Friday, 24 December 2010

Beer Review no.5: St. Bernadus Abt 12, Abbey Ale (Watou, Belgium)

I started off this feature by talking about Britain returning to tradition with new artisan ale breweries and learning to appreciate what we already have.  But some countries don't need to do that because they never forgot about their fantastic their beer heritage, few more so than the Belgians.  Trappist brews have been created for centuries and every bottle has that whiff of the middle ages about it.  More than that many of them are considered amongst the very best beers in the world.  It's no stretch of the imagination to see the St. Bernadus Abt 12 as drawing on generations and generations of experience to make it, it's a fantastic beer, and the monks are generous enough to give it to the outside world without asking for a vow of celibacy.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Summer Lightening, Golden Ale: Hop Back Brewery (Salisbury)

So at last as we get to beer number three we get an English ale and an award winner no less.  Summer Lightening, by Hop Back Brewery has won the  CAMRA gold medals for best new brewery in 1989, best strong beer 1992 and 2001 and best bottle conditioned ale 1997, as well as a gold Brewing industry international award in 1996, a 1998 National Hop Association, England award and a 2004 Taste of the West Food Awards gold.  None in the last six years though.  So is it trading on past glories?

Restaurant Review: Dotori

Korean food has made it to Soho in quite a pronounced way with Koba and a handful of others confirming that neighbourhoods continued status as one of those most receptive to new eating trends.  There's also a few good places in Holborn and around town.  But it's still not a cuisine that has captured the imagination like sushi, if sadly not the rest of Japanese cuisine, started to do in the mid-nineties.  Maybe that's why Dotori offers ramen and sushi alongside its Korean options to guarantee custom.  This stuff looked good, but we weren't interested in that, we wanted the satisfying bibimbaps and kimchi stews on offer, and we certainly weren't disappointed by their quality.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Beer Review no. 2: Snake Dog IPA, Flying Dog (Maryland)

'...suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming, 'Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?' It's almost certain that beer did not inspire Hunter. S. Thompson's famous first page in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but nevertheless the man liked a good drink... really, really liked it.  Pretty natural then to quote him on your bottle - 'Good people drink good beer' HST - and then hire his long-time friend to do your label designs.  Its a killer combination and one that I couldn't resist.  So here we go with American beer number two, brewed in Maryland this time but originating in Dr Gonzo's hometown of Aspen, Colorado in the Flying Dog pub, where the owners made friends with Dr. Thompson, hence the branding.  This time I'v gone for an IPA, one of my favourite styles and one popularised in the states by artisan brewers extrodinairre Sierra Nevada.  Let's see how Flying Dog's rendition works out.  Oh and 'no point in mentioning these bats... Poor bastard will see them soon enough'.

Beer Review no.1: Hades Belgian Style Ale; Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver, Colorado))

There's a myth that ale is an old mans drink.  This is something that's perpetuated by any footage you see of the large beardy men in control of CAMRA (I intend to be large and am often beardy so don't take this the wrong way) and young codgers like James May.  I think this is pretty unfair.  One fifty-something who should no better - you know who you are - has repeatedly told me he doesn't like to drink ale 'because it tastes of fart'.  How rude.  On the other hand almost all my friends are ale drinkers and I think this is indicative of a wider trend.  Ale fits perfectly into the current interest in traditional British products, provenance, local buying and all of the other trends which have been mercifully rescued from the sandals and socks brigade.  The Germans, Belgians and Czechs have lager and wheat beers, the French, Spanish and Italians have wine, we have ale.  This item won't just look at ales or British beer, but I would like them to be a focus.  So it is with regret that I kick of my beer reviews with an example made by our cousins from across the pond, where micro-brewing is as cool as Lilly Cole buying a Rothko and has exploded way past our still endangered, if growing scene.

