Sunday, 31 October 2010

sunday roast at the black lion

my ex-flat mate recently moved to kilburn from arsenal. a rather warm but rainy afternoon found me wandering into her neighbourhood to join her and another friend of ours, s from helsinki who had come down to london for the weekend. j had chosen a local pub  'the black lion' to have sunday lunch. i know the black lion from my days of working in the area. it was a common after work drink pub and we had an office party there too. the pub is housed in a period building and it's ornate ceiling with its accents of gold and dark mahogany are grade ii listed. the dining hall is slightly off the bar area and is brighter than the drinking area. 

all three of us settled in and then had to decide whether we were going to have the chicken  or beef roast. after much deliberating about how beef roast is tricky because we prefer it medium rare we all ordered the same, that is the beef roast asking for it to be medium rare. we also decided that we weren't going to order wine but then landed up ordering a bottle of red. j, who is generally my guide for wine ordered it but we could have done without it as it really was quite vinegary. 

the beef roast came beautifully presented with all its regularly vegetable accompaniments - potatoes, broccoli, carrots and sugar snap peas, yorkshire pudding and gravy. sadly the beef was far from medium rare having been done more than well. the gravy however was flavoursome and the vegetables were remarkably well done. they weren't mushy. instead they had a little bite. the carrots in particular had a lovely buttery glaze and were just right. the yorkshire pudding wasn't much to write home about. i've had much better. 

would i go back for a the sunday roast? i don't think so. but i'd definitely go for a drink at the pub if only to admire the ceiling. 

274| kilburn high road| nw6

Black Lion on Urbanspoon

Friday, 29 October 2010

dessert at albion caff

for h's birthday o & i took her to papadoms in bricklane and to albion caff for dessert. we figured we'd give her the flavour of home in banglatown ending on a note of sophistication at albion. it's funny but o and i usually wind up at the albion almost every time we are in east london. there is something quite charming about this casual eatery with its open plan kitchen, its dim custard lighting and the smell of comfort food. this is the home of hearty british staples like pot pies and rarebits and kedgeree. then there are the wonderful classic pudding the likes of crumble, poached fruit and bread and butter puddings. we also love the tea served in pots with quaint knitted colourful poises and tall enamel pots with coffee. 

h chose the apple and blackberry crumble, n the warm chocolate mousse and i went for the steamed syrup pudding. both the crumble and the steamed pudding came with a jug of creme anglaise, that delightful and sophisticated pale version of custard flecked with vanilla that blunts the edges of tart and sweet, taming flavours with creaminess. my steamed syrup pudding was everything i could ask of of a classic pud. served in a rather creative manner in a tate and lyle treacle tin. i dug my spoon to the bottom to blend the golden syrup at the base knowing that if i didn't do this my last couple of mouthfuls would be painfully sweet with the edge of salt. then pouring over the creme anglaise i tucked in. if done well, steamed pudding is something that never fails to please me. it strikes all the perfect notes for a wet, rainy and cold london day. warmth, comfort, sweetness tempered by a hint of salt. it was perfection in a treacle tin.

as a side note, the crumble was good. but i'm one of those who much prefers making crumble at home only because it means that i don't cheat the topping of a much needed crunch. the chocolate mousse didn't really resonate with me much. i like my mousse to be lighter than heavy cream whipped with chocolate and served with more cream. i like it dark with fluffed egg white whisked into it and albion caff's is the heavy creamy sort. not my cup of tea.

on my next trip i am trying to bread and butter pudding. 

2-4 boundary street| shoreditch| e2 7dd

Albion at The Boundary Project on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 October 2010


today was the most hellish monday i have had in a while. i left work late and arrived at the tube to find tube chaos on the piccadilly line due to a person on the tracks. i made a dash for the victoria line only to find out half way down the escalators that it too had been suspended due to a signal failure. since o was working late too i called him and told him to meet me at green park to while time over dinner in the hope that we’d be able to tube home.

o suggested jom makan but i was wanting japanese so suggested that we try toku. toku’s menu is quite extensive and o and i studied it whilst eating wasabi peas so sharp that i had watery eyes. i always like eating sashimi, mostly because i love the taste of it but partly because it is an indication of the freshness of the fish and the skill of the chef. toku gave me the perfect combination of salmon sashimi don – a bowl of rice with sashimi and miso soup on the side. o ordered his usual chicken teriyaki set. i choose the genmai cha (brown rice tea).

chicken teriyaki
the tea had a robust roasted rice flavour. out of curiousity i lifted the lid of the teapot and found brown rice in the filter along with some ground matcha. both our entrees were beautifully presented. the teriyaki had a glossy brown glaze with a bright and colourful salad on the side. the rice had some black sesame sprinkled on it. a gentle stir with chopsticks brought together the cloudy centre and clear edges of the miso soup. my sashimi was a contrast of salmon pink and spring green onion and wasabi.

