Monday, 29 August 2011

more gelato: dri dri & polka

yes, more aritsan gelato. it seems like it will never end, this rage of artisanal gelato parlours that are mushrooming over london. and they all promise the real italian experience. so far, despite having tried a fair few, o and i always find our way back to gelupo. but it seems as if o might have found one other artisan gelato parlour where he'd go only for the pistachio and that is dri dri. i suspect that may only last until the dri dri pop-up remains in covent garden. after having tried a couple of different flavours he settled on the pistachio and i must say it was very good. i tried the cafe espresso just to confirm my disappointment. gelupo always takes first prize for its really strong espresso. dri dri's is like a milky latte. i settled on the salted caramel with pink himalayan salt. i really loved. it is very different from the much featured sea salted caramel. himalayan salt is a rock salt and originates from pakistan. its saltiness is less marked than that of sea salt. 

and since we're talking about artisan gelato i might has talk about polka gelato too. this monochrome parlour is in fitzroy and is the only gelato parlour i know of in the area. it distinguishes itself on its super sonic flavours which have anti-oxidant properties like rooibos, matcha and mango, lime and goji berry. i would need much coaxing to try them. when it comes to green tea i'd rather have that at a japanese restaurant. steering clear of the anti-oxidants i tried the more traditional gelato flavours. the amaretto was really good with lots of rich almond tones. the coffee, as recommended was too milky. note to self, go to gelupo when in need for a coffee fix. i'd easily polka when not in soho. and just like gelupo polka has a loyalty card which rewards you for eating lots of gelato. 

Dri Dri Gelato on Urbanspoon

Polka Gelato on Urbanspoon


jay rayner is right when he says it is the cauliflower ming style that will convert you to the way of yming. the menu says it is crunchy, delicate and savoury. it is all of those and a little more. it tastes deceptively of a deep chicken broth and you'd be hard pressed to believe it was cauliflower had it not been for the distinct texture of the florets. aside from the savoury there is a hint of chili but only as warmth on your palate. on our first visit here with a we had the cauliflower ming style and the prawn rolls with almond flakes. in contrast to the cauliflower these were mild, wrapped in the thinest and flakiest pastry with slivered almonds. it is quite a marvel that despite being deep fried there was no visible oiliness. just a mere sheen on the plate where the rolls and cauliflower had once sat. 

in its decor, yming is an antithesis of chinese restaurants. the carpet muffles conversation and is soothed by gentle (and somewhat elevator sounding) music. there are no black, red and gold lanterns and the tables are spaced comfortably apart. the service is impeccable and unobtrusive. the teal-green exterior intimates the calm and simplicity of the restaurant.  

our saturday night dinner started on the cauliflower ming style and was followed by chicken in hot sesame sauce and a wok roasted beef northern style. i always try and balance our choices so if o picks a 'dry' stir-fry, i try and match it with something with a bit of sauce. the waiter seemed to be quite pleased with our order saying we had the balance right in terms of chili, sweet and sour. i always have boiled rice as i find that quite aside from being very filling, egg fried rice masks more subtle flavours especially fish. o always has egg fried rice. 

i loved the beef. the slices were soft and fried medium rare so that the centre was a light pink with darker sides. the slick of sauce was viscous and was salty sweet like molasses. o's choice of chicken in hot sesame sauce contrasted well with the slight sweetness of the beef. the cubes of mild white meat teamed with sweet red and yellow peppers were made firey by the addition of sichuan peppers. these small peppers pack a punch which is more heat and warmth. they can momentarily feel peppery on the palate when you bite them but that feeling recedes to be replaced by heat. i love biting them just for that sensation. they have on  o the effect that whole green chilies have on my dad, that is their foreheads glisten with perspiration.

from our first visit, i must make mention of the fish slices in chinese wine sauce. but i think we got the contrast of flavours wrong the first time round by pairing the very mild fish with equally mild mains. it is nice to have a contrast of chili to add a little bit of heat. i am hoping that some day o will let me have the much coveted steamed sweet buns or oriental pancakes with red bean paste. the steamed sweet buns are a particular weakness. but for now, as usual, we had gelato as o's dessert preferences dictate the sweet conclusions of our dinners. 

yming's on our list of favourites so i am sure we will back. and next time i'll be ordering the ma po tofu and dry cooked beans. we owe a very big thanks to jay rayner for his perennial appetite for good food. i've never been let down by his recommendations. so if you don't trust me, read chinese whispers. it'll convince you to go.    

