Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Meatwagon at The Rye - waaaay down South, where the sound of cicadas...

This is what I'm having the next time!
I was only joking about the cicadas although - who knows? - there may well be cicadas in Peckham after all, there are palm trees in Haringey.  Enough of the flora and fauna and on with the burgers with me getting silly with my Philly.

Before that it was the private cocktail hour du notre jour or as you may know it from previous posts, it was off to Scarlett and Rhett's for cocktails made by the prettiest shaker I know.

Loved Up
We started with Loved Up, which slipped down a treat and followed with something deliciously inventive the Scarlett Special, perhaps?  We didn't name it then but we did follow with a Vesper, yum, yum.

My Vesper
We were also graced with the presence of her furriness.  Come on, you didn't think I'd get through a Peckham post without a picture of...

Her Furry Purriness
Check out those whiskers.  Do you think cats admire each others' whiskers the way we do eyelashes?  A kitty conversation would go something like this "what long glossy whiskers you have, do you do anything special to keep them like that?" to which Misty would reply, "nothing at all, I'm just naturally blessed with whiskers galore".  A feline fantasy forsooth.

It was only a short stroll to the Meatwagon at The Rye.  There's little point in giving the weblink at this stage as we slipped in last week with a sliver of 'slaw to go (their residency at The Rye ends this week).  So what I will do is give the link to their little tease of a site where something big burger-wise will be happening on 11/11/11.  In the meantime, we ate this...

anti-clockwise (l-r) onion rings, fries, green chili cheeseburger, more fries, cheeseburger, coleslaw, Philly cheese steak
A word about the cheese steak, where I got silly with my Philly.  Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but unfortunately (and I'm a big girl though not as big as I would be if I didn't go to the gym) I had 'other dish envy'.  I'm not too proud to admit it.  Occasionally, I wish I'd ordered what one of my fellow diners is having (or even someone at the next table, or even, let's be honest, a waiter/ress walking past with something that I want to eat instead of what I've actually ordered).  Sometimes, my eyes are too big for my stomach and I think I want to eat something as well as what I've ordered.  This is when I ask my friends to restrain me and/or my friends, being friends, restrain me whether I want to listen to stomach sense or not.

Very good Philly cheese steak
It really was delicious, but what I wanted was this.

Green chili cheeseburger
Rhett's green chili cheeseburger.  He truly is a lovely man because he let me have a nice big bite, which is not something one can do when it's an item of food which has been ordered by someone sitting at another table whom you do not know, nor can one accost random waiting staff carrying bits of food you fancy eating and snaffle it.  So, there you go, Rhett, what a gentleman.

Scarlett had the cheeseburger and very fine it looks too, and it's shown off to perfection by a perfect cross-section and a beautiful manicure.  We also ate..

Fries, which were very crispy, so much so that I couldn't actually taste a fluffy potato middle.

An utterly delicious coleslaw, coated with a thin dressing and refreshingly, made with red cabbage - excellent.

Onion rings
Exceptionally good onion rings.  The batter was even lighter than my other favourite, Byron (King's Road), a melt in the mouth experience.

Fine art
I loved the ambience and the art was great - medium rare and well-hung a great combination.

That's me, that is
I wish it were, I wish I could lounge about (looking like that), with a green chili cheeseburger resting on a side table.  Mind you, the sofas were comfy.  Look, here are Rhett and Scarlett at rest.  I promise you it is practically impossible to take a bad picture of Scarlett, she is quite terrifyingly photogenic, obviously like kitten, like kitten's carer (wonder if Misty's got a sister?).

Rhett and Scarlett blissed out
The Meatwagon at The Rye (soon to reincarnate as ???)

Score: 4 Miaows out of 5 (sorry guys, the missing point is for the disappointing fries)

Scores based on:
1 Miaow = Poor;
2 Miaows = Average;
3 Miaows = Good;
4 Miaows = Very Good
5 Miaows = Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins "Practically Perfect in Every Way"

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sunday in Brick Lane and at the wonderful Bridge bar and café

It's mid-October and this is Brick Lane
My lovely friend, Lone (not a typo, it's Danish for Lorna) and her fiancé, Simon travelled from Berkshire to spend the afternoon in London.  They arrived very hungry and whilst waiting for our rendezvous were satisfied with a Square Pie, mash and gravy,  We met up at the Water Poet which was utterly crammed.  We managed to snaffle a little space outside (a bit cheeky as we weren't eating) to have a drink and watch the plates piled with Sunday roast walk past (carried by staff admittedly, I mean, they don't actually walk by themselves).  Dalston joined us and after a brief intermission we all set off to wander the highway and byways of Brick Lane. 

