Search results for ‘oysters’

Sunday Leftovers No. 4

December 15th, 2013 — 09:48 pm

Alaskan king crab and steak

I’ve had toothache. The last 2 weeks have been dominated by a horrible, pulsating, radiating pain so I’ve mostly been moaning and having conversations like this:

Me: “Owwwww”

Boyfriend: “Would you like some clove oil for the pain? Then I’ll go to the shops and buy you some of that cheap pink fizz you like to get drunk on when you’re feeling sorry for yourself and also some ice cream and chocolate. Then I’ll go to Silk Road and get some of your favourite noodles and tuck you into a blanket on the sofa and tell you how great you are.”

Me: “FUCK OFF I HATE YOU EVERYTHING IS SHIT RAAAARRGGGGGHGHGHGHHGG!!!!”

So it’s been a little unpleasant, basically. I’ve been more than a little unpleasant. Toothache stops me from eating and I’m not down with that, which does not explain why this is such a bumper edition of Leftovers. I’m shocked at my own dedication.

The best meal in recent memory award goes to a test run of the menu for Goodman’s soon to open steak and crab restaurant (top photo). It will serve large bone-in steaks alongside freshly cooked Alaskan king crabs, which have incredibly sweet meat and, obviously, are MASSIVE. Sides (we ate truffled potatoes and broccoli) and starters (we ate oysters from Rex Goldsmith and pata negra ham) will come included in the price – the very expensive price. This is going to be a restaurant for rich people, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Dirty Burger in Vauxhall is a funny old place, it turns out; a bit like eating in a restaurant at a theme park, all fake corrugated iron and plastic wood. The music is very loud and the seats uncomfortable. It’s a transient space, built to serve people burgers which they ideally take away. The burger isn’t bad actually, cooked medium rare with a decent bun, although I can’t say I was into the cheese which did that horrible almost-splitting thing. Saying that processed cheese works best in a burger is almost a cliche now, but that doesn’t stop it being true.

Dirty Burger, Arch 54, 6 South Lambeth Rd, Vauxhall, SW8 1SS

Chicken Shop has opened a branch in Tooting, and again there’s a touch of the Alton Towers about the decor. The food however hits the spot. Having tried um, everything on the menu, I’d recommend you get your rotisserie chicken with a salad of butter lettuce and avocado and perhaps a pot of coleslaw. Some people are into chips I believe. The chicken is pretty much as it should be – plenty of crisp skin most importantly – and although the meat was slightly dry in places, it wasn’t a big deal considering the price. We ate 2 whole chickens and all the sides twice between 4 people and with 2 jugs of red it was about £15 each. Their habanero hot sauce was pretty fine actually, with a proper bit of heat; I’d happily have paid to take a bottle home.

Chicken Shop, Ground Floor, 141 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SY

A lunch at Harnett Holder and Co. in the New Forest couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the scoff it and run approach of Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop. This is a truly stunning setting for a restaurant and – mega bonus points – they have a tree swing by a lake. It’s way better than any you had as a kid though because you can take a martini with you and let’s face it, nothing aids digestion like a good stomach lurching swing from a tree.

The food was a bit of a see saw experience too; best was a starter of dinky pickled vegetables and pink peppercorns on a fluff of goats’ cheese so big it was almost as if I’d dished it up myself. A pot of whipped cod’s roe however was let down by the fact it didn’t have nearly enough cod’s roe in it; a cruel disappointment. Weirdly, considering Hartnett’s involvement, the pasta dishes were least impressive, but a beef fillet dish was unexpectedly great; at first glance it looked dry but it turned out it was just weirdly presented – underneath was an impressive sticky gravy loaded with trompette mushrooms.

Harnett, Holder and Co, Lime Wood, Beaulieu Rd, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ

I’m afraid Tozi wasn’t for me; some very mediocre charcuterie, fridge cold cheeses and a stale house bread selection were not, as the internet would say, For The Win.  In their favour, some soft shell crab did actually tasted of crab rather than batter, but they failed to tell us that it also came as part of the fritto misto we’d ordered. A side salad was criminally undressed and the whole meal left an aftertaste of ‘meh’. A little more attention to detail needed.