Yming on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

chin chin laboratorists

nitrogen ice cream at chin chin laboratorists
the world and its aunt has been to chin chin laboratorists, europe’s first nitro ice-cream parlour. and much has been said about its lab like set-up. to be sure there are beakers, white coats and goggle type glasses and large canisters of liquid nitrogen. it seems to me that over the last few years the food industry has developed a love for combining food and theatre. so much so that blow torching a crème brûlée or a caked alaska sounds passe. food science isn't new, it has just been made much more accessible through the likes of ferran adria and blumenthal. 

on the saturday that i went to chin chin laboratorists, i was perhaps more concerned with the size of the queue and the length of the wait. and if it hadn't been for the very warm sunshine after getting soaked in the rain i probably wouldn't have persevered. after all i can't complain about forty minutes of sunshine in london. the flavour choice at chin chin is very succinct as it is all of three flavours. the two regulars are madagascar vanilla and valrhona chocolate. there is a weekly special which on my visit was a mango creamsicle. pity i couldn't make it the week before as the basil chocolate chip had sounded much more interesting. it turns out the forty minute wait was handy to work out the combination of the topping and sauce. i was very sure i wanted to the madagascar vanilla. to me a good vanilla ice-cream is the ultimate test for an ice-cream parlour as it is so easy to get this simplest of flavours wrong.

when i finally made it into the 'lab' i couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement. i was asked which ice-cream was having and upon saying vanilla i was shown a glass beaker of crème anglaise. it was creamy white heavily flecked with vanilla pod. a measure of this was poured into the bowl of the kitchen aid mixer. then the laboratist donned his goggles, put on a glove and showed me a thermos of bubbling liquid. as soon as this hit the crème anglaise it turned into a cold smoke. it just a matter of seconds the ice-cream was ready. i was told that the nitrogen causes the anglaise to freeze almost instantly to give a really creamy ice-cream. there is virtually no time for crystallisation which explains the smooth texture. the laboratorist puts the ice-cream into a cup leaving one side raised to form a hollow to hold the sauce and topping. i had mine with salted caramel and honeycomb. it seems a bit juvenile to dress such a luxurious looking vanilla with popping candy or caramelised pretzels. after shelling out five pence shy of four quid for the lab experiment i made my way outside and took my first bite. it was really really good. heavy on the vanilla and very creamy. and there is actually a fair bit of it in the cup. i was quite full afterwards.
i'll be watching the twitter feed for upcoming flavours and i'll be bringing o when something interesting comes up.

Chin Chin Laboratorists on Urbanspoon   

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

saalun chawal (curry and rice)

i come from a family that likes to cook as much as it likes to eat. my memory is populated by images of tastes, smells and textures. i still remember the first time i tried hummus. it was in our race course road house and i remember i ran a fork through the creamy slate-yellow coloured paste stored in what was previously a square tub of soft-scoop ice-cream. i took an instant liking to the slightly bitter and nutty taste and recall eating hummus with a spoon. i still eat it this way, the only difference being that i make the effort to dress it up with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of sumac and chopped parsley to give it some colour. mama showed me how to use the back of a tablespoon to help spread the hummus to the shape of the bowl, allowing a natural dip to hold the olive oil. she would also reserve some whole chick peas to add to the olive oil as a decoration.