Dalston and I were peckish and although Lone and Simon couldn't physically fit any more food in, they were happy to accompany us to the Boilerhouse.  Dalston and I had enjoyed a selection from the Moroccan food stall on a previous occasion.  This time we chose Latin America and their delicious pasties.  Dalston's choice included a Coxinho of which he spoke highly and, whilst my beef pasty was not as warm as it could have been, the ham and cheese one was - gently oozing as a result.  With the latter I was glad I'd followed the stallholder's recommendations, it was truly delicious.

We had a lovely time pottering about, which including showing Lone my favourite (sadly, financial constraints mean I've yet to purchase) clothes shop in the vicinity; hard by a delightful shop on Cheshire Street which sells nice things but is most notable for the beautiful, deeply furry, pussycats which lounge about the place and are not to be disturbed.  Then it was a search for a café - correciton, there are many cafés, some of them very good, in and around Brick Lane - it was a search for a café which was nice and had seats.  A bit tricky that one.

We decided to head off down to Columbia Road at the tail end of the day (the sun and warmth was quite deceptive, by this time it was just past 4pm).  Alas the Dairy (source of fabulous and authentic Russki svetle chleb, Russian black bread) was shut.  But we did make a discovery, obvious once one has thought of it, the wonderful plants and flowers are on special offer at the end of the market day.  As Dalston is looking for something greenly architectural for his flat (which can be adorned with fairy lights at the appropriate time of the year) this was the perfect occasion on which to browse.  Not only that, but in Lone we had our very own horticultural expert to hand, seriously, with Royal Horticultural Society examinations passed and everything.

Then, oh then, Dalston had a brainwave.  He really is a very clever man, and also perceptive.  On several occasions he has passed a café on the bus, looked down and thought, 'that looks like an interesting place'.  We were close by, well, certainly not far away, and so we headed off to The Bridge on Kingsland Road.

Upstairs at The Bridge, Kingsland Road
You see what I mean about Dalston being perceptive.  Even from the top of a bus he can spot a great place.  It was fantastic.  Dalston and I had delicious Turkish coffees exactly the way we like them (medium for him, no sugar for me); Lone had tea and Simon also had a medium Turkish coffee.  Lone and Simon very kindly treated Dalston and me to the coffee and two little Portugese custard tarts.

Truly, a good time was had by all.  It was a lovely afternoon with an especially nice surprisng treat to round off the day, lounging on a sofa, in surroundings at once snug and sumptuous, with wonderful company.  A delightful Sunday.

Chicken, chickpea and chorizo - as Bowie sang, Ch... ch... ch... stew

Chicken, chickpea and chorizo stew
I know that makes it sound as if the great David B is sneezing, and I'm sure he does occasionally when he feels a tickle about the nostrils.  Enough already, and back to the stew.

Occasionally I do more than roast a chicken, especially when I have someone else to cook for.  Sometimes I do something with the chicken which I have not consumed - a curry, a stew.  This is one of my favourites.  It was originally known to me as 'Spanish-Hungarian Surprise' and is based on recipe given to me by a Hound of God or, to give them their less formal appellation, a Dominican friar.  The friar in question was a Father Gilbert Markùs who is half-Glaswegian and half-Hungarian, a great mixture.  His stew comprised: chopped onions; canned chopped tomatoes; vegetables (to hand, I think he might have included some carrots); sliced chorizo (the Spanish bit); Hungarian paprika (from relatives); and canned kidney beans.  It happily fed his fellow friars and my adaptation of Gilbert's recipe appeared to do much the same for Dalston and the gorgeously blooming Mary, with eyes of cornflower blue (like her father's) and roses in her cheeks.  So here it is, with thanks to Gilbert.

