Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Recipe - Paella

I've lost it. This has been the third week when I've done little to no work. To try and get some sort of grip on exams/reality/my life, I took the step of placing all my folders on my desk. They're wild and multicoloured and terrifying. I did this so I'd no longer be able to avoid working. But I underestimated how GRIPPED WITH TERROR I am. Manifesting itself not as motivation to revise but with me finding progressively more inventive ways of procrastinating and also generally just losing the plot in such a way that in any situation, I'm choosing the stupidest, most self-destructive (but probably most fun) option available. I've lost all sense of days and I am in a daze. So much so that I didn't even realise those two were homonyms as I typed them. Anyway, this is the third day it's felt like Sunday now. Only today is actually Sunday. I'm aware that the (more) disjointed writing style of this and the last post are revealing just how not with it I am. Anyway, surprisingly, that doesn't mean that cooking has gone to hell. I've been cooking more since I find it a soothing, calming activity. It is something I can do. I will set out what I'm going to do, follow a process and it (generally) turns out as expected. Why can't everything work this way?
(Yes, I know this is very similar to seafood risotto but I have a mean paella recipe which I'd like to share.)

5 chicken thighs, seasoned all over with salt and pepper
2 lemons, halved
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
150g chorizo, chopped
2 red sweet pointed peppers, chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme

300g paella rice
Splash of white wine
Liberal pinch saffron
1l vegetable stock
4 good tomatoes, chopped
150g fresh peas
200g fresh prawns
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oil on a high heat in a large, heavy based pan with the lemons in it. Brown the chicken thighs until nicely browned all round. Remove the chicken thighs and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, chorizo, peppers, bay leaves and thyme.
Fry for 5 minutes until the chorizo oils have been released and the vegetables are softening.
Turn the heat up slightly and add the paella rice and coat well with the oil and fry for a minute
Add the wine and let it evaporate away.
Add the saffron and combine well.
Pour in the stock and the chicken thighs and two of the lemon halves then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover.
After 15 minutes, add the peas and tomatoes.
After a further 10 minutes, add the prawns.
After 5 more minutes, remove from the heat.
Stir in the parsley, adjust the seasoning as appropriate (salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon perhaps).

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Recipe - Roasted Vegetable Lasagne with Fennel Salad

'I was the glue that kept my friends together, now they don't talk and we don't go out.' I used to love Brand New so hard. (I still sort of do, embarrassing.) Anyway, this little quotation has been chosen for my opening gambit because it's kind of true regarding Birmingham friends. Except it's more that I don't talk to any but a smattering anymore for a combination of reasons culminating in this. But before it all went awry, we had a great time! And I was quite frequently events organiser because organising is probably my favourite functional way to pass the time. But that meant that I got quite obsessed with the concept of functioning groups. That is, a group which functions. I wasn't very good at arranging such groups. What I tended to do was throw everyone I wanted to see together. Awkward at the time but it meant that at some point all the people I liked became friends. Which was lovely! Until two of them became too well acquainted for my liking. But that wasn't what made the functioning groups start disintegrating. That we can attribute to a mass exodus from the oppressive hole that was my secondary school. Which was closely followed by the break-up of the Power Couple. Awk. Functioning groups have started appearing in my Mind Palace again because now all the New People aren't really new anymore because we've known each other for nearly 3 years and that's plenty of time to have made terrible mistakes and screwed each other over. I think this is a good way of charting progress between me (and probably most people) at 15 and me at 20 though. Because making groups function remains easy(ish) even though lots more has passed which I will attribute to an improved ability to bite the bullet, swallow the involuntary shudders and move on. There have been several meals this week which exemplify this principle but this one had the most interesting recipes attached to it.

Fennel Salad
Half bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Juice of half a lemon
1 bulb of roasted garlic, crushed to a pulp

Very simply just combine the ingredients.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
3 aubergines, cut into  ½cm thick slices
100g forestiere mushrooms, halved

Season the vegetables and toss in olive oil. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes at 220. 