one of the best things about growing up in my family was the diversity of tastes. my father’s side of the family takes much pride in their punjabi cuisine and there were often animated disputes about the names and etymology of certain dishes. for instance for baba it was dhoodh seviyan that was cooked on eid, a sweet dish that consisted of toasted vermicelli cooked in sweetened cardamom infused milk. my dadi would call it sheer khorma and baba would say, well that’s the indian version. the difference in the two was really the addition of shrivelled dried dates called chuara’s. since i didn’t care much for them i was quite happy to eat dhoodh seviyan. and secretly i wasn’t troubled by the nomenclature at all. my dadi was a really good cook but her efforts in the kitchen were almost always steeped in lots of ghee (clarified butter). she made exquisite kerela’s (bitter gourd) by gouging out their insides, filling them with dark brown well spiced keema (mince) or channa dhal, stitching the open side neatly and then steaming them in the keema or dhal masala till the skin of the gourd was tender and heavy with the flavours of the mince or channa. i was partial to her kachnar keema (beef mince cooked with kachnar buds). i have never seen these flower buds abroad but it apparently is an orchid tree. my husband says that punjabi’s do not know how to cook vegetables and i contest this with him for it was in my very punjabi household that i first learnt to love bhindi (okra), baingan (aubergine), kerela (bitter gourd), teenday (a kind of a pumpkin), sheljum (turnip), gobi (cabbage) and so much more. and they were cooked to perfection rather than being a massacred mush, which is what he says all pakistani vegetables are cooked like.     

on mama’s side of the family the influences were four fold: kashmiri and lahori from her father and polish and english from her mother. i was perfectly at home eating shepherd’s pie, borscht, chicken roast and welsh rarebits although never pakistani versions of them. i didn’t like mixing food which may explain my despair when my other half sprinkles dark chilli flakes into a mild pilaf of broad-beans and dill or infuses sausage pasta made with sujuk with truffle infused olive oil. i call that a food crime and he calls that snobbery. there is a fine line between fusion and faux pas.

out of the four of us (mama, baba, sibling and i), i had the least affinity for cooking pakistani food. as much as i love eating it, i always felt hesitant cooking it. i am not a natural at it like my sibling is. he cooks intuitively whereas i have always struggled with the unexacting nature of pakistani cooking. there are very few pakistani cook books for amateurs. mama bought me one before i left for university and it is written for those who are familiar with cooking pakistani cuisine. i’ve tried indian punjabi cookbooks but their spice profile is markedly different from ours. pakistani cooking has some hallmarks;  the notion of andaaza (estimation), the need to bhuno (explained in my post on keema simla mirch), the slow process of browning onions to colour a pulao or salan (curry), gently toasting whole spices like cumin and coriander seeds to elevate their profile. a combination of homesickness, curiosity and the food blogosphere has done away with my reticence of cooking pakistani. the outcome doesn’t always look like my mum’s but the more i cook, the more i understand the techniques and processes. it is in fact no different to learning to cook a risotto or roast a chicken especially now that i have a pakistani delia type instructor in my mum, dad, sibling and the spice spoon.

the saturday dinner at thirty-two was murghi ka saalun (chicken curry), with chawal (steamed rice) and kachumur. i cooked it because i was missing my brother whose enduring love is ‘saalun chawal’ (curry with rice). in his toddler days when he was barely the height of our round black dining table, he would push his little self up on his toes whilst holding on to the edge of the table and say ‘mama put me salan chawwal’. he spoke an eclectic mix of urdu and english and clearly correcting his syntax and grammar at lunch time never worked. this was much to his bossy sister’s consternation and sometimes that of his mum’s who had, through her parent’s experienced language and enunciation correction. my immediate family, which is mama, baba and my sibling live in islamabad. i most often resort to cooking pakistani when i am homesick as the familiar smells of onions, garlic and ginger sauteed with whole spices like turmeric and cardamom help overcome it.  

my younger sibling with his first love, cars. salan chawwal came next
spicespoon’s recipe for murghi ka salan (chicken curry) is foolproof and has been passed down two generations from her nani to her mother and now to her. if you follow her concise instructions you will get a perfect result that looks exactly as she has pictured it. i am reproducing the recipe below, consistent with the way i made it and with a couple of my own notes. 