Tozi, 8 Gillingham St, London SW1V 1HJ

In Camberwell, Angels and Gypsies have opened ‘The Communion Bar’ underneath the restaurant which is the kind of place I feel I could lose a few hours in. It’s dark, and filled with imposing furniture that you can just about see due to the stained glass style lights on the walls. They have communion wafers on the tables, so now I know that communion wafers taste of precisely nothing. Their martini needs a bit of work to be honest, but I’ll go back because it’s just so completely random and unlike any other place in Camberwell, which is due for some new arrivals. Speaking of which, renovation work has started on the Recreation Ground pub which has been acquired by the Anchor and Hope group. I shall be living in the place when it opens (I believe) in January.

The Communion Bar, 29-33 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8TR

Sandwich of the week goes to this garlic mushroom melt which is basically mushrooms fried with a shitload of garlic and butter, piled into a bagel with Swiss cheese and a slick of Maille mustard infused with white wine and morels. The mustard has a real hoof of vinegar which was absolutely essential in avoiding cheese fatigue.

I also went to Iceland for a few days too; you can read about the time I got drunk and ate five hotdogs here and about the rest of the food here.

In cat related news, here’s a blog which is about both cats AND sandwiches. No I don’t write it. Cat pic of the week is Chas and Delia doing some painfully cute snoozing in which they appear to be HOLDING TAILS.

And finally, there’s still time to leave a comment on my post here, telling me about the last sandwich you ate; tomorrow one commenter will win a signed copy of 101 Sandwiches.

I need a lie down.

5 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Sandwiches, Sunday Leftovers

Dabbous. Boo Hoo.

August 29th, 2012 — 11:31 am

Despite being happier trekking to jerk shacks in zone 3 rather than queuing outside the hottest new restaurant in Soho, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at all interested in necking fish skin chips at Lucky Chip’s new slider bar, or washing down hot dogs with fizz at Bubbledogs. Of course I bloody am.

I’d written Dabbous off, thinking it would be impossible to get a table and really, it is, unless you have the chance, like I did, to benefit from the misfortune of some poor sod who couldn’t make his reservation. Don’t mind if I do, Hugh.

It’s the kind of restaurant I can’t really afford to eat at nowadays; my quarterly blowouts at The Ledbury are less frequent since London seems to suck up more of my dosh than ever before but I just couldn’t miss this spot at such a hot restaurant. Lame? Yes. Irresponsible? Yes. So you understand why I was thinking it had better be good…

The set lunch menu looks good value at £26 for 4 courses and so does the tasting menu at £53 for 7. We desperately want the latter but are short on time and so ask them just how fast they can get us through that menu. Well, we do that once we catch the attention of someone who will actually come to the table. Much eye contact is made in vain before this happens. Eventually however, we are reassured, ‘if you can eat fast, we can bring the food as fast as you like’. Done.

It’s easy to see where the restaurant is making its margin in the first two courses. I’m quite taken with the ‘peas and mint’ however; a sort of firm pea mousse (sounds gross I know), a granita on the side and the prettiest arrangement of petals, shoots, pod and pansy in the whole world (top photo). The next course, ‘ripe tomato in its own juice’ sounds optimistic. A ripe tomato? Really? Imported? Hopefully. The flesh itself is okay I suppose, speckled with salty dehydrated olive bits. It’s just a tomato though, and not a particularly amazing one. The surrounding juice, which I’m sure has been made using some sort of very sophisticated technique, is just way too sweet. ‘This would be great as a drink with a shot of vodka in it” remarks my mate. He’s right. As a plate of food, not so much.

The much hyped coddled egg with smoked butter and mushrooms is the biggest let down of the meal for me; there’s way too much butter (no I didn’t think that possible either), and just a few cooked lumps of egg bobbing about in it. The mushrooms are lost. it’s overwhelmingly salty. I didn’t get it.

Best of all is the poached halibut with lemon verbena. The fish is almost perfectly cooked and the leaves (e.g. oyster leaf – tastes like oysters!) are genuinely fresh and interesting, not just unfamiliar.

