Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Review - Rossopomodoro

Made in Chelsea. Have you seen it? It's brilliant. A C4 programme about the lives of some young Chelsea kids who seem to have limitless funds and not much intelligence. Somehow I've managed to find myself in two different places with members of the Made in Chelsea cast. Well, not with them. Just in the same expanse of space as them. Still counts. Anyway, the second spotting was in an Italian restaurant in Fulham. Well, I thought it was Fulham but I think maybe it might have been in Chelsea. I really wanted to get a candid camera photo of Caggie and Spencer enjoying some pasta to send into Heat magazine but I was too cowardly. Silly me. FYI - she was wearing a pink velour tracksuit top and he was wearing shorts with some sort of hoodie. They did not look glamorous. But perhaps they'd just been to the gym or something in which case they did look very glamorous because she (and probably he too) had a full face o' make up on and neither of them looked like they wanted to die.

The restaurant was Rossopomodoro. A quick google to check I hadn't spelt it wrong shows me that yes, yes it was in Chelsea, not Fulham. So I probably would've been able to get a cheaper plate of pasta down the road where I was headed anyway. I had swordfish pasta with a cherry tomato sauce and black olives.
When I first tasted I thought it didn't taste as salty as I had expected it to. That was because they'd forgotten the olives. They did scatter some on top when I pointed this out though. I think I preferred it without the olives, they were hold while the rest of the dish was hot. Although I would've liked the salt of the olives in the sauce because without it tasted a tad underseasoned. The swordfish was meaty and well cooked however and the cherry tomatoes still left with a little pop in them so the sauce wasn't as sweet as most cherry tomato sauces I've tried. My friend had the other option I was thinking of going for. Meatballs and peas in a ragu sauce with parmesan.
Her meatballs were cooked perfectly. What's mainly worth mentioning, however, is the pasta. I think this was the best cooked pasta I've ever had. It was exactly on the right side of al dente. I'm quite sure the dishes we each chose were supposed to come with different types of pasta but they seemed to come with the same type. It was like really fat penne without the ridges. As in, really fat. Each piece needed to be cut into three to make a manageable mouthful. I'm not sure if this pasta shape was the right choice for either of the sauces that we were having. Mine was already in small enough pieces so the pasta was the only thing that needed cutting. But that meant cutting in such a way so you had the right proportions of each so you weren't left with excess sauce or worse, just pasta. NIGHTMARE. All in all, excellently cooked pasta and meat/fish but the overall effect was still average. I might go back there but I wouldn't recommend it. I wonder what Caggie and Spencer's take on the place was...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Review - Simply Thai, Punch Tavern

I don't know why I eat to match the weather when I refuse to dress for it. Someone pointed out to me that a student overdraft is exactly like a student loan but better. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to embrace it and make the most of my last few days in London. That has meant eating out lots. Although I haven't been eating out lots entirely by choice. Today I went ingredient shopping and found that I couldn't even buy the simplest of ingredients in the supermarkets since they're all 'local' or 'express.' I have come to learn that this means 'not well stocked.'

I've had designs on Daddy Donkey for the whole time I've been here. Sadly, I still haven't made it. Which is a shame because I do enjoy a good burrito. And apparently Daddy Donkey has better/cheaper burritos than Chilangos which is where I ended up going because it's so close to the office. Still, I have only myself to blame. The sun was shining and it was lovely weather to go to Leather Lane market and eat outside. Except before I got to Daddy Donkey's stall I was tempted by the wafts of 4 big woks of simmering curries. And since I've been crazy for Asian food recently, I didn't get any further than that. Thai red steak curry for £5. And pretty good too! I slathered mine in hot sauce although I probably didn't need to.
There was a brilliant kick of lemongrass and the whole thing tasted very vibrant and was perfect for a sunny day. The rice was not too sticky but still sticky enough too and I always appreciate well cooked rice.
The Punch Tavern, another place I've had plans to go to for lunch but didn't manage, I had more success with. The weather was horrid. It was that really limp English rain which doesn't quite justify an umbrella but still gets you really wet. Perfect weather for gravy! Despite the menu being full of options which would make you forget about the rain, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat before I even got there. Pie and mash (perhaps a hangover from Scotland?)
It was a steak and ale pie, a little too salty in my opinion but still tasty. You could really taste the ale (in a good way) and the sides (mash, carrots, mixed veg) were all well cooked and seasoned. The gravy was thick and rich and glossy and warm. I got major food envy again with my friend's order: cheeseburger and chips. The chips were MASSIVE. And I think the ketchup might have been homemade? The burger has displaced the Big Tasty from McDonalds in my mind as being the burger that would be the Burger in Plato's world of ideal forms (this is a topic I am ignorant on, please excuse me if I got that comparison very, very wrong.) So jealous. 
This was the £5 Punch classic this week as well so it was very good value. The atmosphere of the place is what sets it apart from other pubs though. It manages to be both chic and comfortable (red cushions!) yet appears to be the kind of place which has lots of regulars. The staff seemed to know a lot of the other patrons and they in turn seemed to know each other. And it's all so warm and friendly that you forget you're in the heart of the corporate hell.
[In the process of waiting for these photos to upload (crappy, crappy Internet) I popped down to Mugen to get a pre-dinner snack. Half price dumplings. They are so so so good. Beat the sushi and katsu hands down. Peppery pork with something crunchy and soft almost pasta-like pastry. I just want more!]

