Archive for June 2009


Sushi Hiro (Ealing)

June 29th, 2009 — 10:54am

I actually visited Sushi Hiro almost two months ago so I’m busting it out from the archives now before my memory lets me down completely. My mate and I had been in West London for the Real Food Festival and thought it would be criminal not to ride the extra few stops out to Ealing to try this place we’d heard so many good things about.

From the outside, Sushi Hiro ain’t much to look at. In fact, you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s even open* but a nervous peek round the door reveals otherwise. The interior is most definitely no frills – white walls, a few basic tables and a typical bar to the left behind which chefs busy themselves with the art of crafting what we would find out is some really decent sushi. The chefs were not the first thing which impressed about Sushi Hiro though (for their total, unwavering concentration and fastidiousness is very impressive), it was the fresh salty smack of sea scent (not fishyness), which hits you in the face as soon as you walk in. An unexpected but very welcome surprise from a teensy joint in Ealing.

We wolfed down the complementary edamame while perusing the menu and deciding upon a generous deluxe sushi plate each, which included amongst others mackerel, salmon, eel, belly tuna and scallop (about £16 I think). The fish was beautifully fresh, generously portioned and positively gleaming with eat-me factor. The sushi rice was slightly warm, which was new to me but seemed right and proper. As my mate and I are total pickle addicts, we had to order some pickled gourd and pickled radish maki. We reveled in their sweetness but I thought they might benefit from a touch more tang. I’m picky about pickles.

All in all, some great sushi, the best I’ve eaten in London so far. Despite the fact I’ve a fair few places yet to try I still feel that London is in need of more excellent examples like this one. Some more in Saaf East would be good too, thanks. People down here need sushi too you know.

1 Station Parade
Uxbridge Road
London
W5 3LD
0208 896 3175
*Opening Hours Tue-Sun 11:00-13:30 & 16:30-21:00

Sushi-Hiro on Urbanspoon

17 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Cherry Beer Can Duck

June 24th, 2009 — 8:07pm

After the success of the beer can chicken, I was keen to use the method again but this time with a duck and some cherry beer. As far as I know, cherry beer doesn’t come in cans so I bought a bottle and just tipped it into a regular beer can (king size Stella cans so I could get more beer in – credit to Chris for that idea).

I think I’ve got the BBQ ‘indirect cooking’ method pretty much down now – it basically involves moving the hot coals to the sides of the BBQ and using a roasting tray to catch the fat. The lid needs to be on to get the heat circulating. My two major concerns were ensuring that the drip tray was deep enough (as a duck is so fatty) and also taking steps to get maximum crispiness of skin. Twitter is always useful in these situations and some great advice came from @justcookit who advised scoring and salting heavily an hour or so before, then dusting off and salting again, to draw some moisture out.

The next question was what to serve it with. I didn’t want anything hot as the weather is too glorious. Again, Twitter to the rescue and a joint effort between @SimonMajumdar and @theboydonefood produced the idea of a fruity slaw of red cabbage, raisins and orange zest. Simon suggested using smetana, which I had to google and could probably have sourced in the Polish deli nearby but I was strapped for time and so subsituted sour cream. It worked well. I fancied a handful of sour cherries to continue the cherry-duck theme but couldn’t find any so a packet of cranberries lurking at the back of the cupboard it was and a fine slaw was born.

As the time came to eat the duck, the lid was lifted to a chorus of oohs and aahs (yes two people can make a chorus) – the skin all over the bird was beautifully crisp. We rejoiced. The bird was removed, covered with foil and left to rest. Ten minutes passed and then, a moment of horrible realisation. I’d set the bird to rest breast down…the crispy skin – noooo! I’m sad to report that yes, a teensy bit of crispness had been lost but…I’m over it. A little bit. The fat overall was just – wow. Duck takes on smoke like a dream. The meat was a bit overcooked but still blushing, incredibly moist and I detected, I think, a slight hint of fruit.

