Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas, again

Merry Christmas! I'm going to make like this is a Christmas special edition. I really should have made it a thing before as Christmas more any other time is an occasion where the food becomes imbued all its associations and the story around it so would fit well within the theme of this blog. It may seem somewhat curious that Christmas is an especially significant time for me and my family on account of not even doing it properly. But, it makes perfect sense when you consider that no one has a choice but to spend lots of time with family and reflect on your relationship with them and the place you grew up and home and all of those other wrought, nostalgic concepts that you can't ignore in favour of friends or Instagram because everyone else is busy being obliged to do the same. Unsurprising, again, that Christmas here has been the scene of the biggest dramas to take place in my sweet twenty four and a half years. Now we're (cough, I) all more grown up and calm and boring, it's an anniversary for worse times past and we all get a bit sentimental. Everyone is on their best behaviour to the point that it feels a bit eggshell tinted, as if we can't talk about politics or get snappy in a normal way as everyone's worried about where that might lead. This, mixed with the usual dose of guilt that you don't come home more, boredom that you're back where you spent so many oppressive years and relief that you only have two days 22 hours to go means there is really nothing for it but to spend seven hours cooking an Ottolenghi dinner. In the same peculiar way, it has given the family its own set of Christmas traditions which will make it sad to break away if and when the time comes to go and do a booze-and-presents holiday with someone else's family.

 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review - Fika

This blog will be on the topic of quick fixes. In the same way that being a grown up means you can go to the supermarket and buy whatever the fuck you want but don't because in the cold light of adulthood buying only Viennese whirls and potato waffles doesn't seem so appealing, so it becomes clear that there are lots of things that will make you feel better quickly but there's a value in trying for the longer term inner peace hippie shit fix. A lot of the time (say 40%) that feels so boring to have to train yourself and it sounds like the mantra of a cult you don't really believe in. But if most of us didn't believe in long term gain we probably would have sacked in the highly pressured/high risk/thankless/corporate/terribly paid (delete as appropriate) jobs long ago. Anyway, in the words of Headspace guy - it's not about the result. It's about the JOURNEY. And meanwhile, if there's a risk of giving up for the short term fix when you're sad and floopy on Saturday morning, you can go to an overpriced Swedish cafe for brunch. 

Fika has joined Vinarius as the last definitive signs that Bow is no longer grime capital of the world. It's a sparse, Nordic cafe without a proper kitchen serving beautiful coffee  and cold breakfast treats. I started on a cinnamon bun which was moreish and filling and pretty good value. I then moved onto the frittata which was none of those things. But, I'd still recommend on the basis of the coffee and the calm and the therapeutic colouring pens.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review - Wild Caper

As I am too stubborn to move anywhere even remotely inconvenient but everyone else has migrated for the South like a bird or something, it is necessary to cluster engagements to days that I'm not tired and can handle the tube etc. Sunday was one of those days and it was brunch time where we had agreed to go somewhere that didn't make me hate it / me for being me (i.e. probably gentrified but not so much so that it's too much). But the place we met at was all exposed brick and distressed wood and served only blueberry and bacon. It all had a bit of a let it Happn vibe to it, which, now I remember is probably because it was known to me through a friend who's a semi-prolific online dater. An alternative suggestion was Duck Egg Cafe which I've enjoyed before but maybe we didn't want eggs enough because it was proving as elusive as the room of requirement and we ended up walking up and down the same stretch of Coldharbour Lane as if it was some weird version of Groundhog Day where we were brunch addicted loons desperately seeking sourdough. So we thought to walk into the market and sadly Salon was fully booked so we ended up in Wild Caper. (Great name and great word.) I thought the meze could work and had my eyes set on the cous cous salad. I felt  deflated as I was told they weren't doing that menu and immediately wary like their jack of all trades, master of none vibe with menu swinging between brunch and meze. 

Anyway, I ended up with waffles with maple syrup and bacon. They were fine but it felt like I'd been to this very place and eaten this exact meal hundreds of time before. I know it's hardly One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovitch and complaining that the yuppie brunches have become too homogenised is a champagne problem of the first degree. But seriously, if you're going to be a food place in London TRY A BIT HARDER. The waffles were crisp and both literally and figuratively vanilla, the bacon crispy, the sausage split in the middle in seemingly the exact same spot as every other Old Spot Gloucester sausage I've had. It was fine, probably even good. But if you're already supplied in Mediterranean ingredients, maybe offer something a bit different to everywhere else doing brunch in Brixton market. Or at the very least, don't say something comes on sourdough when it doesn't - JUST CALL IT BREAD. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Review - Lahore Kebab House

A few weeks ago, when I was having the worst morning of my adult life, I read this: 

I started doing a blog in the style of the above but ended up finding it too depressing so stopped. But now that the Explorer has gone and the dust has settled, I will do my homage now in the form of 'thoughts I've had that I would previously send as texts but now I am not licensed to make people listen to your boring thoughts except via a very public online forum'

- I had no concept of how much the Explorer cooked and as someone who's been eating primarily other peoples' cigarettes and junk food, I can attest to the fact that there is a world of health that's as good as skinny feels 

- I love Christmas house on the corner

- Podcasts and The Economist in audio are a fine substitution for conversation in the morning but I feel unsettled when  I think that the first person I've spoken to most mornings this week has been a Swiss partner who wants a comic strip made 

- My friends are, without exception, crazy, but one day they will own this place so let's hope they are merciful 

- Fried chicken is delicious but not enough reason to back pedal 

- Laser eye surgery is still by many yards the best thing I've ever done

- A Little Life is the worst book I've ever read 

- I should stop describing things as the 'worst' or the 'best' so often 

- What will we all do when no one can afford to live in London anymore?

- This is probably the hardest I've tried at anything before which is a good thing I guess, but I need to retain a concept of balance 

- There is a very thin line between repulsive and super hot and what a shame that 80% of people are on the wrong side of that 

- Having two wardrobes is categorically, unequivocally worth it

- Maintaining that this is a food blog is a conceit but actually what I'm eating and why is a very accurate representation of what the deal is


The first supper after the split took place at Lahore Kebab House. I won't over egg this point but in summary: get lamb not chicken, the paratha is disappointing, Tayyab's is better both for curry and on atmosphere which is surprising given how lacking both are in atmosphere, it is very cheap. 



