Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Polpetto - Dean Street, Soho W1

Candle light and tiny wines glasses...
As we sat in the romantic candle lit gloom, staring across the table, I couldn’t help notice the Lady’s teeth had gone black.  She was smiling, happy and oblivious to the cuttlefish ink smile she was quickly developing.  It struck me that I must have the same look as well and I didn’t care at all.

Something about the perfectly cooked cuttlefish with gremolata and the electric Iodine taste of the ink took me back to some long lost summer.  Like the perfect antithesis to the freezing winter night on the street below.

Polpetto is possibly the perfect little restaurant.  Tiny though it is; it’s welcoming, friendly and ideally placed for those in central London for a brilliant date night venue.  The menu is designed for sharing and has something for everyone.

What about the food?  Simple, tasty and quick is the by-line or should be if they had one.  The amazing Pizzeti with Cured Pork Shoulder and Pickled Peppers was so good I had to order another one.  Piquant, crisp and deeply savoury it was pretty special.

I wasn’t hugely impressed with the breaded Sardines and Caper Mayonnaise but the Lady loved them.  The Beef Cheeks with Polenta were perfectly cooked and fell apart deliciously but both the Lady and I lent in for the salt at the same time.

The Duck and Porcini Meatball was the least remarkable for me, good as it was it couldn’t hold its ground in such strong company.  The definite favourite of the evening was the Cuttlefish, with lots more to choose from as well I think a return trip won’t be too far off as well.

With two Prosecco and a carafe of pretty reasonable Sangiovese the tab came to just under £60 for the pair of us including service.  Not too bad when you consider the location but with food this good I think it was well worth it.  Stop reading this and go try it for yourself.

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Quiche Lorraine - Who stole my flan dish?

A lot of people seem to bad mouth the humble Quiche.  I have had a long love affair with this most majestic of pastry based dishes.  It is to this day the one thing I most associate with being at home at my mums.  Every week she’d bake one, we’d eat most of it for our supper then later that evening I’d steal the rest cold from the fridge.

Quiche Lorraine is probably the only real quiche a man can proclaim love for, that perfect combination of Bacon and Cheese there isn’t much not to like.  I’ve eaten them everywhere and at every opportunity, my first blog post was about one after all.

The best still is in Paris at a little Patisserie just round the corner from the Cartier Foundation.  Eaten whilst sat on a bench in the baking August sun it was quite heavenly.

This is my recipe, worked on for 20 years and I warn you now it’s not for those who are watching the calories.  Firstly for the pastry I have no qualms using shop bought, I made my own using suet this time but it doesn't really matter or make much difference.

Strangely I find Suet holds together that bit better than butter or lard based short pastry.  The simple rule of thumb no matter what fat you use is two thirds flour, one third fat.  You need to blind bake this before you think of putting in the savoury custard as well other wise the pastry will be extremely soggy.

Quiche Lorraine needs Bacon and Onions and Cheese!  Fry your Bacon Lardons in a dry pan to render out the fat, when they start to brown add some sliced onions to just sweat down till they almost caramelise.  I use two types of cheese; Gruyere cut into cubes for little cheesey pockets and grated mature Cheddar on top to help create a beautiful browned crust.

For the savoury custard I use single cream and 3 egg yolks, seasoned only with pepper the saltiness of the Bacon and deep savoury edge of the cheese lends all the other seasoning you need for this.  Mix the Bacon and onions together with the custard and pour into your blind baked pastry dish.

At this point throw in the Gruyere, nicely spaced out and grate the mature cheddar on top.  Bake at 160c till the top has started to go a rich golden brown in places and the custard has set.

This is fantastic warm or cold, you must always resist the urge to eat it straight away though otherwise it will fall to pieces, you must let it rest!

My favourite way to eat Quiche is just on a plate with a massive squidge of ketchup and a good glass of wine.  Perfect! 

Pastry - Buy it or make your own but make sure it's Short.
Savoury Custard - Single Cream, Egg Yolks and Pepper.
Bacon Lardon
Sliced White Onion
Mature Cheddar

Friday, 12 November 2010

Hot Stuff - Wilcox Road, Vauxhall, SW8

It got destroyed...
The trouble with going for dinner with a set of food bloggers is that someone is always going to beat you to the post.  So I’ll try not to repeat anything that has been said before.  From the outside Hot Stuff looks like a shit hole, when you get inside they’ve not really done much to dispel that initial image.  The front of house is cramped, ill lit and you are sat cheek and jowl with your fellow diners.

Why then is this place so busy?  When the food comes out it all becomes clear. With no menu as such they bring out dishes they think you'll like and they had a surprisingly high hit rate.  The Marrow Curry was unlike anything I've ever had before; delicate, fresh and vibrant it actually took the base ingredient and turned it into something of surprise and delight.