The slaw worked well, cutting through the richness of the duck but I think next time I’ll make some kind of cherry chutney affair to boost the cherry flavour a bit. Overall though, I declare the venture a resounding success – apart from one little drunken fail in the middle. Must remember not to steam myself in cherry beer as well as the bird next time…

The beer can method is here. Remember to score and salt the duck for an hour before cooking and of course, rest it breast side up.

21 comments » | Barbecue, Main Dishes, Meat

Taste of London ’09

June 22nd, 2009 — 9:05pm

I’m sure you all know the format of the Taste of London festival by now – a selection of London’s top restaurants serve up miniature versions of their dishes for Monopoly money (festival currency or ‘crowns’ – £1 for 2) and hungry punters like you and me snap up as many as possible while swanning around Regent’s Park in the sunshine. So, on Sunday, the final day of the festival, a group of us hungry bloggers did exactly that. Here’s my pick of the dishes that wowed and those which could have done better…

No sooner had we walked through the gate than Fino sucked us right in with their impressive paella pan brimming with arroz negro – deeply satisfying rice cooked with squid ink, which packed a hefty umami punch and bore treats of prawns and squid in its rich, murky depths. Their lamb cutlets with ajo blanco were also spectacularly juicy and tender. Both simple dishes but both packed with flavour.

Seven hour braised lamb with balsamic onions and mash (Tom’s Kitchen) was another stand out dish and apparently the most popular at the festival on the previous day. Heavenly melty tender pulled meat with sweet and sharp onions and the lightest cloud of mash. A bit of a gamble serving up roast meat and tatties on a summers day but one that clearly paid off.

Another honourable mention must go to this seared marinated salmon with fennel and grapefruit salad from Boxwood cafe. I can’t really be bothered with cooked salmon but adore it raw and this generous portion was just lightly seared without and raw and silky within. Perfect. Slivers of wafer thin fennel and a citrus burst of grapefruit freshened the dish.

My highlight of the day (from my favourite restaurant overall) was this strawberry and hibiscus bellini from The Ledbury. A fragrant hibiscus mix lay underneath the most intensely fruity strawberry foam. For me, this drink was perfect in every way. We started giggling with our very first sips and didn’t stop oohing and aahing until the whole thing was gone and we walked away giddy with pleasure. It was served with a freshly fried jammy doughnut which satisfied the inner child but seriously, it was all about that bellini.

The Ledbury’s main course was also a winner – celeriac baked in ash (made using hay apparently), with hazelnuts, summer truffle and a kromeski of wild boar. The kromeski turned out to be a little fried parcel with a super crisp outside encasing deep, rich, tender boar meat. The celeriac was totally transformed – slightly bitter, slightly sweet and visually unrecognisable although, it has occurred to me since that it isn’t in season. Still, whatever, I really don’t care because it tasted great and I am now saving furiously (as are my festival companions) for a full on dinner at The Ledbury (that’s their starter at the top by the way).

And here are the dishes I felt were disappointing…firstly, this tomato pasta from L’Anima was just rather boring. Perhaps at a different time and place it might have been ambrosial (e.g. your mate’s house on a weeknight) but in the midst of all the exciting flavours at Taste, it was simply lost. I’m sorry to say their chicken alla Romana also fared quite badly with our group for the same reason. Perhaps we just had palate fatigue. That said, their offering of fettucine with wild mushrooms and summer truffles was spectacular (it carried a price tag of £24 crowns (£12) to match).

And finally, probably the worst dish of the day for me – sweetbreads and lamb’s tongue from Hereford Road which sounded fantastic but in reality was absolutely crying out for seasoning. The accompanying parsley salad was also a let down. It was just all parsley but not in the same way as the vibrant, piquant salad which comes with roast bone marrow at St. John is all parsley – it was just dry and uninspiring.

