Sunday, 20 November 2011

Eat Thailand: Chang Mai

The North of Thailand has some of the countries best cuisine.  Isarn food brings us some of the perenial favourites of som tam salad and sticky rice as well as a series of delicious grills.  As in much of Thailand a lot of the best food comes from street vendors, but there are some great restaurants as well.  Where exact addresses aren't available I have included pictures to help you find you're way.

Eat Bangkok: Chinatown

So my rules when I travel are that I only eat local food (unless it is awful/consists of two dishes, though I'm not going to name and shame here).  My one exception to this is places that have large immigrant populations with great food of their own.  Imagine my joy then when I learnt that a full 15% of Thailand's population is Chinese and that Bangkok's Chinatown is one of the biggest anywhere in the world.  To quote Charlie Sheen; 'Winning!'

Eat Bangkok: Nahm

An Australian is the best Thai chef in the world.  So good in fact he is the first Thai chef to win a Michelin star.  The restuarant that received this honour is called Nahm and is right here at home in London, and it is very, very expensive.  There is however also a Nahm in Bangkok, in the Metropolitan hotel, where you can sample Thompson's cooking for a fraction (though it's still not cheap) of the price.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sunday Roast: Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor does great steaks and cocktails, I would say the best in London, but how does it fare when cooking the classic of British cooking le rostbif (incidentally they only do le rostbif, rather tha le rostlamb or  le rostpork, so don't go if you fancy something else)?  The thing is they know meat, but a great roast is a lot more than that, I would almost, but not quite, go as far as to say that the meat is secondary to trimmings.  Thankfully with a yorkshire pudding the size of a flying saucer and bone marrow and onion gravy of unlimited refills up their sleeves they are doing very well indeed.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mama Lan

For me hearing the combination of Beijing street food and Brixton market is pretty much like putting crack and a crack pipe in front of a drug addict at this point.  My favourite place to eat in London with some of my favourite food from when I used to be fun and travel a lot (wistful sigh... also please no comments that I never used to be fun).  Mama Lans also has the benefit of being setup by a blogger, so obviously its getting immediate points, it's also a family mother and daughter enterprise - so all very positive and cosy.  So how was it?

In short pretty good.  The cold slow cooked beef came in thin slices with a good star anise flavour as well as a lot of other warm, autumnal spicing, very nice and tender, still moist enough despite the fact that chilling has a drying effect on meat.  The pickles were great, and the dumplings were good.  It was especially fun watching them being hand rolled infront of us the whole time we were there, given the counter puts you practically on top of the kitchen.  The only dissapoinment was that despite the filling being good the dumplings were pretty underseasoned.  At this point, however, I think it's fair to put that down to teething problems given Mama Lans had only been open for a couple of days.  I will definitely go back and try this place again.

Brixton Village: Kaosan

Kaosan has been getting a lot of good press lately.  Brixton Village has made it into the Standard, Jay Rayner has review Kaosan specifically, it's loved on Chowhound.  Sadly when I first went there I was a bit underwhelmed.  But then I had Larb Gai, a combiation of toasted rice, minced chicken and coriande, which is fine, but not the most exciting thing in the world - this Saturday the Moo Ping pork skewers marinated with sugar cane, and stir fried pork with holy basil turned me around completely.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Barcelona Restaurants: Barceloneta

How much would you pay for a plate of prawns, 6 to be precise?  At a good restaurant £12-15, though baring in mind they're just grilled, no foams, or sauces maybe not.  I'm guessing you would not pay £35, but if you don't at Barceloneta you will be missing out big time (I am going to caveate this by stating quite clearly that I wasn't paying, and if I was maybe I would be less adament).  The gambas de palamos are regarded as the best prawn world wide and after trying them I can't disagree.  If I was more pretentious I would say they were the Platonic archetype of a prawn, all others being paltry shadows dancing on the cave wall... but I'm not (ahem) so I'll just say they were bloody brilliant.  Food like this is what differentiates the Spanish and Itialians in their food culture.  Simple, unpretentious food, with bags of flavour, beautifully grown, caught or bred is king and people will pay a lot (some would say an extortionate ammount) of money for a great, great prawn that hasn't had much cheffing inflicted on it.  This is a very, very good thing.