salmon sashimi don
and it all tasted as good as it looked. the miso was as it should be. not too salty with the hint of umami and the comfort of warm broth. the sashimi don was accompanied by what appeared to be a soy sauce but was actually very mild. together, the sauce with the slightly warm rice and the crunch of spring onion cut through the richness of the salmon. the salmon itself felt like silk in the mouth. o’s teriyaki had that sweet and salty and slightly sticky taste that is customary of it. the sweetness is akin to brown sugar but something more complex. it is a taste that i have always failed to identify.

daifuku mochi
to finish, we had the daifuku mochi which have a reputation for themselves. apparently, mochi is a traditional japanese sweet made from rice that is pounded and stretched into pastry. the pastry is filled with anko (sweet azuki bean paste). what i love about these tiny ball shaped sweets is the texture – the stretchy, chewy rice pastry contrasting with the smooth mellowness of the bean paste. not to mention the deep maroon filing against the pale slightly cool rice white. daifuku means ‘great luck’ so i am hoping that eating them will bring changing fortunes, although i fear that the only changing fortune with our waistlines.
we would definitely recommend toku and i personally think it is quite reasonably priced too. 

16 regent street| london| sw1y 4ph

Toku, Japan Centre on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 24 October 2010

sweet potato & beetroot soup

it has been unseasonably cold this last week and i have been craving a big bowl of soup, soup that is thick and substantial. there was a lone sweet potato in my kitchen. since it wouldn’t be enough to feed the two of us i needed to add something to it and that’s where the beetroot came in. i also had half a tub of crème fraiche which became a handy garnish with the addition of a bunch of dill, a thinly sliced red chilli and some grated lemon zest. the only sad part was the toast – it would have been really nice to have some crusty sour dough instead.

to make the soup you will need
a medium red onion, chopped
two tablespoons of olive oil
one sweet potato, peeled and cut up into bite sized pieces
roughly 250 grams of beetroot [i used cooked but if i had had time i would roasted mine]
two tablespoons of red lentils
a pint of chicken or veggie stock
a red chilli
a teaspoon of paprika
a teaspoon and a half of cumin powder
quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon
a teaspoon and a half of brown sugar
a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

start by chopping the onion. heat the olive oil and sweat the onion until it is soft. then add the paprika and cumin powder and cinnamon powder and let fry gently for a couple of seconds. add the chopped potato and fry for a couple of seconds. add the lentils and fry for another minute before adding the stock to the pan. cover and boil until the sweet potato is tender.

while the sweet potato is boiling process the cooked beetroot and red chilli leaving a bit of texture. remove and keep aside. once the sweet potato is cooked cook process it. return all the ingredients to the pan, add the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt and simmer gently for ten to fifteen minutes.

you can add more stock if you prefer a thinner soup. o and i much prefer a thick soup.

i served it in deep bowls with a generous tablespoon of dill and chilli crème fraiche and well done toast. 

Sunday, 17 October 2010

sushi of shiori

ever since sushi of shiori's review in the observer i have been wanting to try it out. so finally on a late september afternoon s and i met up there for lunch. it's location is a bit strange as it is on the far end of drummond street, a decidedly sub-continental street marked not only by the numerous sub-continental restaurants but also by the very pronounced smell of curry powder and fried onions. 

the chef preparing sushi
finding good reasonably priced sushi in london is quite a mission. in fact i can't remember the last time i had good sushi here so sushi of shiori turned out to be a real treat. sushi of shiori is a tiny space (just seven seats). one counter faces the window and the other the open kitchen. s and i were lucky enough to have gotten two seats facing the kitchen where an intent detail obsessed chef ran his sharp knives through fish cutting and slicing and turning his cuts into creations of art. 
sashimi lunch
deluxe sushi
s and i both chose from the lunch menu. i am partial to sashimi as i love the texture of fresh raw fish so i went for the sashimi lunch. s went for the deluxe sushi. we figured it would be a good combination to try both. the sashmi platter was an exquisite combination of bright colours - salmon shaped into a rose on a large shiso leaf, red snapper with a hint of shredded daikon and wasabi and seabass with a garnish of spring onions. there was also two kinds of salad on the plate. the slight bite of mooli cut through with the sweetness of carrot and a sashimi salad with a fruity, citrusy and nutty dressing. on the side was a bowl of miso soup and some rice. the miso soup was excellent. s' sushi was also beautifully presented and tasted just as good. the fish was absolutely fresh and tasted like silk in the mouth. i had kept in mind jay rayner's critique of the rice and had pre-warned s about it too. the rice wasn't resistant to separating with ease but it could have done with a bit of warmth. of course we had green tea on the side.

black sesame ice-cream
to finish, s and i split the homemade black sesame ice-cream. i have had it before at a chinese restaurant. sesame ice-cream is sublime. it tastes like frozen creamy tahini paste and is very rich. black-sesame has a slightly more intense nuttier flavour with a hint of bitterness like that of dark chocolate as an end note. i have to confess that i am not much of a fan of the slate-grey colour though. it looks a bit like cement. 

so the final verdict, sushi of shiori is definitely the best sushi i've had in london so far. i definitely want to go back for the omakase style menu. 