Restaurant Review; Flame

I love lahmacun, the crispy base, the rich meaty lamby topping, the fact that I can buy a great one for £1.40 round the corner from me.  Also it must be healthy, surely you can't buy that many calories for £1.40... surely (he says grabbing belly).  It is much to my surprise, therefore, that my new favourite Green Lanes restaurant does not sell lahmacun.  What's even more surprising is that it's still Turkish.  Turkish, no lahmacun, favourite... how odd.  So what's so great about this place (the food obviously, but why).  Amazing, amazing grilling skills - something key to any ocakbasi experience - and a real, attention and care to making sure that everything about what are at root simple dishes is just right.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Restaurant Review: Brawn

'My God, I've got to stop coming to East London.  There's a two year old hipster whose parents have put him in a Steve McQueen inspired skull beenie!!'  Girlfriend turns to look; child's jacket is taken off revealing a red and black striped top with a jolly roger flag on it.  'Oh,' I said' 'he's just dressed as a pirate... well it's not my fault, easy mistake to make, whoever heard of a whooly pirate hat, its stupid, hurumph.'

I could probably be forgiven, Colombia Road is after all a bit of hotspot for those dressed in, skinny jeans, and high waxy hair (as well as being very nice).  The latest edition in the sea of design shops and cafes is Brawn, a new project from the people that brought us Terroir an extremely popular French wine bar and eatery near Charring Cross.  Now you might suspect that by calling this new iteration Brawn the owners are indicating a shift towards gutsy, meaty British food.  Not quite.  It's still gutsy, meaty French (with a bit of Italian) food, they're just trying to cash into the cache of modern British food and offal that St John's made popular about a decade ago.  Mislabeling asside, however, there is very little wrong with this place, and lots to enjoy.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Madrid Restaurant: Al Mounia

One of the most disappointing things about Andulucian food is that after 700 years of Moorish occupation there is not so much as a single cumin seed or cinammon stick to be seen.  That's not to say its bad - great hams, olive oils and a general abundance of top produce create a good rustic cuisine, its just that if they'd kept some of the North African influence it could be so much more exciting.  Look at their buildings, brilliant.  Oh well.  If you do want North African food these days by far the best option is to travel North to Madrid and go to the excellent Al Mounia, a fantastic Moroccan restaurant in the Barrio Salamanca.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Segovia Restaurant: Candido

Restaurants that have been around forever, in touristy locations, frequented by tourists are not things that inspire confidence.  Think Angus Steak Houses, Hard Rock Cafe's at the extreme end.  Some are better, there's Simpsons in London as well, which isn't terrible.  At best though they tend to be happy to revel in their reputations and charge a fortune to those that can't find a better recommendation whilst serving up mediocre food.  As our names were taken down by a waiter at Candido and put on a list for twenty minutes later a la Planet Hollywood it seemed this would be the case.  Things didn't improve when on returning at the allotted time we had to wait in a scrum of people for our names to be called out.  So it was with suprise and delight that we started eating and found out the food was really excellent.

Madrid Reastaurant: Abuelo

There's something to be said for places that do one thing really, really well and Abuelo is certainly one of those.  Abuelo, not to be confused with Abuela around the corner, is one of those and specialises in gambas al ajillo, or prawns and garlic in hot oil.  There are a few of these in Madrid now, but the original and best is in the old town and has been since 1906.  It's definitely worth a stop on a tapas tour if your in this part of the city.

Madrid Restaurants: Pan De Lujo

There is no restaurant in London that would serve a dish of exceptionally high quality tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and good sea salt as a starter in its own right.  People probably wouldn't order it.  But that dish typifies what is great about the food culture of Spain.  Never dislocated from traditional foods and produce in the way Britain was by the industrial revolution Spain mantains a genuine appreciation for quality and seasonality of ingredients that we are only just rediscovering.  That's why a trendy, modern Madrid restaurant unafraid of innovation can serve a delicious plate of tomatoes without it seeming strange.  This focus on the quality of ingredients underpins the cooking at Pan De Lujo.  The produce is sometimes presented simply or with a great deal of invention, it all depends on what is most suitable.  This approach, complimented by a stylish contemporary interior and good service all adds up to an excellent dining experience.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Takeaway Review: Curry Capital

A take-away is a great thing.  You've decided you just can't be bothered to cook, but a ready made meal isn't good enough.  So you take the decadent option and pick up the phone.  You anticipate, then the door rings and you open up a lovely load of boxes in front of the television.  A great evening, especially if there's football on.  But, trying to find good reviews for takeaway food is really, really difficult.  So after having moved house a few months ago I've been playing the curry lottery.  Sadly this has only been slightly more successful than my weekly punt on the Euromillions.  I thought I'd found a good place and was going to put it up here, but after my second offering was finished I was less enthusiastic.  Now I've found somewhere worthy of going up.  Sadly it's not near my house, but if you live in East London it's heartily recommended.  What's more I found it after reading a really helpful online review on what is quickly becoming my new favourite blog; Cheese and Biscuits.  I heartily recommend both.