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin plum tomatoes
A liberal handful of basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until the onions are very soft but not coloured.
Add the plum tomatoes and half a tin of water.
Mash up the tomatoes to make a smooth paste.
Season with salt and pepper. 
Turn the heat up to make the sauce boil then turn down to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in the basil 5 minutes from the end of the cooking time.

50g butter
50g plain flour
100ml milk
Black pepper
100g cheddar cheese cheese

Melt the butter on a medium heat.
Stir in the flour to make a paste.
Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly to make a smooth sauce.
Keep on a low heat for about 10 minutes to let the mixture thicken. 
Stir in the cheese, a dash of nutmeg and lots of black pepper.

125g ball mozzarella, sliced
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Lasagne sheets

Arrange a third of the vegetables on the bottom layer of a lasagne dish.
Then half the tomato sauce.
Then a layer of lasagne sheets, being careful to avoid overlapping.
Then half the bechamel sauce.
Then a third of the vegetables.
Then the rest of the tomato sauce.
Another layer of lasagne sheets.
The rest of the bechamel.
The remaining vegetables.
Top with the sliced mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.

Look, I wrote a poem!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Recipe - Seafood Risotto

Exams are obviously a stressful state of affairs. But also, a little unjust. Well, I'm really diluting the definition of unjust there. What I really mean is that it's a little sad that in these last short few months I'm having to spend most of my time learning about things I don't know or care about instead of spending time with my favourites. Actually, I feel even sadder when I think about how all the peripheral characters in my life are soon to be transplanted with new ones. Well, that's if I'm lucky and get a job. Another possibility is ending up back in the Midlands rocking back and forth and muttering 'anywhere but here'. All this being good is causing me to fret about these things. But it's also meaning that I'm cooking things other than pasta and fried rice more. My first attempt was at petits pois a la francaise. It did not go well. The pommes anna which accompanied it were even worse. So I thought, hey, let's go back to (even) simpler things and build up to greatness (I'm not really this immodest) again. The first attempt took place on Valentine's Day where I crashed the man-date of two of my friends and offered to cook. Well, actually, I suggested we go to the Jam Factory but my request was swiftly refused in a manner I'd never accept from an actual Valentine. I made a variation on this with the maverick side dish of garlic roasted baby brussel sprouts. Except that I used caraway seed instead of garlic. It was nice! But having blogged about something very similar before, I couldn't repeat. Anyway, I finally got round to cooking new-recipe-post-worthy food. Seafood risotto. It would've happened earlier but this day worsened my illness and meant I flaked on the initial date to run away to Birmingham and spend lots of money.
Seafood Risotto
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Half a bulb of fennel, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
300g arborio rice
200ml white wine
1l fish stock
Seafood - 30 mussels, 8 REALLY BIG prawns, 8 cod cheeks
12 cherry tomatoes
Parsley, finely chopped
Herby tops of fennel, finely chopped
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Fry onion, garlic, chilli, carrot and fennel in olive oil until the onion is translucent and softening.
Add the rice and coat with oil. Add the fennel seeds and turmeric and mix thoroughly.
Add the wine on a high heat and let the alcohol evaporate away.
Add enough fish stock so the risotto is just covered all the time and stir.
Continue to add fish stock and stir until the rice is cooked.
When the rice is about 5 minutes from being cooked, add the prawns and cod cheeks. Add the mussels and cherry tomatoes for the last minute of cooking.
Stir in the fennel, parsley and lemon juice to taste. Season with black pepper and salt (if necessary).