3 onions chopped in a small dice fried in olive oil
1 Chorizo skinned and sliced, I like piccante but please use dulce if you prefer
1 large or 2 small aubergines in a medium dice
Generous amounts of Hungarian paprika (I didn't measure this, it was probably a couple of tablespoons)
1 large (250ml) glass of good red wine (that is one you would drink) I used a Sangiovese di Romagna (50% off!)
Leftover roast chicken. 
2 tins of chickpeas (drained)

A word about the chicken.  All the chicken I cook is free range as an absolute minimum.  I also very rarely order chicken when in a restaurant for two reasons (a) I can cook anything with chicken at home and, as I eat quite a bit of chicken anyway I almost always fancy a change; and (b) there is no way I can guarantee that the chicken is at least free range.  The chicken used here was organic and free range (thanks to an M&S offer of 30% off).  I tend to cook chicken on the bone and I prefer to use thighs.  I always skin the chicken before cooking in a stew/liquid (I do this whether cooking raw chicken or, as in this case, chicken which has already been cooked).

The stew was served with rice (Basmati steamed with turmeric); salad (with a delicious dressing made by Dalston), and followed by Frangipane (plum).  It was Mary's first Frangipane moment and she seemed to enjoy it.

Hearty, filling and nutritious.  A delight by itself, and deliciously filling served with rice.  Just right as the nights start to draw in, the cold begins to nibble and Christmas gets ever closer.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Me At Hawksmoor - thrilled to my marrow by well-hung perfection

Perfection - 900g of Porterhouse 35-day (minimum) aged beef medium rare
I've never said this before, not even about the gorgeous Sushi of Shiori (surely another candidate) - but this is a time when I actually want to marry a restaurant.  Obviously, I'd marry Sushi of Shiori if they'd have me, but Hawksmoor is in its own way quite perfect.  It may be because I hadn't eaten red meat for a long time (bar the Byron Classic last week - yummy) - and certainly not beef that came looking like this.

How did I come by this stroke of good fortune?  Put simply, through the good offices of my friend, Mike.  I call him Mr Pease - because, um, that is his name.  Enough with the movie references.  There will be a distinct lack of links to film clips in this blogpost, not least because any appropriate visual filmic references would not be suitable for a family blog.  I suppose I could show you a photograph of a cow, but that wouldn't convey the beauty on the plate of the happy Hawksmoor Heifer.  A wonderful lady who gave her life in a good cause having lived a (comparatively) long and undoubtedly happy one herself.  She's from the Ginger Pig, so for all you omnivores out there who like real meat all is now clear.  I used to buy my ribeye there, not least because they cut the steak the way I want it - that is, a steak (at least 1.5 inches thick) not a slice of meat.

Happy Hawksmoor Heifer
I have, however, been on fast forward, so let's rewind to the beginning.  The marvellous Mr Pease and I made for an early dinner (to fit in with the trains to Suffolk where the lovely Mrs Pease and two cute Westies can be found).  Perfect timing for a pre-dinner cocktail.  I force myself to do these things in anticipation of events like London Cocktail Week which started yesterday.
You know my reverence for the Martini and won't be surprised when I say I chose a classic with a twist (not on the menu but the lovely bar persons responded with alacrity).  Beautifully made if I may say so.  I plumped Grey Goose vodka, deliciously smooth as ever.  Noilly Prat.  A truly lovely twist, where the barman pared the lemon, lightly bruised the perfect slice of peel, releasing the essential oils and ensuring that the perfume shimmered over the top of the cocktail.  Just the one, perfect.  Mike went for a pomegranate juice (he was driving).

We deliberated over our choice of cut.  These are all chalked up on the blackboard, with their weights and are crossed off as they are ordered.  I must say that as we were there for the start of service and had left by 7.30pm it was worth noting that there were only two of our choice (the Portershouse 900g) left on the board.  Our lovely waitress told us it would take a little while (20-30 minutes) so although our original intention had been to eschew starters we relented.

Sadly, my first choice: Potted Longhorn and Plum Pudding Bacon with Piccalilli was not available, but Mike's potted mackerel with sourdough toast was. So we settled down to share and I ordered a very delicious glass of Rioja.

Potted smoked mackerel
The mackerel was delicious.  Usually I tend not to have as a starter food which I would usually make myself, and I make a delicious smoked mackerel paté (both a central European version with dill, and a Middle Eastern version with za'atar) with good quality smoked mackerel from Walter Purkis in Crouch End.  This was a particularly unctuous smoked mackerel and I will forgive them the teeny bone which I had in one of my mouthfuls.  It came with a lovely little salad of cucumber with snippets of dill on top, the cucumber marinaded in something sweet and sour, a perfect match for the mackerel.