Happily, most of what we ate at Taste was delicious but, at £25 per ticket before you’ve even bought any food, you’re really crossing your fingers that it will be. On this occasion, The Guardian dished out press passes to readers and bloggers as part of their #tastefringe event, which allowed us free entry in exchange for tweeting in tandem with our munching (read our collective tweets here). The festival provides the opportunity to sample dishes from many different restaurants and of course I thoroughly enjoyed doing just that but I must admit – without the privilege of the press pass, the cost of Taste of London would have been a prohibitive one for me this year.

You can see the full extent of our gluttony in my Flickr set here.

10 comments » | Food Events

Crumpet Fail

June 18th, 2009 — 2:17pm

Crumpets are the ultimate comfort food for me – all toasty and spongy and most importantly, outrageously buttery. Tea is an essential accompaniment. Many problems can be solved with a double round of brews and crumpets. Everyone has a favourite way to eat them – eggy crumps, Marmite crumps, jammy crumps, I could go on. When it comes down to it though, my favourite way to eat them is just pure and simple, nowt but batter and butter.

You can imagine how it pains me then that I have never, ever managed to make a decent crumpet and it’s not for want of trying I can assure you. I’ve followed recipes which use baking powder and those without, I’ve tried resting it once, twice or not at all. I’ve tried varying the heat levels and I’ve tried cooking them with and without rings.*

Every time the batter starts to cook however, the bubbles start to rise to the top and pop a few times and then something just…stops. Actually, it’s more than that – somehow, the holes manage to actually re-seal themselves. What is that all about?! Every time I end up with a stodgy batter patty with a pool of butter swimming on top. The fat cannot get in and this is bad, very bad indeed.

So, this is a plea for help people – share your secrets please! One of you must surely have the key to a good bit of crumpet?

*I’ve tried so many recipes that I haven’t bothered to list them all but if you type ‘crumpet recipe’ into Google I’ve basically worked my way through the first page.

24 comments » | Crumpets, Monumental Fail

Galvin at Windows (French, Westminster)

June 13th, 2009 — 3:22pm

My meal at Galvin a couple of weeks ago was a birthday celebration with an old friend who, until a cold and rainy evening early last year, I hadn’t seen for well over 10 years. We re-connected online and I am one of the only people I know who can say that facebook has brought something meaningful into my actual, real, offline life.

I remember the nervous feeling as I approached that first meeting with my friend after so many years, battling against sheet rain, hoping it was worth it, crossing my fingers we wouldn’t have grown apart in incompatible directions. As you can probably guess, I had nothing to worry about and that freezing wintry night catching up on 15 years of life events over burgers and cocktails seems a world away now from the glorious balmy evening at Galvin. We gazed out over London, champers in hands, and toasted our birthdays (on the same day), some big changes (both of us, work related) and the joy of a rekindled friendship.

Galvin is on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton and I’ll admit I felt a tad nervous – not because of the height (although it does make me wobbly) but because of the blazing sun – the place is all windows for chrissakes. I’ve been to Galvin before however and so knew that I would again enjoy their highly entertaining management of the blinds, which go up and down more often than the lift to the restaurant.  I swear they must employ someone full time to operate the controls – or perhaps they’ve got some poor sod on work experience doing it.

The view is truly stunning, which is always a worry with a restaurant as they may rely on it to pull in the customers rather then focusing on the food. Fortunately for Galvin, this isn’t the case. Both feeling a bit skint, we decided to go for the ‘La Carte’ dinner menu (£33 for three courses), which Galvin have introduced on the back of the success of their ‘credit crunch lunch’ offer.

I started with a very pretty and summery plate of smoked salmon with Cornish crab and avocado puree. The salmon was silky and excellently smoked, the amount of crab just on the right side of the line between subtle and and lost and the avocado puree super smooth and creamy. A touch of pickled ginger at first caught me off guard but was nonetheless a welcome surprise due to my serious pickle addiction.

My friend ordered the asparagus with poached quails egg and grapefuit hollandaise and I’m going to assume this was good as I can’t remember anything she said about it. In fact, things started to get a little hazy from here on in, perhaps due to the pre-dinner cider (we both hail from the shire) followed by bubbly and then some excellently matched glasses of wine. I do remember being impressed by the friendly sommelier but I’m afraid the names of his choices escape me now (I know, I know but I have a full on wine post coming soon so forgive me).