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review - Coco Momo

From Sunday onwards, 'no more chaos' began. Once I exempt work experience and a trip to Prague (where I can do whatever the hell I like, screw finals), I will have one week per subject. Which is not enough. But is enough to do oh-kay i.e. decent 2:i. We hope.  Except that went to hell a little bit on Thursday. Which is only one day but since my day started at 5 and was broken into three discrete parts, it felt like three days and so it feels like I'm more of a failure than I am. Does that help to explain the title? Well, in case it doesn't, I'm rather obviously alluding (classic misused verb) to the fact that I am ridiculous, a fact confirmed by three different people on four separate occasion on Hell Day. The thing is, I think this ridiculousness is kind of an asset sometimes (or at the very least, it's sort of endearing) and if I'd really ramped it up for The Interview, it would've gone OK. Instead, I straddled the line between sensible (read: boring) and being myself. Add an unhealthy dose of nerves, a bitch of a cold, all the painkillers and too much caffeine to mask said cold and you have the perfect recipe (ha, puns) for a disastrous interview. So that was how I came to be sitting in a pub in West London sipping an 11am screwdriver. Of course, most people who drink at 11am are old, weird men who pretend to be diamond dealers/friends with the MD of Deutsche bank/friends with Simon Cowell/heavyweight champions in the Army. So I pretended to be a lesbian. And then my 'girlfriend' turned up and we made like a New York Saturday and drank cocktails with brunch at Coco Momo. I'm not sorry.
Vodka, elderflower and champagne. So good. And it went surprisingly well with the nourishing (though underseasoned) root vegetable and 'spice' (vague, right?) soup. To follow came the incredibly boring poulet-frites. 
Boring though it may have been, it was really good. I screwed myself over though. I have a tendency to leave my favourite bits of a meal for last so I can really savour them. Good things come to those who wait and all. What frequently happens (and that is what happened here) is that I fill up on less-delicious food and then am too full for the more-delicious. This chicken was really moist and had perfectly crispy, slightly fatty skin. I know this because I ate all the breast, the bit most prone to become dry, and that was all perfectly cooked and juicy. However, that meant that the even-more delicious thigh meat didn't make it to my stomach. The fries were crispy and dry, as they should be. The whole thing again lacked a little seasoning but no complaints aside from that. This all came to £20 including a tip although that was because we enjoyed a 50% discount since it's a sister restaurant to the place my friend works or something. This cheered me up no end. As did my super-impressive 100m stiletto-clutching dash for the bus home. Members of the public clapped. But then I didn't bother to re-shoe myself for the rest of the journey. I'm a joke.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Review - Jude the Obscure

Detox week ended about a week ago and I treated the week that followed as a 'reading week'. And by that I mean I read nothing but fiction and spent most days in bed and most nights in unhealthy company/surroundings. It's been fun. The week began with an innocent game of backgammon and prawn fried rice but that evening turned into a surprise culminating in drunk 6.30am yoga. Monday was spent writing apologetic emails writing the week off. Then followed 80s murder mystery Wednesday, a vast improvement on mild kidney infection Tuesday. Thursday was a day of acceptable gambling aka pub quiz machine and snow. Saturday was my official Last Night of Chaos with lots of past peripheral faces making an appearance, inappropriate-for-potential-employers stories being written and broken headbands. Also, all the spirits. Free spirits. The week's activity hasn't really lent itself to blogworthy food, partly because there's been an above-average amount of meal skipping. And the meals which weren't skipped featured lots of pasta. Interesting pastas (puttanesca, sausage casserole, pesto and tuna), but pasta nonetheless. Friday, probably the most wholesome day, had the most interesting meal: supper at Jude the Obscure with a friend who I feel SUCH GREAT AFFECTION for. He's such a babe. When we go for dinner just the two of us, it's usually just by chance. This time it happened because another friend had failed to make a booking for Turl Street Kitchen which left us in a dinner-lurch after our respective plans. After a freezing walk to Jericho, we ended up in Jude the Obscure.
This is the first time I've been there and I much prefer it to the Jericho Tavern which is just next door. The food at Jericho Tavern is better but the atmosphere in Jude the Obscure trumps. Jericho Tavern has something quite artificial about it. It's nice but you can tell that they've spent some time cultivating that chilled, pretentious vibe. Jude the Obscure just seems more base but also more real. Also, the food is significantly cheaper than in the Jericho Tavern (and the quality isn't that inferior). And they have cool film posters! We ordered lasagne, a chicken  burger and haggis and macaroni bites to share.
The menu wasn't particularly inspiring or fussy but still had a decent selection. My lasagne perhaps wasn't the proper Italian kind, more of an English spin on the dish but the sauce was meaty and rich and there was plenty of cheese to cut through the depth. The haggis and macaroni bites were my suggestion because they were the only non-conventional thing on the menu. They reminded me of bitterballen but were a poor imitation if I'm honest. The crumb had slightly burnt and the filling wasn't as gooey as it should have been. 6/10.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Special