Restaurant Review: Mandalay

What is typical Burmese food?  Not many people know the answer to this.  Asking one friend who has been there was less than helpful.  The answer according to him was 'mainly rice'.  Not, you will agree particularly satisfying, although definite marks for getting to the point.  Still I felt some further probing was in order.  'Is that because of the difficult socio-economic circumstances,' I enquired, 'Well obviously!' he replied and that was that.  Although probably accurate this wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  To Wikipedia then, which concisely informs the interested reader that Burmese food blends Chinese, Indian, and South East Asian cooking methods, styles and ingredients.  Sounds pretty good.  But why the interest?  Well I mentioned in a previous piece that I've been eating far too much grilled meat recently and want something with some herbs and spicy sauces.   Mandalay, a Burmese restaurant on the Edgeware Road, provides both.  Thankfully on my second attempt I managed to make it in.  By the time I got there, however, I was not in the best mood to appreciate the food at London's only Burmese.  The traffic, the nearly missing the lunch service, the traffic, and the traffic all conspired against me, leaving me fairly stressed on entry.  What awaited was a very good restaurant, beloved by many, but that is by no means perfect.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Restaurant Review: Donya

Living by a few hundred Turkish restaurants and having done a lot of research into burgers recently means that I have been eating a lot of meat, too much meat in fact.  Mainly I've been eating too much grilled meat with not too much added, certainly not vegetables.  So, much as I love all that kind of thing, I was feeling like something a bit different, something fresh and zingy.  My friend Tom and I therefore decided on a Burmese restaurant at the top of Edgeware Road so that I, having liked it before, could review it and have a lot of heavily spiced tangy South East Asian food and so he could say things like; 'this was much better when I had it in Burma' or 'oh no no no that's not how that comes in Rangoon', etc.  Sadly being Sunday night, it was closed.  Panic briefly ensued, until Tom pointed out to me and another friend that their was an Iraqi/Kurdish restaurant next door at number 436.  Good, lots of meat it is then.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

London's Burgeoning Burger Scene

Burgers in London have long been pretty disappointing and there's still a long way to go.  Nevertheless, the London hamburger scene has come a long way since the days when Wimpy was one of its key exponents (Wimpy has also gone a surprisingly long way, managing to open up as far away as Mongolia, where the Mutton burger is one of the most popular items).  There are now a plethora of so called gourmet high street options, gastropub interpretations and high quality vans, not to mention any number of blogs dedicated to the art of the perfect burger from London and beyond.  From sliders, to southern slammers  London is starting to catch on so here's a rundown of some of the best and most disappointing burger related fun to be had in the capital.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Recipes: Two Things to do With Butternut Squash

Autumn means squash and if you grow them in your garden it means a lot of them so here's a couple of recipes that will help use a lot of butternut squash.  The base of both recipes is a butternut squash puree that is easy to make and takes a minimum of prep.  It stores well and is pretty versatile, so you can make it up in advance.

Restaurant Review: Leong's Legends II

I used to love going to Chinatown.  When I was little I used to go their for dim sum with my dad.  Sadly Chinatown often gets a pretty poor rap.  This is often deserved, with a lot of places serving up fairly poor gloopy food.  Just as often, however, reviewers will say that if you stick to a particular set of regional specialities which reflect where the chef's are from you can eat very well.  Leong's Legends  (II was built later to cater for demand) is just one of those places.  Leong's specialises in Taiwanese food, though  looking at the menu gives little initial indication of this as it spans the gamut of regional Chinese cuisines There is for instance a heavy focus on Sichuanese, which is perhaps unsuprising given the success of places such as Bar Shu.  However, the Taiwanese items are easy to spot as they correspond to the recommended starred items and we stuck almost completely to these.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Restaurant Review: Rosa's