Iberico pork I try very hard to love but ultimately think well…it’s just a bit boring, actually. I must say the experience of eating it was marred somewhat by my companion’s commentary on the appearance of the smear of acorn praline underneath…bit unfortunate…

A ripe peach in its own juice was basically like posh tinned peaches, which is no bad thing whatsoever. It was tasty and it ticked the nostalgic foods trend box but at the end of the day, was just playing the exact same trick as the tomato.

The custard cream tart was universally liked; banoffee pie in disguise, basically, with banana slices (which I usually hate) nestling in the bottom atop a smear of toffee. The custard was thick and excellent. I scarfed it and wanted another.

So the food was hit and miss, which left me feeling confused as to why the place is so popular; I’ve not heard a bad word spoken. Some bits of cooking were genuinely lovely, and yet some were odd, verging on unpleasant. It wasn’t just the food however; the service was pretty slapdash for a place where it’s easy to drop the bones of £100 on lunch. The staff in general looked scruffy, for example one guy was wearing a suit which had something spilled down the front and a hole in the trousers. Wine which should have been served was forgotten, or poured into a dirty glass rather than the clean one. I had to give the waiter a nod every time he wanted to clear our plates which was rather odd and oh you know I could go on but it just seems unnecessary. The point is the service was sloppy and like I said, the best part of £100…

So in short, I wouldn’t go back. If I’m going to spend that kind of money on a meal nowadays I need to know it’s going to be good. The meal I ate at Dabbous wasn’t worth the £85 I paid for it; albeit that figure incudes wine. My companion, an ex sommelier, thought the wine list had been put together by someone with very little experience and the sommelier who was on duty didn’t appear to have much of it himself. If pulling a very serious face and nodding sagely is the mark of a professional however, he was totally on top of his game.

We spent time during the meal laughing at a nearby table of stereotypical Patrick Bateman-esque bankers; all glinting gold watches, suits and slicked back hair. They didn’t seem that  interested in the food or indeed in each other and in fact these are the kind of people I can imagine populating Dabbous in the long term. Loadsa money, not much interest in the details…

“Listen, the mud soup and the charcoal arugula are outrageous here” [Patrick Bateman, American Psycho].

Dabbous
39 Whitfield Street
London
W1T 2SF
Tel: 020 7323 1544

Dabbous on Urbanspoon

32 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Uncategorized

Shrimp Po’ Boys

February 8th, 2012 — 07:56 am

I have a major soft spot for classic American sandwiches (no surprises there) and recently I’ve been focused on tracking down one of the all time greats – the po’ boy – in London. It’s been a fruitless endeavour, a particular low point being my recent experience at The Diner, in Soho. I left feeling queasy, cheated and strongly convinced I should try making one at home. A po’ boy, in case you’re not familiar, is a sandwich originating from Louisiana, so called because it was once the staple food of labourers – the poor boys. There are many variations but the most common fillings seem to be roast beef, fried shrimp or fried oysters. A ‘dressed’ po’ boy (like this one) comes loaded with lettuce, tomato, a piquant mayo, pickles, onion and hot sauce. Gimme.

As always when one delves into these things, I found that the question of what makes an authentic po’ boy is a sensitive one. The bread should, apparently, be a New Orleans French style baguette but I had a lot of trouble finding a good looking recipe and there seems to be controversy around the idea of the perfect crust and interior texture. Some argue that it’s impossible for home cooks to ever replicate an authentic New Orleans bread outside the area, as it’s the high humidity and unique climate in general (partly below sea level) that make the bread just so, while others say it’s the unique properties of the water. It was at this point I gave up (I’m sure you understand) and decided that a nice soft sub roll wouldn’t be the end of the world and in fact would work nicely against the crunch of fried prawns. After a failed attempt with a duff recipe, I played around and came up with a roll I was happy with – soft and sweet with a decent sturdy crust.

I bought some fat, fresh prawns and seasoned them with a mixture of polenta/cornmeal (no sweet ‘n sour chicken ball-esque batter this time, The Diner) and a fantastic New Orleans spice blend I was sent by Richard Myers, a Louisiana native. It’s a mixture of Red Sea salt; garlic; onion; spices, including paprika; white, black and red peppers; citrus; thyme; oregano and rosemary. Phew. It’s incredibly intense and seriously tasty.