I continued on a fish theme with sea trout and wild asparagus, which I’ve not tried before. I found the flavour stronger than the regular green variety and ever so slightly bitter. The fish was perfectly cooked with faintly translucent, meaty flakes and a good crispy skin. My mate ordered the beef with yet more asparagus so between us I think we gave the 2009 asparagus season a damn good send off.

For dessert we ordered the apple tart tatin for two, which arrived in the pan, was cut in half at the table and served with caramel sauce and Calvados crème fraîche, which I immediately plonked on top of the hot tatin for oozy, melty hot ‘n cold goodness. I noted dessert envy glances from a neighbouring table. It was truly one of the dreamiest tatins I’ve ever tasted and I’m still annoyed that it managed to defeat me, which is really saying something because I’m pretty greedy.

For £33 I think the ‘La Carte’ menu at Galvin is great value. The food was delicious, well presented without being fussy and importantly, not stingy on the portions, which can be a danger with a fixed price menu offer. If I have to find something to complain about it would be the fact that the service can be a little bit too attentive at times but mostly, we were too busy chatting for this to be a problem.

There was no hint of embarrassment from my long lost friend as I snapped these photos by the way – during only our second meal together at Wahaca, I broke out the camera and was delighted to find her not the least bit self-conscious or concerned that I might have lost my mind. I knew at that moment we would be friends for years to come.

Galvin at Windows
22 Park Lane
London
W1K 1BE
0207 208 4021

www.galvinatwindows.com

Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon

15 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Jerk Beer Can Chicken

June 10th, 2009 — 7:10pm

I was determined to BBQ last weekend, come rain or shine. In the end we got a bit of both and I managed to grill this fowl without the need to employ the emergency umbrella technique. The jerk sauce is a work in progress right now as very annoyingly I lost my recipe which only needed slight improvement after going down well at the Tipped Winter BBQ. This sauce needs more sticky sweetness and I’m pretty sure I added tomato ketchup the first time around. Is that a crime against jerk?

The main reason I wanted to make this anyway was for the method, which I came across in Fiona Beckett’s book ‘The Frugal Cook’, when I reviewed it here. It basically involves lowering a chicken onto a half full can of beer and then gently turning it onto the BBQ. The steam from the beer keeps the bird incredibly moist – the fact that it looks funny is a bonus.

Jerk Beer Can Chicken (UPDATED RECIPE HERE)

Jerk seasoning, enough for two medium sized chickens (like I say, this is work in progress, it’s yummy but I’ll experiment with the ketchup)

4 scotch bonnet chillies, de-seeded
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 spring onions
50g ginger
8 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
2 tbsp thyme leaves
2 tbsp brown sugar
120 ml white wine vinegar

- Whack the whole lot in a food processor and slather it over the meat. Let it sit for as long as possible, ideally overnight.

The Beer Can Method (from The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett)

- Fiona doesn’t mention her BBQ lighting preferences but I prepare mine for cooking large bits of meat or chickens by lighting the coals in the centre, letting the flames burn off and when the coals are white hot, move them to the sides. Put a drip tray (I use a small roasting tin) in between the coals, then put the grill on top and you’re good to go.
- Drink half the beer from the can then lightly oil the can and sit the chicken on top of it (as below). Then lay it carefully on the BBQ, cover and cook for about an hour for a medium sized chicken. The bird is cooked when you pierce with a skewer at the thickest part of the leg and the juices run clear.
- Use tongs to remove the beer can and then transfer the chicken to to a warm dish. Let rest for 10 minutes or so and then serve.