I don't like writing bad reviews, which is why it's taken me so long to get around to writing this one because its going to be really bad.  Time Out gave Rosa's, a small Thai restaurant in Spitalfields four stars, saying it was almost up there with Busaba Ethai for fast high quality Thai food.  I can only assume that the review was an old one and that Rosa's has changed beyond all recognition, either that or it's the classic Time Out syndrome of saying everything in East London is great because someone told them it was trendy once and they need to look like they know these things.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Jerk (Chicken) Off, Brockwell Park 2010

Crude puns averted, so far so good.  Sunday the 15th of August saw London's jerk cookery competition take place in Brockwell park having moved from the Horniman gardens.  There were at least thirty to fifty different stalls all competing for the honour this year and Caribbean.  A portion of jerk (or curry goat, etc) was yours from between £5-6.  Sadly though I queued to get some jerk lamb from the people I found out were last years winners it wasn't ready and the chicken I got somewhere else was okay but not mind-blowing.  It serves me right really I should have looked up the previous winners.  Strangely I was too full to have seconds, a cause for concern in itself.  Next year I won't make those mistakes.  Good foody event in the sunny outdoors and if you go with loads of people you can sample a whole host of delicious wares, highly recommended.

For more info and good photos look here, here and at my new favourite London food blog (except mine obviously) here.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Strange Food News: Man Grows Pea in Lung

BBC news reports that a man who believed he had cancer found out that his respiratory problems were actually down to his having inhaled a pea, which, in the way of peas proceeded to sprout.
Read the full story here.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Restaurant Review: The Old China Hand

There's not many independent pubs around these days.  Even less with a list of around thirty different beers from around the world.  And certainly basically none with a ping-pong table.  Well the Old China Hand has all of these things and it serves dim-sum along with all that beer.  Sadly no one's going, which is a shame because it's a nice place.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Restaurant Review: Fryer's Delight

I don't have fish and chips very often.  It's unhealthy and since I like cod pretty much unjustifiable as anything else than an occasional treat on sustainability grounds.  So when I get fish and chips I like it to be really good.  Fryer's Delight is really, really close to being fantastic.  But seeing as I've been basically equidistant between this and Master's Superfish, I think Fryer's is likely to miss out.  If your closer to this place, however, it's more than respectable.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Restaurant Review: Viet Grill

I suffer from a very difficult and compulsive gastronomic affliction.  It's commonly referred to as food envy.  Its one of my main reasons for over-ordering, if I see nice food going past I want it.  You can, therefore, imagine my dismay when I couldn't go with some friends to Viet Grill on Kingsland Road because I was working.  It got even worse when I saw one of them for lunch at the Charles Lamb a few days later.  'Oh it was AMAAAAZING!  We had this delicious fish in dill and then a great beef...' and so on.  Thankfully after a couple of days of pacing around and waking up in cold sweats muttering to myself about pho I was in area and in need of dinner. 

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Restaurant Review: The Charles Lamb Pub

Sunday's are difficult.  You have to work the next morning.  You're hung over from the night before.  You're tired and irritable.  You wanted a lie in and some idiotic birds woke you up with their tuneless warbling.  All a bit rubbish really.  But, there is one thing that makes Sunday's great and that's Sunday lunch.  Given the aforementioned problems, however, not everyone feels up to making one.  The promise of going out instead is tempting, but often disappointing.  Not so the Charles Lamb in Angel!  This lovely pub has a great selection of Meantime beers on tap, good cider and great hangover smiting Bloody Marys at only £4.50 (only in London prices, overpriced in the rest of the world).  Most importantly they have board-games!  No that's not right, sorry. I meant to say most importantly they do a brilliant roasts lunch.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Restaurant Review: Antepliler

A Friday night kebab is completely delicious... at the time... because if you're having one you're drunk!  Sober they are disgusting as you can imagine.  That's probably all you can do, but I know from experience, because of the cold winter's day in 6th Form when I decided to get one for lunch.  By the time I'd got back the grease had solidified into something that looked like (if I'm being generous) candle wax and covered the grey quite scary looking meat.  This is a sad and completely unfair representation of Turkish food, but is what most people eat most regularly.  But, seeing as I now live near Manor House I'm completely spoilt for choice for incredible Turkish food and delicious char grilled kebab and Antepliler is definitely the pick of the bunch so far.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Restaurant Review: Viajante