I loaded the subs with a bed of shredded lettuce followed by the crisp, spicy fried prawns and plenty of  home-made mayo mixed with chopped pickles, onion, mustard and parsley, thinned and soured with pickle juice and lemon. As per the videos of famous po’ boy vendors I watched on YouTube, I finished the sandwich with an extra splash of hot sauce. Wow. The Americans really have invented some incredible sandwiches. This was a world apart from that grim recreation I suffered weeks earlier; it winds me up, the way people take a beautiful idea and make it as cheaply and with as little love as possible. I’ve never been to Louisiana, and this recipe may not be entirely authentic, but I can promise you that it was made, and eaten, with a Whole Lotta Love.

Shrimp Po’ Boys

For the subs (makes 4)

1 packet fast action dried yeast
20g caster sugar
225ml warm water
25 butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
375g plain flour
1 egg white
Sesame seeds

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the yeast and leave to activate. Melt the butter and allow to cool almost completely. In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook (or of course you could mix by hand), combine the flour, yeast mixture, butter and salt.

Knead really well, then cover with cling film and allow to rise until doubled in size. After this time, lightly dust 2 greased baking trays with polenta/cornmeal then split the dough into four and shape into long sub-shapes. Slash each several times with a knife, brush over egg white then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let double in size again.

Bake at 200C for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown all over.

For the prawns

6 raw king prawns per person, shelled and de-veined
Polenta/cornmeal
New Orleans seasoning, available from Richard Myers (e-mail to purchase)
Beaten egg

Spread a plate with a mixture of 3 tablespoons polenta to 2 scant tablespoons New Orleans seasoning. Dip each prawn in the egg, followed by the seasoning mix.

Deep fry the prawns for 2-4 minutes, depending on size. You can also shallow fry them, but make sure you have a couple of cm of oil in the pan and turn them over halfway through. Drain on kitchen paper.

For the mayo

2 egg yolks
Oil (vegetable or groundnut are both good but don’t use olive oil, certainly not extra virgin)
2 chopped sweet dill pickles
1 teaspoon American mustard
1/2 finely chopped red onion
Juice of 1/2- 1 whole lemon
1 teaspoon juice from the pickle jar
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and whisk them together. Whisk in the oil, adding a few drops at a time and making sure each bit of oil is fully incorporated before adding the next. As you whisk in more oil and the mayo starts to thicken, you can start adding it in very slightly larger quantities until you are steadily adding it in a thin stream. The key with mayo is to be cautious with the oil until you get a feel for making it. If you add too much at once, it will split. If this happens, don’t despair. Take a fresh egg yolk in a clean bowl and begin adding the split mixture into it, very slowly, just as if it were the oil. This should bring it back.

Add all the other ingredients, adjusting to taste (e.g. you may want a little more lemon juice, a little more salt)

To dress the po’ boy

Split and toast the sub, then load with shredded lettuce (I used little gem), the prawns, the mayo and a dribble of (mild) hot sauce. It’s traditional to use tomatoes I believe, but I just couldn’t face it when there was snow on the ground. DEVOUR!

26 comments » | Sandwiches, Seafood

Seafood Safaris in West Sweden

October 18th, 2011 — 07:50 am

I’ve been in West Sweden for the past 3 days, bouncing around on boats, looking for some of the world’s best seafood. It’s a hard life. Most people apparently visit Sweden in June, with the peak tourist season lasting just 4 weeks a year – hardly ideal for some of the Swedish people who make their living from the influx of visitors. It’s crazy really, because the place is staggeringly beautiful in the late summer/early autumn. The West Sweden tourist board want to encourage people to visit all year round, which is why they invited me on a ‘culinary tour’ including 3 ‘seafood safaris'; we would look for mussels, lobster and oysters and we would devote an good amount of time to eating them. Don’t mind if I do.