Friday, 23 October 2015

Recipe - Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms

I have two days off work! Hooray! With various work and life stresses converging disastrously last weekend, I have basically felt like a clock that's gone like this:
(Credit to Tom McLellan for visually representing my state of mind in the past week.) So as I was walking around aimlessly in Shoreditch wishing for cigarettes (I don't even smoke) being reassured that things will get better by someone who I'm impressed still has faith in anyone / anything's capacity to change, I thought about all the things I could do that are more than material and might be transient but fall in the category of being good to yourself. A list: get nails done cool colour and make friends with manicurist who reminds you that there are people who aren't exactly like you who are fun and still have real human feelings, make a fun costume for Halloween, watch films, read the last four issues of the Economist back to back NOT because you're desperately trying to stay in the know but because you're just interested, get hair coloured and put shamelessly upload photo on social media, get eyes lasered so you can SEE because really no career or personal success will ever beat being able to see with your very own EYES, write blog, cook. This is what I cooked.
(That's a photo of the food plus a cup of tea with the bag still in and a print out of an article from the FT about whether you should multitask or not #me)

Baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 180. Wash a bunch of spinach and wilt in a frying pan. Leave in a colander to drain. In the same frying pan, melt half a tablespoon of butter. Chop half an onion and a garlic clove and fry gently for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add a handful of mushrooms, chopped. Gently fry for 5 - 10 minutes until everything has taken on a colour. Add 150ml double cream and return the spinach to the pan. Grate about 70g cheddar and add to the pan. Stir well, season with salt and pepper. In a small baking dish, place the creamy mixture. Make two wells and a crack an eggs into each. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the eggs are set and eat with toast. Almost fall asleep at manicurist's house because of all the cream and cheese.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Review - The Lord Tredegar, Queen of Sheba

The Explorer's family were visiting and this led to more strange, uncharted handling of situations such as: do we need to tell family members about a 'conscious uncoupling'? If the idea is to go back to the pre-going out stage like the stage way before you're established and it's appropriate or necessary to tell family members, do we need to tell them when it goes the other way? Since having had to have probably over fifty conversations on what it means in practice and in theory with similar time of life / education / liberal world view peers, trying to explain to older, more traditional people who will probably find 'look it's the 21st century and we all do what we like whenever we like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings there is no right or wrong OK' seems like an impossible task. So we didn't and went and watch rugby instead which triggered lots of internal monologue about how I'd forgotten that actually going out with someone with a normal family feels like you have a normal family yourself and that's a very sad thing to give up. Sigh.
The Queen of Sheba
Friday involved pre-party Ethiopian food. We had a selection of lamb curries and dahl on top of an injera which is like a big, sour roti that you place the curry on and it becomes the plate for the whole curry and absorbs all the delicious sauce. There was a mince dish that was all sweet and fruity and a delicate lamb thing that was all glossy. The spinach was my favourite. The only downside - and this is no criticism of the restaurant but more of my tastes - is that I don't like injera. I love everything about the way of eating but there's a sourness to the pancake is just too much for me. Still - the Queen of Sheba is a cute little restaurant in Kentish Town and I'll revisit if I'm ever in the area.

The Lord Tredegar
So, of the pubs near me, The Lord Tredegar is probably the closest to perfect. The Hemingway is my favourite but it's a little bit more fancy and a little bit further away. But the Lord Tredegar lets you book, has an outdoor space, has a lovely cider on tap, good food, sports screen (if you're into that) cosy armchairs. I've never been there and managed to resist the black pudding sausage roll. I've had the whitebait a few times - consistently delicious but the first time it had lost all traces of salty headache that battered stuff sometimes incites. Also - the roast - wonderfully moreish pork belly - like in a roast recipe when you have to do lots of seemingly unnecessary stuffing and seasoning and it feels in the prep like it might be pointless but then when you eat it you completely get it? That's what the Lord Tredegar pork is like. Crispy potatoes, rich gravy. Simple and casual and satisfying.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Review - Elephant, The Plough

How was I feeling four weeks ago when I went to eat at Elephant and the Plough? I think I was bored and had that weird feeling being de-sensitised which is hard to break because you can't jump start enjoying social activities but at the same time wasting precious weekend time is not an option. Still, it's difficult for me to say how good the Elephant or the Plough were as a result...
Elephant
I've tried to go to Elephant a couple of times and I forget why it's been so difficult now. It was Friday night and all the other places were busy but Elephant had a table for five people straight away. Peculiar. I went for the chicken thali and it had a very homey feel to it in that it was mildly spiced and seemed like the restauranteurs pulling out unspectacular family recipes for yuppy cunts to overpay for and feel like they're getting a good deal. (Which is fine, btw, both parties in that exchange leave happy.) But I found the whole thing a bit lacklustre because: (a) they used breast meat instead of thigh, (b) my mother can do better, (c) Curry 2000 and the Indian YMCA both do better for cheaper even if it's not the same vibe of atmosphere. The dahl was memorably warming though and it's definitely one of the better little places in Brixton market.

The Plough 
In the chronicles of living with someone that you're not going to be living with soon, our visit to The Plough fell into the category of times where it's weird because it's fun and nothing's changed (rather than one of the other three types of weird I've counted so far). We got fish tacos and a burger and did our halves. GREAT tacos. Lightly battered, zingy slaw, I'm running out of adjectives. Boring chips. Sweet bun on the burger - burger a bit grainy but all in all a winner. Special props to The Plough for being just on the right side of wanky with the exposed outside lightbulbs and decking and all those other things that people exactly like me with no imagination enjoy. That sounds insulting - but I'm saying that The Plough has the balance right and it's lovely.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Paris - Castiglione

'You're a sociopath but I don't think I'd realised before.' 

ate snails and spent loads of time with someone who is Internet famous but I didn't realise.
Castiglione 
Snails are awful. They tasted like bad mussels. The veal was ok. This was probably the most expensive meal I've had in recent times and, my god? It was a rip off. The mashed potato was way too smooth, the spinach not garlicky enough and the tart a fuckin let down. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Recipe - Duck Boulangere, Stuffed Aubergines

I've become more like my mother in such subtle ways, I'm terrified that this will continue as I get older to the point that I fail to be self aware about it. This particular chain of thought has been encouraged by Olive Kitteridge, where you can see a cantankerous old woman slowly losing grip of reality and feeling like a victim with no purchase on that fact. A mark or what not to become. Unfortunately, it seems sometimes like I have limited control over it. I don't care about if my sheets match and struggle to imagine when that'll change. I hate waste and wash my hands too much and get anxious when things aren't just so. I would probably be a better cook if only I could stop adding ingredients. On the other hand, it works out quite well sometimes - like adding molasses to the stuffed aubergine recipe below. That being said, Ottolenghi's version probably still beats it. 

Duck boulangere
4 duck legs, washed and patted dry 
3 baking potatoes, very thinly sliced 
3 onions, very thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced 
A few sprigs of rosemary, stalks removed and torn  
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180. 
In a rectangular casserole dish, layer the potatoes so they're slightly overlapping. Sprinkle onions, garlic and rosemary over each layer then season with salt and pepper and repeat.
Place the duck legs on top, seasoned thoroughly with salt and pepper. 
Add enough boiling water to come just below the top layer of potatoes.
Bake in the oven for 1.5 - 2 hours, until the potatoes are soft and the duck is tender. (Cover with foil if it's looking burny)

This is good with garlicky spinach. The duck is also good as leftovers stir fried with onion, noodles, cabbage and hoisin sauce. 