Finally after a long exam forced absence where I just about had time to eat, but certainly not to write, I'm back and I thought I'd kick-start my return with something special.  You may remember that some time ago I wrote about Nuno Mendes' supper-club The Loft.  I was taken there as a birthday present and to return the favour I took my girlfriend for dinner at his new venture Viajante for hers.  Thankfully it was very good.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Restaurant Review: Asmara

Me and a friend came across this place after a trip to the perennially brilliant Ritzy cinema in Brixton.  We were looking for some dinner and the Time Out review in the window promised good things, so we thought we'd give it a go.  The inside is far nicer than the standard looking store front would suggest, clean lined, pale wood furniture, paintings and weavings of Eritrean scenes cover the walls, of what is a pleasantly small place.  Never having eaten Eritrean food before we decided to go for the royal banquet so we could try a lot of different dishes.  I remember being impressed.  So when I was looking for somewhere to eat dinner in Brixton the other evening I suggested Asmara.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Restaurant Review: The Victoria

Children in restaurants should be nicely behaved, they should have it explained to them that the other guests have paid for their lunch and want to enjoy it, and if they can't manage to behave then don't take them out.  Sadly not one single parent in the Victoria had observed this perfectly sensible and quite obvious bit of advice.  Chaos abounded!  Some kind of wind up propellor was fired across our table, something climbed across my girlfriends chair and of course there was shouting, and crying... sometimes separately, sometimes at once.  Nor was it just one set of kids, literally everyone else in the whole place had some in tow.  Oh and the food is pretty average too.  You have been warned!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Le Baratin

Le Baratin has had a lot of hype and has become a bit of a destination apparently.  We read about it in what is a very reliable Time Out guide to the city that said people from all over town were coming to this far flung part of North-West Paris.  The journey was certainly not helped by deciding to take a cab to avoid being late, the traffic was terrible, something I would have known if I had paid more attention to all the jokes about Parisian traffic-jams in the Asterix comics I used to read.  When we arrived we were a bit frazzled and wet after having got out in slightly the wrong place finding our way in the rain.  Thankfully El Baratin is instantly comforting.  The interior is simple and worn in a well-used way that looks immediately welcoming.  The service is friendly and the bistro is busy, relaxed and chatty.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Restaurant Review: Ribouldingue, Paris

I was so looking forward to going back to Ribouldingue.  Last time I went my main course immediately went on my list of the the best things I've ever eaten.  It was a pig foot parmantier - the meat from the slow cooked foot stripped off the bone, mixed with a subtly flavoured and creamy sauce, covered in mashed potato, bread crumbs and gratinated.  The result was a rich, comforting, deep set of flavours offset perfectly by the two thin strips of pickled red pepper on top.  So hopes were understandably high - which was why my second meal there was a crashing disappointment.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

La Cabrera del Norte, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires smells almost completely of grilled meat.  This is no exaggeration, the odour of grilled cow hits you almost as soon as you get off the motorway.  Steak is where it's at in BA and in most of Argentina in general.  Huge bits of meat are grilled over coal until they're blackened and crispy on the outside, the generous portion of fat they're generally cut with broken down and soft, but with the meat still rare or jugoso as the locals would say.  As you can imagine, there are a thousand different places to eat good steak in Buenos Aires, sadly I have been to nowhere near all, or half or one hundredth but I did go to a few.  So on that basis I'd like to share with you, which was my favourite and also the information that a steady diet of red meat two meals a day for two or three weeks will make you fat, sweaty and very tired.  Mmmm happy days!

The Biggest Pizza Ever?

