Tuesday, 28 June 2011

tangerine dream café, chelsea physic garden

o and i love gardens. i had been counting on a sunny day to take him to the chelsea physic garden. sunday twenty sixth june saw the mercury at a real high in london and turned out to be the perfect day to go. founded in the sixteen hundred's the chelsea physic garden was an apothecaries garden and was meant to train apprentices in identifying plants and continued to be just that until the early eighties when it was opened to the public. i first heard of it from one of my yoga teachers in relation to the garden of world medicine whilst chatting about natural medicine. 

dishoom chowpatty beach bar

pop-ups and food-trucks are the most ubiquitous face of london in the last couple of months. i've lost track of things that are popping-up be it food and now even arts and crafts. the dishoom chowpatty beach bar on southbank is around till october and is complimented by a faux beach that runs along the concrete rimmed edge of southbank. it's a celebration of colour and brightness and on a sunny june day seemed almost natural. i think i'd find it a bit strange on a typical grey and rainy london day...

pitt cue co.

street food is it. sure london has it's fair share of fine dining establishments but sometimes you want that no fuss relaxed experience sans the negotiations of multiple forks and knives and white napkins. i've had pitt cue co. on my list of food trucks to eat at and i figured my birthday was the best day to treat myself. pitt cue co. is a silver van with a few tables and small yellow stools. it is a two man show serving up the best american barbecue you can get this side of the atlantic. pitt cue co. is stationed under the noisy hungerford bridge with wonderful views of the southbank, the city and big ben. luckily for me the sun decided to show its face and that along with pitt cue co. and a made it one of my best birthdays.  

the choices are concise. 
on tuesday the twenty-first there was salt longhorn brisket or pork. there wasn't any chicken and since a and i don't eat pork the brisket it was. for sides there is either slaw or root beer beans. the standard accompaniments are bread, some kind of a sauce (it tasted fruity) and pickles. a had the slaw and i went for the beans because we figured we could share. with our brown boxes full of brisket and the works we headed over to one of the concrete benches and made ourselves as comfortable as is possible on slabs of concrete. 

i am so glad that neither a nor i had had breakfast, because there really is a lot to eat. and unlike other places you don't want to leave a single bit of the brisket. it was so incredibly tender it came apart in shreds. both a and i mused about its textural similarities to the pakistani brunch dish nihari. the manner of cooking is completely different as nihari is akin to a stew in which the beef is cooked for at least six to eights hours. brisket on the other hand is marinaded with a dry rub and then barbecued for up to twelve hours. but they both result in very tender meat. 

the gherkins were slightly sweet with a light crunch. i remember eating jars of these when i was in arizona. somehow the british equivalent of cucumber pickle isn't anywhere near as good as gherkins that manage to achieve just the right notes of sweet, brine and vinegar. a loved the rye bread which as i recall comes from wild caper deli in brixton. but i was fixated by the beans. i love all things bean especially the way they are made in the us of a. i mean the real ones like molasses baked beans or hickory baked beans. i am not much of a fan of the ones that come out of tins although both o and my sibling love heinz with eggs for weekend brunches. the root beer beans here have a lovely smoky flavour with a hint of sweetness. a's side of slaw was the essence of summer, bright red cabbage teemed with bright green parsley. it's flavours were clean and bright with a nice crunch and actually turned out to the perfect side to cut through the hearty barbecue. 

both of us worked our way through our boxes slowly, all the while chatting about pop-ups and food trucks and burger monday meet-ups. ( i am really excited as i am heading to my first burger monday on fourth of july). in the end i had to give up without finishing my bread. i polished a's slaw and he did his best to finish my beans. 

pitt cue co. isn't around for too long. so hurry and go. and go soon. you don't know what you are missing.

