Friday, 28 January 2011

The #Meateasy - Above the Goldsmiths Tavern, New Cross Road SE14

I'm not going to say a lot about this but if you can get down and try the #Meateasy whilst it is there you really should.  Just be patient, the food comes when its ready and enjoy the wait with a cocktail or two and you'll be richly rewarded.  Other people have written some words here and here and nothing more needs to be said!

#Meateasy on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Millbank Lounge at the Mint Hotel - Islip Street, Westminster SW1

There is something about drinking in a hotel bar that appeals to the secret lush in me! I love to people watch and let the world spin by around me sometimes with a drink in my hand. It’s easy to forget about everything outside when you are being fed cocktails and brought nibbles like nuts are going out of fashion.

Hotel bars for me have that feeling of anticipation in the air, like something good is going to happen. Being around people who are on holiday or letting loose on the company credit card is always a laugh even if it is just for one night.

So when I got invited to try the Milbank Lounge at the Mint Hotel you can imagine how easy it was for me to say yes. Formerly the City Inn the recently re-branded Mint is part of ever expanding chain with a new hotel opening in Tower Hill and plans to expand to Amsterdam as well.

Mint Hotels specialise in design led city centre hotels that meld style with substance. If I sound like a fan already it’s because I was a regular in the Sky Lounge at the Leeds branch and it is still one of my favourite bars in the country.

The Westminster branch is very much more of the same! It’s laid back, welcoming and a few minutes walk from Parliament.

When you walk through the clean and minimal reception and up to the bar you are met by acres of decadent red leather and some soft lighting that helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere.

The Signature cocktails are great fun, slightly different takes up some well known classics that help while away a lazy January evening. The Mojito Britannia with Gin, Elderflower, Apple Juice, Lime and Mint was really refreshing but slightly sweet for me.

The Pera Colada was a deliciously Del Boy cocktail that could have quite easily carried off a kitsch cocktail umbrella. Tequila blended with fresh Pear, Agave syrup, Pear juice and Coconut cream was surprisingly light and hid the alcohol incredibly well. So much so it would be really easy to knock this back and forget about the booze.

The one to try though, amongst some stiff competition, is the Raspberry Mule! Lemon Vodka, fresh raspberries, lime and raspberry liqueur, lengthened with ginger beer it was pretty much the crack cocaine cocktail of the evening. Really easy drinking and deliciously moreish I’ll be back for this one another time soon.

We were being looked after by the lounge manager Sandra who did an amazing job of plying us with cocktails and feeding us as well with delicious Anti Pasto and Meze. The former was especially good, the cured meats and soft fresh mozzarella helping to fend off the booze that was slowly dragging me into a drunken fug.

The Meze were equally as good; imagine Lamb Kofte with simple flat breads and hummus. Perfect to make mini kebabs but the meat was crying out for some fiery chilli sauce and a just little under seasoned for me.

As the cocktails went down and time passed it was quite easy to forget that we weren’t actually staying the night so we eventually made our way out with as much grace and decorum as we could muster. Trying extra hard not to fall over in the low light…

Would I come back with my own money? Absolutely, the cocktails are fantastic and I really want to try out the Whiskeys as well another time.  If I was visiting London as a tourist I think the Mint would be a pretty good base as well.

With historic Westminster on the door step and the Tate Britain a stones throw away as well you could do a lot worse in my opinion. Thanks again to Sandra for looking after us so well, definitely a credit to the hotel!

Millbank Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Liver Question?

Some things in life don’t often make sense; we put value on age in one breath and extol the virtues of youth in the next.  Take sheep for example, we put so much value in their youth that it’s almost impossible to buy mutton in normal outlets.

This even extends to the offal world and the difference in price between Calves liver and Beef is immense.  You are looking at an incredibly humble £1.90 per kilo of organic Beef liver and anywhere over £24 for a kilo of its infant equivalent.

Normally I’d champion the cheaper cut but in the case of liver younger definitely seems better.  The sweet creamy metallic tang of a good bit of Calves liver is hard to beat but does it have that much competition?

With careful preparation you can make most liver taste fantastic.  You just need to follow some simple rules.  Always remove any connective tissue (sounds sexy I know), gently remove the membrane from the outside and slice it thinly.  A good butcher can prepare the liver for you given notice to save you time.

Even Jack O’Sheas in Selfridge’s food hall commits the cardinal sin of leaving the membrane on as I found to my cost the other day.  So always make sure you check before you buy.

Liver and Onions is as old as the hills and how most of us will have enjoyed it before.  Another classic from my days in the kitchen is Calves liver pan fried with butter and deglazed with Brandy and Cream.  Definitely not one for the calorie conscious but delicious all the same.

Lambs liver is not often used but can be quite nice simply served with parsley and garlic.  Pan frying gently in butter after seasoning, softening the garlic without colouring.  Deglaze the pan with some white wine vinegar and serve.  An easy way to enjoy this rarely used morsel.

You’ll most likely find Pigs liver in a terrine but it is amazing cooked quickly on skewers wrapped in bacon as a Liver-lollipop if you like.  Pigs liver is definitely a good one to turn to if Calves is not readily available, the taste is stronger but it has great texture and worth a try.

I love to cook my Liver simply with some very crispy Bacon and red wine.  Cook the bacon in the pan till it’s crisp and has rendered its fat down.  Then dust the liver in seasoned flour and sear for a minute on each side.  Throw in a glass of red wine and let this reduce and thicken then serve.

Simple quick and easy is the way forward for me but how do you like yours?