Thursday, 27 September 2012

Whitecross Street Market

I think I've mentioned that I miss working in Soho.  It's upsetting really.  That said, there are some perks to working near Old Street, like being able to walk to work and having Whitecross Street Market on my doorstep come lunchtime.

On my first day, a colleague took me there and I was really impressed with the choice available, even on a Monday.  Things do tend to liven up towards the end of the week but there's a multitude of choice all week long.  Many of the stalls have mega queues, but they move quickly, and if taken as a sign of the quality, they're probably a good thing.

Here are some of the things I've tried.

Green Goat
I've loved both lunches I've grabbed from the Green Goat van, it's the dark green one (the light green van, a little further South down the street belongs to Luardos).

The double sardine fish-o-fillet burger (£5), 2 sardines served in a granary bap served with slaw and beetroot ketchup was delicious.  It's served in some parchment paper, and is a bit messy to handle (think sardine hands all afternoon, I had to go and buy some wet wipes) but the important thing is that it's delicious.  The beetroot ketchup is a lovely idea, nice purple hue to it. 

These guys get their fish in daily from Cornwall and it really shines through, the quality and freshness of the fish is what makes these dishes. 

I would have to say I preferred the Cornish pollack which came on a bed of roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes with rocket.  Again, the freshness of the piece of fish really made the dish, Green Goat are offering a really healthy but filling alternative to the norm come lunchtime. £6, but you get what you pay for.

I clocked that they're doing a fish curry at the moment, think that's a must have.

Hoxton Beach
I tend to find falafel a bit dull to be perfectly honest but I'd read good things about Hoxton Beach's balls.  I went for a small (3 falafs) wrap with hummus and aubergine, frankly I can't see why anyone would turn down those optional extras.  There's a large available with 5 falafals and these are such excellent value.  I've really craved more since I sampled this, a nice selection of crunchy salad gets added, then some ripe sliced tomatoes and chilli and tahini sauces.  Also jalapenos, if you're so inclined, I was.  It started raining as soon as I walked away from the stall, but I couldn't resist ripping it open and tucking in under the safely of my brolly.  It was so good.  Mmmm.

Some delectable German sausages are up for grabs on Thursday and Friday at the Southern end of the street.  For only £3.50 you can get a traditional German sausage, in a bun topped with sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup and crispy onions.  They're also selling a load of traditional German sauces and snacking sausages like Landjäger which make me happy because they remind me of hiking up mountains in Bavaria, good times.

Can't wait to try these guys out, and I thought leaving Soho might be good for my waistline.....
Eat my Pies
The Roast of Sherwood
The Wild Game Company
Wholefood Heaven

Monday, 24 September 2012

Boo in Barcelona - Cal Pep

I've just got back from a 6 day trip to Barcelona and the place I was most hyped about visiting was Cal Pep.  We stayed in the Born district of the city and our hotel was a convenient 5 minute walk from Cal Pep.

They're closed on Saturday night, all day Sunday and Monday lunchtimes so be smart and arrive early, or expect to queue.  You can book for tables of 4 or more, but the front area of the restaurant, where it's the most fun, is reserved for diners in pairs who haven't booked and seating is stools around a long bar which overlooks the kitchen.

We had to queue for around 30 minutes, think Barrafina in terms of food and dining experience.  We drank some estrella whilst we waited and observed the show.  This is a tourist destination, and people seemed very confused and unfamiliar with the queuing system. 

Once we were seated we opted for a selection of tapas, chosen for us by the waiter. Here's what we had:-

Pan con tomate (€2.30) Classic Spanish tomato bread

Llangueta ou (€13.10) Deepfried tiny fish with a fried egg chopped into it

Cloises (€13.35)  Clams with ham and a white wine sauce, my dish of the night

Tartar de tonyina (€15.80)  Tuna tartar with crunchy toasted bread and sesame seeds

Truita trempera (€6.90)  Chorizo and potato tortilla, seriously good

The bill with a few top ups of the estrella came to just short of €70 which I felt was a lot given that we only had 5 dishes.  What I do love about the place though is the atmosphere, it feels really fun to be here.  The service is merely adequate, given the required quick turnaround, it's not a place to linger and at times it feels like a bit of a factory, but the food is good and I've been thinking about the sauce with those clams ever since I tried it.  Not as good as I'd hoped it would be but I'd definitely recommend it and would certainly return.

Cal Pep
Plaća de les Olles, 8
08003 Barcelona

Thursday, 6 September 2012


I was pleased to read the early positive reviews of Bubbledogs& last week and happily led the charge there at 10pm after an evening of free gin with work, dragging along some willing colleagues (including Art, who was more than willing, to say the least!)

There were doubters among us, but they were charmed, as was I, by the sweet service and the niche appeal of the place.  Hot dogs and champagne, hardly a match made in heaven but husband and wife team Sandia Chang, managing the restaurant, and James Knappett, heading up the kitchen, have really hit upon a good thing here.

The dogs, a choice of 13 toppings available, are satisfying and interesting.  Cries of "this is the best hotdog I've ever had" could be heard from many a gushing diner.  I have to say, for me, I expected to be more wowed by the actual sausage, but as I said, I had sunk a few g&ts.  I'll need to go back sober to try more.  They are 100% British pork or beef plus there's a veggie option,

I knew before arriving that I had to have the sloppy joe (£7.50) and the New Yorker (£6.50).  Our dogs came in 2 batches about 10 minutes apart, and the table was completely covered each time.  It was a wonderful sight.

The New Yorker, served with sauerkraut or NY street cart onions or both, was simple and impressive.  The sauerkraut is tangy and crunchy and the NY style onions have that buttery softness.  The bun is perfect.

The sloppy joe, my favourite on the night (although the k-dawg was also a big hit) comes topped with a helping of chilli, diced onions and cheese.  I love that the cheese is not melted.

We ordered a bottle of the Francoise Bedel, Pinot Meunier.  I'd never heard of it before, much like most of the champagnes on the menu.  They are grower champagnes, with a 'terroir' leaning, infact there was not one I was familiar with, which is exciting.  They range from £6-£11.50 a glass and bottles start at £32.  Ours was a £56 offering from the 'a lick of chalk and stones' section of the menu, as in it was dry.

I LOVED the tots too.  Little crispy potato croquette type things, think hash browns minus the onion.  Sides also include coleslaw and sweet potato fries for £3.50 or less.  As they become more established, I'll be interested to see how the menu develops with new dog options and perhaps daily specials.

The overwhelming feeling one is left with upon leaving, is that the idea, whilst gimmicky is quite brilliant, and it's being eaten up, there were reports of horrendous queues throughout the first weekend.  We had no trouble walking in and sitting straight down though.  Unfortunately for us, the late sitting meant we couldn't order more, as plenty of us would have gone in for a 3rd dog.  Or dessert, but there are none currently, coming soon we were told.  I loved the service, I loved the environment, I loved the champagne and who doesn't love a good hotdog? I can't wait to get behind that curtain come mid October, the & in the name referring to the chefs table which seats less than 20 people offering a daily changing menu, served up by the main man himself, James Knappett, booking now.

70 Charlotte St


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