 4:30. Fine. Perhaps as a result of this request, we were not treated to the display of cuts available as all subsequent arrivals were.

Following the meal we took a walk, or rather crawl around Mayfair, and came across this charming place, looking like something from the set of Harry Potter.

This afternoon epitomised living in London for me. I adore this city and the culinary delights we have on offer to us. It also reminds me that I need to explore more.

26 Maddox St

Goodman on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


A week or 2 ago I joined a few fellow bloggers for an evening at Rules, London's oldest restaurant. Working just around the corner from Maiden Lane I have often wandered by yet never visited. The exterior I feel somewhat belies the magnificence within. I thought it looked a bit stuffy, like a lunch meeting for suits kind of a venue.

The beauty of it is that it can be that, but it is so much more too. I genuinely think there is something for everyone at Rules. Head Chef Richard Sawyer's broad menu offers such a diversity of dishes and the restaurant is steeped in history. There is a real special occasion feel to the place, a beautiful dining room and recently refurbished bar area upstairs where we began and rounded off the evening.

I was not aware that my fellow diners that night had already decided they would all have grouse, on Simon's (Dos Hermanos) recommendation. I wanted to try something different once I learned this but the euphoria all round upon devouring the little birds (they really were devoured too, see Chris' write up if you don't believe me) made me feel I too ought to have sampled this, owing to it being peak season and all. Yet the quality of the dishes I had were similarly outstanding, I'm determined to return very soon, if not for the grouse then for the Sunday roast or one of the many pies on the menu.

Rules have their own estate (Lartington Hall Park) upon which they rear their own game, or rather Phillip and Dona Morgan do. You can read all about this on the website, but it is clear that there are many established relationships between the people at Rules, combining to provide the diner with a memorable experience and, in my opinion, a result as close to culinary perfection as I have ever sampled.

My starter that night was the dressed Dorset crab with lemon mayonnaise. For me this was a marvel, an amazingly light yet hearty dish, exquisite in both taste and presentation, served on a bed of ice in the shell was a deliciously rich and meaty selection of white crab meat, lifted by the citrus hit, with a layer of finely diced egg yolk flanked beautifully by layers of delicious piped dark meat.

For main course I had the special of fillet of lamb, sliced on a bed of asparagus, mushrooms and baby onions. The meat was buttery in texture, full of flavour and the accompanying vegetables were crunchy and a fine accompaniment to the meat. We ate in silence as my companions were rendered speechless by the quality of the game. The scent of the grouse was intoxicating.

We sampled some good wine at the table but where drinks are concerned at Rules, it's all about the talents on display upstairs. We met at the bar where mixologist Brian Silva entertained us and we struggled to tear ourselves away from him to take a seat and enjoy the food. We skipped dessert in order to return and enjoy some more of his great tales and incredible cocktails and after dinner aperitifs. Having briefly left to work at The Connaught, Silva returned to Rules setting up the new look bar here which really is a must see.

I sampled a heady mix of expertly combined alcohol, I started off with a Rules Sling, Brian prides himself on using each and every bottle he has behind the bar and watching for around an hour I can vouch for that. Returning later on in the evening we had some excellent Colton Basset stilton paired with Pedro Ximines sherry, recommended by Brian. Without doubt the finest sherry I have ever tasted.

In all, this was one of the best meals I've ever had, I shall return to Rules on a regular basis, it's not cheap, I spent around £80 but we had an abundance of food and drink and when it's of this quality and the evening is as enjoyable as this, it's what restaurant dining is all about. The knowledge and love of the people behind Rules is infectious and I certainly feel the need to spread the word.

35 Maiden Lane

Rules on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bull and Last

I first read of this place on Gourmet Chick's blog and have wandered by many a time on the way to Hampstead Heath, it's a short walk from where I live.

Then, when Simon of Dos Hermanos organized the most excellent evening, Dining With Dos Hermanos, at chef Ollie Pudney's highly lauded and Time Out nominated best new pub in London (they were robbed) I thought it was high time I returned and posted my thoughts on the venue.

Incidentally, the Dine with Dos Hermanos event was a triumph, my first time attending one of Simon's gatherings, and the food was remarkable. The mutton and the trifle were my stand out dishes and it will always be remembered by me as the first time I tried (and actually quite enjoyed) calves brain.

