Giraffe, Victoria review

Ok, so last week was amazing for me, mainly because I was witness, for the THIRD time to the spectacle that is WICKED. Yes, I am pretty alpha male, and I’ll cook meat in vast quantities whenever and wherever, but when it comes to Musical Theatre…. Lets just say the inner Elphaba comes out. That sounds very much like I’ve just come out, which I haven’t, but the point is I love it. Enough said. Onto food! Sorry about that outburst.
Giraffe is a pretty successful chain and it seems to be everywhere. It’s a pretty crazy idea for a restaurant; in that someone must have said “Hey guys, why don’t we just, like, totally, serve every type of food, like ever, won’t that be like, great?!?!?”. But you know what, they just about pull it off.

We start with the room. It’s cheeky, quirky, fun. All the chairs are different. The staff are nice, apart from one that hit a menu in my face (BUT That was mainly fault). I quite liked it. Especially as my friend and I were next to the Window, looking out a busy and lively road. (Was better than it sounds)

Starters. We ordered a sort of sharing plate, which was great. Nice chargrilled bread, grilled halloumi, tzaziki (No idea how that’s spelt..), tomato purée, lentil salad… It was nice actually. Everything could have been good as an independent dish, which was nice to see.

Mains. I went for ribs. Alpha male enough for you? They were good; you know, ribs are ribs, so they were well cooked, well glazed. All you could want from ribs, apart from a bit of smokiness which was lacking. My friend had a stirfried duck noodle thingy, which was nice actually. Some of the noodles were VERY crispy, which was odd compared to the usual stuff, but good nonetheless. It was also an offensively large bowl, so I had to finish it off. So alpha male.

So, if you want a quick, fun, decent meal, Giraffe is your new chain to do that in. But it is a chain, so don’t get sucked in too quickly; always look for an independent restaurant before… Please?!?

Giraffe, Victoria
Food:7/10
Service:6/10
Furniture:7/10
Price:£35 for two courses, two people.

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Burger Barn, Mansion House/City

This week saw me stumble rather fortunately onto a dream of a place to eat. We were looking round banks in the City of London (oh my god it was so much fun, I want to work there so much, dream job etc. (I hope my sarcasm is coming through)). Anyway, this led, as inevitably would to the need for a lunch break, so suited up, some friends and I walked down to a spot I’ve wanted to eat in for ages. Burger barn can be found close to Mansion House tube station (cross the road towards the church, you’ll get there eventually). It is a rather subtle gazebo jobby; nothing particularly exciting to look at. What IS exciting is the fact that they sell one of the best burgers I have ever eaten; and some chorizo ciabattas, AND all for extremely reasonable prices.
We rocked up, feeling pretty great in the sun, and saw our burgers cooked from scratch in front of us. Cheese and bubbling bacon were piled on, as well as as many toppings you could fit inside the bun from their “self-help section”; yes, that does sound like a therapy centre, woooops.
The point is, if you want a fantastic bacon; meaty, juicy, well cooked and lovingly cooked, then look no further than Burger barn.
In other news I’ve spent a wonderful day at my old school, feeling damned sentimental. Further afield, I am a out to review giraffe; so I’m bloody excited.
Peace and love

Obsessions with Wood Pigeon

I have a new favourite thing. Wood pigeon. It all started in Tavern Tasty (my favourite butcher in Norfolk, btw). They were selling them frozen, so in the spirit of youth I leapt at the opportunity of cooking a new meat.

Here’s how to cook a really nice pigeon dish then, which puts to best use all parts of the bird. There are basically three methods;
1) poach the whole thing for 6 minutes at least and then pan fry in butter till golden brown all over.
2) Roast the whole thing. I wouldn’t recommend this, but you can do it. Look online for options.
3) Separate the bird; remove the breasts and set aside. Meanwhile casserole the carcasses/leg meat in red wine, port, onions and carrots for a couple of hours. Then shred the leg meat and serve as I’ll describe further. Then pan fry the breasts quickly in butter till caramelised on the outside and “saignant” on the inside. I used a French word! How bloody civilised.