Stuffed aubergines with molasses and pine nuts 
Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Half 4 aubergines, place cut side up in a deep roasting tin and drizzle well with salt and olive oil.
Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop 2 onions and fry over a medium heat in a tablespoon of olive oil with 1.5 tablespoons of paprika, 1.5 teaspoons of cumin and a tablespoon of cinnamon until the onion is translucent - about ten minutes.
Add 500g lamb mince, 50g pine nuts, a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of tomato purée. Fry until the lamb is browned.
Add about 40g of finely chopped mint and parsley. 
In a cup, mix the juice of 1 lemon, 50ml water and 50ml grape molasses. 
Spoon the lamb mixture over each aubergine.
Pour the molasses mixture into the bottom of the tray.
Bake for 1 - 1.5 hours, tightly covered with foil, until the aubergines are soft. I served this with an adapted version of Ottolenghi's basmati with chickpeas and lettuce with broad beans salad.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Review - Nile Valley Cafe, The Dogs, Kampung Ali, Spoon

...and then as soon as 6.30 hit, I felt like a completely new Edinburgh opened up. (#cliche) Seeing an avant garde (a term which I now know the etymology of) was the best way to get into the swing of things. It was so weird and despite trying, I didn't quite get into it enough but I still felt flush with the satisfaction of knowing that it was so far from anything I could ever suggest in work-Edinburgh-world where Mistress America is considered niche. But then being in that Edinburgh brought back strange, floopy reminders of happier times and practicalities that don't pertain to paying cheaper rent in London but of other practicalities that I don't have much reason to think about anymore like what it's like to have a family (even if not your own) and family home to hang out with without any hint of soured memories and teenage years. Modern love is modern.

Nile Valley Cafe
Nile Valley Cafe is the antithesis of Cafe St Honore. It's cheap, BYOB and very scuzzy on the inside. I went for the lamb shish: chewy (but not in a bad way) cubes of dry marinated lamb. Cous cous which was so nicely executed it reminded me how bad I am at cooking cous cous and how all supermarket examples are just a travesty. Fresh salad and a little yoghurt to add some cool and bring it all together. I really enjoyed this place.
The Dogs
On the second night, we weren't able to get a table at The Scran and Scallie so went to The Dogs again. I was craving mash but none on the menu so I went for fish and chips. Oh man, it was so great. The fish was so meaty and thick that it was like someone had taken a fillet, poached it perfect then teleported it into a light batter with no weird sticking bits. 
Kampung Ali Malaysian
Then it was Friday and I was seeing a university friend after several months. It felt only appropriate to go for BYOB curry. Since the Explorer was there, I chose a Malaysian place. Of course we went for rendang, roti canai, satay and fried rice. In the rendang stakes, it's nowhere near the greats of Rasa Sayang but still retain the moreish quality that slow cooked beef should. I wasn't a fan of the greens they had running through it, they gave it a kind of stringy, jarring texture. All the rest was exactly as Asian fast food should be: brash, a little greasy and spicy. Enjoyable!
Spoon
Having finally got to Spoon, I was largely underwhelmed. I don't know if that's the consequence of having tried to go several times before and it being too busy meaning it's been overhyped or because I've become immune to the taste of fairly good hipster brunch, but it just didn't do it for me. Yeah, the meats in the mixed grill were all clearly high quality. Yeah, I was pleased it included haggis. But was it really any more than fine? No. To its credit, I like the bright, airy set up and the coffee was delicious. 

Review - Papii, Cafe St Honore, New Town Deli

I've been in Edinburgh for days and days and days, partly for work and partly for the fringe. I was initially going to talk about it all in one mammoth post but that would sully the new principle that I'm aiming to live by of delineating sharply home and work things. It's going well - no work laptop on the weekend, no Friday hangovers, no gloom, no feeling of being cleaved. All good things. So, this is work post one, taking me from my 5am City Airport start to just before seeing a bizarre fringe comedy drawing inspiration from Yoko Ono. The places I eat with work are wildly different to where I eat with peers.

Papii
Papii was suggested as a lunch place by some list that came up when searching for 'best lunch Edinburgh'. I don't think it deserves a place on that list. My ham and emmental sandwich was so boring I can't even remember it. Plus, they put mustard in it when I didn't ask for it...

Cafe St Honore
As I've joined my new team, I'm trying not come across as immovable and bossy immediately. The problem is, I really despise eating at terrible places even if I'm not paying and so on balance, I'm happy to take the hit and go down as the girl who marched in and decided to dictate where everyone eats all the time. It was a real struggle to stay polite and keep smiling instead of just saying 'I am not wrong you are the one who is wrong' when a colleague was all 'are we SURE we want to eat here, it's so far from the venue...' (No, you just have the wrong venue in mind. (I told you so.)) Anyway, with this background, there was a lot of pressure on Cafe St Honore to bring its game. And it did. My venison was perfectly rested, my dauphinois were a compressed, melty, buttery CAKE. Mmm. The black pudding had a moreish texture and I didn't get any of my usual 'pig's blood what yuck'. Crunch to the beans, just cooked cabbage. 'Great choice.' YES I KNOW.

New Town Deli
Often being insistent about choosing where to eat doesn't mean I'm unwilling to take suggestions. I had no hand in choosing where to get lunch the next day and still loved New Town Deli, a cafe in the new town (as you would expect). The lunchtime burrito came in one of those healthy feeling, green-specked tortillas. It was filled with slow cooked chilli and fresh, bright salad. Work travelling isn't all that bad.

Review - The Ship on the Shore, Anima, Kyloe

The other added bonus to travelling to Edinburgh is that it removes some of the potential tension of living with the Explorer in the midst of 'scaling back and modernising'. I compared it recently to the bit in We Need To Talk About Kevin where they've decided to divorce and in the aftermath of that, everything is quite filled with relief and content. But then in real life, this just makes you prone to reassessing if you've made the right call. Or, it rapidly disappears and you fight even more and mentally resolve to keep everything amicable. (It probably helps that we don't have a psychopath son to contend with.) So, anyway, it can be handy to have to travel to Edinburgh. Not so much when you get in from London City Airport on a Thursday evening wanting to be alone and asleep.

So on this trip to Edinburgh, I revisited The Ship On The Shore where I got my hands all mucky from clawing open three plump, wonderful langoustines. I am so sad I didn't make more of a dent in that plate.

