Friday, 26 February 2010

The Old Dairy

Sunday lunch with John and Sue, we strolled to Crouch End in the almost rain, not a long walk from N19 but not a particularly pleasant one.

The building is, as it says on the tin, an old dairy and it's quite a sight to behold from the exterior, a lot of brick, large oval windows, in all a very attractive looking venue. It's a gastropub at heart with wooden tables aplenty but a more formal dining area to the rear with dark leather booths.

The roasts at The Old Dairy looked impressive as we saw them being ferried around the place by the young, friendly and rather trendy waiting staff and they are reasonably priced at £13. When we were settled and ready to order the kitchen had temporarily closed due to an excess of orders. The waiter came over to our table about 10 minutes later and took our order, not too much of a problem but then the same thing happened when we went to order dessert. I think they would do better to take the orders anyway and explain that there might be a bit of a wait. The food arrived very quickly and announcing that the kitchen is overwhelmed is not the best way to approach a busy service imho.

Anyhow, when the food arrived it was fine hearty pub grub. I went for the roast lamb, Thomas for chicken with chorizo and John and Sue both had the beef. I was asked whether I'd like the lamb pink or well cooked. I asked for pink and it wasn't which was disappointing. I thought the roast potatoes could certainly have done with a bit longer in the oven. The veg was nice, savoy cabbage and green beans retained their crunch and there was a carrot and suede mash, a welcome addition. The Yorkshire pudding, which can be such a treat, was dry and hollow and there wasn't enough gravy.

The others did slightly better, the beef was cooked as requested and Thomas liked the chorizo. He did note that there was a lack of seasoning and I agree that the taste was a little bland. Better was my cheeseboard, a selection of Cornish yarg, Cashel blue and Somerset brie with quince jelly, red grapes and oat cakes. I happily munched my way through this (with a lot of assistance from Thomas) for a good half an hour. A very generous portion with a good choice of cheeses. Not cheap at £9.50 but worth it. Other desserts sampled were sticky toffee pudding and the apple crumble, both were consumed swiftly with no complaints.

I will note that I was very ill following this meal, not immediately following but in the middle of the night and all of Monday. It could have been a bug but this seems to happen to me after pub roast dinners, see this post. Is it possible I am allergic? They are very rarely any good so I shall stick to home cooking from now on I think and possibly visit the Old Dairy for drinks.

The Old Dairy
1-3 Crouch Hill


Old Dairy on Urbanspoon

Friday, 19 February 2010


One night last week following a few after work pints, Thomas and I found ourselves in Soho in want of some eats. Something quick, something filling, not too pricey and obviously yummy, Mooli's fit the bill perfectly.

I've been wanting to visit for some time now to try my very first Indian wrap and have read nothing but praise. I saw why when we were received by the very friendly and helpful folk working there, I asked what was recommended and got the special, goat mooli and a soup as it was a bitterly cold evening and this was to be dinner. Thomas ordered the soup too and a chicken mooli.

Apparently I look like a goat kind of a girl, I took this to be a good thing because I found the wrap quite delicious. An ample amount of juicy and tender goat meat with a generous and fresh salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion and coriander. The wrap itself is a roti and made with wholemeal flour, I really liked the taste and it held up well, supporting the filling without any breakages. There was also potato adding bulk and the heat of the thing was just what the doctor ordered on a nasty February evening.

The soup too was great, lightly spiced, with lentils. We had poppadoms with this and wolfed it down hungrily in silence. The decor of the place is invitingly vibrant and the Soho location is ideal for me, the lunch deal is very tempting and with so much of the healthy stuff in each wrap they are pretty good for you too.

Thomas's chicken wrap was served with a mint and coriander chutney, mixed leaf salad and sliced apple. Each wrap also comes with two Mooli's chutneys, we got green chili and tomato.

All this and a chocolate brownie came to less than £15, a bargain. I found this to be sufficient for dinner, Thomas didn't unfortunately, and popped in for a slice of pizza at Addagio on the way home. I also had a nibble and found it to be very good, a super crispy base and great tangy topping of cherry tomatoes. I must return and sample other varieties. And I shall definitely be returning to Mooli's. I'm also loving their tweets!

50 Frith Street
Soho, W1

Mooli's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

J Sheeky Oyster Bar

I've had champagne and oysters at The J Sheekey Oyster Bar before and last week couldn't resist returning to celebrate some good news at work.