Mussels first. We departed by boat from Lysekil with mussel-keeper Adriaan van Der Plasse who was, I was pleased to note, wearing a classic ‘Salty Sea Dog’  jumper. Very Captain Birdseye. Loved it. He took us out to what is essentially a big pipe with nylon stockings hanging off it; the mussels are ‘sown’ into the stockings and then dangled into the sea where they grow for 2 years in the nutrient-rich waters until mature enough to sell.

The sight of those nylon stockings emerging from the water is quite a thing, let me tell you. Millions of tiny anemones (I think), like miniature shrimp, twist and squirm alarmingly on the stockings. Here’s a video of the spectacle that my friend made.

After looking at the baby mussels, we clambered up onto a rocky island to lunch on the adults. Adriaan had a portable gas stove set up and he cooked the freshest mussels very simply with leeks, carrots and white wine. They were so sweet. We sat eating them and drinking wine, taking in the idyllic scenery. There was carrot cake and coffee for dessert, too; the Swedes love cake and coffee so much that they have a special name for cake and coffee time – ‘Fika’.

Adriaan and his companion were, like everyone we met in Sweden, incredibly friendly, healthy, weathered-looking people, eager to answer questions about the food and the country. Everyone speaks English. This was a blissful start to our adventure; I remember feeling totally relaxed, something I haven’t felt in a while. Well, not since my jolly to Spain er, 2 weeks ago. Ahem.

Details: Our mussel safari was organised by Orust Shellfish and was a shorter version of the usual 5 hour tour. The full tour costs £76 pp. You can also organise it as part of a package with a stay at Strandflickorna Havshotellet, see website here for details. 

The next day we went off to the enchanting car-free Koster Islands to explore South Koster, much of which falls within Sweden’s first Marine National Park: Kosterhavet. There’s something going on with the meeting of 2 tectonic plates under the water, and there are tons of unique species living there as a result. The planned afternoon safari was the biggy we’d been waiting for – lobsters, although in the end it was decided that a 2.5 metre swell in the sea was just a bit too frisky for a group of lily livered Londoners; we retreated, pulling up some pots the next day instead, from calmer waters.

The pots are baited with fish and lowered into the water. Apparently anyone can catch lobsters (providing they’re Swedish), as you don’t need a license like you do for fishing. The lobsters like to hang out in the stony areas with lots of little nooks and crannies they can poke about in. The first pot that came up was just full of crabs, which apparently happens all the time. Obviously crabs are sweet and delicious too, and we enjoyed big pots of them at almost every meal; picking and cracking our way through so many claws, viscera spraying onto hair, eyes and other people’s clothes. How I do enjoy working over a crab, even if I do always stab myself in the fingers with the equipment.

The lobsters fight often with one another and with the crabs too, gnarly little sods; this is why they often lose a claw, then grow a new one, leaving them with one claw bigger than the other. They’re incredibly lively when fresh and the claws need to be banded quickly, as they can take a finger clean off no problem. We saw lobsters as big as 2kg but they’re not good to eat at that age – less sweet and juicy.We enjoyed eating the good ones later as part of a 4 course lobster menu at Sydkoster Hotel Ekenäs and you can too. See details below.

Details: Lobster safari package includes  a three-day lobster experience, with two night’s accommodation, lobster safari, all meals including four-course lobster dinner and a cycle tour of the island. This costs 3,695 SEK (£359) pp (based on two sharing). Details here:  http://www.vastsverige.com/en/Shellfishjourney/products/101926/Lobster-Safari-in-Kosterhavet-Sydkoster-Hotel-Ekenas/

For the oysters, we travelled out to an adorable restored 19th century boathouse in Grönemad, Grebbestad, built on the rocks and supported on piles of stones, like many of the surrounding houses in the fishing villages. Our guide, Per Karlsson, grew up in Grebbestad and has been selling oysters for over 20 years, if my memory serves. He says the oysters of Sweden are considered by experts as some of the best in the world; I’m no expert but I’ve eaten a shedload and they were definitely up there. They can’t be bought here, in case you’re wondering. He has been asked to ship them further afield but refuses; they’re not plentiful enough and will be past their best by the time they reach destination.

