Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Boo in Germany - Bürgerstuben

My recent trip to Germany to visit Thomas' family did not, unfortunately, coincide with Oktoberfest. After I'd sufficiently sulked about this and daydreamed for hours about the meat and the beer that we were missing out on this year, I got over it and more than made do with visiting several traditional Bavarian restaurants instead.

Some of the highlights were dining al fresco in the gardens at Schloss Schleißheim or Schleissheim Palace, a stunning Bavarian castle with incredible grounds, tree lines walkways and spectacular fountains. The restaurant Schloss Oberschleissheim marks the scene of my very first Wiener Schnitzel, here served with sauteed potatoes and a cranberry sauce. There's also more informal dining available at the biergarten. I neglected to take a photo as I was feeling rather delicate following a night out which began at 4pm the previous afternoon at the Englischer Garten in the centre of Munich and ended rather hazily at the curiously named Paradiso Lustbar, fun times.

One of the nicest meals out was at the Bürgerstuben in Garching. Suprisingly not the best burger in Germany but the restaurant at the town conference facility! I've had some great food during previous visits to Germany but this time around I completely fell for the local cuisine of Bavaria, potato dumplings and delicious gravies, there are many similarities to English meat and veg dishes.

One of my faves is Spätzle, at Bürgerstuben I had spinach infused dumplings in a blue cheese sauce, perfect comfort food, typically served in the dish in which it's oven baked. Served with a tomato and onion salad with a tart vinegarette.

Another classic dish available all over the region is Weiner Zweibelrostbraten, translated roughly as onion roast, this is usually in the form of a steak topped with crispy fried onions, here it came served with potatoes but the waitress happily swapped it for Kasespätzle upon request. Service is super friendly and we even had the chance to try some Wies'n beer, the first of the annual brew made for Oktoberfest and often available at local establishments a week before the celebrations commence.

Here diners are also presented with an amuse, we had a mouthful of smoked salmon on a disc of bread. We dined on a Monday evening and the place was full yet the service remained excellent throughout the night.

I also, for the first time, sampled multiple Bavarian desserts, the highlight of which was Kaiserschmarrn or 'Emperors mishmash' which is chunks of sweet batter which has been caramelised and is served with either apple or berry sauce. I also loved the Bavarian Cream which I would liken most to a pannacotta, a set cream with a base of fruit puree.

I cannot wait for my next trip.

85748 Garching
Citizens place 9

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A La Cruz

A couple of Thursday's back I spent an evening celebrating Argentinian beef and wines at A La Cruz. The restaurant is situated just behind Exmouth market and the event took place in their cosy wood panel lined private dining room. The night comprised of a 7 course menu pairing different varieties from Mendoza winery Bodega Septima with different cuts of steak.

Welcome drinks were served next to the impressive fire pit, unique to this venue. A La Cruz owner and head chef John P Rattagan also runs Broadway Market's Buen Ayre where I have also dined recently, blogpost to come. He spoke passionately on the evening about his love of Argentina's culture and flavours having lived there until 1990, his introductions to each course were all too brief for my liking, I wanted to hear more though John was keen for the focus to remain on the wines.

Our first drink was an intro to Septima's brand new sparkling wine giving us a taste of the quality of wines to come. Septima's reds grace the menus of most of London's Argentinian restaurants including both of John's ventures, Santa Maria Del Sur, Garufa and Gaucho.

We were seated and the first course was served, fillet carpaccio with capers and parmesan. This was my favourite dish of the night. The matched wine was Septimo Dia Chardonnay 2008, the sole white offering, it was full bodied and aromatic with strong citrus and vanilla flavours.

Next up was the seared fillet with a mustard and white wine sauce, this was matched to the Septima Noche 2009, a pinot noir. Visually a lighter hue which comes from a briefer colouring using the grape skins late on in the 8 month ageing process. There was a strong cherry flavour. Again the steak was excellent.

I'll be briefer from here on as the wine began to take effect and my notes suffered as a result. Also for fear of this post becoming an essay. Next up was a mini sirloin with salsa criolla and Septima malbec 2009, a darker, elegant smoky red.

Moving on to the Septima Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, a stronger, longer lasting finish, spicier and smokier than the previous examples. There were cubes of ribeye with chimichirri sauce to match the intensity of the wine.