One of my friends was recently inquiring about where's good to take a girl in Oxford. So I thought I'd write a post about it. Last Valentine's day, I pretended to go to the library then went to see my ex-boyfriend where we proceeded to argue about how there was at least one named individual who I would rather have been spending the evening with. The year before, I was brought a rose and had a nice evening planned but was more intent upon running around halls being a fresher and being (more) immature. The year before that I think I probably skipped school to go to Oxford and had a really nice time but that wouldn't fit into my cynical scheme of 'I don't really buy all this Valentine crap yet have still done something which has turned out out awfully to mark the occasion most years.' The year before that I was bought a bunch of roses and complained that they were wilted. They were SO wilted. This year, someone suggested a group of us go to this RAG blind date thing. I briefly considered it (it is for charity, after all) but then dismissed the idea because the latest addition to my 18-strong list of what qualities an ideal partner would possess is 'probably not Oxbridge educated'. So, given my location and complete lack of interest in anyone in the vicinity, I'll probably be not-doing anything romantic on Valentine's day. But if I were to go on a date in Oxford, these are the gems I'd recommend.

Al Andalus
I talked about the food at this place here, i.e. at an event which was very much not a date. But Al Andalus is one of those places which is appropriate for almost any event. It's a classy place to eat but still retains an informality about it that makes you feel relaxed and at ease, as if you were actually on a lads' holiday in Spain or something. Also, sharing is good.

Shanghai 30s
There are quite a few far-eastern food places in Oxford which go for the atmospheric, 'authentic' vibe. I personally think Shanghai 30s does it best. Well, best for a date context. Sojo would be a bit too pressure-filled and I have a feeling the waiter would make it awkward. And then there's the spice issue, (speaking from experience) no one likes snot and that would be unavoidable from the combination of February sinuses and sichuan pepper.
Just as with the far eastern places, there are lots of places in Oxford which go for the Turkish/Moroccan/mediterranean 'authentic' feel too. Unfortunately, most people end up at one of the sneaky chains made up of the owners of The Grand Cafe. Kazbar or the very similar place owned by the same people which is virtually opposite, Cafe Tarifa. I don't deny that they're both very nice and well kitted out but they're both very well known and you want to retain a bit of originality. Also I'm a little suspicious of them because they're all under The Grand Cafe umbrella but it doesn't dawn on you until you realise that the decor of all the places is subtly the same although they're all done up very differently. But they are good. But that kills the authenticity of it for me. Kesh isn't so nicely made up but it feels more real and the food is better. The food at Oxford's Grill is even better but the inside of there (while nice) doesn't have any real atmosphere to it. But then maybe you'd get off on seeing the apprehensive look on your inamorata's face (triggered by the sign) only to later hear 'ohmygod this place is so good I really didn't expect it from the sign you're so wise and learned omg'.

Chiang Mai
This is in the same vein as Shanghai 30s (very good far eastern food in an east-meets-west decorated setting) but it deserves its own special mention because I infer that it's less well known than Shanghai 30s so you can combine 'oh hey this place has a great milieu' with 'have you heard of this place? no? LET ME TAKE YOU THERE.'
Other places which I haven't written about but I'd recommend include Mamma Mia (if you can deal with the awkwardness of the waiters) in Jericho and Gino's (where the waiters are less awkward but the food slightly less good) on Gloucester Green. My personal favourite would be for someone to suggest we avoid the bloating and embrace what St. Valentine was really about then go for brunch here. I'm only half joking.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Egg Parlour