Anyway, to serve this I made a sweet potato Rosti. OMG it is a nice thing. All you need to do is grate a couple sweet pots, then mix with a bit of olive oil to bind it. Season well. Then fry in a frying pan, not stirring (so it keeps in a cake-ish shape). When it starts to caramelise, turn into an oven dish and roast for 20 minutes to finish it off.
Shred the leg meat and use to stuff leeks. Roast or steam until the leeks are soft.
Use the casserole liquid for the sauce. Thicken with cornflour. Enjoy! It’s bloody nice.

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Colbert Restaurant Review

Colbert is a great little idea for a restaurant. Not that it is a new idea. But still, Brasseries are awesome. Whoever thought “Let’s have a restaurant open all day serving great food” goes down in history in importance near to the ‘sliced bread man’ and myself.

Anyway, I was very lucky to have a supper there. The setting is superb, and I mean really superb. From the inside you are in Paris, and yet you look out at Sloane Square and all the wonders therein. It’s like going on holiday for a meal. Kindof. They have decked the restaurant out with some properly nice pieces of “olde furniture”, and this makes me happy, as it gives me an excuse to write “olde”. “olde”. It’s addictive. “olde”. Enough. (“olde”)

Right… I started off with a Paris Mushroom velouté. This looked like a fungi cappuccino, with a great foamy head and a rich underlying purée of the most fantastic mushrooms. I have rarely been so happy with a mushroom soup, as they are so hard to get right. The fish soup was also fantastic, with enough spice and character to keep you occupied, (the mind can wander when eating food). “olde”.

I had a fantastic main course: smoked haddock Florentine. This was buttery, rich, intense… The haddock was well cooked, maybe on the touch of over, but nothing to complain overly about. The dish blended well though, and the creamy sauce was divine. And my hips are now showing the signs. OMG. Unfortunately, the poached egg on top was just slightly too solid. Maybe that was the aim, who knows, but one still likes to see a pool of yellowy heaven pour down your food. Doesn’t one?!

Salade Nicoise was “classic” and “beaut” and the eggs were soft. Yay. Cheese omelette was about as good as an omelette comes.

My complaints are as follows; It is very expensive. It IS good, and it IS just about worth the money. However, one must remember the site it is on. I mean, one doesn’t just rent out a property in Sloane Square for the hell of it, with enough money to buy a lollipop afterwards. Does one? Secondly, one doubts whether, if they are serving so much food, so often, does all of it get a huge amount of attention? I don’t know the answer, but I would like to. Thirdly, “olde”.

Colbert, Sloane Square

Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
“OLDE”: 8/10
Overall: 7.67
Price: lots of it. Looking at £15 upwards for mains. You can see it all here: http://colbert.assets.d3r.com/pdfs/original/52-colbert-menu-web-6.pdf

 

Franco Manca Review, Brixton Market

Gosh it’s been ages. Sorry! Anyway, no need for apologies because this review will be amazing…

I went to Franco Manca with my father and sister for an impromptu lunch. Brixton Market is close to us, and we had heard great things about this place. We got there early (10 minutes later and we would have had to wait in the large queue!) We sat down at a weirdly mediterranean table and got the menu (http://www.francomanca.co.uk/menus/FM.Brix.Autumn2012.Menu.pdf). It all looks rather fabulous so deciding was a tricky choice. In the end I went for number 4 (Ham, mozzarella, ricotta and wild mushrooms). Much salivation occured whilst waiting for this, I can assure you.

The pizza emerged a few minutes later from the offensively hot wood fired oven, steaming and charred and everything a Naples Pizza should be. It tasted fantastic; the dough was chewy but not overly crispy or dried out. The toppings were of the highest quality and worked well together. And the best thing; It was only £6.85! Now, I never think that you should go to a restaurant and only focus on the price, but when you are eating SUCH good pizza at SUCH a good price, it makes you remember that whilst it may be cold outside and the banks may have made some mistakes, somewhere there is goodness. 

