Category: Restaurant Reviews


Has Urfa Lahmacun, Istanbul

April 29th, 2014 — 10:39am

Has Urfa Lahmacun, Istanbul

Istanbul is a vast, sprawling city. Everywhere you go, something is happening. It can be quite overwhelming at first. There are about 14 million people milling about over 2 continents. Fourteen million. There are also a lot of cats. Joy! I always knew Istanbul was going to be my city. I wanted to pet and chin tickle every one of them, but, well, rabies. Every corner you turn, something is happening. No nook, gap, rooftop or cupboard is left unfilled, and if a space is up for grabs, someone will more than likely sell try to sell something from it. Vegetables, shoes, börek, Turkish delight, sheeshas, plates, kebabs, chestnuts, bread, kittens, chicks, junk, socks, watermelon, simit, fish, tea, anything, basically.

On a side street off a relatively un-touristy stretch, Kasimi Keve has claimed his space and built a lahmacun (la-ma-jun) restaurant in it. It is really no more than a counter top, an oven, a titchy counter at the back and 3 tables outside. He is immensely proud of his lamacun, and so he should be. During the 6 days I was in Istanbul, I obviously couldn’t  try every lahmacun on offer (even I have limits), but if anyone is making it better than Kasimi, I’d like to hear about it, and then I probably wouldn’t believe you anyway.

Kasimi’s lahmacun are lighter than others I’ve had; the dough rolled impossibly thin, then crisped, bubbled and spot-charred in the searing heat of the oven. Lesser examples can be doughy, which is perhaps what led to the nickname ‘Turkish pizza’. Pretty sure I’ve been guilty of saying that at some point, actually. The dough of a lahmacun is spread thinly with spiced, minced lamb, and every seller has their own blend; Kasimi’s had us excited because the spicing was so deft as to just enhance the sweetness of the meat (a very light touch of cinnamon?), yet it was also rich and complex. He gave us some of the spices to take away, but only after we promised not to tell anyone his secrets. I wouldn’t. Ever. I’m a writer but I’m also a cook, remember. I’ll just say then that there’s some of the famous Turkish red pepper paste, so terrifyingly red it looks like it could stain a t-shirt at 30 paces, Turkish biber flakes, roasted to deep maroon, and a spice blend of top secret components, which reminded me a little but not entirely of garam masala.

Pide and Lahmacun

Pide is also available but for me, it’s all about that lahmacun

Lahmacun

Lahmacun

Lahmacun

Each lahmacun arrives with a plate of salad, herbs glistening with water droplets from a recent wash, tomatoes ripe and inviting. He does roasted chillies too. Get them if you go. You top your bread with salad and chillies, tinkle with lemon juice and roll it all up. The eating is over in moments. That means it’s time to order another.

While we wait for our lahmacun to be prepped, we get chatting to a Turkish lady who says she lives in Holland, but always makes Has Urfa her first port of call when in Turkey. She wise. I suggest that you do the same.

Has Urfa Lahmacun
Ragipbey Sokak
0034, Istanbul, Turkey
(over the street from Aksaray Metro, near to Yusefpasa)

Lahmacun is set to be a big trend in London this summer, with Zeren Wilson and Turkish chef Huyla Erdal to host a modern Turkish pop up, on Sunday 15th June. I predict this will be worth moving your summer holiday for. Follow @londonlahmacun for more details. 

Istanbul Cats

29 comments » | Istanbul, Restaurant Reviews, Travel, Turkey

Eating and Drinking (lots of drinking) in Dublin

February 2nd, 2014 — 9:02pm

I’m always moaning about the lack of ‘proper boozers’ in London. When I lived in Gloucestershire, I worked in a pub where the regulars had their own glasses (often engraved with their names), into which I would start pouring their preferred drink when I saw them coming down the road, at exactly the same time each day. There was a lot of decent banter around that bar. I can still recall the names and faces, the lock-ins, the gossip and the horrible feeling when I finally tore myself away and buggered off to university. It was a bit like leaving a family.

If you have a fondness for the same kind of establishment then you’ll bloody love Dublin. There’s a pub like this on almost every street corner, all proudly serving properly poured Guinness, naturally. I tried hard to discern whether or not it actually tastes better in Ireland, as everyone claims, and while at first I didn’t notice a difference, I must admit that every pint seemed to slip down like midnight silk. Either that or I started to become an alcoholic, drinking the black stuff pretty much constantly from mid morning until bed time. The pubs do this brilliant thing too, called the ‘toasted special’, which are sandwiches, and which also bring me nicely to the start of my Dublin food story. We ate from one end of the scale (pub toasties) to the other (faaaahn dining) in just a couple of days and although I do feel fatter – subcutaneously, viscerally, psychologically – I feel we really got the measure of the place, so here are my tips.

