Burger and Lobster

There is scarcely a harder choice in life: Burger or Lobster? In any case, that is what you are confronted with as you enter the restaurant with no menu or bookings but a huge lobster tank, open kitchen and beautiful bar.

B&L had many critics when it first opened a few years ago, with many saying “a restaurant that only sells Burgers or Lobsters will never work!” And yet, my eating partner and I arrived at 6.30pm on a Wednesday night and were faced with an hour and a half wait! (Not to mention a global empire of restaurants).

To move onto the food, I went for the grilled lobster and my eating partner went for the lobster roll. The lobster roll, pictured, is a melange of cool lobster and spiced mayonnaise, stuffed into a warm brioche roll. I find it amusing how this Maine fast food is elevated to fine dining, but it really works. It was a delightful dish, and you will genuinely be surprised as to just how much lobster you can stuff into a brioche roll!

I went for the grilled lobster which, as lobsters go, was faultless. Perfectly cooked, so the flesh was firm but not hard, and it came out of the shell very easily. It is one of life’s hardest choices: do you tackle the harder claws first before moving onto the denser flesh of the main cavity or do you leave the claws to the end? I went for the claws first, and with a B&L bib attached to my frontage, garlic butter streaming down my chin and my hands covered in lobster, I was quite a sight… All dishes are served with decent fries and a better than decent salad. As for the pricing, a £20 lobster is surely London’s best bargain?

We were lucky enough to meet the chef and be shown down to the lobster tanks in the basement after our meal, which was a great experience: they get through tonnes and tonnes of lobster every week. I was even allowed to hold one of the fine creatures. I wonder if they have thought about making it a petting zoo in the morning?

Go to B&L if you want to have a fun, filling and delicious meal. I am sorry that there wasn’t a third member to tackle the burger, however they did look very fine. But lobster for £20… that is too good to miss!

I will be returning as soon as possible!

Burger & Lobster
Food: 9/10
Service: 8/10
Lobster tankage: 9/10
Overall: 8.6/10

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Restaurant Review: The Wild Game Co, Charlotte Street

It’s truly amazing how the smell and taste of food can transport us back to particular memories. I most recently noticed this when smelling mint sauce and I was transported back to Sunday Lunches with my grandmother. Yesterday, as I stepped inside the Wild Game Co I was transported back to holidays in Shropshire. Why? The smell of beef dripping! Yesterday was fairly cold and stepping inside the Wild Game Co was like coming home; a coat hanger for my coat and a very homely warmth. The interior is simply a comfortable place to sit. And all the while the smell and sounds of the kitchen waft through. (Can a sound waft? I hope it can).

To the food. The menu is really great, and truly to my taste. Just 6 main courses and 3 sides. Simples. There are three burgers which all look really great; I was very curious to try beef bacon, but that will have to wait for another time. Then there were a good selection of venison steaks, served either with chips, as a chateaubriand for two people or a salad. The salad was “very good” according to my friend, and the presentation-beautiful. Then the side dishes. Those who have eaten with me in a restaurant before know that, when it comes to side dishes, I am obsessed. Really obsessed. Dangerously so. So I decided to order all of them-why not?

First there were the beef dripping fries. Meaty, salty and crispy- they were brilliant. And I was suddenly in Shropshire 8 years ago, which was a bit weird. A small salad followed; pearl barley, beetroot, feta and curly kale. Confession time-I find feta hugely overrated, but here it worked really well. It wasn’t those unchewable cubes that are normally find but tiny little crumbles which added a depth of saltiness that was needed for the beetroot. Then on the top were shards of crispy kale-as crispy as seaweed. The star dish was the hearty portion of ‘stovies’. These transported me back to Scotland-lumps of braised venison, soft new potatoes and onions so soft, translucent and sweet. It was a food hug.

What I really like about this restaurant is the fact that they have a real respect for the meat they are serving. The venison is cooked really well. Secondly, it would have been so easy to charge outrageous amounts for venison, because it is less common, but (for example) the venison burger is cheaper than the beef burger. Hurray! Lastly, walking in feels like coming home to memories of food (well, it does for me, anyway). If more restaurants could do that, well…

The Wild Game
Food: 9/10
Service: 8/10
Homecoming: 9/10
Pricing: Burgers from £6, Steak from £8
Overral: 8.7/10

La Maison Bleue, Edinburgh, Restaurant Review

I start this review with a welcome back to you and to myself. It is a sad time when www.wordreference.com (a dictionary website used extensively in my revision) appears before www.wordpress.com. I don’t intend that to be the situation for long anymore! Anyway, welcome back one and all. I have just spent the last month at the Edinburgh Fringe playing in a show, and the chances to eat out were hampered hugely both by time constraints and budget. I did have one treat though: a meal La Maison Bleue (just off the Royal Mile).

