Wednesday, 31 July 2013

July Round Up

Hanna's Korean tacos are really special.  I remember trying her rice pudding at We Feast back in November and being seriously impressed with the flavours she'd got going on.  It's next level stuff with these tacos, just look at how pretty they are.  I've sampled these, pulled pork belly ribs and braise bulgogi ox cheek tacos, 2 for £6, at We Feast at Brick Lane Yard and just last weekend at Street Feast in Dalston Yard.

You can also catch Hanna at her Zainichi supper club event this weekend where she'll be cooking an offal based menu alongside masterchef 2011 winner Tim Anderson.  Tickets are still available, snap them up, it's going to be great.  Rooftop and everything!

Bleeker St Burgers
I tried the cheeseburger with sweet potato fries from these guys at Street Feast too, cooked medium rare served with American cheese, lettuce and mustard.  They have some awesome sounding dishes, have heard great things about the blue (cheese) burger and the atomic fries.  Burger and fries cost around £9.

Dirty Burger
Staying on the burger theme, the recent spat of American imports, Shake Shack and Five guys, inspired me to try some home grown offerings that I'd been wanting to check out.  I recently took a trip down the road from my place to Dirty Burger in Kentish Town. 

They are not kidding with the name, we ate this sitting on the pavement outside for as dirty an experience as possible.  Things got messy.  No interior shot, but here it is safely wrapped up in it's paper.  The crinkly fries were brilliant.  I do love a crinkle.  Perhaps something to do with this being the tail end of a 3 day burger bender, but I was a bit over it before it began.  My fault though and I'll definitely be back to give them another go and to try Chicken Shop and Pizza East on the neighbouring site.  Cheeseburger is the only option (£5.50) chips are crinkle or onion (£3) and it's all rather fun.  Go in the warmer months though, it's literally like you're eating in the shed in the garden.

And, just to be clear, that is not my coke, I hate coke.

Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar
Navajo Joe's has relaunched as Joe's Southern Kitchen on the same site on King Street in Covent Garden.  I was lucky enough to be invited to a blogger preview event on the 4th of July to sample some of the new American inspired menu.  Highlights included beer can chicken (£24.95), recommended for 2-3 to share,

Braised beef brisket chilli cups, soft corn tacos, diy loading and squirting of the sour cream is a nice touch but possibly for preview only (£5.95),  and the key lime pie dessert, bottom right below.   Unsure of cost, it's not listed on the website, but it was great.  The girls next to us thought there was something off with the shortbread but I liked it.  Crunchy topping and tart citrussy bottom, it's everything I want in a pud.

The guys working there seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the revamp and were keen to recommend things to us and to hear our feedback.  Absolutely appalling mac & cheese though, wrong on so many levels that I was lost for words but the chicken was really good, as was the beef short rib.

Le Gavroche
Finally, not only did I have my birthday meal at Le Gavroche, but I also met Michel Roux Jnr, who must be the nicest man in food.  God love him.  Highlights of Le Gav were the cheese trolley and the cheese trolley.  Ha.  It's epic.

Other highlights were the octopus carpaccio, made even better because it arrived just after I'd spoken to Noyl who was stepping off the ferry at Manly beach in Oz,  Happy days.  

We had the tasting menu priced at £180 with matching wines, it's not cheap but it was a special occasion.  31, ouch.  We were in the last sitting of the day so it felt a little rushed towards the end, I only had 1 sip of the last wine and we were the last people to leave.  If you're going, go earlier.   Lovely crockery and brilliantly salty butter balls.  Think we were a bit rowdier than the typical Le Gav diner, but they were ever so gracious about it. 

Catch Hanna at at Kerb, check twitter for details weekly.

Bleeker St Burger
Also regularly at Kerb but check website for regular updates.

Dirty Burger
79 Highgate Road
Kentish Town
NW5 (woo!)

Dirty Burger on Urbanspoon

Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar
34 King Street
Covent Garden
I dined as a guest of Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar

Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Le Gavroche
43 Upper  Brook Street
7/10 - it's all about that cheeseboard. 