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Eating at the Edinburgh Fringe

Once when I went to Bangladesh one of the many books I'd taken with me was a spy novel called Good News/Bad News. I didn't really understand the relevance of the title. They did often analyse situations by saying 'so the good news is...' but I don't remember it being a particularly big feature of the book. That being said, I don't really remember the book very well. Anyway, I have good/bad news relating to katsu curry. Good news: all the others I had were actually good and involved skill to make. Bad news: the one I had on Edinburgh on Saturday night. Eating this katsu made me so sad. I was so hungry because all I'd had to eat was a sandwich on the train up. It was the worst sandwich I've ever eaten. I often say things were the 'x thing ever' but I think this time I really mean it. The packaging described it as 'succulent chicken, sweet tomato, crisp lettuce, seasoned mayo' and NONE OF THESE THINGS WERE TRUE. I wasn't expecting it to be good, it was train food. But it begged the question: WHY is it so bad?

Anyway, I was pleased to see my friend was staying 10 seconds away from a Japanese place called Izzi. It looked quite nice. So I went there and got a pork katsu even though I felt as though I should've ordered something more adventurous. But I was really hungry and for once knew exactly what I wanted to eat and was in the vicinity of somewhere which could provide it. Way way waaay too much soy sauce in the curry sauce. My friend remarked that the overall effect was indistinguishable from Worcestershire sauce. She's never had katsu before so I had to convince her that katsu does not usually taste like this and that she should definitely order it at some point soon. It wasn't just the sauce that was bad though - the pork was dry and the breadcrumbs too heavy.

But Edinburgh wasn't all bad. I tried a scotch pie with mash and gravy. I'm not that sold on it - it didn't really taste of much. But maybe it's like a Cornish pasty in that a bad one still tastes OK in an indiscriminate stodge kind of way but a good one tastes really, really good. This one was from Auld Jocks Pie Shoppe.
We also took a quick visit to Forest Fringe Cafe, a 'veggie hipster' cafe (not my words). I'd highly recommend checking it out. As well as excellent food and drink, it has a 'take anything you want sale' with the only rule being 'take what you want, leave what you can.' Ace.
They only have five things on the menu and apparently this is because all the waiting staff are volunteers. They're all very good cooks. The burrito was nice and well balanced and filling but not too filling. It's the sides that deserve a special mention though. There was a red cabbage and grain (I don't know what type of grain) salsa type thing with raisins. Not what you usually find with burritos but it was very good. The texture of the cabbage and the soft grain went really well. The raisins were interesting although I'd probably have preferred less of them. It's the salad that's the standout though. It was very, very simple. Just lettuce, tomato and cucumber. But it wasn't a couple of pieces of each left on the side of the plate like an after thought. The proportions of each and the size they were cut to were perfect. I didn't think that would make a difference but it did, this salad was definitely more enjoyable than most and I think that had a lot to do with it. It just tasted so fresh! And it had none of that awful bitterness that non-considered iceberg often does.
My last boring Edinburgh story relates to bubble tea. I had never heard of this concept before. It's very milky tea with bits of tapioca in the bottom. My friend suggested we try it. She was aware that she didn't like bubble tea but is struck with an urge to have it every year. It's an interesting experience but not a pleasant one. I won't be doing it again any time soon.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Review - York & Albany

I am tired and feeling under the weather and if the free lunch I'm enjoying in 10 minutes is anything other than macaroni cheese, I'll be very disappointed. The reason for this tiredness (read: hangover) is corporate hospitality which included dinner at the York & Albany.