Barcelona Restaurants: Cova Fumado

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Barcelona is full of experimental food, molecular gastronomy, etc, etc blah blah, I was trained with Feran Adria, blah blah, el Buli blah blah. Sadly very, very few people can do this food well, and honestly it's quite boring if people don't.  It stops being food and starts to be an infuriating attempt by the chef to convince you he's clever, and far too many kitchens seem to think this kind of experimentation and scientific apporach is a short-cut round learning how to actually cook.  After a couple of these trendy tapas/pintxos later I felt a bit deflated, I wanted a bar with proper food.  So after desperate Time Out IPhone search we decided to go to Cova Fumado, somewhere which seemed to fit the bill of proper food.
Initial signs were good.  It was heaving and not with a lot of tourists with guidebooks (as a tourist I shouldn't sneer, but it's often a bad sign).  The guy behind the bar was loud and shouting conversations at regulars and new joiners alike, his mum was behind the griddle along the other wall and the bar was made of granite and cracked and the chairs were near falling apart through years of enthusiastic eating.  The food did not dissapoint either, anything but - squid with oil and garlic was caramalised on the edges and beautifully soft and fresh.  Chickepeas with morcilla rich and moreish and the fried sardines were perfect.  Dried broad beans flavoured with black-pudding and chilli were another highlight.  The bill with beers and wine came to comfortably under £35 for two and was worked out with a pencil dirlectly on the bartop. 

This is exactly the kind of food I like, simple one to four ingredient dishes made with top quality produce and not messed around with.  The place had a great atmosphere in a been on the dockside forever kind of way, it's rough and ready and great fun.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Brixton Village: Casa Sibilla

I was saying before how difficult it has been in the past to go out for decent pasta.  Now two places open practically next door to each other in Brixton Village market.  Casa Sibilla does a lot more than just pasta though.  It's got a daily changing lunch menu and is open for dinner on days when the market is open late.  Lovely salads and more substantial dishes are all available in a lovely setting.  They even do cooking lessons.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Brixton Village: Etta's Seafood Kitchen

It can be disappointing when you read about how friendly and welcoming a cook/owner of a restaurant is and then go there and find that they're not talking to you anymore than a chef does anywhere else.  Do they not like me you think, who are these stupid newspaper reviewers who everyone talks to anyway - mutter, mutter.  Thankfully I cannot imagine this being a problem at Etta's.  Talking is what they do (that and cooking, obvously).  They are welcoming and chatty and extremely friendly the whole time.  Their caribean influenced food's pretty sharp too.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Curry Ono

I've been writing a lot about the newly(ish) rejuvenated Brixton Village lately, but it would be a mistake to ignore the good new places that have opened up in next door Market Row.  Curry Ono is one of these, and its my favourite so far.  It specialises in Japanese curries and they do them very well indeed.  In fact they do them so well that I'd say they're the best I've tried so far anywhere in London.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Brixton Village: Federation Coffee

Coffee houses used to be places where rebellions were planned and where deals were struck.  In the 18th century they were the central trading houses for shares and bonds, a fairly new idea at the time.  Lloyd's Bank has its roots in this world, having itself started as a coffee house.  However, coffee in the twentieth century was very different.  Seen as a slightly strange drink that had a peculiar popularity on the continent, good coffee was hard to find.  Then came the chains.  Still not so good, but better.  After a while they upped their game and good coffee came to be expected.  No we are in the midst of a new wave of smaller artisan cafe's that focus on high quality in preparation and detail in sourcing.  At least half of these places are run by antipodians.  Enter - 'the flat white'.

Istanbul Restaurants:Akdeniz Kokorec

Again I'd like to thank the brilliant Istanbul Eats for turning me onto this place.

I like to take every opportunity to champion offal.  I think eating the whole animal (in one sitting if I can) is crucial in limiting waste and the damage caused by mass farming.  I also think it's more respectful.  Imagine my joy then when I found out about kokorec an enormous sausage stuffed with lamb fat and sweetbreads inside a thick outer casing of wound sheep's intestines.  Imagine my even greater joy when this - admittedly slightly unappetising sounding dish - turned out to be absolutely delicious.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Istanbul Restaurants: Pera Sisore

Meze, fish and grilled meat are well known staples of Turkish food.  The last of those is probably the best represented over here in London, but you can find the others as well.  What you don't really see (and if anyone can correct me, that would be great news) is the Black Sea coast cooking they specialise in at Pera Siosore.  This has been described, by the fantastic Istanbul Eats where I found this recommendation, as similar to the soul food of the Southern USA.  This means deep rich flavours made from simple ingredients, great stocks, stewed greens and that kind of thing.  This is definitely what I remember about Sisore, that and the best Pide I've ever had.  Now this is something that you can get good versions of in London, but I've never had one like this.

