Category: Sandwiches


Kookoo Sabzi

March 6th, 2014 — 6:22pm

Kookoo sabzi is basically an Iranian omelette with a whacking great load of herbs in it. I became rather attached to it as a weekend breakfast option a year or so back and it’s really very good in a sandwich too, just wrapped in warmed flatbread with some slivered pickles and a splutter of hot sauce (there’s a recipe for that sandwich in a very good book about sandwiches from around the world I’ve heard mentioned somewhere occasionally perhaps maybe).

Kookoo sabzi flatbread wrap with Iranian pickles and hot sauce

Anyway on Tuesday it was the day of the pancakes and so I found myself wondering what a load of skinny kookoos would be like rolled up around a stuffing and baked in a cheesy sauce. They were very easy to make and flip in a little non-stick pan, and I filled them with what was basically a mixture of posho garlic shrooms (chanterelles and chestnuts) and spinach, and baked them in a sauce rammed with cheddar and Lancashire cheeses (what I had in the fridge). Oh and I grated some rather suave aged Comte on top, because I also had that in the fridge, because I’m a member of the Food Tosserati.

The kookoo made this whole dish really pleasing because they’re just so fragrant with herbs and bitey with spring onion; they lift the whole thing meaning you can eat a large amount and not feel in danger of developing diabetic neuropathy the instant you stop eating and slump on the sofa in front of The Restaurant Man. Come to think of it, a gluten free cheese sauce would also make this a good alternative for coeliacs in danger of missing out on cheesy baked pancake things come Fat Tuesday.

Diet food

Kookoo sabzi stuffed with garlic mushrooms and baked in a cheesy…okay I don’t know what to call this but it’s well tasty, promise. 

For the pancakes (makes approx 10 pancakes)

12 eggs
3 tablespoons self raising flour
1 large handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 large handful dill, finely chopped
1 large handful coriander, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped

For the filling

100g chanterelle mushrooms
200g chestnut mushrooms
1 regular onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
350g spinach, chopped roughly if leaves are large (include the stalks, finely chopped)
Knob of butter
Veg oil or similar, for frying

120g cheese, grated (I used a mixture of cheddar and Lancashire)
Comte (or another cheese, obviously, to grate on top)
50g butter
50g flour
600ml milk

This method looks long and it is really, but you can get most of it going at the same time.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F.

Beat the eggs together and sift in the flour. Whisk the mixture to combine; it will go lumpy which is annoying but just whisk the shit out of it. Mix in the chopped herbs, spring onions, and season highly with salt and pepper.

Set a small frying pan (mine is 6 inches diameter) over a medium-low heat and add a scant splash of oil, then wipe it around with a piece of kitchen paper. Add enough eggy mixture to make a very thin ‘pancake’, spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Cook until almost set (it’s so thin it will cook almost all the way through without turning), then, when almost set, flip it over for 30 seconds or so to set the other side. This is about a hundred times easier than it sounds. Repeat until all the mixture is gone.

Once the first pancake is out of the way, you can get the filling on at the same time. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sling the onion in to soften. Once translucent, add a knob of butter and the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Set aside, then add the spinach to the same pan and allow to wilt down and cook until no liquid remains in the pan. Mix with the mushrooms. Season.

To make the cheese sauce, wang the flour, butter and milk into a pan and bring to a simmer, whisking it with an air of nonchalance. Once simmering, cook out gently for a few minutes, then add the cheese. It will melt pretty fast. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble your masterpiece, roll each pancake around some of the filling (not too much). Line them up in a baking dish. Cover with the sauce. Grate a little Comte on top. Put in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.

10 comments » | Breakfast, Brunch, Cheese, Eggs, Main Dishes, Sandwiches

Seasonal Sandwich Woe Ho Ho

December 20th, 2013 — 10:44am

Why are seasonal sandwiches so rubbish? Last year, on a whim, I did a mad dash around Holborn collecting all the Christmas sandwiches from the major high street chains for a seasonal sandwich show down and it was just so depressing, I didn’t bother to repeat the experience this year. It got me thinking though, what exactly is it that’s so bad about most of them?

The main problem is the fact that they are generally stuffed with as many different elements of the Christmas dinner as possible. Why? The overall effect is a sandwich with a horrible generic taste that is unique to the time of year but not very pleasant. This is a sharp contrast to the sandwich made from your ACTUAL leftover Christmas dinner which is always truly bloody lovely, the reason being that it is made from nice ingredients that have been recently and properly cooked, which brings me nicely to my next point…

The ingredients in pre-prepped Christmas sandwiches are generally a bit gross. Who really eats turkey that often? More to the point though, who eats cheaply produced turkey that smells like farts and squeaks against your teeth? Who eats bacon that has been infused with a fake smoke flavour instead of actually smoked? Who eats sickly lurid red cranberry sauce that looks like it should be used to get really ingrained dirt off builders’ hands? PEOPLE WHO EAT CHRISTMAS SANDWICHES.

