Sunday, 21 July 2013

More More Moro

I love the various inner London Foodie heavens like Islington, Blackheath, Charlotte Street etc and Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell is another sanctuary for Gastronauts to hang out. Arguably the pick of the restaurants is Moro which was one of the first high quality Spanish establishments to hit the London scene. In terms of taste, it's fine dining, however the food is fairly rustic and the atmosphere very laid back which is quite an amazing combination. It almost feels like you're on holiday.

Everything you order can be just placed in the middle of the table for all to share which is great for someone like me that wants to eat the whole menu. To start we had the Salmon Ceviche with pickled cucumber and seaweed which was light and delicate, a perfect way to start a meal on a summer evening. The Sardine fillets with tomato and aubergine really packed a punch. The aubergine was charred and caramelised in a way that I'd never tasted before and was incredible.

To follow, we opted for the Char grilled Lamb with Fattoush and Pistachio sauce. A melange of flavours, textures and colours arrived which all worked beautifully well with each other. The bream with cucumber, samphire, spiced labneh and farika looked far more simpler than it sounded but again sent one's taste buds into space. The only problem now was which desserts to choose.

I'm very nosey in restaurants and like to see what other people have on their plates. The couple alongside had the Yoghurt cake with pomegranate which looked quite sexy, so we ordered that and the rosewater and cardamom ice cream which marries two of my favourite ingredients together at the same time. The cake was slightly tangy and had sweet notes which gave a nice balance whilst the ice cream was divine, maybe even the best dish on the menu. The subtlety of this dessert was amazing as who'd have thought that the two scoops placed in a simple bowl would taste so good.

There is absolutely no doubt that I will return to Moro, not tomorrow but sooner rather than later. In the meantime I shall be attempting to recreate some Moorish magic from one of their three excellent recipe books.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Honey & Co : Warren Street

As I've been working 24/8 on my bistro lately, I have rarely eaten out, let alone venture into London. So tonight's cameo appearance was full of expectation and thankfully I wasn't let down.

I'm a big fan of middle eastern food and restaurants that bring traditional dishes from their homelands to mine. Therefore, Honey & Co was an apt choice. The restaurant is quite basic but has lots of quirky touches that transport you to destinations far away. The menu is short, but with everything being freshly prepared and equally as desirable, I still wanted everything.

To start we opted for a couple of salads. Advocado with tabule and pomegranate aroused ones taste buds whilst the quince, mint, honeyed hazelnuts and fresh curd cheese would have actually satisfied me for starter, main course and dessert.

To follow, the Jordanian lamb and rice casserole was both comforting and frustrating because I never wanted it to end. Succulent lamb blended with orange blossom infused rice, saffron yoghurt, almonds and raisins was a triumph. The rare beef with plums, sweet potato and a lemon dressing seemed a curious combination, but the flavours interacted well.

Dessert was amazing in as much as how can a deconstructed cheesecake taste better that a proper one. Answer : Use Kataifi pastry, use feta cheese and throw in some fresh oregano.

The wine list is very small, but this is complemented by some beautiful teas which refresh the palate equally as well. Even after dinner, getting out of the door is a struggle as one's attention is drawn to the mouthwatering array of cakes and homemade jams which at this time of year make useful xmas presents.

The chef Itamar is a top bloke, very passionate about his food, but sticking to his roots at the same time. There are obvious similarities between his cooking and such people as Ottolenghi and Sylvena Rowe, however this restaurant is more about good home cooking, comfort food Israeli style if you like. Casting the food and the chef aside however, the real star of the show is Rachael. She could sell ice cubes to Eskimos she's so nice. Very attentive, friendly and totally conversant with all of the dishes, she was a delightful maitre d.