I often think the job I'd really truly actually be best at is being a party planner. Any time I invite people to drink in my room, it will be structured around a 'fun' theme. Mulled wine evening is an example. More recently, I hosted 'poker night' where I provided great mood lighting and lots of salty nuts. I like themes. Last Saturday, my room became The Egg Parlour for one night only. The majority of my correspondence between Tuesday and Saturday related to eggs. And egg garnishes. And egg based liquors. I have no doubt that my guests were sick to death of a) eggs and b) being told what to do. But it was all worth it! You might be wondering 'why eggs?' Well, one of our dear friends who graduated last year liked to fool people that there was a restaurant called The Egg Parlour down Iffley Road which sells lots of different types of eggs. There isn't. But there should be! Also, I was at a different friend's house near Christmas while he was making eggnog except I wasn't meticulous enough with my egg separating and so the egg whites wouldn't do what they were told. But apparently when he did eventually make it, it was delicious. So basically two of my friends at separate times did and said not-very-exciting things about eggs and so it became the theme of an evening activity that I got really into organising instead of focussing on my imminent future-deciding exams. As you would.
The menu comprised of shakshuka with pitta bread, juevos rancheros with tortillas, scrambled eggs with parsley, smoked salmon and hollandaise and soft-boiled duck eggs with soldiers. Drinks of note were eggnog and advocaat. There were some photos of the actual eggs rather than the trimmings but the Dame tried to jailbreak his phone and that led to the loss of all the photos. Alas. He found the photos.

I started with smittenkitchen's shakshuka recipe as a base but then cheated and used some of that sauce as the bed for the baked eggs for my juevos rancheros.

Olive oil
2 red chillies
1 green chilli
1 large onion
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cans plum tomatoes

Fry the chilli and onion in a large saucepan on a medium heat until the onions are browned.
Add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes.
Add the spices and plum tomatoes and mix well.
Season and simmer on a low heat for about 15 minutes until thickened.

At this point, pour half the mixture into a deep baking tray.

For the shakshuka:
10 eggs
100g feta cheese

Crack 10 eggs into the saucepan and cover for 5 minutes until the yolks are just set. Baste the whites of the eggs with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and feta cheese.
For the juevos rancheros:
10 eggs
50g cheddar cheese

Crack 10 eggs on top of the mixture in the baking tray. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with cheddar and place in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes at 200.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Recipe - Sea Bass, Spinach and Potato

Operation: Good Clean Fun is going well. I even found my grey gloves again! This happened just before I cooked this meal. Probably more relevant is the fact that I was cooking to say thank you to someone for putting in lots of hard photoshopping hours for me for a job application. OH and I 'accidentally' invented a new recipe again because I'm awful at making things bind so did some stuff to try and save it. This is what I had been intending on making but I waas running quite late and the kitchen was in an awful state so I didn't strictly follow the recipe and rather did an amended bedroom-preparation-friendly version. Which went wrong. And turned into something else but still tasted pretty good.

Sea Bass with Spinach and Potato 'Sauce'
1 sea bass fillet per person
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Prepare the sea bass fillets by making a couple of slits in the skin, stuffing with rosemary (which I got fresh from the college grounds, nice), sprinkling with a little olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Fry, skin side down, holding the fillets down so they don't curl.
Put in the oven at 220 for about 5-7 minutes until cooked through.
Add lemon juice to taste.

2 large potatoes, grated
100g spinach, chopped
3 eggs
1 heaped tbsp self raising flour
100ml milk
Salt and pepper
50g butter

Combine the potatoes, eggs, flour and milk. Stir well.
Add the chopped spinach and combine well.
Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a frying pan.
Add the potato mixture and fry for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring to prevent it sticking.
Place in the oven at 220 for about 10 minutes, until the potato is cooked.
Remove, place on the heat of the hob again and fry for another 5 minutes, moving the mixture to one side of the pan and adding a little more butter if required, until the potato is starting to brown.