They’re harvested from the natural oyster bed underneath the boathouse using a rake attached to a net. Handy.

I asked him if he’d ever been sick from an oyster: “well…only once, and that was because I ate an oyster I suspected may have been almost dead but I just wanted to try finding out.” That’s bloody brave if you ask me. Per said that he never gets sick because the oysters are so fresh and they’re tested every 2 weeks to ensure they’re safe to eat. The Swedes are very concerned with safety, I later learn. We have the opportunity to shuck an oyster (with protective glove) and we eat our fill, washing them down with a locally produced, dark beer I’ve forgotten the name of. The oysters are round, flat natives; metallic, mineral, saline and boy, do they chase the wind out of a hangover. Six perfectly fresh oysters, plucked from the sea just minutes before and BANG, the hangover is gone.

Details: The oyster experience was organised by Everts Sjöbod and there are various packages available. See links here and here

So you can probably tell that I thoroughly enjoyed the seafood journey experience and I think the packages are good value. A major word of warning though: Sweden in general is expensive [edit: see comment from Steph below], particularly if you like a drink (I think you know that I do). A European pint will set you back at least 7 quid and in one restaurant, a bottle of JACOB’S CREEK was over £30. If I were you, I’d book the seafood experiences with accomodation and meals included. There’s no doubt about it though, Sweden is a stunning country with some of the best seafood available. If  you’re an outdoorsy person, you’ll adore it. The Koster islands in particular are beautiful and if you do go, try to fit in a cycling tour; there are no cars to worry about and pedalling around with my mates was the most fun I’ve had in ages.

Even though I still feel like I’m bobbing about on a boat more than 24 hours later, I’m thrilled to have been invited to experience such a breathtaking country and of course, I had fun stuffing as much fresh seafood into my trap as possible. The details of how I came to find myself dancing wildly in a bar to the sounds of WHAM! and Credence while a Swedish man gyrated in my face shouting “let’s do it for the English girls!” shall go unmentioned.

You can see all my photos from the trip in my Flickr set, here

More information about West Sweden:

Website: www.westsweden.com
For more information about the Shellfish Journey: www.westsweden.com/shellfishjourney
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/westsweden
Twitter: www.twitter.com/westswedentb
Blog: www.explorewestsweden.com

SAS Flight Information

Heathrow to Gothenburg fares incl taxes and charges :
£63 one way
£103 return
www.sas.se

22 comments » | Fish and Seafood, Travel

The Sportsman, Seasalter

October 19th, 2010 — 08:18 am

Will you travel for a good meal? I’m sure you can guess that I will. Be it schlepping out to West London for some sushi or planning entire holidays around food, there had better be a decent feed at the end of it or I ain’t going.

I was supposed to visit The Sportsman last year but I’d finished my job a month earlier, was broke and ended up sobbing into my P45 as I saw my friends go off without me. A year later and things are almost back on an even keel. This meal was a present from my friend, to congratulate me on getting a new job – one that I really wanted.

We grabbed a cab from Faversham station, which is necessary, unless you want to drive. I’d heard that the pub was remote, but it took next to no time to arrive, and before we knew it we found ourselves waiting outside for staff to take pity on us – the first customers of the day. We’d pre-booked the tasting menu (you have to) for 9 people and settled in to let them show us the best the area has to offer, for this is what food at The Sportsman is all about.

Nothing pleases me more than a menu that starts with a bit of pig. When a pile of warm pork scratchings arrived, my no-drinking rule for the day went right out the window and I ordered a pint of Whitstable Bay as fast as possible. A crunchy piece of swine, a swill of beer. Repeat. Pickled herring pieces were also right up my strasse; firm, glistening meat and an acidity that shooed away any trace of fat from the scratchings. I was prepped for the oysters to come.

Two batches of natives followed in quick succession; the first, raw with a pea and ham combination and the second, wrapped with bacon and cooked: angels on horseback. Usually I don’t really dig a cooked oyster but these were the first I’ve ever enjoyed. Probably something to do with the pig.

