Monthly Archives: April 2010
A warm sunny day in London. A wander down the Regents Canal, a dash through Broadway Market, a pint of Shandy at London Fields, a meander around Sutton House, a mosey around Burberry Outlet, a search for somewhere to eat.
I was a bit surprised not to find many good restaurants in Hackey, I’m sure I must have overlooked them. I even used the Top Table app on the iPhone to try and track one down but to no avail. The only one it pointed me to was Cirik Restaurant near Hackney Central Station.
From the outside it didn’t look too promising. Painted purple and gold, it looked a bit like a down at heel lap-dancing club. Looking through the windows was the reassuring sight of crisp white tablecloths but no punters. I wondered if it was closed but was pleased to see a chef turning skewers over a huge charcoal ocakbasi grill.
Our greeting was really friendly, we ordered a bottle of Yakut turkish red wine which was reasonably priced at £15. Then we ordered from the 3 course set menu at £13.95. We both had the lamb shish for the main, for starters we had cacik (kind of garlicky tzatziki) and hummus. This came with turkish bread which was kind of like focaccia with sesame seeds sprinkled on the top. We also had a side order of baby squid which was deep fried in a light batter and served with a disappointingly sharp tartare sauce which was probably out of a bottle.
The main course was delicious. Lamb still tender in the centre and charcoal charred on the outside. With it came rice and the house special pomegranate grilled onion salad and another salad where onions featured heavily. This didn’t bode well for the theatre later! Service continued to be excellent and friendly. We finished the meal with delicious baklava and ice cream then rolled onto the 38 bus home.
Cirrik Turkish Restaurant 1-3 Amhurst Road Hackney East London
On the second leg of the London Burger Challenge I went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen at the Westfield London. I have a love hate relationship with the Westfield Centre. There is a great choice of shops but it is absolutely impossible to make it round in one go and after an hour of shopping I just want to kill everyone around me. Seeking respite from the swell we made our way to the Southern Terrace outside of the main entrance which features a mix of familiar chains as Real Greek, Wahaca, Wagamama etc and some interesting joints such as Balans, Ciao Baby and The Meat and Wine Co.
Fancying a burger we nipped into the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. We were shown to a dinky table for two but they grudgingly gave us a huge booth when we made puppy dog eyes.
We were told how the restaurant ‘works’. Basically, you choose what you want, go to the counter to order and pay for it and then its delivered to you. Its a bit of an odd system, I kind of resent paying £9 for a burger when I have to queue up at the bar and order it for myself. There seemed to be tons of staff too so I don’t know why they can’t just take orders the normal way. Anyway, I ordered the cheeseburger. Boring I know, there were lots of more esoteric choices but I really don’t like extras on the burger and I wanted to compare like for like with Byron.
The menu had just chunky fries. I asked the waiter whether you can have skinny fries and he pointed to the tortilla chips at the top of the menu. I don’t think he had understood. The burgers came in about 5 minutes. Chips were huge and very well cooked. The oil was obviously freshly changed. Burger was juicy and quite delicious. Bun was fluffy and sweet and held the juicy contents well without collapsing. Cheese was mature cheddar which in some ways didnt work. It was over melted and tasted a bit like an overtoasted piece of cheese on toast. I think I prefer a less assertive cheese such as American Jack for a burger.
All in all rather good apart from the odd queue up to order system and lack of skinny fries. Dips were oddly expensive as well at £1.95 each.
Unit 1072, Westfield Shopping Centre, White City, London, W127GB
Feeling a bit under the weather but have friends Jackie and Phil coming to dinner so, as they are vegetarian, Indian seems the way to go. So on the menu was vegetable biriyani, coconut dhal, fresh raita, naan breads and pickles and amaretto syllabub for dessert (have a lot of amaretti biscuits to use up) . All in all very succesful. The dhal especially was very tasty. I read some comments re the recipe and it was felt it was a little bland so I put the seeds from the chillis in also which could have backfired as part way through the cooking it was extremely firy. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and surprisingly it didnt get its revenge on me in the morning.
Recipes and pics follow. From BBC Good Food site
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small cauliflower , broken into small florets
- 2 large sweet potatoes , peeled and cubed
- 1 large onion , sliced
- 1l hot vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp hot curry paste (Madras is good)
- 1 red chilli , seeded and finely chopped
- large pinch of saffron strands
- 2 tsp mustard seeds (black or white)
- 500g basmati rice
- 140g trimmed green beans , halved
- 2 lemons , juice only
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves
- 50g packet salted roasted cashew nuts
- poppadoms and raita, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7/fan 200C. Pour the oil into a large roasting tin or ovenproof dish and put in the oven for a couple of minutes to heat through. Add all the vegetables to the tin, except the beans, stirring to coat them in the hot oil. Season with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 15 minutes until beginning to brown.
- While the vegetables are roasting, stir together the stock, curry paste, chilli, saffron and mustard seeds.
- Mix the rice and green beans with the vegetables in the tin, then pour over the stock mixture. Lower the oven to 190C/gas 5/fan 190C. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the lemon juice and check the seasoning, then scatter over the coriander and cashew nuts. Serve with a pile of poppadums and a bowl of raita.