That’s my hippiness blurb over and done with. Hope it wasn’t too painful. Anyway… It is a great restaurant, and for those of you too worried to pop down to the Brixton Market, there’s a Northcote Road and Battersea chain. How perfectly fabidabolismous! 

Franco Manca, Brixton
Food: 9/10
Service: 8/10 (wonderfully camp with an italian accent; what more could you want?)
Ability to make dull sods like me feel happy: 10/10
Overall: 9/10
Price: Very well done: pizzas from £4.50 up £7!

The tradition of French Soups and why Garlic is great

The tradition of French soups is a long and important one. Without French soups, the word “restaurant” would not exist; the word “restaurant” referred, in 18th Century France to a thick, concentrated and inexpensive broth, sold by “restaurers” in the street to cure exhaustion. In 1765, a shop was set up in Paris for “restaurers” to sell their produce, and va va voom… here we are today. So, if you are still reading, French Soups are actually the reason we call a restaurant a restaurant. I think it is a nice touch that the original purpose of a restaurant was to restore heath and hunger, not to allow gorging or excess.

The French make some of the finest soups in the world; the Italian soups are too thin and ostentatious; the British soups are too weighty; the Russian soups come close, but can be too fatty. We also need to thank the French for many of the soup recipes we enjoy today; any sea food bisque or onion broth is due to them. The French have also been significant in the quest to thicken soups, more on that later on. And therefore, whilst the French certainly didn’t invent the soup originally (soup has been a part of human life since 6000BC), they are very key to its success. Although soup has existed since 6000BC, the French have played a key role in its development and its continued popularity.

We will revisit the “Soup situation” in the recipe below, but for now a quick look at Garlic which I love (which is probably why I don’t have many friends). It is equally suited in a Gazpacho as it is helping to reduce risks of heart disease. China produces over 13 million tonnes of it a year and it is grown in every state of America apart from Alaska. Whilst it is important in French cuisine, French production of garlic is less than that of Myanmar and the Ukraine. It is used in almost every different cuisine. Typing garlic into Google reaps 134,000,000 results; more than you get if you type in Elizabeth 2nd. Therefore, it is an ingredient of huge importance and huge flavour, as we will see now.

 

Recipe section:

This edition’s recipe is an old cracker of French onion soup. It went hugely out of favour for many year, probably due to there being too much of it around, but now it is back and stronger than ever. This is a “pimped” up version of the soup, and requires long patient cooking. However, wait the time, and the spoils of a rich, delicious and historically important (see above) soup will be yours. As we eat soup, we connect with most human beings ever, so “Vive la Soupe!” and let’s march on.

 

French onion soup:

Serves 4 as a starter/2 as a main:

Butter (plenty; it is a French recipe, after all!)

8 onions, (2 red, 2 white, 4 echalion shallots), peeled and finely chopped up.

4 Cloves of garlic, Crushed/Finely chopped

2 sprigs of thyme, chopped       

1 tbsp flour

500ml Cider or White Wine

500ml Good quality chicken/beef stock

Dash of Calvados/Port/Brandy

8 slices of baguette

Grated cheese (ideally gruyere)

 

  1. First melt a good knob of butter (say 50grams) in a large pan. To this, add all the chopped onions and the garlic. Now keep on a low heat and leave with the lid on for 45 minutes. Stir very occasionally, just so the onions don’t catch. After 45 minutes, they will be delightfully brown and caramelised. At this stage, you can leave them for another 45 minutes if you have time, or alternatively you can move on!
  2. Now turn up the heat to medium and add the flour and thyme. Stir around so all the onions are coated in a bit of flour. Now pour in the alcohol and the stock and stir well. Leave with the lid on, for a further 30minutes-1hour on a low heat.
  3. Now taste the soup, and season accordingly. Salt will almost certainly be needed, pepper maybe not as much. Turn on the grill to its highest setting. Add the dash of the spirit you are using, and then decant the soup into heatproof bowls. Put the baguette slices on top, and cover with the cheese.
  4. Place under the grill until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Serve immediately. 