I just saw these photos and they made me chuckle so I thought I'd put them up.  This was from a pizza delivery place in La Paz, Bolivia.  No moped for this baby, it had to go in the boot of a fairly big car.  I don't remember it being particularly tasty, but it was worth it just to carry it through the groups of wide eyed hostel goers.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Gourmet San Part 2

Last time I went to Gourmet San I said I was impressed, but needed to go back before I made a final verdict.  Sadly that verdict is one born out of  disappointment with what was at best an average meal.  Things were going badly from the off as we were led to a small, secluded room upstairs away from the fun and bustling main room.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

St John's Eccles Cakes

Almost everyone in the meat eating world that is interested in that kind of thing already knows that St John's Bread and Wine is the dog's offal.  So I'm not going to do a review of it, I'm just going to talk about what is one of the best bits of baking in the whole wide world, the St John's eccles cake, served with a big slab of Lancashire cheese.  Everything about it is perfect.  The pastry is flaky and crispy and incredibly buttery with a big slug of nutmeg all over the top of it.  The filling is a lovely gooey mess of raisins that is like jam that has been overcooked until its nearly toffee, but retaining just enough sharpness to balance the richness of everything else.  Best of all, the sugar melts out of the bottom and crisps up and turns into a brittle caramel on the bottom.  It's big and it's only £2.60 (cheese not included).

Restaurant Review: Franklins

I've recently moved away from my beloved South London and the lack or recent posts is mainly down not having had internet for the first few weeks, its grim up North...London.  Anyway since I've betrayed my roots and moved to the other side of the river, I thought Mother's Day would be a good opportunity to head back into the blissful paradise that is South London and have a pleasant lunch with my mum in one of my favourite local places.  Said place is Franklins on Lordship Lane, converted a number of years ago now into a great gastropub.  Since then it's gone from strength to strength and even opened a little farmshop next door, which I initially thought was pretty poorly stocked and over-expensive and is now really very good (it sells something called Slider, which is a mix of sloe gin and cider and frankly I think that's all anyone needs to know).  Now winning acclaim for its fantastic cooked breakfasts, as well as its big, bold approach to British cooking, Franklin's has become a real treasure and is certainly worth making the trip for.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Restaurant Review: Masters Superfish

Eric Hobsbawm said that the combination of fried fish, a northern speciality, with chips from the south was a key symbol of the birth of class consciousness in Britain.  A fish supper by the seaside remains an evocative image and it is still one of the top take out foods in Britain - and what visiting luminaries like Clint Eastwood like to eat in pubs (apparently).  Its a shame then that most places do it so badly.  'Most places',  however, does not include Masters Superfish in Waterloo.  By reputation this is one of the best chippies in London and after recently testing it out myself I have to agree.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Battersea Beer Festival

This is a bit late and the event is no longer on (there's always next year), but that's not really the point.  The fact that its the Battersea Beer Festival is sort of irrelevant, it's great because CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) are amazing.  They put on loads of events like this all around the country all through the year.  The format is more or less the same everywhere: hundreds of British ales and ciders with a smattering of good foreign beers, mainly from small producers that take time over their products.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Restaurant Review: Gourmet San

Finding places to rent means a lot of talking to estate agents who don't have anything you want and then ring you for weeks after asking if it was a 3 bedroom for September that you wanted.  No it wasn't, that must have been someone else, and could you please STOP RINGING ME!  On the plus side you do go to parts of town you don't often visit (at least not during the day) and that means you get to eat at new places.  This led me to find a place that did amazing cupcakes, it also meant I got to try Gourmet San in Bethnal Green, somewhere I've been reading about for a while.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Magazine Review: The Art of Eating

Edward Behr's quarterly magazine The Art of Eating has built up a solid following over the last 24 years and has gained the reputation as the most serious and well researched food quarterly around.  The Financial Times has written glowingly about it, but its main market is still America, where it hails from.  Here it is said to be read by anyone who is anyone in the food industry.  Despite this the Europhile nature of the writers means at least as much focus, if not more, is given to Europe.  Not only will you find interesting, relevant articles to read, you will also not find any adverts between the well researched pieces.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Restaurant Review: Santo

Real Mexican food in London is difficult to find, people search desperately, trawling message boards discussing where they can get something that faintly resembles the real thing.  This is mainly the concern of ex-pat Americans.  Us Brits have been generally happy with Wahacca and that place that sells enormous burritos that fall apart when you take off the foil and leaves you with sour cream and guacamole all over your shoes.  I like Wahacca for the record, I think its fun.  One of my friends, who is  half Mexican, has a problem with its lack of authenticity, however, and has been trying out various places to find something that reflects his summers over there a bit better.  Santo is one of the places he found and liked, so when he suggested it for dinner I was happy to go along with the suggestion.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Restaurant Review: The Loft Project