This time Thomas and I opted for Plateau de Fruits de Mer for 2 which was an incredibly gluttonous amount of food. I ate my way through most of it, out eating Thomas by a good 15 minutes. I just could not see such fresh and delicious shellfish going to waste.

The top layer of the platter had half a lobster, a whole devon cock crab and a dozen oysters. I loved the extravagance, the envious glances from fellow diners and the accompanying prosecco.

The lower layer of the platter was brimming with Dublin Bay and Atlantic prawns, mussels, clams, cockles and whelks.

I adore the old school feel of the Oyster Bar, deep red velvet curtains and comfortable booths providing the backdrop, tables topped with super shiny silver and very attentive and suave waiters tending to your every need. We sat at the bar where one can observe the skilled seafood chefs doing their thing.

For dessert we shared a rhubarb crumble which was very good indeed, just the right amount of tartness to the fruit and the most wonderful vanilla custard I have ever tasted.

I think they mostly cater here for pre and post theatregoers, the St Martin's Court location ideal for many of the West End shows. The neighbouring restaurant, established in 1986 is a better venue for a longer stay, read my thoughts on the main room here

31 St Martin's Court
Covent Garden

J Sheekey on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Wet Fish Cafe

I was invited by Andre, Owner of The Wet Fish Cafe, to attend one of his supperclub nights. Come Monday the restaurant closes and once a month caters for locals, friends and guests (and anyone else who might care to come along) on 2 long communal tables.

I rolled up on a chilly night to the beautiful Hampstead setting, slightly early but welcomed by the waiting team, given a drink and told I could sit anywhere. It was slightly daunting at first, I seemed to be the only solo diner but Andre appeared for a chat and I soon sat down and must say I met some great and friendly folk with whom it was a pleasure to spend the evening.

Seated just to my left was Victoria Curatolo and her sister, from Villa Tonino, a family estate in the Marsala region of Sicily, who provided the wine matches for the meal as well as an introduction to each.

To start things off we had a chilled starter of crab with avocado and a red pepper sauce. This was very delicate, I love crab and the mellow smoothness of the avocado paired with the slight chilli kick to the sauce. All combined together very well and the heat didn't over power the crab meat. (Excuse the dark photos, lighting was very ambient!)

The wine match was the Grillo, 2008, white, with a fairly dry and crisp finish, great alongside the starter. Victoria explained that their estate was primarily producing marsala up until 30 or so years ago when they branched into table wines. The Grillo, one of Sicily's most popular grapes is a perfect match for a fish dish, Andre explained that this time around the supperclub dishes were selected specifically to complement the wine, previous events focused on the food first.

The main course was quite brilliant and everyone was in agreement that it was the best dish on the night. The wine, "Baglio Curatolo," a Nero d'Avola, 2006, was a full bodied red with a smoky note and a hint of spice. It was served alongside beef fillet with pink peppercorn sauce and aligot. The beef was incredibly tender and the accompanying peppercorns were almost sweet in flavour. I loved the aligot, a creamy mashed potato with garlic and cheese.

This was an indulgent dish, full of flavour and soft on the palate, very comforting and once again the wine enhanced the flavours of the dish perfectly. During the evening the atmosphere was relaxed and buzzing, everybody seemed to be enjoying the event and the company of the good people of West Hampstead.

For dessert we were each served a slice of almond tart with raspberries and mascarpone which was warm and creamy with a delicate pastry. Yet again, great with the wine from Victoria, at last we could sample the speciality of Villa Tonino, their Marsala Superiore Riserva.

In the past I have not been a huge fan of Marsala wine(though I am an advocate for its use in cooking) but I was completely blown away by the sweet nutty flavours, the caramel and dried fruit notes mixing dreamily with the pudding. I now love marsala and was glad to receive a much welcome top up! Victoria also brought with her some sesame seed biscuits which it is customary to drink with Marsala in Sicily, they were also a fine coupling and can be dunked like biscotti.

The evening had flown by and my cab arrived at 10:30 sharp, I was sad to be one of the first to leave but not before snapping up a bottle of that Nero d'Avola, one of the nicest reds I've had in a long while.

If a regular evening at The Wet Fish Cafe is anything like this, I'd be more than happy to return very soon.

Check out a video of the evening here!

The Wet Fish Cafe
242 West End Lane
West Hampstead

I dined as a guest of The Wet Fish Cafe and received a complimentary meal with tasting glasses of wine from Villa Tonino

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