Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review - Lady Ottoline

I keep going to eat at places that my boss recommends and I seem like a strange suck-up fangirl. But she just has really good recommendations! (And also, I aspire to be as well-eaten and dressed and together as her in a decade.) It was just a shame that I was feeling ill and worn on the Wednesday when we went to Lady Ottoline at her recommendation with the Explorer's parents. I had that horrible woozy feeling where it feels like you're outside yourself and on the cusp of too hot and too cold and nothing helps to get more comfortable. Sadly, this meant that I wasn't in the right frame of mind to drink in the near perfect pubiness of Lady Ottoline. It also meant that I wasn't in the best frame of mind to make conversation with people I see twice a year. Especially not about the relative merits of living in the Cayman Islands over London. I have literally no empathy for why you would make that life choice. Beaches get boring. Incessant religion is boring from the start. Not paying tax is something of which I strongly disapprove. (I can barely get on board with ISAs when the term 'tax efficient' is applied to it.) Anyway, these are the thoughts that I refrained from mentioning. I didn't even mention my 'lol not lol' Oyster card with a picture of a beach reading 'rush hour in the Cayman Islands' and how it's actually a big old joke because I'd rather cut off my little toe than live in a place that lackadaisical and laid back. I think perhaps the Explorer's mum agrees with me even if she phrased it as more based on the positives of London. One of those positives being lovely pubs with lovely food like Lady Ottoline. I had the pigeon terrine with a green bean salad as my appetite wasn't raving. 

First comment - small portions. £1.50 of bread entitled you to two small slices. However, despite the meanness of the portions, the food was enjoyable. The terrine was gamey and savoury and made me long for Wolf Hall. The salad was articulate and well dressed, with crunchy walnuts running through it marrying well with the pigeon. Gnocchi was equally stingy but intricate and gravadlax was super fresh. I was probably most impressed by the chicken Caesar - to make one of those taste actually like something I regret not ordering is impressive. But, my overriding impression was that the portions were small, even more so than its sister the Proncess.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review - The Hemingway

Almost two weeks later, I finally get round to writing about the Hemingway. Thankfully for you, I remember vividly what I was feeling that day: terrible. However, the nausea and soul-killing headache was mixed with a slight satisfaction - I had stayed up until 7 the night before! (That's 7am to those that think this is me bragging about how early I go to bed.) In the first few months of job, I didn't mind a jot about going to bed early. Not sucking > being a fun person with a social life. But then in Edinburgh, seeing university pals again and being reminded of a past life (lol, two years ago) and how my peers hadn't gone into sleepy granny mode had me determined to do more fun. (Except that then I kept falling asleep anyway.) anyway, basically I feel like I've reclaimed something, even if it's difficult to articulate what. Anyway, back to the Hemingway. After feeling like crap and going back to bed until 5, the Explorer and I decided it was time to be active. But since obviously that wasn't going to go well, we went to the pub and gorged instead. The Hemingway is my all time favourite pub.

We got a spread. Scotch egg, battered sole goujons, honey mustard sausage and a roast. The scotch egg, as before, was gooey yolked and unctuous. Most impressively, the piccalilli was almost as good as the egg - sour and fresh. The goujons and their tartare were completely without fault. Two weeks later, I'm still thinking about the one I didn't finish and regretting it. The sausages tasted high quality, as did the honey they were glazed in. The lamb was done just how I like and the trimmings had that wonderful, mushy togetherness that makes a roast so comforting. Probably the best pub food I've had.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review - Red Dog Saloon

I have a broken fridge. It's rental hell. You might not think it would be as bad as, say, having no hot water for a week (been there too) but TRUST ME if you're of the 'buy all your meat and beans from tesco then go to the market for vegetables' persuasion, as I am, it really screws with your food plans. My food plans have mainly been orientated around using everything up, including the frozen vegetables, in various hotch-potch meals. The last thing that I cooked was a sausage and lentil stew which I served with 'salad' of (previously frozen) green beans and peas. (Loads of them. Enough for five people to get sick of.) That was last Saturday. Since then, I have eaten out or I have not eaten. It has been kind of a treat but actually just really expensive and boring. I've recently been feeling wearied by restaurant food, like my tongue has been burnt and I can't really taste anything. At the time, I enjoy it and (I think) I can still recognise when it's good but, unlike before, I don't remember it  VIVIDLY and go on about how great it was months after. And also, actually I don't know if I really can taste if something's good. In fact, let's try again: eating out a lot recently has meant that I have eaten out in more underwhelming restaurants and have become over-exposed to the good ones meaning that I can't appreciate them properly. (Now, that's a first world problem if ever I heard one.) It's almost like I can't be bothered to enjoy it just as I can't be bothered to do my hair or keep up with the chores or write this blog. I need a nap.
Red Dog Saloon was one of the actually unimpressive restaurants. I didn't really expect it to be any good but it was right next to where we'd been wine tasting and, more than anything else, we were hungry. When I saw fried chicken on the menu, I thought I could reclaim my poor experience at Bird. And I admit, this chicken was at least hot and not AS dry. But it was still a bit dry. I don't know whether to attribute that to being a breast piece or a more general quality. But basically, I was uninspired. And I definitely have it in me to be inspired by fried chicken because I LOVE greasy, American junk food. The mash was creamy- but tiny and with only a touch of gravy. The greens were interesting and had been cooked in an interesting tangy way but, ultimately, there was nothing here to write home about.