The food was the only disappointing bit of the evening. The gin and tonic was stern and strong and the atmosphere was lively. We even caught a glimpse of David Mitchell. He has a beard at the moment. Failed to get a candid camera shot to send to Heat though. But the food was its failing.

Bread - weird tasting, sour and salty. Insufficient butter.

Starter - roasted red pepper stuffed with romesco sauce with a dollop of goat's cheese on the side. Badly presented (I wish I'd taken some pictures), bland, too much romesco sauce, badly put together (goat's cheese totally overpowered the not-sweet-enough pepper)

Main - cod tagine and cous cous. So boring. Underseasoned cod. Flavourless cous cous. Underseasoned broccoli on the side. Apparently the fillet steak was very good, I missed a trick there. One of my fellow diners said there's something special about a restaurant which does steak really well but I don't agree. I'm underwhelmed by steak and think that you should do everrrrything on your menu well. Otherwise, don't put it on your menu!

Dessert - peach parfait. It also came with a raspberry (?) sorbet and something which reminded me of tinned peaches but didn't taste as good. This was basically three different types of cold, icy fruit in slightly varying shapes, sizes and colour. And oddly, they all tasted of the same fruit but not particularly of peach.

I don't know what's more disappointing - the food from last night or the fact that lunch wasn't macaroni cheese...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Mugen (at last)

28 pieces of sushi and a healthily sized chicken katsu curry for £8! I knew there was a reason I'd been trying to go to Mugen so desperately. If I'd have to play normal prices (£16) for this, I would've thought it was perfectly reasonable. But Mugen do this lovely thing where they slash prices by half between 5 and 6 to get rid of their leftover stock. There isn't much left over as the food is really delicious and so Mugen is a very popular lunch venue. But who cares when it's this cheap?
And it's all genuinely very tasty! The chicken katsu is deep and salty and delicious with sticky sticky rice to soak up all the sauce. Actually, now I think about it, I don't think I've ever had a bad chicken katsu curry. Perhaps this is a sign that I don't know what a really, really good one tastes like? Or maybe I've just been very lucky. Most of the katsu I've eaten has been from Edamame, a cute, very reasonably priced place which opens weird hours in Oxford, and that was probably better than Mugen's. But then Edamame do make your food for you there and then whereas this half price stuff was leftover. But still so good!
Now that I've doubted my reliability as a katsu-taster, I will doubt my abilities as a sushi taster. I've only had proper sushi/sashimi from a restaurant once before. A very expensive place in Holborn which I can't remember the name of. I didn't eat that much but I wasn't that sold. Mugen's, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. The white fish and cucumber rolls were my favourite. Perhaps I'll go on to eat far superior sushi and change my mind about how good this was. But for now, I can say it tasted nice and fresh and made you want more of it. Well, it made you want more but we probably couldn't have managed more. All of this fed two people well and left enough for a snack for a third. We were stuffed. Although not too stuffed - champagne and profiteroles an hour after dinner to wash everything down.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Mama Lan's Supper Club

Whilst I was in the middle of a bout of shameless self-promotion on Friday, someone asked me if I’d be writing this up. I said, quite tactlessly, that I’d only be writing it up if I had something to say. This was followed by a short stunned pause in which time I realised how what I said would’ve sounded to other people. I hastily qualified that what I meant by that was that I’d only write it up if I could find a fun angle to write it from instead of just saying ‘this was really good and so was this and so was that’ (because it was all really good). I’ve tried in vain to think of an interesting angle to write this from. I thought maybe I’d start by writing about how long it took me to learn to use chopsticks (19 years of avoidance then I learnt in about 10 minutes at Sojo when I was with a friend who is self conscious and gets embarrassed about silly things) but then I’m very aware of trying not to sound annoying. I thought I was getting better at the non-annoying bit but I feel it’s gone a little awry, especially in the last entry. But anyway, despite my lack of ‘angle’, I want to write about it. It was my first ever supper club dinner after all.