murghi ka saalun with dhania
you will need
4 tbsp sunflower oil
a medium sized chicken, skinned and jointed
1 medium-sized onion, roughly chopped (this will be blitzed in the blender later, so don’t worry about cutting it perfectly)
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 thumb-size knob of ginger, sliced thin
5 large plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
pinch haldi (turmeric powder)
1 1/2 tsp dhara mirch (red chili flakes)
1/2 + 1 1/2 cups water
2 cardamom pods

turn the heat to medium and place a heavy-bottomed pan, (i use a 4.7l le creuset cast iron oven casserole) on the stove. to really bring out the nutty golden colour of the onions, it is preferable to not use a non-stick pan.
add the oil and allow pan to heat up for 2 minutes.
add the onions and saute till they start to turn golden.
at this point, add the fresh garlic and ginger and continue to sauté.
the onions will start to darken more, don’t worry, this is what will give the curry its dark, intense colouring. the garlic and ginger will also begin to caramelise at this point.
this will take a total of 15 minutes.
add the tomatoes, salt, chili pepper and turmeric and turn the heat to medium or medium-high, start to “fry” (bhuno) this mixture. be careful, the tomato sauce may splatter, in that case, turn the heat down. it will take approximately 15-20 minutes.
by the end of it, you should see the sauce has reduced and looks jammy.
let the mixture cool a bit and transfer the chunky ingredients with a slotted spoon, to a blender.
blitz it all to a smooth paste, add some water to the blender if you want to get all the sauce off the walls of the blender.
transfer the mixture back to the pan.
add the chicken pieces and 1/2 cup of water and turn the heat to medium-high.
"fry" (bhuno) the chicken till you start to see the oil separating from the sauce. this is an indication that it is almost done. this will take approximately 15-20 minutes and rigorous stirring.
add the remainder of the water (1 1/2 cups) and cardamom pods, turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. the oil should have floated freely to the top of the curry by the end of it.
serve with a garnish of fresh chopped coriander/cilantro, (both leaves and sweet stems),kachumbar and chapati or basmati rice.

my notes on the recipe; i prefer to use a whole jointed chicken as i find that the fattier meat such as the thighs do well for the curry. in the original recipe the spice spoon uses chicken breast on the bone. i did however forgot to tell the butcher to skin the chicken. you can't cook chicken curry with the skin on so make sure you don't forget to tell the butcher to skin and joint the chicken. i had skin the jointed chicken myself and i tell you, it wasn't easy. also, make sure that the heavy bottomed pan is large enough to accommodate the chicken easily. this is essential to ensure that the chicken pieces brown equally when you fry them.

i personally believe that the curry tastes much better with fresh tomatoes. i haven't made this with canned tomatoes but i've made channa masala with canned tomatoes and i find that  it gives the masala a tart sweetness. fresh tomatoes are mellow and don't over power the spices. you also want to avoid using vine tomatoes as their lighter flavours are better suited to salads than curries.  

lastly, i'll re-emphasise the spice spoon's point to avoid using a non-stick pan to really bring out the colour of the frying onions.

the murghi ka saalun keeps very well for a day or two. i find that the additional time helps draw out even more flavour from the bones. what is even better is that a twitter tip-off from @youngandfoodish led me to a tandoor oven in my local area. bakhtiar's bakery on blackstock road is a sparse looking space with a cylindrical clay oven in one corner. it is run by an iraqi man who makes two types of naan: plain naan that resembles tandoori roti in pakistan and a slightly thicker naan that looks like a large kulcha garnished with sesame and onion seeds and brushed with garlic butter once cooked.  i bought a garlic naan and two plain ones. o had his with garlic naan with cream cheese and i had mine with my share of the leftover saalan. it was just like home.                  

Monday, 22 August 2011

dishoom chowpatty beach bar

chowpatty beach in bombay is synonymous with snacking and strolling. to celebrate the spirit of beach, sunshine and pleasure dishoom has popped-up on the shores of south banks make-shift faux beach. it is a more than  appropriate addition to the festival of britain which is in its sixtieth year of  ‘present[ing] to the world and its own people a modern Britain’ [taken from the national archives news release on the sixtieth anniversary of the festival of britain’. there is no doubt that britain today, and london in specific is a microcosm of the globe. dishooom chowpatty beach pop-up is one of many faces of multi-cultural britain.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