The idea behind this restaurant, from what I could gather is that you can either order some smaller plates of food (called bouchées) and share them between the table, or you can order them in a more conventional manner as starters and mains. I chose the latter, mainly because the thought of having to share some of the things on the menu seemed like a huge shame when they sounded so delicious!

I started with “our secret recipe calamari” mainly out of curiosity. It was very good; salty and with a kick of spice on the batter. The squid itself was meaty and not at all tough. It probably wasn’t the best calamari I have ever had; that requires being near a Meditteranean beach on a hut summer day, but this came close. “Saigon beef” was a cute little dish; a stir fry served in a pastry basket, and was similarly good. Fish soup was, well, fish soup. But very good fish soup!

Onto the mains. My confit duck leg served with bean cassoulet was an absolute triumph of french cookery. The confit duck leg was simultaneously moist and flaky on the inside with crispy and shard-like skin that was so full of flavour. The cassoulet was as a cassoulet should be; rich with a salty kick from the bacon and an earthiness from the beans. It put me in a stupidly good mood, especially as it complimented the wet and cold weather! Beef cheeks were similarly rich and indulgent, whilst the rib-eye steak was perfectly cooked and clearly very high quality meat. The creolian fish gumbo was a really interesting dish and went down very well.

The sticky toffee pudding (my main vice) was the best I have ever had; the toffee sauce was just short of being sickly whilst maintaining its richness. The strawberries on top cut through the sweetness very well and added some needed acidity. A great dish and presented on a plate that resembled a UFO. (You’ll get what I mean).

So, thank you La Maison Bleue for a truly memorable meal. It is fair to say that it didn’t come up in the cheapest meals I’ve eaten, however it also didn’t reach the heights of the most expensive meals either. I intend to come back for the lunch menu, which looks truly brilliant as well.

La Maison Bleue, Edinburgh

Food: 8/10

Service: 8/10

France: 9/10

Overall: 8.3/10

Poached eggs

Why is there such a stigma attached to poached eggs? Seriously? I don’t get it. I grew up being scared of doing poached eggs properly and only recently was forced to do them in a group. I apprehensively dropped in the egg, let it be for a few minutes and was left with the single greatest egg that I have EVER eaten! A warm yolk that spilled out all over the plate and a firm yet soft white that actually tasted like an egg! So why are they seen to be the be-all and end-all of cooking?

Well here’s how I cook them. In a big saucepan I heat up a couple inches of boiling water till just bubbling. I then drop in 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Just before serving time I crack a (fresh, ideally) egg into a ramekin and then swirl the water into a vortex (well, vortex perhaps compliments it a little; maybe a ‘small swirl’ would be more appropriate). Then drop in the egg as close to the water as possible. Using a slotted spoon have a little play with it, making sure it stays in one piece. Occasionally splash some of the water over it. Maybe even flip it?! Ok, Ok, maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Sorry. Flipping is a little extreme. Anyway, once the white is firm, carefully remove (actually the hardest bit) and let it dry on kitchen paper before serving with a generous crunch of sea salt and pepper. 

I love poached eggs for breakfast, or on top of a nice piece of fish. Or maybe even on a salad. Go on, push the boat out, I dare you. 

Best tomato sauce, ever ever, guaranteed, absolutely, without a doubt

Oh, I have rather a lot to live up to now. 
Here’s how I make a scrummy tomato sauce. 

Chopped onion, cooked low and slow in olive oil till caramelized and sticky. Add 1 clove crushed garlic near the end of cooking. Then turn up heat and drop in 4 good sized skinned tomatoes. Crush with back of spoon and let mush down for a few minutes. A good pinch of salt, sugar, pepper and smoked paprika. Then half a handful of chopped basil. A couple more minutes and then it is ready. 

I like to toss this with pasta, or use as a bruschetta topping with meat. Or use as a chunky gazpacho base. Your choice. Enjoy!

Chicken

A few nights ago I had a marvelous supper. I went to my favourite Butcher at Bermondsey (see post below), and bought 2 chicken legs (corn fed, and seriously, the best chicken ever. EVER). And some chicken wings, because they are dead cheap, and super delish. 
I grilled the wings with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and a drizzle of honey. Just until they were cooked. And then when they had cooled down you just shred away all the meat into a bowl, and mix it up with some prosciutto and normal ham. I finished it off with some forestiere mushrooms and a splash of red wine.
With the chicken legs, I griddled them in my new griddle pan (super super exciting) incredibly simply, and then finished them off in the oven till they were at 75degrees. Nice crispy skin and very most inside.
Then the dish was finished with a couple slices of cucumber. It works a dream for some reason. Anyway, a really nice supper in my humble opinion!