Getting there was stressful. I was terrified that we’d miss the train because my perpetually late friend was late again. And in the midst of the worry/hurry, I totally forgot to get any wine despite living literally upstairs from a Tesco Express. Oh, and the fact that there’s a stock of what I presume is good grown up not £5 wine where I live. So the journey involved rushing to a corner shop in north London and trying to find something which looked drinkable.
When we got there, I was a little surprised to find that all the other parties there had at least one connection to Mama Lan. We had none. My friend hadn’t even looked at her website before. So I was a little paranoid that all our fellow diners thought we were weird for turning up at a stranger’s house for dinner. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was stressing that Ning herself thought I was a heartless bitch because she had to help MY friend with her cases up the stairs because it had slipped my mind to offer (careless, not selfish). But all of these worries soon slipped away. I’m very conscious of the fact that my last entry was far too long and also of the fact that I have no good and few passable photos to break my babbling up. So I will limit this to the best bits.

Tofu with cabbage and chilli. MAN ALIVE this was good. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten tofu – I don’t understand why it has such a bad reputation. It was spicy and vinegary and had a lovely texture. It’s not often that I prefer the vegetarian option (especially when the meat alternative is also delicious) but here I definitely did.

Green apple sorbet. 20 years of hating sorbet (probably more in concept than actuality) then two good ones in one week. It was the perfect balance of tangy and sweet and tasted so fresh! All the goodness of apple without the effort of chewing. I gave myself brain freeze from eating it too quickly. Calippo could really learn a lesson from these guys.

Cane sugar ice cream. I’ve sneakily avoided going back to Bangladesh for about 3 years now. But that means it’s been that long since I had sugar cane. There’s nothing quite like getting your hands and face drenched in sticky sugar cane syrup. It’s great fun! This ice cream brought back lots of memories of doing that. I would’ve gladly guzzled this with my hands. This second comparison sounds less complimentary but I mean it wholeheartedly as a compliment. You know how cheap vanilla ice cream tastes really good but not in the same way that vanilla ice cream does? Cane sugar ice cream tasted like someone had seized the magic of crap vanilla ice cream and concentrated it and ended up with something really, really good. Oh and it had an added bonus of being healthier than an ice cream made with normal sugar. But tasted much better (which the healthy alternative doesn’t usually do)

So my first supper club experience was a great success. The food was delicious and the demonstration of how to make the lazy dragon main course was an added treat. And of course, the company. We were initially very aware of being the youngest people there. We’re not used to hanging out with Real People. Friday’s dinner guests and my temporary flatmates are kindly showing me that being a Real Person/Proper Grown Up is actually swell. I’m looking forward to it!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Down and out in Paris and London - Review: Little Bay, Villa Spicy

I probably couldn't have chosen a title further from the truth: I've been living the high life thanks to a recruitment drive. But this title has such a nice patter to it!  I could have maybe defended myself by saying it's related to the book. Unfortunately, I haven't read it. But I can say with some certainty that this post relates in no way to the themes/plot/characters in the book.

So, what was I doing on Monday night? Well, I was oblivious to London burning until quite late in the afternoon. After the pre-university-admission 'always be well informed, read the paper back to back every day' I found myself quite depressed about the state of the world. So I gave up reading the news and relied on HIGNFY for my dose of current affairs. Of course, it's not always that easy. I do like knowing stuff. But then I encounter articles ----
so I was going to put a link to an article about a 13 year old boy being brutally murdered by soldiers that made me want to join the UN peace corps after I read it except I was googling to try and find it and I just came up with all of this. Anyway, remembering the particular article I'm thinking of and a quick glance down all of this makes me feel sick and watery eyed so I'll stop. But I think this explains why I don't read the news.