the icecreamists

the icecreamists, covent garden
friday turned out to the perfect day to eat lots of ice-cream. and that's not just because it was sunny and warm, but because o has recently been through a new fangled laser tonsillectomy which justifies his consumption of ice-cream in copious quantities. as we know there is no shortage of cold summer treats in the form of sorbets and gelato around london. in fact london seems to be so caught up in its love affair with gelato that its creamier cousin ice-cream would rightly feel neglected. what got me thinking about gelato vs. ice-cream was an earlier visit to the icecreamists. my first visit to the icecreamists did not live up to all the hype about it. the vanilla was too milky and lacking depth of flavour. espresso yourself was too inhibited, as if it has been decaffeinated. in addition the consistency was watery. although service was impeccable, the cheekiness of the staff along with the victoria secret-esque pink and black theme seemed too over-sexy for a very ordinary ice-cream experience.

so you're probably wondering why o and i were back? well, clearly the icecreamists is run by a serious ice-cream aficionado who keeps a very close eye on what's being said about his ice-cream. what started of as a twitter conversation ended on o and i being called back to give the icecreamists and vice cream cocktails a second chance. we were met by steven who manages the covent garden branch and led upstairs to the dictators room. we loved the pop art on the walls! o was most taken by the cone-el gaddafi but for me it was the cameron poster with a flake in his mouth and the caption 99 fake. i let steven decide on what we should try and here's what we got; two cocktails, the miss whiplash and the molotoffee and three scoops of ice-cream including nuts about chocland yard and taking the pistachio dressed with a dark chocolate cone.

cone-el gadafi
99 fake
 we loved the pomp and circumstance of the molotoffee cocktail. a really creamy and light caramel dulce de leche ice-cream with a hint of banana and apple covered with meringue that was blow-torched infront of us and then spritzed with rum. it was a bit like a well-dressed lady powdering herself in a powder room. we definitely enjoyed this. the star for me was the ice-cream which was creamy and not cloyingly sweet like most dulce de leche ice-creams tend to be. for the ice-creams the combination of taking the pistachio and nuts about chocland yard was just right. the closest o and i have had to a good pistachio comes out of italian tub called antonio federici but as with all things that come out of boxes, it is followed with an undesirable aftertaste. if you like pistachio come here. you won't be disappointed. the flavour is so intense it's like eating a cold creamed pistachio butter. whilst we were eating o was quizzing steven about the breast milk ice-cream and was very satisfied with the details that he was given. i had a chance to speak to him about ice-cream vs. gelato and discovered that the boutique element for icecreamists is using traditional italian principles of gelato combined with those of making ice-cream. having had a lot of gelato and ice-cream i have come to appreciate the textures and flavours of both. at the icecreamists you can feel the intensity of the taste that you get from gelato but with the heavier creamier texture and consistency of ice-cream. i feel guilty for having neglected miss pussy whip. so caught up were we with the molotoffee and trio of ice-cream that we almost forgot this fiery berry coloured vodka spiked sorbet. it packed a alcoholic punch and would be good on a hot sunny day. it would be best enjoyed solo as it's flavours are clean and citrus. 
a little bit of blow torch action
so, it looks like o and i will come back, definitely for taking the pistachio and the nutella like nuts about chocland yard. the vice cream cocktails will be reserved for when we're feeling indulgent (only because they are pricier). meanwhile, a and i are contemplating returning for the gay themed queens of the dessert pop-up. i am quite intrigued by the brokeback mountain as i love banana splits. and if i do have it, the only angst it will bring is not the sadness of the trials of homosexuality but the tragedy of 'a moment on the lips forever on the hips'. why must all the best things in life be so calorific? too bad we will be coming during the week, otherwise i could have found comfort in my gay bff's wisdom of 'weekend calories don't count'.