Italian food. And other stuff. And my new place for food.

I thought a few days about going across to Italy for inspiration. Now, I won’t patronise you by telling you how great pizza is, or this extraordinary new thing called pasta… I think most people know what they are. However, let us, for a second think about Italian food. It is, very generally, food that makes the most of a small number of fresh and quality ingredients, cooked quickly (or very very slowly). It is a light cuisine, different from the heavy and hearty depths from France or the rich stodginess of Russia.

Italian cuisine, therefore is far more diverse than might be expected. The Italians love their game, and they boast one of the most diverse collection of mushrooms used in any cuisines. Italian cheese is let down by the fact that attaining proper mozzarella and Parmesan is very difficult. Proper Parmesan is bone-dry and doesn’t carry with it the almost vomit-like aroma of supermarket Parmesan. Proper mozzarella is a milky cheese that should require pressure to break into, but once you have ripped apart the bocconcini, you should be left with a centre so milky that you treat with similar care to that which a puppy might receive. Some of the best Italian cheese that I have found in London is in the “THE HAM AND CHEESE COMPANY”, based in bermondsey, who also sell some of the best Parma ham this side of anywhere.

Veal is a unique type of meat. It has the same irony richness as beef, without the heaviness. For those who don’t know, veal is the meat from calves. After images of cruel breeding procedures were published in the 80’s, veal sales plummeted, but if you get veal from a good supplier, there really is no problem. The best veal I have found in London is from THE BUTCHERY, in Bermondsey. Veal is seen as an expensive meat, which it can be, but you should be able to get a decent sized escalope for less than £3 each, so less than a steak.

It is very important in Italian, French and Austrian cuisine. Funnily enough, all cuisines seem to cook veal in a similar way; namely to dip in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Then to deep fry (to make Austrian Wiener Schnitzel) or grill (to make cotoletta alla palermitana) or fry in clarified butter/olive oil (to make Cotoletta alla Milanese). In this article, the recipe is for “Cotoletta a orecchio di elefante” (literally, elephant ear cutlet). This differs from Cotoletta alla Milanese, which has the bone kept in, whilst we are using boneless escalopes.

Cotoletta a orecchio di elefante with Pesto and mozzarella.

This can be served with any carbohydrate you want. Boiled potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt and parsley would work a treat, whilst I used tagliatelle, because I felt like it.
Homemade pesto is completely different from the shop-bought stuff. It is far more aromatic and very quick to make. I maintain that a sauce like pesto should be made with your cook’s sense, not just a recipe. So if “half a handful” means nothing to you, I apologise!

Ingredients:
Cotoletta: 1 escalope of veal per person. 1 beaten egg per 3 escalopes. Plenty of breadcrumbs. Flour.
Pesto: half. A quarter handful of pine nuts. A handful of basil leaves and stalks. Quarter handful of grated Parmesan. Half a clove of garlic, crushed. Salt and pepper. Olive oil.
Mozzarella; 150 grams will be enough for 4. Olive oil for drizzling. Fresh vine tomatoes to complement (as many as you want!). 1 avocado Salt and pepper.

Method.

Place your veal escalopes one by one between two pieces of greaseproof paper and flatten out with a meat mallet/rolling pin/any hard object lying nearby. Cut into smaller pieces if desired (I do as it cooks more quickly).
Dip in flour to cover, then coat in the beaten egg before covering in breadcrumbs. Shake off excess crumbs so it looks roughly like the picture! Keep on a plate until ready to cook.

To make pesto, in a small blender/pestle and mortar, blend up the pine nuts, Parmesan, basil and garlic until they are all chopped up. Then drizzle in enough olive oil to form into a sauce. Keep until ready.

Chop up the avocado, tomatoes and mix with torn pieces of mozzarella. Alternatively arrange in a pretty pattern on a platter (if, like me, you like that sort of thing…). Drizzle in olive oil, chopped basil or parsley, salt and pepper.

To cook the veal, melt a large knob of butter (about 40 grams) with a glug of olive oil in a frying pan. until it is melted and the butter is bubbling. Then put in the veal, carefully, so it doesn’t break apart. When one side is golden brown and crispy turn over. Only turn once! Once both sides are golden brown and crispy, and the veal is cooked thoroughly inside. Leave to rest on a board for 3 minutes.
Whilst the veal is cooking cook up your pasta (75gams per person), and make sure there is 1 litre and 10 grams of salt per 100grams of pasta. Seriously, it makes a huge difference!
Drain the pasta and toss in the pesto, reserving a bit of pesto for garnishing.
Slice the veal in halves/slices as desired and place on top of the pasta. Grate some Parmesan over the top and serve!