1. The Toasted Special.

So all the pubs have these toastie makers where the whole sandwich goes in on its side like a regular toaster and is lowered down with a lever. I found that you can generally have any combination of ingredients you like, providing those ingredients are ham, cheese and onion. In the best places, a pot of English mustard comes on the side. Some try to glam it up by adding a side salad or whatever which is obviously wrong, unless that whatever is crisps. The most old boozery of proper old boozers we visited was J Grogan, with a proper chatty landlord and a clutch of regulars around the bar. I listened in to their conversations with nostalgic jealousy. You can also catch diddly music in loads of the pubs in the evenings. I have on my phone (or had before it CALLOUSLY DIED this weekend), video evidence of my boyfriend dancing with complete strangers. He also bought an acre of vineyard in Tokaj, on a whim. Then there was the three bottles of whisky that turned up at our house a week after we got back, which were clearly ordered from a shop at some point. To be honest, we did a lot of drinking.

J Grogan, 15 William St, Dublin 2.

2. Fried Chicken Surprise.

I was determined to eat mostly Irish food but when one finds oneself stuck in the rain and starving, it’s only natural to be drawn into a restaurant which is rather daintily named CRACKBIRD. Erm. While it wasn’t the best fried chicken I’ve eaten (the coating too thick and lacking crunch), the flavour was great. What I totally digged down to my sodden boots however were the dips that came with. Scotch bonnet sauce was a genuine kicker, the chermoula had its flavours tipped in the right direction to work with the chicken and, best of all, a whipped feta and caramelised lemon number had me swiping around the pot with my finger and wondering just how soon and often I can nick the idea and pass it off as my own. I’ll admit I’d ordered it because I thought they’d balls it up which is, with hindsight, pretty stupid. Lovely to be proven wrong, though.

Crackbird, 60 Dame St, Dublin 2.

3. Two Mid-Range Gems.

Etto had made it onto The List (because everyone knows that Food People do extensive Googling/make spreadsheets/ask everyone on Twitter for tips before they travel anywhere, ever) but hadn’t made the final cut simply for not serving anything ‘particularly Irish’. Sometimes I am truly the fool. Dishes were nothing groundbreaking but cooked with a very light touch: a starter of vitello tonato still tasted of veal, underneath it all, and ‘Nduja pasta had just a hint of the spicy sausage humming through. I had to order a meatball sandwich special, clearly aimed at the lunch crowd but as confidently balanced as the rest. Honeycomb ice cream to finish. Buzzing little room, great service, interesting wine list, reasonably priced.

Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, Tel: +353 1 678 8872

The menu at Fallon and Byrne didn’t get me in the least bit excited either. Different restaurant, same snap judgement. We gave an over-privileged sigh and climbed the stairs to emerge into a surprisingly lovely room, vast and twinkling with waist-coated staff and leather seats - its location above a ‘food and wine hall’ had me expecting something akin to a Whole Foods cafe. A caesar salad was one of the best I’ve ever eaten and a rib eye with bernaise a hunk of very well cooked, quality cow. They can make a solid martini, too. It’s the kind of restaurant that makes you want to stay put and we did, for several hours. The only photo I possess is of a half eaten salad – testament to the amount of fun we were having. 

Fallon and Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2, Tel: +353 (01) 472 1010

4. Lunch not Dinner. 

The Winding Stair appears to be lauded as one of Dublin’s hottest restaurants but to be honest it left me baffled. I’m a greedy person, and despite my stamina diminishing with age (trauma!), I can still hold my own when faced with the long haul. The portions here though = gargantuan. Laughably large. That’s my starter below, a platter of smoked fish on a board which was larger than a sheet of A4, if Guinness addled memory serves. Be a lovely lunch though, don’t ya think? Not so much a prelude to a pile of mashed potato, fish and onions the size of a small island. I just wonder what they’re trying to achieve; generosity is a lovely sentiment, but not when it leads to serious discomfort.

The Winding Stair, 40 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1, Tel: + 353 1 8727320

5. High End Jinks. 

The Greenhouse was recommended to me by the human directory of Michelin starred restaurants, Andy Hayler. Despite our lack of agreement on the value of the Michelin guide, there’s no doubt he’s right to say that it’s curious this place doesn’t have a star. Incidentally, I remember first learning about the guide from a regular bar fly while working in that pub back in Gloucestershire in 2000. “You can see them twinkling through the window” he told me and yes, for more than a moment I believed him. The cooking here is serious without taking itself seriously. Well worth the wonga.

The Greenhouse, St. Stephen’s Green, Dawson Street, Dublin 2, Tel: (01) 6767015

So there you have it: the highlights of as much food as it’s possible to consume in the space of 2.5 days without making oneself physically ill. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE.

On non-food related business:

- We stayed as a guest of Trinity Capital Hotel which looked like it was designed by Willy Wonka. I’m down with that, personally, but I believe not everyone wants to spend the night amidst giant purple curlicues.

- Dublin is famous for its taxis (there are more there than in NYC, apparently), although the only one you’ll really need is from the airport. This is a good chance to get the down low on Dublin, if the rest of the internet is to be believed. Me? I got a soliloquy on the moral status of the Gas Board.