The Keralan Chicken was sweet and spicy, the Lamb Dopiaza lacked a fiery punch but it had some good flavour.  An amazing and simple dish of spiced cabbage had me coming back for more and the Naan was one of the best I've tried in a long time.  The Chilli Paneer wasn't all I hoped sadly, though the Chilli did give it a nice kick it still had some way to go for me.

The service was some of the best I've seen in a long time, given the restrictions on space they work amazingly well together.  The manager was really knowledgeable and had one of those beaming smiles that you just can't help but smile back.

We paid £15 a head for a pretty heft feast which makes me think the meat involved may not be the best in the world but at the end of the day it's about what you do with the ingredients that counts and at Hot Stuff they really do a lot...  Don't just read this go and try it for yourself.

Hot Stuff on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wahaca - Wardour Street, W1

I’ve never been happier to walk in to a restaurant than on Monday night.  We didn’t realise it was the Wahaca soft opening and just wanted to grab a bite to eat after work, had I have got my way it would have been a Byron dinner...

As we walked through the doors though and were greeted with those perfect words: “Free Food and Half Price Drinks” you could have heard the snap of smile as it went from ear to ear!  I’d not been to Wahaca before so I was quite happy for the extremely enthusiastic waiter to explain the score and listened to his recommendations.

We ordered some drinks and the Pork Crackling with Guacamole while we decided on what to have.  The Crackling is bizarre; like Porky Quavers they were lighter than air and extremely crisp but in honesty we did think the portion was on the gratuitous side after a while.

We dived into the street food which I think is the point of the place really?  The Pork Pibil Taco in Yucatecan Marinade was extremely special, I could have easily eaten a few portions of this on my own not as hot as I’d expected but very rich and meaty all the same.

The Mackerel Tostada looked disturbing and came cold but the fish was spot on, cerviched in lime it was really refreshing and worked really well to counter the meaty richness of the pork.

The Chorizo and Potato Quesadilla was far better than I could have imagined and having thought about it definitely my favourite dish of the night.  The Chorizo, Potato and Cheese forming the perfect sandwich all the elements complimenting each other well.

The only moderate disappointment was the Chicken Tacquito which on its own probably would have been ok but it just didn’t weigh up to the punch of the others.As it was the soft opening it would have been rude not to have desserts?  That’s how it works right?

We went for the Churros with Chocolate and the Mango Sorbet.  The Sorbet was lush, very refreshing and packed full of flavour.  Now Churros are one of my favourite things in the world.  They have kept me alive on holidays to Madrid and Barcelona as you don’t need painkillers when you have that rich Chocolate and delicious batter to dip in.

Wahaca’s Churros are slightly more refined than the street vendors I’d been used to before.  The Chocolate was perfect just could have been a little more of it but sadly there was cinnamon on the Churros.  Still delicious but it would have been better without.

All in all the meal was really enjoyable and I would have been more than happy to pay full whack for it but as it was free I was extremely chuffed and I think Wahaca has found a new regular customer in me...  Just need to try the Tequila’s next time!

Wahaca (Soho) on Urbanspoon

Monday, 8 November 2010

Is the Sprout just for Christmas?

The Sprout is not photogenic...
The humble Brussel Sprout doesn’t have the best of times does it? The chav cousin of the Brassica family is only welcome in some British households on one day a year. It’s such a shame as the plant is so plentiful and surprisingly versatile.

Personally I think they are amazing little veg, sweeter than cabbage. More robust than your Cauliflower or Broccoli and it’s a lot easier on the pocket than some of your Kales. Like most of the Brassica family it has an affinity with Pork and Bacon.

For me it’s simple; blanch your sprouts and slice them in half. Cook some Bacon or Sausages till the pan has those dark sticky bits that scream heart attack. Throw in the sprouts with some butter so they pick up all those delicious bits of flavour stuck to the pan. Then just serve with either mash or sautéed potatoes. Give me that meal and you’ll make me a happy man!

You can understand why people don’t often like the look of them; they can take quite a bit of preparation to get rid of the often blackened and damaged outer leaves. This can turn into a monster task when you want to feed more than handful of people.

They don’t like over cooking either, I’m sure all of us have known Christmas meals where we’ve been served slightly greying balls of mush. Secretly I’m pretty fond of them this way as well though this is probably where the fart myth comes from. Any family get together over lunch followed by a snooze is going to breed a situation where people are comfortable enough to break wind surely?

It’s over to you now; I want to know why you love them or hate them? What’s your favourite way to cook them as well? Come on people a sprout is for life not just for Christmas!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cyprus Mangal - Warwick Way, SW1

The perfect Doner
I’m a simple man, I get excited by simple things and one of those is a proper Kebab. Something about the sweet scorched meat, crisp and juicy at the same time just gets me salivating like a fatty eyeing up a Mars bar.