The next evening, we ended up at Kyloe. Everything about Kyloe made me think I would hate it. It's a large, brash steak restaurant decorated with cow skin on the walls. The menu was explained in an informative but slightly tacky way - a man coming round with a board of meat explaining about marbling and its impact on flavour. So it really says a lot when I say that my porterhouse steak was the best I've had. I got none of that gross sense of 'jeez this used to be alive' from chewing too much which I usually get with steak. It was just unmitigatedly delicious.

Apart from these, I went to Anima which was cheap, Italian and wonderful. And Yo! Sushi at the airport which was way expensive and the most plasticky fast non-fast food I've had.

Review - Malabar Junction, Jose Pizarro

August has passed in a flurry and I forgot to post even though I've eaten out loads due to a mixture of work travelling and Edinburgh-fringing. But because I need to keep my SEO ^^^ I'm splitting out the posts and giving each a theme. I will try to cast myself back to the time of eating for the first paragraph. The first of those posts is on Malabar Junction and Jose Pizarro, two meals that I ate about three weeks ago. The overall feeling of three weeks ago was fresh and vulnerable and chaotic, juggling work with doing scrabbling around with scraps of paper to frantically do sums when I haven't done any arithmetic for two years. Between spinning plates, I went to Malabar Junction with a friend who I barely have time to see since the working world sucked up both our lives. (Side note: I have a new favourite book which is just ON POINT with capturing modern corporate culture, everyone should read The Mark and the Void, I love Paul Murray, he is my new favourite person that I've never met.)

I've unfairly categorised curry into two camps: that which I would not describe as curry strictly that my family cook and that you get from a takeaway. Both delicious, if in different ways. This has completely neglected all the other types of subcontinent curry there are. Malabar Junction is South Indian and I imagine even there alone has hundreds of varieties to which I've failed to give any thought. Which is a shame, as the Keralan mutton curry I had was EXQUISITE and played my palate like MJ on a dance floor. My only criticism is that seeing so much sauce wasted makes me sad.
The following day, I went to Jose Pizarro for the leaving lunch of a colleague. (Side note: this is the same colleague that started a woefully unsympathetic conversation about refugees trying to make their way over to the UK and I just sat there, biting my tongue and contemplating whether it makes me morally culpable to stay quiet rather than challenging.) The basics, pan con tomate and padron peppers demonstrated nicely how (depressingly) there really is a difference in taste proportional to price between different tapas bars. Ditto for the croquettes. The spinach and pine nut empanada was actually a bit limp and reminded me of wetness. The lamb with olive oil mash was nicely cooked and had that crisp fattiness to it - but it was nothing to write home about. The saffron and mushroom rice was similarly lacklustre. However, the basics were good enough that I'll return.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Review - Verden

Ok so now the initial 'hooray I've done something, that's something!' has passed, it's come to dealing with the stress and anxiety and boredom of actually doing something. I'd forgotten that everything, instead of being a comfortable, if sludge-ish slog, becomes fraught with insecurity and as if everything that ever happens is making some attack on the core of your being. Then you add to that the fact that ploughing on just gets so much less bearable when you can imagine the new world where everything will be well, for a while at least. Then you mix that with having to be a normal, functional adult for at least ten hours of every day and on top of that even sometimes when there's socialising to be done. Basically, my current hashtag is constantly #womanontheedge. VERDEN.

You know when you eat somewhere that makes you think constantly about the food you left on your plate every time you're hungry in subsequent days? THAT IS THIS PLACE. The hot smoked salmon was so subtle and just on that side of dry to remind you it's smoked, not cooked. It came lathered in wonderfully tart sauce and quail eggs. The hummus made me get what the fuss is about hummus. The broad bean hummus was a fun twist. The pitta bread has probably ruined supermarket pitta for me now. The chicken liver pate was served in cute little jars with a perfectly formed layer on top - it was so tempting to take it with us. Then came the mains! Falling apart at the seams (falling off the bone is too cliche now) succulent justifying the M&S voiceover lamb. Perfectly crisp potatoes. Wonderfully dressed broccoli and cabbage. I feel close to tears thinking that we made our way through so little of it - I didn't even try the chicken. Yet somehow, I found room for the saltiest pot of chocolate and the vanill flecked cheesecake. I am going to go back to Verden again and again and again.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Review - Hakkasan

I decided to live by my principles and replace my bitchin' with action. Hooray! This means that I had a weekend which almost passed for eventful! So, after months of examining the frankly dull question of 'shit what am I doing with my life / twenties are any of these decisions the right decision?', I have concluded no. So it's worth gambling on something else. Will I think it was the right call in six months? Probably, on balance. ('Eventually') It might be a trite, cliched way of phrasing it but I feel lighter now that I've thrown the weight of two unmade decisions. I will strive to hold onto the lightness through the fear of the months to come. Oh! And I don't need to feel guilty about how samey and pedestrian my leisure activities are because I've embarked upon a path of great change (I hope). Which is great since I went to Hakkasan on Sunday and day-drank over a gluttonous, expensive meal! And what? (Balls, I didn't take a picture which really would have cemented the 'and what' there.) 

Let's start at the start, with duck salad. It was plummy and stringy and tossed with fresh leaves. It didn't look particularly impressive but tasted rich. Then came the dim sum, first steamed then fried. Did you know that it's an insult to the chef to not eat dim sum in one bite? Well, I ate them all in several bites because I wanted the flavour to taste. They all had that subtle, almost watery, umami undercurrent. Fried dim sum was less my cup of tea but still artfully done. My favourite was the venison puff which I think lent itself to the crispy crunchy pastry better than seafood. Then came the starter, the only disappointment of the meal. It was calamari and, while fine, there was nothing that made it pop. But the sea bass which followed for a main was an amazing lurid yellow that tasted as good as it looked. The rice that came with it was perfectly sticky and the pak choi light and salty at the same time. By this point, I'd eaten enough to sustain myself for the week. But the macaroons! They were so delicately put together and obviously I had to try them all. As I'm writing this a week after eating and haven't had breakfast, I wish I had those macaroons for my tea.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Recipe - Beans and Rice

I recall a recentish conversation with Contrary where we commented that there's no understanding how many different kinds of shit there are when you're at school and think most shit revolves around wearing a uniform and learning about osmosis. Through all five years at a mentally scarring girls' school (plus an extra two at a sexist, under par mixed sixth form - suck it if you think I'm ever adding you to LinkedIn, Mr Robson) followed by three years at a high pressure university doing an uninspiring degree did not prepare me for the low point of the nausea in an un-air-conditioned cab to my parents' house from Coventry contemplating what I'm going to do with my life ('he's a little worried about his future') and how running away to see my parents' shows a real lack of progress and growing up while battling a hangover-triggered sunstroke. But hey, life goes on. Degrees end. Break-ups pass. Careers work out. Meanwhile, I can still rely on my parents to do nice, if babying, things like laden me with food and also have to do mad things around them like yelp and jump out of bed when my mother comes into my room lest she find cigarettes or realise there was bacon in the lunch that I meant to throw away. OK, so while you're all wondering, what possible segue is there to food here? Well, the bacon containing dish is the recipe detailed below. #nailedit

Beans and rice 
1 onion
A few stalks of celery 
1 carrot 
1 red chilli
4 garlic cloves 

Chop the above and fry, gently, over medium heat until browned.