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The Baked Potato Shop, Edinburgh, review

I was in edinburgh for the fringe, and stumbled upon this little shop whilst extraordinarily hungry at lunch time. It is in cockburn street, just next to high street, and I was drawn to it by the queue outside the door (always a good sign), and the smell. What smells nicer than a fresh baked potato? Well, I can think of a few things, but it is a very comforting food smell.
I went twice actually, such was the place’s greatness. And had the same thing both times.. anyway, “what did I eat?” I hear you ask. Well, I had the most amazing potato with an avocado salad (mushed avs, toms and cheese), which was such a revelation I have started making it myself (more anon.) And cottage cheese. The buttery potato, the delicious avocado and the garlicky butter. Lovely. Absolutely stunning in fact. And all for less than a fiver, and I didn’t need supper after that!

The Baked Potato Shop
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Biggest small portion ever: 8/10
Overall: 7.6/10
Price: small from £4.40

The Wapping Project Restaurant Review

I had a fantastic meal a week ago at the Wapping Project. It is a lovely little place, in an old hydraulic factory near the river in…. you guessed it…. Wapping! The room is just brilliant; high ceiling’ed and bare bricked. There is a great large bar and semi-open kitchen. It is exciting and one of the best dining rooms I have ever eaten in. 

So first up, we had fabulous octopus. Pan fried and crispy, with dense meat inside. Some of the best octopus I have ever had, by a long way. It was served with deep fried capers with crunched down with the lobster very well. Lemon moussey type thingy was a touch of genius and lifted the dish and provided the much-needed acidity.
Good melon and parma ham. Simple but jolly effective. 

For main; cod with peas and bacon; a classic combination was just brilliant. The cod was so delicious; it tasted like proper cod, with a nice caramelised finish and a soft flaky texture. The pea puree was so so smooth it was like a thick milkshake of green goodness. The crispy bacon added a salty and smoky touch to the dish which was the final cherry on the proverbial cake. 
Chicken with Harissa was great, as was the Bream. The hanger steak was just delicious; it is brave to serve a steak known for its flavour rather than texture. But the flavour was just extraordinary with a real smokey touch. 

Finally a chocolate cake which was as rich as a Russian oligarch and served with a (un)healthy dollop of fresh mascarpone. It was almost ganache like it was so rich, and completely filled me the whole way up. Bizarre experience; I went from being fine to feeling huge. Anyway, enough of my body and onto the rest of the experience…

Price; good I think. Excellent ingredients and well cooked. You have to pay a premium for that. 
Menu; very good. It changes a lot, and that is a real plus point. It is also fun to have a menu where you cannot understand many of the words. And even better when the staff are very good at telling you what they are!
Service; very nice. I had heard some interesting views about this online… But in reality I was served well with a smile and in the most polite manner possible. 

The Wapping Project
Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Room 8/10
Overall 8/10
Price; Starters under £12, Mains under £20, Deserts under £10

Wahaca, Waterloo Review

Today saw me going to a great lunch at a great restaurant in a great part of London. The company was pretty great as well. Cringe. Anyway, let’s talk Wahaca.
Wahaca Waterloo is effectively 4 shipping storage containers bolted together, and is great fun. Vibrant colours, open kitchen, lots of light. A really fun setting. And nice views of the river. It’s basically a really nice place to be. When you arrive, there is normally quite a long wait (30 mins) but luckily they allow you to use the bar upstairs, and eat guacamole. Living the high life. They also have groovy little remotes that tell you when your table is ready. A useful and well thought out idea!
As for the food, you can choose between burritos or “street food”, as well as other sides and assorted items. The street food involves Taquitos, Quesadillas, Tacos and salads. All about £5 which is well priced, considering two is easily enough for lunch, per person. So I got three steak tacos, which were delicious, as the steak was tender and tasty with a healthy portion of salsa. The chicken Taquito was fresh and equally delicious. Most interesting was the cactus tacos with courgette. Interesting texture, similar to….um…. You know what, it was similar to cactus.
Sweet potatoes were very delicious, well and properly cooked, with a good charred skin.
Churros were very well done with good chocolate sauce.
So, if you want a fun, reasonably inexpensive and delicious meal, look no further than Wahaca
Wahaca
Food:8/10
Service:7/10
Storage containers: 8/10
Total:7.67/10
Price:I ate comfortably under £20