- Irish people are incredibly friendly and they can drink like whales, let alone fish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

7 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Travel

Sunday Leftovers No. 4

December 15th, 2013 — 9:48pm

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

Sunday Leftovers No. 3

November 17th, 2013 — 8:31pm

Favourite find of the week: Ram-It-Up Curry Goat Booster, lurking at back of kitchen cupboard.

Monday was spent cooking from India, by Pushpesh Pant (yes). There are reviews on Amazon which say this book is ‘not for the beginner’. Fine, I thought – I’m not. I’m no expert either, but I know my asafoetida from my fenugreek. I’m sad to say then that I found cooking from the book a frustrating experience. An example from the tomato coconut chutney recipe: listed in the ingredients, ‘fried chana dal’. Fried in what? Shallow fried? Deep fried? Fried in the hot Indian sun? No idea. Many of the recipes seem to be unedited, which is a huge shame, because this is a vast collection, full of interesting and unique dishes. Best was the pork vindaloo, although it took an hour and a half longer to cook than the recipe stated and managed to break a curry law by not tasting better the next day. In the absence of any side dishes (we gave up, basically) or rice, we made – wait for it – sandwiches, with the sauce alongside for dipping.

A spur of the moment dinner at St. John was like being welcomed by an old friend, although I have to say I still much prefer to eat in the bar rather than the restaurant. They make a kick ass martini, which seems to come in bucket-like proportions. The Welsh rarebit is hard to resist and at the right time of year they never, ever, fail to have crab on. This time I ate – brace yourselves – a sandwich. Egg mayo and watercress, one of my favourite fillings, had the reassuringly British tickle of malt vinegar. After years of occasionally adding capers to egg mayo and being annoyed at them for being too bolshy, I realised I wanted malt vinegar all along.

Egg mayo sandwich at St. John

Thursday saw me trekking to the swanky end of town to eat at Tinello. This swishy Italian makes the dinkiest, salty courgette fries which are hard to resist eating by the fistful. A salad of puntarelle came in a thick, bold dressing – perfect for those sturdy bitter leaves. The real star though was a special of truffle pasta, the sauce basically a truck load of butter and a splash of starchy pasta water as far as I could tell, the topping those intoxicating shaved truffles. We shared this between three which is one of the biggest regrets of my life so far.

Puntarelle and capers

Truffs

I also stuffed my smug little face at Dip and Flip; you can read about their glorious patty melt on my sandwich blog.

Action shot.

I know you’re all jonesing for that weekly cat pic, so here’s one of Chas and Delia’s greatest hits from Instagram (I’m foodstories).

You let go. No, you let go. You let go first. No.

Finally I simply must introduce to you what is possibly the best/worst/funniest piece of marketing for wine EVER. Warning: it’s a stealthy ear worm. Readers, I present to you, ‘As Long As You Like’ by Prowein. So bad it’s brilliant.

 

 

14 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Sunday Leftovers

Sunday Leftovers No. 2

November 10th, 2013 — 7:35pm

Some recent purchases.

Last week saw the inaugural edition of Sunday leftovers and I was chuffed with the response, in particular to the comment that it was “like a trashy mag, but with food and cats”. I’m glad to be filling a hole you see; trashy mags are what you think you want on a long train journey/in a doctor’s waiting room/lying sick on the sofa, but in reality they just induce a feeling of complete and utter loathing for the human race, or at least a certain subset of society. What is most annoying however, is that they leave a spot un-hit; you still yearn for a trivial fix but have nowhere to turn. Food and cats will never let you down (if you’re a dog person by the way, just replace the word ‘cat’ with the word ‘dog’ in your head). So here we go again.

Gymkhana this week. Wow. I used to have a regular and enjoyable debate with a friend about whether or not ‘posh Indian’ could be a thing. I didn’t think it could, and at first I thought Gymkhana had proved me wrong, which would be all well and good of course, but then I realised, it’s not ‘posh’ at all, or at least it’s not trying to gussy anything up. There is no trying too hard; no stacking; no smearing; no dismantling or deconstructing, everything is just done a hundred times better. The muntjac biryani has been the talk of the town since they opened and despite myself, I ordered it. Stunning. Easily the best biryani I’ve ever eaten, each grain of rice so utterly buttery perfect I actually laughed out loud. I hear they have a ‘rice man’. Fair bloody play to him I say, and a cracking great high five. A tip, FYI, is to stop the staff from breaking into that pastry crust for you at the table, if only to save you shouting ‘WOAH WOAH WOAH!’ across the restaurant like I did. Everything I ate was brilliant but special mention to the crab for being simply a bowl of brown and white meat, with pepper and a shitload of ghee. I wanted to run off with it. Everything seemed to contain a shitload of ghee at Gymkhana actually, which is perfectly alright with me.

The muntjac biryani doing its best Elmo impression. Crab lurks in the background. 