So anyway I thought I should have a bash at making a seasonal sandwich that actually tastes nice. It’s on sour dough, because there’s a lot of filling, and it needs to have some good sturdy scaffolding around the outside. Next, a layer of shredded sprouts, which I fried a little to get some colour on them, followed by a layer of proper, treacle cured, smoked bacon. I would have preferred streaky but smoked back I had so smoked back I used. The bacon is chopped before going into the sandwich, so it doesn’t come out in one long annoying strip when you try to eat it. Some good sharp cheddar next (I used Keen’s) followed by a layer of caramelised onions, which, despite being a bit 2001, bring much needed sweetness to the sandwich. A slick of wholegrain mustard and then, on the side, a pot of gravy (more of a stock really), made with partridge carcasses.

So it’s essentially a sort of festive toasted cheese sandwich French dip. Further proof that the toasted cheese is a sandwich which fits seamlessly into pretty much any situation.

Christmas Toasted Cheese Sandwich with Partridge Gravy (this served 2. I know, I’ve changed). 

2 slices sourdough bread
Several thick slices good quality cheddar cheese
1 onion, cut in half and sliced
A handful sprouts, finely sliced
3 slices back or 4 slices streaky smoked bacon (again, good quality)
Wholegrain mustard
Butter, for frying

For the gravy (you could of course use other bones or stock)

4 partridge carcasses
1 onion, halved
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
A handful parsley stalks
A few peppercorns
Salt

To make the gravy, roast the carcasses and vegetables in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Add to a stock pot with the other ingredients and cover with water. Simmer for a couple of hours. Skim off any scum from the surface. Strain and reduce a little further if desired.

For the sandwich, first caramelise in the onions very slowly, in butter. Stir them often but keep on the lowest heat. They will take about an hour. A splash of booze wouldn’t go amiss here come to think of it. Don’t forget to season them. In a frying pan, fry the sliced sprouts in a little oil over a fairly high heat, stirring all the time, until beginning to colour. When ready to assemble the sandwich, grill the bacon until the fat is crisp. On one piece of bread, add a layer of onions. Roughy chop the bacon and add it on top. Follow with a layer of the cheese, and then the sprouts. Cover the other piece of bread with mustard and put it on top.

In a heavy based frying pan or skillet, melt a generous amount of butter and add the sandwich. You don’t want the heat too high or it will burn but it should be sizzling. Take a heavy object (I used a Le Creuset pan and plonk it on top to weigh it down). After a couple of minutes (keep an eye on it), flip it over to toast the other side.

7 comments » | Sandwiches

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

Sandwich Engineering

November 7th, 2013 — 1:06pm

The complexity of the sandwich: from Dog House Diaries

The structure of the sandwich is of utmost importance. As I have said during many an interview on the subject, there is nothing, NOTHING, worse, than the corner of a sandwich gone soggy as a result of seeping tomato juice; that’s just an amateur build, right there. Everyone knows you don’t put that tomato next to the bread, you put it underneath a protective barrier, such as lettuce. Unless of course it is a tomato sandwich, in which case lettuce should be nowhere near it and you should simply be eating that sandwich immediately.

Another example is the construction of a burger. A burger with chillies and cheese. Think about the layering; what you don’t want to be doing is putting the cheese directly onto the meat and then attempting to settle the chillies on top; they will tumble out of the burger and onto your plate. Or your lap. The chillies should be placed directly onto the meat, and then sealed with the layer of cheese, creating a spicy pocket and preventing any loss of fillings.

The sandwich I’m going to tell you about in a moment contains caramelised onions, which have been cooked down in very concentrated beef stock and bourbon. Now if they were on a burger (which they bloody well shouldn’t be because that would be horrible and wrong), then they would need sealing on top of the meat with the cheese as per chillies. In the case of my cheesy creation below however, it was only appropriate to smear them directly on the bread. Why? I don’t know. Such is the complexity of the sandwich build. Part rule abiding, part instinct.

The sandwich is made with Gruyère, steak and sticky onions, in a muffin. I ended up making this as a sort of homage to another food blogger - I’m not going to mention any names – who basically makes dishes ‘with all the flavours of’ other, existing dishes, ‘spaghetti bolognaise tacos’ for example, or  ’fish and chips pizza’ (I may have made those up). Me and a few of my mates are addicted to this blog, and to laughing (affectionately) at the latest recipe. So this is a sandwich with – wait for it – ‘all the flavours of’ French onion soup. The onions, the beef stock, the onions, the cheese, the onions. It’s hella tasty I have to say. And extremely rich. I wouldn’t attempt it with anything bigger than a muffin, you’d probably be sick.

