Monday, 30 August 2010

Bank holiday brunch - Providores & Tapa Room

JD and I met up with my bro and Jools for a spot of brunch at Providores & Tapa room on bank holiday Monday. We had originally hoped to bag a table on the ground floor tapa room but the place was heaving at 1:30pm and there was a longish queue waiting outside. Luckily, there was a table available upstairs on the 1st floor but we there was a cover charge of £1.50 per person (dunno what for other than the privilege of being on the 1st floor??) so we grabbed and had a most enjoyable afternoon. I opted for the fry-up whilst the other 3 went for the "healthier" hot smoked salmon with poached eggs and hollandaise. My bro and I, being the fatties that we are, also shared a side of black pudding which was pretty yummy too :)

We didn't try any desserts (we were a little shocked that they cost more than at a 2-star Michelin resto??) but plumped for tea/coffee and shared a plate of biccies/chocs - a mixed bag......

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Oldie but a goodie - Falamanki

Ever since I came back to live and work proper in the big smoke, I have always been fond of Lebanese food. I was first introduced to the cuisine (and the delights of Edgware Road) many years ago by a friend from my MSc who had told me the food was really fantastic and even directed me to some of the nicer places to go. One of the first restos she ever took me to was Al Dar on Edgware Road. There are several branches around town and the closest one to where we live is in High Street Ken - this particular branch is no longer called Al Dar but renamed as Falamanki last year. Thankfully, the only change was to the name and the food has remained delish :)

As usual, we ate like pigs but still found space to gobble up the complimentary baklava that was served with our tea!
  Mezze - houmous, batata harra (spuds fried in onions and peppers), and okra in tomato sauce

JD's main of chicken shawarma served with garlic and chilli sauces

My main of grilled lamb cutlets - yum :)

Friday, 27 August 2010

1 month done and dusted

Time really has flown and I can't believe that I have already done a month at my new job! So far, everything has been going really well and a steep learning curve "comme d'hab" with any new job. My productivity is slowly increasing and I'm slowly finding my way around the kitchen more efficiently which is encouraging. My "doneness-meter" (ie. gauge of whether something is cooked properly) is still needing some fine tuning but hopefully that will come with a bit more experience and then, finger crossed my cakes will look less hacked at!!

I ended the week with a slight mishap with some food colouring whilst making the filling for a cheesecake - I think we should probably put a correction to the recipe in future that says something along the lines of "Add in the food colouring SLOWLY into the mixer or face an explosion of colouring in your face"! Not only did my whites get massacred but I managed to get colouring on my face, neck and arms!! Check out the aspiring serial killer!! Luckily, I was able to pop home for lunch for a scrub down :)

One of my bosses thought it was hilarious so a pic of my whites are now posted on the shop's Twitter account ;)

Am hoping for more of the same over the next few months for the new job, just happy at this point that I have finally found a pretty cool place to work at :) 

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Saturday lunch - Chipotle Grill

Our cravings for a SF style-burrito were partially sated by a Saturday visit to Chipotle Grill. I did feel a sense of deja vu when we got to the counter.....I later realised that we had been a branch of this widespread chain in the US when we were in Monterrey last year :)

Food wasn't too bad and at least had more flavour and kick to it than Wahaca....
JD's steak burrito

My "bowl" of carnitas

Friday, 20 August 2010

Local discovery: Canta Napoli

We have been falling back into our bad weekend habits of eating out and not cooking much at home :(

Since JD is back training for another run in a few weeks time, we decided to try somewhere local after his gym sesh. I had noticed a sign on the high street advertising an Italian resto and first impressions were not good. However, after a bit of digging on the interweb, Canta Napoli looked like it might not be too bad so we decided to risk it for a Friday dinner. We arrived around 9ish and were lucky to land a table as the dining room was still pretty busy!

Food was really lovely as local restos, but their pannacotta is still no contest for Sardo's!
Starter of beef carpaccio - nice and simple, not sure if that gigantic wedge of lemon was needed?!

Some delicious garlic and rosemary pizza bread...

The base would also get Pa Chan's seal of approval haha!! :)

Special main of ravioli stuffed with seafood - a few were a little underdone but in general, it was pretty tasty :)

Mmmm......too stiff and not enough wobble :(

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bar Shu

Now that I have got my job situation sorted, I am finally getting my arse in gear and meeting up with some long lost chums who are still living in the big smoke. I met up with a very dear friend ("la chilanga") after work on Thursday night for a spot of dinner and a much overdue chinwag. We have made a habit of eating out in Chinatown whenever we meet and this time was no exception - I suggested that we try Bar Shu, a Sichuanese restaurant that has been getting rave reviews ever since it opened a few years ago. We managed to grab a table without a reservation and I proceeded to do the usual of ordering too much food :)

The great thing about "la chilanga" is that she's a pretty adventurous eater which meant we could order some of the more "exotic" dishes on the menu......I had a fantastic evening, great food and even greater company - the food in Bar Shu is not bad and I am looking forward to going back and trying some more other dishes. My only gripe is that they don't tell you that service charge is included in the bill and when "la chilanga" went to pay her share by card, the machine gave another further option for giving a gratuity, pretty poor even by Chinatown standards.
Thin slices of beef in numbing hot chilli oil - not actually that spicey. Not sure if I would order it again partly cos the oil is a little off-putting.

Tripe with chillis and peppercorns - HOT! HOT! HOT! Really delicious but potentially a health hazard.

Ox tendons braised with mincemeat served on a bed of pak choi - best dish of the night, mild on the chilli scale :)

Stir fried morning glory with fermented beancurd and chilli

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Here we go round the mulberry bush.....

One of my bosses was invited to go and visit a 300 year old mulberry bush this week and pick any fruit that it might still have. He was getting pretty excited cos apparently, the older the tree/bush, the larger the fruit. Since it was close to the shop, I went along with him one morning armed with buckets thinking that we would come back with a substantial haul to bake with. Alas, no :(

The tree was pretty impressive looking but there was next to no fruit (we were the first people to arrive and even after a bit of a head start, we only managed a paltry 20-something berries! Some other folks were also invited along and one of them suggested that we head further down to the road to another mulberry tree to try our luck - the 2nd tree was much better but we were only a relatively small amount of time for picking.......lots of fun and I am looking forward to planting my own mulberry bush when we finally get a house with a garden :)
The 300 year old beast!

Not a great harvest!

Our puny haul :(

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Weekend eating - Savannah Jerk

After heading to an afternoon showing of "El Secreto de sus Ojos" in town (highly recommended!), JD and I decided to grab a spot of dinner in town before heading home. We headed for an old favourite in Soho, Savannah Jerk for some comforting Caribbean food and were not disappointed - the portions were still as generous as ever, food still only bone of contention was maybe our food could be a little oldie but still a goodie :)
I always order the same thing whenever I come - oxtail with rice and peas, yum!

Fried plantain - another "always" order!

We tried a side of mac and cheese this time as well - not bad

harder than it looks! :)

Generous gift - PH macarons

Part heaven, part hell.......more than a year on and the bittersweet feelings still linger :(

Days off eating

Pizza by the slice from Adagio - sausage and broccoli, potato and pesto

Bento box from Tombo deli in South Ken - chicken teriyaki, lotus root, hijiki and burdock root

Cheesecake with matcha cake base from Tombo - think they get their cakes from Lanka

Cheeky treat - Sushi of Shiori

One of the contenders for 97 month dinner venue was Sushi Hiro - a little restaurant near us in Ealing which has been getting rave reviews over the years and boasts Heston Blumenthal and Mark Hix amongst its diners! Having browsed through a few food blogs, I found out via London Eater that Sushi Hiro had recently changed management and standards have slipped as a result. There was also another entry on his blog about Sushi of Shiori and how he had had a couple of really great meals there. I eventually discarded it thinking that I wouldn't be able to convince JD to a meal of just raw fish.

In the end (and buoyed by the fact that Fay Maschler had just reviewed it in the Evening Standard which only means that it will get busier), we decided to try our luck and go for Saturday lunch - there are only 8 seats in the restaurant and we were lucky to enough to get seated despite no reservations.

The sushi really is that good and I am looking forward to heading back another time, already have it in mind to invite a friend for a omakase dinner there :)
  Iberico pork shabu shabu salad - beautifully presented and pretty tasty but I wouldn't order it again

 Shiori sushi set - fatty tuna (yummy, says JD), salmon, yellowtail, some form of white fish (pardon my ignorance!), sweet shrimp with basil pesto (wow!), scallop with truffle oil (a OMG moment!), crab (not crabstick), salmon eggs and spicy tuna

Chirashi sushi don

Salmon don

Saving the best for last, wagyu beef sushi with ponzu sauce :)

If you are a sushi fan, I suggest you come here asap before the foodie stampede.......after our visit, Jay Rayner also reviewed the resto in the Observer.....

97 month anniversary - Giaconda Dining Room

Over the years, its a sort of tradition that JD and I head somewhere nice for dinner once a month to celebrate how long we have been together and this month, we decided to head to Giaconda Dining Room. We had been wanting to go and try it for a while but just haven't managed it until now - its a tad more difficult to organise going if you work a normal working week cos they are closed at the weekends so managed to bag a table for Friday night. 

Its a pretty small restaurant but not as small as I was expecting - the closeness of the tables reminded me of bistros in Paris :(

Our meal was lovely, food was yummy, service was friendly and prompt and it was excellent value for money - starters, mains, desserts and tea/coffee for 2 as well as a glass of wine for c.£60!!! Definitely somewhere to come back to :)
    Unlimited sparkling water, and olives and bread for the meal, all for a bargain cover charge if £1 per person!

Boneless pigs trotters, spuds, egg mayonaise and salad leaves - mmmmm :)

Duck confit, lyonnais potatoes and watercress salad - delish!

JD's main of ham hock hash - tasty but sadly, the egg was overcooked so no gooey yolk oozing into the hash :(

 Eton mess - definitely not a looker but oh so good!

JD's pud of banana split

Monday, 9 August 2010

Back to a shop :)

After a brief hiatus of c.1 month, I am finally back in gainful employment, woohoo! I've just started my 3rd week and so far, so good:
  • I am a stone's throw away from work so no more commuting and I save on transport costs
  • I am back working in a shop which means early(ish) starts but no more middle of the night finishes
  • Its a small business so I get to work closely with the owners and hopefully, can learn a lot from them and not just in the kitchen
  • Its nice to be back in the kitchen making stuff, bringing it up to the shop and seeing people buying what you have just made :)
  • The cakes we make are very different to what I did at school or at any of the places I have worked at to date........think more hearty and rustic
Definitely good to be back working again and with some genuinely nice folk, a rarity in the workplace!! All I need to sort out now is getting a decent night's sleep :(