4 rashers bacon, chopped 
200g mushrooms, chopped

Add the bacon and mushrooms, turn the heat up and dry until the bacon is Browns and there's no water.

A couple of sprigs of thyme 
Level tsp cumin
Heaped tsp chilli powder 
2 bay leaves 
4 portions rice 
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 tin of black beans

Add the herbs, rice, beans and a couple of cans of water. Bring to a simmer over a low heat and simmer until the rice is cooked. I didn't think it needed any salt but it did well with a liberal squeeze of the juice of a lime. I served this (to myself) with roasted tenderstem broccoli tossed in garlic powder, cayenne and salt.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Recipe - Peanut Butter Cauliflower, Coq Au Vin

Do I still cook anymore? No, not really. The lowest point was a couple of weeks ago when I decided to do dinner for a Friday night with the help of a slow cooker. But then the Explorer ended up doing it all including pudding which is sort of not the deal we had and further cements the thoroughly modern relationship that we seem to be reluctantly living. But I'm determined to get back into the swing of things because without cooking, I will literally have no interests left. (I was asked when I last watched a film through yesterday and I can't remember because I have fallen asleep through the last five.) Plus, it'd be a shame to build up five years of cooking experience and then let it go to the dogs like I have with driving. Anyway, here's a list of ingredients that I threw together that ended up being quite tasty.
Peanut butter cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 tbsp of chunky peanut butter
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander

Mix the marinade ingredients. Toss the cauliflower in it. Roast in a hot oven for 20 - 30 mins until all crispy. This was served with vegetable and egg fried rice.

Coq au vin, sort of
6 chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and pepper.
2 onions
2 carrots
500g chestnut mushrooms
2 glasses of red wine
1 glass of apple cider
Half tsp of dried thyme
3 bay leaves

Brown the thighs. Fry the vegetables in butter until golden. Return the thighs to the pan, add the herbs, add the wine and cider over a high heat. Simmer, half covered, for an hour until it's all glossy and delicious. Season again, to taste, and add chopped parsley.

Review - Market Cafe

I HAVE NO WORDS. I started with an entry that went over the confusion and feeling of being CLEAVED I feel when I have unexpected free time on a weeknight before segueing into saying not much of anything except describing my weekend in chronological order (boring). I deleted that and started again with 'A few things happened on the weekend I visited Market Cafe' but now I can't remember what those things are. So let's go through highlights of that week so if nothing else, it'll serve as a record for me when I'm old and hipster cafes are a thing of the past because of the overpopulation / running out of fossil fuels / nuclear war: making courgette and carrot pasta (obviously, not as good as real pasta), discovering the Sun Tavern (great glasses), seeing a boy drop a log menacingly in a pond in Haggerston Park (doesn't do well on the re-telling but would be a YouTube phenomenon if I'd recorded it). Lowlights: paying to go to the Queen of Hoxton (why, why, why would anyone ever go there), working on Sunday for no good reason other than I was so distracted and floopy in the week, not viewing a house because there's no way that we're going to be accepted for a house buying scheme there (also because we cba), the food at Market Cafe (but two thumbs up for the company).
I got a feeling about Market Cafe as soon as we walked in and the guy was a bit too friendly. The second bad omen was the board with letters which didn't quite give the sense that it was an American diner - the letters were all different sizes and too self-conscious. The menu didn't enthuse me either but I went for the ham hock hash. I was expecting something a bit like a big rosti with some big slabs of ham. Instead, I got fried potato and soft stringy ham. It was so average and overly sweet that I didn't finish it. Which meant that my fellow diner who #calledit and had suggested going to a greasy spoon for breakfast instead got to satisfy his craving for chips, kind of. I wouldn't go back here.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Review - Clove Club

I'm 24! I had a birthday! The best thing about it was taking Friday off and putting on an out of office message which may as well have said 'ha ha suck it I'm not working this weekend'. I felt particularly smug when I popped into the office to get my actifry (subsequently returned) and passed a couple of people who probably thought I was dressed like a joker. LITTLE DID THEY KNOW. Anyway, I headed to Clove Club afterwards for a wondrous lunch to start my favourite weekend of 2015 so far. It involved pork pie WITH MY NAME ON IT, BOWLING, music, brunch, prosecco, ALL SORTS OF WILD CRAZY FUN, naps, picnics, Hampstead Heath, CIDER and pasta. (Worst Monday ever.)

So, onto the food. First came the snacks. Reminiscent of Copenhagen in that they were small, intricately constructed morsels of interesting. One involved cod foam, one was a sparky green bean thing and one was a luscious bite of chicken in a pine cone basket. We moved onto lentils with a meaty, savoury Italian (?) sausage. What I most enjoyed about it was how it all tasted so NORMAL but also just great. This was followed for me by aged chicken - which I wasn't all too sold on to be honest. It tasted really strong and ashy but it just didn't do it for me. Everything else on my plate - smoked potato, a single spring onion - managed somehow to taste incredible enough to redeem it. The asparagus and ray that the Explorer ordered were UNREAL. My pudding was essentially jelly and ice cream - but the jelly was so lemonade-y and made my mouth pop an the ice cream was flecked with pepper and it all just made me think - hey, going out to meals is fun. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Dublin - The Winding Stair, Dillingers

Work travelling: discuss. As with all travelling, there's a certain element of tiredness and irritation and inconvenience. Except to make it more fun, they're people you work with rather than people you've chosen to be away with! The main perks are: generally shorter hours. (Except that this is offset by the fact that you have no social life to speak of.) The other is expensed food in a new place. The main negatives are obvious but I'll add a personal one in: someone threw a cup of what we think was chicken soup outta the window and it landed on my head. It was, admittedly, hilarious. However, it would've been more so if it had happened to someone else. So, where did we eat in Dublin?

