Thursday, 29 July 2010

Chilli Cool - Leigh Street WC1

I feel like I should let you into a bit of a secret. Between you and me I know nothing about Chinese food. It was only in the last year that I actually started eating it again after a decade of absence from my diet.

Food poisoning can do strange things to your body and mind and the thought of a Chinese scared the shit out of me for a long time. I had never been that ill before and it was horrid full stop.

This meal has opened my eyes to something fabulous and it knocked the tits off my Dim Sum at Ping Pong which at that point I thought was pretty great.

Chilli Cool is a small and very unassuming venue, much like any provincial Chinese restaurant you really aren’t aware of how much of a treat you are in for until the food hits the table. Luckily for me Lizzie was on the ball and had planned out a selection of dishes that we had to try.

What a selection as well - Hot and Chilli Crispy Pork Intestines, Ox Tripe and Tongue in Chilli Sauce. Sliced Pork Belly in mashed Garlic, Fish with fresh and dried Chilli and Sea Spicy Aubergine to name a few...

The menu is not for those without an iron constitution, I’d actually been worried by the amount of chilli in ALL the food but it was revealed to me that you don’t have to eat the chilli. Thank fuck because it was everywhere.

What about the food? The tripe was delicate and the tongue had loads of flavour, the fish hotpot was swimming in Chilli but remained surprisingly delicate. The pork belly was no-where near as pungent as I’d expected but if I’m honest the permeating heat was after a while impairing my ability to distinguish all the flavours but all were amazing.

The biggest surprise was the Crispy Pigs Intestine, it was like a really good bit of Pork Crackling. Crispy and gooey but oh so disturbingly tube like, delicious yet such a head fuck for me.

The Sea Spicy Aubergine was the obvious winner of the evening though, the silky mouth sex it provided was amazing. It absorbed all of the powerful flavours it was cooked with and was absolute heaven.

Between five of us with beers the bill came to about £100 which I think for the amount of food is pretty special, the service was brisk but more than adequate. This is a great restaurant to go with a group of friends and share some really good food. I’ll definitely be going back, I might not be trying the intestine again, but I’ll be back

Chilli Cool on Urbanspoon

Monday, 26 July 2010

Comptoir Gascon - Charterhouse Street EC1

Is there anything more Gallic than arriving at a restaurant to see a sullen dog laying on the pavement outside waiting for his owners to finish their meal? Walking up Charterhouse Street from Chancery Lane tube on a Saturday is an odd experience to say the least.

Smithfields market is eerily silent with little traffic at the weekend and there wasn’t a lot to let us know we were on the right track. We arrived after what seemed like a hell of a walk but was in reality only a couple of minutes up the road.

The canine doorman could barely stretch to more than a cursory glance in our general direction as we stepped through the threshold.

Comptoir Gascon is the little brother to Club and Cellar Gascon and comes across as a charming and intimate venue, small tables, bare plaster and a smattering of old wood all adds to the fantastic ambiance.

I would go so far as to say it is the ideal place for a date, I on the other hand was here with my lovely Lady and her parents but it was good all the same. The service definitely was attentive, relaxed and very friendly so this little beauty was ticking a lot of boxes straightaway.

Once through the door and the menu was put in front of me I’m immediately hit by the realisation that I actually want to eat everything. It all looks, sounds and more importantly smells good. . In the end I went for the Duck Rillettes; they were soft, unctuous and was beautifully seasoned.

I wistfully drifted off into another world whilst eating it; it must be something about the soft meat and the way it’s been poached in its own fat but I was in heaven with my starter. The Lady chose the Chicory and Blue cheese salad which was simple but well executed and more importantly quite plentiful as it was delicious.

For mains I went for Pork Belly with Mushrooms and Parsnip Puree. It was again simple and delicious but I was quite disappointed with the portion size. Served in a large dish the two pieces of belly were swamped by the puree and though it was gorgeous and perfectly smooth it cried out for more piggy goodness to help mop it up.

I don’t normally order sides but I’m glad I did as I would have certainly left hungry had I not. I will say though the crackling was fan-bloody-tastic, perfectly even and uniform across the meat. All our mains were excellent, I know I am running out of superlatives here but for the price I was really quite surprised by the quality.

By this point the Champagne and the quite amazing bottle of Montravel were doing their job and we ordered our desserts but not coffee. I went for the Crème Brulee and those new to the blog won’t realise the tradition but it is my barometer of taste.