I feel like the luckiest man alive at the moment as I've discovered Cyprus Mangal just round the corner from my new gaff and I can already see that it may be the cause of my early death.  Hardens says “200 cab drivers can’t be wrong” and I'm inclined to agree with them.

Inside this rather unassuming looking restaurant and take-away hides something amazing, the charcoal grill belches and billows with smoke as the meat is cooked before your eyes.  The Doner is what I headed for though, a good one is well worth its weight in chilli sauce!

Unlike its cheaper cousins where the meat is one homogeneous lump, the Doner at Cyprus Mangal is clearly defined cuts of meat.  I love just watching the meat spinning, like a pole dancer stuck in a tanning booth the fat dripping off only adding to the temptation.

Stick this all in a decent wrap, that’s toasted ever so lightly on the charcoal grill and thrown together with some good salad and Chilli sauce and you've got a little taste of heaven.

A good Kebab is street food at its best and Cyprus Mangal for me hits the nail on the head and at £5.50 the pricing is spot on as well. I’ll be back soon and you should to...

Cyprus Mangal on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Marquis - Belgrave Road. SW1

Hello Piggy!
It’s time to get used to the new neighbourhood; we are out of sleepy Wapping and into the delights of SW1.  Pimlico seems a world away from the quiet East End warehouses we have been used to but I love it.  Everywhere we look there are pubs and restaurants to try so the blog might be a bit SW1 biased for a while!  I’m still broke though so I’m going to be looking at the more affordable options the area has to offer.

The Producer had popped up from Brixton and with a cheap meal in mind we went for a wander and stumbled onto The Marquis on Belgrave Road.  It’s an odd little pub; cheesy pop music playing in the background, trendy fleur de lis wall-paper and colourful fabric benches brighten up the otherwise rather austere black paintwork but the welcome was warm and friendly.

The menu looked really good so we stayed for a drink and a sit down.  The pub has the usual selection of roasts and an interesting specials board but it was the Pork Belly that caught my eye.  Served with Colcannon Mash and Bramley Apple Sauce it sounded like the perfect thing to fill me up on a Sunday afternoon.  I was not expecting the mammoth portion that came to the table though.

Literally the size of my clenched fist my eyes popped out of my head with joy.  It was a really tasty bit of pig overall but could have been better if I’m being honest.  The fat could have been rendered down some more for my preference as it was a little chewy in places but overall it was a good portion.  The Crackling was teeth shatteringly crisp which suggested it’d be cooked separately but this is a just little niggle.

For £10.25 for a portion that size I could hardly complain though.  The Lady and the Producer opted for sandwiches; seemingly conspiring to make me look like a fat bastard but like the gannets they are they munched on what I couldn’t eat.  Overall I think we’ve found a great little boozer and will be back.  Just need to somehow find a way to make them change the music...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Il Bordello - Wapping High Street, E1

Il Bordello has been on my hit list for a long time now; I’ve only ever heard good things about it, it hasn’t changed since it opened it’s doors and it is always rammed. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it is clearly the maxim of the day.

We went down late on Friday night and had booked for their second sitting; we’ve finally moved into our new flat and this meal was our little goodbye to Wapping.

The restaurant was buzzing to say the least, with the second service of the evening in full swing we were quickly shown to our table mostly to get us out of the door as more people were pouring grabbing take aways and waiting for tables.

It’s a good sign when people are waiting, makes me glad we had the fore sight to phone ahead as we were starving after much heavy lifting and moving furniture about.

Getting down to business and the menu is old school Italian, the kind of Italian that was fashionable in the 80’s and wouldn’t feel out of place in a gangster movie.

It’s fairly simple food but you have your standard selection of anti-pasti, pasta and pizza. You also have a lot of meat and fish on the grill to choose from as well.

I went for the Breaded Mozzarella with an Anchovy and Tomato Sauce; it was a beautiful fat discus of cheese deep fried topped with a rich red sauce and Anchovies. All served with enough salad to kill a pig. I’m probably going to be the only who complains about a lack of anchovies but overall it was pretty good.

Mains and my stomach was screaming for Pizza, up in Leeds I’d get at least two a week but down here in London they are a rare treat sadly. The American was the only choice for me.  I have to have Pepperoni on my pizza and I was not disappointed at all.

The pancake thin crust was liberally flecked with delicious spiced sausage and chilli with just the right amount of cheese as well. Cheesy meaty heaven washed down with bottle of Red whose name escapes me now...

I won’t go into too much detail about our other dishes as I was too busy enjoying my pizza to take too much notice but they looked amazing and came in epic portions. It may not be classy but the food was good.

Good in the way that you’ll leave happy and full, the service is friendly and the waiters love to chat... This is a place to go with friends and family who love honest food.

Il Bordello on Urbanspoon