Then it was on to the main event.  One of the starters was grilled bone marrow on sourdough toast with slow-cooked shallots.  I'm sure it's delicious.  But those clever people at Hawksmoor also have grilled bone marrow as a side and I ordered one of these, some triple-cooked chips, steamed spinach (I'd also done extra in the gym in anticipation). 

Grilled Bone Marrow
Mike had lightly crushed new potatoes with a little butter and a few strands of chiffonade mint, giving just the right hint of mint. 

Lightly crushed, slightly minted and perfectly steamed
Great chips too.  Need I mention they were triple-cooked?

They are triple-cooked
They were deliciously crisp with soft, fluffy, potato-tasting innards.  I know I do go on about the importance of chips tasting properly of potato but it's rarer than you might think.  And talking of rare, this was the ensemble on my plate.

(l-r anti-clockwise) Steamed, medium rare, triple-cooked, grillled
I was actually miaowing at this stage, but very, very quietly.  When I bit into the softly yielding, melt in the mouth, piece of beef I expressed a wish shortly afterwards to marry Hawksmoor (not the staff, you understand, pleasant and professional as they are, but actually to marry the restaurant).  As for the miaowing, I do sometimes.  When, I'm very thrilled by something, I let out a little miaow, unless I'm talking to cats in which case obviously I miaow in the same way that one would learn a little French before visiting France or another francophone country.  Generally, I miaow over shoes.  Prada a couple of seasons ago led to much miaowing, involuntarily (in the shoe boutique at Liberty) aloud.  I think the sales assistant was a little surprised.  On that occasion, I was moved to stroke (the shoe, silly!), and miaow (very softly) simultaneously.  What can I say, there are worse things to do in public.  Don't even get me started on standards and manners in the public space. 

I admit that there's very little about this post which is good for you if you don't like meat.  So let's move on to pudding (Mike) and cheese (me).  First up, here's pudding.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
What a good choice Mike made (he very sweetly let me have a little taste after I mentioned that I could smell waves of toffee wafting over me).  It was in a puddle rather than a lake of sticky, lovely, gooey, toffee sauce.  A light, moist sponge, and a little quenelle of cream accompanied it.  Heaven but then so was my...

(l-r anti-clockwise) Fig jam, oatcakes, delicious English goat (probably Dorstone), Colsten Bassett Stilton, Montgomery Cheddar
Cheese.  Well-chosen, in perfect condition (someone really knows there affinage) from Neal's Yard Dairy.  The fig jam was heavenly and went with each of the three cheeses.  Normally, I'm a Stichelton woman.  If I'm going to eat cheese I buy top quality.  If I'm buying top quality then I really don't see much point in buying pasteurised cheeses.  Having said that, I buy it rarely as I have a major problem with portion control when it comes to cheese - I don't have any.  However, not all Colston Bassett Stiltons are the same, certainly not when they have been loved, matured, nurtured to a peak of ripeness (the aforementioned process of affinage) by people who know what they're doing, NYD bods in other words.  It really was very good, a revelation.  The Montgomery Cheddar was typically delicious.  The English goat, I didn't quite catch the name, I think was probably a Dorstone, light and moussey, gorgeous.  More miaows.  And if you're in the mood to test your cheese knowledge, here's a link to the Guardian's cheese quiz.  I scored 16 out of 21 and was described as having 'solid cheese knowledge' - believe me, I'd be a lot more solid if I ate all the cheese I would like to.

Look, a word about the miaowing.  Unless we're dining together and you're sitting right by me you'd never hear me.  Also the tables to either side of us were empty (it was very early remember), so there was no-one to overhear.  Thank you, Mike, for a most delicious meal and the most delightful company.  And for Hawksmoor, 5 miaows out of 5.

Just a couple of brief asides before I sign off.  You'll know doubt have noticed a lot of coverage of a certain squirrel and his nuts who appeared to great acclaim in the final of the Great British Bake Off.  If you haven't here's the photo.

A squirrel with a nut in a comic moment from BBC2's The Great British Bake Off
Great British Bake Off Squirrel with Nuts
I consulted Dalston about this because he is my guru and the fount of much knowledge.  Also, he doesn't have a TV and I thought he might have missed a story which he'd enjoy.  He did enjoy it and characteristically had an additional and typically erudite point to add to all those made by people who gazed with awe at the young squirrel's physical attributes. 