I will definitely return, but maybe this time I'll bring a good book and stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Chicken, mango and avocado salad

Like many people, Monday is a day for using up leftovers from the previous day's roast. Turning everything into a curry is a bit of a cop out really and besides I 'm on a diet. I also had loads of fruit laying about due to the fact that I'm having my 25 a day at the moment. WTF goes with chicken I thought? I'll f'king ask Gordon Ramsey and there it was on page 83 of

Ok, his recipe uses smoked chicken but mine was so burnt it would have same effect! The book actually is really good, full of nutritious recipes which unfortunately make you feel like you have the energy to wash up afterwards, as opposed to falling asleep on the sofa whilst the Mrs does it.

Ingredients :  (for 2)

Half a cooked chicken torn into pieces, ripe avocado, ripe mango, 100g mixed leaves, tbsp toasted pine nuts, Dressing - tbsp orange juice, tbsp lemon juice, tsp wholegrain mustard, 2 tbsp ex virgin olive oil, seasoning

1. In a large bowl add the chicken to the leaves.
2. Peel the mango and working round the stone, cut into thin slices. Add to bowl.
3. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
4. Halve the avocado, remove stone and peel carefully. Do this last to avoid discolouring. Add to bowl
5. Dress the salad and toss thoroughly. Decant to a serving plate and pile high. Sprinkle with the pine nuts.

How easy is that? The mango makes the dish taste and feel fresh, whilst the creaminess of the avocado and crunchy pine nuts offer good variations in texture. In terms of flavour it doesn't really compare to Asian salads, but it is full of nutrients and a perfect summer dish.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Junction Tavern, Kentish Town : Review

Hampstead Heath is one of my favourite parts of London. You can escape the noise of the city, walk for miles, enjoy splendid views of the capital and of course eat and drink yourself silly. On the whole, most of the eating places are of a decent standard, no more so that the plethora of gastropubs.

To the east of the heath you will find Fortess Road and the highly acclaimed Junction Tavern. review is odd as it is based on just the main courses. However, owing to a long, hot day devoted mainly to sampling real ale, that was all we could manage and besides the portions are pretty big.

The Lamp rump with black olive mash, wild mushrooms and a rich jus was perfect for soaking up all of the pints that I had knocked back during the day. Everything was well cooked and each individual component went well with the other. However, the Pan fried Sea Bass with fregola, mussels, tomatoes, samphire, chili and garlic was as good as anything I've ever eaten in a pub. Fregola are tiny pasta balls from Sardinia which are made from semolina and just go so well with fish. The bass was crispy on top and succulent underneath, the mussels were plump and sweet, the samphire had a lovely bite to it, whilst the fregola came somewhere in between. The sauce had that lovely spicy zing to it that clung to your lips leaving a long and satisfying taste. In fact, it was so good, I sacrificed dessert to finish off the rest of my partners.

The pub suits all tastes, had a nice conservatory and quite a large garden area. One course with a large glass of wine each came to about £40. Highly recommended.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Asian Sirloin Steak with Pak Choi

I try to restrict my intake of red meat and with respect to steak, if I have it, I normally like it plain with mushrooms, chips, salad etc. However, sometimes my near obsession with any flavour or cuisine east of Watford takes over and out comes the soy sauce, chili, lime etc.

This dish is very simple but tastes like something more sophisticated. Sometimes steak be be a heavy meal, but for some reason, the Asian dressing gives it a lighter, fresher touch. I feel that the meat must be cooked medium rare or not at all. I served with some steamed pak choy which gives great texture and steamed basmati rice which enhances the Asian theme.

Ingredients : (for 2) 2 Sirloin steaks about an inch thick, seasoning, finely chopped red chili, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 inch knob of ginger grated, 6tbsp soy sauce, juice of a lime, 2 tbsp olive oil.

1. Combine the chili with the garlic, ginger, soy, lime and olive oil. Taste and check for that ying / yang balance. It should be fresh and zingy, with a comfortable amount of heat and saltiness.
2. Head a griddle pan until very hot. Season steaks and drizzle with some olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes either side and set aside to rest.
3. In the meantime, cook the rice and pak choi.
4. To serve, scatter the vegetables over a warmed plate. Slice the steak at an angle and arrange over the greens. Now pour over the dressing and any juices from the meat.