So anyway, I hadn't heard about Tottenham on Monday. Instead I went happily about my day. I met a friend after work, had a really overpriced glass of wine at a nice bar. It's OK though, I made up for my £5+ gulping through taster mouthfuls provided by the barman trying to find a wine medium enough. So by 7 I was good and tipsy. And craving BBQ food. Oh look, there's the Southbank. PERFECT. Pitt Cue Co. But no. It's closed. Again. I asked the man in the fish and chip stall next door what the deal was: apparently they're only open Wednesday - Sunday. Ergh. Well, we went into Dishoom's 'beach cafe' instead. But I wasn't keen. And I'm an insistent drunk (people I know, please avoid reading that and thinking about specific instances of this) so we didn't go there. Instead, tried ringing 118 to get the number of Mugen. Did you know the most frequently asked question to 118 is 'how long is the longest penis?' Did you know that I once rang them to ask if eating something off the floor would kill me and they didn't send me a free text? I was drunk then too. Anyway, Mugen was closed. And the Japanese place which looks like it should be serving pub food was vetoed by my companion. And I wanted to save Punch Tavern for a working lunch. Anyway, this is becoming (has already become?) boring - we ended up near Exmouth Market. At Little Bay. We were driven here by hunger. Although the prices were pretty appealing. We were all 'wow how can they be turning a profit at £4.48 for a main?' This place is so cute. The décor is really nice: they haven’t spent too much money on it but it looks lovely. And it’s ambient and red and yellow and makes you think of Italy and opera and Where Angels Fear to Tread. And it’s so cheap! But unfortunately you can taste that it’s cheap.
Moules marinieres/garlic roasted mushrooms to start then confit of duck/penne arrabiatta. They gave us free bread too. With something where I spent ages trying to work out if it was butter or margarine. Which means it was probably margarine. Anyway, the mussels tasted a bit rank. I’m not using rank in the Birmingham ghetto sense of the word. I just mean they had this slight cacky aftertaste which reminds me of the aftertaste you get after a sip of £5 Blossom Hill White Zinfandel from Wetherspoons. Not all of them had this aftertaste. But most of them did. I think I was more concerned by the fact they didn’t all have it… It seemed to imply the quality of the mussel varied rather than poor cooking. The sauce was nice though and I was glad I’d saved some bread to sweep it up with.
Confit of duck had a weird texture. It was almost…grainy? It was falling apart but each morsel was kind of spiky. This texture detracted from the taste somewhat. The puy lentils they were served with were bland and tasted primarily of salt. The sweet carrots that I got as a side complimented them well, however, so it was palatable. But it wasn’t good.
The mushrooms and penne, on the other hand, were really tasty. The pasta sauce was probably a little too on the sugary side (or maybe just lacking in the spice needed to contrast with it) and the mushrooms were a tad underseasoned but they were still meaty and addictive.
So perhaps the key with Little Bay is to order simply? But then thinking about it, moules mariniere isn’t complex. Perhaps it’s just a pitfall of the territory of trying to do lots of different types of meal? I admire that they’re trying to provide good food in a nice place in Central London at steal-prices but the fact that something in their formula is resulting in sub standard food suggests they need to change something. Perhaps lots of simple dishes which use similar ingredients? It won’t make for an earth-shattering menu but to be honest, their current menu isn’t either. If simplifying the current menu just a little means they’ll produce far superior tasting food, they should do it. They’ll find themselves overrun with customers. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already though: i reiterate that the atmosphere and the service are both excellent. It’s just some of the food! 

It's OK to eat somewhere really cheap and think the food isn't very good. Yes, in an ideal world, people wouldn't charge for food that was bad. But it's not an ideal world (see earlier discussion of riots, poverty, Kashmir - please don't think this is me saying eating a sub-par meal at a restaurant is in any way comparable  to those things...) Villa Spicy, a restaurant in Paris I was taken to, charges loads and doesn't serve food much better than Little Bay's.
Cod pastilla was not pleasant. The cod was underseasoned and slightly bitter. The spinach which also made up part of the filling was murky and drowned and too salty (perhaps they wanted the cod and spinach to cancel out?) The pastry was soggy from the wetness of the spinach. It was NOT good. What was good though was the roasted red pepper sauce that came with it. That was delicious and light and flavoursome. Unfortunately, it came in a half-full shot glass and there wasn't enough of it to drown out the flavour of the rest of the dish.
Pudding fared better. I was a little disappointed that creme brulee didn't come in a little pot where I could crack the surface. But the surface was crackable all the same. Crackable and delicious! Like little shards of glass but less dangerous. The underneath layer wasn't so good - it was a bit too eggy for my liking and a bit cloying. But the flavours were bang on, so much vanilla. It also came with a pink sorbet.
I'm not the biggest fan of sorbet but this sorbet I liked. Also it was a good accompaniment for the slightly-unpleasant cloy of the creme brulee. Completely took it away. Yes, pudding was nice. But worth the price? Probably not. Villa Spicy was better than Little Bay. But not £14 better. And the interior of Little Bay was much more fun.