The bread and butter: outstanding. A focaccia, a perfectly crusted white and the treacly, dark soda loaf which was one of the best breads I’ve ever eaten. I slathered it with their home-made unpasteurised butter and washed it down with a pint of  Shepherd Neame ‘Late Red’ ale at the suggestion of the waitress; “the beer is only available for 3 months at a time” she told me – it was spicy and autumnal, a brilliant match. She’d noticed that I enjoy my beer and made a suggestion which was absolutely spot on. Full marks.

A slip sole in local smoked salt and espelette pepper butter was almost perfect. The flesh cooked just so, the seasoned butter oozing amber over the plate. It was the prettiest food I’ve eaten in a very long time and so elegant that it made me sit up straight and pay attention to every last mouthful.

The owner and chef, Stephen Harris, enthused about the ‘beautiful seabass’ that had come in that morning. “Huge” he gestured with his hands, “this big.” We were served fillets of the mighty beast with a smoked herring roe sauce which wasn’t much cop in the looks department but tasted of the sea. The bass was a touch over-cooked, which was a shame; I find I rarely eat a perfectly cooked piece of seabass.

Breaded breast of lamb was a nibble, a single slice per person – I wished it was a course. The fatty meat rendered down, crumbed, crisped and served with a sweet mint sauce into which I found myself dunking scraps of stray white bread, pretending they were lamb breast.

Other highlights: a pear lollipop with ginger cake-milk, like a pear flavoured mini-milk crossed with a dip-dab minus the sherbert. With me? Okay, well everything should be dipped in cake milk. A creamy froth, like a Jamaica ginger cake milk-shake. I drained the dregs as if I were doing a shot.

Then a sugared plum came with ‘kernel ice cream’ – the plum kernels taste like almonds, and with the booze soaked cake alongside it had the flavours of an autumnal Bakewell tart.

I love what The Sportsman are trying to do. Un-fussed food, as perfectly cooked as possible but with the imagination and sense of fun that is so often missing for me in ‘high-end’ restaurants, or indeed in many restaurants, come to think about it. Some of our party remarked that the kitchen seemed off-kilter; I don’t know, I’ve not been before. What I can say is that I had a very relaxed, delicious and memorable meal – one that was definitely worth travelling for.

The Sportsman tasting menu costs £55 per person, which is extremely good value. To see the rest of my photos from the meal including their own cured ham; a mussel and bacon chowder and a roast rump and shoulder of lamb, go to my Flickr.

The Sportsman
Faversham Road
Seasalter
Whitstable
Kent CT5 4BP
Tel: 01227 273370

13 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

The Real Food Festival

May 12th, 2009 — 06:19 pm

You may be aware that I also blog for The Real Food Festival website where I’ve been posting about some of the producers. The 2009 festival may be over but the blog will keep running, although now it will be more recipe focused. I’ll love you forever with a cherry on top if you take a look now and again. There will be a larger set of pictures on the RFF blog soon but for now here’s my favourite bits.

The prize for the most animated market stall most definitely goes to the guys at Gaby’s Hot Stuff. Top marks for the music, dancing and banter. Their chilli sauce (below) is certainly ‘lively’ on the palate too. My friend and I dived in enthusiastically. Silly really, considering we should have learned our lesson the day before when we literally laughed in the face of a man who asked if we could ‘take the heat’. Turns out we couldn’t. It nearly blew our heads off. Eyes watered, tongues burned and there was sucking of air through teeth.

We later roped our mate into trying it too, knowing full well what he was in for but allowing him to carry on for our own entertainment. The look on his face afterwards though filled us both with remorse as we re-lived the pain vicariously. He left us to find his fiancée soon afterwards.

I did buy a bottle of the super strength stuff even though it packs a hefty punch, because it also has the most incredible fruity scotch bonnet flavour. I actually bought it for my boyfriend but I am the one who’s become addicted. I’ve eaten it with eggs, chips and I might as well admit that last night, I actually ripped the corner off a loaf of bread, just so I would have something to dunk in it to get my fix. If you’ve got a problem with chilli sauce like me, then how about trying this little game for jinks, courtesy of the chilli men themselves; next time you are feeling the burn, try putting the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and holding it for as long as possible. When you really can’t take it any more, release and savour the ensuing endorphin rush you chilli freak.