Dalston pointed out that the squirrel in question appears to be a Jewish squirrel.   Dalston is your man to notice these things as he has considerable authority being both theologically trained and an expert in inter-faith matters.  Yes, readers of this blog, I can exclusively reveal that the Great British Bake Off squirrel is a kosher squirrel.  Which rather begs the question as to whether there is a rodent rabbi performing bris mila (Ashkenazi - as that is my background) or brit miloh in Hebrew, the rite of circumcision.  Whatever.  As a squirrel he's certainly a fine specimen, and he's definitely out and proud - and why not?

And finally, you remember that teeny tiny bone in the potted mackerel (no, Hawksmoor, it doesn't affect your score).  It might not have been a teeny tiny bone.  It might have been a teeny tiny person.  Bon appetit. Gut appetit.  Buon appetito a tutti.

Spitalfields Branch

Score: 5 Miaows out of 5

Scores based on:
1 Miaow = Poor;
2 Miaows = Average;
3 Miaows = Good;
4 Miaows = Very Good
5 Miaows = Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins "Practically Perfect in Every Way"

Friday, 30 September 2011

Big Byron does Uncle Sam - the classic cheeseburger

The Uncle Sam - a classic cheeseburger
Sadly, today was the last day for Byron Uncle Sam.  It's a classic, a 6oz hamburger (Byron's usual quality applies); American cheese, sliced gherkin, French's mustard (to which I am partial) and ketchup.  It's a nostalgia trip.

Scarlett made a beautiful cross-section of hers - lovely manicure too.  But the uncovered glory is as above.  Sadly, my cheese hadn't melted completely, something which I noticed wasn't a problem for either Burgerac or Burger Me.  But I'm not going to weep over it.

It was the usual happy medium and was completely delicious.  Everything came together.  You know what it is, don't you?  It's a quarter pounder with cheese from the provider we do not name on this blog, but with prime quality beef, a happy bun, and nicely put together, which is why it looks good the whole way through.  It is a first choice, not a last resort when you've had too much to drink and need something to (literally) act as blotting paper to a surfeit of alcohol.

This is what Uncle Sam looked like when he turned up - modest guy.  He was accompanied by some crispy, crunchy friends.

The skin-on chips.  Again, King's Road branch turned up trumps.

The excellent coleslaw, addictive as ever.

And I can't recall whether it was Burgerac or Burger Me who led me to suggest we try the courgette fries but we are in your debt.  They were absolutely glorious.

Light, crunchy, flavoursome batter, lightly coating softly melting courgette, which tasted of the vegetable.  Quite perfect, so much so that Scarlett and I actually loved them as much (even more so?) than the super fries.

Afterwards we went winter coat shopping - in 28 degree heat!!!  To be honest we did try on a coat each in Reiss, really lovely ones too.  We'd spent quite a bit of time in there and had cooled off thanks to the lovely air-conditioning.  It was still too hot to actually buy anything wintry though.  We aren't eccentric, we'd actually made our date to meet a couple of weeks ago when it was a lot cooler.  So, there we were, trotting down the King's Road, and where did we end up?

The Martini from Outer Space
No prizes I'm afraid as it's where we always end up, yup, it's the Chelsea Bar and their fabulous Martinis (and Daiquiris and Margaritas as it turned out).  Just the one photo this time, of the Lychee Martini - still looking as if it's an embryo from Outer Space.  We parted afterwards and given that it was quite a while since the burger (and I'd done extra in the gym), I stopped off at Kulu Kulu Sushi for a few plates and rounded off with a trip to the one (two if you're being picky) and only (one more than the original branch if you're still being picky)...

Scoop in Short's Gardens - the original, the factory is downstairs and the charming staff are upstairs.  I had a scoop of the Malaga the amazing one with Marsala wine and Chilean sultantas this time, and the cioccolato extra fondente (crema as there was no sorbetto).  Honestly, I'm in heaven just thinking about it.  It deserves a close-up and a reminder that this place is run by people who love and are proud of what they produce.  They're Italian.  They're kindly and generous.  The small cup costs £3 (keep it that way, guys, per piacere).  Go there.  Give them your business if you're in or around or anywhere near Covent Garden - even if you're a walk away, the walk will do you good - or the Brewer Street branch.  So here's the close-up to remind you how good it is and what you're missing if you've never experienced the gelato, the lovely people and the great vibes.

Malaga and Cioccolato Extra Fondente (Grand Cru)