The first night we went to The Dean. It has a pretty great rooftop but eating downstairs was an error. The chicken was dry, the rub mediocre. The chips were nothing special and the slaw was shop bought. Unimpressed. Thankfully, the trajectory was up up up from there. On the second night, it took ages to work out where to eat and eventually we settled on Dillingers. It looked quite hipster and like there would be benches and shared tables inside - the menu looked kind of American niche too. I wasn't in the mood for that vibe. But then  when the food came: oh my god. I think this is definitely a top ten eating experiences of my life sorta place. To start we had beef and gubeen nuggets - so tender, falling apart, carefully crumbed and insanely delicious. Tuna tostadas were scintillatingly fresh and limy. The 'wangs' I can't remember but that's probably because I was so blown away by the other starters. I went for coconut shrimp and grits to follow. This is in my to five dishes. It was so complex and had so much going on. The shrimps were MASSIVE and had that lovely soft kind of sucky prawn texture. They sat on a plate of corn which had a texture somewhere between soup and cous cous. That sounds horrid but it wasn't. There was coconut running through it which worked well with the prawns but then there was a chilli tomato sauce to bring it all together and take it back to Southernville. It was great. 
The next night we went to The Winding Stair. It speaks volumes that my veal Milanese there was as memorable as my shrimp and grits. Phenomenally thick, meaty and moist. I was so far from finishing my food and I've been sad and thought about that every time I've been hungry since. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A weekend (and a bit) in Copenhagen

After a string of long weeks, I had two days of calm to do such life admin as buy wine glasses and sleep. (I would've been making my offline map for Copenhagen but I had the foresight to do that last time I was bored in Birmingham.) So my second break of the year ended up being fortuitously well-timed. To Copenhagen with the Explorer! As with all my recent holidays, I basically could've been in London except that everything was much calmer and more reasonable. In fact, I had an epiphany while waiting for the (clean, civilised) bathroom in the Torvehallerne street food market. Why are we fooling ourselves that London is such a great place when we could be having the same fun and making more money with better dressed people in Copenhagen? Yes? We're idiots.

This is where we went for dinner on the first night. It was a little castle on one side of the river of Christianshavn, tucked away behind some groves. It was so beautiful - the inside rooms had huge hanging frames of art and there was a garden at the back full of herbs. Herbs contributed to our dinner. My beef was so bloody good, I understand why some people always order steak. The carrot velouté was all smeared daintily across the plate and scattered with little cubes of beet. (Unfortunately a little too salty.)
My Torvahallerne epiphany came the next afternoon when I was all day drunk from the cava bar, our rest stop after a morning of waking along the five lakes and pretending to go antiquing. We chased it with burgers and sausages from a stall which translates to something meaning 'around' because all the food was locally sourced. And so up the Round Tower we traipsed full of bubbles and meat. After a brief stop at Conditori La Glace to pick up breakfasts for our remaining mornings, we napped. I wanted some lemongrass to wake us up so we went to a Vietnamese place which had been described as both 'cheap' and 'street food'. It was neither. While it was probably the most intricately flavoured Vietnamese curry I've had, it just wasn't what I was in the mood for. We chased it with a visit to Mikkelbar, a fun brewery / pub with dozens of beers all of which are largely lost on me. 

Morning came and instead of pastries from Strangas, we had brunch on a cute little street in Vesterbro at Granola. It doesn't look like much but the food was on the higher quality end of yuppie brunch food. We then walked for TWO HOURS to see the little mermaid. Frankly, worst thing about the whole trip. Especially galling was the fact that we were so tired in our last leg of the mission that we barely got to enjoy the nice castle park around it. Would've been a much more enjoyable use of our time. What next? Designmuseum. Having a sit and a drink along the super touristy stretch of land with all the boats and overpriced wine. Then we had fancy pants dinner #1 - at Cofoco.

I could see exactly what the Explorer was thinking when the first plate, 'snacks', came. He was thinking - why are we paying for a slate with small raw vegetables and crispy chicken skin on it? Good question. Well, for a plate of cold vegetables, it was delicious. However, it did feel a bit ridiculous and like there was an element of fanciness of the sake of it. However, credit where credit's due. The plate of guinea fowl that followed it was so crispy and earthy and deep, I can remember what it tastes like even now. And the Explorer's beef gave the beef of the first night a run for its money.

OK - as it's taken me three weeks to write this, I'm really struggling to remember what happened after now. I know we started with my favourite meal of the trip: a gourmet pork and crackling sandwich at Meyer's Deli. After - I think we went to an art museum where I decided I liked Gijbrechts and the fun stuff he does with painting things to look like they're on others things that he's also painted. I struggle to remember what else but it may have involved hanging out in Rosenborg Castle again. Which, by the way, is incredible and has beautiful kept, free to access grounds. We saw a few emo kids wearing clothes they'll regret in future and felt glad that we're no longer teenagers even if it means having to work for your own dolla. To finish things off, we went and saw Christiania, Copenhagen's crusty, unkempt answer to Camden. The main difference being that there is actually a street where you can go and buy weed but the dealers are all wearing balaclavas in stalls covered with army camouflage gear that makes them so much creepier than secret drug dealers despite being out in the open. Christiania is supposedly the most visited tourist attraction in Denmark and, like the Little Mermaid before it, is only worth going to to tick something off a list rather than actually being a fun and worthwhile use of one's time.
To try and forget the horror, we headed to the meatpacking district. It has lots of whitewashed, blue-roofed empty warehouses where previously they slaughtered animals. Now, it's full of zuzhy street food stalls and classic cars. (I don't know why I'm saying that with minor disdain when I love that shit.) We enjoyed a delicious bottle of unfiltered prosecco at Kodbyens Fiskebar with a portion of fish and chips which made tasted like Bird's Eye would love you to think their food tastes like. So flaky and moist. Probably in joint first place with Ship on the Shore as the best quality fish I've tasted. Well done Copenhagen. You've shown that yes, all European city breaks are largely the same and basically like being in London but in a different place where you have time to enjoy the perks. But also that that's a great way to spend a holiday.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Breakfasts and Lunches - Ottolenghi, Lantana

I'm writing this on the 18th of May. I had previously written a preamble but it was post election and it felt a bit bad taste to be all 'and then I went to Ottolenghi' - even if most of it was on the subject of it being annoying when people assume that wealth = lack of compassion. ANYWAY, it was full of ire and I didn't want to be so publicly ire-y. The last two weeks have been work work work no life or time or play. And now I have time to reflect but nothing to reflect on but work which is exactly what I'm trying not to think about in my 'leisure' time. So let's skip to the food.

Ottolenghi has opened in Spitalfields. The jam is home made. The butter tastes home-churned. I was torn between shakshuka and a delicious bean and sausage stew (stew one). Moreish doesn't begin to cover it. Lunch is spectacular - mountains of deliciously 'I just threw this together except actually it has 21+ ingredients in it' salads. Served with a selection of classic Ottolenghi proteins: sumac with chicken features. It was so big I barely finished half and I think of it often.
Lantana had a menu where I knew exactly what I would have two days before the fact. Sausage patty sold it for me. Oh my god - it tasted like every McDonalds taste to a drunkard's mind. Nestled between two firm but fluffy buns with a rich, sweet sauce. It's not all bad, is it?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Recipes

When I started writing this blog, it was on the theme of 'it's like the Cayman Islands never happened!' I think that's come across adequately in the three blogs I've posted since then - and if it hasn't, it's come across well from the fact that it's taken two weeks to get any new material out. Well, anyway, I've been cooking less than I would've liked to but still a reasonable amount. Some highlights, minus the recipes since I never know quantities anyway and now don't have time to make any up.