Le Gavroche on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Opera Tavern

I've been meaning to eat at Opera Tavern, part of the Salt Yard group, since it's opening  2011.  2 things brought it to the top of my must visit list this month, eating one of their signature iberico burgers at Taste of London, and reading Marina gives the dish top marks in her recent London burger round up.  'Virtually flawless' she calls them, so I head down there one Thursday night for dinner.

It was a warm night and our pre booked table was upstairs, it's clearly much more fun downstairs so we chose to eat at the bar instead.  The place is a lot smaller than I expected it to be, perhaps this is why they're pretty strict with their 2 hour table turning policy, we managed to avoid any time constraints by sitting at the bar, I don't believe you can book the bar stools, so my advise is to sit there if you can, but I know some people don't like bar eating.  Those people will have to give up their table after 2 hours.

So the main reason we were there was for these guys, the iberico and foie gras mini burgers (£6.50 each) and they didn't disappoint.  Much better than the one I ate at Taste, but anything served up in a temporary kitchen in the middle of Regent's Park is arguably not representative of the chef's finest work.

For me, what makes these little beauts is the 2 kinds of onion within them, crispy fried on top and jam beneath the patty.  I like the jalapenos that come with too.  These are really, really good.

We spent the evening drinking Sipsmith gin martinis, great olives.  We shared everything we ordered, next came the butternut squash and sage croquettes with quince aioli (£6.25).

These were fine, the aioli had a nice fruity tang, but as I've been saying since the earliest days of my blog, I don't believe Barrafina and Fino can ever be beaten when it comes to croquettes, and if you can have ham and cheese in there, why would you want anything else?  I don't really.

The courgette flowers were standard, with the mandatory goat's cheese and drizzle of honey (£7.95).  Bizarrely these were the most expensive dish on the night, they were good but whenever I have these, I'm rarely blown away, I keep trying but always end up feeling, yeah, they were just alright.

The surprise hit on the night was this Italian style scotch egg (£4.25).  Pork mixed with veal, surrounding a runny egg encased in a crisp golden bread coating.  There's a hint of lemon too and a sprinkling of marjoram.  They're so good.  Best scotch egg I've ever had.  With a bed of aioli rounding things off nicely.

Scallop was next, (£4.50 each, though we got 2 medium sized ones) served on a pea, fennel and mint puree with capers and brown butter.  I do love a scallop, these were excellent.

Our final dish of the evening was the Old Spot pork belly on canellini beans (£7.25).  Apols for the horrific lack of focus below, I'm just getting used to the camera on my new phone.  The pork was perfectly cooked, crunchy and succulent and the beans were creamy and salty, flavoured with rosemary.  We were stuffed after this.

I really wanted to try the cheese having seen the couple next to us tucking in to a board full, but we just ploughed on with the martinis.  There's a really nice atmosphere to the bar and downstairs dining room, it's lively and bright and airy and with the barman right in front of you, you'll not be struggling to get the attention of someone when you need a top up or to order etc. 

Salt Yard Group recently announced they plan to open a 4th site (joining Salt Yard and Dehesa) on Berwick Street in Soho, bringing them even closer to my office, excellent news, roll on October. 

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine Street
Covent Garden

Opera Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Brasserie Zedel

Having heard so so many good things about Brasserie Zédel, I'm an idiot for not having made it there before their 1 year anniversary arrived.  I was lucky enough to be invited to dine with co-owner Jeremy King to celebrate and hear a little bit about his motivations behind opening the behemoth.

Beginning the evening with a couple of gin martinis in the Bar Américain Jeremy explained his inspiration stemmed from meals he enjoyed in Parisian restaurants, noting in particular their relaxed attitudes and paper tablecloths, and recognizing an absence in London of a French Brasserie appealing to both diners on a budget and those looking to splash out.  Jeremy, along with long time business partner Chris Corbin, set out to establish a similar setting here.  It's clear to see he's passionate about what he's doing, and he a charming and interesting man to boot.

Here's what I ate:-

Oeufs dur mayonnaise, £3.50

Literally everyone who has eaten this delight raves about it.  So simple but so good.  I knew I loved boiled eggs, but I can't stop thinking about this dish.  Who da thunk it? 