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 June 2011

much eating & some drinking: hakkasan,nobu,sake no hana,hush,brindisa soho and freebird burrito's

oh dear. i am so far behind in writing up about my last week or two of much eating and some drinking... so i decided it would be best to write it down all together especially since there will be lots to write-up from this week. i tried pitt cue co yesterday (more about this later as it deserves its own post) and on saturday o and i head to shochu lounge for my birthday dinner. so here are my musings on hakkasan, cocktails at nobu berkeley and hush london and food at freebird burrito's, brindisa soho and sake no hana.

o and i have done much eating and drinking since tenth june some of which has been together and some that i did with girl friends. on friday tenth of june we dined at hakkasan mayfair with o’s boss and his wife to celebrate our wedding. the entrance to the restaurant is so understated that i almost missed it. the interior of the restaurant bears no resemblance to chinese restaurants with their customary globe shaped lanterns and ill suited lighting. hakkasan veers to the other extreme with its modern decor, lattice work and dim lighting. it is almost like a secret underworld of diners speaking in hushed tones. an assortment of entrees had been ordered preceded by a dim sum platter and a tofu appetiser that o ordered for which i don’t have the name. whatever it was, it tasted really good. firm cubes of tofu were lightly coated with a batter and then fried. the mildness of the tofu was accentuated by the chilli flakes that dusted it. for a tofu lover like me, it was perfect.

when it comes to the entree’s they were good. the thing with hakkasan is, i was expecting a combination of tastes or textures that would be unusual. however, i was left wanting. from the san pei chicken claypot with its balance of peppery basil and the heat of chilli to the japanese tofu and blue swimmer crab in a toban, the entrees were well executed but they were similar to what one would eat at chinese establishments around london. for me the best parts of the dinner (aside from the company) were the lychee martini’s and if i were to return to  hakkasan it would be for the dim sum, tofu and martini’s. after we got done from dinner o and i walked down a couple of yards to nobu berkeley to have another round of cocktails. o and i definitely recommend the cocktails here as they are a lovely twist of east asian and western flavours. o had the sekkai gin which was a refreshing combination of lime infused gin, apple juice and kumquats. in line with my current addiction to all things elderflower i had the kyoho queen which brought together tart apples, vodka, elderflower syrup and the sweetness of honey and grapes.

on a thursday evening n and i found ourselves drowning the tiredness of two long workshop days over cocktails at hush. i love the cocktail bar here the approach to which is through a little cobbled pathway leading down from the shoppers mecca that is bond street. suddenly you find yourself in a small courtyard with just the hum of human conversation and none of the noise and human shuffle of bond street. a special mention goes to the mayfair cosmopolitan and the kiwi and cucumber martini’s and the nocellara del belice olives that we had. n and i split a forman’s smoked salmon on sourdough bread which was excellent. you can't of course go wrong with forman's smoked salmon but equally good was the green salad with rocket and some herbs cutting through the richness of the salmon.

and speaking about outings with colleagues, sake no hana is really good for business lunches (especially if you have a tastecard). i’ve been twice recently and absolutely loved the food. although both times the service left a little to be desired for on account of slowness. the shishito peppers with their heat blistered skins and large flakes of rock salt were really good to start with. the special dishes are particularly worth trying – n loved the toban chilean sea bass with miso. in fact i really loved this firm fatty and very meaty fish as it stands up well to the deep saltiness of miso. equally good was the slow poached rump of beef that came with an assortment of vegetables and mushrooms. az and i both loved the iron pot black cod rice simply because of the contrast of flavours and textures. the server mixed the contents of the pot (black cod, rice, scallions and eggs) upon bringing it to the table and served it to us in little bowls. it is similar in concept to the korean bibimbap but much milder. i loved how the rice at the bottom of the pot turned crisp adding crunch to the otherwise soft rice, fish and egg. i will definitely be returning as i’ve got a list of things i want to try especially the aubergine roasted in red and white miso. 

aside from the food i love the interior of sake no hana. the wood work and shutters mediate the way light filters through the large windows of the building. and the lightly coloured wood gives the place a warmth even on grey london days. aside from the food alan yau's strength is to create eating spaces that are pleasure to be in. 

i recall that at some point on friday afternoon (despite the pouring rain) i stopped at freebird burrito’s in exmouth market to get myself a steak burrito with the works – sour cream, guacamole, salsa verde, rice and black beans. i have to admit that i am still nowhere near a proper burrito in london. freebird has many ups – a really really good tortilla, very good black beans and salsa verde and actually very good steak. the team are very adept at composing the burrito and wrapping it tightly in foil. the downside was the guacamole. there just wasn’t enough texture in it and it could have done with a little more citrus and a little chilli heat. sigh. i really need to make a trip to arid-zona again to fulfill my burrito, mole and tamale cravings. or perhaps even to mexico itself. follow @freebirdburrito on twitter.