Patty & Bun Restaurant Review

Patty and Bun (P&B from now on…) is part of the new “restaurant revolution” sweeping across our nation at the moment; relaxed deco, relaxed vibes, relaxed everything apart from the food, which in most cases is great. It’s great that it’s possible for passionate people to so easily start up a restaurant, and for there to be such a large market for them to cater for! Enough of my boring rants: you want to hear about the food I imagine, or you just got to this website by accident, in which case Hi there.

In case you haven’t realised, it’s called Patty and Bun because it serves burgers. And only burgers. And very good burgers… Anyway, after waiting outside for there to be an empty seat (there are only 30 seats inside), my sister and I were quick to decide on burgers. (There are only 7 to choose from; not that that’s a criticism, as each of them are extraordinarily exciting and delicious. I chose the “Smokey Robinson Burger”, a smoky concoction of meat, cheese, bacon, caramelised onions and smokey mayonnaise. Meanwhile my eating companion (“eatanion”) chose the “hot chic chicken burger”, a very fancy pairing of chicken, kimchi and slaw. 

The burgers came quite quickly, considering it was a busy lunchtime, (about 15 minutes). Mine was an absolute revelation of a burger. Really moist and smokey, but not overly so. It was so good that I found it hard to stop eating it. That was also due to there being, as there should be with all good burgers, a certain danger of the thing falling apart. That is why only pro-burger eaters/eatanions should eat good burgers. Only kidding, but seriously. Moving on… The burger was great, the crunchy brioche bun adding sweetness and chewiness, but not to much of everything. The onions were lovely, and the bacon added further to the smokiness that this burger was there to give. 

My eatanion’s (we’re gonna stick with this) was also good; it was really quite grown up  compared to mine; mine was more of a young boy showing off to his friends, and being rather good at it; whilst this was more a grown up wine connoisseur being picky about the floral notes of a vintage. The kimchi worked really well; in fact it was pretty much perfect as a chicken burger. 

Fries were good too; it was a nice addition of rosemary salt, and a very welcome one too. Note to self/anyone bothered to have read down this far: order one fries per person. Sharing is just not possible when they’re this good!

I must return to P & B because everything on their menu looks delicious. Whether it is the more spicy burger, the classic “Ari gold Cheeseburger” or the “lambsank redemption burger” (it’s a pun on the film title shawshank redemption: Do you get it?!) or the Smoked confit chicken wings with BBQ sauce… It gets the mouth drooling with delight. And it is very well priced; burgers £7-£8 and fries £2.50. It just doesn’t get this good in London, for that price, or for any price!

Patty&Bun, James St, Oxford Circus, London
Food: 9/10
Service: 9/10
General-brilliance: 9/10
Overall: 9/10
Price: as above; you’re looking at £10-£15 per person.
Word of caution: it gets busy, so build in some waiting time if you want to go. 

Mozzarella ice cream

Yes. I have gone mad. Actually propers bonkers. But now we’ve cleared that, let’s move on. Mozzarella ice cream. This came about when I was incredibly bored one day, and had nothing better to do than experiment. As I was cooking a “homecoming” dish of Macaroni Cheese (my sister’s favourite) I decided to do something cheese based. I have wanted for some time to make a mozzarella mousse, and then I thought I would show everyone else how weird I am by making an ice cream. However, it is actually incredibly simple to do! Here’s how.

In a blender/magimix/whateveryouuse rip in a whole mozzarella and some cream. Blend until smooth. If it isn’t smooth enough, add some more cream. If it is too smooth then you added too much cream. Sorry, but life’s a bitch. Finally, season with sea salt and some olive oil. Put in a freezer/ice cream machine till frozen, stirring from time to time. 

Effectively, you are trying to get to the outcome of having a creamy and smooth ice cream, without losing the mozzarella flavour. Now, the best way of doing this is by using top quality mozzarella, as it has the most flavour. The other way you can do it is by using smoked mozzarella, which will really stick out. In any case, I hope you give this dish a try as it is actually quite charmingly refreshing. I would also recommend having it with different things. It could work with some fruits (if you too wanted to be seen as weird/barmy) or with tomato (yes I know that tomatoes are fruits but…) 

In any case HAPPY EASTER! A chocolate themed post tomorrow! 

