Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ed's Easy Diner - Old Compton Street, Soho.

We hadn’t planned to go to Ed’s last week, we were out in Soho enjoying the sights and frankly feeling a little star struck after seeing the living legend that is Sanjay from Eastenders.

We’d booked an offer elsewhere but the menu left us reeling so we quickly fled and the sleazy 1950’s glamour of Ed’s Diner sucked us in; like moths in a distillery we slowly made our along Old Compton Street to our prize.

The decor and music allowed us to make easy assumptions about what was going to be on the menu and we weren’t shocked to find the safe selection of burgers and hotdogs...

Sitting at the counter service was really quick and friendly; within moments we'd ordered Cheesy Chips with Bacon Bits and a Cheeseburger a-piece. The chips were served soon after our drinks and I was delighted to see a huge amount of American Squeeze-Cheese oozing all over them.

The chips themselves weren’t great but this was masked and enhanced by the cloying mass of "cheese product" destined to swiftly clog my arteries.

The Burgers weren’t too far behind, served medium, they were of standard quality. Juicy as it was it would have been helped with seasoning but went down quickly. I think the drink had a helping hand in that but if you've had a Byron's you might be a bit disappointed.

Overall we actually really enjoyed the meal, it was good fun sitting up at the counter and the service really did make up for the mediocre plastic food.

Don’t get me wrong if you want something special go somewhere else but if you are looking for a cheap bite and a drink Ed’s is worth a try.

Ed's Easy Diner on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

I love simple food; cooked with fresh and seasonal ingredients it helps to capture the moment. Tomatoes are one of those summer ingredients that capture the heat, warmth and excitement of the season and cooking with them is always a treat.

With this in mind we had a few friends over at the weekend and what better to feed them with than some beautiful fresh tomato sauce and pasta. Washed down with copious amounts of red wine I think it’s a pretty good way to spend a Friday evening.

I really like the salty savoury taste of Anchovies with my sauce so I’d opted for Puttanesca sauce. Tomatoes, Olives, Capers and Anchovies... simple and delicious doused liberally with Parmigiano it’s pretty heavenly.

This is possibly quite an old school way of cooking a tomato sauce but the dish itself is a fairly modern creation originating in Southern Italy in the mid 20th century.

According to Wiki this was either invented by an Italian cook called Sandro Petti or it’s the traditional food of Italian whores who couldn’t go shopping much so had to make do with the odds and end in the pantry. You decide which is more likely?

Ingredients for 6 people:
Tomatoes – 6 Large Fresh vine should do, 1 tin of Plum tomatoes chopped in juice for bulk and pureed for that additional tomato kick.
Stock Veg – 3 or 4 sticks of Celery, 2 Red Onion, 3 or 4 Garlic Cloves and 2 Carrots all chopped finely.
Anchovies – I love them so a whole tin.
Olives – Black or Green whichever you prefer. Chopped.
Capers – Whole or Caper Paste, whatever you’ve got.
This is Whores Spaghetti after all so I’ve thrown a bit Sausage in as well. I’ve used a spicy Italian sausage for that extra peppery kick.
Stock 250ml of Fresh Beef, Chicken or Veg whatever your preference is.
Red Wine - Lets not go crazy here as you should use the good stuff and it's for the drinking as well.
Seasoning – Season before you serve to taste not before.

This is an incredibly simple, got a big pan and put it on the heat:

Sweat off the Stock Veg in the oil from the Anchovies till soft, throw in the sausage after shredding it up. Chuck in your fresh tomatoes after chopping them roughly. Throw in the Olives, Capers and Anchovies at this stage.

You are wanting to sweat down all the fresh ingredients on a gentle heat until they are soft and the tomatoes are losing their shape. This can all be done really easily while drinking and chatting to people so it's all the better for an easy meal.

Pour in your stock, a squidge of tomato puree and some red wine then stir. Bring it to a gentle simmer and walk away and drink some wine. This will be good after a few minutes but let it cook down for a while and it’s even better check seasoning your at the end.