I was sadly a little disappointed with it and a little surprised after they’d got so much else right. It was served in a shallow dish, and texturally didn’t gain a fan here as it had almost turned and had that almost scrambled egg quality in places. I’m more than happy to put that down to a mere blip as everything else was so spot on.

I would definitely recommend trying Comptoir Gascon out and for the price I’ll definitely be back for the piggy treats and I have to try the Cassoulet as well.

Comptoir Gascon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Butlers Wharf Chop House - Shad Thames SE1

I love a good deal, so when the Lady put the Evening Standard down in front of me the other night I almost wet myself. The papers current offer is a selection of set menus across the city and explained in more detail here.

Available only at the old Conran group restaurants it seems; some good, some bad and some ugly but some worth a punt at these prices. For our first foray we tried the Butlers Wharf Chop House, dining in the Bar you can take advantage of two courses for a tenner.

Now between you and me I can spend that for lunch at work so this seemed well worth a try in my books and it’s not too far to walk from Wapping over Tower Bridge so off we popped.

The main restaurant was really busy but we were eating in the bar which was quite a bit quieter and seemingly had less staff. I could only see two guys looking after the whole floor and they were doing a really good job under the conditions.

Through a combination of the waiter being Irish, the bar being noisy and me not being great at listening I got the impression they only had Guinness available on draught so I went for a pint of the black stuff whilst the Lady went for a small glass of Ortago at £6.50. I was to realise later that it was a good thing I went for the Guinness.

What struck me immediately when we got the menu was the simplicity of everything on offer. I’m going to sound a little harsh here when I say this but it seemed a little bit Ready Steady Cook. In the sense that someone has been to the market, bought what is cheap and plentiful with a couple of interesting additions and based the menu around that. Not necessarily a bad a thing mind so don’t think I’m being too brutal here.

I went for the Ox Tongue with spiced Apple Chutney and Melba Toast to start, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t normally order tongue in a restaurant but I wanted to see what marvels they could do with this difficult piece of Offal.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest but I was a little surprised when it came out cold. Texturally it was fine but it was flavourless and took a lot of seasoning before it was palatable. The chutney tasted like a cheap Christmas air freshener all spices and no real redeeming quality.

The Lady’s salad of Flat Mushroom, Bacon, Figs Walnuts and Beetroot was much better. Fresh, light and on the money it was a simple dish and could not be faulted really.

For mains I’d chosen the Golden Cross goats Cheese Mousse with Dandelions, Figs and Cheltenham Beetroot. Distinctly absent was any mention of Eggs. So I wasn’t expecting them on the plate but they were certainly welcome as it wasn’t a massive plate of food by any means.

The Mousse was delicious; savoury, salty and sweet. Very reminiscent of a strong French soft blue cheese, I should have asked for some bread with this but it was good all the same. The Lady chose Mackerel with Braised Swiss Chard; the fish was amazing with a really meaty quality to it and loads of flavour. It looked a real pretty dish as well with its base of Chard glistening away under the fish.

The bill came to £45 for two with 2 rounds of drinks each and a cheeky dessert of Gooseberries and Vanilla Cream. I think had I not been drinking Guinness I would have left hungry but for £10 each I feel it was good value and without the booze it would have been a very cheap meal out.

The service was really good as well, under the conditions, as the guys were really busy but still came across as friendly and attentive so they should be commended for that.

Butlers Wharf Chop House on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 July 2010

Green Papaya - 191 Mare Street, Hackney E8

Sometimes it’s really good not to have a clue about where you are going for food. We went out to meet some friends on Friday for a catch up, some good times and started drinking about four in the afternoon in an arse clenchingly expensive bar on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Only one of us had eaten at our destination before and I liked the idea of a good surprise so off we popped after a while to go get some food. When we arrived in Hackney I was very hungry and just a little pissed.

Green Papaya is a Vietnamese restaurant, it seems very popular with most tables full when we got there around eight... The décor is pretty grim in honesty and the service was quite erratic but my god was the food nice.

I went for the Salt, Chilli and Garlic White Fish starter; little nuggets of fish dusted and deep fried in the most amazing savoury, spicy coating. The portion was huge and I don’t think I've never been happier with such a simple starter.

Mains was a meat feast of Barbecued Pork Belly from the specials on reluctant recommendation from the waiter, sticky and juicy it was really good. I think I’d confused our young waiter by asking what he liked, a question he seemed unsure about.