Although Villa Spicy didn't really confirm all the rumours about French restaurants being top of the game, being in Paris (and not paying for anything) was still wonderful. I think I might move out there in a year or so. Maybe I'll be the new Petite Anglaise. I am very small. Except hopefully I won't get sacked for fairly justifiable reasons, start a lawsuit and then whine about everything.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Review - The Living Room, Alford's Deli, Caravan

Definitely not with a kiss. Morning breath plus a predisposition to retching when I put solid things in my mouth pre-noon (ha) makes this unappealing. I guess that means I just don’t like eggs or indeed anything in the morning. But that doesn’t mean I miss out on breakfast. I eat breakfast for lunch (to be distinguished from brunch) pretty frequently. Those will be discussed a little bit later.

Firstly, I feel the need to confirm that I’m not indiscriminately positive about everything I eat. So, to talk about an uninspiring meal I had. The Living Room in Tower Hill. We had a sharing platter to start which looked not-unlike someone had laid out various ingredients for a sandwich on a board. So I made a little sandwich for myself. 
It was alright, nothin’ special. The mains were where it went awry. My friend was presented with a tiny piece of mackerel. The waitress was NOT lying when she recommended that he order a side with it. But even so, the size of the fish was appalling. He mentioned, very politely, that perhaps they’d forgotten a bit of it? But no, nothing to be done. 

I had two starters as a main because I wasn’t enthused by any of the mains and also ‘cause I’m a maverick. Underseasoned prawns in garlic and parsley butter. 
Moroccan pearl barley tomato (?) soup.
That was quite nice but the bread that it came with was cardboardy. The pudding did look good but I was feeling too disappointed by everything else to risk it. 5/10. It probably would’ve fared better if the vibe in there hadn’t been so weird. The waitress was at once overly familiar and hostile and they seemed really put out by the fact that no one wished to order alcohol. Oh and there was a poor singer on a piano covering songs which were originally not so bad.

So, anyway, back to breakfast lunch/brunch. I presented my friend with two choices for lunch: Mugen or Alford’s Deli. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t choose the former since I was craving Japanese food (NEVER FEAR- I found some really tasty tempura prawns and curry at a stall in the evening, it didn’t have a sign but I’m pretty sure they’re usually to be found in Venn Street Market) but he wanted to be as full as possible so he would’ve have to pay for overpriced festivl food later in the day. 

He still spent £30 on food later but not because Alford’s failed at its appointed task. £5 for a full English with a tea or coffee. And what a breakfast it was! Nothing was too salty or swimming in fat. Even in Oxford (usually a little cheaper than LDN) I expect to pay at least £6 - £8 for a breakfast not drowning in its own grease. And even those breakfasts make a thing of being a bit fancier than the usual full English by adding thyme (unnecessarily?) to the mushrooms and making everything slightly smaller. Alford’s didn’t do this. It stayed simple but just did everything so well. Bacon not too salty, sausage plump and browned, mushrooms/scrambled eggs good and buttery, proper thick cut non-supermarket bread, toasted on a grill instead of a toaster. The Hickory smoked BBQ sauce on the tables was a welcome accompaniment too. I’m so pleased to find a breakfast which isn’t trying to be anything but breakfast but does everything really well and without clogging the arteries too much. I love the St Giles breakfast but I did appreciate having thicker than supermarket bread and non-‘plastic’ sausages. And the coffee was good too!
Anyway, I have no objection to fancy. As long as it’s proper-interesting instead of just trying to set itself apart by adding some green where none was necessary. Caravan did this very well. After failing to find Clerkenwell Kitchen, a friend and I went in search of Exmouth market. We had a little wait for the table which we spent salivating over the menu and trying to match up menu options with what was being brought out.
I had the ham, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and bubble and squeak. Friend went for something very different: baked eggs with red pepper ragout and avocado toast. 
It’s really impressive that Caravan can do such different styles of foods equally well. We also had cocktails as a result of a discussion about the ‘boozy brunch’ which a friend living in New York had told me about. The waitress commented that I was touching the poached eggs quite tentatively. I was just psyched about breaking it open. Soft-but-hard then soft yolk, perfect. To begin with I thought the ham was a slice of ham on toast. It turns out the ‘toast’ was all ham. A thick, smoky slab. I was so pleased! 
This was a good weekend for breakfast foods.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Review - Dishoom, Wahaca