Cook your pasta and serve with lots of grated Parmesan on top, none of that shaved parmesan bullshit. Oh and if you are doing things right your friends should be pretty drunk by now so don’t worry if you haven’t cooked your pasta al dente.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Chop Chop - Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3

The first time we tried to go to Chop-Chop we were turned away. No booking meant no eating it seems and at 9pm on a Tuesday evening that’s pretty rare?

I was mighty disappointed, it led me into the feeling that we were missing something amazing so I booked to come back the next day. The only time we could get in was 9.15 the following night. This place had to be special...

It was a pretty full day; running between shows with lots of drinking. We made sure to eat enough before hand to soak up the booze during the day but not too much to spoil our suppers. It was going to be a very carefully balanced affair.

Either way by the time we got round to choosing from the expansive menu it looked fairly complicated. We took the easy option and ordered the unlimited banquet for three at £18.50 each!

Now I was expecting Dim-Sum but this place seemed to be very focussed on the dumpling. Either fried or boiled they had a million of them to choose from. Starting off though we ordered a portion of the Spicy Peanuts and Silverfish to keep us going.

These were pretty amazing actually, little tiny fish fried whole with crunchy peanuts and small dried chillies. You had to be pretty careful when you were eating these though as the chillies were the same size as the peanuts and were pretty powerful to boot.

The food started pouring out; about 3 or 4 dishes at a time. Crispy Beef here, Aubergine in Chinese Spice there and Dumplings everywhere. One particular dish that stood out for all the wrong reasons was the Lamb in Cumin.

Boiled chunks of Lamb seemingly only seasoned with Cumin, dry and pretty tasteless they had to be liberally doused in Soy to make them edible. The Crispy Beef was good, as were the Aubergines. Not quite as good as Chilli Cool a couple of weeks earlier but good all the same.

The dumplings were hit and miss; some packing a punch like the Beef and Chilli. Others teasing the taste buds like the very lightly flavoured Pork and Coriander; not quite able to distinguish itself through the dumpling casing.

I was a little surprised by how smooth some of the fillings were. The Prawn dumplings were quite surprisingly so and they had a very Findus crispy pancake edge to them . The best by far were the Beef and Chilli Fried Dumpling with the Fried Chicken ones coming a close second for me.

All in all if I’m completely honest with myself I was a bit disappointed with the meal, the dumplings just weren’t as amazing as I’d thought they would be and everything else was just good not great.

It transpires that Chop-Chop was one of Gordon Ramsay’s best local restaurants in 2009 and since they seem to have got a deal in Scotland to sell their Dumplings in Sainsburys and that was the rub. The dumplings to me tasted like they’d been mass-produced, like the kind of bought in pasta parcels that certain high street chains might use.

I’m left with the feeling that we found this place a little too late and that it might have become a victim of its own success. It has its plus points; it’s close to town, very cheap and the service was quick and friendly.

It looks like a lot of people do rave about this place so I’d be open minded about it, all in all in it maybe that I’ve been spoiled by some really good Chinese cooking down in London.

Chop Chop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Seadogs - Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2

Wandering around Edinburgh is not always a good idea (especially) when you are hung over and hungry as it leads to bad judgement calls.

I won’t lie to you; I had a Chiquito’s Texan Chilli Hot Dog for lunch last week and it was my idea. Two minutes after walking out the dimly lit faux tex-mex dining hall we stumbled on Seadogs and I cursed my own name.

Brightly lit, utilitarian wooden furniture and simple but modern decor it seemed pull me in with its siren song.

Looking at the menu it was all fish, healthy fresh fish, Seadogs was everything I needed to cure my broken frame but I was still full of the wrong-dog so I made sure we came back the next day to try the food.

Doing a cursory bit of research online tells me that Seadogs is part of a Dogs trio of restaurants in Edinburgh. This one opening up in February seemed to be flourishing from its central location on Rose Street.

The menu is simple but perfect for lunch, the portion sizes ideal and the service is quick and very efficient. Larger portions are available in the evenings as well for a slightly bigger price.