Anyhow, I returned for dinner at The Bull and Last with Thomas and we started things off with one of Pudney's fantastic scotch eggs. Explaining what these are to Thomas was fun, they don't have them in Germany, Thomas thought it tasted like breakfast! Scotch eggs, as I remember them from childhood - a picnic essential or Christmas evening buffet stalwart - are horrible, rock solid and fairly tasteless morsels. They have seen a gastropub resurrection over the last few years and with succulent, well seasoned, moist pork meat surrounding a still runny and richly golden egg, it's easy to see why, with a little care and attention, these have become a mainstay bar snack.

To start I opted for the steak tartare. This was my favourite of the appetizers we sampled Dining with Dos Hermanos and I was keen to try more than a mouthful and was very happy to see it on the menu. The meat was well seasoned with a nice amount of capers. This was served with a couple of pickles and some toasted sourdough.

I enjoyed this but it was not as good as the canape. This is due to the egg yolk to meat ratio I think. The canape version had less meat and still a whole egg yolk, see Kerri and Ben's fabulous pictures of the evening (including the tartare) here. As a starter I felt less impressed visually than I was with Monday night miniature offering, they really were beautiful but the taste was the same. I would have liked more egg yolk is all. The yolk used for the canape was a quail yolk, this offering was from a hens egg I believe.

Thomas had the fish selection to start, a mixture of various bite sized pieces of fish fried in a light batter, served with aioli and a wedge of lemon. This was fine but neither of us were as impressed with the first course as we had been with the bar snack.

The downstairs dining room at The Bull and Last is the bar, all tables are available to reserve for dinner making his more of a foodie than a drinkers establishment, those wanting only a drink may use the tables until the diners arrive which is nice. The kitchen is visible (part of it at least) to the right of the main bar. This did mean that it got very hot in the room which made it slightly uncomfortable, as did the air being thick with smoke at one point, we left that evening with our clothes and hair reeking of smoke.

For my main course I followed Simon's advice and had the fish and chips. Gourmet Chick claims these to be the very best chips in London and I concur that they are indeed up there. I am yet to try those at Quo Vadis, many claim these reign supreme.

I was a little disappointed by the size of the battered fish but that's the greedy person in me. There was more than enough and the accompanying tartare and mushy peas were every bit as good as the chips. The large gherkin was quite brilliant too. This was a great take on a classic pub dish.

Thomas had the veal for main which came with beautiful girolles, wilted spinach, a rich meaty sauce, all topped with shavings of parmesan. The meat was delightfully tender obviously the star of the dish. Pudney certainly knows his meat and how to cook it. There is certainly due care and attention paid to the sourcing of quailty ingredients and their subsequent preparation at The Bull and Last, something which should guarantee success for Pudney, this is the second of his outposts in London, the first, The Prince of Wales in Putney, I am keen to visit.

We both felt there was room for dessert, I had the chocolate brownie sundae and Thomas had the pannacotta. Both were exquisite, I didn't snap these as I was feeling a bit tiddly taking full advantage of the fine ales and ciders available by the pump. We also had a lovely glass of champagne each, a fine way to end the meal.

There were some downsides to the experience on this occasion, we were sat right next to the kitchen, a negative not only due to the fact that we left smelling lightly charred, but we seemed to be sat in a corridor for the waiting staff. Despite this we often had trouble getting their attention. This in stark contrast to the service on prior visits, this was a busy Friday night. With a couple of tweaks The Bull and Last can become a wonderful venue, all the right ingredients are there. I would rate the evening Dining with Dos Hermanos a 9.5/10.

Bull and Last
168 Highgate Road
Kentish Town

Bull & Last on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Cafe Renoir

Thomas and I are buying a new kitchen. Enough of the dodgy old electric hobbed cooker and leaky sink we've tolerated for some time now. An early Saturday morning appointment at Magnet Kentish Town left us starving and stranded in a virtual culinary wasteland.

So hungry were we in fact that we made the unwise choice of eating lunch at Café Renoir. We both opted for the 'anglais' club sandwich a combination of chicken, avocado and tomato. I had granary bread and Thomas had white.

The bread slashed the inside of my mouth leaving it sore for days afterwards. Maybe I ought to have used the knife and fork, but club sandwiches, like burgers, are all about eating with the hands.

The filling of the sandwich was chopped small and pre mixed, a glut of mayonnaise meaning that little else was discernibe, a mushy wet mess. I've noticed this place only because I like people watching when on the bus and this is on my route, the colours make it stand out and it's always pretty busy, I can't imagine why. Kentish Town must have better to offer than this? Red (Really Excellent Dining - see what they did there?!) is similarly dismal.