144| drummond street| nw1 2pa

Sushi of Shiori on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 10 October 2010

the hundred and fifty thousand calorie anniversary tea at podium park lane

so, my anniversary surprise set me back a couple of thousand calories. this isn't a high tea for the faint hearted and even o struggled to plough through. on a very sunny and unseasonably warm sunday o walked me up  park lane to the london hilton. our second year anniversary was celebrated with a massage followed by the 'confessions of a chocoholic tea'.

we started with peach bellini's and open faced sandwiches. five rectangles of thin sandwich bread arrived on a long white platter. there was smoked salmon with horseradish, prawn mayonnaise and baby gem lettuce, cucumber and cream cheese with chives, egg and cress and honey roast ham and pommery mustard. the sandwiches were a mix and match of tastes. the smoked salmon was disappointing as the slices were too thick and there was no sharpness or citrus to cut through it. i couldn't detect any horseradish. the egg and cress was a rather pale making it seem like the egg had been cheated of the yolk. it could have done with a little freshness with something green. i don't eat ham so can't vouch for what it tasted like. the prawn sandwich was delightful though. nice and light with a crisp baby gem lettuce leaf. the star of the show was the cucumber and cream cheese with chives.

next came the three tiered stand best described as indulgence. o went for the chocolate chip scones whilst i had the raisin ones. the presentation was beautiful, especially the top tier with all its chocolate creations placed on a chocolate tray dusted with gold dust. on the side was clotted cream, chocolate praline spread and strawberry jam. o and i started bottom up. i didn't think much of the chocolate chip scones. my raisin scones were really good though. the strawberry jam was a disappointment though. very watery and runny and definitely not spreadable. the clotted cream had the texture of whipped cream as opposed to the thick luxuriousness of cream so thick it is hard to spread. the chocolate praline spread was lovely though with a lightly whipped texture.

on the second tier were four fanciful cupcakes. i have to confess i am not much of a cupcake fan. i find them a poor excuse for cake usually topped with more frosting than necessary. the cupcakes at podium were no exception. o and i tasted the tops and discovered that the cake underneath was remarkably uniform across the three ( we didn't try the coconut and key lime).  

the final tier on top was a celebration of all things chocolate. the two miniature fancies that we didn't fancy much were the pineapple crumble with a chocolate jelly. the combination of milk chocolate with sweet crumble and an even sweeter pineapple came across as just too sweet. and somehow the combination didn't work. the cone of marshmallow and chocolate ganache was a tab bit too childish amidst the sophistication. i would have loved more of the lychee, raspberry, rosewater mousse, caramel of white chocolate and praline and the pistachio and chocolate macaroon. o had the hilton tea blend and i chose the oolong which was excellent.

so the final verdict. the sandwiches were okay. the scones very good. the cupcakes not much to write home about and the miniature fancies really really good.the service was really good and we even got to doggy bag our chocolate without having to ask. definitely worth the indulgence if you are able to overlook some of the shortcomings.

Podium Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 7 October 2010

ten ten tai

o and i are around soho and we've ruled out our regular suspects: byron, busaba, itsu. yalla yalla is closed for a private dinner and i am not in a mood for chinese. i would love a bowl of steaming udon but don't relish the idea of waiting in line to eat at koya. and that's when i suddenly remember that i've been meaning to try ten ten tei. 

california rolls and salmon sushi
 ten ten tei is a slightly cramped japanese place on brewer street. it's slightly shabby too. we wait briefly the door before being led downstairs to a less cramped seating area. i do a quick scan of the al a carte dishes settling on the tempura soba. o orders udon with tempura. to start with we have california rolls and salmon sushi. at ten ten tei the service is patchy and the table diagonally opposite us is served quicker than us despite having placed their order later than ours. the sushi tastes really good but it's presentation leaves much to be desired for.
tempura udon
o's udon looks lovely. thick white noodles in a clear broth topped with tempura, a poached egg, mushrooms and chopped spring onions. my soba is equally good. a very flavourful clear broth with a generous helping of light and crispy tempura and spring onions. the soba noodles were perfectly cooked too. once again the service was a let down though with us having to wait for quite a while to be served. 

ten ten tei is good value for money. just don't expect any frills and fancies and presentation wonders.  

Ten Ten Tei on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 October 2010

roasted tomato soup

o isn't feeling too well. he has a terrible cold and his tonsils are all inflamed. i decided to make him some chicken soup for the soul except that he doesn't like chicken soup. so instead i made him a sophie dahl nostalgia inspired roasted tomato soup.

lots of plum tomatoes cut into half, a few springs of thyme, two onions sliced into thick rings and a whole bulb of garlic were placed into a roasting tin and roasted for a little over half an hour. you basically want the tomatoes to collapse and reduce with the heat. once roasted let the tomatoes cool slightly. squeeze the head of garlic into a pan, add the rest of the roasted ingredients and process with a handheld blender until smooth. this is the point where my recipe differs from sophie dahl's. into the pan i added a cup of warm chicken stock and the hard crust of parmesan cheese along with a few drops of worcestershire sauce, some balsamic, a pinch of sugar and some salt. i kept the consistency quite thick and moreish. 
i served both o and myself in deep bowls with some crisp toast fingers.
sophie dahl's original recipe can be found here