I went for the Beer Battered Coley; with Chips, Mushy Peas and Chunky Tartare sauce. What else did you expect really? It was really good, the Batter was crisp and the Coley was gorgeous.

Along with the perfectly seasoned peas I was extremely pleased. We’d asked for some sliced bread as well and got huge chunks of a warm fresh white loaf that begged for loads of butter.

I’d have been happy for some cheap sliced white to make a butty with but this hit the spot all the same.

The Lady and our Producer friend ordered the Seafood Tomato Chowder and the Fish Broth. The Broth was with Coley; Trout, Mussel and flavoured with Cream and Cider.

It was really good; the liquor suited well to dipping with the chunky bread. The Seafood Tomato Chowder was nice and chunky and both well seasoned and confidently done.

With a couple of soft drinks, a beer and a glass of Prosseco we were still only looking at the best part of a tenner each. Come here if you want a good food and service but aren’t looking to break the bank, perfect if you are running between shows at the fringe as well!

Seadogs on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Edinburgh Fringe - The Previews

The Fringe as if you didn’t know is an annual Comedy, Theatre and Arts event that takes over Edinburgh and doubles the city’s population for the month of August. I was lucky enough to be up last week to catch some of the previews and enjoy the Fringe before it goes mental for the rest of August. Here are my picks of the good, the bad and the somewhat ugly...

Kevin Eldon: He of Brass Eye, Jam and Nighty Night fame to name but a few! Kevin is always delightfully disturbing and his latest show didn’t disappoint.

Kevin basically does what he’s best at and blasted through his set with ferocious speed introducing to us a series of improbable characters that left you either laughing, crying or incredibly confused. If you like any of his previous work you’ll be pleased. We caught his first show so it was a little rough around the edges in places but this is one that will only get better with practise.

Celebrity Autobiography: A group of famous faces reading from Autobiographies of other famous people? It sounded ok and I only went because of the cast but I was so pleased we booked this.

The readings include the contents of Stallone’s freezer, love tips from Tommy Lee and the amazing differences between Katie Price and Peter Andre's understanding of their own relationship. The cast is amazing but Michael Urie stands out, Phil Jupitus was billed in the line up but wasn’t there on the day we went. This is a must see!

Kate Fox News: Bradford born poet Kate Fox (not her real name) takes us on a spoken word journey through her sometimes bizarre, sometimes touching and often funny life. Kate’s show talks about Thatcher’s

Yorkshire, running away with a gun runner, parental swinging and lost family leading eventually to journalistic enterprise with Newcastle's Metro Radio and BBC Radio 4. I really enjoyed this very honest and personal performance and if you enjoy spoken word this is a definite treat.

Sara Pascoe versus Her Ego: Just be careful not to heckle Miss Pascoe or you’ll be cursed; though it was hardly a heckle I just answered a question with an almost rather than a yes... I’m still not dead. This high energy performance was very entertaining but was very loosely linked to the title.

Sara rambles esoterically from the Marquis de Sade to faking football knowledge, as women apparently need to trick men into thinking they’re our equal back De Sade via a bit of Freud and Proust. Oh and some 80’s jokes and with some Ukulele thrown in for good measure. She is widely tipped for massive success and well worth a watch.

Sanderson Jones – Taking Liberties: Terrorism, Paedophilia and i-phones via Venn diagrams, line charts and chat roulette. Nothing is off limits for this terrible example of a Scotsman. Sanderson convinced us to come see his show as we were drinking a pint in the Pleasance Courtyard and from the moment I saw his beaming bearded face I guess I had a bit of a man crush on him and couldn’t refuse.

This charming yet provocative show is a must for anyone who likes their views challenged. Do not see this show if you read the Daily Mail, you simply will not like it but if on the other hand you are a little open minded you’ll enjoy this deeply different presentation.

Shakespeare for Breakfast – I love Shakespeare but this interpretation of King Lear left me somewhat bemused. I didn’t like the outdated references to pop culture or the drama school presentation. Some people laughed but I didn’t.