My first focaccia - one with goats cheese, onion and thyme. The other with olive and parsley. Ottolenghi chargrilled broccoli, spring lamb with peas and anchovies, courgette and mint salad plus several delicious things that the housemates made.

In the Cayman Islands we had more of a mexicana theme - carne asada stuffed potatoes with brussel sprout quesadillas, a new staple. Shredded sprouts, onions, jalapeño roasted in an oven. Wrap in a tortilla with spring onion and cheese then fry. 

We also did some more inventive space and time consuming bits. Beer can chicken with potatoes, ponlano peppers and chorizo - make a rub - we went for one with garlic, paprika and cumin. Stick the can inside the chicken, prop upright and put in the oven - roast as you would normally. Chorizo, potato and peppers in the roasting pan all melded together to make a wonderful sauce. Would be delicious with bread.

Then, back in the UK without the explorer, I went back to vegetable land with roasted cauliflower quarters - caramelise the cut sides over a high heat in olive oil. Stick in the oven with a bit of salt for 30 mins to finish cooking. We had this with a hotch potch meal of potato and sea bass.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review - Gymkhana

Things I don't love about being a grown up:
Having no time or energy 
Having to maintain two versions of self
Being kind of a whiny bitch all the time (esp to the Explorer)
Meetings 
Having to do galleries etc on the weekends when they're really busy and I'm probably hungover and therefore not really doing anything ever
Questioning life choices in all aspects all the time
Feeling too distracted to read
Having nothing to say on here / in general 

Things I love about being a grown up:
Having cocktails before dinner
Having my nails done on the regz
Wooden hangers and knife sharpeners and a coat rack and John Lewis wine glasses (now all broken)
Linner 
Confidence in expressing opinion because really who has the time or energy to hold onto teenage hang-ups
Laser eye surgery (if ever I just go and book it)
Automatic filtering out of 'friends' I don't naturally feel at ease around
Michelin starred meals once a month - this month's at Gymkhana
Firstly, the cocktails. My red thing came in the loveliest glass and made me understand why people like that slight bitterness of Aperol / Campari. More than the taste itself, the little crystal bits at the bottom of the glass did it for me. On taste, the twisted gin and tonic yellow thing won.
(Photo blurry because it was delicious and I was really, really hungry.) Then came tandoori prawns - so spicy with a hint of smoke from the oven. Oh and it came with a creamy sauce that cooled the whole thing down. The duck dosa was so much fun to crack open and revealed the sweetest jewelled bits of duck inside. The venison keema naan was my favourite and begs the question - why don't we eat everything on flat bread? Mains were even more fun - biryani which came with a pastry top! Buried at the bottom were really dark, rich bits of meat. Tender chops of lamb proving incontrovertibly that no meat should ever be tough. Grilled quail demonstrating successfully that even unexpected meats do really well with a good spicing. And the nicest touches were the achars and sauces - the green chilli one especially.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A quick one about Edinburgh

As part of my campaign to promote Edinburgh over Durham to my brother, I decided to take the radical step of inviting him up to the Explorer's house and see the city in all its glory. A side effect is that he also saw me and the Explorer together which has never, ever happened before. There was also a fair amount of boozing which neither me nor my brother has seen the other one do. So, how did that pan out? Well, firstly, I got their names confused quite a bit whenever I was doing my cajoling someone for being an idiot / irritating me voice. This happens even when they're not in the same expanse of space and only got worse. (It's also obviously hilarious for everyone else and indicates that I should stop telling the Explorer / anyone off.) But names and irritation aside, it was a fairly chill weekend. Well done all of us! 
It started with a burrito at Pinto Mexican - far superior to Chilango's / similar because of the breadth of choice. Particularly of note is the rub on both the slow roasted and steaky beef. I also had haggis with my breakfast the next morning at The Pantry. It was by far the nicest example of haggis I've tried - firmer in texture and less peppery. The other elements of the build your own breakfast included a tattie scone and vegetable hash - all conspiring together to trump the American inspired waffles of which London seems so fond. Last of all, we ended up in Henderson's in St John's. 
Great location - all crypty but still light and with lovely little paintings everywhere. I'm surprised it wasn't more full. I was full (ha, ha) after the vegetarian EXTRAVAGANZA that we ordered. Bean burgers, bean taco, a spinach cheese fill thing and an array of colourful salads. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Review - Morito, City Social

What does it mean to be a bar snack? It can mean crisps or tapas or even unlimited portions of northern Italian pasta. For me, it means not throwing up or getting a cab on a Thursday. Hooray! Also it really poses the question of what a restaurant is and why it's different. It's not the number or expectation of courses. It's often not even the formality of the setting. It's definitely not the relative merit of the drink over the food. Anyway, I've tired of writing this and Mile End tube approaches - it doesn't matter what it is but I'm glad the concept exists. Now let's talk about what I ate at Morito and City Social.
Morito is my current favourite restaurant (bar?) in London. We went on a whim to celebrate the Explorer's biggest work win to date. First point - it doesn't let you book but doesn't expect you to queue aimlessly, instead very reasonable tells you when you have an opportunity to sit at a table to call your own and eat. Mmm. The tortilla with sprouting broccoli and wild garlic is one of the best things I've ever eaten. It's so impressive that the broccoli retains bite while the potatoes are gooey and the whole omelette a beautiful balance between wet and firm. Oh baby. The lamb on aubergine was so sweet and tender and shredded! The cauliflower griddled amongst the chicken was pretty and toasty and went well with the harissa tang of the chicken. The salt cod croquettes lived up to their name (in that they were salty, fishy croquettes) and the little chorizo on toast that we got to shut the Explorer up was just slightly moistened by tomato. I'm basically saying it was all great. Better (even if in a very different way) to City Social the next night. 
City Social was more about good service and the wonderful view. Everything had a little bit of theatre to it and we didn't have to ask for water or refill our own wine even once. The goat's cheese churros were inspired and the honey with them made them feel like a dessert. The ploughman's was a meal for two in itself - romesco cauliflower pickle to go with the soft, delicious cheddar. A cute little black pudding scotch egg, creamy inside and crisp outside. It went well with the sweet, tart apple and raisin chutney. My favourite was probably the salt beef - it came dressed and potted. Then came the main! The shrimp roll I ordered for main was somewhat outdone by the ploughman affair as I can barely remember what it tasted like and can't remember it anyway. The chicken fared better - just a lovely, rich bit of roasted chicken with some cute accoutrements.  