Burger and Lobster launched on the 5th Floor of Harvey Nicks on Tuesday, and I was up there like a ferret up a trouser leg. My conversations at Burger and Lobster always go like this:

Me: “Hello. I’d like a martini please, not too dry, with a twist. Thanks”

Staff: “Would you like gin or vod..”

Me: “GIN!! GIN GIN GIN!!!!”

Staff: “Would you like me to explain the men..”

Me: “LOBSTER ROLL PLEASE THANKS”

That’s basically the entirety of interaction needed at Burger and Lobster, unless I have run out of martini. I know exactly what they do best and that is why I have the same thing, every single time. It’s one of the best sandwiches in London without a shadow of a doubt, so if for any reason you find yourself stuck in Knightsbridge losing the will to live, nip into Harvey Nicks for the lifesaving combination of hard liquor and crustacea.

Discovery of the week goes to the Shanghai lamb noodles at Silk Road. I challenge you to find any food more satisfying than a hand pulled noodle. The lamb has had the same treatment as their lamb shish, which means it’s all about the cumin. The sauce is HOT, too, the kind of hot where you want to stop because you fear the dawn but you can’t because you’re hopelessly hooked. I will never not order this at Silk Road.

Another exciting discovery was that the Turkish Food Centre (in Camberwell at least, not sure about other branches) is stocking both red and green Georgian plum sauces. You may know that I properly fell for Georgian food when I visited the country last year. It’s familiar and yet so unique; I long to return. If you can’t get to a TFC then it’s available online and I have a recipe here which uses shitty unripe supermarket plums. It tastes great, honestly. A fantastic match for pork.

In other news, I made about a million flatbreads, which are fabulous with eggs and yoghurt, or about any Middle Eastern style dip you can imagine. I also made a hundred squillion swirly borek, but that’s a story for next week, being as it is long and at this very moment in time, a little painful to recall.

Za’atar flatbread with poached egg, yoghurt, and Turkish chilli. 

What’s that you say? Where’s the cat picture? Okay, here’s one of Chas snuggling up to his favourite blanket. I feel the same way about my dishwasher.

 

17 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Sunday Leftovers

Peckham & Camberwell: Food & Drink Guide

October 11th, 2013 — 10:26am

I now live on the border (like actually right on the border) of Peckham and Camberwell, meaning I’m enjoying the best of both worlds. I am so lucky to live in this position, pretty much equidistant between all the restaurants and shops I love. So here’s an updated guide to my favourite places. I am aware of the omissions, some deliberate as I don’t rate them, but some because I haven’t been so please do let me know about your favourites.

I’m sad to say I’ve not found any decent jerk in Peckham in recent years; such a shame. You’ll just have to buy my jerk marinade and make your own *cheeky grin*.

Peckham: Restaurants and Cafes

1. Peckham Bazaar

Oh come on, it had to be number one, didn’t it? Peckham Bazaar (or P Baz as we call it in this house) is co-run by my boyfriend and my friend but honestly, it’s pan-Balkan heaven in deepest Peckham. Oh crikey that rhymes. Sod it. So yeah, I’m hugely biased, but it’s not just me who rates it; P Baz was Time Out’s No. 1 restaurant a few weeks back and the positive feedback in general has been overwhelming. The phone rings off the hook. The food just keeps getting better. It’s ridiculously good value. No-one else in London is doing this kind of food, this well. Just go.

Peckham Bazaar, 119 Consort Road, SE15 3RU (see website for opening times and weekly changing menu)

2. Indian Place off Rye Lane (it appears to be called just ‘Asian Takeaway’)

I’ve lived in Peckham for what, 8 years now? This place has apparently been open for 2 and I’d never noticed until recently. As I was waiting for my food on Saturday I helpfully suggested they get a sign, to which the owner responded by pointing at their sign.

They’re doing very simple, cheap and ace food from a little hut with a tandoor in the back. On the counter rest vast silver trays containing richly coloured curries, a couple of kofta ready to be cooked (chicken, lamb), rice, dhal, a yoghurt and coriander sauce. A gent stood in front of the tandoor, calmly knocking out naan after naan. We ate a lamb kofta which came in wrapped in that excellent fresh bread, with salad and sauce. The spicing is simple in the way that means every flavour is distinct. Oh and they also make a mean lamb samosa.

As I stood with my friend, shovelling down the kebab and mopping up the fall out, the owners kept ducking in and out with freshly cooked kebabs and bits to share with surrounding traders. We nicked a bit of the ‘special’ from the end of a long gleaming skewer; it’s that kind of place.

Curries

In charge of the tandoor

Lamb kofta (LINK TO FULL REVIEW OF THIS ON THE LONDON REVIEW OF SANDWICHES)

Indian takeaway, opposite Rye Lane station, just to the side of Ali Baba Fresh Vegetables (opposite Afro Foods). There’s a sign saying ‘Asian Takeaway’ on Rye Lane. It’s approx 133 Rye Lane, according to street view. 