I settled for what he deemed popular and he looked even more puzzled when I said popular doesn't necessarily mean it was good. The pork could have been improved with some sauce to help mop up the rice but I was pleased all the same.

I will say that one of our mains didn't come out till we’d finished the rest of our meals and there was a bit of a kerfuffle with the starters as well but without even asking the manager explained he would be taking the cost of the late main off our bill.

We’d been knocking back the drinks so we didn't stick around for desserts and all in for five starters, four mains, a bottle of wine and numerous Vietnamese beers the bill came to £90. I was impressed to say the least and I can honestly say I've been thinking about that starter ever since like some kind of food pervert!

After the meal we headed down the road the Dolphin where after a few more beers I promptly fell asleep, not bad for my third day in London.

Green Papaya on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Byron Burger - Canary Wharf

There isn't a lot to say that hasn't already been said about Byron Burger.  I checked out the Canary Wharf branch on my second day in London.  In all honesty I'd been waiting quite a while to try them again after catching their shack at Park Life.

I've got to assume the branch is one of the newer openings as I've never seen more staff on the floor anywhere. More than the customers by far and it was hard to work out who was who as they were eating in the front of house as well.

To put it simply the burger was great, it goes without saying that Byron know how to cook their meat. I'd gone for the “Byron” with American cheese instead of mature cheddar, I've got to be honest and say I don’t think mature cheddar has any place in a burger.

The Courgette fries were good and the ordinary fries were passable. We quickly worked out they weren’t home cut.  A chef wandered past our table struggling under the weight of several bags full of fries.

This was the first faux pas in my books. The second was when the waiter rolled his eyes at us for wanting to share a burger and two sides. We popped in mid-afternoon on a whim and had already eaten so ordering more would have been pure gluttony.

I've got to say I will definitely be going back, despite the little niggles, to try out the other outlets. The food is good and the service was quick and efficient. The decor is definitely trendy and very modern; bare walls, exposed electrical wiring ducts and open ventilation vents. Very much my kind of place in that sense and I love the school style chairs.

Byron on Urbanspoon

We Moved...

So we moved; it took four people three days to pack the boxes and move the furniture to the other end of the country. It hasn’t been half as stressful as it could have been thanks to some very generous assistance from the Lady’s parents but we made it. We are in London at last and I’m glad the move has finally happened. Now to try some food…

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pitza Cano - Hyde Park, Leeds

Time is flying past at the moment like some kind of terrible juggernaut determined to scare the shit out of me! We are moving soon, next week in fact. We are taking the plunge and will be heading to the smoke.

It’s suddenly time to be putting things in boxes and I’ve realised I’ve kind of been hiding the facts from my brain so as not to startle it. This might explain why I’ve been unable to sleep recently.

It’s not that I don’t want to go, far from it, just that my coping mechanism is clearly to just not think about it. This kind of explains the quiet period for how not to do a food blog...

I had intended to do a couple of posts about the things I’ll miss but every time I’ve headed out the door to do some research recently I’ve basically come home drunk.

I’ve been saying goodbye to close friends in the only way I know how and that’s by going to the boozer! I’m a British man and by god I can’t express my emotions properly unless I’ve had a drink otherwise it’s just not bloody done is it?!?

I think I’ll have to do a retrospective of my favourite places, I’ll be heading up to Leeds every month for work still so it’ll make me head out of the hotel and go to all the places I love but just haven’t written about yet.

Before I ramble on any further though I will let you know the reason I’m writing today, my favourite food and you can guess from the picture what it’s going to be.

Pitza Cano is one of the most consistently good purveyors of Pizza I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting and ordering from. I’ve probably had a pizza from here at least once every week for the last year or so and I’ve not been disappointed yet.

For five English pounds they will bring the this beautiful sticky mess of cheese, meat and sauce to your door. I only have to give them my phone number and they know where it’s going and I’ve ordered practically the same thing every time.

Pepperoni god how I love you, sometimes I go crazy and get some chopped Anchovies thrown into the mix but that’s only occasionally.

For me finding a Pizza place that delivers (in all senses of the word) is really important, I eat them drunk or sober. When I’m alone or with friends it’s a do all food stuff in my opinion.

It’s often the cause of arguments in our house, I’ll always ask if the Lady wants one. She’ll always say no but still will try and steal a slice or two. She’ll kill me for saying that. Anyway Pitza Cano this is my goodbye, I’ll miss you!