- 250g red lentils (also called masoor dal or Egyptian lentils)
- 400ml coconut milk
- a handful of fresh curry leaves (find these in the herb section, an Asian grocers, or use coriander leaves)
- flatbread , to serve
- 2 medium chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2-3 long pointy green chillies , sliced
- 2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 onions , one finely chopped, one sliced
- Put the lentils, coconut milk, the chopped onion, tomatoes, chillies and turmeric in a pan with 300ml water, season and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
- Fry the sliced onion in 4 tbsp oil until crisp, add the curry leaves (or coriander) and mustard seeds and sizzle together.
- Pour over the lentils. Serve with flatbread.
Losts of nice pubs for Sunday Dinner around us in Clerkenwell. The Well and The Peasant on St John Street are rather good. The Eagle in Farringdon is rather chaotic but serves superbly memorable food (I still cant forget the steak sandwich). In Islington there are lots of traditional boozers which have been gentrified sensitively so that the original feel of the pub is not lost and long time locals and mode seeking trendies mix easily.
Feels that way at the The Charles Lamb on Elia Street, just of Colebrook Row. The pub is bright and airy and the staff young and eager. I was offered a taste of all the beers before ordering a well balanced bitter called ‘Concorde’. Dogs were treated extremely well, with a bowl of water being brought to them without any prompt and a lot of fussing from the staff.
We went for the Roast Beef which I had seen being brought on to two other tables and that sealed its fate. Unfortunately the card machine was broken so I had to trot on to Angel tube station to get some cash after I put the order in. They handled it very well though allowing people to run up tabs and then dash for cash to clear their bill.
Above the table was a fascinating print of a huge heavily detailed map that someone had created called ‘The Island’ which depicts London as if it were an island complete with smaller islands (Dartford, Gravesend etc), ports and harbours. It was fascinating.
Food came not long after I got back. Beef looked glorious, possibly a little under for me but much prefer under than over. Crispy roast potatoes and a huge pot of horseradish. Only the side vegetables disappointed. Mashed carrots were a bit baby food for me and the cabbage with bacon was more like bacon with cabbage with the heavily smoky bacon overpowering the albeit well cooked cabbage. Overall very satisfying, with a newspaper and nice company I was sad to be dragged away to get the train back to Leicester.
The Charles Lamb
16 Elia Street
London N1 8DE
020 7837 5040
In London I live in food central. To the north is Islington with its chi-chi bars and restaurants seemingly never ending along Upper Street. To the south is Clerkenwell with cutting edge eateries such as St John, Eastside Inn and newly opened eatery popular with the chattering classes, Bistro Bruno Loubet.
And right on our doorstep is Exmouth Market.
Useful shopping street by day, Romatic dining spot in the evening (especially in summer with its outdoor tables, strings of lights above your head and Mediterranean holiday feel), and extraordinary lunch spot from late morning to late afternoon which seem to get a more varied choice as the week goes on.
The choice is fantastic. Many indian choices, Ghanaian favourite Spinach and Agushi, A lamb wrap stand from Moro which looked better than the food that they serve at night (Meoww!),Thai, gourmet hotdogs, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek. Even the humble hamburger is a huge beef rib hamburger, looking like something that Fred Flinstone would order.
We plumped for a burrito which seems to be the street food du jour. Toasted tortilla with beef/pork/chicken, beans, salada, guacamole, rice and three types of salsa. I went for the pork and Rich for the chicken and they were absolutely delicious.
We wandered to Spa Fields to eat it but found not a patch of grass there with officer workers and locals lounging in the sun which felt like such a novelty after the long harsh winter. In the end we ate it back at the flat with loads of kitchen roll.
This easter I had the great fortune to stay with my good friends Francis and Adam in their hamlet in the south of France not far from Montpellier. Both Francis and Adam are great cooks and we enjoyed several superb meals with them making the most of the superb produce available in the region. On Easter Saturday we went out for a delightful meal in a neighbouring village Saint Rome-de-Tarn. Like many villages they take have many fetes during the year and tonight was no exception. Spirits were high despite the damp weather and as always I felt humbled by how welcoming the event was. It was especially good to see young and old people interacting and having fun.
Back to the meal, Hotel des Raspes is a very pretty hotel with a somewhat alpine feel to it. We were made to feel welcome immediately by our beautiful host and shown to our table. Wonderfully, in France other tables greet you as you make your way to your table and again as they leave. I’m not sure that this would happen in Paris however.
The set menu seemed to be the way to go. There were three menus, slightly rising in price. We all went for the Menu des Raspes which was the middle priced one at 30 Euros. The mise en bouch was an amazingly meaty mussel stuffed with sausage meat and served with a saffron sauce. Following that I had the foie gras salad and the others had the Coquille st Jacques. Both dishes came amazingly presented. My salad was in a basket made from a very thin galette and had a very generous portion of foie gras nestled in there. Sadly I didn’t take any photos as I just felt it would have been rude as it was so convivial.
For main course we all went for the lamb. This was excitingly prepared by a very dilligent chef in front of the fireplace which dominates the room. Coals were raked forward and the lamb was cooked on a rack above it. It came with wonderfully fresh seasonal vegetables including asparagus which was partially cooked in what seemed to be an omelette which was delicious.
Cheese course came next which offered wonderful local cheeses from the area which seem to be mostly sheep. Roquefort is only a couple of miles away which is pronounced ‘Rock-a-for’ by the way.
For dessert I had a marquis of chocolate which was again wonderfully rich and intense and an amazing way to finish the meal. For wine we just had a glass of house white with the starter and then a pichet of red which generally in France is always ‘ok’. This was pretty good.
Hotel Les Raspes
Avenue Denis Affre
12490 Saint Rome De Tarn – France