Brixton Village: Bellantoni's

Market Row in Brixton was the lunchtime place to be for a while.  This was down to Franco Manca, which got rave reviews from basically everyone.  It even made it into newspapers that only use the words South London if they sit next to 'postcode wars'.  Then came Rosie's (of the Spooning with Rosie cookbook) and Wild Caper.  What makes it nice is that it sits next to the South American butchers and West Indian and African grocers that made the place interesting for a lot of foodies anyway.  Now it's Brixton Village's turn.  This is a very similar covered market that sits just opposite Market Row.  A series of rebuilds and an influx of new restaurants, cafes and delis again sit next to places that have been there for years.  I want to take longer to explore it, but to kick it off I thought I'd talk about a small pasta place in there called Bellantoni's.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Restaurant Review: Delhi Grill

Things have all been a little hectic over the last few weeks, having been away and now started a new job.  But, I will be back to regular posting from now on.  Sadly I am going to kick start this next round with a negative review, something I really don't like doing, mainly because I like to enjoy all my meals.  I was enticed to try the Delhi Grill by a bit of Twitter/blog hype and the fact that at the time I went there was a goat curry on special.  Mainly the food was fine but no more.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Restaurant Review: Koffmann's

La Tante Clair was reputedly one of the very best restaurants London has ever seen.  It won three Michelin  stars and a plethora of Britain' most talented cooks trained in its kitchens.  Sadly I never ate there before it closed in 2002.  However, after a succesful and much talked about time cooking at a pop-up restaurant in Selfridges roof garden in the Summer of 2009 Pierre Koffmann decided to return to the professional kitchen and London full-time.  Due to a fortunate coming together of circumstances and things needed to be celebrated I had a reason, after many months, to book a table at Koffmann's in the Berkely and it now sits near the top of my list for places to return for special occassions.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Superbowl night at Bodeans and a Pint at the Effra

An alternative title (if I liked bad puns) might have been 'It was the best of times it was the Wurst of times' but I may save that for a more sausage related post instead of just a porky one.  Either way, this post is about last Sunday, which involved two great plates of pork, a lot of beers and 4 hours of watching a sport I don't understand after watching two matches of one that I do.  Pretty sweet day all in all.  It started in the Effra Inn on just round the corner from the Ritzy and then went on to encompass Superbowl night at Bodeans, somewhere that despite being successful, and a chain still manages to deliver the goods on every visit and what's more, serves you some damn tasty bbq sauce alongside them.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Restaurant Review: Polpetto

Hype is a funny thing, so are bandwagons.  They can stop you judging somewhere on its own merit and this happened to me at Polpetto.  Even though I enjoyed my meal, I was expecting fireworks and that's because Polpetto and its bigger brother Polpo have been the object of an exceptional amount of praise - Time Out is admirably exempt from this, though the underlying reason that with two other similar establishments this is not requisitely trendy enough is predictably obnoxious as ever.  I was thinking about the hype surrounding this place and trying to pin down the reasons behind it.  Firstly I suppose is the location, the same room above the French House that the sainted Fergus Henderson started at.  More than that though is that it provides a very strong, balanced and homely Italian menu that was once difficult to find.  In doing this it replicates the formula from Polpo and Boca de Lupo of providing this food in small and shareable portions so you can eat through a decent amount of the menu on one visit.  Obviously this also means slightly less food for slightly more money, but variety is after all the spice of life.  Without all the hype this would be a great place to have a good glass of wine and well prepared Venetian food with the odd stand out dish thrown in.

Restaurant Review: The Meateasy

Yes its great, all the reviews are true.  Its the best complete burger in London (though Hawksmoor still has the best patty, but given the burger is three times the price...).  The bar alongside mix great drinks, its lively and fun and well decked out.  The whole thing has a great sense of fun and sense of anticipation around it and its generally brilliant.  There is only one thing that made me sad and that's that I got a bacon burger instead of a plain cheeseburger.  It was delicious, its just I personally prefer the plain one.  I guess I'll have to go back!

Restaurant Review: Duke of Cambridge

This weekend I trotted past the ranks of pub nobility - The Prince of Wales and The Earl of Essex, The baron of somewhere else - before arriving for dinner at Britain's first and only fully accredited organic gastropub The Duke of Cambridge.  I really liked The Duke  as a boozer and everything about me wanted to like it as a restaurant as well.    Outwardly it hits all the marks for this kind of place; it's local, it's seasonal and being able to get themselves a Soil Association badge highlights the care the team here takes with sourcing.  And a fully organic gastropub is a great concept in a time when people are thankfully becoming more aware of the shocking treatment meted out to the majority of animals that end up on our plates.  So given I want to like it and approve so thoroughly of the thinking behind it why didn't I enjoy myself?  Easy answer; a restaurant's main function is to produce great food and if you can't do that consistently the goodwill you win elsewhere goes out the window.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Restaurant Review: Dragon Castle

There's a regeneration scheme, there's great transport links, there's a new big tall building with expensive flats in it (that I was told have sold pretty poorly, but who knows) but what is there to do.  Bad house music I suppose, but apart from that Elephant and Castle doesn't have an enormous amount going on.  But what it does have is a fantastic Cantonese restaurant in the shape of Dragon Castle.  Though they seem to use a bit much MSG for my liking - although it is delicious, I still feel like it's cheating and it can obscure more subtle flavours - the cooking here is good, the service friendly and the interior is very reminiscent of similar types of restaurants in Southern China.