Serve the sea bass with the potato and spinach sauce and sprinkle with some finely chopped flat leaf parsley.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Recipe - Provencal Beef Winter Stew

None of the hours on Sunday were my finest. Being awake for 24 hours (6am Saturday to 6am Sunday) and the fact that in that time, I had smoked sixteen (!) cigarettes and spent most of it drinking in various locations (Oktoberfest-themed pub, friend's house, friend of a friend's house, friend of a friend of a friend's house) and doing not a lot else led me to a plan. DETOX WEEK. Well, re: cigarettes we have DETOX LIFE. I have been gradually increasing how much I smoke without realising. Being a 'social smoker' only works (it doesn't ever really work) if not many of the people you socialise with smoke. So no more cigarettes. No no no. And no more casual drinking either. Because that too only works if you're not constantly surrounded by people drinking (even if it is only a couple). Only on two nights a week will it be acceptable. This is the advent of Good Clean Fun. Lots of nourishing food etc.* What better way to see it in than with one of Delia's recipes. It was actually 'Incredibly Good Looking' who cooked most of this. He loves Delia.

Provencal Winter Beef Stew
500g steak (we couldn't find braising steak so we just used regular, chopped into cubes)
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped into casserole-appropriate pieces
9 shallots, chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
Zest of half a large orange
Dessert spoon flour
250ml red wine
100g pitted black olives
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Brown the meat v quickly on a high heat then remove from the heat.
Lower the heat slightly and fry the shallots.
Add the garlic to the pan after a couple of minutes.
Re-add the meat and add the thyme, orange zest and bay leaves.
Add the flour and stir so everything is well coated.
Add the wine, slowly, stirring so the flour doesn't go all gloopy.
Add the tomatoes and mushrooms.
Bring the dish to a simmer, cover, then place in an oven at 140°C for about 1.5 hours.
Add the pepper and olives and return to the oven for another 40 minutes.
We ate with 'The Illusionist'. He took great offence when I asked 'Incredibly Good Looking' what he'd change next time. Still, different tomatoes. Either the ones which Delia suggests in her original recipe or some tinned cherry tomatoes.

*N.B. This plan is subject to change and/or terminate at any point whatsoever and does not apply to birthdays, holidays or post-exam celebrations.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Review - Kesh

I had taken a trip to London to buy some material to ensure that I'm belle of the ball (I almost certainly won't be). I then made the mistake of calling my mother from the post office to tell her that I was posting the material to her and could she please take it to the dressmakers for me. She insisted upon coming to visit me in Oxford the next day to 'get the material.' I know I am being a very ungrateful daughter for whining about my parents wanting to see me and do me a favour that will save me money. Such is life. Anyway, I had been intending on staying the night in London. My mother did not prevent this - she said it was highly unlikely they'd get to Oxford before I returned. It was my stupidity. My 3am logic was 'I could either brave this journey now with my beer jacket and sleep in my own bed or do it tomorrow morning when I will be tired and probably feeling (and looking) like death.' It seems obvious which choice ought to be made. I made that choice. Except I did not factor in the fact that a) night buses are unreliable, b) night coaches are unreliable and c) it is freezing. My journey home involved a two hour wait for two separate, delayed 24 hour transport services. I cried because I was so cold. I tried to call a friend to take my mind off things but I had lost my favourite gloves (suede, elbow length, beautiful) earlier in the week and I could feel the skin on my hands cracking from just holding the phone. I got home at 6am, managed to sleep for three hours then dozed for a further four. Seeing my parents was the last thing I wanted to do. However, again, I scored a free meal at Kesh down Cowley Road and actually it wasn't that bad and once I was fed and mint-tea'd, I really felt quite perky.
We had the traditional Moroccan soup, mixed meze (which included a cheese filled pastry, falafel, hummus and salads), Kesh cous cous and bread.
I probably would have thought this place was amazing had I not been to the very similar but much better Oxford's Grill last week. I don't want to play it down though, this place was good. The soup was warming and lovely and nicely seasoned but a little too watery and lacking in flavour. The pastry was crisp and not too heavy. The falafel was delicious! I really enjoyed the salads, one was a cold bean thing that went really well with the cous cous. The cous cous thing was very good. But I think I might not like cous cous? I don't mind it but I don't actively like it. The chicken was tender. The mint tea and arabic coffee were nice to finish with. Really good at some bits, a bit lacklustre at others.