Mackerel with scallops and other lovely things

Sorry for the vague title, but sometimes we have to cut corners in life. Such is the way, sigh. Anyway, here goes, fish! was the last review I did, and today I cooked fish! (You can sense my excitement, can’t you). In fact, today was recipe book creation time, and this is what I came up with.

Serves 2.

Get a whole mackerel (as fresh as poss.) from the fishmonger and ask him to fillet it (seriously, it’s not worth doing it at home.) With one half, the night before eating it, cover in a cure mixture (3 of teaspoons of salt, 2 of caster sugar, 1 of black pepper (I know most use white, but frankly I’m a bit of a maverick)). Once everywhere is covered, weigh it down and cling film all over. Leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, pour off the juices and return to the fridge till the evening. You can leave it overnight again if you want to be super safe, but I have never had a problem.

For the pickled cucumber, get a whole cucumber (so you have spares) and peel it. Then cut in half and remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Julienne the cucumber into matchstick-esk pieces. In a pan, heat up 100ml white wine vinegar and 50 grams sugar until it reduces by half and all the sugar has dissolved. Then pour it over the cucumber and leave for 5 minutes. Then drain and keep until ready to serve. (You can do this up to a day in advance).

A couple minutes before serving, get EVERYTHING READY. This is a real restaurant dish in that everything is cooked just before serving, so get your plates hot, get water in the steamer, etc.Tidy up your cured mackerel (pour away any more juice and slice). Cut four thin slices of ciabatta. Prepare your hand dived (be kind to the Environment, ok?) scallops by removing the white lump on the side and, if you want, the orange roe type thing on the other side. Heat up a pan with olive oil and butter on a medium – high heat. Ready? Lets go!

1. Get some fine beans into a steamer and steam for 5-6 minutes, until tender.
2. Get the second half of the mackerel and the scallops into the pan and cook, turning occasionally until the scallops are golden brown on the outside and the mackerel is firm. Half way through, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon for acidity.
3. Remove cooked seafood and place on a plate. Season well.
4. Pour in a glass of white wine into the hot pan and reduce. Chuck in some parsley. When reduced, pour in double cream to the colour you want! Keep warm until serving.
5. Arrange it all nicely on the plate. You can serve the cured mackerel separately. The bread is the perfect carb for the dish: it soaks up the lovely sauce and isn’t too heavy.

Enjoy!

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Fish! Borough Market Restaurant review

Firstly, apologies for my massive lapse in timing and posting. Things have been STRESSFUL. Anyway. Here we go. I went out for a great meal in Fish! with friends and family and even nearly a week later I am still revelling from it. 

Let’s start at the basics; the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic. It is an ex-pea-shelling factory, (quite a common occurrence, really), and it is packed but not crowded. There are some really exciting tables that look onto the kitchen, and the whole restaurant gives off a sense of openness and honesty. Yes I do sound from a 1970’s rock festival, but it is true. 

Next the food. Starters were good; Fish! soup was fantastic: rich, earthy, ever so slightly decadent. Calamari were as close to perfect as possible, and the lemon mayonnaise was a nice individual touch that I haven’t seen much before. Prawn cocktail was, well, prawn cocktail, but well done I would hasten to add. 

Onwards to mains. Lobster (my dish) was great. Really well cooked. Attractively presented, easy to eat, ‘delishous’. Dover sole was also perfectly cooked. Fish pie looked as good as it gets, and fish and chips were also pretty damn great. Is £30 too expensive for lobster or dover sole? Well, it is hardly very cheap, but you are paying for a quality of ingredient. I think the whole idea behind fish is to serve really good food that isn’t too concerned with itself. It isn’t ponsy, but it is still fine dining. In many ways, it is an ethic that could be re-enacted more than it is. 

So. Good food, good service (all together), good ethic. On the pricey side but then it can afford to be. 

Fish!
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Atmos: 8/10
Overall: 7.6
Price: You’re looking at £20 mains, roughly and £10 starters, roughly. Obviously some are more/less expensive.