Boeuf Bourguignon, £9.75

Despite it being the hottest day of the year so far, as most have been in recent weeks, I couldn't resist this classic French stew and I wasn't disappointed.  Generous portion of everything, really creamy mash and a rich bacony red wine sauce. 

Iles Flottante, £3.95

If I haven't raved enough, things got ridiculous with dessert.  Meringue, on creme Anglaise.  If there was a pudding made for me, it's this.  Then they drizzled it with caramel and sprinkled it with crystallized rose petals (I think).  Unbelievable.  

There's a really lovely air to the place, it feels much like everybody in the grand dining room is having a brilliant time, and with food of such amazing quality and value, it's clear to see why they've won such a huge following in just 1 year.

I can't wait to revisit, especially for that Ile Flottante!  Open 7 days a week, noon til midnight, get yourself down there. 

Brasserie Zedel
20 Sherwood Street

I dined as a guest of Brasserie Zédel.

Brasserie Zedel on Urbanspoon

Soho Diner

I had a couple of Friday afternoons off in July and both times I head to Soho Diner as soon as I got out of work.  Luckily bagging outside tables in the sun on both occasions, eating this beauty.

Soho Diner is brought to us by the people behind Electric Diner on Portobello Road. The new Soho restaurant is smaller with a more compact menu but each item on it is appealing.

Burgers, single - 2 patties, or double - 3 patties are really good value at £7 and £10 respectively and they can be pimped with bacon, egg and avocado at no extra cost.

The bacon was some of the nicest I've ever had. Burger and bun are good, no fuss, it's simple and to many, probably not close to burger perfection, but, for me, it's one of the finest available in the price range.

The cheese too is exactly what you want. Nice amounts of ketchup and mustard and a gherkin comes with. We also ordered the fries which come with aioli, £4.

I've had glasses of prosecco on both visits which I think is my only grumble, the quantity is on the miserly side for £6 a glass. A coke also came in mini form at regular price. There's the curious offer of cocktails on tap which I'm highly suspicious of.

I witnessed someone eating the mac & cheese which looked and smelled wonderful.  With the large open frontage, it's a great summer spot. There's a small brunch menu at weekends, I'll definitely back for more burgers and I need that mac & cheese in my life.

Soho Diner
19-21 Old Compton Street

Soho Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Delaunay

It was my birthday in June, every year I have a birthday brunch with the girls, this year at The Delaunay 

The Corbin and King's run restaurant is home to quite a bizarre menu to be honest, a mixed bag of German/Austrian dishes alongside a seafood section, à la carte dishes and traditional breakfast fare.  I actually like there being a lot to choose from, most new openings these days being quite the opposite with either no choice at all, or a small limited menu.  The downside of a vast myriad of choice being that it took us around 30 minutes to make a decision.

We weren't rushed though and it felt like just the right amount of time before the first course arrived, Nibs and I had some Carlingford Lough rock oysters £2.45 each, served with all the usual accompaniments and some buttered bread.   Kid had a muffin.

I plumped for the classic brunch dish of kedgeree, £12, which was a ballsy version.  It was particularly rich, I was well and truly beaten.  It was packing a punch too with a very generous amount of hot curry powder.  Perfectly poached egg on the top.  Look at it!  That's a lot of rice.

Both of the girls went for 2 wieners for £9.65 which come with sauerkraut and potato salad.  You have a choice of sausages, Frankfurter, Bockwurst, Thüringer, Nürnberger, Käsekrainer or Berner-Würstel.  The biggest hit was probably the kasekrainer, filled with cheese. 

We were all impressed with the food.  The setting is rather grand and there's an impressive air to the place, as soon as you approach the hefty front door the place looks the part.  We began with a glass of Prosecco each and moved on to a white, carafe measures available, always nice to see.

I was presented with a nice little plate of sweets as a birthday treat, chocolate, Turkish delight and marshmallows. A cute touch.  I'd like to come back for dinner.

The Delaunay
55 Aldwych

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon