Saturday, 23 June 2012

Pantry, High Wycombe

One of my course mates from my barista course, C has finally opened his own cafe/deli in High Wycombe so we decided to head along one Saturday afternoon and pay him a visit before our departure from Blighty. Pantry has only been open for a couple of weeks but is already doing a brisk trade which is encouraging! After much research, C finally went with Faema E61 machine (just like my friend Won!) and uses coffee roasted by Hasbean. 

It really was great to see C realise his dream and I wish him all the best going forward. It looks like the locals appreciate having Pantry as their go-to place for a cup of coffee and cake as there was a constant flow of people whilst we were there enjoying out flat white and cappuccino :)
7 Park Parade
High Wycombe
HP15 7AA 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Dinner chez nous

We have finally made use of the steak pan we bought several months back to make a yummy dinner. Ribeye comes courtesy of Wyndham House with mac and cheese and sauted spinach as sides (also roasted new spuds too but they were in a separate dish) - giving Goodman a run for their money, hehe! :)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Re-visit: Pizza East Portobello

Food is still great, we arrived shortly after 6:30pm on a Saturday so no need to wait for a table, woohoo! Service was poor (aka. London style) and this time, tinged with Italian surliness for good measure:

Me: Can we get the lamb chops.....
Waiter: We have special starter of "x", you want?
Me: No thanks, we'll go with the lamb chops and fritto misto

Looked like there were lots of people (including one front of house wearing an inappropriate length dress and the other wearing a see-thru dress. For the latter, if you are going to do that, at least make sure your bra and pants match!) running around not doing a lot meaning the whole place was in the weeds by 8:30pm!! Pretty piss poor. Didn't bother us since we were almost leaving but I can only imagine how many rich neighbours from nearby Notting Hill getting mightily cheesed off with this?! Ah well.....
Couldn't resist - pork belly and mushroom pizza again for moi :)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday eating: Violet and Cigala

Being on early shift means having the afternoon to loaf around, woohoo! Since I was in town already, I decided to finally make the effort to haul my ass back over to Hackney and check out Violet Bakery once and for all. Violet is owned by Claire Ptak, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse. I had passed by the Violet stall before at Broadway Market and wasn't particularly tempted by what was on offer but decided to give the shop a shot anyway on the basis that there might be more selection? The shop is much smaller than I imagined and literally, in the arse end of nowhere so requires a special effort to track down (esp. for someone who live out west). The ground floor is mostly taken up by a miniscule open kitchen and a small counter in one of the corners. It was pretty dead when I arrived with  just one customer ahead of me but it took an eternity to get served. There was a bit more selection at the shop than at the stall but sadly again, nothing that jumped out and said "Eat me!". I plumped for a couple of mini cupcakes and a mug of Barrys Tea (which was proudly advertised on their blackboard, haha!!!) with milk. Upon sitting down on the first floor, I noticed that my tea was looking particularly greasy and concluded that there must be bits of butter in my milk, eeeugh! When I asked for some more milk, I was told that the milk was non-homogenised which is what produces this extra cream/butter. Thats all grand for baking but not helpful when you don't want tea looking like an oil slick. In the end, the 2nd batch of milk was no better so I had it black. 

Not worth the trek (even with Darina Allen as a champion of Claire), my curiosity got the better of me :(
Okies, I admit that I too am prone to the odd sunken cake but what I will never do is have my dodgy work on display for EVERYONE to see!!!!

Salt caramel and strawberry mini-cupcakes - I had read somewhere before how Claire was really proud of her cupcakes and using fresh seasonal fruits for the icing to give them their vibrant colour. Vibrant they were but more than a little disappointed to find it was a plain vanilla cupcake under the icing. Is it too much to ask for your whole cupcake to taste of the flavour being advertised? If so, then please tell me its a vanilla cupcake with "x" icing next time

Mmmm......not appetising

The "view"? ;)

I met JD later for dinner at Cigala, a Spanish resto recommended by my friend P. She is the marketing and communications of a 2-Michelin star resto so I trust her recs. First impressions were good, the resto is located in a very nice pedestrianised street north of Holborn called Lambs Conduit Street. Welcome at the door was nice but as the resto filled up, the service slowly went downhill.......always requested by us and never offered. The menu had lots of dishes which sounded tempting so we ended ordering 8-9 plates to try. The first plate of croquetas were excellent, the razor clams were not bad but the rest was forgettable, oh wellos.....
Mediocre meatballs

2 stars of the night 

Sorry looking and tasting chipirones

The fact that these chorizo were homemade didn't help - dry, thin and lacking in flavour

This was supposed to be anchovy and Jerusalem artichoke salad - they ran out of the latter and offered just the anchovies to us. We were fine with that but we were charged full whack for the salad, not cool!

I feel "dining out in London fatigue" setting in.....

Monday, 4 June 2012

Final day of eating in Manchester

This is where we should've had breakfast yesterday!!!!! Katsouri's Deli :)

We also spotted a L'Entrecote de Venise the other day during our wanders around town - this is the same resto that my friend D wanted to try when she was in Paris a few years back because of the legendary "secret" sauce that comes with their steak. Intrigued myself, this was where we had our last meal in town. There is no menu as such; you are offered green salad with walnuts as a starter followed by steak frites. All nice and well cooked but I remain unconvinced about the sauce - from my guess, its a creamy mustard sauce spiked with tarragon to give it the Bearnaise taste. Glad we got to try it in the calm of Manchester rather brave the crowds in London :)
Generous portions - there were 2nds of these :)

Belt-busting peach melba for dessert :) 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Lime Tree

After booking our trip to Manchester, I contacted a friend from my old job (who's a proud Mancunian) for recs on where to eat in her home town. She suggested The Lime Tree just outside of the city - we had wanted to get a table for Saturday dinner but they were full so bagged a table for Sunday instead. Its a 10-15 minute taxi ride from town to a place called West Didsbury and from the outside, looked liked a very nice neighbourhood resto. Food was pretty solid even though they got our orders muddled, forgot what we ordered completely and then forgot to place our dessert orders too! The poor waiter who forgot our desserts apologised profusely and offered us digestifs on the house which we declined since JD doesn't drink. In the end, they deducted desserts and tea/coffee off our bill which was very generous. We have been more than impressed by the level of service and friendliness we have encountered in Manchester - it should be like this everywhere but having to endure shitty service in London, it comes as a real treat when you do get it. Our evening at the Lime Tree on paper should've been a complete shambles but the staff managed to sort things out in the end and apologised to us for not getting it right. Sometimes, thats all that's needed - someone to acknowledge that they made a mistake and say sorry, not hard, right? (A big thank you to C for the rec!)
Starter of pork belly and black pudding - was also drawn to the scallop dish on the menu but didn't order cos of the Asian "slant". Bizarrely, that was the dish that was brought out to me by mistake which I would've gladly eaten. Having said that, this wasn't bad.

Fillet of turbot with Morecambe shrimp butter and dauphinoise potatoes - very nice, fresh fish

Sticky toffee pudding - it won't win awards on presentation but it tasted good :)

Manchester Day 2

After a late night out (at the movies cos we're old and boring), we had a much needed ly-in before venturing out for a late brekkie/brunch the morning after. JD had read on the web that one of the best places for brunch in Manchester was The Alchemist which is where we headed since it was not so far from our hotel. We arrived shortly after midday to find that weekend breakfasts stop at midday, a little early in our opinions since this place was being lauded for brunch. We even asked on the sly if we could order some brekkie but sadly, they couldn't do it for us. A shame really cos the rest of the menu was not particularly tempting...

I ended up plumping for a ham and cheese toastie with fries and chose a "Virgin Pornstar" (think mocktail) which was supposedly pineapple juice, passion fruit, vanilla syrup and lemon juice. Juice sounds like a liquid to me (and most other folk) but the drink that appeared before me was solid....from all the ice they sloshed around with it and not exactly the exotic breakfast fruit juice concoction I had in my mind....oh wellos......the decor of the place is nice and I can imagine it being packed after office hours but skip the food.......oh, and only go brunch at the weekends between 10am and midday???!!
Tapatizers - witty, no? :)

 Dazzled by the decor but sadly, not the food

The rest of the day weather wise was fairly miserable so it wasn't long before we found ourselves in search of a warm, dry spot for a cup of coffee and cake. We were in the vicinity of North Tea Power which was a recommendation in my guidebook so in we went. The cafe has a similar feel to the independent coffee shops that we see popping up like 'shrooms everywhere in the big smoke. The guidebook had banged on about the great cakes but on our visit, the selection was looking pretty poorly. JD had a chocolate filled (stale) croissant and I went for a florentine in addition to some tea and coffee. Nice place but too many peeps working on laptops skulking around. At first, I thought it was maybe cos they were using the cafe's wifi but some weren't - how to solve this conundrum if I had my own place? Mmmm.....