French Onion Soup Muffins

2 English muffins
Gruyere cheese, grated
2 onions, sliced
Beef stock, preferably home made
Bourbon
4 thick slices good quality steak (I used sirloin)
Butter

Melt a good lump of butter in a pan and let the onions caramelise very slowly in it. This should take about an hour. When they are nicely golden and soft, splash in an inch or so of beef stock and a splash of bourbon. Let this cook out until there is barely any liquid left.

In a hot frying pan or skillet, quickly sear the beef slices on either side for mere seconds, then let rest while you build the sandwich. In the same pan, toast the split muffins briefly. Preheat a grill, then spread each muffin with onions, on the top and bottom halves, and add a layer of cheese over each layer of onions. Wang this under the grill until the cheese is nicely melted. Remove and divide the steak slices between the sandwiches. Put the two halves together and off you go. Lovely with a beer.

For more on the structure and contents of sandwiches, buy my book! 101 Sandwiches is a collection of the finest sandwiches from around the world. 

14 comments » | 101 Sandwiches, Sandwiches

Ultimate Lobster Sandwich

August 23rd, 2013 — 12:38pm

Ho. Lee. Shiiiiiit. I’m patting myself on the back as I write this. It’s hard typing with one hand actually. Modest, huh? The truth is, this sandwich ended up being so brilliant because it was a joint effort between three people and don’t worry, comrades! You won’t go unacknowledged! It started because my boyfriend and I couldn’t stop thinking about the lobster roll at Burger and Lobster which is surely a contender for the best sandwich in London. I think about it A LOT. We don’t have time to go, though, you know what I mean? What with him opening a restaurant and me, with, well my own irons in the fire it’s all just a bit ARGGGGGGGHHHHH! *breathe breathe breathe* ARRGGGHHHHH! And so on.

Managed to find time to buy lobsters though, didn’t we? Huh. Two live lobbys ready for the pot. They went into the freezer as per RSPCA instructions but when they came out were still pretty frisky. This, coupled with the fact they were too big for the pot but were already halfway in by the time we realised made for a rather traumatic experience; that’s me running the length of the flat with my t shirt pulled up over my face screaming ‘No no no no no no no no no!’ while someone else dealt with the situation in a calm and reasonable manner. Another irritating upshot of this kerfuffle was that we didn’t notice the roe on the tail of the female lobster. An obscene amount of roe in fact. The fishermen are supposed to throw these laden lobbys back but had obviously not noticed either, so we ended up cooking the roe. A shame.

Sorry dude…

Roe ho ho…

Anyway that roe was definitely going into the mayo for extra lobster flavour regardless…but hang on a minute, we are definitely not done with pimping this mayo just yet. Enter, the bisque. We cooked the shells down with a little onion and celery, reducing it good and proper until it was mega intense. The resulting roe + bisque enhanced mayo? I did a little dance. Once mixed with the meat this was the most lobstery-tasting lobster mixture I have ever had the pleasure of lobstering. I’ve taken advice on a method for perfectly cooking lobsters, too, which is to boil them in the pot for 3 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave them in there, lid on, for 7. Absolutely spot on.

I wanted brioche rolls but they were too hard to find in SE London and I sure as hell wasn’t making my own on a week night so we improvised with a loaf of white bread – not the shitty plastic kind but not really good either…the in the middle, very soft farmhouse white kind that is perfect for an egg mayo sandwich. We buttered it, heavily, before toasting it in a skillet on both sides. Just as good. I shit you not.

This is the best lobster sandwich I have ever eaten and yes I am saying it was better than the Burger and Lobster roll. No I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I am actually saying that. The triple lobster flavoured mixture is the absolute nuts. She may not have the looks but boy, she’s got the taste.

There is one downside though. You know how after eating the Burger and Lobster roll you always think ‘cor, I could totally eat that all over again?’ Yeah don’t, that makes you feel sick.

Ultimate Lobster Sandwich (serves 2-4, depending on size of lobsters and level of greed)

2 lobsters
2 egg yolks
Vegetable oil, for making mayonnaise
1/2 teaspon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
4 slices of the kind of white bread described above
Butter (I used the kind with salt crystals in it)
Chives, to garnish

For the lobsters:

Put your lobsters in the freezer for 2 hours before you want to cook them. You don’t have to do this, and the evidence for them actually feeling any pain is inconclusive so hey, up to you.