A little bit of internet research led me to 'drop hints' that a meal here would be a really great birthday present, a really really great one a really really... Yes annoying for about 20 seconds in type, imagine it for a lot longer in a simpering whine.  Well here we were outside a very nice maisonette flat in Dalston after a couple of cocktails, slightly nervous about meeting our other diners and very excited about the 12 course meal to come.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Restaurant Review: Sushi Hiroba

In the 90s I remember that conveyor belt sushi sounded like a fantastic idea.  That was possibly because I was a child, however, a lot of big grown up people seemed to share my enthusiasm.  It seemed very modern in a kitch kind of way, it was informal and fun and apparently they did it in Japan a place much trendier than London since Brit Pop kicked the bucket.  So we all loved it.  But not as much as the restaurants that served it.  'Here's a clever way to stop people paying attention to how much they're spending.  Sure the price of each plate is up on the wall, but these idiot are far too lazy to count'.  They were right.  A quick lunch anywhere with a conveyor belt when you're hungry is the same as putting your credit card behind a bar 'to save you the hassle of having to pay each time' - a bad, expensive idea.  Well a whole decade removed from the 90s I fell for this trap, in the nicely decorated and okay but unspectacular Sushi Hiroba in Holborn.  Have I learnt nothing!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Gothenburg: an Eatist's City Guide

I ate a lot of good food in Gothenberg and to stop this turning into a long ramble, punctuated only when I need to wipe a bit of drool from my chin I think the best way to organise this is probably a kind of photo diary of things that I ate and liked.  I used to come to Gothenberg a lot when I was younger, but haven't been for a few years now and I had a lot of fun rediscovering it and all the things I used to eat there.  The food scene here is respected throughout the country, with its chefs regularly winning national awards, and increasingly international plaudits.  On the other hand there is a lot of great traditional food served in small places and a whole host of wonderful cafes.

Restaurant Review: Sjömagasinet (Gothenburg)

Sjömagasinet is the michelin-starred restaurant of top Swedish chef Leif Mannerström. If you're British you're unlikely to have heard of him, but in Sweden he's a big deal attracting 10,000 customers every Christmas to have his pickled herring and even getting his head on a stamp.  I was ready to sing his praises already just for the fact that there was an open fire in the reception area, something that was very welcome after a 20 minute walk in the minus 10C temperatures outside. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Restaurant Review: J. Sheekey

I have to declare an interest here: J. Sheekey is probably my favourite restaurant in London, which accounts for me being taken there for my birthday.  I was lucky in going here quite a lot when I was younger.  This accounts for a lot of the affection I feel for it.  It excels in making its diners feel comfortable.  The dark wood panelling, crisp white tablecloths and art deco design all add a feeling of old-world luxury to the whole thing.  It does very well, but it doesn't let you know how busy it is, and isn't loud and frenetic in the way a lot of popular restaurants are.  Not that there's anything wrong with busy, it creates an atmosphere.  Here though the aim is just very different.  The restaurant is divided into three rooms each with around twenty covers as well as a bar and a newly opened oyster bar.  The effect of this is to create a far more relaxed, intimate experience.  Everything is gracefully done, the service is good, very polite and slightly formal.  They wear waistcoats.  The photos on the wall are all of old theatre stars in black and white.  In some places things like this can feel very twee.  Here, however, it is done completely naturally and all the details are just right.  If you have been there more that one or two times the whole experience is a comfortable and very comforting one.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Good (North) American Pizza Coming to London?

Pizza creates a lot of debate in the US, Chicago v. New York are the two big boys (Italy's where now?).  The Chicago style is about two inches tall,  deep filled with cheese, sausage, peppers and if the above picture I found is to be believed is sort of similar to a kick straight in the left ventricle.  New York is thinner and often comes in foldably large slices.  Easy so far.  Well apparently thats not all, Canada's in on the action as well because there's Windsor style pizza and Ontario natives love it.  So who cares right, the North American style pizza we get here (although it is an occasional guilty pleasure) is made from dough frozen down in batches that last for around twenty years and cheese from a can.  Or is it?