The Icecreamists on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

gujarati rasoi, exmouth market

i love exmouth market at lunch time. there is so much to choose from. it'll cater for the most fussy of food eaters as well. on my last visit there i felt like eating something  along the lines of curry. something with bold flavours and spices like cumin and coriander. after roaming around i settled on gujarati rasoi which is a vegetarian stall offering traditional home-cooked indian cuisine. the thali (which comes served in a brown box) will give you a substantial meal of rice with three curries of the day. 


i love that in london you can have fast-food that is healthy. and no that isn't an oxymoron, i really mean it. i love leon's wraps especially the sweet potato falafel ones. i particularly envy all those people who work near exmouth market as there are so many options both for veggies and carnivores. but now there is a new option and it's location is convenient for lunch breaks and snacks whilst shopping. it's called flatplanet. it is perhaps unsurprising that the inspiration comes from leon as there was an uncanny similarity in the concept of the food even before i had read flatplanet's website. 

as the name suggests flatplanet is about flat things. i guess that is true of most edible things here except the sweet things like brownies and flapjacks. on my first visit there with n i had the smoked salmon and creme fraiche, whilst she had the lamb aegean. what you get is an oval shaped flatbread, warm from the oven topped with toppings. it's a bit like a pita bread but much lighter and slightly nuttier in texture. it's scored into slices making it very easy to eat.

on a recent visit, o had the brownie which was really lovely. it wasn't chewy but more like an rich chocolate fudge cake. i had the raspberry and rose drink which was great in terms of flavour but a bit too sweet. i'll definitely be coming back for the mighty mexican and the corny named wikileeks. 

Flatplanet on Urbanspoon

more mooli's

it's not an f-ing burrito 
i've already reviewed mooli's but felt i needed to write more about mooli's. here's why. i had my most perfect bowl of dhal. mooli's calls it wholesome dhal. it is nothing but a large bowl of yellow dhal (it's a mix of masoor and channa dhal) with some curry leaf. you can have it with or without roti. i prefer mine with roti as it makes a full meal. as mooli's says, it is real soul-food. o's beef mooli was every bit as good as when we tried it the first time round. he also ordered a side of aloo papdi chaat. i would describe this as the sanitised home-made cousin of street food. it's the kind of thing we'd make at home with a quality yoghurt which isn't tart or thin like the one they use at street-food shops in pakistan. the imli chutney is sweet and tangy and the potatoes soft and bruised. i loved the tangy fruitiness of pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top.

i actually enjoyed this visit so much more because the last time we came mooli's had just newly opened up and the place was packed. this time we were able to eat in peace without having to squeeze our elbows and constrict ourselves into the corner. the windows on the front were open to let in the summer air and a couple seated under the string of lights was a picture of summer romance. i was in the midst of a twitter chat with mooli's about the dhal when o came running from the men's and said, you're quoted in the men's room. he proceeded to take a picture of a 'comeconella' quote. i was more interested in the reflections of the light bulbs  which i thought made a beautiful picture.

reflections at mooli's
to all pakistani's who are missing good dhal, hurry and get yourselves over to mooli's. i promise you shall not be disappointed!

Mooli's on Urbanspoon

nude espresso

i spent an afternoon with a walking around bricklane and spitalfields. the more i visit this end of london the more i fall in love with its quirky character. in particular i love the street art and the changes in personality of the space as you walk through spitalfields to bricklane. we had lunch at nude espresso that afternoon. a had not tried a flat white so i figured that she must try one. for lunch we settled on a wild mushroom omelette with goats cheese and rocket and a slice of quiche with salad. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

gelatorino and labg

gelato at gelatorino and labg
for a city that has a capricious summer that recedes far quicker than on continental europe, london has a lot of gelato, ice-cream parlours and frozen yoghurt places. luckily, we've had a prolonged spell of summer sunshine these last two weeks so o and i have been on a gelato eating spree. of course we've been back to gelupo consistently. i am loving the new saffron vanilla that they are serving. along with that we have tried gelatorino in covent garden and today labg in brixton. i am also waiting for la gelatiera to open its doors in covent garden later this month. 

gelatorino's flavours are inspired by the northern italian city of turin which is pronounced as torino. thanks to my friend i who is also one of the initial founders of comeconella, i have had the chance to eat, and eat really well in torino. when it comes to sweet things torino is famous for its hazelnuts and the quintessential gianduja. gelatorino carries guido gobino so at least now i can get my favourite gianduja in london. o felt like sorbet and his choice of strawberry and pear sorbet was just perfect for a summer night. i wanted to try the gelato so went for the nougat and breakfast in turin which was a milky coffee with chocolate chips. come winter i'm coming here for gelato topped with melted gianduja. 

o also tried labg in brixton today. i didn't have space for dessert but tried the zuppa inglese which is the italian rendition of english trifle. it was really good! o had the classic combination of strawberry and chocolate gelato.  