26 comments » | Barbecue, Caribbean Food, Main Dishes, Meat, Not Quite Right

Ganapati (Indian, Peckham)

June 7th, 2009 — 10:59am

The decision to visit Ganapati on Friday night was a last minute one, largely based on reading this review and finding out it was but a ten minute walk from our flat. I called ahead and managed to snap up the very last table for two at 9.15 – an encouraging sign that they are nice and busy. The restaurant is a small, cosy space, situated behind Peckham Rye Station with a tiny garden out back where we waited beneath the shadow of magnificent towering banana trees. The menu is also reassuringly small, changes every six weeks and focuses on ‘home-style’ cooking.

What I love most about South Indian food became immediately apparent as we arrived – it is the liberal use of curry leaves – the unmistakable smell thwacks you right in the face as you walk in the door. And, sure enough, my starter of crab thoran came with glistening, crispy fried specimens nestling in amongst it. The crab was very well spiced with lovely little nuggets of coconut and an accompanying yoghurty dip to contrast the dry thoran. I had real trouble leaving half of it for Chris (we nearly always eat half of our dishes and swap over).

Chris’s choice, the vegetarian street snacks was also excellent, consisting of two Mysore Bonda (spicy potato balls fried in chick pea batter) and Parippu Vadai (ground chana dal with ginger, curry leaf and green chilli). The beautifully crisp outer layers encased an explosion of spices within, which just danced around the mouth and made us both ravenously hungry for our main courses – you couldn’t ask more from a starter.

I was a bit disappointed to see that all main dishes come with plain boiled rice ‘unless otherwise stated’ as I generally just eat bread with my curry but it turned out the portions were small and actually rather welcome anyway. We chose the Aleppey Fish Curry – sea bream fillet cooked in a tomato based sauce which was a little more subtle then we anticipated and if I’m honest, a tad disappointing. There was very little of the advertised heat and it was walking a bit of a fine line between subtle and bland. That said, it was still gobbled up earnestly and I again appreciated the generous sprinkling of curry leaves.

Our second main course was the Malabar Prawn Curry (we were clearly in a fishy mood), which came with an excellent thoran and lemony pickle. The sauce was well spiced with predominant flavours of coconut and fennel although unfortunately the prawns were rather on the mushy side, which leads me to think they may have been frozen. Overall, the mains didn’t quite measure up to the high standards set by the starters.

A special mention must defnitely go to Ganapati’s parathas though, which are so flaky and buttery and delicious and probably the best I have ever eaten. They are also the only bread on the menu, which is a good thing because it saves me from ever having to feel bad for not trying anything else.

I have a feeling the vegetarian dishes are what Ganapati does best and I think next time I will largely stick to them, perhaps trying one meat curry just to make sure. I really wanted to try the curd rice and okra curry with green mango and I’ve already scheduled a revisit with some mates to do exactly that. I am thrilled to have discovered a local restaurant like Ganapati, a hugely welcome relief from the numerous Indian places in East Dulwich, none of which have ever struck me as particularly unique. If there are any opinionated East Dulwicher’s out there who disagree – do let me know.

Speaking of which, you may have heard about my causing a stir recently on the East Dulwich forum over this review of The Palmerston in which I say that I think their portions are stingy for the price. The Palmerston got wind of the thread and came out with a rather defensive and patronising response to my criticism (you’re just a blogger so we don’t care), which you can see here (or read the entire thread here).

Imagine my amazement then, as we are nearing the end of our meal at Ganapati and my ears prick up to the words ‘food blogger’ uttered at the adjacent table and, as we eavesdrop further, we realise he is recounting the story of my thread on the forum! I must say I was somewhat relieved to hear that he was ‘shocked at the vitriol on the forum’ and recognises that ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’. We had to concentrate all our efforts on trying not to laugh at the fact people are actually talking about ‘forumgate’ over their Friday night curry. It seems that pissing people off is the way to get tongues wagging. Ladies and gentlemen, I have officially arrived…

Ganapati South Indian Kitchen
38 Holly Grove
London
SE15 5DF
0207 277 2928
www.ganapatirestaurant.com

Ganapati on Urbanspoon

36 comments » | Peckham, Restaurant Reviews

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