2. The Begging Bowl

Good Thai restaurants in London are few and far between so what are the chances we’d get one in Peckham eh? Eh? EH? Okay so the heat levels at TBB might not be ‘authentic’ but hell, the food is tasty and the dishes are interesting. The betel leaves in particular are spesh. Read Lizzie Mabbott’s review for an idea of what to expect.

The Begging Bowl, 168 Bellenden Rd, London, Peckham, London SE15 4BW

4. Ganapati

Vegetarian street snacks – my favourite starter at Ganapati

Ganapati is a South Indian vegetarian restaurant and definitely the most expensive place in Peckham, but it’s worth the money. The smell of curry leaves and mustard seeds whacks you around the chops as soon as you walk in. They often have curd rice on the menu which I adore; yoghurt is stirred through cooked rice and finished with a sizzling hot oil, mustard seeds and glistening curry leaves.

Update: 7th Feb 2014 Ganapati now has a separate takeaway (delivery) place.

http://www.ganapatitakeaway.com/

Ganapati, 38 Holly Grove, London SE15 5DF

5. Anderson’s

I’m a regular at Anderson’s, particularly for their award winning sandwiches (surprise). They nail them simply because of the quality of the ingredients; farmhouse style ham pulled off the bone in chunks, well dressed salad leaves, Dijon, Brickhouse bakery bread (some of the best loaves in London, which they also sell to take away). Can’t argue with that. They also open some evenings and occasionally host pop ups with local cooks like Sally Butcher from Persepolis (see ‘shops’).

Anderson’s, 139 Bellenden Rd, London SE15 4DH

6. Il Giardino

Okay so the Italian food at this family owned restaurant isn’t going to win any awards, and it really isn’t the sort of place one would travel across London to visit, but for local people, it has other charms. Eating there is like eating in someone’s living room. The walls are crammed with trinkets, the toilets are to be found up the tiniest windiest wooden staircase; the whole place seems stuffed to bursting with memories and history and warm fuzzy feelings. Young boys who look about 10 get trained on the job while a proud family member listens in; just everything about it is so incredibly old school and charming. The pizzas won’t be giving Pizza Pilgrims, Franco Manca or Bravi Ragazzi a run for their money any time soon, but it’s more about the ‘experience’.

Il Giardino, 7 Blenheim Grove, London SE15 4QS

7. The Gowlett

This is a pub but I’ve put them in the restaurants section as they make an okay pizza. It’s not very nice as a pub. Sorry, die hard Gowlett fans.

The Gowlett, 62 Gowlett Rd, London, Greater London SE15 4HY

8. Peckham Refreshment Rooms

The new kid on the block. This place has been rammed since Rayner went but to be fair, was full from day one anyway. I tend to go for drinks rather than food but charcuterie and other simple dishes are available. The drinks selection is good: they’ve got Kernel beers, Foreign Extra Guinness and Breton cider. I haven’t had a chance to get down with the wine yet. I do have one major gripe with the place though and that is the seating; it’s unbelievably uncomfortable and needs to be changed asap.

Peckham Refreshment Rooms, Unit 4, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London, Greater London SE15 4QL

9. Manze’s

One of the oldest pie and mash shops in London blah blah etc. etc. If pie, mash and liquor is your thing then you know where to go. You might not know WHEN to go however, as they have very odd opening times which clearly cater to a certain generation (hint: you’re not a member of it).

Manze’s, 105 Peckham High St, London, Greater London SE15 5RS

Peckham: Bars and Pubs

1. The Montpelier

I used to practically live in the Monty when I was further up that end of Rye Lane. When I moved I had to say goodbye but we had an intense and full on relationship while it lasted so I don’t mourn the loss too badly. What I like about the Monty is that it’s very laid back, they don’t cram too many seats inside and it just has a calm atmosphere. They show films in a room at the back and have live music occasionally. The beer isn’t even that good but they do at least have Mean Time and that stealthy bitch, Old Rosie cider. Apart from weekend lunch times it doesn’t get taken over by parents with young children, which is a miracle considering its proximity to East Dulwich.

The Montpelier, 43 Choumert Rd, SE15 4AR

2. Bar Story

Bar Story is pretty scrotty but nevertheless gets away with it, probably due to its location under the railway arches. Frequented by art students, they have a gallery in the back and the whole place has a an air of creativity about it. They also do cool pop ups like the recent Thai grill with Andy Oliver.

Bar Story, 213 Blenheim Grove, SE15 4QL

3. Frank’s Cafe and Campari Bar

The outrageously popular rooftop bar returns every year between the months of July-September. With reasonably priced cocktails, a kick ass view and a great atmosphere, it’s definitely worth climbing an ammonia scented stairwell for. Or you know, take the lift.

Frank’s Campari Bar, 10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Story Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

4. The Bussey Building

Man, have I had some nights in The Bussey. I shall say no more. See their website for details of upcoming events.

The Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

Peckham: Food Shops

1. Persepolis

Everyone’s favourite yellow corner shop. Go here for all your Persian ingredient needs. If you can’t find that unusual grain needed for the latest Ottolenghi recipe, don’t worry, Sally will almost certainly have it. The most important purchase you can make at Persepolis however, is obviously MY JERK MARINADE!

Persepolis, 28-30 Peckham High St, SE15 5DT

2. Khan’s

The awesome old Khan’s sign – ‘walk in and see the variety’ – sadly now replaced.

Everyone knows I have a lot of love for the ramshackle temple of random that is Khan’s Bargain Ltd. The veg is usually really cheap and fresh – I say usually because they do have the occasional off day. The beans, pulses and grains section is second to none, they stock the best flat breads EVER and you know where to go if you ever want a plastic animal. Read my full post about Khan’s here.

Khan’s Bargain Ltd, 135 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

3. General Store

General Store is a relatively new addition to Peckham, in the Bellenden area, which is known as the ‘posh bit’. This shop could not be more Bellenden if it tried; suitably expensive, but also full of high quality stuff including a small cheese selection and some more unusual veg – this is the place to go for your fractal-tastic romanesco cauli or samphire. Like I said, it’s the posh bit.

General Store, 174 Bellenden Road, SE15 

4. Flock and Herd

We are stupendously lucky to have this butcher on Bellenden Rd. Opened by ex-ginger pig manager Charlie, it has gone from strength to strength and now queues out of the door are a familiar sight. Peckham Jerk Marinade may well be stocked there soon. W Bunting is also pretty good, right at the other end of Peckham.

Flock and Herd, 155 Bellenden Rd, SE15 4DH

5. Veg and Meat on Rye Lane and The High Street

If General Store is in ‘new Peckham’ then this place is very much ‘old Peckham’ or ‘proper Peckham’ as I like to call it; this is where the energy lies. Basically the deal with the greengrocers all along Rye Lane and the High Street is that they sell a lot of the same stuff, but you just need to single out your favourite. I will go to different shops for different vegetables. E.g. I always go to the place by the station for spinach and corn, as it’s usually freshest. I will go to Khan’s for herbs. And so on. United Meats is the only place I will buy goat in Peckham. All the other butchers aside from Flock and Herd = avoid. Fish is a total no-go I’m afraid, you’ll have to go to Moxon’s in East Dulwich which I rate over Soper’s in Nunhead.

United Meats, 62 Peckham High St, SE15 5DP

If it’s African ingredients like dried shrimp, fish and every single Maggi product under the sun that you want, then any of the shops will sort you out. The African land snails are available from a place about halfway up Rye Lane every year. No I haven’t yet tried them.

6. Wing Tai

This is the only local Asian supermarket now that the one in Camberwell has shut down (there’s a huge one at Elephant but it’s a bit of a trek down the Walworth Rd). This one isn’t the biggest in the world but boy, do they cram it all in there.

Wing Tai, Wing Tai Supermarket, Unit 11a The Aylesham Centre, Rye Lane, SE15 5EW

Camberwell: Restaurants and Cafes

1. Silk Road

Silk Road is simply one of the best Chinese (Xinjiang) restaurants in London, full stop. I have only met two people who didn’t like the food; everyone else loves it to the point of obsession. I’ve actually had to limit the amount of visits I make there for fear that the worst will happen and I’ll get too familiar. Best dishes: Cold seaweed salad thing; cumin lamb skewers; home style cabbage; home style aubergine; fried dumplings; twice cooked pork; smacked cucumber; their handmade noodles in anything. It’s virtually impossible to spend more than £15, including drinks.

Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR

2. Zeret Kitchen

This for me is the best Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurant in London. I went to Ethiopia earlier this year and I can tell you that this is absolutely the real deal. It is also run by the nicest lady. I crave injera like no-body’s business since I’ve come back and am currently working on a recipe that is practical. In the meantime, it’s plenty of scran at Zeret Kitchen for me. Read Chris Pople’s review of a meal we had here.

Zeret Kitchen, 216-218 Camberwell Rd, London SE5 0ED

3. F M Mangal

A Turkish grill restaurant that is never less than rammed. F M Mangal are famous for their spice smeared flat bread and pomegranate dip with comes with grilled onions and garlic cloves. Fairly recently I discovered the takeaway section at the front, which is where I am usually to be found ordering a tuvuk sis, a chicken kebab which comes with salad, chilli and garlic yoghurt sauce, all wrapped in a (crucially) thin wrap which makes eating it all too incredibly easy. Always order a double raki while you wait.

F M Mangal, 54 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8QZ

4. Wuli Wuli

I hesitated to put Wuli Wuli in to be honest; what used to be a really good Sichuan restaurant just suddenly went downhill when they started toning down the amount of chilli and Sichuan peppercorns in the food. It all became a bit tame which was hugely annoying as I used to order from them once every few weeks. Still, it’s worth giving them a go. Also I should say I haven’t been for about a year. Make sure to order from menu B. I have a copy on-line here.

