Sunday, 25 January 2015

Review - Bouchon Fourchette

I've spoken several times about how uncharacteristic it is for me to want a slab of flat, juicy, meaty steak. You'd think that would only be intensified by my Flat Iron experience. Apparently not - I went for dinner at Bouchon Fourchette because I wanted to rip my teeth through a bloody-- gross, I can't finish this now that I'm not in the mood for steak. You know what goes well with steak? Wine. Blueberry red wine. Of course, I had to self-deny. Instead, I indulged in pudding. It didn't quite hit the same spot. Especially in the present company, my pal who's an example for why you should live a life unfettered by preconceptions or fear. (We don't have that in common.) We had exactly the same supper though so maybe I could learn.

And what a supper it was! The minute steak was juicy without being bloody, plump and lean without reminding me that it used to be a muscle. The chips that sat beside in a little paper case were a posh version of McDonald's - I mean that fully as a compliment. Garlicky spinach was again done right - no waterlogged leaves, a strong but not overly punchy level of garlic. Pudding shine too - wafer thin pastry that was crisp at the edges and soaked through at the bottom with chantilly ice cream. Mmm.

Review - Namo

And just a week after espousing the virtues of boredom, I threw away my inner peace, sanity and boredom for a full 12 hours and freaked out like it was 2009. (Side note: it still hasn't hit home that 2000 was almost 20, not 10, years ago.) It's no bad thing (it is) - I'm using it as an opportunity to display all the fun lessons I've learnt in the past six years.

1. Hangovers are the worst thing for clarity of decision making, as is being so shit faced that being a bit sad comes across as pure mania.

2. Your problems are first world - try and manifest them into doing something good for someone less lucky and more grateful. Please, donate generously to one of my chosen charities for the year.

3. Your problems are boring - don't be a self indulgent dick who talks about them ad infinitum. Or at least, if you do - talk about it on a public web log where people who find it annoying can suck it in the knowledge that they chose to read this, you voyeuristic chump.

4. Always take a spare pair of contact lenses. One will fall out when you're doing decoy dinner at Namo before surprising the Explorer with a face cake and many pals for his birthday. Classic blind leading the unaware.
And what a dinner it was! We had chicken satay to start and it was chargrilled and caramelised in that attractive patchy way all through the outside. And the sauce that it came with was crack-level addictive. It was so punchy and sweet and yet had something that set it apart from those drippy, wet shadows of sauces that you see so often with Vietnamese starters. Then came the mains. As it was the Explorer's decoy birthday, I didn't order for both of us. And now I can say that I am so right to order everything all the time as his order was such an error. I mean, it was fine but it didn't get finished. Bun Xa prawns with a strong sauce that was not dissimilar to the one we had with our starter. It just didn't quite gel with the slithery noodles and large, soft prawns in the same way. I went for the Hanoi beef and aubergine and that was probably the best dish I've had in a Vietnamese place. It's so good that I'm definitely going to fall into the trap of ordering it every time (as I do with the lemongrass chicken in Keu). FYI - the Explorer should have gone for either the coconut chicken or king prawn curry. #calledit.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Review - Mishkins

Two things have sprung out to me as a result of my QLC (quarter life crisis, obv). One: I'm much less concerned about clean than I once was, it just suited my serious work-doing self. American Psycho hit it on the head with the immaculate apartment - paranoid just-so cleanliness is all mixed in with control and is the antithesis of feeling comfortable in your own skin. But hey I forgot to wash up a lunchbox for four days (gross) so I must be super-comfortable! Two: being highly strung and on edge and surrounded by drama is not cool or fun and is mostly tiresome. This point was made well by my lunch pal last Saturday. We sat in Mishkin's and I enjoyed the best flat white I've had in London while she reminded me (through anecdotes about someone she knows) that feeling bored is a luxury. Then our slaw came.
And what a slaw it was! It was unusually almost aniseedy, but mild at the same time. It was just dressed so the crunch of the cabbage (or possibly kohlrabi) was still intat. It went really well with the mac and cheese - this was rich but at the same time zesty. It reminded me of what the base for lobster mac and cheese should be like. I had half a salt beef sandwich with it. The bread was so soft that it almost crumbled. The beef was, as expected, wonderfully briny. And they have the art of having the right number of pickles and the lightest slathering of mustard down. I'm probably going to be boring and eat my way through the menu.