on  thursday the seventh s and i had a long overdue catch up at brindisa soho. we had planned to go to polpo soho but weren’t inclined to wait up to an hour so landed up at brindisa soho instead (i find myself agreeing with ariel leve on the vagaries of restaurant reservations and queuing). admittedly the seating was very cramped and it was a bit disconcerting to sit eating facing a huge mirror. from the brindisa classics we picked the chilli garlic prawns and handmade goats cheese with orange blossom honey and crispy beetroot, the seabass with an aubergine, onion and red pepper compote came from the tapa plates and from the picoteo i picked the green and black olive with capers. out of all of them the olives were the most disappointing – they were dry with an overpowering salty note having been teemed with equally salty capers. s picked a lovely sauvignon blanc with a fruity note. the chilli garlic prawns came steeped in oil and had been cooked till just tender. the garlic was in the form of caramelised slivers adding a slightly sweet and sticky after taste. i know that s and i were unanimous in our love for the goats cheese which was lightly battered along the sides, fried and drizzled thick with honey, the sweetness of which cut through the pungency of the cheese. the crispy beetroot was the least interesting element on the plate but it did much in terms balancing the colour palette. in all the tapas the emphasis was on the balance of colour, flavours that were sweet and savoury and texture too. it is not necessarily the most reasonably priced meal and is probably better suited to people who are happy to share. i know that o would claim that he won’t fill up on tapas. but i have come to realise that tapas are the deceptive way to eat a very filling meal. in that combination of cheese, fish and seafood along with some bread s and i had eaten more than a full meal. in fact we were so stuffed that we had no space for dessert despite me being tempted by the catalan custard or the almond cake. well, i guess there is always a next time.

p.s. between the pouring rain, the sins of greed and gluttony and in the case of dinner with colleagues and bosses i didn’t manage to get any pictures. but don’t let that deter you from trying out all of the above. especially the cocktails at nobu, hush and hakkasan.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


kipferl, angel
it has been a while since macondo closed its doors in angel. i quite miss the huevos divorciados. in its place we now have kipferl - an austrian/viennese cafe. o and i met a there for a quick lunch on a sunday. both o and i had sausages - his was porky and mine was a plain old beef frankfurter. o's came with a side of sauerkraut, rye bread, mustard and grated cheese. mine came with the days salads - cucumbers and dill, potatoes and grated carrots. there isn't anything special about the food here. it's cheerful but in a very basic manner with the most minimal of seasonings. 

tea at the wolseley

wolseley, a london institution
my mum-in-law is in london and both o and i wanted to treat her to something special and something british. it was the perfect occasion to have tea at the wolseley. the cafe-restaurant is a beautiful and old period building. it was originally conceived as a showroom for cars but the business failed fairly quickly. from nineteen twenty seven to nineteen ninety nine it was a barclay's bank (much to o's astonishment who works at barclay's). and since two thousand and three it has been a restaurant. 

a paki supper at thirty-two

channa masala, rice and aloo tikki's

c spent a night with us at thirty-two. the last time we met was in twenty o eight when she was in town to attend our graduation from the lse. now she is back in boston. much has happened since. i got married, she signed up to a long-term position at work, we both lost a lot of weight and crossed over the mid-twenties. but a lot has stayed the same. we're still nerdy, we still get excited about talking about human rights and we still love eating channa masala. so in honour of her i made my mum's recipe for channa masala and the spice spoon's aloo tiki (pakistani potato cutlets). on the side i made a coriander-mint yoghurt to soothe over the chilli i added to the channa's and aloo tiki. i served it with steamed basmati rice and geeta's mango chutney. 

slow-roasted strawberries

slow roasted strawberries
a while back i found a recipe on twitter for 'slow roasted strawberries'. i bookmarked it for a punnet of a strawberries that aren't necessarily the best of the season. it came in handy sooner than i thought it would. so here is my version of "eat the love's" slow roasted berries.