£8 for this is a crime.

Cafe Renoir
Kentish Town

Cafe Renoir on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Beef Rendang

I made beef rendang last week having seen this and this post about the Dinner Diary and Food Urchin versions and also seeing Rick Stein make it on his Far Eastern Odyssey.

It's a labour of love really, roasting the seeds, making the paste, browning the meat, then waiting.....even for more than 24 hours in some cases though sadly I lack the patience when it come to food to leave anything for more than the required cooking time. This was made and eaten on the same day, served wirth brown rice and a wedge of lemon. It was deeply flavoured and spicy, 5 chillis, seeds and all went into the paste but this is certainly about heat. The amounts here served 2 of us, for lunch and dinner but we are very greedy. I effectively doubled Kerri and Stephen's recipe adding a little more here and there.

For the curry paste:

1 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 sticks lemongrass
6 garlic cloves
5 red chillis
2 onions
zest of 1 lime
thumbsize piece of ginger root

1 kg braising beef
2 tins coconut milk
2 tbs vegetable oil
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp tamarind paste
zest and juice of half a lemon

So I started by toasting the seeds for a few minutes then whizzing together in my handy little chopper all the indredients for the paste.

Then add the oil to a large pan and brown the meat. Once all sides are browned, add the paste, the lemon zest, the tamarind paste, salt and 3/4s of the coconut milk. Allow this to cook on a low heat for 2 hours. Adding a little more coconut milk if necessary and at the last minute add the lemon juice.

The consistency should be thick and mud like. This is where it benefits from leaving in the fridge overnight. Serve with rice, fresh sliced red chilli, coriander and a wedge of lemon.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Boo in Paris - Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

On our final day in Paris, feeling more than a little sore headed following a late night Chez Jeanette we set off for brunch via Marché Bastille. This market is Jo's local, open every Sunday, it also happens to be David Lebovitz', here is what he has to say about it.

The sheer size of it is amazing and the variety of food on offer is remarkable. Here is one stall with enormous pans full of traditional beef bourgninon and paella. The aromas and buzzing atmosphere of the market were enthralling, had I not felt so fragile I would happily have spent the entire day wandering about there.

Finding Rose Bakery closed (quelle suprise) we head over to another market, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, to have brunch. This market is much smaller in size and less traditional in that they offer a selection of Japanese, African and Greek cuisines. We ate in a small corner of the market at a restaurant named L'Estaminet du Marche. This place prides itself on being unfussy and traditional. They are well known for their Sunday brunch.

The concept of brunch seems an entirely different affair to what it is perceived as here or in the US. The menu offered a meat or fish brunch. I went for the meat option. What arrived was a plate with a hell of a lot going on, to be honest it was a bit much for me in my hungover state but I quite like the concept of there being a little bit of everything.

To be honest this was a bit struggle for me to eat with a dicky tum but looking back the selection is great and so typically French, I am so glad to have tried it. The cheeses were mighty and pungent and possibly not the wisest place to begin. There was salami, brawn, salad, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, fruit salad and a scone! It took me some time to work my way slowly through this and about 5 baskets of baguette but looking back I loved it. It's good to not have to limit oneself to meat or cheese, sweet or savoury when ordering but for veggie Jo, yet again there was little for her on the menu. Some cheese and baguette.

Paris resident Tori had the fish brunch and cleaned up, she had previosuly been sceptical about the French take on brunch but is now a convert. Jamie had the most adventurous offering on the menu, a tripe sausage, or Andouillette. This was served with salad and new potatoes.

It was obscured from my view thankfully by the salad leaves, I think the sight of it would have pushed me over the edge but Jamie seemed more than satisfied with it. I would like to have tried it were I feeling better.

Brunch and foodie conversation over (they have horse and donkey butchers in Paris, who knew?) we head out into the market and picked up a few bottles of Beaujolais (wine of choice for the weekend) for a very reasonable €7 each.

Another notable find over the weekend was a fig and walut boursin, correct me if I'm wrong but I'm not sure we get that here, I've never seen it. The French do know their cheese. I loved this weekend in Paris and am itching to get back there as soon as possible.

L'Estaminet du Marche
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges
39, Rue de Bretagne
75003 Paris