Gelatorino on Urbanspoon

honest burgers, brixton

o's first time in brixton was to eat honest burgers. i couldn't think of a more worthy reason for his first visit. another equally worthy reason would be if we were wanting pizza as brixton is also home to franco manca. for a first timer he's definitely better at getting around brixton because i had us going around in circles through market row. it was when we both got soaked because the clouds decided to shed their load in torrents that o or more likely his iphone took charge. around electric lane large speakers blared with music and the smell of barbecued jerk spice sat trapped in the moisture after the rain. i have to confess that as much as i love coming to brixton, a rainy day here draws the worst of the smells from the earth. add to that the smell of raw meat as most of the area around electric lane and avenue is home to fishmongers and butchers. it's not for the faint hearted. or maybe i have become too sanitised. 

jerk chicken
twitter had informed me that honest burgers is really good and shortly after that young&foodish put honest burgers on its list of top ten burgers in london (honest burgers clocks in at number eight). honest burgers say they are inspired by british produce. the meat for the burgers comes from ginger pig who specialise in cattle raised on the north york moors. there is no doubt that the meat is excellent quality. we had a short wait to be seated during which time o and i roamed around brixton village. most of the space is taken up by cafe's, bakeries and eateries. there is a specialist bakery called the wagfree bakery (an acronym for wheat and gluten free) from where i bought a bloomer made from rice and almond flour for supper as well as some chutney from brixton cornercopia. 

brixton village
brixton village interior
honest burgers
honest burgers is quite tiny and most of its space is dedicated to the open space kitchen where the burgers are cooked. we have a little difficulty choosing. i go for the stilton cheese burger done medium rare. o has the special which is on the menu for three weeks which is a beef, basil, mozzarella, fennel, salami and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise. the burgers come with rosemary salted handcut chips. we are served rather promptly. i press my burger to compact the ingredients and bite into it. the juice drips down my chin. there are layers of flavour here. a sharpish stilton countered by a sweet red onion relish, the crunch of fresh lettuce rendered easier to eat because it is cut into a manageable size. on the side i have a dollop of english mustard mixed slightly into ketchup to tame its peppery heat. there is a complete silence on both sides of the table as both of us just eat. 

honest burger board
honest burger, special of the week
honest burger with stilton 
inside the burger
after o finishes his burger he looks up to me and says very seriously, this is the best burger he's ever had. i'd say this is the best burger i've had in london. the 'honest' in honest burger is more than just its name. it is proof that it really is truthfully a burger. you can add and subtract things like relish and cheese but if i had to eat just the patty on my own, i'd do that very happily. i am sure o and i will be back for more honest burgers. as for the chips, i didn't think much of them although the rosemary salt added not only great flavour but the woody fragrance of the herb goes so well with red meat. i felt that the chips were a little dry. maybe a slightly thicker chip would be nice. what do those who have tried honest burgers think?

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

fourth july joe allen burgermonday meat-up

it's been a long time since the fourth of july burgermonday, in fact a month tomorrow. so yes, i know this is terribly late but i couldn't not write about it. burgermonday is the shape of daniel young's mission to seek out the best burgers and bring together some serious burger aficionados and food lovers. the fourth of july (celebrating the independence day of the land of uncle sam) took place at joe allen in covent garden which is a quintessential new york restaurant. in nineteen seventy-seven joe allen crossed the pond opening another one of itself in london's theatre district. tucked into a side alley of covent garden, joe allen is a simple space whose signature feature is walls covered with posters of theatre productions. it was and still is a popular haunt for journalists, theatre goers, production teams and so forth. 

Monday, 1 August 2011


i made my reservation for lunch at the roganic as soon as they were ready to take reservations. in fact, because its opening ran behind schedule, my initial reservation had to be changed as it clashed with my work trip to sydney. the day of our lunch arrived and it turned out to be a beautiful hot summer day. roganic's location in marylebone village means that once you leave baker street there is relative calm and peace.