The premium wines of the evening were the Septimo Dias. Grapes from a higher altitude offering more character and depth of flavour. The Malbec 2008 made the gold list in the 2010 Sommelier Awards and we were each given a bottle to take away with us. The steak match for this took the form of rump mini sandwiches with ciabatta and rocket.

The final beef dish was flank with a cherry tomato and rocket salad. This was completely overcooked which was a bit of a disappointment though I was full anyway, the wine kept flowing, this time the Septimo Dia Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 peppery with blackcurrant notes.

Last up was the flank of lamb cooked on the pit served with mint sauce, new potatoes and carrots. This was almost sickly sweet, lamb's not my favourite meat and after all the beef it seemed an odd end to the menu but the cooking method is spectacular and I'm glad to have had the chance to try it.

The last wine to sample was the Icon wine Septima Gran Reserva 2008 which is floral and sweet. All wines sampled (save the new sparkling variety) are available at the newly re-opened Wine Rack stores across the South East and London for less than £15, very reasonable, I'll definitely be seeking them out.

Should you wish to sample some of these pairings, A La Cruz and Septima are launching a special tasting menu on the first Monday of each month. Beginning November 1st for £36.50 you'll get 3 cuts and a glass of the Septima Malbec.

Thanks to John Rattagan and Relish PR for hosting the evening. I dined as a guest of A La Cruz and Septima

A La Cruz
42 Northampton Road

A la Cruz on Urbanspoon

Monday, 20 September 2010

Hix Selfridges

Shopping on Oxford Street can be an arduous experience. On a Saturday afternoon you virtually need to be wearing a suit of armour to negotiate the crowds. We did this a couple of weeks ago (brave it that is, not don body plates) as I was buying a new handbag to replace my stolen one :(

Weaving your way along the street sure works up an appetite so once I'd selected my new prized accessory we head for Hix Champagne Bar. We requested seats up at the bar on the restaurant side of the establishment and ordered a bottle of Moet & Chandon (Epernay) Brut Imperial and a dozen rock oysters (again, not the correct month for natives).

Red and green Tabasco's were offered alongside the standard lemon and vinaigrette. These were Cornish oysters the waiter informed us, a helpful friendly chap, he later gave us a free strawberry daiquiri each because we were the customers who had been seated longest at his bar. Perhaps a ruse to get us to buy another bottle the cynic in me thought....it was nice nonetheless.

We also had the chorizo with romesco sauce for just under £6, this was excellent, we ordered another after devouring the first portion right away. This followed by a loaf of warm bread with butter and we were set for an evening of boozing at The Lock Tavern with some friends visiting from Australia.

I really enjoyed the couple of hours we spent here, fellow diners were an interesting mix of families, groups of friends and couples, snacks and main meals are available, or just drinks of course, in the bar area. Both sections are accessed by a grand winding staircase leading from the beauty hall and the venue overlooks the ground floor of the store. Perfect for people watching. I'm certain that I wouldn't have head here were it not for the planned shopping trip though, much better to relax and dine away from the somewhat frantic atmosphere of a department store. That said, I was impressed with the quality of the food, drink and service, shoppers seeking replenishment could do far worse.

Hix Selfridges
400 Oxford St


Hix Restaurant & Champagne Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Wright Brothers

A few weekends ago, fools that we are, we visited Borough Market, on a Saturday afternoon. Needed a rest pretty much as soon as we got there and went for a celebratory oysters and champagne treat at Wright Brothers following some good work related news.

We went for a selection of half a dozen rock oysters (our visit being at the tail end of August shortly before natives are at their best) consisting of 2 Speciale de claire (French), 2 Carlingford Lough (Irish) and 2 Dorset rocks (British). These were served with the usual accompaniments of a lemon wedge and diced shallots in red wine vinegar.

Our preference from the selection was the French, far right in the picture. These were visually very different, a deeper shell and a fatter mollusc, the depth of flavour was incredible, they were very creamy and we were off to an amazing start, the Irish and English varieties just didn't live up these.

The selection was reasonably priced at £12. we also ordered a couple of glasses of rose prosecco, and some lovely rye bread, sourdough and ginger bread was also presented.

Browsing the menu online I am really looking forward to my next visit to sample some of the other offerings, I really liked the relaxed yet luxurious vibe of the place and note with interest they're soon to open a new restaurant on Kingly Street, that bit closer to work.

11 Stoney Street
Borough Market


Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House on Urbanspoon