Now on the hunt for something to cool and soothe, we turned our attention to oysters. These Jersey Oysters were an irresistible bargain at a mere 50p each, which is why the guys above were constantly opening them, poor shuckers (sorry). I promptly ordered six and waved goodbye to the fire plus the last lingering effects of over-indulgence the night before. Oysters are one of the best hangover cures going in my opinion, just make sure you get the most of their delicious sea flavour by giving them a good ol’ chew.

Cheese is also an excellent soother of palate and among the many on offer I found the Laverstoke Park Farm fresh buffalo mozzarella the most interesting. Made in Hampshire, it has an excellent flavour which kind of explodes in your mouth in a milky burst. Slightly unusual in texture, it is firm and almost grainy although not unpleasantly so.

I had to stop by DeGustibus too – for the entertainment as much as the bread. The guys here are super friendly and always up for a bit of banter. Take Jim (above) for example – if he’s not waxing lyrical about the latest loaf or cake from the DeGustibus kitchen, he’s having a laugh. Kneading clearly gives you great biceps.

This young chap from realale.com was also in fine spirits. He seemed slightly surprised (or possibly scared?) by my excitement at finding he had Brew Dog beers or perhaps he just doesn’t get that many female customers. Don’t worry though sisters, I’m representin’.

I also packed some Halen Mon smoked salt and a bulb of smoked garlic from French Flavour into my bag nestled next to a jar of excellent aubergine pickle from Cafe Spice Namaste (above), which gives me a great excuse to make a curry this weekend.

As much as I had a good time filling my belly and emptying my wallet, I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch any cookery demonstrations or tastings. Although, you can probably tell from the pictures that I most enjoyed talking to the producers anyway. The RFF recognises the value of the small producer, subsidising them – enabling many to attend that could not otherwise afford it. The benefit for the customer is that we get to taste the difference in something made with a bit of love and for that reason alone the festival made me a very happy lady.

11 comments » | Food Events, Lovely Food Producing People, Markets

Happy New Year! Best Bits 2008.

January 1st, 2009 — 11:22 am

A very Happy 2009 to you all! I’ve already been recipe planning for the year ahead but before all that, here’s a few of my favourites from 2008.

From top left: Spring quiche - steak with salsa verde (a strong ‘death-row meal’ contender – well, last year anyway..) – fennel and orange salad with raspberry vinegar – wickedly indulgent omelette cake with ricotta, smoked salmon and greensbrussels sprouts with chorizorainbow chard and parmesan tart with carrot and oat crustStilton and pear tart with walnut pastry (which I since discovered is from 2007, oops) – thinly shaved asparagus with cheese and hamwatermelon, feta and olives with poppy seed dressing (I couldn’t get enough of poppy seeds last year) – Earl Grey smoked ducksmoky, sweet and spicy red pepper souprabbit lasagne with sage bechamel (now my ‘signature dish’ and featured on the Channel 4 website!) – beetroot, squash and halloumilavender and honey lambamaretto scallopsstargazy piecrab cucumber rollsPolish cucumber soup.

And some favourite moments….Scotch eggs at the Heston Blumenthal food and sherry pairing – developing a serious taste for Stinking Bishop – eating dried fish with butter and drinking beer in Iceland’s national park (I also loved smoked eel in 2008) – discovering Brew Dog beer and wet garlic and the most amazing buttery olives (and then finding out where we can buy them!) – eating more oysters than ever in 2008 (although I will try to top this in 2009) – winning The Tipped Chilli cook off – discovering I love rosemary in cocktails-  a very unsuccessful but hilarious attempt at growing potatoes on our balcony and finally – 2008 was, without doubt, the year of the cupcake. To top it all off, Food Stories got a little bit of love with an article on the Channel 4 website and my cottage pie got a mention in Simon Majumdar’s ‘school-dinners’ classics article for Word of Mouth. All of this aside however, the best part about food blogging in 2008 was undoubtedly meeting so many other bloggers face to face. Here’s to meeting many more of you in 2009. Cheers!

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15 comments » | Uncategorized

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