Cook the lobsters by bringing two large pans of boiling water to the boil (or one massive one if you have it). Plunge them in and cover with lids. Cook for three minutes then turn the heat off and leave for 7 minutes longer. Remove them and set aside to cool.

When cool, extract the meat. I did this using a hammer, nutcracker and er, a chopstick. You may have the correct implements. I won’t go into detail here about how to get the meat out as we’ll end up with an essay – there are plenty of guides online if you Google it (I recently came across this brilliant video showing you how to get all the meat out of a lobster – check out the trick with the legs! http://lifehacker.com/the-best-way-to-get-all-the-meat-out-of-a-lobster-483432288). Reserve the shell bits.

For the bisque:

Put all shells into a large clean pan with a splash of vegetable oil plus the finely chopped celery and onion. Fry this for a bit, stirring occasionally. Add about a litre of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for half an hour. Strain and then reduce the strained liquid again, until intense and kick ass tasty. You don’t want much left as you’ll be adding it to the mayo. Consider it an intense little flavour bomb.

For the mayo:

Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and whisk them together with the Dijon mustard. 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. Do this is an electric mixer to save muscle pain/hassle. Add the bisque and lemon juice. Obviously if you are lucky enough to get roe than add it but chances are, you won’t. Whisk again and season with salt and pepper. You might want to thicken it slightly if it’s too thin at this point.

For the bread:

Cut and butter liberally. I mean LIBERALLY. Heat a skillet (or similar) and toast on both sides until golden brown (not too much).

Assembly:

Chop the lobster meat roughly (not too small, you want nice big chunks). Mix a little of the mayo with the lobster – do this a little at a time – you don’t want too much. Pile it onto the bread. Garnish with snipped chives. Seal with other piece of bread. REJOICE.

27 comments » | Fish and Seafood, Sandwiches

Fool’s Gold Loaf

May 13th, 2013 — 9:38am

It’s National Sandwich week, so obviously I’m all over that like ketchup on a chip butty. Or brown sauce if you’re, you know, NORMAL.

Anyway it seemed only right to honour the week with some sandwich bits and bobs so today I give you a recipe for what is a frankly outrageous piece of work – The Fool’s Gold Loaf. Made famous by Elvis ‘The King’ Presley, and taking its name from the reportedly stupendous price tag of $49.95. The story goes that Elvis would travel miles to eat this sandwich at the restaurant where it was invented, a joint called ‘The Colorado Mine Company’, in Denver. It’s said in fact that Elvis once flew his guests in from Memphis on his private jet just so they could eat it.

In true Elvis style this sandwich is a vision of excess – an entire loaf, hollowed out and filled with a jar (yes a jar) of peanut butter, followed by a jar (yes a jar) of grape jam, followed by a substantial amount (you get the idea) of crisp grilled bacon.

The combinations may sound odd, but the mixture of salty and sweet flavours isn’t that far out there; think bacon and maple syrup on waffles, or salted caramel ice cream. That said, I’ve never known a sandwich to elicit such a wide range of noises from people when eaten – a mixture of ‘mmm this is tasty’ plus ‘wow, this is wrong’ but ‘mmm this is tasty’; once you’ve had one bite, it’s  difficult to resist taking another.

This sandwich serves one, if you’ve the appetite of Elvis. It will serve approximately 8 ‘normal’ people however. Uh-huh.

Fool’s Gold Loaf

1 x approximately 11 x 4” white loaf
450g streaky bacon
250g smooth peanut butter
250g grape, blackcurrant, blueberry or plum jam
Butter, for spreading on the loaf

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Cut the loaf in half lengthways, leaving a little more thickness to the bottom half. Remove most of the crumb from the inside of each half, leaving a thickness of a couple of centimetres (or as much as you like). Spread each half with butter, inside and out.

Place the two halves on a baking tray and bake until toasted and lightly golden all
over (approx. 15 minutes).

While the bread is toasting, grill the bacon until crisp.

Spread the bottom half of the loaf with the peanut butter, then layer on the bacon. Spread the top half with the jam and sandwich together. Cut into slices to serve.

32 comments » | Guilty Pleasures, Sandwiches

Rice and Three and Misogyny in Manchester

April 29th, 2013 — 4:52pm

With 24 hours to eat and drink in Manchester, what would you do? Obviously I asked Twitter. The responses were many but amongst the crowd two contenders stood out as the most popular: the tradition of ‘rice and three’ curry cafes and the Almost Famous burger bar.