Review - Flat Iron

A combination of the Explorer's five week absence and having been back at my parents' means that I have full regressed. Most of the time, this makes me feel glad that I'm with someone. It's a cosy body bag where you don't have to think or reflect on your weaknesses and how they're perceived. However, the five week period is also a microcosm of a breakup. It goes from being weird to awful to actually OK. And you spend the weird and actually OK bit thinking that being irretrievably linked with someone stifles the very thing that made you yourself. Acceptance is a wonderful thing - it is so lovely to know that you are wanted and appreciated however boring your stories are/greasy your hair is/chopped your nails are. Equally, it makes you complacent. You don't have to try to show the best of your appearance or personality. You don't ever have to be alone and I've come to realise that actually, the aloneness (and loneliness) adds a lot. Nevertheless, while it might be good to be reminded that you're still capable of feeling feelings that you thought were long dead, they're fundamentally no fun. Having last minute plans is great, but the safety net of someone to hang out with anyway should only make that better. Ditto making an effort with new friends - and actually, this should be easier with the confidence that actually, someone wants to hang out with you even when they're doing chores while you smugly declare that you're 'project managing'. At the end of the day, having to rely on the mercy of other people liking you for who you are sucks. It's kind of good that it makes you up your game. But waiting for replies to messages is horrible and pathetic. And now you have the added salt of 'you're 23 and there's not much moulding or change to be made that can mitigate any of these thoughts'. Still, it's good to be able to go to Flat Iron with a few hours' notice. (Ditto going for a semi big one with your best boy pal on a Friday in a bar full of pre-20s.)

I was expecting a lot from Flat Iron. It has been described as the best steak in London to me before. It's not. Or if it is, steak isn't anything worth mooning over. The chips and spinach were worth going to for their artfulness alone - as it the chefs get so bored of doing steak again and again that they put their soul into the sides. But the steak itself was full of the taste of iron over anything else. To make it worse, it wasn't tender and could have had a few more hours with the meat mallet. However, steak, chips, spinach, salad and a carafe of wine for £22 is nothing to sniff at. But equally, nothing to wait an hour for.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Ring it in with chilli

So far, 2015 has felt like a cruel joke. Over Christmas, I was almost teenage in my self-indulgence. Except, unlike a teenager, I cleaned up a bit and have taken over the primary cooking duties in the Haque household (Haquehold). Plus, I appreciate now that my parents probably want to see me and it's all melancholy how my mum's all sad and floaty when I'm around as she's already thinking about me being gone again. And I have the decency to feel guilty for that, especially since after two days I am so longing for London again that it's just like bad daughter bad daughter bad daughter. So I rewatched Girls and had too much time to think and considered EVERYTHING. Mainly, closing my blog down as I have no words anymore (sob). So I was all giddy and overexcited to see all my pals again. So much so that I went to not one but TWO social occasions with more than five people present yet didn't leave feeling like I hadn't made the most of it. At worst, I felt embarrassed at being just a bit too wasted and earnest at party #2 - literally bouncing around pouring drinks for people who didn't want them and telling a girl I had literally just met that she the best thing since sliced bread and iPhones. Aw, Jesus, I thought I was ready to talk about this in a self-referential way and not feel a hot shame but apparently it's too soon. Let's focus on party #1 - the Illusionist threw a dinner party. I wish he would always have dinner parties as I have only ever had the best time ate every party he's thrown. Here's to George and his fabulous chilli.

In a word: delicious. In three: just spicy enough. 

Review - Secret Sunday Lunch Club, White Room Supper Club

I was recently speaking to someone about how it's sad for me that food's the thing that I'm really into. I am so overawed and blown away by the intelligence with which people I know talk about artists and musicians and writers and theatre and architects and film. It is such a shame that the thing that I can talk about as knowledgeably as people I know can talk about all those other things is food. I'm not even the best cook I know! With food, you have to turn it into something more. Reasonably so, since literally everyone eats and most people cook. A business idea or a stall or something in conjunction with an arts space. Or just something a little off kilter and on trend like a supper club. I have sometimes wondered whether I'd be able to start a supper club and, having been to two recently, I reckon I could. (If I had access to a beautiful, spacious flat in central London and any desire to, that is.) But also, that I wouldn't want to. To be polite to strangers taking over your home is a feat I'm just not capable off. I don't make the best first impression either so it wouldn't be any good for my ego. The first lunch club I've been to recently is the Secret Sunday Lunch Club. She lives in a flat of the bygone pre-recession days (I'm assuming as there are no flats that any of my friends have ever lived in which are that level of amazing.) She has a lovely table that somehow manages to make a ten seat table manageable. She makes a wonderful, sweet chestnut pate. Her blinis are lemon and home made. Her main course is full and picturesque. Her beef tender. Her vegetables a great blend of crisp and sugary. The leeks were my favourite and I'd recommend you go.

This was followed up quickly by the White Room Supper Club. Wow, what an amazing space. I wish I had the foresight and courage to take a punt on an up and coming area - I imagine I'd have a cavernous white space like this one. With a huuuuge window. It was immaculate and immaculately decorated. It's particularly impressive that the food was not my bag at all and I still had an enjoyable evening. But the food was reallllly not my bag - starter of liver on chocolate brioche was much too sweet for my tastes. The main, venison, tasted tinny and reminded me of shot even though there was no hint of shot to the thing. And spaetzle is not my cup of tea; it's primarily a texture problem arising from the 'lack of flavour' problem. Pudding was fine but not gingery enough and nothing special. I'd say it was still well worth it for the flat alone. A fabulous private dining experience that's actually affordable - £35 per person, BYOB. Apt thing to do for a work Christmas party! (My final parentheses - I got the BEST secret Santa gift. Really just the best.)