Afghan Aubergines

Any mention of Afghanistan naturally raises thoughts of the awful conflict and the hordes of brave soldiers risking their lives on a daily basis. I really can't think of any positives about being there, although if I was there, I'd be quite happy to munch on this dish every day. I was delighted to receive Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher as a Xmas present last year. The front cover is stunning and thankfully the recipes on the inside match up.

Blending aubergine with yoghurt is nothing new, but to serve the vegetable hot creates something a little different. This is great to serve with some pitta bread as a shared starter or part of a meze. The textures are very comforting and the spices marry well with the yoghurt which carries quite a kick of its own thanks to all the raw garlic.

Ingredients : (for 2 people as a shared meze dish) large aubergine cut into 6mm slices, rapeseed oil, chopped onion, green chilli chopped, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes, small bunch or chopped coriander. Yoghurt : 150ml thick yoghurt, 1tbsp lemon juice, 3 crushed garlic cloves, handful of chopped mint, seasoning

1. Place the aubergines in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to bleed for half an hour, wash, then pat dry.
2. Sweat off the onion and chili until soft, then remove and set aside.
3. Now fry off the aubergine until brown on both sides, you may need to do this in batches.
4. When brown, sprinkle with the turmeric and then add the tomatoes, onions and chilli and 3/4 of the coriander. Add sufficient water so that the veg is covered, then place a lid on, reduce to a low heat and simmer for 20-30mins until sauce thickens.
5. In the meantime combine all of the sauce ingredients and chill.
6. To serve, check the aubergine mix for seasoning. Spread 3/4 of the yoghurt over the base of a plate. Top with the aubergines and tip the remaining yoghurt on top. Garnish with the remaining coriander and dive in.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Gilbert Scott : Restaurant Review

One of the most beautiful, iconic stand out buildings in London has to be the refurbished St Pancras Station. The designers have managed to blend modern architecture whilst restoring the grand old station to it's former glories all in one go. On the site of the original Midland Hotel now sits the Renaissance Hotel and housed within it, as a kind of tribute to the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and other British pioneers of cooking is The Gilbert Scott restaurant, headed by one of England's finest, Marcus Wareing.

How often do we go out for an English meal? Who even knows what one is anyway, Chicken Tikka Masala, Spag Bol? Well, this is a celebration of Great British ingredients and each dish is based on fresh, seasonal produce. There are no fancy sauces or garnishes with poncey French names nor foams, emulsions or liquid nitrogen. What you see is what you get.

To start we had the Mackerel tartare with cucumber, elderflower and gooseberry. This was brought to life by some chili and lime and just made me hungrier than ever. The roasted artichoke with girolles and samphire had great texture and a naturally salty, earthy deep taste. Both dishes were accompanied by a delightful Viognier.

For main we had Rump of Veal with juicy sweet onions and sage and Devilled Mackerel with plum tomatoes. You have to order additional sides which I feel a tad cheeky but the jersey royals and spring greens were summer on a plate on their own. With the Veal I had a glass of Chateau Musar which at £6 a go is an absolute bargain. It's one of my favourite wines and for me made the meal. I was so overcome in fact, I forgot to take any pics of the mains!

For pud, we opted for a couple of the lighter dishes. The Bourbon marinated pineapple with toasted marshmallow was inspired, whilst Mrs Beeton's snow egg, a poached meringue filled with marmalade, topped with crunchy toasted almonds and set on a pond of custard was as gentle a dessert as there is.

For two people, three courses with wine equates at about £55 per head including tip, but also a disappointing cover charge of £2pp which I thought we'd seen the last off. Nevertheless, for a taste of nostalgia I can highly recommend this venue.