Review - Pimlico Fresh

Last Saturday, I dared venture further than 5 miles from my front door. I went to Pimlico! And, more self-satisfyingly, I got there by 12! Unfortunately, my brunch companion who lives only 10 minutes away was busy throwing up in a bin or pulling furniture down in his flat or something. (He was actually just asleep.) But since I've previously failed to show up for dinner altogether, I couldn't mind too much. Especially since the Explorer was there to hold my hand and ensure I never have to eat alone. (Puke.) We battled the confusing system of the Pimlico Fresh queue to settle on smoked salmon and avocado toast and lasagne with salad.
I'll admit, I misread the menu - I actually meant to get eggs with salmon. But the salmon that I was presented was thick, nicely cut and peppered. The avocado was creamy and needed a little something (chilli? more lemon? I don't know how to punctuate within brackets as I've just realised) to make it a bit less claggy tasting. The lasagne was actually better than the breakfasty food - light and tangy rather than hearty. And well paired with an almost nutty broccoli salad. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review - No 67

I should keep an open mind about unplanned weekends. As this one showed, impromptu can be much more fun. But only if you've got a liquid supply of people you don't have to plan to see on top. (I've rather mixed my metaphors there.) This particular weekend, I ended up at No 67 in Peckham. We've tried to go once before but after making our brunch guy cycle from Peckham to Homerton and then back again, we ended to opposite my office as I have no imagination. This time round, we made the 40 minute journey without even using the lack of overground as an excuse.
To rectify past mistakes (the time that I didn't get waffles and bacon even though I really wanted waffles and bacon), I ordered. Well, I'll let you figure that one out. And by Jove, was it delicious. The waffles were almost crackable and yet still becoming mildly soft from being drenched in maple syrup. Mmm, syrup. The shards of bacon were equally sharp and oh so smoky. I don't really get why all bacon isn't served with maple syrup - that's what this brunch had me thinking. The only bit that I was even minorly disappointed by was the bubble and squeak. Unnecessary in terms of hunger but v necessary in terms of maintaining the 'always order bubble and squeak if there's bubble and squeak to be ordered' game. And even then, pairing it with bacon righted its salt imbalance. And all of this took place in a sumptuous, clean, white space with a cute little garden outside and some unexceptional but enjoyable contemporary art above. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review - The Princess of Shoreditch

I can't remember where or why I first heard the phrase 'champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends'. I feel like it must either have been someone's screen name back in the MSN days (RIP) or something someone said as an ironic throwback to those days. Either way, I woke up with that phrase and a banging headache in my head on Saturday morning. The facts are as follows: I went to two sets of work drinks on Friday, got waylaid at the latter set that meant that I missed my dinner plans, meaning I'd eaten nothing by set of drinks no 3 (the one with my non-consultant pals). Consequently, I had to leave rather than go and meet more actual friends who I haven't seen in ages because I really needed some food. Food that I didn't get because as soon as I got in moving transport, I felt so sick that I had to go straight to bed. Anyway, basically it appears that despite spending 50 hours with coworkers anyway, I can't get enough of them on Friday. Why is this? Well, firstly, I like them. Which is nice! And then there's the whole element of needing that non-professional time at the end of the week when we all remember that as stressy as it might get, we're all normal real life humans who enjoy normal real life human things. Nevertheless, I wish I stopped making this no-dinner mistake and saw my real life human pals more. Even lunch at the Princess couldn't sustain me.
Actually, lunch at the Princess was again with a work pal (one who is my boss and also pseudo-mentor) who is good to lunch with as she's also into food. She gives me hope that if I carry on as I am, one day I'll own a little house in Hackney (or more likely, Edmonton/Barking) and eat at fancy places on my birthday. We went to the Princess after considering  tapas and ended up ordering in a small plates for sharing style. The heaviest of them were the potted brisket with sour dough and pickles and the lamb fritters. Both meats were soft and stringy- the lamb encased in a perfectly amber, crisp crumb. It came with a well-balanced, salty anchovy and parsley butter. Mmm. The pickles were my favourite bit - a good level of acidity to balance the heaviness of the meat. My least favourite were the fried anchovies - unexpectedly battered and a bit claggy. Double fried chips were the best I've had in a long time and the salad was unspectacular but well dressed. It's just occurred to me that they didn't bring the courgette flowers! Oh well - there was plenty to eat.