Wuli Wuli, 15 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR

5. Pasha Kyrgyz Kazakh Restaurant

I’d avoid the food in the main but Kazakh Kyrgyz is SUCH a fun place to have a drink just because it’s so ridiculous. There are mannequins in the corridor dressed in Turkish outfits, they have Turkish baths; the restaurant boasts a stream with a bridge over it and, well it’s just so silly it’s brilliant. Also, where else in Camberwell does one get a glass of Georgian wine?! Read my full post about it here.

Kazakh Kyrgyz, 158 Camberwell Rd,SE5 0EE

6. No. 67

I’ve had an utterly exquisite squid ink pasta dish here and I’ve had a god awful dessert. The best thing about No. 67 though is the space itself; all cosiness and twinkly lights and tables that you nestle into and never want to leave.

No. 67, 67 Peckham Rd, SE5 8UH

7. Viet Cafe (formerly Cafe Bay)

Okay so it’s not the most amazing banh mi in the world but come ON, we are in Camberwell, we are not overwhelmed with choices. I actually really enjoy the ‘chicken satay’ – novel in that it doesn’t taste like chicken satay. Review a on my sandwich blog here.

Cafe Viet, 75 Denmark Hill, SE5 8RS

8. Falafel

No prizes for guessing what these guys sell. It’s so sparse inside you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of those shops you used to buy weed from that would just have a fish tank in the corner and a man behind the counter or something. What? Someone told me that okay, mum? The falafel is actually rather decent and they will wang it into a wrap with really fresh salad, sumac dusted onions, a garlic sauce and a chilli sauce that actually has a bit of heat to it. Not a lot, but a bit.

Falafel, 27 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR

9. The Recreation Transformation

The Recreation pub (closed at the moment) is to be taken over by the people behind the Anchor and Hope, I believe. I’ve heard that the sous chef from the Canton Arms will be doing the cooking. It will take me all of 2 minutes to walk there. ME EXCITE.

Camberwell: Pubs

1. The Crooked Well

This is more of a gastro pub really, but I prefer to just drink there if I’m totally honest. They do a decent martini, or at least they did the last time I had one which was fairly recently. Aside from that it’s just a really pleasant space to sink a few.

The Crooked Well, 16 Grove Lane, SE5 8SY

2. Stormbird

Camberwell’s craft beer pub. It has quite a wide range of beers which change frequently. They had my beloved Jaipur on recently which I still maintain is one of the greatest beers ever produced. It does suffer slightly from Craft Beer Pub-itis which I did a rant about here and the ladies toilets need some attention – HOW LONG CAN IT BE BEFORE YOU REPLACE THE LIGHT BULBS?? – but it’s still a pub I spend time in.

Stormbird, 25 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR 

3. The Hermit’s Cave

This place looks like a bit of a shit hole which is why I like it. They have some decent beers on though – I’m told – I went right off ale a while ago, something to do with it being body temperature – like I say I just appreciate the way it’s so bedded in. A proper boozer. It’s got nothing on the Grosvenor in Stockwell but hey, not many pubs do.

Hermit’s Cave, 28 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8QU

4. The Bear 

So many people rate this place highly that I’m putting it in despite not having had the chance to really spend any time there yet. I’ve heard they do a mean roast.

The Bear, 296A Camberwell New Rd, SE5 0RP

Camberwell: Food Shops

1. Turkish Food Centre 

Despite being rather lacking in charm as a space, The TFC is great for buying cheeses like helim, feta, halloumi and the other ones I don’t know the name of, including those that come in a can. I am more than partial. Herb bunches are large and fresh and they sell the mild, pointed, waxy peppers I became fond of in Hungary. Obviously there are staples like pomegranate molasses, tahini, sumac etc. – ingredients you’d be hard pushed to find in Camberwell (nearest other shop for such delights = Persepolis).

Turkish Food Centre, 303-309 Camberwell New Road, SE5 0TF

2. Sophocles

Good for large, flat, sesame seeded loaves at under a quid. They also do a basic white loaf for under a quid although have let themselves down recently by under baking them often or baking them in the same oven as something containing cinnamon. That’s incredibly irritating.

Sophocles, 24 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8QU

3. Cruson

Cruson winds me up in so many ways but it has to be said there is nowhere else in Camberwell to buy a globe artichoke or patty pan squash. The problem with them having so much variety is that a lot of it is always going off. Perhaps that’s why they charge nearly twice as much for a jar of Hellman’s as anyone else has ever done in any shop in the world, ever.

Cruson, 26 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8QU

You’ll notice that there are omissions from both these sections and I’d like to hear your thoughts. I’m afraid Angels and Gypsies isn’t there as I think it’s too expensive. I once spent £20 on a 3 tiny tacos. Some places I’ve not included however as I haven’t been, which is where you come in. Any thoughts on…

Cafe Viva? (never been able to get in there due to buggies)
Peckham Pelican?
Other pubs in Camberwell?
The African restaurant on Choumert Rd? (I once tried to eat there but they wouldn’t let me in and I still don’t understand why)
Lovely House on Bellenden?