The curry cafe idea I was very much into and the most popular place seemed to be a joint called ‘This and That’ which is mentioned, well, pretty much everywhere as The Place to Go. The locals seemed to think differently however, which is how we ended up stumbling, extremely (really terribly) hungover, into Kabana. The idea of rice and three is that one is served rice and – guess how many curries? Yeah it’s three. Food is ordered from a very patient man who is clearly adept at dealing with hungover people. He stands over great big silver chafing dishes, waiting patiently while we dither about choosing what we want. Lamb, chicken and chickpea curries were duly heaped onto a mound of fluffy basmati and sprinkled with chopped green chillies, diced ginger and lemon juice, provided on the counter top for self service garnish.

‘Rice and three’: chickpeas, chicken and lamb

An extra bowl of a lamb nahari; really tasty and totally necessary…oof

We totter over to a formica topped, screwed-to-the-ground table and tuck in to what turns out to be some fantastic food; simple, yes, but with skilful, distinct spicing and a punch from those garnishes. A garlic chapatti was stupendously good; a real thwack of garlic and a slick of ghee. Hangovers are sniffled away as we shovel it down unceremoniously, surrounded by a mixture of couples with young children, plus people like us, clearly also soothing hangovers, and Indian families scooping up curries with their hands; great food with no fuss and oooh, I haven’t mentioned one of the best bits – it cost…a fiver. A fiver!

And from substance over style to…well I expect you can work out where I’m going. Almost Famous. I’m going to bypass all the trend ticking, the queuing, the forced cliches, because none of that bothers me hugely to be honest. What matters to me is what they’re serving from the kitchen and of course, the bar. Oh and the way they’ve chosen to name the things that are produced in both of them.

Their signature drink for example is something called ‘bitch juice’. We ordered a round. It was possibly the sweetest drink I’ve ever tasted, and that’s from someone who grew up on raspberry Slush Puppies, you know, the scary blue ones. ‘Bitch juice’ consists of a heavy grenadine base, then some booze, presumably, and a topping of fruit and…icing sugar. Mixing grenadine and icing sugar is just…I’d say confident, bold perhaps. Brave, maybe? My teeth are aching at the memory. The fact that it wasn’t nice is not my real problem however. What I really take issue with, is the name, as I did when I ordered my burger with ‘slut sauce’. Sorry but, since when did misogyny = cool? I wondered at the logic behind this. Hey! We’re really edgy! We’re so fucking edgy we named everything after derogatory terms for women! Will the salad come with whore dressing perhaps? How about a slag soup? I think it could really take off. There are a lot of breasts on the wall, too. I like breasts, I have some. They’re very nice to look at but really, when muddled with the lame sexism on the menu it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As does the food.

My burger, as you can see, was overcooked and also under seasoned. The house sauce appeared to be a mixture of mayonnaise and mustard but somehow, tasted of nothing much at all. It was reminiscent of a ropey Whopper. The wings I need not describe. Take a look at that picture. You know exactly what that BBQ sauce tastes like without my even needing tell you.

As I’m queuing up to order food I notice they’ve copied out Charlie Sheen’s breakdown rant on the wall. Er, cool. All the pictures are at jaunty angles. I want to buy them a spirit level. They sport a manifesto that says ‘no bloggers’, ‘no photos’. I wonder how they police that? There is a free jukebox at least, but they’ve allowed a situation where it is actually possible to put ColdPlay on, and lo and behold, someone has. And they’re singing along.

I’ve seen people draw comparison with London’s Meat Liquor, but let me tell you, Almost Famous has absolutely nothing on it. Meat Liquor has a history, which began with Meateasy and grew organically. The food is also a million times better, which is, let us not forget, what a restaurant is actually all about! Radical!

If you have to try very hard to be edgy and cool then I’m sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t. Kabana illustrate my point for me rather nicely. A slightly scruffy little cafe, no airs or graces, quietly doing their thing. Having just said the food is of utmost importance I’ll now admit that there is a place for restaurants which make their name on atmosphere alone and there’s nothing really wrong with that, I suppose. Just don’t be so goddamn desperate.

Kabana, 52 Back Turner Street, Manchester M4 1FP.

Almost Famous, 100 High St, Manchester, M4 1HP.

We also visited a couple of good pubs worth mentioning, if you’re interested. Very different places. Port Street Beer House is a craft beer pub of the well, craft beer pub ilk and The Castle is the kind of pub that I like. It’s sort of dingy and smells a bit and everyone talks to each other. Take yer pick.

I was invited to visit Manchester and was kindly put up in the Premier Inn, which I can vouch for. It’s dead close to Picadilly Station, and the reception was manned by quite honestly the friendliest woman I have ever met. Well, the friendliest woman I’ve ever met working on a reception desk in a hotel, anyway.

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