I found my lunch pal outside Jamie’s. Upon entering Dishoom, she commented that she had seen this place but had assumed it couldn’t be this since I’d described our lunch destination as reasonably priced and this place looked expensive. I know what she means, the décor is all very sleek and black and shiny. Except it retains an informal vibe by having the kitchen open for all to see the roti-making. The kitchen counter runs parallel to the entrance window so it vaguely makes you think that you ought to go up there to order; the countless waiting staff inform you otherwise. One of the waiters told us that the emphasis at Dishoom was on sharing so most people got 2 or 3 plates between the two of them and shared. This wouldn’t work for Lunch Pal and I: we have very different spice thresholds. So she went for the Malai Chicken Roll. I was tempted by the Dishoom Roll but I thought it might be too similar (not that that would be a bad thing) to a what I’d had at Mooli’s. So in the spirit of trying things I hadn’t tried before and might not try again, I went for the daily special. Lamb Kadhu Masala. The waiter described it as mediumly spicy. After this I was tempted to ask what he’d recommend that was REALLY spicy. My main motivation for this was that at most restaurants, I can barely taste the chilli in their supposedly really spicy dishes (I swear I'm not bragging.) Dishoom’s medium spicy, however, preserving the authenticity of a café in Bombay, definitely satisfied me. Hot and slightly numbing on my tongue, it was the spiciest restaurant meal I’ve had in a long time. It was almost painful on my burnt roof-of-mouth. But it wasn’t killing everything else: you could still taste the tangy tomato and the tender sweetness of the lamb underneath it all. And I was pleased to see no one had bothered to extract the ‘alachee’ (cardamom): my experience of eating in Indian Subcontinent countries (every single damned year ‘til I was 18) involves lots of picking out whole spices. It’s more fun that way. And biting into one accidentally isn’t exactly pleasant but makes you feel more alive (my most memorable experience of this sensation was the Wasabi Hit of the Unfortunate Bill Splitting First Time I Tried Sushi)
OH AND THE ROTI WAS AMAZING. Still not as good as grandmama’s but I think that judgment is based on sentimentality rather than anything else. My judgment of the food at Dishoom is left untouched by such romance. With cold blood, I can still say the food here is excellent both in terms of taste and value for money. 
Good-street-style-food-in-a-trendy-bar appears to be my theme for the week. I took a trip to Wahaca in Covent Garden with a Dinner Pal. 
Taking a tip from someone who does all things food related better than me, we avoided ordering anything with beef in. Pork pibil, chicken burrito, chorizo and potato quesadillas and summer vegetable taco.  
It wasn’t particularly special to look at and had lots of flags sticking out of it but it tasted pretty damn good. The burrito was probably the least exciting things but it was still very good.
The black beans make it stand out from the other burritos I’ve eaten: they were soft and creamy and almost syrupy. But not in a gross way. The pork pibil was served with the same herby green rice and unctuous refried beans that helped to stuff the burrito. The pork was salty and sour in the right proportions and of course had that lovely fuzzy texture.
The summer vegetable tacos were the spiciest of the four dishes and the chilli cut through the cheese topping it. My favourite of the four dishes was the chorizo and potato quesadillas. The only word I can think of to describe them is soft. The outside was soft. The inside was soft. The potato was soft. The chorizo hidden amongst the potato was soft. Good soft. Like something brushing your cheek lightly as you fall asleep soft.
The drinks ('how old are you? ...20') were pretty snazzy too. Mine was the pink hibiscus margarita. I avoid mojitos because too much mint gives me a headache. Or at least I convince myself that it does. All this for £15 each! It totally deserves the Cheap Eats award.