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Delicious Grand Cayman

Hey, I've skipped no meals and had no hangovers! The wonders of a Caribbean holiday. The flip side of this is that the jeans I wore out had to be left unbuttoned for the return journey but frankly, give a shit. Other handy stats that summarise how relaxed and wonderful and great I feel: 0 urges to listen to weirdly upbeat but depressing lame Sia songs, 10 nails and toes immaculately painted and buffed to within an inch of their life, still unchipped, 0 incidents of me missing dates with the Explorer and / or coming home and saying 'it's quiet time now please leave me alone'. So relaxed. So luxurious. It's pretty great. 

So what did we eat? Fish tacos from the appropriately titled Sunset House while watching this bloody great sunset. Wonderfully flaky, moist fish fry sandwiches from Rum Point defying my rule of thinking fish and bacon is weird together. The last beach shack we went to was Duke's - the jambalaya was spicy and packed with moist seafood but much too salty. The jerk wasn't the best but nothing to complain about.
Plus, it was competing with Seymour's jerk pork that comes straight from a barrel! Unsurprisingly, the loveliest, spiciest, fruitiest jerk I've had. Curry goat I had alongside the fluffiest paratha from Singh's Roti Shop. 
On the other end of the fanciness spectrum, we had coconut shrimp at Royal Palm's - a little underwhelming but the freshness of the mango salsa means I still feel positive. And my last meal we had at Catch and, serendipitously, it was by far the nicest. A huge plate of seafood spaghetti full of fresh white fish, prawns, mussels, lobster, everything in a garlicky tomato sauce which would have been just wonderful to soak in bread - had the waitress not inadvertently tipped it onto the Explorer's white shirt instead. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A few around the home

I'm going to ramble about having many selves and having to cultivate them but also having to have boundaries between them so that you don't send emails like 'so it's this person's surprise party, can you please action the following:...' in your personal life. In the past four months, I've been indulging work self in order to embody and channel more easily the things I need to be at work. Hence the eating out and ubering and spending every weekend being lavish and lazy and consuming nothing of value because it's too exhausting to think in free time. Now, that time has come to a close for a few months and it's time to indulge the home, cooks and sleeps a lot side for a while. (Also known as the better rounded, more culturally active side that is also a halfway passable girlfriend and has energy to READ.) I'm particularly looking forward to seeing more of London again. In recent months, virtually everything has revolved around the following locations:

- Shoreditch - work (drinks)
- Kings Cross - plasticky breakfasts, 7am trains
- Leeds - red wine, stuffy hotel rooms, trying to come across as older than 23
- Brixton - friends, no moderation, chance encounters with people you don't expect to see (c.f. ex-boyfriend Acre Lane Tesco)
- Bow - dinners, sleeping and sweeping on a Saturday morning, safety, occasional arguments, self, recalibration, tea, comfort

The last post focused on the food places spanning KGX, LDS and Shoreditch so this will cover the Brixton and Bow features of the past couple of weeks. And then there will be a new age of blog where I manage to leave the mile radius around my house and my office!
Right, so, Casa Morita. Little Mexican place in one of the markets. We went for the 'tasting menu' i.e. a platter of different dishes from around the menu. The unfortunate bit is that all of those bits involve tortillas so it was an unfortunate time to realise that I can't abide corn tortillas. All flour, all the way. Then what sticks out to me? The vegetarian taco mix was delicate and sweet. The pork (pulled, I guess) was pleasant. As were the cocktails. But my overall impression of the place was I could take or leave it. I'm unlikely to return unless I really have to. This is the complete opposite of my attitude to the George on Bethnal Green Road and its wonderful Jerusalem artichoke 'chips'. I have half a mind to look up when they're in season and go every week to get my fill. Later on Jerusalem artichoke day, we had cheese and ham and fruit time.


Lessons learnt: grilled peaches, prosciutto and honey go together well. Ricotta baked with figs and honey is great. I need to be less liberal about throwing together ingredients for devilled eggs as my first attempt were much too pungent. Lessons learnt from paella a week on: something about the lemons made it bitter. I forgot to put mustard in the chicory orange red onion salad. The Explorer makes a mean banoffee pie.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A few around the office

I bookended last week with Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. It was playing at Three Crowns as I was breakfasting on Monday and again as I was celebrating on Friday evening. I've been there a year. This isn't what I was celebrating but it's notable nonetheless. A whole year of corporate culture and working life, making the Flaming Lips feature particularly notable. I've certainly changed in that strange way that people do when they spend most of their time with not their friends. I'm trying to think of a pop culture reference to make my ping nicely but after this particular 14 hour day, I have no words or energy. But it's still been a good day. The main lifestyle changes (apart from the boozing and consequent skin repercussions that I've heavily alluded to) are less sleep, more cabs and more meals out. You can try all you like to pretend that more money won't change you and you'll save it oh the really most restrained manage it. Some (most) days, the money vs time trade off that happens is worth it. It's not like you don't get something in return. Last week, I ate at no fewer than four new places.
At Three Crowns, I breakfasted (another occasional lifestyle change) on black pudding and fingerling potatoes. Perfectly buttery. Meatliquor in Leeds - oh yeah, work travelling and the weirdly intimate things you share - was less good. Greasy, heavy, meaty and just not what you want before sleeping in a chemical hotel room with the beginnings of a light red wine hangover. (That's Leeds in a nutshell.) The flip side is lovely lunches like at the Post Office in Leeds. The nice corporate places have probably changed my appetite for the scuzzier meals, like Peppers n Spice with housemates on Thursday that fell flat. I'm more used now to breakfasts like Friday morning at Dishoom - bacon naan is not heresy to me anymore. The chai was disappointing but sweetened (ha ha) by the news that I'd been promoted. And to finish, a deluxe meal at 8 Hoxton Square paid for by the kindness of the richer to make you reflect upon the fact that the line doesn't between friends and colleagues needn't be as rigid internally, even if some boundaries are best kept as they are. That's all, folks.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Review - Rita's

I found my way to Rita's finally! I feel that this is the start of a new phase, or at least a few months, where I'm calm, relaxed and generally an all round together person. (Ha.) I found time to tidy my room and invest in a coat stand, new sofa covers and a drying rack (though not an ISA, unfortunately). Most importantly, I went outside in daylight! It was so springy and crisp and only minorly buzz-harshed by the Explorer asking if we were there yet because he was hungry. The silver lining to that was that we got to Rita's. And bar some weird interactions with the waitress and generally slow service, it was excellent.
So, my first chicken waffle! I may never eat anything else again. Except for that gloriously gluey, sticky, cheesy mac n cheese. Alive with chilli and with a hint of limey avocado on top. A special shout out for that sausage gravy - this is what it's all about.