Need we mention either the Peckham or Camberwell farmers’ markets? Oh dear. Will someone put some life into these please?!

57 comments » | Area Guides, Camberwell, Peckham, Pubs, Restaurant Reviews, Shops

Peckham Bazaar Pop Up: Opening this Saturday!

June 27th, 2013 — 10:09am

Listen up, Peckham people! And the rest of you! Don’t think you’re getting away with not paying attention. There’s some exciting cooking going down over the next few weeks, a series of pop ups, in preparation for a change of direction for John Gionleka of Frog on The Green. I’ve had to keep my eager trap shut about this for weeks which was hard, because I always want to shout about John’s cooking at every opportunity. These pop ups are happening to give people a taster of the food that will be hopefully be served more long term at John’s new mangal restaurant; not just another mangal restaurant mind you – this is going to be very much branded with his culinary style, which draws inspiration from all over the Balkans.

We had a little menu tasting session with a few mates on Sunday and it was very promising. One of the most pleasing parts of this whole venture, to me at least, is that John plans to tackle a problem which I find myself facing in every mangal in town. That problem being that the meze is always a bit shit. I eat it, but it seems that for some unknown reason, no-one ever puts any more than the bare minimum of effort into making the various dishes. Too-cold blobs of yoghurty things, grainy hummus and fierce pink tarama (major soft spot for the latter, but still), all a bit one note, all a bit clumsy. Why? Those ingredients, those flavours…I’ve always known that meze could be fantastic. And now it is. At Peckham Bazaar, the following will be incorporated with the main dishes, rather than served as starters. Here are some of the flavours to expect…

Just look at that cacik. Okay so I know I’m a sucker for a yog dish but really, that’s some fine cacik right there. For the uninitiated, cacik is a Turkish doozy of a dip made with yoghurt (duh), grated cucumber, dill and garlic, garnished with paprika and little golden pools of oil. She purdy. Reeeal purdy.

A stunning imam bayaldi, an aubergine dish the name of which translates as ‘the priest fainted’. The story generally bandied about is that the priest fainted because the dish was so unbelievably delicious. I prefer the story that he passed out cold when he found out how much it cost to cook it. It’s just more fun to think of this priest dude as a bit of a tight arse. See how all those ingredients have sort of fainted onto that aubergine, just like the priest? That’s what makes the texture so incredible. Imagine the spreadable silk that is that aubergine underneath. Go on. It is authentically oily, which enhances the texture and encourages dunking, wiping and possible drinking from the plate. Now do a Google image search for imam bayaldi and see how shonky this dish usually looks. Again, I always knew it could be this way.

Skordalia (above) as John put it, is like ‘Greek aioli’ – a whipped mixture of potato and garlic. I confess to snaffling the leftovers and eating it on toast for breakfast the next day. ‘HIIIIII COLLEAGUES!’

Salads will provide fresh contrast to grilled meats. From the top there is tomato, cucumber, onion and chervil; celeriac, orange, radish and mint and finally watermelon with the lemon bite of sorrel – a watermelon salad without feta! John jested about that last comment, but he has a bloody good point. These will be changed according to available ingredients.

A hugely popular dish was the bottarga mayonnaise. Bottarga is dried and salted roe, the most prized being from the grey mullet, although it also comes from tuna. This mixture was like taramasalata (or taramOsalata to be correct, I believe) but more sophisticated; savoury, salty (obviously fishy) and a damn sight more wobbly. Keen eyes kept close watch on its movements around the table. I can’t say I wouldn’t have decked someone for the last spoonful.

As with the meze, the devil is in the detail. These are table seasonings, including smoked chilli with salt, home made za’atar which is thyme, sumac and sesame seeds and frankly kicks the ass of any ready made blends and finally, dukka. These are going to make excellent sprinkles for sizzling grilled bits but I found myself throwing them on everything, particularly the yoghurt and cucumbers.

I can tell you I also ate a perfectly tender, dinky lamb chop that is going to get busy with that imam bayaldi like Sean Paul gettin it on til a early morn . Other dishes will include a pressed pork belly number. See link below for full menu.

There will be lokma (loukoumades) served with chilli, salt and honey for dessert. Beer will be from the Franklyn’s brewery. Wine from Southern Puglia.

The pop up will be open for bizniz, blud (Peckham, innit) this coming weekend (12-8pm Saturday and Sunday). Watch this space and follow John or Donald or Peckham Bazaar on Twitter for more details over the coming weeks.

Peckham Bazaar at Frog on The Green
119 Consort road
Peckham
SE15 3RU
12pm till 8pm Saturday and Sunday
MENU FOR THIS WEEKEND IS HERE

9 comments » | Food From The Rye, Peckham, Pop-up Restaurants, Restaurant Reviews

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