Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Rainforest Cafe - Shaftesbury Avenue W1

I’m sat next to a waterfall with the spray splashing gently against me face, thunder cracks loudly in my ears with no visible source. I can see a family of gorillas playing in some trees... Sounds idyllic but I’m not on safari; tinny music is adding to cacophony around me.

My nephew tugs on my arm to get my attention and simply says: “I wish we could float through that wall and everything would be quiet. Wouldn't that be nice Uncle Paul?” I'm in a basement under Shaftesbury Avenue and I've sung happy birthday total stranger five times in the last ten minutes.

The Rainforest Café is a physical assault on your senses; everywhere you look something is going on. The waiters dressed like gamekeepers wear a world weary smile that makes me think they are dead on the inside.

Thankfully I'm with my nephews and my mum so I put a brave face on it all. The boys decide to start hitting me with their menus to pass the time. When the boys stop hitting with the menu for long enough I can see it’s clear the dishes were chosen at random.

It’s confused, with no real sense of direction. Almost as if the chef was on crack at the time. Rather than choose between the likes of Rasta Pasta, Volcano Chilli or Wild Wok Noodles I decide to play it safe and go for the Rainforest Classic Burger.

100% beef burger piled high with relish, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato in a toasted bun, served with fries. At £14.40 you can’t go wrong, that price tells you it’s going to be a whole lot of burger! Words cannot describe how wrong I was; dry flavourless beef, thin toasted bun with limp lettuce and an anaemic tomato for company.

It’s not anywhere near what I’d expect a good burger to be. I’d choose McDonald's over this any day. The kids rattle through their food with the polite manners my brother and his wife had the good sense to bring them up with.

When they see I'm not eating all mine they tell me off, I’m not allowed a dessert and I receive another beating from their menus for good measure. Slightly shell shocked from the noise, the beatings, the terrifying animatronic gorillas and all the singing I ask for the bill.

Two kids meals, two adults and one round of drinks it came to seventy pounds plus a little change. I will add that I loved every minute of it but the food in short was dire.

Just so you know mum, next time I choose the restaurant! X

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Holy Cow! A Curry delivered in SW1...

I don’t know about you but I was really excited when I heard that Tayyabs were starting to do home deliveries. I’m only a quick 5 mile scoot along the Thames from them so I was pretty hopeful that they’d be able to find me and bring me food!

In short they won’t, I’m not going to go on about it but they delivered to Peckham which is further away. What has sweet little old Pimlico done to offend them? *wipes tears off keyboard and carries on*

I’d got it in my head that I wanted a takeaway and a quick shout on twitter yielded surprisingly few results for deliveries in SW1.

Holy Cow it was then... Twenty five minutes later the buzzer went on the front door and the food was in my hands!

I’d gone for the Lamb Bhuna, Pilau Rice and the Keema Naan. The Bhuna was really well spiced, deeply flavoured and really fresh despite the oily first impressions. The Pilau Rice was light, fresh and fluffy inside its heat sealed box.

The Keema Naan would have been perfect with some nice Dhal as it was good and meaty but was overkill alongside the Bhuna. I should have ordered the Garlic Naan!

The Lady wanted something healthy so she chose the Special Murgh Kebab. This came with a little salad which is hidden under the meat in the photo and was also recommended according to the online menu.

It was special, I’ll certainly give it that. Minced chicken, formed with spices and herbs on skewers and cooked in the Tandoor. I’m undecided on it to be honest, something about the weird herby chicken tubes disturbed me somewhat.

All in the meal cost £23 and came with two free poppadoms and some suspiciously luminescent Mango Chutney. The rice was a portion for two and would have easily fed a third hungry person as well. My Bhuna was more than enough for me and the Lady helped me finish that as well so the portions are definitely healthy for that price.

I’m actually really pleased I’ve found a takeaway I’d be happy to order from again. We were spoilt for choice up North for decent take away curries, down here has been hit and miss so far but Holy Cow will definitely be getting my business again.

Holy Cow on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Boiled Ham and Parsley Sauce

This is me on a plate; I would be more than happy if this was my last meal. Quite simply stick a fork in me I’m done! Boiled Ham and Parsley Sauce just work perfectly together. The salty ham and fresh sauce exemplifies everything I love about simple British cookery.

I can almost hear the Spitfires flying overhead as I type this, gawd bless us all! I have got to thank Fergus Henderson and his cook book Nose to Tail eating for reminding me of this classic. I’ve been working my way through it for a while now trying its Offaly delights when the Lady isn’t around.

Since I brought a pig’s head home some of the more “obscure” food stuffs have been banned from the kitchen. Fair play really as twelve hours of my shouting blow by blow updates of how the head was holding together (or not as the case was) may have been a bit traumatic... “Eeeew THE EYES HAVE CLOSED NOW!”

The only complex thing (read the only thing you can fuck up) about this dish is the Parsley Sauce, basically a béchamel with Parsley thrown in you need to remember to cook the sauce out to stop it tasting floury! The other secret to the sauce is to add your milk slowly, letting the sauce return a smooth state before you add more liquid.

This more or less ensures a lump free product but if needs be use a whisk then if worse comes to worst you can use a sieve... Cook the ham in a deep pan, with the stock veg for as long as it needs. Ask your butcher if you are not sure.

Then take the meat out and allow it to rest covered with some foil. Fish out all the stock veg and cook the Potatoes (Potatoes take longer so add them first) and Runner Beans in the stock for that added flavour. While they are cooking get the Parsley Sauce ready.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour slowly till it becomes a smooth paste. Cook through on a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and slowly add your milk. When you think it looks ready taste it... If it tastes floury cook it for a little while longer basically!

Add the Parsley, season and we are ready to put everything on the plate! Those nice big slices of still warm ham gently drizzled with the Parsley Sauce seem to make the world a better place when all you can see on the news is people smashing up our fair city...

Stock Veg – Onion, Carrots, Celery
6 to 8 Whole Peppercorns
2 or 3 Bay Leaves
Parsley Stalks

For the Sauce:
20 grams of Flour and 40 grams of Butter
Milk – Just use enough to make a smooth lump free sauce. It will be less than a pint don’t worry but always seems to vary slightly!
Finely Chopped Curly Leaf Parsley – Stalks reserved for the Ham Cooking Liquor.
(Fergus uses 100grams of Flour and Butter in his to 600ml of Milk for four servings this seems a little excessive to me)

Friday, 5 August 2011

Simple Lamb Chops

Some recipes are so simple but delicious everyone should know them. This is one of those recipes and when served with some good Dahl and warm Naan bread I guarantee you’ll be happy!*

There is something quite magical about the way the creamy lamb fat works with the spice mix that make this pure awesome. If you wanted to tart this up a bit though use some French trimmed cutlets for a more professional look...

First put your chops in a dish, dust them with your spice mix and then throw them back in the fridge for an hour or so. When you are ready to cook them just make sure you give them at least five minutes to warm up to room temp.

Get a griddle pan hot; drizzle a little oil onto the chops before throwing them onto the heat. These don’t need any more than a couple of minutes on each side so don’t wander off too far. Season on each side with a little salt while cooking and we are done.

I had mine with a cheeky glass of red, a nice Pinot Noir holds up well.

For four Lamb Chops you’ll need
1tbsp Ground Coriander
1tbsp Ground Cumin
1tbsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chilli Powder

*Not to be construed as an actual guarantee of happiness...